High on the list of my favorite all-time songs is Jungleland, that soaring rock n’ roll epic about swaggering guys who have something to prove cavorting with barefoot girls who recline on the hoods of cars right before a knife is raised high into the shadows of a stark night and everything changes forever. It’s a pure masterpiece of writing, one that ignores typical conventions and instead surges forward with the haunting rhythm of a saxophone, some blaring and unrelenting guitars, and one of the single most beautiful measures of melody ever tinkled on a piano. Perhaps even more than anything I’ve read by T.S. Eliot – or anything I ever pretended to read, like Beowulf –Jungleland captures the loss of control and the spinning of the self and the disquieting way that literally anything can happen once the sun goes down.
The song’s lyrics are astounding. They’re poignant and profound in their construction and visceral in their effect. The words sketch a portrait of a life most of us will never experience; then they beckon us to take a closer gander before we scurry back to safety. When I hear the song – even today – I feel transported to a place where there’s a glowing Exxon sign hanging high above the Jersey state line, one illuminating the faces of all those poets who don’t write anything at all.
To even pretend that it’s possible to compare the work of a musical mystic with Bravo Housewives is an exercise in futility, so I will not be wasting my time trying to locate similarities that don’t actually exist between what I see as the newest incarnations of Good and Evil. But if I really wanted to reach, perhaps I could say that the lines, “Man, there’s an opera out on the Turnpike…there’s a ballet being fought out in the alley,” remind me a tiny bit of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills because brawls are also being fought there, only they’re being waged by morons and none of it is poetic in the slightest.
I’m going to have to write this recap quickly because I need to get ready for the enormous party I’m throwing to celebrate the end of a season of a show where almost nothing happened. The marching band I ordered to entertain the crowd by playing only Erika Jayne songs is arriving soon and it'll be really hard to think over the blaring of all those tubas. I’ll be lucky if I remember to pat my puss every half hour in the midst of the noise, but at least I’ll have happily downed a couple of signature drinks by then – which probably means I’ll allow other people to go ahead and pat my puss. Speaking of those drinks, I’m very excited to announce that I will be offering my guests the very potent Munchausen Mojito. That shit will be whipped up in a sterile hyperbolic chamber and the rim of the glass will be lined with crushed hysteria and regret.
But before my party can go down, we need to muddle through the last part of the reunion, the one that seems entirely unnecessary at this point. I really did sit and ponder what these women even have left to speak about anymore and, my friends, it does not look good. Other than Kathryn being taken to task for acting like a dick the time she so easily told the others what Erika had confided to her – they were in front of cameras and they were both wearing microphones, but still – I can’t imagine what new information could even be presented as a conversation topic. Know what that means? It means that this entire hour will be padded with the kind of filler that makes up a cheap maxi pad – or whatever’s been pumped into Brandi Glanville’s face. It means all we will be treated to is Lisa Rinna screaming, “Own it!” before every commercial break and Eileen smirking because she thinks she’s made some spectacular point about how apologies from people she’s decided to hate only count sometimes. It means that we’ll get to watch Yolanda discuss her “journey” and her “babies” while shaking her head in haughty dismay at the fact that the mixed messages she tossed out into the world caused some mixed reactions amongst her co-workers. We’ll get to stare blankly as Andy Cohen invites women who now clearly loathe one another to pretend to casually reflect on all the fun times they’ve shared, which means we can listen to them rattle on for five minutes about the day they dined in a close proximity to a designer pony.
Perhaps the only thing any of us can hope for anymore when it comes to this last part of an overlong reunion is that it will serve as the final showing for some of these women. I cannot possibly be the only one hoping that Andy has plans to surreptitiously shove a few pink slips into the complimentary gift bags that have already been filled to the brim with bottles of Ramona Pinot and purses made entirely out of plastic by Gretchen Christine. Personally, I’m hoping everyone besides Lisa Vanderpump and Erika get the boot – and I don’t even like Erika all that much, but I have to admit that I find her veneer of steely frigidness oddly interesting. Sure, there’s a chance that not a whole lot (besides more hair extensions and an expansive subterranean bunker filled with bedazzled catsuits) will come to light after she’s finally thawed out, but I’m curious enough to admit that I want to take a look. And fuck all those Housewives who have so pathetically (and so ineloquently) plotted against her, because I still find myself rooting for Lisa Vanderpump and I want her to remain on this show. I worry that otherwise she will be forced to spend more time with the monsters she employs over at SUR and that kind of ordeal cannot possibly be beneficial for anybody. But the rest of them? They strike me as so unsavory now that their collective banishment from my cable box will surely bring about a powerful form of palate cleansing for a mind that’s really fucking tired of being exposed to grown women who do splits while wearing muumuus.
(I feel it’s very important to note here that no splits of any kind ever went down in the wilds of Jungleland.)
Anyway, while the florist I hired gets busy setting up an enormous topiary made entirely out of yellow rose petals to capture the look of Faye Resnick’s face after it’s been peed on and the photographer properly lights the photo booth I put on the terrace – the one that’s been constructed entirely out of the skeletal remains of Yolanda’s former fridge – I suppose I should dive in and start recapping what’s left of this mess. Where we last left off, Lisa Vanderpump was directly asked about an abusive relationship she was in many moons ago and she looked like she was about to cry. Meanwhile, Eileen stared at her hard and waited patiently for Lisa to just go ahead and admit that she met her abuser at the Miss Manipulation pageant where she took home the top prize. Who else misses the less sinister days when Taylor grinned menacingly upon being asked about the suicide of her husband?
Tonight begins with Lisa being asked to open an emotional vein on camera and she complies briefly before composing herself masterfully. Is it good enough, this showing of agony? Not for Yolanda! No, she longs for Lisa to display her glaring pain to the world because apparently the only things Yolanda can bond with a person over is misery and how to execute a lemon cleanse. Not only that! Yolanda wants Lisa to know that had she shared her tormented history with Eileen and revisited days she's sought to psychologically move beyond, she and Eileen might have found a significant connection and then maybe Eileen would not have tried to ruin her life all season. Well, she doesn't say that last part, but she might as well. Also, isn't it a little bit gross to implore someone to speak of the pain they've finally recovered from just so someone else in the group can find her relatable? Can Yolanda be kicked off the cast now?
The conversation then segues into just how much more awesome it would be if Lisa would cry around the clock and tell them all stories that begin and end with her in a ball on the floor weeping into a polyester handkerchief that’s not even pink. Doing such a thing might make her seem "less detached," as Kathryn puts it, which I suppose is a kinder way to articulate it than how Erika does when she spits out that Lisa's just "above it all." Lisa Vanderpump, it seems to me that you have two choices here: Get these women canned toot sweet or get out now before they cross that moat and burn your castle down. Because these women? Several of them might be insane.
Now let's talk about how Lisa can't apologize! (I’m just assuming we're almost at the segment where a high school chum of hers will call in to tell the traumatic story about the time Lisa got period stains all over her jeans in Chemistry class.) Anyway, before the woman can be humiliated in that way, Yolanda wants Lisa to know that her inability to utter the words "I'm sorry" is nothing new. God, Yolanda really fucking hates Lisa. Like, she hates her so much that color is quickly coming back into Yolanda's cheeks, which means the health advocate on her payroll is starting to be a little concerned about keeping her job. Anyway, Lisa admits that she must have a problem with apologies if everyone seems to feel that she does and the appearance of self-awareness in that room shocked the hell out of me. It doesn’t stay around, though, not when the subject quickly turns to how much it ruffles Eileen that her constant and dogmatic insistence for newer and better crafted apologies have made her look like a bitch. She is not a bitch! She hates conflict! That's why she's run from it all season! Oh – wait.
Now it's on to the Kathryn/Erika fight, the one that was clearly all Kathryn's fault. Did Erika say snarky things about the other women? She’s on The Real Housewives! Of course she said terrible things! But Kathryn betraying her – after insisting that they should become best girlfriends and maybe take a blood oath after they finish their mimosas – was simply shitty. Any chance she'll manage to fully make amends now? If that's her intention, she probably shouldn't start by explaining that the only thing she did wrong in that situation was not that she acted like a cunt, but that she should've lurched across the table to stop Erika from saying insulting and incendiary things about a group of women Kathryn barely knew at the time. Listening to this horseshit, Erika looks like her head might blow straight off her body and go skidding down the hallway and into Andy Cohen's dressing room, the one Yolanda fled to last week. Instead, Erika calmly tells Kathryn that she knows her intentions that day were diabolical. She knows that Kathryn did not have her best interests at heart. No, Kathryn showed up at Erika’s home and she "listened with intent" so she could effectively betray the very woman she begged to become her friend. You see, Erika’s not married to a terrifyingly aged lawyer for nothing. Girlfriend pays attention to his shoptalk! How do you think she got that plane? Blowjobs aren't everything, people – but yeah, they do help.
(By the way, Erika blurts out that Kathryn called Lisa Vanderpump a "harmless old lady" while they were on the phone one day – and she swears on her kid's life to make her point believable. The joy on Andy Cohen's face during this exchange is so vibrant that he should either be completely ashamed of himself for being such a prick or promptly give himself a raise for conceptualizing this televised nightmare.)
Maybe in an effort to redeem herself – at least to the viewers – Kathryn decides to use her time on that couch to stand up for Lisa Vanderpump, a woman who has been called "detached," "above it all," and "a harmless old lady" in less than twenty minutes of airtime. She wants everyone to know that Lisa never says a bad word about anybody, a statement that makes Yolanda stifle some laughter until it looks like she’s about to choke, but maybe that’s her Lyme disease flaring up.
It must make Yolanda so proud that her true friends are not people like that horrible Vanderpump bitch, but someone classy and intelligent like Brandi Glanville. Yes, the woman I once compared to Lucifer’s sphincter is back for a sequence I've decided to call The Tao of Brandi. She waves her hand at the camera while holding a glass of wine, chortling that she's drinking and there's not a damn thing anyone can say about it – you know, other than the parents of her kids' friends and any astute CPS agent out there who is watching. Anyhoo, she's back to let us in on her amazing insights:
1. Kyle is cool as long as she's not in the same time zone as Lisa Vanderpump.
2. Kathryn's husband is young and hot.
3. Eileen should be celebrated for brazenly battling "LVP."
4. Lisa Rinna is definitely not bipolar; she's just crazy.
5. Erika is the best! She also hates Lisa Vanderpump! And she knew in one second that Lisa must be the reason ISIS hates us!
6. Lisa Vanderpump is a genius puppeteer and Brandi all but worked for her while being totally blameless because nothing is ever her fault.
7. The fact that Brandi actually very clearly believes she's making witty comments that will cut these women deeply is terrifying. And the only thing more terrifying is that it's working on a few of them.
"Really, Andy?" asks Lisa Vanderpump after the segment ends – and while I would have much preferred that Lisa not say a single word in retaliation and instead just picked imaginary lint out of Kyle’s hair after listening to an asshole yammer away about nothing, I get her annoyance. Andy Cohen should be punished for springing Brandi on those women – and on us, too! He should be forced to spend an entire night listening to Yolanda speak about her strength and her journey while she makes him put her pill bottles into alphabetic order on a shelf that’s bigger than my house.
Of course, the other form of punishment Andy could be asked to endure would be to take a voyage with the Housewives he employs. The vacation montage looks like such fun! Camel meat! Luxury tour buses! Aquariums in bedrooms! Who cares that they fought on deserts and on jets and in San Diego? All I’m actually concerned with here is that we are seriously being asked again to care about fights that I still can't even fully explain, like the one that centers around Lisa Vanderpump apparently offering Kyle up to Lisa Rinna so Rinna could expose and destroy her and then use Kyle's leftover hair to make some of the wigs Rinna supposedly wears. I don't think I have the strength to go into this bullshit again. Suffice it to say, I now think the entire battle is actually about semantics and people hearing the wrong word in a sentence being emphasized. I’m not entirely sure, but I think the problem formed in the first place because one person thought she heard, “I thought you were going to bring Kyle into it!” while the other person in the conversation only meant to say, “I thought you were going to bring Kyle into it!” I feel like I’m watching that Seinfeld episode, the one where Jerry is not sure he’s been invited to Tim Whatley’s Thanksgiving Eve party so he has his friends inquire about his status and the whole thing seems to hinge on whether or not Tim Whatley responds, “Why would Jerry bring anything?” rather than, “Why would Jerry bring anything.” The only difference here is that the Seinfeld thing was funny and this appears to be the way grownups are choosing to behave for real. In any case, Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle are still tight even though the rest of them think that Vanderpump controls Kyle completely. As far as Kyle sees it, she loves Lisa and she knows that Lisa loves her. And the friendship that once existed between The Two Fighting Lisas? That shit is over.
By the way, Yolanda thinks it's entirely fucked up that Lisa and Kyle giggled over the photo Yolanda posted to the world on Instagram, the one where she appeared to be residing in a toaster oven made entirely out of aluminum. "I'm glad you thought that was funny," huffs the sick one. And then she again gives absolutely no context for what that fucking structure was or why she crawled inside of it or how it came to pass that she smiled for the camera and then shared it with the world. Yes, Kyle and Lisa are such bitches.
Oh good! It's time for Lisa Rinna to pull out her phone and read off the litany of insults she typed into her Notes app of all the terrible things Ken called her while she was innocently attempting to slay his wife! Can any of us not appreciate the idea of the person we love calling our enemy "a wanker"? I like Ken more after his verbal tirade! I might stand alone here, though. Yolanda thinks Ken is a monster who gets involved needlessly while his wife is being viciously insulted in his presence. He should just shut his mouth and go play piano while everyone is forced into a conga line like her amazing ex-husband used to insist upon. Those were the better days…
Let's change the subject! Hey, Lisa Rinna? Are you easily manipulated? Because you sort of take on any dominant opinion that dangles in front of you like links of salami probably dangle in your hunger dreams. What do you think? "I don't know," answers Lisa meekly. I’m pretty sure she's just waiting for Eileen to give her the hand signal so she can know how to feel. Lisa? Check out my hand. I'll tell you exactly how to feel right now.
Back to the action: Andy asks Lisa Vanderpump if there's anyone to whom she’d like to apologize. Might she want to offer some bland regrets to the person who shook phone records in her face? How about saying sorry to the one whose husband compared her to a scary reptile? Truth: I almost bounded towards my television screen and gave it a kiss with a ton of tongue when her response to Andy's question was a very simple, "No."
Long live the fucking Queen.
Since they're all currently at their lowest, Andy thinks it might be a good time to wrap up this interminable season. He calls the footage "memorable" and then goes ahead and compliments them on their dignity. (The guy is no doubt getting a fucking raise for pulling all this off with an almost straight face.) What are their final thoughts? Well, Kyle is walking away from this season knowing more about Lyme disease (and Munchausen’s) and realizing she shouldn't sweat the small stuff. She also knows deep down that Faye Resnick is a toilet monster, but she'll never admit it. Yolanda is prepared to keep going down her road to wellness. I am utterly positive that she will whip out a compass and use it to find a new rich husband as she hitchhikes down that road. Lisa Rinna has no regrets for yammering away like a lunatic and making zero sense in the process. I feel like I have to say something here. Listen: I don't know Lisa Vanderpump. She and I are not related. I will be receiving none of her fortune. She probably won’t even bequeath me a swan! There's absolutely no reason why I should have such loyalty to this stranger other than the fact that the crimes leveled against her strike me as ridiculous and that’s quite possibly because they're continually being stated in a hysterical fashion of circular logic that’s moving counterclockwise. Not making sense is the thing Lisa Rinna should learn to own. Eileen thinks being on the Housewives is so much crazier than being on a soap. Kathryn and Erika both had a ball this season because it’s awesome to get yelled at over meals. And Lisa Vanderpump? She wishes she'd been more supportive of Yolanda – and that's pretty much all she's got to say. Not to worry; she'll be back next year to finish all of her thoughts and to get revenge.
Thank you so much for joining me this season. I think we've all walked away better people, don't you? At the very least, this show has been rather edifying. I mean, I feel like I could offer a class about Munchausen's at this point! And if Eileen tells her to, maybe Lisa Rinna will show up to be a guest speaker.
I'll be back on Reality Steve’s site to recap The Real Housewives of Orange County when it returns. If you need me in the interim, I'll be very busy constructing a boxing ring made out of Yolanda's stringy old implant so Bethenny can kick the shit out of Dorinda’s boyfriend in style because our New York Housewives are bringing way more than allegations about Munchausen’s to the table this season. Like in Jungleland, there are some real death waltzes going on over there – and I’ll start recapping them next week on nellkalter.com.
Readers, may you always have more lemons than you need in life and may you forever be so blessed that Faye Resnick will never smile at you serenely over dinner and tell you that you look beautiful. See you in the OC! And don’t forget to bring your medical records.
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.