For the love of all that is holy, can these women please stop throwing dinner parties? A plodding exercise in both pure futility and vicious verbal brutality, The Dinner Party scenes on The Real Housewives of Wherever always seem like they should be accompanied by ominous studio scoring. Nobody at the dinner will eat a thing. Not one person will be understood better than she was before she walked in the door and planted two fake kisses on her hostess' cheeks. No woman at that table will suddenly shout, "Eureka!" as she instantaneously decides that you were right and she was wrong during the soup course. Accept it, ladies: the evening will be a long and twisted nightmare from which you cannot awake. You probably won't even be able to escape quickly because your car isn't there since there's apparently a clause in the Housewives contract that requires that you carpool to all events with the person whose name you plucked from one of Kyle's Chanel caps. (Shhhh: the hat is as fake as its owner.) But really, regardless of how I feel about any of these strangers, there's no denying that they're all relatively smart women – except for Kathryn, who comes off as a moron – and I cannot for the life of me figure out the logic behind showing up at someone's house when you just know it's going to end badly.
And really, what is left for these people to discuss? Any retreading of past issues will again lead to no concrete resolutions and gathering together will surely just spawn even further animosity. You know what that means? It means the Reunion will end up being a FIVE-PART travesty instead of a three-part shit show and Kim Richards will show up so she and her sister can cry on opposite couches as they explain to the world at large that the only hope of mending their shattered relationship is to embrace privacy.
This week, it's Erika who is throwing the party and to that I have but one question: Why? While I'd love to pretend that the occasion is to celebrate International Women's Day or that she's officially reclaimed the word "cunt" and believes she must mark the occasion with a cake shaped like a vagina, I'm pretty sure she just drew the short straw at the last production meeting. Erika has already decided that Lisa Vanderpump is a manipulative alligator who likes to slink around in various shades of pink so she can undermine those around her while asking unbelievably intrusive questions like, "So, how long have you known Yolanda?" Yes, the woman is a monster. Erika has also snarled while watching Lisa Rinna question Yolanda's illness and she clearly believes Kyle is a waste of space, to say nothing of the fact that it was confirmed last week that Kathryn completely betrayed her and then blamed Erika for it because she made the mistake of speaking. What else might someone in Erika's position do now except call a caterer and welcome these women into her home? I'm confused. Are we supposed to act like any of this makes sense? Are we expected to think that Erika will seat herself across from Lisa Vanderpump and muse to herself, "I was wrong about this woman! She's a delight!" Are we being asked to develop some hope that this season will skid to an end with all of these women suddenly friends? Or are we just being encouraged to form our very own March Madness brackets and take bets on which Housewife will walk out of that dinner party with her dignity intact? (Anyone who slots Kathryn as the winner is a total sucker. I'd put all of Lisa Vanderpump's livestock ahead of Kathryn's chances at victory.)
We’ll get to the start of tonight's episode in just a moment, but first allow me to say that I intentionally did not watch Andy Cohen's interview with Kim Richards that preceded the show. I cannot stand Kim Richards and since I don’t believe anything that escapes from her mouth anyway, I decided that I didn't need to tune in. However, at 8:57 I flipped on my television to get ready to write this recap and I caught the last three minutes of the – well, let's go ahead and call it an interview. Andy played a clip of some horrific reality show this beacon of strength is starring in with her beleaguered child. In the clip, Kim bursts into tears, an act that is pretty par for the course. When the clip blessedly ends, Kim is asked why she did the show. I swear on my life, I'd actually develop some respect for her if she just answered, "For the cash," or “My mother once told me that I’d whither away and die if cameras weren’t pointed in my direction,” but no – Kim Richards can't speak in honest (or complete) sentences. Instead we got an answer that included flapping hands and oddly dissonant sounds emitting from her body. I harnessed my inner Dian Fossey and deduced that the woman is either drinking again and that's why she behaves this way or she's just completely batshit crazy and absolutely nothing will ever cure her. By the way, she indicated through sign language that she thought it would be a ton of fun to be on a show like that with her daughter and that weepy clip sure looked like a hell of a lot of fun. In any case, it’s time now to get on with this show, the one Kim was fired from in spite of the prayers she said while crouching beside trashcans.
Tonight we begin with Erika getting beautified by her crew. They tend to her like she's S&M Barbie and she informs them that she's having her dinner party so all of the women can meet her husband at once. I can only imagine how many of his guests Tom will eventually bring litigation against, but I'm more perplexed as to why Erika believes throwing a dinner for people she doesn't particularly care for makes any sense. As I realize I will never have an answer to that question (we can toss it on the list alongside Is there really a heaven? and What exactly is wrong with Kanye West?), let's just move on.
Yolanda FaceTimes Erika just then. She's lying in her bed and wrapped up in a robe. She looks awful and I don't think that's up for dispute. What could be up for dispute is why she didn't just call Erika instead of making sure her lethargic appearance showed up onscreen. Does she only FaceTime people? Can someone please teach this woman how to text? She’ll have some free time on her hands tonight because she's too sick to go to the dinner party, but she’s not worried about not showing up. She knows that nobody will dare mention her name because nobody wants to be the recipient of Yolanda's next scolding email that will be shot through cyberspace in the dead of night while all of the normal people slumber.
It's carpool time and Lisa Rinna and Kathryn have been scheduled to ride to Erika's house together. Rinna keeps getting stuck in the worst car rides, huh? Hopefully Kathryn won't randomly start whispering, "Fuck you," at Lisa like Kim did that one time but I'm really more concerned that Lisa doesn't know Kathryn's Life Rules. Does she understand that anything she says will be passed on to a skywriter by evening's end? Kathryn doesn't seem to be nervous in the least about dining in the home of a woman she so recently and callously betrayed and I just realized something: I don't get Kathryn and I don't really want to try to get her. I think she kind of sucks as a person.
Back at Erika's – the scene of the future crime – we learn that she doesn't cook and she never tells her husband about the catty shit that goes down in her life. Since my impression is that he wouldn't listen to her anyway, that's probably a wise move. Besides, the women Erika hates will be arriving imminently and Tom will be able to see their flaws for himself. He won't be getting the whole picture, though, because a bunch of the women won't be there. Eileen's busy filming a scene that takes place in an inferno, Kyle is either fasting or breaking the fast for Yom Kippur, and Yolanda is currently spooning with her health advocate. Lucky bitches.
Observation # 1 for tonight? Lisa Rinna might have called shotgun on all things leopard, but she will not force Erika to go upstairs and change out of her leopard print dress because she's terrified of the woman. Observation #2? Kathryn has no idea that her food is about to be poisoned.
Lisa Vanderpump shows up next with Ken and she immediately formulates an exit strategy so she can get herself the hell out of there. She has a charity event to attend at nine. Bravo, Lisa! Nobody can argue with you once you say you have to bail on account of a charity! And just when I thought that maybe this dinner might go smoothly after all, Kathryn makes the mistake of joking that Lisa Rinna doesn't eat and the svelte lippy one does not appreciate the comment and she shuts Kathryn the fuck down. It’s right about then when Tom and his odd toothy grin wander into the room and I too am impressed that it’s been two entire minutes and he hasn't yet told his wife to shut the fuck up. Cut him some slack, though. He’s too busy telling Lisa Vanderpump that she's the only worthy opponent he's ever known, a comment that has to be killing Erika just a little bit. As for Kathryn, she announces to the rest of them that she would have made as great a lawyer as Tom and the biggest reason for that is because she's a liar who enjoys twisting peoples' words for sport. Back off, ladies! I want Kathryn to be my best friend!
Dinner is going swimmingly (as long as the swimming is taking place in a murky lake where toddlers pee and some fanged creature glides along the surface) and that's when Lisa Vanderpump tells Erika that she'd love to know more about her. Erika explains that she reveals herself over time, but see, Kathryn doesn't have any time. She wants to be best fucking friends with Erika right now, an odd hope after betraying the woman just last week. I'm rather certain that Kathryn is drunk off her ass at the moment and maybe that's why she's being so confrontational, but I'm also semi-certain that Tom will murder her by the end of the meal for interrupting him and also for badgering his wife to reveal her secrets. And what exactly is Kathryn dying to know? She will not be able to sleep if she doesn’t find out how Erika applies her false lashes. Kathryn cares about the important things in life, people.
As for our illustrious hostess, Erika cannot believe that her guests are putting her on the spot at her own dinner party by asking her about her past and her secrets and her lashes. Has she never seen this show before? Did she really not understand that she'd be forced to interact with adult women who say things like, "I've been told I'm loud and assertive my whole life," without ever following that statement up with a musing such as, “I wonder why if that’s why everybody hates me…”? Watching the bickering that’s transpiring in his holy presence, Tom is stunned. "Do you guys do this all the time?" he asks. Meanwhile, Ken sits just quietly and counts backwards from one hundred in his head and tells himself that soon he will be home safe and Giggy can once again be in his arms.
The crux of the argument seems to be about how Kathryn betrayed Erika, and when Erika explains that Kathryn’s gossiping not only hurt Lisa’s feelings but also possibly forever derailed the potential for the two of them to ever be friends, Kathryn's genius response is, "No, it did not!" Ladies and gentlemen, meet the newest crazy person who now calls Bravo home!
For the record, Tom has already told Lisa Vanderpump, Erika, and Kathryn to stop interrupting him before the coffee is even served and the dinner eventually ends unceremoniously and miserably with Tom coming off as a complete dick, Kathryn coming off as out-of-her-gourd crazy, and Erika being grounded by her husband which sucks because she really wanted to go away for prom weekend.
The next day, Kyle meets up with Erika so they can pretend to be sporty and discuss how they're going to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Not only that! Kyle by Alene Two might be opening a store in Dubai! Caftans for everyone! You know it's bad when I'd rather allow my mind to wander the perimeter of Kyle’s terrible store than listen to what comes next. Oh, friends: it's a doozy. Erika lets Kyle know that her husband is seriously pissed at her today because she behaved in a manner last night that he doesn't allow. Should someone maybe call a shelter? It's a creepy thing Erika’s expressing here. Not only is she indicating that she must always answer to her husband and not only do we already know from watching with our own damn eyes that she is not always permitted to speak, but we now also know with certainty that she must constantly modify her behavior around the man lest she get in trouble. Look, I feel badly for her that she’s married to a prick, but I also simply cannot believe that she didn't realize what she was getting into by signing on for this show and I really don't believe for even a second that the world’s foremost legal genius did not check out the series before "permitting" his wife to sign a contract.
On another note, here’s observation #3: I hate how Kathryn calls Lisa "Vanderpump." I also hate Kathryn.
And now it’s time for Lisa Rinna to meet up with Eileen on the beach. There’s been something on Eileen’s mind recently and by now it’s pretty clear that the woman is physically incapable of keeping a thought inside of her own head. No, she must confront any uncomfortable feeling swirling through her brain immediately and she would like to revisit why Lisa Rinna defended Lisa Vanderpump when she knows full well that the woman is more than capable of being a manipulative jerk. Lisa Rinna apologizes immediately because she cannot stand to have anyone mad at her ever. Then, like she's a witness in a House on Un-American Activitees Committee hearing, she realizes that she’d better name names so Eileen buys her devotion – and she'd better do it fast. She spits out that both Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle have been swapping stories for some time about Yolanda and her mystery illness and Eileen almost gets up and twirls happily across the shoreline now that there's more proof that Lisa Vanderpump is an awful human being who uses words like “affair” to describe something that was once an affair. But that’s not all! Lisa Rinna also reveals that it was Lisa Vanderpump who encouraged Lisa Rinna to say the word "Munchausen" in the first place! I suppose it's far too silly of me to ask why Lisa Rinna followed that order, right?
I’m concerned about a lot of things right now. I’m worried that, with all of these secrets coming out, Eileen will never again be able to finish a meal because she will be too concerned with clearing up everyone else’s conflicts. I’m also worried that Lisa Rinna seems to be turning on Lisa Vanderpump, a woman I have come to believe is the closest thing to royalty that might exist in this country. We can return to all of those concerns momentarily, but first let’s hear about another new conflict on the horizon from Lisa Rinna who has broken free from her chains and will be silenced no more. She’s been trolling Yolanda's Instagram and she would like Eileen to know that on the same day Yolanda bailed on her dear friend's dinner party, she had lunch with Brandi and Kim. That's it – bring out the firing squad! As they load their guns, let’s also discuss the interesting comment Lisa makes about how Yolanda's sickness has painted her into a corner and that she uses that sickness to her advantage. “She's the only person I know who's gone to bed for ten months,” snipes Lisa, and it takes everything Eileen has inside of her not to tackle Lisa to the ground and step on her face to stop her from making statements she'll have to defend for the next decade.
Across town, Kathryn gets her hearing checked. Seems she’s completely deaf in one ear and there may be new medical advancements that can fix such a thing. I wish her well in this area so soon she can listen to everyone tell her what an asshole she is.
Kyle stops by Yolanda's house next and the two discuss how they'll all soon be heading to New York to watch Yolanda receive an award for fighting Lyme disease. With the happy small talk out of the way, Kyle brings up the harsh email Yolanda sent her way – the one she also cc’d to the other Housewives – and Yolanda tells her that she just felt like Kyle was trying to instigate more problems. Kyle handles herself well here by choosing not to knock Yolanda’s teeth out.
Observation #4: I cannot believe I just complimented Kyle. It's gotta be the bronchitis that has invaded my delicate system…
And finally it’s time for the Housewives to do some charity! Kathryn, Lisa Vanderpump, Lisa Rinna, and Eileen join Kyle and Mauricio as they paint some houses for Habitat for Humanity. Lisa Rinna is a bit concerned. Will manual labor her strong suit? It probably will not be, but she’s still game to participate. Erika meets up with the rest of them at the location. Quick question: did she arrive at an impoverished area to build homes for the poor in a limo? Whatever the transportation, Lisa Vanderpump and Erika soon find themselves painting next to one another and they chat through clenched teeth because by now they hate each other so much. Just to annoy her, Lisa keeps making references to the spider webs she’s clearing out because Erika was the one who cautioned Kathryn about getting cause in the Queen’s web. Erika doesn’t find Lisa’s comments humorous in the least. Her blood is beginning to simmer to a slow boil before Lisa recognizes the sign of a woman who wants to kill her and she finally tells Kyle that they’d better stop making web jokes.
Once Erika stalks away, she finds herself beside Lisa Rinna and Eileen and she informs them that she doesn't trust Kathryn in the least. That’s all Eileen needs to hear! A conflict is in her midst and she cannot possibly paint another shingle if the issue isn't resolved immediately! Deciding she can fix everything, Eileen calls Kathryn over and Erika tells her that she is personally responsible for destroying any kind of friendship she and Lisa Vanderpump might have ever had. Kathryn disagrees and the two start yelling at one another while Eileen manages to appear flabbergasted that she's watching yet another fight go down.
As for Kathryn, she maintains that she can totally be trusted and she apologizes to Erika. Then she wanders away to wonder why grown women are so overly sensitive. Now, I don’t like to talk ill about the stupid, but Kathryn might be the Housewife I’ve hated the most quickly – and that includes Carlton, the witchy faux-lesbian who enjoyed giving her mother-in-law lap dances in the Hustler store before going home to put a hex on anyone who dared make fun of the fact that she named her kids Destiny and Mysteri.
Next week, Camille is back and Yolanda talks about the real support Kim and Brandi have given to her before lovingly toasting the man who will soon become her ex-husband. The women also prepare to travel to New York and let’s face it: the hugest battles between these women get fought on foreign soil so I can only imagine what kind of bloodshed will be released when it comes out that Lisa Rinna thinks Yolanda is milking her illness for all its worth and that Lisa Vanderpump was the one who put the dastardly thoughts into her head in the first place.
Is this what the revolution looks like? In that case, long live the Queen.
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.