I haven't watched this season - or much of last season to be truthful. But, I have been following along on the threads and in the media (for the most part).
I will, however, have to tune in to the reunion and then S4. Seems as if S4 will answer loads of questions.
Meanwhile, I am going against the grain to say that I absolutley 100% do NOT believe Bravo sets people up - not in NJ, NYC, OC, or anywhere else. I don't believe it in the same way that I don't believe judging is rigged on popular competition shows like American Idol, DWTS, Survivor, etc. The reason I believe this is because the moment those lines are crossed is same moment the public finds out and the networks lose ALL credibility and open themselves up to an endless array of lawsuits.
Another thing I don't believe is that the wives are forced to say or do anything they don't want to sayor do. PERHAPS there is a clause in their contracts stating that they have to participate in a certain number and/or type of activities each season, or provide a certain number of hours of footage, etc. but.....Bravo will NOT force the women to do anything beyond that. Again, it is just NOT in its best interest to do so.
What I do believe, which is what many of the housewives have already stated themselves, is that Bravo sets up dinners, charity events, or other scenario in which the wives can interact. Then, it gives them topics to discuss.
Within that context, the wives choose their own words and behaviors. And, when the housewives and others refer to "stories", my belief is that stories evolve from their own interaction. Bravo gives them a topic, but they weave it into their own drama. Bravo edits accordingly, i.e. to advance the story lines.
One day, when the real housewives franchise has run its course, there will be "where are they now" shows. That's when we'll start hearing if this is true or not. Until then, this is my story and I'm stickin' to it.
I'm reminded of the scene in Bridesmaids when Annie gets rear-ended and blames it on Helen. The cop cuts her off and says Helen had nothing to do with it and that it was Annie's fault for not getting her break lights fixed. Bravo is Helen. The rest are Annie, i.e. blaming the world for their own mistakes.