Shannon Beador reflects on Tamra Judge's return to 'The Real Housewives of Orange County' and the shifting dynamics of season 17.
"I have a few a-ha moments about certain cast members and maybe what their motivations are that just kind of hit me," she teases to ET, going on to divulge the co-star who provided the biggest a-ha moment's "last name might start with a D."
That points to Heather Dubrow, who returned to RHOC last year and immediately faced off with Shannon, accusing her of helping to plot a takedown of Heather by bringing up a years-old lawsuit between a would-be Housewife and Heather's husband, plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow. Shannon denied being in on any set-up, and the Dubrows revealed the lawsuit was ultimately dropped. However, the damage from the speculated set-up set the tone for the pair's ability to find friendship again, after losing touch when Heather departed the show at the end of season 11 in 2016. They found a path forward, though, with Heather singing Shannon's praises to season 17's returnee, Tamra Judge, on last week's season premiere.
Shannon and Tamra have damage of their own to undo, after producers fired Tamra from the cast at the end of season 14. Once inseparable, Tamra claimed Shannon "ghosted" her as soon as she was no longer part of the show. Shannon's maintained, that's not the case and that Tamra's embellished any strain in their relationship, which ultimately caused actual estrangement.
"I mean, I know what happened and I have my own beliefs," Shannon shares. "If she doesn't believe that way, then, yes, we have to say [agree to disagree], but to me, a fact is a fact."
It likely didn't help that the women Shannon remained on the show with largely celebrated Tamra's dismissal, namely Emily Simpson, who once compared filming Housewives with Tamra to playing a game of Survivor.
"Then, all of the sudden, they're saying, 'Oh, we're excited she's back!'" Shannon ribs her co-stars. "So, I think that fear was a huge motivator for some of the cast members. They don't want to get on Tamra's bad side, because I've been there, too, and it's not a fun place to be. But, you know, I just think they're afraid."
Once again, Shannon namechecks Heather, claiming she's the 'Wife who lives in the most fear of Tamra.
"Well, first of all is -- this will become an issue on the show -- but there was a moment when we were in Aspen, off camera, where I said, 'Your friendship doesn't make sense to me, with Tamra,'" Shannon recalls, previewing a yet-to-air cast trip to Colorado. "'It just seems like you guys wouldn't be as close as you were...' and she said, 'I'm afraid,' and walked away. She denies that she said that."
"But what's interesting is, that when someone has an off-camera conversation with one person and then with another person, and they can corroborate that conversation? Probably means that the person said those things," she adds.
Of the cast -- which also includes Gina Kirschenheiter, newcomer Jenn Pedranti and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills transplant Taylor Armstrong -- Shannon admits she had the hardest time adjusting to Tamra's return.
"Everyone else kinda embraced her," she notes. "There was a lot of talk, a lot of buzz, speculation, but I was shocked. I really never thought that I would have an opportunity to reconnect with her, so I just thought, that’s it. We're never gonna be friends anymore. I mean, I wasn't nervous about it, but I just came into it and, I think you see it in the first episode of, I'm gonna vocalize how I feel all of the time now, 'cause a lot of the times I would be quiet, in deference to the friendship, but I think that hurt me. So, if she's gonna come back, I'm gonna be more vocal."
Part of Shannon's approach was to hash through their disparate narratives about the friendship's demise, a conversation set to play out in episode two.
"When we actually sat down, knowing the topics we had to discuss, that became very difficult," she confesses. "I think 'nasty' is a good adjective to use to describe this path that we took to finally get to a place of friendship."
"It was a process, an absolute process," Shannon says, "but when we did get to that point-- I mean, you can focus on the few negatives, or you can focus on a six-year positive, because we had such a close friendship; and when we realized that, and had that discussion, it was like snap the figures, we're back to the friendship we had like no time had passed, and I think that is the true test of what a friendship is all about is, if you can get back there that quickly."
Shannon agrees with Tamra that the friendship feels "easier" this time around, especially with the framework that they operate "like sisters, and sisters argue."
Shannon had the fleeting thought/concern Tamra might come back, guns blazing in her direction, with no intent of being friends again.
"At the same time, we're on a show, we have to try and come up with some cohesiveness," she reminds herself, "so I knew there would have to be an attempt on both of our parts to try and make it work, but I mean, look at my history on the show. There were a few years with Vicki where I refused to become her friend again, so through time we can work through anything."
Vicki is Vicki Gunvalson, the third leg of the tripod known as the "Tres Amigas," a trio with Shannon and Tamra. Once just a cute nickname, the title is now an official business. The women are launching live shows together, starting with a tryout onstage at the Irvine Improv on June 27. Vicki also pops up this season during a girls' trip to Mexico.
"It is just like it was before," Shannon beams. "There’s just kinda this silly, zany dynamic that the three of us have together, and so it was a lot of fun -- a lot of fun. ... You're gonna see [Vicki] a few times. I mean, I wish that you saw her more, actually, 'cause she just has this quirkiness to everything."
Having the Tres Amigas, as well as her Real for Real business ventures, has given Shannon something to focus on during a season of change. Her eldest daughter, Sophie, is still away at college, while her younger daughters, twins Adeline and Stella, just graduated from high school. She's getting ready to send them away to college this fall, all while dealing with her breakup from boyfriend of three years, John Janssen. She felt "blindsided" by the split, which played out "literally one week after filming wrapped."
"I've now moved on from the relationship, so that’s a good thing, but I really don’t know how it's gonna work out," she says of watching their life together on upcoming episodes. "It was a tough pill for me to swallow, 'cause our relationship is an issue on the show this season, as well."
Shannon's not sure how John will feel about reliving all the ups and downs that preceded their split. "It's upsetting to him," she offers. "He wants-- everyone wants to be liked by all, and he's really been attacked by a lot of people on social media, especially -- even when I post a picture of us together in a group as friends, he gets attacked! So, I think it's gonna be difficult for him, but it is what it is."
Shannon's maintained a friendship with John, even inviting him to tag along to the RHOC cast's Celebrity Family Feud taping in April, which sparked suspicions that they were back together.
"We are in a good place," she declares. "Am I still upset by what happened and how our relationship ended? Absolutely, but I would prefer to not have bitterness inside of me. So, I'm content with the way we have things right now, but we've discussed, as soon as I get into a serious relationship or he does, I mean, this friendship's gonna kind of have to go to the wayside, 'cause it's not really appropriate."
Shannon says getting back together with John is "not an option," but she is very much looking for love. "Here I am, 59, starting over," she reflects. "But I'm not gonna lie, I'm having a lot of fun right now."
"I'm going to be moving, as well, it's going to be a new start for me," she adds. "It's just a lot of changes, and I don't know how I'm going to take it -- my house is chaos all of the time!"
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.