So, Adrienne Maloof has a spa in her basement, and she washes raw chickens with dish soap. Look — as far as I’m concerned, those are two “pros.” I’ve not been coy in the past when I’ve sung Adrienne’s praises. No, I’m not impartial: Yes, all of these women are my glorious daughters. But the Maloof has emerged, giant head and creamy-yet-somehow-also-tan exposed shoulders above the others in being this season’s MVP. I remember being concerned last year that she wouldn’t be invited back to the show. She was too normal, in a way, and the game she had with her bickering husband was too flimsy for the all-caps drama that fuels this series. But it’s a good thing she is back — who knew this series needed a moral center? Now that there’s body count on the show (Remember Russell? Dead Russell? He was in the previews for next week’s episode and it was like seeing a ghost), it’s a relief somehow to see somebody on this show who is concerned with other people’s feelings.
But, yes: Adrienne doesn’t know how to cook, and her chef with her husband’s face made all kinds of cartoonish “Whhhhaaaat?” sort of expressions and reactions to watching her “try,” with the help of her neighbor, Lisa, and that made for a fun scene, unless you are a member of PETA. In that case (1) You probably didn’t find it amusing to see dead, plucked chickens used as comedy props and (2) Can you please put in a word at the top of your arguably despicable, however well-intentioned organization, to put the kibosh on that porn site they’re developing? I like animals, too, but why does outrage over circus elephants always need to come along with a naked Suicide Girl–looking person? Related: Why don’t more Suicide Girls actually commit suicide? Maybe they do, what do I know. I got my nose pierced in college and it was a whole thing. The way my parents reacted, I may as well have posed nude on a site next to exposé videos of chickens in factories. But I digress.
So, Adrienne Maloof, who, by the way, dresses like Naomi from Mama’s Family, hosted a spa day in her basement. She has all sorts of infrared gizmos and gadgets aplenty as well as whosits and whatsits galore in the “rec room” area of the common American house. And because she is a sainted diplomat who can knock out a maxi dress from here to the moon, Adrienne also made sure there was a fabulous spread of fro-yo and everything else you could want to nosh on, and invited all of the other Housewives. They snapped up the opportunity to arrive at their respective leisures (Kim was characteristically “the power went out in my house!” late, as was Brandi, for what I assume was a planned, crutches-enhanced, italicized entrance), and they donned blue robes that made them all look like they were in some sort of cult. Would you be terribly surprised if, in the near future, a cult in some hot, sandy area of the country (like cacti, mind control thrives in arid, hot climates) emerged, and they were called the Mallooves, or something similar? And instead of Nikes and choir robes, they were all in scrubs-blue wraparounds, extensions down to the wazoo, and pedi-ready flip flops? I wouldn’t.
So the girls all came over for “Spa Day” and subjected themselves, one by one, to the mysterious mechanizations of the TSA-looking thingamabobs (she’s got twenty!), in full, stage-ready makeup, lashes, HD foundation, and all. And Adrienne’s staff poked and prodded each lady, and it was a bummer to see the first woman of color on this show in a service role, but I’m sure the Malooves pay her well, and I hope she got a laugh out of the day. And the big issue of the whole episode was: “Will Brandi apologize to the Richards Sisters?”
Oh, there was a whole separate meeting about it before Spa Day. Dana wore something awful and Taylor dressed like a gypsy, and Kyle pretended she didn’t know what crystal meth was, as their children all colored. And the topic at hand was Brandi, and whether or not she was out of line accusing Kim of being on crystal meth. And how she also said to Kyle, “I’m going to kill you?” That got lost in the melee. Oh, Game Night! How different from Spa Day you are. And, yes, I know all of these birthday-party-theme-ish social constructs are set into motion by reality-show producers, but isn’t there something distinctly infantilizing about grown women organizing their social schedule around things like “Everybody gets a robe!” or “It’s my turn!” or other things that set it up so somebody isn’t picked for a team, or somebody else’s flip-flop size is a whole thing? These social constructs exist so that tropes of adolescence are recycled — and in fact, the adult world is blessedly structured in a way that fosters competition economically, but leaves distance socially for things like pettiness and cruelty to, ideally, get lost between the cracks. But not on this show! If there was some peri-menopausal version of a Pep Rally that Bravo could coopt, they would. There’s already fifteen to twenty proms in a single season.
So, it’s Spa Day, right? Back to that. Yes, there was a thing that happened also on this week’s episode, and it was Pandora Vanderpump–related, but it’s not important. Next week, it will be important, because there will be a camel. (PETA alert! Get a naked 25-year-old with a labia piercing on top of that camel, pronto, to at least confuse them, while we all run away!)
Once Kim finally minced into the Spa Day proceedings, there was a delightful interlude in which she and her 42-year-old sister bounced on Adrienne’s trampoline and lived to tell the tale of it. “Bounce-a, bounce-a, bounce!” Kim recapped into the camera, wearing her “pile of ribbon candy and wrapping paper” blouse, to the delight of all gay men watching who thirst for a Strangers With Candy sequel, and me, too, as I’ve broken the cringe reflex of my brain and face. I love it when Kim makes an ass of herself and displays the emotional intelligence of a child. I also love it when she twists her face up into contorted expressions, like a doll carved out of a potato for the benefit of a poor child’s raw joy. She is a truly broken twig, and her moral and intellectual frailty justifies my Schadenfraude. I don’t feel bad about watching her feel bad. Maybe that reflex is broken inside of me, too. Thank God when I was a little girl, the only thing I had to watch was Small Wonder and the oeuvre of Nell Carter. The alternative can only be terrible.
So, once Brandi hobbled into Adrienne’s (and, truly, if there are any funnier props than those crutches, they must be chicken-based), a flurry of speculation ensued among the girls about what would or wouldn’t happen between Brandi and Kyle, or between Brandi and Kim. And the women organically parted into two sectors to counsel the parties at hand, after Camille said, “I eat a lot!” to a buff waiter who patiently watched her eat a cracker.
Taylor sat with Brandi, and Camille came over at one point, after Adrienne asked Brandi to apologize to either or both of the Richardses about the crystal meth comment. And Kim and Kyle hovered over a witches’ cauldron, like the cast of Hocus Pocus minus Sarah Jessica Parker (NO, LISA, YOU CAN NOT BE SARAH JESSICA PARKER) and decided whether or not they should interact with Brandi at all. Kim said absolutely not, because talking to Brandi would be like “feeding a plant that you love,” or “feeding a ” She drifted off. “Piranha,” Kyle suggested, only to watch as Kim used that word later in the episode to describe Brandi. Do you know how, in The Big Lebowski, The Dude adapts the language of the other characters, as he goes? Well, “piranha” is Kim’s “coitus.”
So, finally, Kyle went over to Brandi to “hear her out.” And there were all of these jokes about how it was supposed to be a relaxing spa day, and what could be less relaxing than a social confrontation! I don’t know. Being laid off and figuring out how you’re going to feed your children? Mourning a parent? Taking a second job to pay for your spouse’s chemotherapy? I could go on! I won’t go on.
And Brandi, pre-apology, got it all out that her apologizing isn’t fair, because the Richards sisters were C-words to her at Game Night that time. Adrienne nodded while Taylor mouth-breathed, and Brandi was completely right, but she still had to eat it and say she was sorry for accusing Kim of being on crystal meth, because she’s the new addition to the flock, and because otherwise, nobody can move on.
Kyle was gracious enough to listen to Brandi’s apology, even though she’d “had too much caffeine” that day, which was very brave of her. And Brandi did a good job of saying she was sorry, and explaining that Kyle had said something about her son, and that her child was her trigger, and that Kyle’s sister was Kyle’s trigger, which was generous. But then, Kyle had the balls to argue with Brandi that she HADN’T criticized Brandi’s son, effectively negating the olive branch that Brandi was big enough to extend, even though Kyle and Kim were really in the wrong. And technically, Kyle’s criticism was not directly about Brandi’s kid, though it did spotlight his behavior at the pool party, which makes it inextricably linked to what Kyle was really attacking back at Game Night — Brandi’s parenting.
Now. There are two things you cannot do on this show. You cannot ask somebody how much something costs or brag about the price of one of your horrid possessions (Dana). And, more important, you can NEVER, EVER criticize another Housewife’s parenting. That’s the cardinal sin of this franchise: One cannot recover from this transgression. It’s why Ramona went insane at this year’s RHONYC reunion: During the series, she’d had the audacity to tell Luann that she was a lousy parent to her teenage girl. I DON’T MEAN TO CROSS OVER INTO DISCUSSION OF OTHER CASTS! But the “parenting is out of bounds” axiom is etched in granite. And because she violated it, and then crossed over into bullying territory, Kyle is the villain of this season’s RHOBH.
Furthermore, Kyle can and did go on about how Brandi’s crystal meth comment was “a very serious accusation” about Kim, when in fact Kyle was the only one who dared to call out Kim’s behavior last season as being, er, substance fueled. And for the record, what I think Kim is doing is probably prescription speed. Don’t think things have changed too much since Judy Garland was a little girl and studio executives wanted to keep her thin. Kim was a child actor, too, and who knows what those appetite suppressants have in them. Also, booze and crazy. OBVIOUSLY. But “What’s eating Kim?” is an evolving weekly debate, and I encourage you to speculate on it rampantly in the comments below.
But Kim wouldn’t even meet with Brandi face to face (provide your own joke adjectives in the preceding sentence to describe each respective face, please). And when Brandi broke out into sobs, after feeling quite justifiably ganged-up-on by the rest of the women present who would not speak up in her defense, Kim made a point of calling Brandi an “actress,” which is hilarious, because that’s what the Richardses probably both put on their tax returns under “profession.”
And once Brandi had left, Kim made fun of her broken leg and how she walks on crutches, when Brandi didn’t even present, when arguing her case with a bickering, stoic-looking, heavily lip-glossed Kyle, that her sister hid her fucking crutches that night! I would have LED with that fact, personally. And even when Brandi tried to reach out to Kyle in agreeing to agree, saying, “Let’s make a deal — you don’t talk about my kid, and I won’t talk about your sister,” that overly generous deal was, in fact, completely unfair, since Brandi’s son is a toddler, and Kyle’s sister is a cast member of the reality series they are all on. Kim is not verboten! It’s just that her possible drug use is a “Don’t Touch” topic to the coven of the Beverly Hills Housewives. Even you, Lisa! I am disappointed in your judgment in this matter. Denial is not a river in your pal Muhammed’s McMansion.
So, this was a really frustrating and disappointing episode if you’re like me and you’re overly invested in justice as it pertains to the bullied. And, arguably, I am overly invested in these characters, who will probably never learn until they actually watch themselves on television and see that, when their despicable behavior is scored with editing and music, they’re villains. Kim, Kyle, and their handmaids are all high-school bullies, but they’re also on-camera talent. Which means they will only be able to feel bad about their wretched behavior toward a hobbling outsider once they realize that audiences will perceive of them negatively. These women are only able to react to reactions. And by then, it will be too late.
Other observations from last night’s episode that, for some reason, I was unable to organically include in the above prose:
• Brandi’s jumpsuit. I didn’t know they made jumpsuits in Capri-length, harem-pant varieties, though I was relieved to see the style didn’t diminish her exquisite camel toe one bit. The camel toe is the smile of the body, if the body were a face! My mother told me that. My mother did NOT tell me that.
• One of Adrienne’s manicurists looked like she was rejected from the staff of Millionaire Matchmaker for not being rockabilly enough. Bravo, Bravo! Your crossover/personnel recycling is commendable.
• Kim going on about how she didn’t think Brandi had a pretty mouth is probably up there in terms of this season’s best monologues. In fact, Kim found Brandi’s mouth to be a “dirty, dirty, ugly mouth.” What is this, Deliverance?
• WHO WAS THE MYSTERY MAN with the hairy forearms that Kim was with in the preview for next week’s episode? Or, how can one woman be so lonely when she’s been secretly dating somebody? We’ll have to wait to find out.