There's really nothing better than jetting off to Europe on a wonderfully glamorous family excursion. There’s so much togetherness when you’re all cramped together on a luxurious yacht! Plus, once you dock, you get to steep yourself in genuine world history just by walking the same old streets the people who lived before us once wandered down. I think if our ancestors could come back today, they would be very excited by the Yelp app and positively flabbergasted by what constitutes entertainment at this moment in history. Let’s put it this way: just trying to imagine my sweet and departed grandmother’s face as she stumbles across the rapist with the steel dildo on American Horror Story (or a Kardashian in any of their incarnations) gives me a gigantic headache and, while I miss her, I think it’s probably a good thing that she’s long gone. I don’t think she would appreciate the Real Housewives franchise either, but Kyle Richards could care less that my Nana wouldn’t like her. Kyle, you see, simply does not have the time to contemplate ancient history or why my granny would look at her and slowly shake her head for allowing a camera crew to film her children in the kitchen or accepting Faye Resnick into her life in general. No, Kyle is spending her sun-washed European days shopping for caftans so that when she arrives back in Beverly Hills and someone who is just trying to be nice tells her that she just loves her baggy colorful top in shades of emerald and amethyst, Kyle can flip back her long hair and laugh her raspy giggle before murmuring that she bought the garment in Europe. That’s what’s really important.
Making fun of a woman so showy and desperate for attention is quite easy, but the sympathy I recently started to feel for Kyle remains. The woman comes from maybe the most fucked up family around – and I’m including the Manson Family in that little comparison. Not only is Kim Richards Kyle’s sister (and nobody sucks more than Kim Richards, who has blamed Kyle for giving her alcoholism just like she blamed her for giving her chicken pox when they were nine), but Kathy Hilton is Kyle’s other sister and she might be even worse. Kathy Hilton is the reason Paris Hilton exists, making her Patient Zero in the epidemic that brought about making people famous for a whole lot of nothing and trucker hats. And what kind of person only invites half of her sister’s family to a wedding? According to some press reports, part of the reason for the family division traces back to Mauricio starting his own agency after resigning from the company Kathy’s husband owned. Was loyalty compromised there? Probably. Mixing family and business is tough, but banishing people from your life is a pretty bold decision to make and it’s probably not the very best decision. All that said, I don't really care about any of this but I guess that Kyle and Lisa need something to talk about as they flip through racks of overpriced clothing while wearing hats with brims the size of the rings around Saturn and Kyle’s sucky family works just fine as the conversation topic du jour.
Far away from the crystal blue waters of the Riviera or wherever it is that Kylie and her family are currently shopping, Lisa Rinna takes her two daughters for manicures and pedicures. While I'm still not completely sure which of her daughters is which, I really appreciate the fact that one of them is clearly trying to help me out with the deciphering process by dying her hair an unnatural shade of blonde. I think the blonde one might be Amelia but I’m just not sure. However, I finally fully believe that there are actually two daughters instead of one who keeps making quick costume changes and stands in front of mirrors so there’s two of her and yes, I realize that much of my fear about such a situation stems directly from having recently seen the German horror film Goodnight, Mommy and I'm a little bit frightened now of people who look exactly like. Anyway, Lisa tells her daughters that she is accompanying Lisa Vanderpump to Ohio to pick up a mini horse for Ken's birthday. Lisa is excited to take such a silly adventure with her friend and her daughters coo over the pictures of that wee animal in a way that makes me think that they're probably decent people because only decent people ooh and ahh over baby horses. But before the animal-related cooing can really commence, first Lisa must negotiate curfews with her eldest child and once again I find Lisa Rinna’s honesty about parenting really refreshing. Sure, it’s comforting to think that children will always listen to their parents’ rules like it’s the gospel, but it's far more likely that the reality will involve some back-and-forth dialogue between the parent and the child. Negotiation is commonplace in her household, Lisa tells us, and I think that’s a practice that’s pretty universal. If her lips weren’t so humongous and her arms weren’t so gorgeously sculpted, I would say that Lisa Rinna is in fact the most relatable woman on the show.
Eileen is probably the most real person on the show, but I'm not so positive that a ton of people view her life as aspirational. She certainly doesn't have a bad life. She's carved out a career for herself that she's managed to continue for decades and she has a husband who seems to support her and she has cute children. Unfortunately, she lives in a house that, despite the mini makeover she gave it a few weeks ago, still looks very much like a gothic mansion that would appear in the bloodiest Dario Argento movie. She also has a young son who doesn't completely listen to her. There is nothing abnormal about any of this and she seems as though she's very active and involved mother, but I can't say that her life strikes me as a whole lot of fun and I guess that's why am drawn more to Lisa Vanderpump who hops onto private helicopters after packing up her Louis Vuitton luggage and does it all while managing not to look like a total asshole as she flies off to Monte Carlo on a whim.
Heading off for yet another procedure – this one is a Vitamin C IV meant to boost her immune system – Yolanda arrives at the doctor with Erika, one of the new girls. I’ll get to Erika in just a second, but before I do, I have to say that all of the treatments Yolanda is experimenting with are making me nervous for her. If your body is not responding or getting any better, shocking your system with weekly colonics and IV drips and yanking your teeth out might not be the very best ideas, but then again, what do I know? (What do I know? I know that this is a franchise where way too many women are way too willing to discuss the details of their colons.) As for Erika, she is very blonde and she has been friends with Yolanda for a long time. Erika is all about looking her best and she considers doing so a no-brainer because she has access to a shitload of her husband’s money. She sits down after Yolanda to get some Vitamin C pumped into her own veins and I have to wonder if there are other girlfriends who do this sort of thing with one another on a random Thursday afternoon while my friends and I tend to do shit like work and then maybe grab a latte.
Away from needles and ensconced in a restaurant, Eileen and Lisa meet up. They are both decked out in leopard like they’re auditioning for Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Kyle shows up next and she is not wearing animal skins. She is dressed in pink and I don’t know if she bought her blouse in Europe or not, but Kyle maintains that her niece’s wedding was beautiful and she’s glad she went. But let’s table the discussion of the Kathy side of Kyle’s family and skid back into Kim Land, shall we? Eileen asks Kyle what’s going on with Kim and Kyle explains that Kim is once again back in rehab. She claims not to know the details about any of it, but Lisa brings up what we all read in the press: that Kim fled rehab and had herself both a fiesta and a siesta in Mexico and that she is dangerous and enough is fucking enough when it comes to this addicted asshole. I think there could be a point where I would feel that maybe Lisa Rinna is too laser focused on any of this, but just watching three seconds of the flashback where Kim flipped out on her during a long car ride scared me far straighter than Kim has ever been and I get Lisa’s emotional stake in the situation. As for Kyle, she feels guilty talking about her sister to Lisa Rinna and, to that end, I really must ask why she’d possibly continue to be on a television show where her sister’s compromised sobriety has been a storyline for years? I mean, if she genuinely feels so guilty, maybe she should retire from this show and go work instead as the spokesmodel for a company that knocks off Chanel.
Switching topics from one sick woman to another, Eileen tells Kyle that Yolanda looked tremendously ill when they saw her. The entire thing is confusing to Kyle because Yolanda is trying all of these potions and medications and nothing is working so perhaps she’s not suffering from the Lyme disease she claims to have. She tells the story again about how she felt legitimate physical aches and pains after the loss of her mother and that many of her ailments turned out to be purely psychosomatic and she’s wondering if maybe that’s a factor with Yolanda. As they have just seen the very pale woman with their own eyes – and her wall to wall closet stuffed with every pill available in the hemisphere – Lisa and Eileen believe Yolanda is genuinely sick so neither jumps onto the psychosomatic bandwagon with Kyle, who is dangling off of it just like she does with any issue. But it’s really okay that nobody is willing to drive that bandwagon because soon Taylor Armstrong will show up and she will hop into the driver’s seat and toot the horn and lift her massive lips up to the sunlight because nothing feels better than a gorgeous day where she can feel somewhat relevant again and if she can start some conflict too, that will just make the day better.
Leaving behind a table of suspicion and landing in the back of a limo with the two women I like best on this show is a relief. The Lisas are heading to Ohio to pick up Ken’s new horse and they board a private plane. Sitting in the small aircraft, Lisa V. hopes that the horse will be happy coming home to her perfect mansion and, though I feel sad for the horse because she is about to leave behind all that she knows, I can pretty much guarantee that she will end up having a rather glorious life at Chez Vanderpump. However, everything depends on whether or not the Lisas will even make it out of the tornado they’ve arrived into, but I think we can prematurely breathe a sigh of relief that they will be just fine. After all, had they been swept up and thrown clear to one of the Dakotas by the swift winds, we totally would have already heard about it on Watch What Happens Live. Andy Cohen can read society like a book and he knows when it’s time to host A Very Special Episode. Had the Beverly Hills Lisas been ravaged by a natural disaster, such an incident would absolutely qualify, proving that a Giudice heading off to jail is not needed for one of those episodes to transpire.
Back in Beverly Hills, we get to see Erika’s house for the first time. Her place is expansive and fancy and her husband is pretty old and they have been together now for over fifteen years. She came from nothing and she really appreciates having money, but she also seems aware that money doesn’t change who you are on the inside. Her husband is an incredibly powerful attorney and Erika knew full well that her intentions upon marrying the guy would be called into question but she doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. I kind of like Erika! Of course, I might craft a voodoo doll that looks remarkably like by season’s end, but I really hope not. I’m actually hoping to like the new girls on this show and I hope they stay on forever and prosper into fully divine beings, though all of that is mostly predicated by my fears that, should the newcomers not do well, Kim Richards will come back full time and my psyche cannot stand such a thing. It just cannot!
Back in Ohio, the Lisas arrive and are greeted by Rosebud, a mini horse that’s wearing a pink tutu. The animal is beautiful and Lisa V. settles into the grass to bond with her while Lisa R. chases chickens across the yard. Lisa R. thinks that Rosebud is a little paunchy, but the bigger problem is that Rosebud’s leg seems to be lame. Lisa wants to make sure the horse is healthy before she brings her home and methinks that Rosebud’s breeder is a tiny bit shady because she took the time to dress the animal like she was about to appear in a ballet recital but she took no time to be honest with the woman who is purchasing her. The ultimate decision will fall to Lisa about whether or not she will take the horse, lame leg and all, but she finally gives up and calls Ken. She comes clean about where she is and what she is doing and she tells Ken that she loves the horse and that it is the smallest horse around and she wants to know if he thinks she should bring the animal home. Ken wants it to be her decision. Lisa decides that she will bring the horse’s picture home to Ken and he can decide if he wants her after a vet looks her over and Lisa R. has now been stuck at that dusty farm for five hours with a horse that’s wearing a crinoline and sellers who might be liars and she is fucking done and her cowboy hat stopped being amusing three hours ago so she all but runs into the limo while already dreaming of the cocktail she can toss down her throat while giggling that Kim Richards hasn’t gotten to drink any alcohol at all recently, except for that time she fled to Mexico.
At a dance studio, Erika’s Creative Director meets up with her. Turns out that – by night – Erika has an alter ego named Erika Jayne. Who is Erika Jayne? Oh, she’s class and ass and all woman all the time and she sings dance songs that are heavy on the autotune that nonetheless (or entirely because of it) have raced up the Billboard charts nine times. She appears for what I’m guessing is a rehearsal dressed in the kind of outfit that would have made Cher deliriously happy sometime around 1987, though I’m thinking that even Cher might furrow her brow (if her brow can indeed furrow anymore) when the dance instructor tells Erika to crawl across the floor on her hands and knees like she’s a tiger. But is it Erika or Erika Jayne who is crawling across the floor like a descendent of the feline family? Damn, this woman is complex as hell.
Since she returns home with no grazing pony as a gift, Lisa wants to make sure that the luncheon she’s throwing for her husband’s birthday goes off perfectly. Thank goodness Kevin Lee is there to calm her down and tell her that he can see her tits clear through her dress and that he is able to adorn every surface in the vicinity with purple organza and chiffon. It all kind of looks like a twelve-year-old girl’s bedroom just exploded – it’s just that purple. Now, I am all about Lisa throwing Ken a fabulous party – which he arrives at clutching several dogs – and I’m willing to overlook that everyone must wear a hat for no good reason at all because at least she provides trees lined with hat options for her guests and that’s a fun little touch. What I simply cannot overlook is that Lisa invited Taylor Armstrong to this party. I could give a shit that the whole thing was probably producer-manipulated. At this point in the show’s run, Lisa Vanderpump is a star and she should have been able to put her gorgeous foot down and refuse to give Taylor an invite because Taylor is a whining and preening jerk and I really thought we were all finally rid of her.
The real issue I have with Taylor is that desperation glistens on her skin like sweat that really smells. You can see her eyes boggling around in circles because she so badly wants to be back in the Housewives mix and she knows the game and that it will take her spewing out incendiary crap to virtual strangers to get a reaction that will make her appear viable again – and she is completely willing to do that. First though, Taylor tells Lisa that she is moving back to Beverly Hills and there is a house for sale right down the street and Lisa Vanderpump would sooner purchase that house herself and allow squatters with rabies to live inside of it before she will accept that Taylor could possibly move close enough to her that she might drop by one day for a cupful of Botox. The terror is slightly alleviated when Lisa R. shows up. She is carrying a horsey gift and she fake kisses Taylor hello and then looks straight at the camera and blurts out, “She’s got a bigger mouth than I do.” Camille is also there and everyone is dressed in white and nipples are everywhere and the former Housewives act like they miss one another and Taylor makes an adorable comment about how a storm is brewing with a devilish sparkle in her eye just as the rainclouds roll in menacingly.
The meal looks lovely but it’s all pissed upon when Taylor tells Lisa R. that she just doesn’t get what’s going on with Yolanda. She follows her on Instagram and she thinks it’s weird that her pictures vacillate from healthy to sick and she really doesn’t love clicking on pictures where Yolanda’s got a needle stuck in her arm. (That last point strikes me as somewhat fair.) Now, as I have said, I have no real opinion yet about what’s going on with Yolanda – but I do know that any opinion I have should be something she doesn’t need to care about or even consider. I know that many people think she’s not really physically sick at all but I’m not about to make that call because I have not followed her story. What I do know is that she has more pills and needles than a junkie and that she keeps doing a lot of shit to her body that I’m certain a large segment of the reputable medical community might frown at, but maybe she’s right and they’re all wrong. Maybe she is really sick – or perhaps she has lost her mind. I have no clue, but what I can’t stand is Taylor tossing this comment out just to make a scene because that’s the kind of thing that might make her a Real Housewife again and houses on Lisa Vanderpump’s street don’t come cheap, y’all.
It is Lisa R. who stands up for Yolanda and wonders why Taylor is telling her all of this when they don’t even know one another, though I’m certain that deep down, Lisa knows exactly why Taylor’s doing this. Lisa V. stands up next and gives a beautiful toast to Ken that includes a reference to 69-ing that everybody except for her children laugh at. The guy looks excited to roll around with his wife later and it’s probably a good thing Ken got his hips fixed before the big evening – though I just want to say that I really hope he puts the dogs down before everybody gets naked.
Bored by the tempered conversation and all the pastel hats, Kyle wades out into the pool and soon all of the women are swimming in their white dresses and it’s all fun and raucous until someone throws seventy year old Ken into the pool at full throttle and he lands with a stunned splash. The women come to his rescue and carry him to the shore. It’s really a shame that he can’t end the day by galloping off into the sunset on a horse in a tutu, but at least there’s a chance that he’s about to get laid.
Next time, Vince calls Eileen an idiot, Yolanda swallows more pills, and Lisa R. and Kyle bring up Munchausen Syndrome for the first time this season. Taylor appears nowhere in the coming attractions, and I really hope it’s because she has finally been put out to pasture forever.
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.