'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Recap: S*#t Gets Real
So, the day has finally arrived -- the day when we’re forced to say something serious about Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. We had really hoped this day wouldn’t come, but apparently, when Bravo said that they were going to edit Russell Armstrong out of the show as they saw fit, what they meant was that they were going to keep him out of the first few episodes until they felt like enough time had passed, and then they were going to make some egregiously poor decisions about what to air and what not to air. The occasional inclusion of Russell in some of the show's storylines has been a little unnerving already, but what went down on Monday took it too far.
But before we get to that, a lot more happened in this week's episode than just the distasteful rehashing of a dead man’s sins - so let’s deliver the good news before the bad.
After last week’s big reveal that Kim is moving in with her (surprise!) year-long boyfriend, Ken, and Kyle’s inconsolable devastation that Kim didn’t do what Kyle wanted her to do (i.e., move closer to Kyle, dye her hair brown, marry someone named Mauricio and become the toy Kyle that she was always meant to be, complete with strings and remote controls), Kyle is formally introduced to Ken and she finds herself so upset by her sister's new man that she literally can’t keep herself from bawling right in his face. So unmoored is she, in fact, by the sheer sight of him that she rushes to the bathroom to express her overwhelming pain in private. Kim, ever the delicate flower, in turn gets unmoored by making Kyle unmoored and thus sinks immediately back into the dysfunctional sisterly dynamic that she’s trying so very hard to claw her way out of.
But no sooner does Kim fall into Kyle’s trap of tears then we cut away to Kyle’s interview, during which she proceeds to call Kim - and I paraphrase - lonely, sad and desperate, and we can almost see the lightbulb flicker on over her head as she realizes that this should be her go-to talking point about Kim’s marriage, which means that we, the viewer, then have the pleasure of hearing Kyle repeat this take on her sister's happiness over and over again for the rest of the episode.
As Kyle ponders the many ways in which Kim has failed her and brought shame upon their family, we get a temporary respite from the sisters Richards as we visit with Adrienne and Paul, who are celebrating Paul’s birthday dinner at the famously overpriced Crustacean in Beverly Hills. In some keenly done foreshadowing, over dinner Adrienne brings up the “things” that Taylor has “told her” about “her marriage” - things that, until this episode, have only been vaguely alluded to. Those things, she hints, are physically abusive in nature.
Paul’s not buying it, but that’s because all Paul can really think about when it comes to Taylor -- or anyone, for that matter —is where on their face he should be injecting Botox. When he hears the name “Taylor,” for instance, while Adrienne thinks of domestic violence and how she may be able to help, Paul’s imagination goes straight to hollow cheeks that beg, simply beg, for filling.
Regardless, with Adrienne's nod to Taylor's crumbling marriage, the stage is set for the episode's big brawl.
But first, an awards ceremony! The ladies have begun to congregate at the drabbest hotel ever to be shown on any episode of the entire Real Housewives franchise in order to celebrate Taylor's recognition from some sort of women's business association. The hotel is so drab, in fact, that we find ourselves a bit shocked to actually see Taylor and her yappy sidekick Dana descending into the depths of its basement on an escalator as the scene opens. But they do, and they’re soon followed by Camille, and then Adrienne.
When Kyle shows up, though, never having been inside a Marriott before, she gets lost in the labyrinth of bad carpeting and panics. At that exact moment (sheer coincidence!), Lisa calls to invite her to tea the following day. Assuming that Lisa is calling because she, too, is unable to navigate the foreign floorplan of a three-star hotel, Kyle asks Lisa where in the building she is. But - twist! - Lisa is at home, because Taylor didn’t invite her.
Kyle sort of backtracks, and then, like a 12-year-old who has just prank called her school crush and had his mom answer and identify her by name, she just hangs up. When she finally finds Taylor and confesses to having spilled the beans to Lisa, the girls agree that this issue will definitely see the light of day again.
And will it ever, if Lisa has anything to say about it! As the girls golf-clap their way through Taylor’s ceremony, Lisa, still at home, takes a menacing stroll about her premises to think about the many ways in which she’s been wronged, and finally comes to rest on a divan in front of her husband Ken and her trusty sidekick, Giggy.
Stroking Giggy’s head with all the aggressive strength of an evil genius betrayed, Lisa relays the story of Taylor’s unthinkable actions to Ken, who just barely manages to stay awake. But that’s not the kind of thing Lisa concerns herself with - she has bigger fish to fry, doesn’t she, Giggy? She’ll get Taylor back, won’t she, Giggy? She’ll not be treated this way! “She’s playing games, isn’t she, Giggy?” she asks the three-pound dog, who unfortunately is unable to respond, swaddled, as he is, in an infant’s onesie. Lisa clutches him to her breast and proceeds to conclude that the only way to get Taylor back is to - evilly! -- invite her to the following day’s tea.
Fade in to said tea, a wildly pink affair, complete with pink bonbons, pink trays, and the pink reminder that Lisa gives her housecleaner/assistant/woman-about-town that she is only to enter the Chamber of Housewives to make tea and if she hears Lisa screaming. Hahahaha. But seriously. Stay in the kitchen.
Camille, Kyle and Adrienne are the first to arrive, and ever the gracious hostess, Lisa tells them that she wishes they were the only three coming. Hahaha, again! But seriously. She hates everyone else.
But mostly she hates Taylor, who is the next to arrive, looking Skeletor-like but plumped up from last week’s visit to Paul. Once the ladies are properlay arranged on the couhc, Lisa wastes no time -- why, she wants to know, was she not invited to yesterday's event?
No one will ever know what snapped for Taylor in that moment, but all of a sudden, all of her Beverly Hills pretensions fell away like a diamond necklace shattering on the streets of Rodeo Drive. Taylor was all up in Lisa’s face. She was wagging her finger. She was ticking off offenses against her on her fingers. She was shouting. She started to cry a few times but slapped herself across the face, told herself to get her shit together, and kept on going with the attack. She told Lisa EVERYTHANG.
And just when you thought it was over, just when you thought Taylor had said all the things she needed to say, from Lisa telling her they weren’t friends, to Lisa constantly judging her and making snide, sarcastic remarks, to Lisa thinking that she’s better than everyone else - just when you thought “Hot damn, she really got that shit off her chest,” Taylor took a deep breath and SHE GOT DEEPER.
Taylor leaned back into the couch, gulped back some air to refresh herself, and then launched directly into the fact that Lisa has a giant, outsized, pink, British ego. It’s time for some honesty, she told Lisa, honesty like the fact that everyone here thinks you have an ego but won’t say so because they’re too scurred. Everyone, she said, including Kyle.
And lo! For a moment, Lisa looked flapped. Kyle looked flapped. Two unflappable ladies, flapped. Indeed, the veneer was cracking, and the women were beginning to feel torn asunder by Taylor’s decision to go rogue and break with the housewife code which dictates that one never actually says exactly what one thinks, never actually talks about what’s really going on beneath all that Botox and make-up and $25,000 sunglasses, at least not to someone else’s face. Torn asunder.
And do you know what happens when housewives get torn asunder? The gloves come off.
Taylor left the tea party after her outburst, and if there’s one lesson we can all take away from this episode, it’s that once you make your dramatic exit, you have to stick with it. Don’t come back to deliver messages, or add one more thing to your tirade, or ask to use the bathroom or the phone. Once you bounce, you have to stay bounced.
But Taylor, a rookie to the world of dramatic exits, came back, and once she did, it was time for the other ladies to get rilly ril with her. Lisa had broached the subject of Taylor’s marriage when Taylor was out of the room, but it was none other than Camille who brought it up to Taylor’s face.
“I don’t think you want everything out there,” Camille said. “We have all protected you, but what you told us about your marriage…we don’t say that he hit you, we don’t say that he broke your jaw or that he beat you up…but now we said it.”
Twiggity-TWIST! And here, friends, is where the voice of reason has to step in.
Over the past few months, much ado has been made about whether or not Russell actually beat Taylor. She’s sold pictures of herself with a black eye to the press, and in return, people have accused her of exaggerating her claims. But either way, there was something that felt brutally wrong about making her accusations a cheap-thrill plotline on a mindless reality show when the dirt is still settling on Russell’s grave.
That’s not to say that Taylor shouldn’t come forward and talk about what happened - indeed, if she was abused, one would hope that she would step up and be open about it to help break the cycle of silence rather than sweep it under the rug. But the appropriate platform for that kind of revelation and discussion isn’t Real Housewives. Does the show always need to be kept light? Not necessarily. But does the question of whether or not a man who committed suicide three months ago beat his wife need to be handled with a little more thought and respect than during a vengeful outburst at a ridiculous tea party behind gilded gates in Beverly Hills? Probably.