Here’s the thing: so far on this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, a lot of things have almost happened. Kyle was almost unceremoniously disinvited from her niece’s wedding – but she ended up attending, even as more than half of her family remained on the Do Not Admit list. Lisa Vanderpump almost bought her husband a dwarfy horse, but she ended up not bringing it home with her on her friend’s private plane because one of the animal’s front legs was a little wonky. Yolanda almost made it through an entire meal with the rest of the Housewives before having to leave before the main course was served due to complications from her illness. Luckily, the rest of them were happy to talk about her in her absence so it was like she was there. The new Housewife, Erika, almost made a full impression on me, but the truth is that I'm still remarkably confused by her. However, like I said last time, I have high hopes for the very natural looking blonde because, if she does well on this show, maybe Kim Richards will never return to star in anything but my sweatiest fever dreams. Eileen almost behaved in a manner that was interesting, but she didn’t quite pull it off because I have a hard time caring about the struggles inherent in carpooling. Still, I do find her stability rather pleasant and I think it's always nice to have another normal Housewife around. Lisa Rinna almost threw down with Taylor at Ken’s birthday party while both of them were wearing ridiculous hats, but Lisa wisely decided against it. I think that somewhere in the back of her mind she remembers that she once had to apologize to that piece of shit Kim Richards during last season's reunion show for sending her a nasty text message that contained only the truth and I'm pretty sure that she might have grabbed her own thigh so tightly as she was all but forced to make such a bullshit apology to a monster and that there's a good chance she punctured her skin with a fingernail in the process and got herself a pesky little infection. Realizing that Taylor is desperate to be back on this show and only wants a reaction anyway is what I think enabled Lisa to keep her lips clamped tightly together. As a result, a confrontation almost happened – but didn’t. And what do all of these they-almost-happened moments mean? It means that nothing has actually transpired so far on this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and so I entered into tonight's episode not expecting much.
Turns out, I wasn’t wrong to have low expectations. Lord (and Satan) help me, but I almost miss Brandi. (Calm down – I said almost. I respect a theme!)
Tonight's episode begins with Lisa strolling across her massive property alongside her trusty housekeeper and the luckiest dog who has ever romped through the universe. It’s a big day, so Giggy is properly decked out in a festive velvet outfit that’s an alarming shade of purple. All of the excitement is due to the fact that Lisa’s friends have been able to procure her a replacement for the dwarf horse she wasn't able to bring home for Ken and I think this means that the moral of any story is that Lisa always manages to get exactly what she wants and that’s why I am officially telling all of the owls in all of the land to fuck off because Lisa Vanderpump is my spirit animal now. Anyway, not only have Lisa’s friends (who I’m tirelessly weaving personalized friendship bracelets for because I wouldn’t mind having the kind of friends who bring me farm animals instead of bottles of wine) brought her one horse; they brought her a baby horse too! Though the prospect of having two horses feels mildly daunting, Lisa happily agrees to take them both. She figures they can play with one another and she gently leads them across the moat where the swans circle unhappily, realizing that they are so yesterday's news.
I didn’t notice it much last week because I was too busy trying to use my floundering math skills to deduce the age difference between Erika and her husband, but Erika's house is kind of oppressive in terms of style. There are lots of heavy curtains and large upholstered chairs and a ton of brown wood everywhere you look. The house is grand for sure, but it's also the kind of style that I think would give me claustrophobia in about five minutes flat. I’ll tuck that phobia into my back pocket and break it out when necessary, like when it will help me to flee from a party before the hostess slithers across her own dining room table while singing her hit dance song while wearing a unitard. There’s no slithering going on right now though. Sitting in a pink plush robe on one of her sofas in one of her nineteen living rooms, Erika calls her husband on speakerphone. He’s busy at work and they set up when they’ll meet for dinner and, as she talks to him, she flirts and twirls her hair like she's Kim MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie. I almost expected her to belt out How Lovely to Be a Woman, but there was nobody to work the auto-tune in the house so the woman just kept quiet. Erika would like us to know that she's just as busy as the man who clearly built the legal empire that pays for her Gothic house, her blonde extensions, and the S&M attire she likes to perform in and I say that she should do whatever makes her happy, though it is a little bit weird the way she refers to her alter ego as a completely separate person. Beyoncé could barely pull that shit off with Sasha Fierce – and she's fucking Beyoncé. Erika has a big day ahead of her. She’s meeting with what I’m guessing is a blind stylist so she can try out her new compression catsuit and I think it's sweet that Erika and I have so much in common because I too am wearing my very own compression catsuit right now! Erika wiggles her way into maybe the most bizarre garment I've ever seen (and I'm including that episode of Project Runway when Austin made a dress entirely out of cornhusks), takes down her hair, and immediately morphs into Erika Jayne like she’s Superman exiting a phone booth. Then she gazes at her image in the mirror and poetically murmurs, “Eat a dick,” because see, she's Erika Jayne now and dicks are her business. I’d also like to congratulate Erika. It is only her second episode and I've already seen her nipples, so nicely done. And I might also agree with her insightful statement about how every woman has some Erika Jayne inside of her that she's dying to get out. Personally, I just thought that burning was a UTI I was struggling with, but now I’m wondering if it was my very own inner Erika Jayne who likes to come out when I pee.
Over at a restaurant across town, Eileen meets up with her husband Vince. The two don’t have the kind of marriage where they see one another every day, Eileen explains, so she looks genuinely thrilled to be across a table from him. As for Vince, he just returned from going to the racetrack, which was one of his father's favorite places. Since his father passed away, it's been hard for him to go there, but he said he had a great time and he bet on a few races (small bets, he added) and he walked away with $600. I very well might be cynical, but to me there was something weird about this conversation. The gambling was mentioned almost too casually and I’m just gonna throw in that I really hope it does not turn into a plot point this season. On the other hand, I can't remember the last time there was a gambling issue involving a Housewife, so it might be nice to see an original problem for a change. I mean, I'm already tired of the fake illness storyline that nobody will commit to this season. Eileen and Vince order some food and she apologizes to him for being bitchy to him on the phone that morning. She then proceeds to explain in minute detail exactly why she was bitchy and, though she seemed to just want to be heard, all her husband listened to was her cataloging all of the things he did wrong. I’m starting to think that we as human beings might be better off if we just communicated with one another through Pictionary because words tend to get a lot of us in some deep shit. But no need to buy the giant pad and the markers just yet! Vince has a solution! He and Eileen should not talk about anything that’s real until 9:00 PM and I'm officially starting to worry a little bit about this marriage. You know how people talk all the time about which Housewife is getting “the bitch edit” each season? I'm pretty sure this is our first full indication that Vince is getting the douchebag edit this time around.
At another café, Lisa Rinna has taken her daughters out for lunch to discuss whether or not they’re excited for their annual family trip to Canada. One of her daughter (Amelia? Delilah? Lhasa Apso?) says it's not that she doesn’t like going to Canada, but she gets homesick halfway through the vacation. Lisa kind of nods and doesn't bother fighting back. She knows that they're teenagers; they want to be home with their friends. Raising teenagers isn't for sissies, claims Lisa, and she gives Kyle credit for having already raised four of them and this leads us into what I'm guessing is The Mother Sequence of tonight’s show because now we join Kyle and some of her daughters as they wander into a jewelry store where the owner obviously hugs Kyle because she is Kyle. They are there to get some piercings. Sofia will go first and then young Portia will follow. Okay. I don't feel all that great speaking ill of children and I have no idea how old this Sofia girl is. What I do know is that she looks so much like her mother that it’s almost shocking. She’s got long brown hair and expensive sunglasses and she’s probably gripping a Chanel keychain in her paw and I look just like my mother too, but this is ridiculous. Anyway, Sofia doesn’t take well to pain – or she just takes better to massive amounts of attention because she screams bloody murder while GETTING HER FUCKING EAR PIERCED. She was so hysterical that Kyle had to straddle her in the chair to make her feel safe. I have seen women squeeze out nine-pound babies with more grace that Sofia exhibited in that jewelry store, and I am obviously stunned that Kyle raised such drama queens because she’s the kind of woman who shuns attention at all costs.
Back with a mother I don’t kind of hate, Lisa explains that she doesn't really listen to everything her daughters say to her anymore. Their words and complaints are just a lot of white noise in the background for her so she tends to tune them out and I honestly think that's some excellent parenting.
Lisa Vanderpump’s kids are out of the house, so her concern for the day is presenting the two new horses to her husband. Lisa wants Ken to love them immediately and it appears that he does; he's just a little perplexed why there are so many horses suddenly in his backyard. Still, Lisa has already decided that they are a part of her family and all they need now is a proper set of golden Maloof hoofs and they will be good to go. I smiled when she said that – but then my grin turned to one of terror because it’s possible that with that sentence, she might have just conjured up the spirit of Adrienne Maloof and I felt a hard chill pass through me so I quickly called in an exorcist and I feel little better now. The scene ends with Ken saying that he's blown away by the gift, Lisa congratulating herself on shocking the hell out of her husband, and one of the horses pissing a reservoir on the back lawn.
We're finally back with Yolanda again. She and David welcome Erika and her husband to their Malibu home and Yolanda says that Erika has been a great support system for her during her illness. There does seem to be a nice ease between the two women. As they sit outside and Yolanda wraps herself in a blanket, David asks Erika if she's performing or if she's writing and she says she's doing all of the above. In fact, she's about to do a show in Chicago and she’d love to get David's opinion on her music. But see, David is a little busy. He’s getting ready to jet off to Europe to play a show with Andrea Bocelli for his foundation. The event will be in Tuscany and, this year, there's going to be an opportunity to meet a very special guest who just so happens to be the Pope. I’d much rather meet Springsteen myself, but the Pope is kind of a special guest to have at an event. I mean, it's not as though they're announcing that someone big will show up and then they end up saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, here's Hilary Duff!” Yolanda, chock full of excellent ideas and taking a break from smoothing her husband's hair and kissing him in front of her guests in a way that reads as even more creepy now that we know they are getting divorced, suggests that Erika should perform with David for the Pope! Fortunately, Erika realizes that Erika Jayne and her compression catsuit and her “eat a dick” mentality do quite jive with stuff the Pope probably stands for and she bows out of being sent to purgatory permanently.
Then comes a moment that probably sums up why so many people I know think David Foster’s a dick. The four of them are chatting away and David asks Erika’s husband if he can take a week off work. “No,” Erika responds, knowing full well that her husband of fifteen years doesn’t do shit like that. And that’s when David looks directly at her with a hard glint in his eyes. “Don’t do that,” he tells his guest, going on to explain to her that interrupting is wrong and Yolanda answers for him sometimes too and he hates it. Remaining cool as a fucking cucumber – or looking like Erika Jayne invaded her soul to provide some backup – Erika tells David with a shrug that that’s what happens when you’re married to a strong woman and I almost high-fived my TV screen and then rolled across my living room floor wearing something mesh and see-through in an effort to show her some solidarity.
Next we join Kyle, who is basically hoping to replicate what sounds like a nightmare of a childhood, as she tries to turn her own child into an actress. She and Portia arrive at an acting coach’s studio and soon Portia is repeating, “red leather, yellow leather” over and over again in the same way other children are playing red light, green light, 123. Portia is the first of Kyle's children who has expressed an interest in becoming an actress and Kyle is all but turning blue as she tries to convince us that this is Portia’s choice completely and that it has nothing to do with all the times she made wishes upon stars after blowing the fuzz off a meadow of dandelions while throwing salt over her shoulder and leaping over cracks in the sidewalk that her kid would become a star.
I'm also just going to throw this out: I think Porsche is very cute. I think kids in general are kind of nice. But I have zero desire to watch a seven-year-old engage in an improv session during a primetime show. I feel like I'm at somebody's house and their kids come running into the dining room after appetizers are served to tell us that they want to perform a show for us and, as everyone else coos about how sweet the entire thing is, I am racking my brain trying to figure out how I can fake my own death at that table using only a teaspoon and a wine glass as a weapon and how to do the whole thing quickly so I don’t have to plaster a smile on my face when I hear that this is just an intermission and there’s more coming.
One thing I do find rather interesting is that Kyle says she had a very good experience being a child actress but she knows that such a thing is not the case for everyone. For example, her sister Kim’s experience was quite a bit different than hers and she believes Kim probably felt more pressure to bring home money for the family. But she also says that she doesn't think that Kim's addiction issues have anything to do with her child actress past, that people are simply born the way that they are born, and I have to say that I'm not sure I've ever seen an adult so unwilling to look at what was a clearly flawed upbringing and admit that her parents seriously fucked up somewhere along the way. By no means am I suggesting that Kyle should feel active resentment for her dead mother now, but maybe she should at least recognize the role all of those aspects of her childhood played in making her and her sisters the adults they are today. I haven't done a great deal of reading on the subject, but even I know that Kyle and Kim's mother, Big Kathy, was reportedly ruthless, consumed with money, and taught her children that fame and marrying into wealth were the highest achievements one could attain in life and well, maybe those lessons worked out okay for Kyle, but at least she should recognize that it was all, at best, some questionable child rearing advice.
Back at Yolanda’s, her health advocate is preparing vitamin packets for the days when she's going to be away in Canada with David. Yolanda is excited to go away and just be with her husband so they can reconnect their souls and do some swimming. And while those pills look huge, swallowing them is no problem for Yolanda. If she had to, she would subsist on bark.
As for Lisa Rinna, she’s at her own house fighting with technology. It appears that she's using FaceTime for the first time ever to take a call from her husband, a man she insists on calling by his entire name. They are all in Canada without her because she had to stay behind for a while to appear on QVC to sell a line of clothing I never knew she had. Lisa wants to be on vacation too, but she's a hustler at heart and she’s trying to continue to earn a living and she wants to continue to appear relevant and she's so blatantly honest about her motivations that I've almost forgotten what her lips look like at this point. I actually really like her.
And still 40 minutes or so have gone by and nothing has really happened. Eileen and Vince kind of fought but didn't. Yolanda was able to happily adore the man she's no longer married to, which is sad even though the guy is a dick. Kyle's kid might be an actress. Ken finally got a mini horse…and that's pretty much it. But things start improving a bit when we join Yolanda and David on vacation. They are being filmed by home video camera (By whom? Anyone else wonder that?) while they recline on a gorgeous yacht. It's all going swimmingly until David asks Yolanda if she’d like to go for a walk and she answers, “I can't, I can't,” and then she tells him almost bashfully that he asks her that every day and she always has to say no. His response to her vulnerability is, “It gets hilarious,” and I don't think I've ever hated this asshole more.
Back on dry land, Lisa Vanderpump invites all of her friends over to meet the newest members of her family. Lisa Rinna is the first to arrive, followed soon by Kyle who tromps across the moat in stilettos. Lisa Vanderpump inquires as to whether or not Kyle has spoken to her sister recently and reveals that Kim trashed her online by saying something about how Lisa is such a phony. But Kyle just says no, she has not spoken to Kim. Then she wonders (TO A CAMERA) why everybody keeps bringing up something that she doesn't want to talk about and once again, that little trait of self-awareness that Kyle is completely lacking is really coming into play. Kyle? The reason people keep bringing up Kim is because you both starred on a reality show where, despite your protestations that you both guard your privacy in a chamber of secrets, you aired a ton of your shit to the world in exchange for a paycheck and an appearance on Diving With the Stars. Remember, Kyle? Remember how Kim liked to pretend her sobriety was real and how you announced to the world that she was an alcoholic in the back of a limo? Any of this ringing a bell? So listen, sweetheart, there is no keeping quiet now because you have already leased your soul to the devil in exchange for a Chanel fanny-pack and we all know it. And then, right before we cut to commercial break, we are blessed with a Christmas miracle. We get to see the scene where Kim dies in Sharknado 3, the most defining film of our time. I kept pressing rewind. I watched that fucker four times.
As they wait for Eileen to show up, Lisa Rinna has a confession. She was on Instagram and she saw pictures of Yolanda vacationing in Vancouver and now she’s really confused. See, in the pictures it appears that Yolanda is feeling healthy but the last time Lisa saw her, Yolanda greeted her in a bathrobe from her bed after the health advocate answered the door and then did a quick show and tell routine of more medication than you'd see in a lab at Merck. The three women then debate why Yolanda feels the need to post every single aspect of her health struggle on Instagram – including shit that involves hyperbolic chambers and needles stuck into her arm. They want to know what she's trying to get out of all of this incessant sharing. After explaining that she's approached often by people who want to know what's really going on with Yolanda and whether or not her illness is real, Lisa says that she just wants to share something. Then she picks up her phone and reads aloud the definition of Munchhausen Syndrome, a psychological condition where people use fake illnesses to draw attention to themselves. The looks on all of their faces as Lisa reads the characteristics of this issue is one of dawning understanding – and anxiety that someone just said something negative about an allegedly sick woman. That's when Eileen shows up. She can immediately tell that the mood in the room is a little odd and Lisa Rinna comes right out with it and tells her that she feels guilty for even questioning Yolanda or gossiping with others about the issue. But I think more than guilt, Lisa feels real fear in this scene. Kyle and Lisa Vanderpump didn’t jump up and scream, “Maybe she is faking it!” and Lisa Rinna probably feels scared as hell that she’s about to catch some real shit for saying anything at all. And when they finally head outside to see the horses, Kyle tells Lisa not to worry about what she said, but then she tells us with a barely veiled smile that she doesn’t want to be around when Yolanda hears about it. Who else wants to place bets that Kyle's gonna be the one to tell Yolanda everything?
Next week, Lisa Vanderpump meets Erika for the first time and compares her to the Barbie she used to play with before she entered puberty. She also asks Erika her how her 76-year-old husband is in the sack. Eileen mentions to Yolanda that people have been questioning the veracity of her illness, and Yolanda sits her children down and has the conversation no child wants to have about what they need to do just in case she dies.
Shit’s getting dark, my friends – and still nothing has actually happened.
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.