I cannot possibly be the only one these days suffering from intense Housewives malaise, right? It’s a real problem, my friends, but being the proactive type, I have taken steps to try to remedy the issue. My first act – flinging my cable box through a plate glass window – only ended up creating further (and bloody) problems, so I’ve decided to head back to the basics and deal with my challenge logically. It’s not all that hard to figure out what’s causing me to visibly recoil any time I see an adult female in an evening gown hold out a piece of fruit. Simply stated, I’m getting really fucking tired of watching grown women fight about pure nonsense and then get paid for it so I have recently taken some important steps to at least attempt to alleviate my pain:
Step 1: Cut several incarnations of the Housewives from my life like I’m hacking off a limb rotted with gangrene. I was able to accomplish this particular goal rather easily. “Au revoir, New Jersey table-flippers!” I shouted from my rooftop more than a year ago, my voice filled with glee that I would never have to figure out which twin’s husband allegedly slept with his mother-in-law or have to definitively ascertain what species birthed Theresa. “Adios, Atlanta lunatics,” I scrawled in the sand during one warm afternoon on a sundrenched beach when I could have sworn I saw something that resembled NeNe Leakes bobbing in the distance beneath the waves. “Suck it!” I happily trilled recently to my television set after watching my first (and last) episode of the newest Housewives who reside in and around the exciting city of Potomac. While I realize I shouldn’t judge a series on only one episode, I’m quite certain that the entire show revolves around a drag queen spewing out lessons in proper etiquette to fools who aspire to be as famous as Vicky Gunvalson. Those women have been forever sliced from the fabric of my life and I have never felt more free.
Step 2: For the Housewives shows that I will still watch because I write recaps about them – New York, Orange County, and Beverly Hills – I make it a real point to only view each episode once. Enforcing this rule can be complicated. It means that one must never accidentally leave Bravo on during a long rainy afternoon because we all know how those marathons can suck in even the most reluctant viewer and, for my sanity and for the safety of those around me, I must refrain from rewatching screaming battles fought by people I do not even know.
Step 3: Never – but I mean ever – follow a single one of these women on Twitter or Instagram. If there’s anything remarkably provocative that needs to come out, rest assured that an entire segment of the twelve-part Reunion will be devoted to whatever post one of these women wrote that singlehandedly sparked World War III and know with total certainty that each person on that couch will whip out a phone from between her Spanx-clad thighs to show some evidence that probably won’t end up mattering anyway.
Step 4: Accept that the people on this show will never really change. If you like one, you will probably continue to like her. Might your favorite Housewife fuck up every now and then and cause you to wince because you’ve decided to be on her side and she's momentarily behaving like a possessed toddler? Sure. But will your allegiance to these strangers actually matter in the long run? Not a fucking chance. Also embrace the fact that the Housewives who appear deranged are in fact out-of-their-fucking-mind-crazy and remember that just because one of them is sick, it does not mean that you have to like her now or overlook that she has surrounded herself with a posse of assholes.
Step 5: Cleanse your mental palate every now and again by watching Requiem for a Dream. After viewing the arm amputation scene or the gangbang done in exchange for some heroin, issues like Münchausen syndrome and Kim Richards' inability to accept any kind of responsibility for the misery that is her existence will appear positively minor.
Have I helped cure you of your Housewives Fatigue? Good! Because this episode is about glamorous women who hate each other doing charitable things and I feel like sharing this wellness plan can be my own little act of charity. I'll march for Yolanda and her babies tomorrow, but tonight there are more pressing matters to discuss. See, tonight Erika and a few of her enemies are boarding a private jet bound for New York, and since I've obviously chosen to embrace my philanthropic side, I'd like to caution her guests to sit very close to the emergency exists and perhaps bring along their own flotation devices. Several of them should feel free to use their own tits.
Before they can pack carry-on bags stuffed with sequins and Xanax, there's regular shit to attend to first. In Yolanda's world, “regular shit” means checking in with her supermodel daughter to find out how she did on today's runway and calling her husband to ask for help in writing the speech she'll be giving at the Global Lyme Alliance. According to our honoree, she's lost any and all brain function that once allowed her to be inspirational in front of a crowd and she wants this speech to kick serious ass so all of the women she now hates will hear it and hop on her journey by opening their hearts and cease asking her questions about the inconsistencies she posts to the world. It’s a little known fact, but having integrity means never again having to answer a single question in one’s lifetime.
In an office across town, Kathryn and Donnie meet up with a woman who is going to fit Kathryn with a hearing aid that will give her back some of her lost hearing. It's a hugely exciting prospect for her and it's nice to see someone regain a sense and all, but I can’t really hop on board with Kathryn after her hideous display over the last few weeks when she all but sold secrets and then had the audacity to blame everyone else for her idiotic missteps. I will, however, fully embrace the woman if she scalps Faye Resnick before the finale. Baring that event, I think I might be more than okay that this blonde could very well be a one-season wonder.
Speaking of blondes who are part of Housewives Past, Camille is back. She's throwing a charity event at her home to raise money for cancer. It's a cause close to her heart because both she and her mother have suffered from the disease, and it’s good to see her look healthy. Less enjoyable to witness is the fact that Kyle and Eileen are traveling to the event together in a limousine. It is my dearest hope that during this car ride that Kyle not mention (either in words or through interpretive dance) that she's feeling any tension with a single person in this entire world because we all know that the only thing such a revelation will lead to is Eileen feeling the need to solve the problem instantly. She will gather the two people engaged in a mild showdown to her breast, mention the scalding hatred they are each actively pretending to ignore, and she will then appear completely flummoxed when a peaceful resolution does not occur immediately in her eyeline. Seriously, Kyle – don’t say a fucking word during that ride.
Seems all the women are turning out for Camille’s event. Lisa Vanderpump is there and even Yolanda shows up! She wants to compliment Camille on "having the balls" to share her medical journey, and I just can’t help that the cynical side of me hears her say that and believes it’s just an example of Yolanda congratulating herself because apparently it takes balls to post pictures on Instagram of one’s bloody implants and daily inoculations. I had bronchitis last week, but I suppose I have no balls because I didn’t snap photographs of the balls of phlegm I coughed up to share with the masses. Perhaps I’ll get braver over time.
Kathryn arrives next and Erika's there too and all of the women kvell over Yolanda's newly shorn hair, though Lisa Rinna is far too consumed by the palpable anxiety she feels after announcing to Eileen – and to a fleet of cameras – that she believes that Yolanda is definitely manipulative and potentially entirely full of horseshit. I can understand why Lisa fears that she'll be taken to task for making those bold remarks because she will be. At this point, it's probably best for her just to own her opinions, shrug her insanely defined shoulders, and shove a layer cake down her throat in front of Kathryn so she can finally put the rumors of an eating disorder to rest.
Camille’s event involves shopping for jewelry and the proceeds will go to charity. How can a scenario filled with such goodwill and hope become in any way dark? Yes, that right there was a rhetorical question, but I'll go ahead and answer it anyway by saying that you stick Yolanda and new her best friend, Erika, at a table with Lisa Rinna and toss in some stilted conversation and a few tight smiles and all of a sudden this event about achieving survival is no longer so joyful. Instead it's about Lisa glancing around carefully at the women she often surrounds herself with and declaring about Yolanda, "I don't trust her." Here’s what I hope: I hope that Lisa doesn't feel the need to qualify her belief because I think she has every right to feel that way. She didn't wake up one morning and randomly decide not to trust someone. She didn't by happenstance settle on Yolanda as the person to keep at arm's length. No, it was clearly a series of events and conversations and battles that caused her to form that opinion and I think she might be right to feel that way. I'm not saying that I don't think Yolanda is legitimately sick; I do think she's actually quite ill, but just like with Kim Richards and her very real addiction, being sick is not an excuse for being intolerable.
As for how Yolanda views Lisa Rinna, she reads a sad energy permeating off the woman she yelled at only a few weeks before. See, her Lyme disease has made her psychic and she just knows with certainty that something is very off with the woman she's pretending is her friend. What else to do but get up and hug her? And what is Lisa to do in that moment besides bring up how confused and saddened (?!) she feels about Yolanda skipping Erika's dinner party on the same day she elected to spend time with Kim and Brandi and then document their Genius Summit with photographic evidence? This right here strikes me as a bizarre and terribly crafted fight being waged by my second favorite Lisa. First of all, Yolanda hung out with those assholes during the day so it makes sense to conclude she was too tired in the evening to trek all the way out to Pasadena. Secondly, Lisa can't possibly care about Erika being ditched at the last minute, especially because Erika herself seems fine with it. The real issue seems to be that Lisa – for excellent reasons – hates Kim and Brandi because she's human and she should, but that's kind of a separate matter, no? I mean, if you claim that the woman sitting before you is manipulative as fuck, why even get into a conversation like this? What could possibly be the outcome besides even more manipulation, this time in front of an audience at a charity event?
Yolanda is surprised by Lisa’s outburst and makes sure that the woman sitting before her knows exactly where she stands in Yolanda’s Friendship Ranking, which is organized daily and officially on a toxic-free wipe-board by her health advocate when she’s not doctor shopping for more pills for her boss. "Both Brandi and Kim have supported me more than all of you put together in my journey," Yolanda tells Lisa while Kyle silently shoots daggers every which way upon hearing the news that her sister has it in her to be kind to someone as long as she's not a blood relative. Also, Yolanda’s comment offends Kyle because she's been to visit Yolanda! Those visits don’t matter, though. Yolanda doesn’t really like Kyle and she really doesn’t like Lisa Rinna and the reason for that, as she coldly informs Lisa, is because she has a huge trust issue with her since she’s the one who started all the shit that's gone down about questioning the veracity of Yolanda’s illness. Such questions obviously do not stem at all from Yolanda Instagramming her every treatment to the world, so stop being silly. Rather than do something normal here like get up and walk away, Lisa hammers back that she just can't understand how and why Yolanda sees fit to expend any of her sagging energy on pieces of shit like Kim and Brandi and yes, it is an odd choice, but it is Yolanda's choice. Fight a battle you can win, Lisa. I don’t like watching the people I root for on this show throw punches that will never actually connect.
How does Lisa now feel about Yolanda? Well, I think we can ascertain the spiking levels of her hatred when she states bitterly, "You can get away with anything when you're sick." Oh, honey – this Reunion's gonna be rough for you.
The next day, Lisa Vanderpump sits down with some friends to plan an event meant to stop the monsters who gleefully torture dogs in an area of China. She speaks of the travesty with true emotion and she's launching a march to the Chinese embassy to advocate that this hideous practice stop for good. Kathryn joins her on her back patio to offer her some assistance and announces to us that she thinks Lisa Vanderpump is great and she doesn't understand why Erika distrusts the woman so vociferously. For the record, Lisa lets it be known that she likes Kathryn, too. Erika might very well begin to spit fire when she sees that these two are forming a bond, but unfortunately she will not be able to share her newfound annoyance about the matter with her husband because he doesn't allow her to speak unless spoken to and besides – she's still grounded after her behavior at their last dinner party.
On a new night, the entire group – minus Erika and Yolanda – get together for dinner to celebrate the work they all did for Habitat for Humanity and to discuss a trip to Dubai some cruel producers have planned for them. It'll be an awesome vacation! Mortal enemies who pretend to sometimes like one another will get to board a plane they will then be stuck inside of for sixteen straight hours before they arrive at a gorgeous locale so they can fight somewhere new for a change! Traveling is so fun. By the way, there are some fresh battle lines being drawn at dinner. Eileen informs Lisa Vanderpump that she will not be attending her march to stop canine genocide in the morning because she really needs a day off, but after the spats these two have had all season about a single incident during which Eileen did not care for the tenor of Lisa’s apology, all Lisa can hear is that Eileen is not supporting her or this important cause. Uh oh – now it’s awkward at that table and we all know how much Eileen hates awkwardness. To clear the filthy air, she decides to bust out that she knows that Lisa knows that she thinks that Lisa’s manipulative as fuck, and who cares that she’s basing that decision on some event that happened about two years ago and involved Kim Richards, who is blessedly not even on this show anymore? Honestly, I feel compelled to tell you that I’m not even sure what this argument is even about because they are all talking in weirdly shaped circles and I have grown tired of listening to this bullshit. What I do know is that words like leader, follower, and Amsterdam were somehow tossed about and I really just wish someone would toss down a napkin, look everyone directly in the eye and calmly declare, "We are co-workers; we do not really need to be friends," and then get up and walk away from the table. Sadly, this is one of my fantasies – along with having a closet the size of a large village – that does not come true.
For the record, Lisa Vanderpump does not think that she's manipulative, Lisa Rinna refuses to accept that she's a follower, and I'm almost positive that not a single morsel of food was consumed at that dinner, but let's pretend that it makes perfect sense for them all to jet off to Dubai! I just love organically driven programming, don’t you?
The next day is Lisa's protest march to stop Yulin from their heinous massacre of dogs and she's hoping to get a big turnout in spite of the rain that’s falling in Beverly Hills. The group marches to the Chinese embassy where Lisa hoists herself atop someone's shoulders and grabs a megaphone to inspire the crowd before inviting them all to come have a drink with her at Pump. I will say this: I currently support charities that raise money for cancer research and I am a member of The Humane Society, but before this episode, I knew nothing about this Yulin event. Now I'd like to know where I might send a check.
The next day, Yolanda boards Erika's plane and waits for some of the people she hasn't yet entirely alienated to join her for the trip to New York. I'm glad she's able to drum up her strength to fly across the country so she can be honored for something. Both Lisa's have elected not to join her, but Kyle is there and she will surely report back anything she hears like a good little spy. Kathryn shows up too and immediately apologizes to Erika’s father/husband for behaving like a moron when they first met. I’ll admit it: Kathryn's having a pretty good showing this week, but all that kind of means is that I didn't once consider throwing a cinderblock at my TV. Maybe it was just growing pains she exhibited early on. Maybe she's not a spectacular asshole, but I think she’s just on her very best behavior right now and first impressions are things that matter. At any rate, as Kathryn repeats, “Don’t tell anyone’s secrets,” to herself over and over again, Kyle presents the idea of the Dubai vacation to Erika and Yolanda, but Yolanda tells her that she doesn't want to be so far away from home and Erika doesn't give any sort of response.
Securely on the ground and away from the people they hate, Eileen and Lisa Rinna meet up so Eileen can buy herself some decent luggage that Erika will appreciate. It’s clear that Eileen’s crush on Erika has not yet abated, so I’d like to suggest that she buy four pieces of luggage with letters emblazoned on them in hot pink that, grouped together, will spell out “CUNT.” I mean, does she want to impress the woman or not? These two are not in the store for two fucking seconds before Eileen sings out her new tagline: "There are a lot of things that have not been addressed." Listen, I want to reiterate here that I do not dislike Eileen. She's calm and somewhat rational and she doesn't throw drinks in people's faces for sport. But the thing is, she's wrong here. There are actually far too many things that are being addressed and it's all happening amongst a group of people who have already made up their minds about all of these matters so rehashing them (again and again and then one more fucking time) is nothing but a total and complete exercise in futility and it's really starting to annoy me that Eileen refuses to see that.
Also – and maybe it's just me – but I feel like it's Eileen who is being the manipulative one here. Lisa Rinna seems completely blasé about battling with Lisa Vanderpump about anything, but Eileen seems intent on reminding her of how Lisa Vanderpump called Lisa Rinna to tell her that she should be furious about Yolanda's comments about her being bipolar. Isn't Eileen just stirring up shit now? Since she's whispering in a luggage store instead of lunging across a dinner table, does that mean we're supposed to pretend not to notice? And while we're on the subject of what is not supposed to be crystal fucking clear, should we just ignore that it appears that Lisa Rinna can be talked into sharing anyone's opinion about anything as long as it's stated to her in a hushed tone so she feels like someone's telling her a secret? You all know that I hate to give Kyle credit for absolutely anything, but she might have hit it on the head when she said that Lisa Rinna is a follower, and that's really too bad because I kind of like Lisa and I share her beliefs about a bunch of things. Still, her wide-eyed agreement about everything Eileen is saying to her is a bit much for me, as is her reading the definition of the word scapegoat off her phone. Is she going to look up the definition of patsy next?
In New York, the women gather together in a suite decorated with jewels to celebrate Yolanda and Erika, Kathryn, and Kyle wonder if any of the baubles surrounding them are for sale. The prospect doesn’t matter all that much to Erika, though. See, she's not allowed to buy any jewels because that's Tom’s job. All she is permitted to do is leak some information about what she might want to Tom’s secretary and hope for the best. You know, there have been some times in my life when I've considered whether or not choosing money over real love might actually be the kind of choice I could live with making. While I came to my answer about that question long ago, I still cannot help but admit that Erika is like a walking cautionary tale for me come true.
To complete the magic of this night, Yolanda would like to go onto the rooftop and gaze at the skyline. It’s there that her husband makes a toast about how happy he is that she's out of bed and not wearing the robe she's been wrapped in for months. Then the woman of the hour toasts those around her, especially her husband, who she thanks for still being beside her, a toast that now seems far more sad and foreboding because we know what happened to this relationship. It's upsetting that Yolanda calls herself a shell of the person she used to be. It’s also upsetting that David seems annoyed and inconvenienced by the fact that his wife is sick. There's just no happy ending here.
It doesn’t look like there will be a ton of happiness spreading across our screens next week either, because that’s when the ladies head off to Dubai so they can trot across the globe to fight about the same things they fight about while they’re in California. Also, Brandi Glanville shows up at Yolanda's bedside and that reminds me – there is a Step 6 to my plan to avoid Housewives-triggered pain and it is this: Never look directly at Brandi’s face. Sure, you might want to check out the newest advances in terrible Botox, but avoid that urge because there’s a possibility that evil can be transmitted through the airwaves and it’s just safe for humanity in general to hide under some covers and count quietly to one hundred until we’re sure she’s gone away.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need an entertainment palate cleanser. Since my copy of Requiem for a Dream is all the way downstairs, I think I’ll turn on CNN instead and check out the results of the newest primaries because it’s nice to turn your attention to people who don’t take themselves so seriously every once in a while.
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.