As we inch closer to the last day of this year – or towards the first day of a brand new year, depending upon your levels of optimism – it's hard not to contemplate everything that's come before. After all, something new often walks hand in hand with some type of ending, doesn't it? There have definitely been some years where I felt a true thudding inside at the awareness that so much is over while other years it's just a bittersweet kind of twinge that takes over whenever I catch a glimpse of a calendar that tells me it's December 29th. But this year? Well, I feel completely at peace. What's gone is in the past and the present feels breezy and bright and I think that the very best is yet to come and the greatest part of all of it is that I haven't even tried to convince myself of such a thing. I simply feel this way and it's like wrapping my tired feet in slippers made out of cotton and clouds.
But when it comes to the Housewives, I'm not sure that peace and tranquility sells. My guess is that nobody wants to watch a program about happy rich people gallivanting around the globe, but then there's that part of me that wonders why Bravo thinks we want to watch a woman in the throes of a debilitating illness that's either physical or psychological or a devastating mix of both. And allow me to just say this: I believe Yolanda is truly sick, but I also believe that participating in this show when she claims everything about herself has been compromised is an odd choice. I know she's insisting that she is out to spread awareness, but since all we've been exposed to thus far about her illness is that she has a curious health advocate at her beck and call and a massive closet crammed with medication that clearly wasn't all prescribed to her by a doctor and her friends tossing out words like Munchausen Syndrome, I'm not positive she's doing the good work she's pretending is being done. After all, this is a show that's always been fueled by a cocktail of conflict and suspicion that's served with a slice of cynicism. This is a franchise that celebrates a convicted felon returning home from jail only to find a brand new Lexus sitting in her driveway that's wrapped in a gigantic red bow. This is a series that invited Brandi Glanville back to make guest appearances – and paid her for it. This is not a televised forum for anything particularly wonderful and we all know it.
But still we watch. Still we stare at Kyle as she alleges to hate attention even while she stares into a camera. Still I have sky-high hopes that Erika will eventually stop referring to herself in the third person. Still I hope that Eileen will become more interesting and that Lisa Vanderpump will start shooting scenes exclusively in her sumptuous closet and that Lisa Rinna will refuse to apologize when she hasn't done anything wrong. Still I pray to a sky filled with stars and airplanes that Kim Richards never returns. It's a new year, dammit, and I have nothing but hope.
Unfortunately, that hope is fading fast because we begin this episode in Kyle’s terrible store where Lisa Rinna arrives to go on a shopping spree that will be paid for entirely by Mauricio in what I can only imagine will be a write off. Before she can don hideous caftans in colors that will never be located in nature, Kyle lets us know that she is opening a pop-up shop in the Hamptons and she invites Lisa to attend. Not only does Lisa agree, but she also manages to find the one beige clothing item in the entire store and she slips it on. She looks fantastic and the scene blessedly ends before Kyle can do her throaty giggle so all the tourists in the shop can hear her and nudge one another that they have just been in the presence of someone famous.
Things are less calm over at Lisa Vanderpump’s house. Her swan, Hanky, has a stomach infection so she and Ken are taking him to the vet. I know how difficult it can be to get a tiny dog into a car so I give them credit for managing to slip that swan into an SUV. On a happier note, it’s nice to know that there are animal clinics that treat swans and that biting is an indication that Hanky is getting better.
Also looking better is Yolanda. She and Erika are meeting up with Kyle to go on a hike. It’s the first time Erika and Kyle are meeting, so Kyle makes sure to compliment her on whatever she can find – in this case, it’s Erika’s long ponytail – and they walk for only a few steps before sitting down to discuss how depression can mimic other medical symptoms. Yolanda, however, is not allowing this conversation to go all that far. She insists she has Lyme Disease and she wants everyone to know that just because she looks good one day, she is not out of the woods. Before anything else can be discussed, she switches the focus to Erika. Erika explains that she’s a singer and she has a son who is a police officer and she and Kyle bond over the fact that they both had their first children when they were almost children themselves. And then it happens: the pretend, “Hey! Here’s an idea that came to me organically and wasn’t planted in my head by a producer right before we all met up! Let’s bring Erika to meet the other ladies for a drink tomorrow!” I love these faux moments because I think anyone with sight can spot them a fucking mile away. Anyway, Erika is in despite the fact that she really only likes to hang out with gay men and a few incredibly accomplished women and I think it’s quite possible that Kyle is shitting herself like Hanky the Swan knowing that she has just made it into that kind of esteemed company.
It’s important that all of the women get together soon because Yolanda is heading off to Cleveland to have her breast implants taken out. In a recent MRI, some silicone leakage was found in her chest cavity and she needs to get that shit cleaned out and what this means for viewers is that we have already watched her crowns get pulled and now her implants will be sucked out (I’ll bet on camera and in close-up) too. If her tongue is yanked free from her mouth next, I will officially be done with this show. Then the news emerges that two of Yolanda’s kids also have Lyme Disease and the entire thing seems bizarre to Kyle and kind of to me too and I know this will sound incredibly unkind and I don’t quite mean for it to, but spending time with Yolanda these days is absolutely no fun at all.
Thank God for Lisa Rinna, because this woman is a ball of crazy fun. She’s home when the waxer arrives for a house call and soon her entire ass is clear of any kind of hair. After listening to a conversation about leaky implants lodged in a chest cavity, this kind of levity is nothing short of a delight. I’d watch Lisa get waxed in slow motion rather than go back to that bench with Kyle, Yolanda, and Erika and I think I’m not the only one who feels this way. Lisa is headed to Canada and then to do a gig on QVC before she jets off to the Hamptons and I’m glad she’s doing all of it while being as hairless as she can possibly be.
I have no idea is Kyle is hairy or not, but the thought did cross my mind as she arrived to meet up with Lisa Vanderpump at CBS Studios for a tour of Eileen’s show. In case any of us forgot – or successfully blocked it out – Kyle reminds us that she is an actress and she was on that soap when she was about four years old. Eileen busts out happily to greet them, tossing out an All About Eve reference in the process that makes me adore her. They play for a while in the costume department and Lisa tries to stick a hundred dollar bill into a vending machine. Then Kyle attempts to do her English accent and now my hand hurts from punching the television screen. Afterwards, they all creep quietly upstairs into Eileen’s dressing room where they help her run her lines and chat about how they’re all going to meet up later on with Yolanda and Erika. It's posited that Lisa Rinna was not trying to be malicious by repeating the tales of Munchausen Madness that are apparently running rampant around the boutiques of Beverly Hills, but Kyle believes that Yolanda will be hurt to know that Lisa said any such thing behind her back and I am once again reminded of just how idiotic it is that these women profess to be hurt and shocked when their “friends” speak about them when they’re all on a television show that requires interviews with producers WHO DIRECTLY ASK THESE WOMEN QUESTIONS ABOUT ONE ANOTHER.
Later that day, Erika and Yolanda are at a hotel getting ready to meet up with Eileen, Kyle, and Lisa Vanderpump. Yolanda explains that Erika is about to meet some of her friends, but I really wish she would just say, “Time to meet the rest of the cast you signed up to brawl alongside for at least a season!” I mean, the whole thing would just ring so much more true, you know? And what’s Yolanda looking forward to most about all of this? That the women will get to know Erika’s brain, which is exactly how I feel when I introduce one friend to another. (“Hey, Nicole!” I say all the time. “Check out Becky’s brain! It’s so cute.”) Lisa arrives first and she is taken aback by how Barbie-like Erika appears (guess she’ll notice her brain after she marvels at all that hair) and then Kyle shows up and swoons over Erika’s ring, which means she skipped over the brain thing too. And it’s all fun and games while they try on a Cartier ring that costs more than a car until Kyle looks at Yolanda and notices that she appears pale and wan. She asks how she’s doing and Yolanda responds that she’s feeling sick. Kyle then tells Lisa that two of Yolanda’s kids are sick with Lyme Disease – and that’s news to Lisa. She has known Yolanda’s kids for years and she is as close as can be with the father of those children and it is nothing but peculiar that none of this has come out before. The entire thing? It’s fucking odd and it's sad and, in my opinion, it's so unnecessary for television.
Things lighten up a bit when Lisa offers to do a pap smear for Erika. Sadly, Eileen arrives before the stirrups can be brought out onto the terrace, but the joyfulness continues to soar when Kyle invites Erika to join them in the Hamptons too. And Erika is in! She will hop on her private plane and land beside Kyle’s store and she will do it all after performing as Erika Jayne in Chicago where she will have worn no clothes and writhed around on a floor sassily because she is an artist and that’s what artists do. You know what else (con) artists do? They marry rich older men and stay with them for a good long time and, should it end, they walk away with half the guy’s fortune and they tell brand new friends that plan over tea with a wink and a smile.
When it comes out that Erika’s husband is seventy-six years old, Lisa nods sagely, like she has finally figured the woman out, and Eileen looks vaguely disgusted. I recommend, however, that nobody utter anything too negative about any of this or Erika will morph immediately into Erika Jayne and pull on a body stocking made entirely from mesh and leather and crawl on her hands and knees across the floor and slug you in the face with both her fist and her ponytail and she will do it all in a very sassy way because, again, she’s an artist and she loves her husband and fuck you if you believe otherwise.
Talk moves (thankfully) from the virility of Erika’s aged husband to the party Lisa threw for Ken and I once again get to realize that I fucking love Lisa Vanderpump. Mentioning Taylor, she then clearly states, “I wanted to slap her.” See, that’s how I think everyone should feel about Taylor because Taylor sucks sweaty goat scrotum and her willingness to compromise everything about herself for some time on TV makes me feel queasy inside and I cannot possibly be the only one with such an opinion because the lady is no longer on this show full-time. But the reason I can’t stand Kyle is also illustrated here when she reacts with total surprise that Lisa wanted to deck the woman. We’ll get back to metaphorically cold-clocking Taylor shortly, but first Yolanda brings up that she heard that Taylor and Lisa were speaking about whether or not she was really sick. Kyle’s eyes bug right out of her head at the start of the conversation and they all but fly across the room and hit other diners when Eileen chooses to be frank and honest with the woman sitting before her instead of pretending she doesn’t know anything like Kyle prefers to do. To stand up for Lisa Rinna, Eileen explains that there is some talk about what is going on with Yolanda’s health and that Lisa got caught up in a conversation about such a thing and that she feels terribly for engaging in any of it. Eileen tells Yolanda that Lisa wants to speak to her about what happened because she loves her and never wants to feel as though she has betrayed Yolanda in any way and Yolanda reacts to this news by nodding coldly and repeating, “I can’t even deal,” before she kisses them all goodbye and rushes off the premises. Erika stays behind and gazes warily at the women who are affiliated with people who are questioning the integrity of her friend and she has to be wondering if being on this show is worth it or not.
(Hint: it’s not.)
On a brand new day, Hanky is deemed to be healthy and he has put his weight back on. Lisa holds him and kisses him softly and whispers, “Be romantic,” in the swan’s ear. I find the whole thing entirely endearing. I really like Lisa and I think that means that she can do almost anything without getting my judgment. But look, I didn’t randomly select her as the Housewife to like the most. Instead, I have reacted to her wit and her blunt manner exhibited over the years. I guess the thing is this: if I like you, I’ll let you get away with anything, including cooing to a swan who has just recovered from projectile diarrhea.
Back in Yolanda’s house, her children have arrived home. They’re all rather gorgeous and it’s sweet to see them there alongside Yolanda’s mother. Yolanda and her mother head off to pick some lemons and then they recline on a beautiful bluff to talk about the upcoming surgery. Yolanda begins to cry as she discusses how much she wants to be healthy and to see her babies grow and her mother holds her and offers her some comfort. The entire scene is shattering and it only gets more upsetting when Yolanda presents her will to her children. The trauma on her kids’ faces is immediate and I feel terribly for all of them but what I seriously cannot believe is that she is having this conversation with her children on camera. (Quick story: A few years ago, my blessedly healthy mother called to ask me to come over so I could help her photograph her jewelry for her will. After asking if there was anyone else on the planet who could help her with such a depressing deed, I showed up and spent an afternoon sucking back muted hysteria at the idea of losing my mother while she held up diamonds and some emerald brooch I’d never seen before. It felt scary and I left filled with an impending sense of doom and had someone pointed a camera at my face just then – and had that person been assisted by my mother – I think I might have passed out due to undistilled fury.) While much of the shit on this show is patently unnecessary, something so intimately confusing and painful that involves someone’s kids just crosses a line for me. And look, maybe it’s just me who feels this way and everybody else watching thinks this is a profound scene that will help other people who are also having implants removed from their chest cavities, but I think Yolanda’s New Year’s resolution should perhaps be to keep conversations that will psychologically warp her kids off-camera for the time being. If I finally mastered the art of not swallowing gum, she can master that one.
Next week, Erika calls Lisa Vanderpump “diva” over the phone because Erika Jayne momentarily commandeered her vocal cords and her brain and Kim Richards gets arrested at the very moment Kyle is attempting to feel fabulous in the Hamptons. And so it seems that the new year on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills will just be bringing us more of the same and I might need to start directing my attention to more upbeat fare.
Making a Murderer, here I come!
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.