Don't you just hate it when your wretched alcoholic sister tells your vapid narcissistic sister that you shouldn't be permitted to attend your own niece’s wedding because, as the relatively normal one in the family, you have consistently tried to do the right thing by providing tough love to a woman who has been a fucking calamity for decades and that sort of honesty is seen as far too unseemly for a family that prides itself on fame brought about by inherited money and blowjobs caught on camera? Yeah, me too.
I have always failed to see the appeal of Kyle Richards and I’ve made my opinion about her crystal clear. While I don’t believe she is inherently evil or terribly stupid or actually out to cause massive amounts of harm, I still don’t like her. Could I perhaps work to be more tolerant of her throaty giggle and her look-at-me machinations? Of course I could, but tolerance takes energy and I’d rather exert that energy by buying boots. What I’m saying is that I have no immediate plans to overhaul my mentality in an effort to be kinder to Kyle unless I believe the situation genuinely calls for it, and when it’s revealed that she has been banished from a family wedding, well, that’s the sort of scenario I can take umbrage with and throw my tepid support behind the only sane daughter who ever burst forth from her mother’s loins.
I did arrive at a place where I began to feel badly for Kyle, but before such a thing could shockingly transpire – before I was able to fashion an I Heart Kyle pin out of an earring, some Elmer’s Glue and a small doily in an effort to show my steadfast solidarity – I first found it entirely appropriate to consider whether or not I should tear off my own skin as a result of listening to her rhapsodize about how a member of her clan is marrying into a banking dynasty. That’s right – Nicky Hilton is marrying a banking scion so fantastically wealthy that the nuptials will be taking place at Kensington Palace, though I’m sure Nicky loves the guy purely for the person he is on the inside and not because she’s wanted to be a princess since the day she watched her big sister try on edible tiaras at Trashy Lingerie. Now, I don’t care where Nicky Hilton gets married. Whether her wedding takes place at a castle or at Chuck E Cheese, my only concern is that there be plenty of antibacterial gel on the premises because Lord only knows what you might catch from Paris Hilton over at the antipasto station. What bugs me here is Kyle’s verbal delivery about the wedding’s location and the way the words drip from her lips in a tone so smug that I instantly Googled, “Can you give yourself an aneurysm by rolling your eyes too quickly when a Richards Sister all but compares her family to an aristocracy?” (Turns out you can’t.)
They might not yet be an I-own-Scotland! kind of wealthy, but Mauricio and Kyle are still preparing to embark on a luxurious family vacation in Europe. They will cruise the seas and stare at their reflections in the crisp blue waters and there’s not a chance in hell (or in purgatory) that Mauricio will not straddle the front of the boat at least once while he bellows that he is King of the World because Mauricio is nothing if not an overgrown fraternity kid who has become legitimately successful but still refuses to take off the rope necklace he got when he was on Spring Break in Cancun after a foam party.
The vacation they are taking is one intended just for the family, but Lisa and Ken will be joining them in Tuscany so over at Chateau Vanderpump, Lisa is packing for the trip. She begins by holding up what I think might once have been my former Pound Puppy that has been magically transformed into a coat. The garment she presents for Ken’s approval is pink and fluffy – like a cloud might be if you’ve just taken a hit of acid – and if anyone else were holding that thing up, I would make so much fun of the person and the coat and probably their family too just for good measure. Because the thing is, the coat is absolutely absurd. Still, I think Lisa Vanderpump can actually get away with wearing that furry coat and if she walked into a 7-Eleven draped in the thing, I’d put down the Combos I was buying and applaud.
As she teaches her coat how to fetch, Lisa tells Ken that Kyle wants to borrow a dress to wear to Nicky’s wedding and I can’t help but feel rather stunned by this news. Wouldn’t you expect Kyle to roll into Chanel and plunk down the credit card that she colored black with a Sharpie just so she could casually say to the groom’s mother while they stand near the table that holds both the wedding cake and a framed copy of the pre-nup that she’s wearing couture? In any event, Ken doesn’t think that Kyle can fit into any of his wife’s clothing. Besides, Kyle won’t like any of Lisa’s gowns because Kyle only wears muumuus! Lisa is quick to clarify (you know, since they’ve decided to be friends this season) that Kyle doesn't wear muumuus, but she does wear things that are, um, rather diaphanous and I think it’s really sweet that she leaves out that all of Kyle’s shmatas are the color of jewels that you’ll find at your local Claire’s.
Before we move on, can we just take a moment to appreciate Ken? I mean, really – the guy’s arms are stuffed with puppies and he smiles at every clothing item his wife presents for his appraisal and you can see that he truly believes that the sun rises and sets each day simply because Lisa exists on the planet. Has there ever been a more adoring husband in Housewife Land? And just because the guy’s competition includes both bombastic and boorish Joes from New Jersey, pathetically perverted Peter from Atlanta, and dead Russell from Beverly Hills, we should all still applaud the man’s clear adoration for his wife.
It looks like Harry Hamlin likes his wife too. Lisa Rinna happily shows off the dangly diamond earrings he gave her as a gift for her birthday to her daughter and two of her daughter’s friends. Then she picks up the phone and calls her parents and her mother and father scream into the phone at the same time just like my parents insist on doing in a way that maybe I’d see as delightful if I happened to be deaf. While she chats with them, Lisa finds out that her father was recently in the hospital and she hears all kinds of stressful stories that make her less comfortable than she was before she called over there in the first place. It’s in this sequence that I think I’ve pinpointed what it is that I find most interesting about Lisa Rinna: she doesn't put a glossy spin on things. She will actually admit that she doesn't call her family nearly as often as she should and you can sense that she feels a little bit guilty about that but it’s also possible to guess that maybe she's keeping her emotional distance in an effort to protect herself from feeling too much. She’s that rare Housewife (and person) who is willing to come right out and admit her own shortcomings and I think I find that quality really fucking refreshing after years of listening to women with no self-awareness assert that they know exactly who they are and that they refuse to apologize for it while twirling in a chiffon dress during the opening credits of this show.
Speaking of a woman who claims to know herself very well, Kyle calls Lisa and explains that they should just meet at the villa in Tuscany – and that’s the exact same thing I said to my best friend just yesterday proving once again that Housewives are indeed just like you and me. But it’s in this scene when I begin to feel sorry for the bullshit Kyle has to wade through in relation to her family. It turns out that Kyle is not going to London anymore. She will not be attending the wedding of the century. She will not be able to pilfer pebbles from Kensington Gardens and stuff them into her cleavage so she can sell them on eBay at a later date because she is no longer invited to the big day. She was actually asked to stay away because of all the conflict that's going on in the family and something became abundantly clear to me: I might not like Kyle, but I seriously hate her sister Kim. And based on everything I've ever seen or heard about the other sister, Kathy Hilton, she appears to be a harrowing nightmare in human form. Anyway, it turns out that when it comes to any interaction involving these three women, I feel like I’m watching the World Series and Boston is playing and my plan is to root for whichever team is playing the Red Sox. There might be no balls involved in this particular situation, but as far as I’m concerned, Kim and Kathy are the Red Sox, my sympathy lies entirely with Kyle and look – here come the locusts!
Being a normal person, Lisa’s response to hearing about Kyle’s banishment is one of shock and sadness. She thinks the repercussions of this decree could impact the family forever whereas the situation that caused the decree will be yet another thing that everyone will eventually pretend to forget. Kyle is genuinely upset and offended that she's not going to be at her niece’s wedding and as much as it pains me to admit it (seriously, my stomach hurts while I’m typing this sentence), I think only part of her sadness is due to the fact that she's not going to be able to tell everybody that she recently strolled down the cobblestone pathways where actual royalty park their Range Rovers.
While Kyle is losing family in theory, Eileen and Vince have lost loved ones for real. They are in Palm Springs to see the star that Vince’s late father was given on the walk of fame and they make the trip in the dry but sweltering heat in an effort to honor him. Not only has her father-in-law just passed away, but Eileen’s sister also recently died and both Eileen and Vince appear emotional and solemn and the support this husband and wife offer one another is actually really nice to see.
Inside a dark bar, the two Lisas meet up to discuss Lisa Vanderpump’s plan to purchase a mini horse for Ken’s birthday because the guy already has a Fitbit. One problem: the horse lives in Ohio so Lisa asks if Ms. Rinna will travel with her to pick up the animal. Oh, and can the horse stay with her for a few days before she gives it to Ken? And can the horse sleep in her bed, preferably between Lisa and Harry? And can she maybe not give the pony collagen injections in his lips during his brief stay at her mansion?
One person who is dealing with way fewer ponies and far less silliness in her every day is Yolanda. She’s at her oral surgeon to remove her crowns in order to determine why the metal levels in her body are so high and whether or not it’s something imbedded in her teeth that could possibly be the culprit. She has an enormous color-coded binder with her – the kind that Brooks should have doctored to actually get away the long-con he was allegedly running over in Orange County – and as she shows the doctor her information, she begins to cry because she wants to be sure that anything entering her body from this day forward will be something healthy and beneficial. (Due to the serious nature of this scene, I shall now refrain from making a joke about David Foster’s penis.) Tears fall down Yolanda’s cheeks as she softly wishes to just have her life back and that’s when her husband walks into the room to offer his support and the moment he reaches out to hold her hand, she begins to choke. I don’t think it’s the first time anyone has gagged while in David’s presence, but this is definitely the most upsetting example in the books.
Then comes a moment straight out of Marathon Man – which I suppose is better than a moment straight out of Deliverance, but it was still all pretty unpleasant to watch. One of Yolanda’s crowns is yanked out onscreen. We don’t see much, but there’s a cracking-tearing-ripping-from-the-root-of-the-gums sound effect that goes along with the brief visual and all of this is depressing as fuck, as is the moment when David responds to Yolanda’s question of, “Aren’t you glad you married me?” by quickly walking out the door.
Zipping down the high seas, Kyle and her lucky brood have already docked in Nice, Cannes, and St. Tropez. Now they are pulling the enormous yacht into yet another harbor where they are served an exquisite meal by a full staff and none of this excess could possibly warp her youngest child so stop being silly for even considering such a thing. Meanwhile, Lisa and Ken arrive in Italy and pass through bucolic fields on the way to the villa and I’m wondering if I should try to take back every hideous thing I have ever said about Kyle and actually make that solidarity pin for real so that maybe she will invite me on her next family vacation. I’ll even toss out a suggestion: we should go to Australia, but just know that if a kangaroo runs away with her, it totally wasn’t my fault.
The Tuscany portion of the vacation looks like a melted and hazy dream. The sun shines down in glorious golden rays as Mauricio swims laps in the pool, Portia prances happily through a garden, and Kyle wears a dress made from every fitted sheet she has slept on since the age of six. She and Lisa hop into the Ferrari and nobody should be nervous about any of it because Kyle has been driving since she was thirteen years old because hers was the kind of mother who was “a rule-breaker” and the more I hear about the woman who was actually called Big Kathy, the more I understand how it is that Kim Richards grew up to be so fucking damaged.
Back in California, Lisa and Eileen go to visit Yolanda. Daisy, Yolanda’s Health Advocate, answers the door and they are welcomed into Yolanda’s bedroom where she is sprawled Camille-like on the bed. Before they go in to see her, they ogle some photographs of Yolanda’s gorgeous children and Lisa Rinna reveals that one of her daughters has a massive crush on Yolanda’s son and that he’s like Jesus in her family. Then Lisa laughs, knowing full well that her daughter (either Amelia or Delilah – I can’t tell them apart) is going to be mortified and it’s mini moments like this one that I think teach a kid how to take things as a joke and learn to laugh at herself. Sure, the kid might not be able to laugh about any of this until she’s made it clear through her twenties, but I think Lisa should keep her phone near her in about a decade because her daughter will probably call her at some point to giggle over how crazy her mother behaved on television. But nothing is funny anymore when they see Yolanda’s home pharmacy. There are pills and inoculations and vitamins and bottles as far as the eye can see and simply glancing at the drug-filled closet is difficult for Eileen because all of it reminds her of her sister’s rapid decline and eventual death. Yolanda appears wan and tired and she’s wrapped in a robe and she tells her two friends about her recent infection where a parasite that was two feet long was allegedly found slithering through her delicate system. Then she drinks some green juice and informs the ladies that she’s been getting a colonic every single week. What I’ll say here is this: if Yolanda is truly as sick as she appears to be, I’m scared for her.
In the backyard of the Tuscan villa, Lisa and Kyle sip margaritas and dodge mosquitos and discuss Yolanda’s health. Lisa knows that Yolanda has been all over the globe searching for a cure to an illness she’s not sure is Lyme disease anymore. She knows that Yolanda has undergone stem cell treatments. And she knows that something must be very wrong because the woman has been home in bed for months and months now, but Kyle wonders aloud if some of what she’s going through is perhaps psychosomatic and I don’t think it makes her a bad person to consider that there’s maybe some truth to that. And now I’ve just made an argument about how Kyle Richards is not a bad person and I just don’t know who I am anymore and look – here come the diseased livestock!
Sitting down to dinner in the garden, Ken explains that he feels lucky to be turning seventy while Lisa feels lucky that the guy she was paired with a few seasons ago on Dancing with the Stars grinded into her from behind all in the name of a sparkly Mirror Ball. But her retrospective joy turns into straight confusion when Kyle lets it drop oh so cavalierly that she is now going to London to attend Nicky’s wedding. Lisa wants to know what happened and Kyle really doesn’t want to discuss any of it. The reason could be that her kids are surrounding her at the moment and she’s trying to shield them from some of this bullshit or maybe it’s because the cameras are pointed straight at her head and Kyle’s entire family values its privacy. (Stop laughing!) All that said, there’s no doubt this situation and the logistics involved are bizarre. Kyle and Portia will be at the wedding but Mauricio and her other daughters will not. It’s hard at first to fully understand whether or not some of Kyle’s kids were even invited or put on a do-not-admit list in indelible ink or if they’re boycotting the wedding on their own accord, but it eventually comes out that Kyle’s niece literally invited some of her cousins without extending an invite to the others. I’ve heard that Mauricio had some business conflict with Nicky’s father and perhaps that’s why he’s persona non grata, but none of the confusion will really be cleared up because Kyle doesn’t want to explain anything. None of this is anybody’s business, she asserts to her reality production camera crew, and Lisa thinks the entire dynamic is complicated and gross and she says so before one of Kyle’s raven-haired kids suggests that they all stop talking about any of it because the subject is upsetting and over in Richards World, the art of repression is mastered long before both potty training and language.
Next week, the two Lisas travel to pick up a pony that’s wearing a pink tutu (because, sure) and Lisa Rinna almost gives the chubby animal a case of body dimorphic disorder. There will also be a party for Ken’s birthday that for some unknown reason involves the guests wearing terrible hats and it is there, under a brim not nearly large enough to shield her mouth from the midday sun, that we first see Former Housewife Taylor Armstrong. She is back (for now) and she finds it very curious that Yolanda is sick all of a sudden because it’s not like a disease can just spring forth out of nowhere and ravage your body. Lisa Rinna takes one look at this bitch who is talking shit about her friend and is also clearly trying to steal the crown she was given for having the largest lips in the galaxy and I think a genuine conflict is brewing but here I don’t feel conflicted the way I did when I found myself rooting for Kyle. The line I drew in the sand long ago is still partially visible. I couldn’t stand Taylor Armstrong then and I bet I won’t be able to stand her now and I cannot believe that she is back on this show and look – here comes the darkness.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.