About a month ago – for the first time in more than a decade – I found myself totally obsessed with the NCAA tournament. It sort of started by accident. See, I like to leave the television on while I'm at work so my puppy doesn't feel so alone and I guess I'm willing to pretend that the people on TV make her feel like she's got company. Usually I put on CNN so she can stay informed, but one day I started to grow concerned that her fragile baby canine mind maybe shouldn't be exposed to the tragedies currently plaguing the world – you know, terrorism, people who don't believe global warming is real, Trump's views on women – so I decided to put on a different channel before I left the house. I think Married With Children was airing as I walked out the door at the ass-crack of dawn. I heard a loud roar of canned laughter and the unmistakable growl of Al Bundy and sure, I worried that Tallulah would watch the show and I'd come home and discover she'd shimmied herself into some Lycra and managed to procure a can of Aqua Net and she'd ask me if I knew that Traci Lords could act, but I decided to just deal with those issues if they popped up.
By the time late afternoon arrived and I walked back through my front door, sitcoms from the early-nineties had ended and basketball was on instead. I found myself playing fetch with the dog and getting my stuff ready for work in the morning and doing yoga, all with the TV still on. The cheers of the crowd and the sound of the rhythmic dribbling offered me some unexpected solace. I didn't go all in – I never drew up a bracket or anything — but I legitimately began to care about the tournament and there were a few teams I started to root for. I wanted University of Michigan, Miami, or UNC to come out on top. Why? Well, there are very good reasons for all my choices! My ex-boyfriend went to Michigan and I have fond memories of going to those games. I even remember half of the school’s fight song, yet another little ditty I can’t sing on key. Most of my family roots for Miami so I threw that team into my mix because it's always nice when my family is happy. As for UNC, it's really very simple: the blue they wear is the prettiest shade of blue in all the land.
I had to DVR the final game a couple of Mondays ago because my top priority was to throw all my concentration at the last part of the Vanderpump Rules reunion. (Yes, it takes a great deal of concentration to describe a collection of leaky douchebags who fancy themselves human.) With my recap gloriously complete, I finally settled in to watch the game. I was riveted. After writing about the morons on Bravo, it was inspiring to see people with actual talent appear on a screen in my home – and while I was upset that the team who wore the nice color didn't walk away victorious, it still felt like a lovely way to wile away the late evening hours. Besides, I've found guys line up for you when it's clear you not only don't mind sports, but you show up to watch a game wearing a hot lace bra under a thin tee while holding a bowl filled with the most amazing spinach and artichoke dip known to man. (The trick is the red pepper flakes.)
I couldn't help but think about those games and the team rivalries tonight as I watched the season finale of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Sure, on the surface these two forms of entertainment have almost nothing in common, but dig a little deeper. Both the teams and these women have complicated, public histories. Both have fans cheering them on. Both experience the harsh hatred of the public, some of it very much warranted. And I'm imagining that some basketball players harbor vivid fantasies about ripping fellow athletes limb from limb like you know our Housewives dream about on an hourly basis.
As we're at the end (almost – I’m betting there will be a twelve-part reunion where these women can once again discuss arguments that will still not make a bit of sense) of a season that has seemed fucking endless, let's review the blistering battles that have gone down. Since no fight on this show actually gets resolved, the ripples of dissension are still being felt and analyzed. In no particular order of importance – because none of these arguments actually matter – here's a recount of who has hated someone or who currently hates someone:
Kathryn betrayed Erika by immediately dishing to a table filled with already-suspicious women that Erika thinks Lisa Vanderpump cannot be trusted with anything besides the welfare of livestock.
Erika doesn't appreciate that Lisa Rinna equates her music video with hardcore smut. To that, I say this: wait until Lisa Rinna catches a glimpse of Erika Jayne’s newest video, the one in which an adult woman in pigtails rubs her nether regions while sucking on a lollipop. Rinna might never recover.
Eileen will spend the rest of her life – and whatever time she floats around heaven – trying to make Lisa Vanderpump rue the day she used the word "affair" to describe the way her marriage started. In the meantime, she will instigate as many other problems as she possibly can because she's sick of people not talking about how much they all truly hate one another over pricey dinners.
Kyle only wants to discuss her sister's sobriety – or lack thereof –with Faye Resnick and Bethenny Frankel, proving once again that Kyle sucks at all things, including selecting confidantes.
Yolanda hates everybody who has ever used a word starting with the letter "M" and she wishes all the women in her life could be as balanced and stable as her dear friends Brandi Glanville and Kim Richards.
Lisa Rinna daydreams about covering Lisa Vanderpump in gobs of honey (the cheap stuff too – not the good organic kind) and then tying her to a tree on a sweltering summer day with a rope that is not pink so that Vanderpump bitch can feel what it’s like to be attacked.
Lisa Vanderpump would like to cultivate some disdain for the people desperately plotting against her, but she's been far too busy speed-dialing Andy Cohen so he can get her the fuck out of Dubai and away from a gaggle of women who are trying with all their might to pin any and all blame on her for things they chose to say in the first place while cameras pointed directly at their faces. They've got their work cut out for them; Lisa Vanderpump is far too wise to ever utter anything terribly scandalous on camera.
Suffice it to say, if these Housewives were individual teams and this series ever turned into a tournament, I'd bet the farm (and her farm, too) on Lady Vanderpump winning it all. The score probably wouldn’t even be close because her competition is fucking imploding. I mean, Lisa Rinna now just jabbers away incessantly about total nonsense with a look on her face like she’s actually saying something profound and adequately proving points no one else can fully understand. And there's not a chance in hell that Eileen would emerge victorious. No, she’d forget to even come out and play because she heard the stirrings of some fight happening in the locker room and who will possibly resolve that conflict if she doesn't jump on in? Kyle would be trampled the minute she splays herself into a split in the middle of the court. Kathryn is tall – that could help – but she still strikes me as a total nonentity this season so I'm not even considering drafting her. (She can maybe become the furry mascot, Mr. Munchausen.) Yolanda won't even show up at the game because she hasn't been to a sporting event in three years and she knows that for sure because she has an abacus by her side at all times so she can tell everyone immediately how long it’s been since she’s done anything, even though there's proof all over social media that she might slightly futz with the accuracy of those numbers. Erika? She’ll make it to the finals. She's ridiculous for sure, but I can't help but admire that she came on this show declaring herself an enigma (I refuse to even type the last part of her tagline because it’s a monstrosity of bullshit) and she’s walking away from her inaugural season still an enigma. I sort of appreciate that she didn’t give all of herself away to the viewing audience or to the other women. Choosing not to be completely transparent is the act of someone normal. Yes, the ponytail she rocks during her interviews is terrible and only Madonna was able to pull that look off and even she ditched it halfway through the Blonde Ambition tour and embraced some tight curls instead. Sure, her marriage to that mean old man has made me contemplate lesbianism. Of course her ever-present glam squad is not really crucial to her existence and her seemingly unbreakable connection with Yolanda is bizarre since, prior to this season, none of us ever heard Yolanda so much as mention Erika. But at least Erika might be a decent opponent – and that’s saying something. I’ll still be donning a jersey with Lisa Vanderpump’s name embroidered in hot pink on the back, but I’ll also give Erika some credit for hanging tough and at least appearing lucid.
I finally watched last week's episode a few days ago, and honesty bids me to declare that there have been some rough personal things going on recently in my family that might have caused my thoughts to be a bit scrambled. Still, though I really tried to pay attention to what was going down, I kind of walked away entirely perplexed about what these women are even arguing about anymore. I buckled down, though. I committed to deciphering the crazy. I made graphs. I made charts. I chanted for Carlton the Witch to send me some guidance. I licked a few lemons and that’s when I believe I was able to finally break through to the idiotic heart of the conflict raging between Lisa Vanderpump and Lisa Rinna, the one Kyle was dragged into and the one Eileen happily danced a rhumba towards before she broke into the middle of the circle and then changed her pace so she could perform the Cabbage Patch. Yes, it appears to all come down to this: Lisa Vanderpump and Yolanda hate one another – have always hated one another –so Lisa decided to hypnotize Lisa Rinna into saying the word “Munchausen” on camera and Lisa Rinna went ahead and did it because Lisa Vanderpump is just so manipulative and everything that’s ever gone wrong in the whole wide world is Lisa Vanderpump’s fault.
Okay, not only does this example of circular logic (and I’m being kind by classifying it that way) not make even a smidgen of sense, but the momentum of it all has catapulted Lisa Rinna clear through the air and she has landed with an inglorious thud in Lunaticsville and now she appears to not remember how to get home. Worse than that, whatever allegedly happened that caused this fury to morph into a full-on conflagration of hysteria occurred off-camera and that means it’s impossible for me to care since we’ll never really know the truth anyway and the self-appointed narrators of this “truth” are looking more unhinged as the days go by. Thankfully, Kim Richards will appear onscreen tonight. Her presence might cause Lisa Rinna to at least seem momentarily sane in comparison because right now she’s coming off as a total basket case who can only communicate by blurting out buzzwords like “scapegoat,” “threw me under the bus,” and “she made me say it.” I tell you, Lisa Rinna was more appealing back when she was shilling Depends.
I had a ridiculous fantasy that the final episode of this season would involve all the Housewives sitting alone in their own homes, contemplating why they are on this show in the first place and coming to the conclusion that they steadfastly refuse to enter a room filled with their enemies ever again. I'm devastated to report that this fantasy – much like the one where I'm married to Brad Pitt and we live in a castle that looks exactly like the Fisher Price castle I used to have when I was four – does not come true. Instead, we begin tonight back in the United States at the fucking house Kyle stole from her deranged sister or, more accurately, at the new home in Palm Springs Kyle bought using the fucking money she allegedly stole from her deranged sister. She's there to get ready for yet another party where the guests will plot to destroy one another because that's how season finale episodes go on this franchise.
Over at Lisa Vanderpump's perfect home, puppies frolic in the idyllic sunshine while, at Eileen's house, there is nothing but heavy furniture and a cloak of darkness. We cut from there to Erika visiting Yolanda at her condo to tell her all about the trip and then we arrive over at Kathryn's home to get her perspective about Dubai. Yes, it seems we are being treated to what I think of as a "montage of filler," designed simply to reacclimate us to the fact that the women are now back on American soil even though not a single thing has changed since they bid adieu the golden gaudiness of the desert.
As for Lisa Rinna, she meets her manager for lunch. Just like doctors who appear on camera on this show, I'm immediately suspicious of managers who think it's a good idea to talk career strategy while mic'd. And what, pray tell, is Lisa Rinna's newest career path? She's gonna have a talk show! Those always last – just ask Katie Couric and Kris Jenner.
At Yolanda's, Erika explains the madness that went down in Dubai. No, Erika tells her – the argument is no longer about whether Yolanda suffers from Munchausen. Now the issue is who said she had it, even though nobody believes she's even got it anymore. Um, the person who said it was Lisa Rinna and I could give two shits if she's going to insist Lisa Vanderpump tossed some sage around during a complicated manipulation spell she practiced during a full moon that resulted in the words seeping out of Lisa Rinna's mouth. Seriously – give me a fucking break. Lisa Rinna's lips were made for talking, right? That's just what they’ll do! And this time those lips beckoned her into emotional quicksand that she can't pull her way out of, not even by using a pleather belt from her own QVC line. Erika, though, would like Yolanda to know that maybe Lisa Vanderpump put Lisa Rinna up to saying such a thing and the more I hear this convoluted story, the more insane it sounds.
Now it's time to plan a party because everyone's in such a happy place. Kyle would like us to know that she's so not about trying to impress anyone. That's why she's making them all trek out to her mansion in the desert where a Fatburger truck will undoubtedly be parked near the veranda. Most of her very fortunate guests are staying at some local hotel and they will arrive when the sun goes down. Right before they get there, though, Kyle makes sure to tell her good friend Faye and a few others all about the conflicts in Dubai. After all, a good hostess must do all she can to spread the latest gossip so every person who waltzes reluctantly through her front door will immediately feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible.
"Does Lisa Rinna know that Kim's coming?" asks one of Kyle’s random friends. And the answer to that little question is no, Lisa Rinna does not know that her other arch enemy will be reaching for a tuna tartar bite at the same moment as she tries to snag it so she can smell it and then put it down before a single calorie makes its way into her system. Now here's the thing: I think Lisa Rinna has mildly lost her mind, but I also think she had every right to call Kim out last season. It was not Lisa who ruined Kim's life by declaring her an addict; it was Kim being an addict (on television) that caused her to ruin her own life, and I think it's important that nobody forgets that. Just watching Kim walk into Kyle’s house makes me feel like what I’m guessing morning sickness feels like when you’re pregnant with triplets who already have a lot of hair while still in the womb. It's like seeing a ghost you want to kick the shit out of and then muzzle before dragging her anywhere the cameras won't go – or at least that's my reaction. Really: I'd rather stare at a close-up of the clown from It than ever see or hear Kim Richards again.
But here she comes and she and her sister hug like they enjoy one another and then she cuddles with Mauricio too in an attempt to prove that she doesn't resent the fuck out of her sister’s happiness. Erika and Yolanda arrive next and Erika compliments Kim's performance in her Witch Mountain movie and Kim looks very proud. Lisa Rinna, Kathryn, and Eileen wander in then and Yolanda, stuck on a couch with Kim, giggles and says that she can't wait for Lisa Rinna to see Kim and react like she's seeing fucking Bloody Mary in the mirror during a slumber party gone savage. Well, she doesn't say the Bloody Mary part but that's the subtext I read and this is my recap so I'm just going to pretend all of my observations are absolutely correct.
The second Lisa Rinna comes in, she drags Yolanda away so the two can have a chat. She desperately needs to inform her that the latest incidents she's had with Lisa Vanderpump have rocked her world and she wants Yolanda to know that she knows now that Yolanda’s way less manipulative than that British bitch. She was just pushed over the edge, see? It was that damn photo of Yolanda snuggling with Kim and Brandi that did it! Anyway, she's so sorry about saying anything negative about Yolanda, but she should know that the conversation about whether or not Yolanda was really sick started long ago. And who started it? Why, it was Lisa Vanderpump! She showed Lisa Rinna some Instagram photos of Yolanda and "pushed" Lisa in that direction of making her doubt Yolanda. Fuck being on The Real Housewives! If Lisa Vanderpump is indeed this powerful, she should become the dictator of some nation. Who's running Kazakhstan these days?
Into this mess walks Lisa Vanderpump and she's greeted like she's covered in herpes blisters that have just begun to leak yellow pus. We'll get back to her in a moment, but for now let's stay on Yolanda and Lisa Rinna so we can focus on watching Lisa beg a woman she doesn't even care for all that much for forgiveness. But Yolanda's not about to assuage Lisa of her heavy load of self-inflicted guilt. She doesn't have the energy to even care about this bullshit, or at least that's what she says in the moment. And while she all but dismisses Lisa's desperate apologies, Lisa can't help but wonder why she always seems to find herself in a ditch she dug herself with a shovel carved entirely out of petrified horseshit.
Erika and her hair and Eileen come over next, followed closely by Kathryn and Kyle. It's all a bit too much for Yolanda. She decides to hightail it to the bar to get herself some lemony drink before pulling Lisa Vanderpump aside. Apparently, now Yolanda does care about who said what to whom first and Lisa very simply answers that she doesn't understand any of it. Is she lying? We'll never know – but for me, Lisa Vanderpump has behaved pretty impressively over many seasons of this show and she’s therefore racked up enough equity in my mind to keep me firmly on her side. She vehemently denies starting the conversation about the Munchausen and Lisa Rinna walks by them and mutters meanly that Ms. Vanderpump is just trying to save her ass right now. Then she stares like a deranged person as Kyle sits beside Lisa Vanderpump and Yolanda and also insists that Lisa Vanderpump never said a single word about Yolanda lying about being sick.
How does Yolanda feel about the situation? She feels shitty and uncomfortable – and that's before Faye Resnick comes over to tell her she looks beautiful. I wish someone would toss that asshole in the fire pit next to the swimming pool.
As for Erika, she's grossed out that Kathryn seems to be under Lisa Vanderpump's spell, too. I'm telling you, Vanderpump should bottle that spell and then set up a folding table next to the concession stand and sell it at a huge markup the next time Erika Jayne performs at Pervert Night because apparently that shit is potent and I hear some states have recently started outlawing poppers.
And over on the other side of the party, Kim shares a stilted conversation about the latest place she's moved to with Ken while Erika asks Yolanda if she actually believes anything Lisa Vanderpump told her. This is the worst fucking party I've ever seen – and that includes the one I attended where we all were poisoned by some homemade wine some guy I knew made and my boyfriend ended the evening by puking on the welcome mat of my house.
Oh, but friends – it's about to get even worse! Kim decides she should plop down beside Lisa Rinna to tell her that it just feels so awkward to avoid her so they might as well speak to one another. Kim! Is this an example of personal growth?! It is not. No, she would like to get to the scummy bottom of just why her lunch with Yolanda and Brandi created such a surge of rage inside of Lisa's small intestine. Lisa shouldn’t care about that! But here's what Lisa wonders, and she wonders it aloud to the jittery woman sitting before her: "What is it you need or want from me?" It's a good question – it's a fair question – and, of course, Kim doesn't have a real answer other than to get offended when Lisa says Kim had some stuff going on last year that made things complicated between them. How dare Lisa state what's on the public (and criminal) record? It's like she's needlessly throwing darts! Kim is fine! She has always been fine! Lord have fucking mercy, but what must it be like to live inside of Kim Richards' head? I pray to the God of Vanderpump that I shall never find out for sure.
All of this is Lisa Rinna’s fault and Kim knows that for sure! "She just can't seem to stay in her own space," sputters the woman who chose to walk directly over to Lisa, sit down beside her, and then declare out of nowhere that they should talk. For the love of all that is holy, has anyone yet invented a television screen I can lick so I can quickly get some of those onscreen margaritas into my system?
The party that I think was thrown to celebrate misery finally ends and it's time to move on to the next issue: Yolanda and David's divorce. Kathryn, Kyle, and Lisa Vanderpump gather together to discuss how upsetting it is that this marriage, once seemingly so strong, has ended. Divorce is always sad – and it's made even more disturbing by the fact that Yolanda’s going through it all while sick. Lisa Vanderpump responds to the bad news by sending her some flowers, but Erika (a person Yolanda genuinely likes) shows up to hear the story of what went down in person.
Yolanda looks miserable and a little bit lost and she tells Erika that everyone has reached out via text, but she's cautious about confiding in some of those women. "It's nobody's business," she says – and she's got a helluva point, but it's also an odd fucking point when you're stating such a thing in front of a camera crew. In any case, Yolanda blames the complications of life for the destruction of her marriage and she keeps it all kind of vague while spouting words of positivity. Look, Yolanda might not be my favorite Housewife, but I hope she finds the happiness she's looking for and I really hope I never have to see David Foster's creepy face again. But since I’m kind of in a betting mode lately, anyone wanna place a wager on who the guy will marry next? Which aging models now live in Malibu?
Across town, Lisa Rinna and Eileen get together for a meal where neither eats a single thing. They’re there to discuss the breakdown of Yolanda's marriage and how awful it is, but what Lisa finds very curious is how Yolanda spoke constantly about her poor health but she never once confided that her marriage was on the rocks. Isn't that weird? Well, no, answers Eileen. If her marriage to The Gambler were in shambles, she wouldn't tell Yolanda. It's nice to see Eileen make sense again for a second – and I shall hold onto this moment so I can refrain from wanting to throttle her somewhere around hour seven of the reunion when she starts behaving like a lunatic.
"I'm a fuck up!" Lisa Rinna exclaims at the end of this episode – and she's right. And I hope she will scream those words again right after she triumphantly pulls out the telephone records she shoved into her purse and brought to the reunion, the ones that will end up proving absolutely nothing at all. Also, she has a new lip-gloss line coming out. I'll buy some never.
Eileen ends the season still desperate to resolve every issue anyone has ever had. I look forward to her smirks at the reunion as everyone brawls, the ones that will smear across her face as she mistakenly thinks that what she's seeing is some healthy human interaction taking place in her foggy presence.
Kyle ends the season by appearing calm and happy about the state of her relationship with Lisa Vanderpump. I don't care for Kyle, but it's nice to see her standing by her friend. That said, the only way I'll watch her upcoming scripted series is if someone straps me to a chair and shoves spikes in my eyes, Clockwork Orange-style.
Lisa Vanderpump walks away from season eight with half of the women hating her – and a Q rating that is off the fucking charts so she can't possibly give a shit.
Erika made it through her first season without being grounded too often by her husband. I have no doubt she'll be asked back next year and I can only pray she performs as Erika Jayne in every single episode because the second she begins to writhe around onstage, my recaps begin writing themselves.
Nobody cares about Kathryn.
And Yolanda finishes this year by chatting with her daughter over FaceTime while swathed in some aluminum-looking suit that looks like it was created after the Tin Man and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man hooked up in a closet during a particularly memorable bender. There is absolutely no explanation offered for why Yolanda is sitting in this silver ensemble. Maybe it’s to ward off evil. Perhaps it’s a Munchausen shield. What we are clearly asked to realize for sure is that wearing it proves definitively that Yolanda is sick – that she has always been sick – and she’s changed her last name back to Hadid because it’s always nice to be associated with someone who is very famous.
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.