The good news for viewers who’d seen the promos and didn’t want to have to wait is that Taylor got into the suitcase pretty much right away.
In fact, the first twenty minutes or so of last night’s RHOBH was a case study in what happens when you weigh less than 100 pounds, spend the day skiing on an empty stomach, drink a bottle of wine in a hot sauna, and happen to have a lot to hide. Combine this with the high altitude of Beaver Creek, Colorado (where the girls were vacationing when we last left them), and garnish the entire affair with secrets, secrets, and more secrets, and you get Taylor's impetus for breaking down in front of each housewife individually, then as a group. She started with Kyle in the hot tub, and then exercised the massively bad judgment to wake Kim (the only person whose insides are as messy and broken as her own) to tell her, post ski-nap, that “I was the girl that — if you were going to bet on someone, I would never bet on me.” Taylor’s words were like the lyrics of a reverse Bryan Adams song, and the whole thing was excruciating.
Taylor also apologized to Kim for the business that went down between them last season. But really, nothing Taylor said had anything to do with anyone other than herself, even though, in a feat of manipulative false-empathy, she did try to commiserate with onetime child star Kim, who sleeps with more eye makeup on than Cookie Mueller on a shoot day. Taylor told Kim that the two of them have problems, whereas Adrienne Maloof, she of the casino and sports-team-owning Maloof family, probably has none. And after reading the formidable, well-reported, and absolutely worth reading Daily Beast article that Diane Dimond wrote about Taylor’s involvement in her late husband's financial fraud, we now know that Taylor does indeed have problems. Big deal ones. She is more than just a broken bird, like Kim.
Dimond’s piece sheds new light on Taylor’s relationship with her late ex-husband, and her role in the dirty dealings in which they dabbled. I see her differently now. And what’s more, I now believe that Russell, while he certainly may have suffered from mental illness as well, killed himself mainly because he was backed into a corner, legally, and didn’t want to die in jail. This is some Madoff shit; when we talk about Russell Armstrong’s death, we're no longer memorializing a tragic figure so much as we are likely speaking of a dishonest schemer who was trying to seem wealthier than he was, with Taylor’s help and encouragement. It now seems that those two worked as a team more than she let on — which is not to say she wasn’t abused or that she didn’t suffer! But we’ve learned, at least, to listen to Lisa Vanderpump on every matter: She was the one who called Taylor manipulative back in season one, when everybody else just thought she was a misunderstood sweetie pie. In no way are manipulation and victimhood mutually exclusive.
But back to Beaver Creek.
Kim woke up from her nap, during which she probably dreamed she was young again and skiing down Witch Mountain instead of stuck on a peak in Beaver Creek, plagued with pubic hair and financial strain and other burdens of the mature and affluent. Then we were treated to a classic Housewives cringe-inducing scene in which one of the wives (in this case, Kyle) makes friends with the people who are paid to work for them, here a trio of chefs who puttered away in Camille’s luxurious kitchen. And, get this: Kyle, after introducing herself to the help, asked them their names! After that inter-class diversion, we saw Acts 1 and 2 of Taylor's breakdown. Soon, she was in the suitcase, hiding in a closet, her tush in the valise on the floor, and pouting her giant lips like an infant begging for attention. And shortly after that, she lost her makeup bag and exploded at the other women in a whirling dervish of paranoia, self-pity, and flailing skeleton arms.
This whole time, Lisa Vanderpump, wearing a pretty jaw-dropping ensemble worthy of a Jackie Collins character (a black sheer top over a bra and skinny jeans) and Adrienne Maloof, whose only afflictions seem to be superficial (namely, the heavy extensions that cling to her scalp like streamers on a maypole), acted like adults. Which is to say, they sounded reasonable when they spoke, approached the matter of Taylor's messy behavior as though it were a serious one, and wore expressions on their gorgeous faces that said either, “What the fuck is this and how can I stop it?” or, simply, “I am so over this shit.”
Meanwhile, Kyle applied lip gloss to Taylor’s formidable pouters and laughed at her Carol Channing impression of the way their server pronounced "Tuna Tartare." Kim acted similarly enabling. Camille was MIA. Maloof and Vanderpump were the only parents in this Lord of the Beavers situation.
“Come on! Pull it together, seriously,” Adrienne told Taylor, with the tough love she funnels into her day-to-day bickering with her monkeyman husband. But thank God somebody is around who’s not interested in engaging in the dopey theatrics or rug-sweeping shrug-offs that are as much a part of the Richards sisters’ family business as looking young and knowing where to park on the Disney lot when work comes in. Rather, Adrienne and Lisa are there to remind Taylor, even while she’s in the throes of what seems like alcohol poisoning combined with a very distinct, guilt- and stress-fueled mental unraveling, that she’s not only supposed to act like a grown-up in front of her peers and the hard-working staffers that serve her food she may or may not decide to eat, but that she’s also ON-CAMERA, and might want to take a deep breath and act like a human being for the time it takes to wrap this scene.
I like Adrienne Maloof. Her coldness is a welcome and unique gust of cold air, even in a ski town.
Camille, to her credit, was tucked away in some sort of sweater chamber during the Suitcase Incident, the Makeup Bag Mystery, and the grotesque Carol Channing Impression Affair. But when Camille did make an entrance, she was in a dazzling silver sweater, looking exquisitely preserved and lucid. (Does Klonopin advertise? Would they like to start? This show would be an incredible sponsorship opportunity.) And she even got in some Camille-centric soundbites — “Not another dinner party from hell!” and “Why does this kind of thing always happen to stuff I’m hosting” — the kind that are meant to draw attention back onto the person making the observation. Not an easy feat when you have a sick person making a spectacle of herself on your watch.
But check and mate! Taylor won the game of Narcissism Chess when she sabotaged Camille’s benzodiazepine- and knit-draped entrance by telling her the reason she got upset has to do with feeling bad about the pain Kelsey put Camille through. As though her breakdown was at all empathy-based! Camille hugged Taylor in response, which is the only kind way to respond to a transparent manipulation of a disintegrating situation that is only about and can only be about Taylor.
The dinner party itself was a sorry combination of three things: (1) Taylor me-jacking the conversation with vague allusions to the abuse she’s been enduring (when Adrienne suggested that two happy homes are better than one miserable one, she said that she feared for “the safety of her daughter”). (2) The court-jester-y of Kim, who took the responsibility of being Taylor’s first post-nap confidante way too seriously and sat at the Big Girls Table like what she had to say was worth hearing. And (3) Lisa Vanderpump and Adrienne Maloof both trying their damnedest not to lose their respective shit and slap Taylor across the face while shoving carbs down her turkey gullet in one elegant combined maneuver.
There were even uglier moments.
There was when Tracey, the poor chef, interrupted Taylor’s latest sobbing bout to describe the soup. “It’s nutty, and it’s sweet, and it’s crunchy,” said Tracey, describing the crouton she made for the carrot-ginger concoction, and the camera got reaction shots of the girls all lit with chiaroscuro, caring about anything besides soup. Taylor, meanwhile, looked like she was melting into her chair, and only became silent when the other women made a point of agreeing with each other that if a man ever raised a hand to them, they’d be out the door. Adrienne insinuated in her testimonial that she’d heard rumors about Russell hitting Taylor, and then the conversation couldn’t move past whether or not Taylor was more afraid of being alone or being trapped in her marriage. It was pretty brutal and it wasn’t moving forward.
That said: Did I enjoy it when Kim unleashed a bizarre Emeril impersonation and went “BAM!” over and over again, waving her napkin over her head, and then bopping Taylor on her quivering shoulder in a joke move to “make magic” on her? Yes. Certainly. Because Kim’s kind of sick is less tragic than Taylor’s, at least in the clarion vision of hindsight. And also, that shit is just funny. I’m not made out of stone.
And then there was the part where Kim, laughing, said to Lisa, “And you thought you were a psychologist!” as a kind of bonus cherry on top of an already rich crazy sundae. And Lisa Vanderpump said, matter of factly and with a grande dame’s exhaustion, that she never said she was a psychologist. In fact, there was a whole chocolate-bunny-hollow story line around the fact that Lisa’s husband doesn’t believe in therapy at all. So, touché, Kim, you hot mess of benign comic relief.
There’s more that happened in this week’s episode, but not much — it really was all about the dinner party, and therefore, all about Taylor. Kyle and her sexy husband of indeterminate Latin origin ate chicken tacos. Camille confided in her friend D.D. about real estate and showed off her upper arms, which are smaller in circumference than my wrists. And part one of a story line was introduced about Adrienne and her ape-spouse traveling to see the sports team she owns: the Sacramento Kings? Is that a thing? Sounds like a rockabilly, “Zoot Suit Riot” kind of nineties band to me, but I don’t know anything about sports or their workings. Then there was much discussion about whether it would be safe to stay in her usual suite when visiting the team. This was confusing to me, but my friend Kate just explained to me that the Sacramento Kings are moving to another city, and fans are upset about that. Okay. Fair enough. But Adrienne has a personal bodyguard, and I assume her suite has strong walls, so I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over Bravo's likely attempt to gin up some kind of “will there or won’t there be Stateside football hooliganism that endanger the Malooves?” suspense.
The only other moment I find essential to this week’s episode is the part of the show in which we were all treated to a phone call from a clearly drunk Kim.
You see, the Malooves were planning to take Kim along with them on their private jet to attend the Sacramento Kings concert? No, game! Game. (I’m sorry, the elliptical machine is the closest I come to “doing sports,” so this is all Greek to me.) And when Paul and Adrienne arrived at the airport, Kim was not there. Adrienne called her and put her on speaker, and when Kim picked up, Adrienne identified herself twice, to Kim’s gravelly response of “WHO?” and then, Paul said, “IT’S PAUL AND ADRIENNE” and Kim finally realized who was calling her.
Then, Kim babbled a rambling series of apologies and excuses as to why she was going to be late. And it really was a stupendous monologue and one that Bravo was kind enough to caption, if only for the pleasure of allowing me to quote the insane words she uttered, here and now. If you are auditioning for something in the near future, perhaps Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or another play that chronicles the unraveling of a fragile alcoholic, do consider performing the below jibber-jabber as a dramatic monologue. My only direction is that you do it frantically.
Oh my God, Adrienne, I am so sorry.
My power went out and I would never do this to you guys. I feel sorry. I was so excited to go with you guys.
And that’s fine, I’m running into a prob — I just feel bad. I’m so excited to go with you guys. I feel horrible! I just feel terrible, I really do.
I just feel horrible, but I’m rushing, rushing, rushing. And I’ll be there like really — in like — I’m leaving here in like ten minutes. I’m so sorry.
'Cause, you know, it’s a nice airport and, you know, I love the planes over there. But still. Not Cool!
I was ready to draw my hair in a ponytail, wet. And then, I thought —
No way! In the middle of the the Sacramento King Guys?!
And then I’m like, you know — Oh my God! I gotta do something! I love you, too, I’ll see you soon. Bye.
So, that was fun. Kim was drunk and made very little sense. But she doesn’t wind up with a deceased husband at the end of the series! And there’s no paper trail that points to her tragic involvement in a deliberate series of embezzlement. Plus, it’s not upsetting to look at her skin and bones, and she, so far, rarely sobs! So let’s continue to enjoy her unique brand of bananas and coconuts. Until next week, Housewives fans!