Oh, Kim Richards. She’s kind of a living and breathing version of that creaky wooden rocking chair that sits on the porch of that nice madwoman who lives down the street, the one who maybe keeps a family of four chained in her basement. Like that chair, Kim’s sort of falling apart. Someone once tried to mend her with a little bit of spit and some scotch tape, but she will undoubtedly cause pain to whomever foolishly chooses to straddle her. Still–splinters aside–I’d rather spend fucking eternity sprawled across that chair than ever be stuck in the same time zone as one of the vilest Housewives of them all.
Now sure, I understand that Kim Richards is an addict. I also understand that the only reason she appears on this show at all anymore is for a paycheck. I suppose I used to feel kind of badly for her that her options were so limited that she was forced to pimp out her own questionable sobriety for profit, but the reality is that she’s such a lying and deflecting asshole that I have lost any and all empathy I ever pretended to have. I officially can no longer stand the sight of the woman. I hate her oddly shaped eyes and how they squint and glare wildly at anyone who has figured out her very obvious truths. I hate her bony fingers, the ones she likes to point in the faces of women who have decided not to believe a single thing this shell of a former human being says anymore. I hate the rickety voice she uses to spew out lies before begging for mercy from people who had no idea what they were getting into when they casually agreed to climb into the back of a limo with her. I hate that she still has the audacity to pretend that she and her family have been terribly wounded by people saying aloud that she started drinking again and that she never even considers blaming herself for all of it since – obviously – her actions spurred the stories and the pain. But most of all, I hate that the appearance of Kim Richards means that she was never really just a terrible figment of my imagination like I’d convinced myself she was and I really hate how her presence makes me feel something that resembles sympathy for her long-suffering sister, Kyle, a preening specimen constructed primarily out of hair and ego.
Like the irritation caused by most fungi, Kim does not appear immediately to the naked eye. First we have to slog through the aftereffects of all the shit that's already happened. Let's see – will it be Eileen deciding Lisa Vanderpump is evil to her very core for that time she used the word "affair" to describe something that actually was once an affair or might our journey begin tonight with Erika discovering that her newly self-appointed friend Kathryn announced to the group at large that Erika also thinks Lisa Vanderpump is evil? It's come to this: the best case scenario for any of us is that the show will begin with Yolanda wandering out of a cryogenic chamber before sucking on a lemon for strength.
Alas, we kick off the evening in Lisa Rinna's home where she's worrying about her kid's upcoming tonsil surgery. I'm always slightly uncomfortable when anyone takes a call from a doctor on speakerphone, but I guess Amelia’s surgery is no big deal. More curious perhaps is that Lisa would like to know exactly how the tonsils will be sliced from her child’s body and she seems mildly disappointed when the explanation doesn’t include the word “hacksaw.”
Over at Yolanda's, her still-husband is sitting at his piano tinkling the ivories and wondering when he can flee from this craziness and go on tour so he can get away from the disapproving glances Daisy, The Health Advocate, tosses his way. He's very busy today writing a song for one of the planet's leading musical geniuses to perform at a party Yolanda is throwing for people who believe she has Munchausen Syndrome, but the hostess is cleverly shrouding the genius’ identity. She won't give up the guy’s name! Being that he's coming to chill with David Foster, I'm going to guess it’ll be Michael Bolton or some tenor I've never heard of, but I'm sort of curious now. Bring on the star! This is the first party Yolanda has thrown in two years and something tells me it will not go well. (By the by, that "something" is common fucking sense and some knowledge concerning Housewives precedent. In this franchise, “dinner party” is the vernacular used to describe tables being flipped and glasses being flung while a bonkers psychic takes yet another drag off an electric cigarette.)
Now sure, Yolanda has a lot on her plate, but Lisa Vanderpump also has some difficult matters to contend with these days. Her ponies keep marching up to the veranda! Plus, she has to make an appearance at a dinner party being thrown by a woman who is making it pretty clear that she hates her. Kyle’s nervous, too. Yolanda sent everyone that scathing email and the two haven’t spoken since and now they have to all sit together at a table where there are knives. Listen, technically Lisa and Kyle doing the "right" thing by going, but I’m also quite sure that they're going to regret being there. God, I hope Lisa parks one of those ponies outside the restaurant so she can hop on and gallop to a quick getaway. In my fantasy, Kyle will run alongside her.
Kathryn and Donnie show up first to the event and Erika, who doesn’t yet know that Kathryn gave up her secrets without even the threat of being waterboarded, soon joins them. Erika's coming off a show high. She's in a lovely headspace that will soon be demolished completely. Meanwhile, Lisa and Kyle ride over together and Lisa tells Kyle that she texted Kim to wish her a happy birthday. "She's in a good place," Kyle responds, which I'm taking to mean that she’s nowhere near a Van Nuys Target. The truth seems to be that the sisters are starting to reconnect again and it's all thanks to emojis! Maybe the smiley face with the puckered lips should be brought into all future global peace agreements! Does Bashar al-Assad use an iPhone? Anyway, according to Kyle, she and Kim "are inching” their way towards a shaky reconciliation that could very possibly be as fraught with tension as was their estrangement. Should they maybe keep all of their interactions off-camera or is that just far too normal a thought to toss out here?
Back at the restaurant, Kathryn brings up Yolanda's email to Erika. Now look: Yolanda fucking cc'd all of them on the novella she sent Kyle’s way so Kathryn has every right to comment. What this woman does not have a right to do in a world where I've made Lisa Vanderpump my Queen is to disparage the Royal Mother for doing nothing at all while using a shitty English accent to try to make the moment pop. Mrs. Donnie, you are dangerously close to me not liking you at all and while I agree that you should not care a tiny bit what I think, you might want to consider that I do know a lot of synonyms for "ginormous asshole."
Into this counter-intelligence form of sabotage saunter Lisa and Kyle. I expect that Lisa believes she might be able to trust Kathryn at this point since she was the one who informed her about Erika's treachery, but Lisa would be incorrect. Upon seeing the newest woman she’s talking shit about, Kathryn shuts her mouth mid-accent and greets the two disingenuously. It's right about then when Yolanda and David come in, causing Kyle to nervously smooth her hair while Lisa barely glances over her shoulder as she takes a calm sip of her wine like she's Sharon fucking Stone in Basic Instinct. Please – someone get this woman an ice pick STAT.
The second Yolanda wanders over for a double-cheeked kiss, Kyle lets her know that she'd love to chat with her about the email before the other guests arrive. (I suppose the Housewives had an earlier call time than the people Yolanda actually wanted at her special dinner party.) Yolanda nods disinterestedly. After all, she’s said what she has to say and, as far as she's concerned, Kyle’s only been invited to fill some sort of brunette quota. As for Lisa, she tries to talk with Yolanda too, but she is also shut down. They can get coffee together one day, Yolanda offers. Maybe it can be tea. But it had better be anything besides having a confrontation at the party she's throwing for no reason at all where Michael Jackson will be resurrected from the dead to perform for them all.
(Right? Michael Bolton doesn't sound special enough for all the hype and, as the flashbacks proved, the tenor thing has been done. Bring on the dead man and his glove!)
Before she finally allows Yolanda to take her place-carded seat, Lisa murmurs to her softly that she wants to make it clear that she has never spoken ill about her children. Yolanda's reaction is to say that she wants to believe Lisa, which is kind of a passive aggressive way to indicate that she doesn’t trust Lisa in the slightest. Then her eyes fill with tears but she finds it in herself to drum up enough steely fortitude not to cry in public and she tells Lisa that she's fine and they're all going to have a great time. Who's convinced?
Eileen shows up next. She walks directly over to Lisa Vanderpump to kiss her hello perhaps in an effort to let her know that she considers their last conflict a thing of the past. Then Harry Hamlin comes in and Erika remembers him from an ABC After School Special so she gets all quivery inside while, at the bar, Kathryn is explaining to Yolanda that she only likes tough women. Guess the ability to keep a secret is her second requirement in a friend. Unfortunately for Kathryn, a woman who has apparently never seen this show before and therefore didn't realize she'd be held accountable for being a shit-stirrer, Lisa Rinna is dying to know what Erika said about Lisa Vanderpump. She, Eileen, and conflict-hating Kyle beckon her over so she can spill the dirt about a person she talked into trusting her. She’s got herself an audience now so she transcribes Erika's hesitations about Lisa Vanderpump but Lisa Rinna reacts to it all with a dismissive wave of her hand. She thought she was getting some good gossip! Quick! Someone bring up the rumors about Mauricio having an affair!
Here's something I've just noticed: when Erika is put on the spot, she doesn’t get nervous. She gets annoyed. She rolls her eyes like a tween who has just broken her best friend’s heart by giving that other One Direction ticket to the new guy in their Math class who both girls think is dreamy and now she has to listen to her friend cry about it. Erika’s response to Lisa Vanderpump wanting some answers about first being equated to an alligator and then to a spider web is to all but yawn. Can't Lisa figure out these metaphors herself? And where is Kathryn so Erika can shove one of Erika Jayne’s diamond encrusted heels up her ass for being such a snitch?
What is really at the root of this conflict between two smart women? Well, it turns out to be a conspiracy theory! Erika tells Lisa that she thinks it's downright bizarre that Lisa asked how long Erika has known Yolanda. In fact, in perhaps the worst conspiracy theory of our time (and I watched an entire documentary centered around what “The Shining” is really about), Erika has figured out that Lisa must have instructed Kathryn to ask her that very same intrusive question. Wait: English is Erika's first language, yes?
Continuing with the startlingly odd thesis behind her conspiracy theory, Erika explains that Lisa desperately wants to undermine her friendship with Yolanda for reasons she personally has yet to figure out. Wow – all that cynicism garnered from a mere, "How long have you known one another?" question. It might be impressive if not so fucking weird.
(By the way, if anyone's keeping score, Erika now officially hates Kathryn and Lisa Vanderpump. Kyle is up to bat next and I fully expect Erika to pitch inside and hit Kyle in the face at full force.)
And still the party goes on and the most amazing musician of this or any other era has not yet arrived. What is taking Paul McCartney so long? To fill the time, Lisa Rinna asks Kyle if she should maybe send Kim a birthday text just like Eileen did. (Did Eileen sign her text "Beast"?) The idea of such a text from Lisa strikes Kyle as more than mildly preposterous while Harry's response is that she should go ahead and send a lunatic a text simply because she has the desire to do so. The guy’s either the most understanding and supportive husband of all time or he's secretly thinking about setting up a hit on his wife and, with Kim Richards back in the picture, the cops will make at least one stop before coming to question him.
A few feet away, there is a mile of figurative space between Erika and Kathryn. Things have changed since they took a blood oath to be best friends and, sensing the deadness in Erika's eyes, Kathryn comes clean. She lets Erika know that she "told Vanderpump" what Erika said about her and Erika reacts accordingly. She's pissed and she has every right to be and she might even have the right to punch Kathryn's lights out when she tells her that she assumed the two had been speaking in confidence and Erika scoffs and retorts, "Then that's on you." See, Kathryn's never had a friend before so she doesn't understand The Universal Friendship Rules. Nestled in at #3 (between #2's DON'T ALLOW YOUR FRIEND LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT CHECKING TO MAKE SURE THERE'S NOTHING IN HER TEETH and #4's TOUCH MY SOUL MATE AND I WILL FUCKING CRUCIFY YOU IN THE VILLAGE SQUARE) is DON'T REPEAT PRIVATE SHIT. Kathryn misunderstood, you guys. She's always lived under the belief that anything you don't want spread around a table at a dinner party is just something you should never say aloud in the first place. You know what? To be safe, you shouldn't even think anything you don't want Kathryn to scream over appetizers when there’s a lull in a conversation.
Man, the vibe of this dinner is so dark and warped. I really hope Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder can't feel it when they walk in for their duet performance.
Making matters even more contentious and weird is Lisa Rinna who takes one long probing look at Eileen’s face and announces that she knows that Eileen is mad at her. Why is Eileen mad? Oh, Eileen thinks Lisa knows why. She's annoyed that Lisa Rinna shut down the shit talk about Lisa Vanderpump by acting like Lisa Vanderpump couldn't possibly pull off the skill of manipulation. Lisa Rinna knows what that Vanderpump woman is capable of – and now we definitively know (yet again) that Eileen is still not over the "affair" comment made back when I still wore a retainer.
"Why aren't you being honest right now?" questions Eileen as Kyle (that fink!) nods her head happily. "Why are you afraid of Lisa Vanderpump?"
Okay – time out. I want to officially say that I appreciate Eileen's unwillingness to let a problem fester because festering of any kind leads to pus and pus is disgusting. I am not of the belief that she should keep her mouth shut at all times. But what I am starting to believe is that maybe she should just stay at home some nights. Think about how much more relaxing it'll be for her to loll around her dark manor in some yoga pants while her husband gambles away their fortune on a croquet match instead of fighting repeatedly over the use of a single fucking word.
As for Lisa Rinna, she feels ensnared in the middle of a fight that Eileen and Lisa Vanderpump are still pretending isn’t happening. She doesn't quite know how to split her loyalty here so she's relieved as can be when David Foster announces it’s finally time for his special guest. I cannot wait to finally hear James Dean sing! But it’s Andrea Bocelli who walks into the place and sure, that's cool, but who might Mr. Bocelli have in his contacts list? Any chance Jim Morrison’s number in purgatory is in there? As the master sings, Kyle realizes that his presence and song choice are clear signs being sent to her from her mother telling her to reconnect with her monster of a sister. If the messages her mother sends from the afterlife are this sadistic, can you imagine what Kyle had to deal with while that woman roamed the Earth?
The endless party finally over, it's now time for Amelia's surgery. Lisa Rinna has some major anxiety about her kid being put under and Amelia's already afraid of the upcoming pain. Good thing the cameras are in the hospital to put everyone at ease! As she waits, Lisa calls her husband. Harry is calm and Lisa admits – in a sentence I think could really come back to haunt her – that if a real problem doesn't exist, she'll create one. Woman! Do not say such words when Kim Richards is near! She will use them against you right after she learns how to use a fork.
Kyle, the Richards sister who has mastered utensils, is in her kitchen. She's guilting her elementary-school-aged child into living at home when she attends college. She just values family, you see, and that means it's time for her to pretend she's fully responsible for mending the relationship with her sister, the relationship she didn't ruin in the first place.
Away from sibling misery, Yolanda, Erika, and Eileen meet up at a park. It seems like it might turn into a calm gathering, but Eileen – who I think might have an actual problem because she can never just be quiet and let something slide – wants to talk about how uncomfortable the dinner party was with the party's hostess and the hostess' friend who has known the hostess for some measure of time but it's a motherfucking secret so don't even try to figure out the year they met. Eileen begins the retreading of bullshit with Kathryn's unprovoked blab at Erika's expense and Yolanda is dismayed that Kathryn announced such a thing to the entire group, which is a really shaky criticism to lob after you cc'd an email to everyone who's ever watched you take a pill.
"It seems like you and Lisa have a lot of unresolved issues," Eileen says to Yolanda, baiting her. Then she sits back and appears disappointed when Yolanda doesn't have much to say that’s negative. Eileen's problem seems to be that she likes Lisa but she also believes deep down that she's a total wench and now she'd like to discuss her complicated feelings for the woman during every single meal she eats from this day forth. As for Erika's assessment of Lisa, she articulates it thusly: "She enjoys thinking that she's smart." Is "smart" a bad thing to think of oneself?
Now an outcast because of her own brazen stupidity, Kathryn has nobody to eat lunch with other than her sisters. The three sit in a restaurant and discuss their mother’s descent into dementia, a devastating thing. It's really too bad that Kathryn no longer has any friends she can confide in about her feelings, but she’s pissed off everybody simultaneously for absolutely no reason and now she has to crawl her way back to a group of people who have already decided that she sucks.
And finally Kim arrives at Kyle’s house where she reveals that she's in a great place and she doesn't want to drudge up old incidents. I'm guessing that the reality show on which her very worst incidents aired in Dolby is maybe not the ideal place to drop by then, but this is Kim Richards we’re talking about and nothing she does makes any sense. (Really though, at some point don't you ever ask yourself how much Kim gets paid to drop by Kyle’s house to fight? Why do angels not drop glittering coins at my feet when I drive to Westchester to see my sister?) Kim and Kyle agree not to discuss the past because that makes “things” (read: the truth) too complicated and it's just way better to pretend that they're cool with one another by acting like strangers. It’s a convoluted idea being argued by a sick person, but really, did anyone expect anything different? I mean, you have two sisters who are wired for sound maintaining that they need to keep their relationship private. Kim? Kyle? I'd like to introduce you to my good friend, Irony. Irony thinks you’re both insane.
The truth is that the past must be discussed for any valid form of moving forward to commence and a major problem between these two is that Kyle believes that Kim hates her. She does! She hates that her little sister is more successful and married to a wealthy man and doesn't have a rampant addiction. She hates that her sister can easily make friends and that she doesn’t shake violently when she speaks. Yes, she also probably really loves Kyle, but the key to all of this longstanding resentment is buried under so many light-years of garbage and filth and animosity and the reality is that the vault will not be pried open anytime soon because neither sister really wants to locate that key and I wonder if it must be hard to never ever learn a thing.
Next week, Erika's husband tosses Kathryn out of a dinner party I’m surprised she was even invited to in the first place and that’s got me thinking. Why do these people keep throwing dinners for people they can’t stand? Why do people who have been accused of being malicious and duplicitous keep showing up at these events? Is it for the gift bag? Since we all know the dinner party milieu will continue on this show for all of eternity, I’d like to propose some less incendiary conversation topics for the women to bandy about over tilapia in an effort to collectively try to avoid ever being the actual recipient of one of Yolanda’s emails:
· Global warming and its impact on the swans in Lisa’s moat
· Famously Single, Brandi Glanville’s new and ludicrously titled VH1 show
· The Egyptian debt crisis
· How long it took to create the Marcia Clark wig Sarah Paulson’s wearing on The People vs. OJ Simpson and what form of possum the wig is made from
· The likelihood that Kathryn isn’t real at all and she’s just a cyborg created in a Slovakian laboratory under the direction of Aviva Drescher, the fired New York Housewife who’s undoubtedly got some free time on her hands. My belief? Aviva fashioned “Kathryn” in her likeness and gave her two full legs and stuck her on this show to destroy the people who had the nerve to dismiss her even after she heaved a prosthetic limb across a dining room. Aviva and her programmed sidekick will not stop until they’ve burned this motherfucking franchise to the ground and made all of them, including King Andy Cohen, suffer for not realizing the depths of her depravity.
Now that’s a conspiracy theory.
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.