I took off my gloves once on a blustery cold January day and handed them to a homeless woman who was standing beneath an icicle-encrusted tree. I bought a student a prom dress last year and lent her my own jewelry after gently explaining that it's very hard for anyone to pull off enormous pink rhinestone earrings. I talked a friend off a ledge one night when she mistakenly believed her boyfriend was cheating on her. I play the peacekeeper in my family so often that I'm pretty sure I should earn a salary or at least get dental benefits.
I say all this so you will know I'm not the cruelest person clomping about this large planet. I say all this because I am about to dive in (self-awareness first) and react with scalding sarcasm and a shit-ton of profanity at the sight of Kim Richards needlessly appearing again on my television screen. I say all this because there's nobody in my real life – even that one guy – who I hate more than I hate this trembling blonde Former Housewife who has spent her entire life blaming other people for the mess she has become, the mess she's chosen to shellac and preserve instead of trying to fix. I say all this because I think Kim Richards is a damaged and damaging asshole and only a small reason for that is due to her addiction, the one she likes to claim (while she's drunk) that she's never struggled with in the least. Yes, the biggest reason Kim acts like an asshole is not because she's a raging alcoholic; it's because she's a raging asshole.
I hate the woman's toad-like creaking voice. I hate that she still holds people accountable for the pinky swear they made three decades ago when they promised they'd never reveal just how much of a lunatic she really is. I hate that she believes that she is entitled to behave in whatever manic way she sees fit and then appears fully stunned when those around her hold her accountable for those actions. I hate that she named her daughter Kimberly. I hate that she continually appears on reality television but refuses to tell the whole truth of any story while pretending that what she really longs for is privacy even as a camera is aimed directly at her face and she walks away with a paycheck.
I hate that Kim's awfulness makes me feel empathy for Kyle, a woman who has never met a hideous caftan she didn't immediately purchase and then wear to perform splits. I hate that Kim actually feels like it's her right to feel insulted that Kyle doesn't have any faith in her when she's proven so frequently throughout the crawling passage of years that nobody should have any faith in her. I hate that Kim calls her children her best friends because 1. That's fucking sad and 2. She continually destroys whatever balance her children have briefly achieved by screwing up again and again and then appears furious when her kids try to be honest about her problems. I saw her Dr. Phil interview, the one nobody forced her to be on. I watched her stalk away, fire blazing unrestrained from the slits of her dilated eyes. I watched as she fumed to her children that the whole truth was not to be discussed. No joke: her warped display of humanity impacted my blood pressure so severely that I considered taking a sick day just so I could meander through a meadow or do something else that's calming so my psyche could once again settle the fuck down.
As for why this superhero whose superpower is projection is even showing up for part two of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, well, that's a little difficult to answer. I'm sure there a people out there who are far less cynical than myself who think Andy has brought this walking disgrace onto the set because viewers genuinely care about how she's doing. Maybe those people do exist, but I'd rather live in an underground bunker without a can opener than dine with any of them because those people have to be insane. Is she on the show so we can watch both she and her sister cry? I mean, haven't we already seen that? Is she here to take Lisa Rinna to task for announcing to a world who had already figured it out that last season Kim's sobriety had become compromised? Who the hell knows – but what I most certainly know is that Kim's guest starring role on this spectacle is forcing me to root for Lisa Rinna for at least a segment or two because the only way I could ever root for Kim would be if she's facing off against Hitler and even then it might be difficult for me to cheer her name – and I'm Jewish and this week is Passover.
But there's more we have to muddle through before the cruel moron appears on the set. See, last week's reunion ended with Lisa Rinna pulling out phone records that proved nothing, Yolanda weeping and stalking off the set into the warm embrace of a woman who is on her payroll, Erika rushing after her dear friend, Lisa Vanderpump insisting she never stated that her evil plan for the season hinged on calling Yolanda's illness into question, and Lisa Rinna announcing, "I did it," like she just accomplished something profound. And typing all that while knowing that this bullshit is about to be discussed in circles and Kim Richards is waiting in the green room for her big moment makes me want to snort some bath salts just so maybe my evening will improve. Unfortunately, I am plum out of bath salts. Can I maybe just snort some Comet?
I'm just going to say this: asking viewers to spend an entire season investing in a fight caused by a phone call that might or might not have even been made – and, if it did happen, it happened off-screen – is just going too far. This Lisa/Lisa battle is sinfully uninteresting and, if it's true, the only thing we've learned is that Lisa Vanderpump, like many others, doubted Yolanda's sickness or the timeline of her sickness and that Lisa Rinna can hustle her way to a second career as a ventriloquist for manipulative people. Anything you want her to say, she will voice it for you with her lips that were made for talkin'. Then she will whip Verizon records out of her clutch and blame you for turning her into a dummy, though she might not understand the irony of it all.
Anyway, we begin tonight with the same conversation that ended last week’s show – and really, with the same conversation that has ended every episode of this show all season long. “Sorry,” Lisa Rinna tosses out to Lisa Vanderpump sans emotion as Yolanda shakes her head in feigned disbelief that her “friends” spoke poorly about her. “You encouraged me to say ‘Munchausen.’” Just for argument’s sake here, if Lisa Vanderpump is in fact able to get Lisa Rinna to randomly say certain explosive words, couldn’t she also then get her to shut the fuck up? Does she need a wand to make it happen? If so, she can go ahead and borrow mine. I have four.
Now, technically it appears that Lisa Vanderpump didn’t even say “Munchausen” while on the phone with Lisa Rinna, but that doesn’t matter in much the same way facts often don’t matter on this show. Lisa Rinna could feel what Lisa Vanderpump wanted her to say and, like a good hypnosis victim, she carried out the dastardly plot. Meanwhile, backstage – where she’s fled for no reason – Yolanda cries at how hurtful these women are while Erika and the health advocate nod at her soothingly. On the set, Lisa Rinna takes credit for dropping “Munchausen” into our cluttered zeitgeist and Erika pops back onto the couch to announce that Yolanda will be back shortly after experiencing a mini breakdown.
Walking back slowly to the couch after pretending to be shocked by the exact same story that’s just now being told in a different form, Yolanda gazes downward while Andy Cohen attempts to get her to react to a scenario so confusing – and so unimportant. “Who do you believe?” asks Andy. “I’m really confused,” admits Yolanda, before she goes on to assault Lisa Vanderpump for being manipulative and running over dead bodies in order to make a good storyline for the show. Does it matter that they were all wearing microphones and there’s simply no audio footage of this incendiary comment anywhere, Lisa Vanderpump wonders? Nope! All that matters here is that Lisa Rinna has had it with talking in circles and she’s furious that Lisa Vanderpump refuses to own what she claims to have never said and finally Lisa Rinna realizes that she might get more attention if she gets up and threatens a walk-off, but she can’t fully commit to the process so she stands near a camera and bellows, “Just own it, Lisa!” Then she comes back to the couch and sits down, non-walk-off complete.
As for Yolanda’s parting dagger to Lisa Vanderpump, a woman she has clearly disliked for some time, she subtly drops the news that her ex-husband’s long-standing friendship with Lisa Vanderpump is now over. She practically chortles saying it, but as for the reason it happened? Seems Mohammad told Lisa that his kids do not have Lyme and when Kyle asked Lisa if they did, Lisa simply said no. Get her! And tell the villagers to bring the torches!
I think the big problem here – for now – is the way Yolanda has chosen to publicly detail her illness. Her method of doing so has caused some issues. My guess is that most people sitting on that reunion couch have not spent their lives attempting to disprove when those in their orbit come down with illnesses. No, there’s something off about the way Yolanda doled out shards of information while asking for total support, pretending she’s an advocate warrior, and refusing to ever fully answer a question that has caused the confusion here. Should Yolanda have to explain every variable about her debilitating illness? Of course not – but she also doesn’t have to be on this show where she is happily filmed making phone calls from inside an aluminum suit.
Anyway, Yolanda claims that she does not care who said what. She does not care who brought up “Munchausen” first. All Yolanda cares about is how terrible it is to sit in a Lyme Clinic with people who cannot afford to be there and the way she can barely wrap her head around such a thing as she flies home to her mansion on her private plane while Instagramming shots of her without makeup to the world so we all know she’s suffering. And at that, the women gather around her. Lisa Rinna even kneels down to show her support! But fuck this conditional support, fumes Eileen. She is not getting off the fucking couch! She will not sit beside Lisa Vanderpump, the person who started every bit of the crisis here – and probably the crisis in the Middle East, too. She will stay exactly where she is and whisper loudly enough that the editors will have to give her subtitles and she will wait until next season if she must to watch Ms. Vanderpump be burned at the stake.
And now that we’ve started off oh so lightly, it’s time to jump further in to the muck by bringing out Kim Richards! She’s sitting beside Kyle and her massive cleavage and her voice shakes at just the word “Hi,” and she discusses how sad the loss of her ex-husband has been and then the montage begins that highlights the difficult relationship Kim and Kyle share. Yes, there’s footage of Kyle mourning the loss of their terrible bond and some footage of Lisa Rinna highlighting Kim’s latest travesties. Kim watches the clip with a haughty look on her face because she feels the power of the lights on her now and she will take that Rinna woman down. As Kyle watches the montage, she looks so tense that I’m genuinely afraid for her and it’s right about now that I’m going to loudly declare that both Kim and Kyle deserve to be this uncomfortable at exactly this moment. They have brought these problems upon themselves by airing them to the world and continuing the damaging charade. Insist on going on TV to share your story? Fine – but deal with the consequences, including the one that is me turning the words, “Kim Richards is the fucking devil” into a song with an accompanying dance. The footage finally ends so the two sisters can weep and declare their love for one another while my eyes are dry as can be because I cannot stand either one of them.
As to where Kim stands in her recovery, well, she’s choosing to keep that to herself because she’ll go ahead and try anything once. And we’ll get back to Kim so she can go ahead and use some recovery vernacular so we’ll all believe that she’ll be sober forever in just a second, but first we should turn our attention to Kathryn. The woman is bawling on the sofa opposite Kim’s. That montage just made her so emotional! Throwing kisses to the blonde monster across from her – the one who has brought all of her misery upon herself – seems to make Kathryn feel better, though. Plus, we get to confirm that Kim knows how to blow kisses! At any rate, Kyle insists that she has always loved Kim and the two of them cry and talk about how hard all of this has been on the family and it is seriously infuriating me that nobody in that room – not even the head of craft services – screams out, “Stop sharing your problems on television!”
“Your judgment of her was so strong,” Yolanda huffs to Lisa Rinna about the way Lisa reacted to the news that Kim had been arrested for shoplifting and kicking a cop and being wasted in public. Was that judgment? Then I’m just as guilty and I have no remorse about any of it. See, here Kim sits, choking out how badly her feelings were hurt when people commented on her public behavior and taking almost no responsibility for orchestrating that behavior herself and then flinging it into a world who now knows who she is because she has insisted on appearing on reality television because she has no other viable skills and no desire to learn any. I do not feel the least bit sorry for Kim. I hope she stays clean so her children can maybe know what it’s like to have a viable parent, but I do not care about Kim Richards in the slightest. I am sick of her deflection of the truth and the way she waves away responsibility and I hope she never appears on television again. I also wouldn’t mind if she takes her brunette sister with her when she finally leaves so they can ride home together and talk about how unfair it is for people to say things about Kim and Faye Resnick and all of the dear people who appear on this show not for attention and monetary compensation, but because they are fucking angels.
There’s more I could probably say about Kim – like how awesome it is when she tells the woman she once called A Beast that she really likes her – but my stepfather is still in a rehabilitation hospital for his back and my puppy is still searching the rooms of my house for a guy she has a crush on who was here this weekend and Prince just died, so I really don’t have the patience to recount the same old tired bullshit spewed by the same old tired lady who I have no faith will ever fully get and stay clean. It’s actually a far better use of my time to concentrate on how Andy tells Lisa Rinna that she’s behaving like Marco Rubio and the way Lisa laughs and protests in such a way that the thing that’s made the most clear is that she just got fillers pumped into her face because nothing moves when she laughs.
Kim finally leaves to the anemic applause of women on those couches who either don’t know her or still hate her and Andy starts the new segment by asking Kathryn how her hearing aids are working. They’re great, she exclaims, even though she accidentally left them in San Diego. She swears she can hear everything, though I’m wondering if her partial deafness is maybe what led to her deciding that she really loves Kim Richards. In any case, now it’s time for the Party Montage to go down so we can all gape at the allegedly fabulous events they all attended and then ruined by fighting about nothing and the way none of them can agree on what an actual barbeque entails. Kyle thinks a barbeque should be a catered event where she gets to cover herself up in a fancy maxi-dress. Erika thinks a barbeque should include ribs and shirtless men pirouetting in the swimming pool for her pleasure. Lisa Rinna, though, knows that a barbeque is a casual event and she’s announcing right now that she will be throwing one next year! Is this the point where everyone else should maybe look around at one another and murmur, “We all hate each other! We’ve spent the last year trying to ruin lives and reputations! Why on earth would we now attend a barbecue at her house?” Alas, nobody says such a thing, but at least we get to hear Eileen mull over which one of them looked the most like a hooker at the burlesque party.
Speaking of Eileen, it’s time for the woman to talk about what she has yet to shut up about: the way Lisa Vanderpump – that manipulative terror! – used the word “affair” to describe the way her marriage to Vince started. Before we get into it (again), let’s just acknowledge that, though these two have been married for a good long time, the relationship did begin as an affair and Lisa Vanderpump has apologized for saying the word and asking those questions. Just because Eileen did not care for the tenor of the apology does not mean one was not offered. And on that note of logic, let’s see if anything new comes out when it comes to this same tired fight…
Yeah, nothing new is revealed, except that Eileen is now furious and feels vindicated that Lisa’s apology was never sincere. Lady? Move the fuck on. Stop attempting to follow the imaginary line from condescension to manipulation that you’re certain exists and instead focus your considerable energy on monitoring your soap fortune that’s undoubtedly being gambled away even as we speak.
Another thing that should maybe be stopped is the way everyone wants Lisa Vanderpump to break down emotionally and share her deepest darkest thoughts with the universe – or with anyone who gets Bravo. Do all of these people not realize that the reason she is a bonafide reality queen is because she manages to get on these shows and show off a ton of personality without stripping herself bare for people she will never know? Are we actually being asked to believe there’s something wrong with the fact that Lisa does not choose to loudly declare that she too is a survivor of an abusive relationship? It’s one thing when Kim says she doesn’t want to talk about stuff after she’s appeared on camera slurring her words and whispering, “Fuck you” to one of her co-workers in the backseat of a limo on her way to a Housewives’ related event. It’s quite another thing that Lisa Vanderpump feels no need to share the most vulnerable nuggets of her life with a viewing audience – and that these women refuse to understand that is grosser than the hybrid creature that has Brandi Glanville’s lips, Kim Richard’s voice, and Yolanda’s aluminum hive that continues to invade my delicate dreams.
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.