Has it already been a year since a Restylane-stuffed monster sat on a velvet couch beside an alcoholic who was dressed like a marshmallow Peep and nodded approvingly as the alcoholic claimed to have never once struggled with her sobriety? Have almost 365 days and nights really passed since we last watched Kyle Richards fling back her long curtain of hair and proudly invite her dear friend Faye Resnick, the same woman who once capitalized on her friend’s murder by spreading it wide for Playboy, to come to dinner in her home? Have the shards of glass from the stemware Lisa Rinna broke during a screaming brawl with the most tragic child star of them all (and I’m including Leif Garrett in my countdown) finally been swept up and thrown away into a odorous garbage heap that looks an awful lot like Kim Richards’ face if you quickly glance at it in profile? And was there ever really a movie where soap queen Eileen Davidson appeared in a catsuit as a space alien or might I have just dreamed the whole thing up due to some of the substances I possibly ingested to have some fun over the years?
Proving there’s absolutely no rest for the weary, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is back for more. More of what, you ask? Well, I’m imagining there will be more betrayals, bigger lies, and scores of dinner parties that devolve into evenings of utter fucking misery before the guests leave with a gift bag. There will be two new Housewives joining the gaggle of women we’re already quite familiar with and Brandi and Kim will no longer flounce their wretched way across our television screens with any sort of regularity. I will not miss either of those assholes and I confronted the news that they have been seen filming scenes for this show with the kind of grace such a situation deserves, in that I threw myself across the floor of my home and beat my fists wildly against the wood until my knuckles were swollen and sore. See, I think that last season I might have called Kim Richards “a thin-lipped vile monster” and there’s a chance I compared Brandi to “regret that tastes like cherry-flavored lube” and I would like to state for the record that I stand by those comments and – not to toot my own horn or anything – but I also admire the tremendous restraint I’ve shown in my efforts not to be mean to these walking fucking night terrors.
Yes, it was right about this time last year when I started to realize that I had been calling Brandi Glanville and Kim Richards “assholes” so frequently that I desperately needed a synonym for the word. Perhaps my finest play at language in recent memory was deciding to call Ms. Glanville “Satan’s Sphincter.” So as a viewer of this show, I’m thrilled that such pieces of dogshit are no longer on this series full-time. But as a recapper? I’m devastated! I just don’t think it will provide me with the same amount of glee to call Yolanda Foster a crusty hemorrhoid, especially when she’s suffering from either Lyme or Munchausen disease and just hours ago announced her upcoming divorce. I’m not saying I didn’t laugh a little bit when I realized her rep announced the dissolution of the marriage on the same day the new season premiered, but I’m choosing to tread lightly with Yolanda…for now.
This season begins with an extended highlight reel of what’s to come and it looks like we’ll be getting several visits from The Ghosts of Housewives Past. Can I just ask a question? Has anyone really been missing Taylor or Camille or the great magician’s assistant, Adrienne? Because all I did when I saw their tight faces flash across my television screen was sigh deeply. As far as the newest taglines said during the opening credits, I just hope that it was someone high up at Bravo (or someone who has a cache of damning photographic evidence starring these women) who forced them to spew out such clichéd quips. Let’s see: Lisa Rinna makes another pun about her gigantic lips; Kyle utters some nonsensical statement about how, even in Beverly Hills, she is true to herself; one of the new girls presents herself from the onset as blatantly materialistic; Eileen-the-actress blandly maintains that she’ll say what’s on her mind and not what’s written in the “script” someone creates for her because it was clearly two for one day in the Bravo pun department; Yolanda’s already calling bullshit on those who are calling it on her; and Lisa Vanderpump – once again – rises to the top of the bunch with her perfect dulcet tones informing us that she’s crazy about dogs but not about bitches. The season is forty seconds in and the woman has already slayed her competition. I sort of unapologetically love her.
And speaking of the star of this franchise, we begin as we always do, in Lisa’s opulent home where her housekeeper waits on her and she has outfitted her dog in a soft purple onesie. Wearing all black, Lisa meets up with one of the Los Angeles Dodgers who has shown up in her backyard to teach her how to throw a pitch since she’s been invited to toss one out at an upcoming Dodger’s game. Lisa is thrilled to get to play with this Dodger’s balls and Ken appears on the lawn just in time to remind her to pretend the guy trying to catch the ball is Brandi and that advice gives Lisa some momentum because Brandi fucking sucks and everyone knows it at this point. As for the real story of went down between these former friends, Lisa is not all that specific but she does reiterate that she has nothing to do with Brandi anymore – and she doesn’t appear to miss her in the slightest.
Lisa Rinna’s house might not be quite as lavish as Lady Vanderpump’s, but there’s still something exciting going down in her kitchen. The production crew for an Oprah: Where Are They Now special is setting up some lights and, though she is rather disappointed that Ms. Winfrey herself is not stopping by to borrow her chapstick, Lisa is still flattered to be included and she applies her smoky eye makeup like she’s a fucking pro. In my opinion, Lisa Rinna is once again starting a season off right. She appears humble and funny and like she might not be someone I’d need to kill with my bare hands (or with a sturdy hammer) during a trip that was forced upon me by a production company who really only has my very worst interests at heart and even though I know they really do have only my worst interests at heart, I keep signing those reality TV contracts anyway because it’s so fun to be recognized at Trader Joe’s.
One thing I have always really liked about Lisa Rinna is the way she seems to champion other women, at least those who don’t start rumors about a fictional marital strife she’s experiencing in an effort to throw the scent off the truth and the vodka that’s hiding in plain sight in a water bottle. She mentions how much she admires the way Eileen has built a reliable acting career for herself and we get to join Eileen on the set of The Young and the Restless. There’s some exciting behind the scenes dish in that we see her memorize her lines while pedaling slowly on an exercise bike and picking out a bra. It’s undeniable that Eileen is professional and reliable and not a total asshole. It’s also undeniable that she’s more than just a little bit dull, but then again, the season just started. There’s ample time for her to invite her friends to an exorcism at her place.
And now it’s time to be forced into Kyle’s store, a place I think probably smells like roses decaying in a funeral home mixed with a Designer Imposter’s version of Chanel No. 5. A newish member of the We’re Full-On Rich! Club, Kyle tries on sunglasses that cost more than your car while answering her phone with a husky greeting. It’s Lisa Vanderpump on the other end because these two are totally friends now that Brandi is dead to both of them and it’s maybe the one thing (besides the people she insists on employing on Vanderpump Rules) I hold against her. It’s not that I’m positive that she’s a terrible person, but I’m just sort of completely positive that Kyle is a genuinely shitty person. I view her as a woman who has a lot of hair and absolutely no substance. I think the real Kyle, whoever she happens to be, is cloaked, buried underneath brand logos she wears like armor, and that she spends most of her time projecting whatever it is she thinks you want to see. I’m clearly not her target demographic because I don’t want to see her do anything. Still, I’m a girl who can change my mind and maybe I’ll start to like Kyle this season. Maybe I’ll also give up some rather impressive plans I’ve put into motion to exact some personal revenge or finally master how to bake brownies that aren’t half-raw. What I’m saying is that anything is possible if you dream big.
At Villa Blanca, Lisa and Kyle compare sunglasses and rhapsodize about how much they missed one another when they weren’t friends. Then they bandy about questions that focus on just what it is that’s wrong with Yolanda. She’s been diagnosed with a neurological Lyme disease and she maintains that she has very little brain function and that she hasn’t driven a car in two years. She’s exposed herself to all kinds of odd procedures to rid herself of this illness, and maybe we all have been poisoned by Brooks’ actions over in Orange County (he’s the guy who probably lied about having cancer), but I think viewers now see signs of an illness on television and aren’t so ready to buy what they see as immediately factual anymore. I think that such a thing means that we are living in a very sad time, and I’m not just saying that because the guy I just got off the phone with told me Pulp Fiction was only okay and that he liked Kill Bill better. I am, however, reevaluating that relationship.
And then we finally see Yolanda and she is not doing well. She says the Lyme disease has ravaged her body and she’s so weak that she has moved into a small condo so there’s less of a house she must maintain. I’d love to think that her now-estranged husband might have taken up the slack for his weary wife and gathered his own lemons every once in a while, but the guy never struck me as the helpful type. Lying pale against a white couch, Yolanda FaceTimes with her daughter Gigi, a bonafide supermodel who dates guys who recently left boy bands. Yolanda has been trying everything possible to cure herself and she is grateful for the support she’s getting from friends, one of whom is probably not Lisa Vanderpump.
Still annoyed by the way Yolanda treated her husband last season – to say nothing of aligning herself with Brandi – Lisa wants to let go of any resentment she feels for Yolanda because the woman is not well and Lisa is a decent person and doesn’t everyone want to watch decent people on television? Obviously not if they work at Warner Brothers, because that company just offered Kyle a deal to created scripted programming based on her real life. Um, if I wanted to feel like I was in a room with Kim Richards, I’d check into a rehab clinic or lock myself in a hotel bathroom and if I wanted to be in a room with Kyle, well, then I’d check myself into a mental ward for intense evaluation. I can only hope this series never gets out of development hell and that Kyle’s new sunglasses break immediately. As for how her family has responded to her good news, they are not happy for her and that’s weird because I’d totally expect Paris Hilton’s mother to be the sweetest and most supportive person on the planet.
And Kim? She might not actually appear in monster form on tonight’s episode, but her shaky presence is felt everywhere. We see her visage when a screenshot of an article that announced her arrest for public intoxication slides across the screen while Kyle talks about how she felt such a sense of disbelief about what went down, making Kyle the only person in all of the land to be surprised by the news. At the time this episode was filmed, Kim was ensconced in yet another rehab center where she was very busy blaming everyone else for her addictions during her daily group therapy sessions, but I’m not sure if that was before or after she was let out of treatment briefly to attend her daughter’s destination wedding and then went missing in Mexico as is wont to happen.
Back at Yolanda’s house (I’m sorry, condo), she is not so concerned about the fact that she is ill. No, instead she is worried about how David, her dear husband, needs to work on his big Disney project because he is a man and men need to work and I guess that level of feminine fawning only holds a man close for a little while before he decides the time might be right for him to file for Divorce #4. Watching Yolanda talk about David now feels like we’re all watching a countdown and he’s suddenly interesting to me in a way he never was before because now I just want to watch the guy implode instead of sing songs constructed entirely out of saccharin. Still, I feel badly for Yolanda. She appears terribly depressed and she states that she feels like she is not participating in her life or in the lives of her kids. She looks broken – and it’s a very upsetting thing to see.
In a lighter emotional space is Lisa Vanderpump. She’s heading off to Dodger Stadium to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of the LGBT community. Such a public gesture is nothing but lovely, yet all I can focus on is the fact that her dog is there. He is in the stadium and he is on the field and how did such a thing transpire? I mean, I used to try to pass Wookie off as a very hairy child who barked because she had yet to master language at Yankee games all the time and it never worked, so why does Giggy get to attend games? I will write a scathing letter to the MLB later tonight condemning those who are guilty, but for now I’ll simply say that Lisa strips down to a bra and jeans before tossing on her pink baseball shirt and cap and she pops out onto the field to throw the ball. She does well enough and she looks fantastic and I hope all the fillers that Brandi has stuffed into her face have not impeded her ability to see because I’d love to know that she is watching her former friend be adored in a stadium while she’s the star of a podcast that’s listened to by approximately sixteen people.
Over in the life of the other Lisa, she is taking her daughters shopping. She’s trying to be very cognizant of the fact that her kids could get incredibly fucked up due to their proximity to fame and fortune so she is trying to temper what could be by making her kids work for things that they want. To that end, her oldest daughter is working at a deli to make money to buy a car and I have just decided that I’d love some turkey on wheat bread with a little bit of mustard. Might Delilah’s deli deliver?
Now it’s time to go inside of Eileen’s house, the one with the decorating scheme Brandi equated to “American Psycho.” Not that she wants to give such an asshole credit for anything, but Eileen admits that the comment hit her hard and she wants to make her home a bit more airy. I think this is an excellent feng shui move on her part because anything that might remove all of the shades brown and the furniture made from the heaviest materials a lumberjack was able to get his hands on is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, with happy remodeling also comes sad news. Dickie Van Patten, Eileen’s father-in-law and the dad on Eight is Enough, passed away recently and the void is really being felt. Lisa Rinna calls in to check on how her friend is doing. She is currently fearing the potential loss of her own father and that kind of gripping fear children of any age feel is precisely the kind of emotion that can really bond adults in the saddest, scariest, and most profound of ways.
But not everything is about death on this show, not this early on! It’s Lisa Rinna's birthday! It’s time for the women to celebrate! Kyle shows up in shorts, so there’s that, and then she talks about how she’s married to a “luxury lover” and that they are about to set sail for Florence and Tuscany and I can only hope that she won’t wear her shorts there. Yolanda shows up to the dinner with some beautiful flowers and not a scrap of makeup. She looks tired and drawn but still beautiful in an ethereal kind of way and it makes me mildly uncomfortable when Lisa Vanderpump suggests that she could have put on a little bronzer. Yolanda sits beside her friends and coughs quietly and begins to sweat and she leaves the table, prompting Ken to ask if she is okay. Yolanda leaves soon after and nobody quite knows what to think or what to say.
Then Harry Hamlin walks into the party and Lisa lets us know that her husband is on fire career-wise and the two of them look pretty happy, but they also look kind of identical to one another. Seriously, you know how people often look like their pets? Lisa Rinna looks like her husband. Maybe that was the secret Kim Richards hinted at last year when she bellowed, “Everyone will know!” at Lisa across a dinner table in Amsterdam. Maybe Lisa and Harry are really brother and sister – or maybe I’ve just been watching far too many sick movies where a twist ending manages to knock me on my ass every time.
And now that she’s gone, everyone can talk about Yolanda. Kyle brings her up in much the way Kyle often does, in that she’ll toss out a mild comment about someone and then sit back and take mental notes on what other people are saying so she doesn’t have to get her own hands dirty. As for what is said in her absence, Lisa Rinna is impressed that Yolanda showed up without makeup and thinks it was very brave of her to display her vulnerability but Ken explains that he might have told her she looked good, but she actually just looked really ill. The truth is, I haven’t really followed any of the activities that have gone on in the lives of these Housewives since production wrapped last year, but I certainly know that there are a lot of theories about the veracity of Yolanda’s illness. I don’t know nearly enough to form an opinion yet, but I will say that the woman looks sick and like she’s struggling. Then again, I also thought Brooks must have been telling the truth about his cancer diagnosis because what kind of fucking lunatic would lie about having cancer? (Answer: the same kind of fucking lunatic who willingly spoons Vicki Gunvalson.)
And back at her home where the dogs eat their kibble from bowls that have the Chanel logo – and I don’t care what anyone says; I still believe Kyle’s pubic hair has been shaved into a similar shape – Mauricio and Kyle chat about whether or not Kyle should get into regular contact with Kim. It’s so hard for Kyle, you guys! See, she was reared by a family who likes to their keep private life private, a fact she states directly to a camera. At what point might this woman realize that the privacy ship (where she, of course, reserved the most luxurious berth because she is very wealthy) has sailed far away and then been shot at by pirates? There is no more privacy, not for this clan, and they made that choice when they signed on for this show knowing how many secrets they all harbored. As for reconciling with her sister, Kyle is in a lose-lose situation here because she is trying to mend a relationship with a person who will never feel anything for her but total resentment that her life didn’t turn into a simmering pile of shit too.
Next week, Kyle feels like Sophia Loren’s twin because she’s in Italy and because she too was born with a uterus and Yolanda experiences a health crisis that looks legitimately frightening. I’m betting it was a moment like that one when David Foster decided “till death do us part” was really just written to be a song lyric belted out by Céline Dion, not a policy to live by – especially if this no-makeup thing becomes a habit.
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.