Reality television is highly competitive. On any given night, on any given channel, one can tune in to see a variety of bitches fighting ceramic tooth to manicured nail over nothing in particular. In such a crowded field, how do you differentiate yourself from the pack? How do you take your show to the next level? "What if," we imagine a Bravo producer saying tremulously in a "blue-sky" ideas meeting, "we ship all of the Real Housewives of New York City to an isolated island and feed them all hallucinogenic drugs?"
And so they did. Only something went awry: Kelly ate all the doses (and talks to us about it here).
That's the only explanation we can imagine for what went down on last night's episode, which featured Kelly accusing Alex of "channeling the devil," like one of the possessed kids in The Crucible, while the rest of the cast, for once, was stricken into silence. "Your face was so white, and you had that dark eye makeup," she shrieked, then whirled on Bethenny. "She is made of knives!" Man, she's going to have the strychnine twitches for weeks.
Needless to say, Kelly's behavior did not win her the show. But whose did? Let's review.
While Ramona didn't win this round, she did do an excellent job of, for once, not looking like the most unhinged airhead on the show. (Though let's be honest, that didn't take much effort.) Is it possible as part of her renewal process she has fixed her Crazy Eyes? Sure, she was still full of Ramona-isms, like: "I was thinking of Mario making love to me at that moment" and "Look at the MOSAIC." But she was calmer than usual and sweet to all of the girls, particularly Bethenny, like when she ate Kelly's leftover crab cake so as not to make her feel bad, and actuallyapologized for saying terrible things to her on the Brooklyn Bridge instead of offering a flippant "I'll say I'm sorry just to have this be over," like she has in the past. And there was a completely amazing series of events when she was caught on camera standing alone for a moment, and out of nowhere a hand appeared, handing her a glass of Pinot Grigio. “Good things for everyone!” she said moments later, waving around her wineglass like it’s a wand and she’s Glinda the good witch.
Alex wasn't much of a presence in this episode, except in her modeling scene, which made us (and no doubt her lips) uncomfortable. But her bewilderment and restraint were the perfect foil to the unfolding drama between Kelly and, well, the world.
LuAnn was also a nonentity this time around, though for once she did have the absolutely correct social instinct, which was that there was no way in hell Jill going to the islands as a surprise was going to be a good idea.
Okay. Kelly's behavior was so spectacularly deranged last night we are unsure we can even describe it. There was so much! The jelly beans! The repeated references to vampires and the devil! Because we were afraid too much concentration on the individual moments would scar us forever, we have compiled what we believe to be her most insane moments into a list, below.
Kelly Bensimon's Top Ten Craziest Moments
1. When it literally appeared as though Kelly had Tourette's regarding whether Bethenny was a cook or a chef. Clearly one of her friends had made some joke to her about Bethenny being a pretend chef, and her childlike mind had seized upon the idea. But she didn't know what she was talking about, she just kept repeating the same dumb thing over and over. "Most chefs don't chop"? What? It was terrifying. And it was only the tip of the iceberg.
2. When she looked at the bag Bethenny got her like it was a bomb. And then it made her cry because she said "it was so impersonal," but really because she's supposed to be the Nice One and why didn't she think of this? Which is why, straightaway the next morning, she declared that as a gift to everyone, she wanted to take pictures of everyone in their bikinis on the beach, which is a more "personal" offering to Bethenny's present, sure, but also less thoughtful, because they have pictures of themselves on the beach — they are on television.
3. Also, during the crying scene we can see her vagina.
4. When Ramona sort of politely asks Kelly (who is having a conversation on speaker phone) to go into the other room to talk on the phone, Kelly says, "Honestly, this isn't about you." Even though this is Ramona's vacation, it's pretty clear she's becoming aware that Kelly's right.
5. When she was outraged at Bethenny for going on a relaxing vacation after her dad died.
6. When Bethenny did a Jack Nicholson impression, Kelly went, “Oh, my God, Al Sharpton! Al Sharpton!” (This was the point when the girls were starting to actually look scared for her.)
7. “What about when you attacked my friend Gwyneth?” she asked Bethenny. “Gwyneth who?” Bethenny asked. Kelly, appalled, replied: "Paltrow??"
8. When she repeatedly professed to having nightmares about Bethenny stabbing her. “There’s like knives on her tongue," she said to Jill. "I can’t even imagine Jason kissing her because she’s full of knives.”
9. When she told Alex she has a lot of anger inside, and said “I had nightmares Bethenny was trying to kill me because she’s tried to kill me so many times before."
10. "Satchels of gold."
• The weirdest part was, the girls all eventually calmed down out of terror. They started talking about her the way you would talk about an actual insane person in the room — as though she wasn't there. And Kelly wasn't even offended! This performance was unlike anything we've ever seen on this show. As monstrous as Jill Zarin has been coming off lately, we're guessing her friends already know that this is what she's sort of like in real life. But there's no way Kelly's social circle is going to get over this. That was some real Paula Abdul shit there.
For someone who is so tightly wound and clearly super image-conscious, we find it odd that Bethenny has consistently been unable to control the Kelly situation. All too often, she yells back when she should just stay silent and let the craziness unfold. But last night's episode showed she's getting better at it. She managed to keep her cool for almost the entire show — although she unfortunately lost it long enough to make a great teaser moment for commercial use. "Is everybody seeing the same movie I am seeing?" she asks, regarding Kelly. "No, you're in a horror film and I'm in a Disney movie," snaps Kelly, which is a pretty good line and sort of makes Bethenny cry. But in the end, she gets lucky. Kelly's outbursts and meltdowns and meanness were so off-the-charts loony that it made anything Bethenny ever did or said about her look more than justified, and when Ramona crawls into her lap to apologize for being mean on the Brooklyn Bridge — which is really a way of saying she's sorry she ever sided with the Beast — we realize that maybe all Bethenny needed was to relax. Because after a little victory dance, she finally admits she overreacted, apologizes for stoking the argument, and attempts to actually end the tension.
Despite the fact that she woke up not remembering what happened the previous night, and made a weird reference to getting in bed with Kelly (not the first girl-on-girl reference she's made on the show!), Sonja was the voice of reason and the viewer surrogate on last night's episode. "Even [Sonja] thinks something’s wrong with you," Bethenny said. "No she doesn't," Kelly countered. “I do!” Sonja said. She also did a thing we always long to do ourselves with this show, which is redirect the women's conversations when they veer off-topic. "That's not what we're talking about," she told Kelly at one point. Or, "It's hard to follow this conversation." She attempted to offer perspective. "You did a beautiful thing on the beach today and then you eliminated it," she told Kelly. Later, she said it better: “Kelly, you told people tonight that Alex was channeling the devil and Bethenny was going to kill you in your sleep with a butter knife. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" For this alone, she could have won the episode. But she nailed it by saying all of those things in a pleasant, reasonable manner, with nary a "You are dead to me! I am done!" in sight, which kept her on Kelly's good side and ensured that when the woman eventually goes crazy and burns them all to death, Sonja will be allowed to sleep through it.
It only takes a little bit of venom to poison an episode, and even though Jill Zarin only played a bit part in last night's show, she gave us enough material to play our now-weekly game, Why Jill Zarin Is an Awful Person.
That ice-skating outfit: Just because everyone else is in a bathing suit this episode, Jill has to be, too?
She makes other people’s problems seem so extreme that she has to get involved: “Kelly called me from the islands and I got really worried,” she said. What is she worried about? That Bethenny was going to bitch Kelly to death?
She’s a name-dropper: “So I was up in Connecticut with Johnny Weir ” she says, as though she’s visiting a friend, as opposed to getting paid to attend an event where another celebrity happens to be getting paid to attend.
She doesn’t let anybody get away with anything: LuAnn for once is sort of classily trying to stick to her excuse of not going on Ramona’s trip, but leaving the reason unsaid. Jill comes right out and says it, because hey, her karma’s black already, right?
She undermines even when she’s expressing sympathy: “She can’t put two words together,” she says about Kelly. “I swear I can’t understand what she’s saying.”
She can’t take advice, even good advice: LuAnn tells her to call Ramona first and she doesn’t even bat an eye before saying no.
Bobby: For telling Jill that what she did with Bethenny was a mistake.
The poor guy who had to show them around the house: He looked like he wanted to murder himself.
The cameraman who had to be stuffed in the back of the Jeep: That’s above and beyond.