November 26, 2008 12:00 AM

Watch out New York and Atlanta, the women of The Real Housewives of Orange County have returned to reclaim their mantle as the most fabulous ladies on Bravo. With three seasons under their (animal-printed) belts, the original Housewives — Vicki, Lauri, Jeana, Tamra and newbie Gretchen, who joins the ranks this season — are back for more brawling, bawling and Botox. — Brian Orloff

Here’s what each Housewife was up to on Tuesday’s season 4 premiere:

Vicki: She works hard for the money — but Vicki Gunvalson knows how to enjoy it too. Right away, the insurance agent takes her son Michael out to check out a yacht, complete with a washer and dryer, plasma screen and autopilot. But how to pay for it? Gunvalson hatches a plan to convince her daughter Briana and hubby Donn that they should sell their river house to afford the boat.

Jeana: Equally busy with her work life, Jeana Keough introduces the newest Housewife to the Coto community, taking Gretchen Rossi and her fianc Jeff on a tour of a mansion in hopes of selling them a home. She may be a convincing saleswoman, but Jeana admits that she hasn’t been able to close one major deal: shaking her husband Matt, who’s still living with her despite their legal separation!

Lauri: Still glowing from her recent marriage to George Peterson, Lauri Waring Peterson steps out to dinner with her new hubby and talk turns to their honeymoon. Where to go? When he suggests Dubai, she shoots him down, claiming it’s not exotic enough, though she admits it might be a good place to stop over for some shopping on their way to Fiji.

Tamra: Reeling from turning 40, the self-professed “hottest Housewife” Tamra Barney decides to visit her local plastic surgeon — but not for herself. Tamra accompanies her mother, who is not yet 60, to the office to look into getting a face lift. But all the talk of aging and tightening proves irresistible, and Tamra decides to get some lip injections while she’s there.

Gretchen: The newest Housewife is Gretchen Rossi, who’s in the market for a new home. But the 30-year-old already has a man. She brings along Jeff, her fianc, who is 23 years her senior and has been married a few times before. Gretchen explains how she wasn’t initially attracted to him (he looks like Kenny Rogers — or Santa Claus, she says), but he takes care of her, buying her gorgeous things (like that rock on her hand). In an emotional twist, Rossi reveals that she also takes care of him, spending much of her time caring for her Jeff, who has terminal leukemia.

When Jeana hosts a designer trunk show at her home, the Housewives arrive under the same roof for the first time ever and, you guessed it, not everybody likes the new girl. Tamra, desperate to hold onto her “hottest Housewife” label, admits she’s jealous of Gretchen’s youth. And Vicki doesn’t exactly take Gretchen under her wing either. She warns the camera that Gretchen — who makes a benign impression with the other ladies — better not try aggressively to befriend her. Instead, Vicki wants to get to know the new castmate on her own terms.

Gretchen, perhaps because she’s nervous, makes it overtly clear that her breasts are real and wonders if there are any clothes for her natural curves.

As the wine flows and the designer duds come off their racks, Vicki starts to mouth off. Her claws come out as she disses the expensive fashions — many of which feature bold animal prints — and the ladies who love them, calling them giraffes and cougars but not, you know, the fun kind.

Tell us: What did you think of the season premiere? Was Vicki too outspoken? Will Gretchen fit into the group? And who is the hottest Housewife?NBC

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