Oy. Where do I begin? Should I mention, in the spirit of full discretion, that my computer’s desktop photo, like Lisa’s, is one of me and my adorable pet? Should I talk about this photo of Dana Wilkey’s fiancé’s face and the impending fraud lawsuit against them? Or should I discuss Paul Nassif’s decision to eat tiger prawns on his birthday? Of course I should not.
The only place to start with this week’s episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is with Taylor. Because Taylor is a victim of abuse, and Taylor is aggressively, heartbreakingly, wholly delusional. And the two are directly connected.
Oh, this is so sad. Not because Russell Armstrong is dead. It’s hard to feel sorry for somebody we learned was likely responsible for breaking his wife’s jaw, knowing he died before the producers cut this particular episode together. And what a task they had doing that, right?
Can you imagine what this episode was meant to be before Russell committed suicide? Whether producers intended to include all the hems and haws and the circling of the ladies around the topic of whether or not Russell beat her? And for what purpose was that edit given? To appease Russell’s family? To preserve his legacy? To instill a tone of ambiguity around the short life of a cryptic, perhaps sociopathic minor character on a reality show? Or simply to save Bravo’s ass in court?
Whatever the reason, the version we saw of last night’s episode is the only one that exists, and it bummed me out not only because of the subject matter (go figure, I’m reasonably middle of the road when it comes to reacting to domestic violence and suicide), but because of the patina of public relations that was laid over the show’s final cut.
And also, Kyle. Oh, Kyle. You’re not having a very good season, are you? Cute baby, handsome husband, decently mobile facial features and all, you still can’t spin your own arc-yarn into anything dense enough to shield viewers’ eyes from your true nature. Whether it’s the narcissism that prevents you from feeling anything close to happiness for your sister or your duplicity and cowardice in the tea-party-cum-intervention scene that characterized the episode, you can’t hide behind your shiny curtain hair anymore, dear.
This week’s show began where last week’s ended — at Ken’s house, where Kyle finally got to meet Kim’s secret beau, with whom she would soon be shacking up. Kyle smiled rigidly through her tears and met the Fockers (which is what I’ll call Ken, his Mexican assistant, and his dog), then left as soon as she could to rewrite history and make the whole experience entirely about her. There was a testimonial in which Kyle decided out loud to ignore Ken completely, a coping technique she accredited to her and Kim’s late mother, who wouldn’t acknowledge the partners of her daughters of which she did not approve. What a legacy! And why exactly does Kyle dislike Ken, according to Kyle? She doesn’t really say, except for mentioning that Kim’s kids have judged Ken as “controlling” in the past … which is hilarious, since Kyle goes on to articulate her concerns about her sister moving away from her dragon lady grasp, and says other such garbage words that only stand to highlight her discomfort around her fear of losing influence over a damaged sister who’s slowly learning to manage her own sobriety out from underneath her younger sibling’s perfectly manicured thumb.
To be fair: Last week, some perceptive commenters mentioned that perhaps Kyle’s concern about her sister moving in with Ken may have had to do more with Kyle’s wariness of Kim's new sobriety than she cared to let on with the cameras running. That’s not only a perfectly fair observation, but a generous way to lend Kyle the benefit of the doubt, because it concerns her compassion for her sister and other people on planet Earth that are not Kyle. HOWEVER. In an episode that used “having a big ego” as a criticizable characteristic, I have to go on record as saying that Kyle is probably one of the most self-centered women who has ever been on ANY Real Housewives cast, and that’s like calling a war criminal “not very nice.” It’s a notable accomplishment, and she should truly be ashamed, because I believe that Kyle tries to please not only every high status human being she’s in a room with (not you, Dana/Pam! Game Night merely enforced your pawn-ness), but every person she thinks may or may not be watching her on the other side of the camera pointed at her face, she actually has no moral or identifiable center of her own. Taylor, later in the episode, blurted out that she didn’t know who she was. But it’s Kyle, in fact, who should be flailing her bell sleeves and age-inappropriately long locks through an identity-crisis wind tunnel, because she’s so busy, all day, every day, trying to be something for everybody. Don’t be too mad at her. It’s what actors do when they are working. So imagine what happens when they are not.
And speaking of work, Taylor, who is a working woman, was nominated at a hotel luncheon for “hardest working woman” or something like that. And she invited all of the cast members to the hotel except for Lisa; we learned this fact once Bravo camera crews were with both her and Kyle at the same time, and Kyle was wearing some sort of “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego, we have one clue about her whereabouts and it’s that she’s murdered a rayon leopard and worn it as a smart trench” ensemble, wandering around a hotel lobby. It was almost as canned as Paul Nassif-Maloof’s coffee break outside of the Vanderpump gate, which he took just in time to run into Taylor. Taylor the businesswoman, remember? So, apparently, Los Angeles/Beverly Hills likes award shows so much, they have them for everyday superstars of industry, such as Taylor, who runs or ran a beauty website at some point called BeautyThings.org or something, and maybe it was a front through which she and her late husband could launder money from investors and maybe it wasn’t. But I do know that (a) Taylor didn’t win the award and (b) Kyle told Lisa that she wasn’t invited, or Lisa figured it out when Kyle Sandiego told her on the phone about the event she was attending, when Lisa called Kyle to invite her to tea. And however fabricated that “discovery” phone call between Kyle and Lisa was, I will say that when Taylor invites Dana/Pam to her awards luncheon instead of you, that’s got to be a burn.
So Lisa told Ken she was hurt, and Ken promptly put Giggy in his dog pram, because that’s how the Vanderpumps cope with rejection. And then Lisa made arrangements for a tea at her house the next day, which would be themed with Hello Kitty colors and magenta petunias, or the illusion of them.
And sure enough, all the ladies besides Kim (who takes at least six episodes to move) and Brandi (whom we are to believe is dead after her broken leg spread to the rest of her body) came to Lisa’s Tea. Even Taylor was in attendance, because Lisa had the common decency to invite her, though she did confront Taylor minutes into her bony arrival about not having been invited to her 2011 Annual Lady Business Incorporated Presents Ladies in Business Awards at the Ladeness Bizdies Hotel.
And that’s sort of where it all fell apart, or where Taylor did anyway. Using the terms of a botched horse race: If Lisa saying, “I was hurt you didn’t invite me to that awards luncheon” was the pistol one customarily fires before saying “And they’re off,” Taylor was the horse she accidentally shot. But she didn’t die — Taylor just sort of got spooked, and then the rest of the event was heartbreaking because you had to watch a wounded animal suffer and palpitate, and then accuse everyone within its wingspan of trying to hurt it. I think I changed a horse into a bird just now … unless I was referring to a Pegasus the whole time! But my point rings true for all species. I’ve taken my cat to the vet in the past, and because she’s so scared, she tries not only to attack the doctor, but to bite me as well. And I feed her! I have an adorable screensaver as proof!
So, too, Taylor tried to attack the vet (Lisa), a well-meaning British person who’d offered Taylor amnesty in the past, however much acerbic glaze she may have applied on top of her kindness. And Taylor’s reason for going on the offensive is twofold: Taylor claimed, at first, that Lisa used “We’re not friends” as a disclaimer for offering Taylor a safe space at some point. And second of all, Taylor claimed that Lisa was going around telling people that Taylor didn’t have any friends.
I know what you're thinking: You know second-grade girls with more emotional nuance, abstract reasoning, and social intuition than Taylor Armstrong. But give her a break, at the time, she was tits-deep in an abusive marriage with a man she may or may not have been defrauding investors alongside, and she looks like she hadn’t eaten anything in years. She is a wounded animal and it doesn’t even matter what she thinks she was saying.
So, “You’re not my friend” gate and “Taylor has no friends gate” are two facades Taylor clung to with the tenacity known only to the very determined or the very afraid. But what she was really saying when she burst into tears with remarkable spontaneity was how much she was hurting, and how badly she wants out of her home life, and how she can’t bear to be anything less than universally loved, and especially by the mother hen of all of these girls. By Lisa Vanderpump.
Maybe it’s the accent, but Lisa Vanderpump really seems like she’s got her shit together. She’s confident, she’s world-weary, articulate, witty … she’s got a ridiculous dog that Andy Cohen gives more screen time to on Watch What Happens Live than he does to most of Bravo’s human stars. And yet, Lisa has always been suspicious of Taylor and wary of Russell. And unlike, say, Kris Jenner, who was Nicole Brown Simpson’s “best friend” before her late husband Bob Kardashian argued in OJ’s defense, Lisa is, for now, trying as best she can to be faithful to a person who, by Lisa’s own admission, is not her best friend. Taylor is, to Lisa, just a fellow cast member — a co-worker, really — who’s being beaten and victimized in her marriage under Lisa’s very watch. What would you do?
So Lisa was game enough to lob the ball back and forth with Taylor, who seems to have been under the impression that the purpose of tea at Lisa’s was for her and the girls to air their mutual grievances at Lisa. For … being conceited? And Kyle, who is a two-faced coward with no loyalty and no real identity when there are no people around her to pay her attention, just sat there and occasionally muttered that yes, Lisa was a little self-centered, and sure, there was that one time when Lisa asked her whether Camille and Taylor were really close. And Taylor burst into tears once more (she was like a firework, truly — just bursting on top of bursting this whole time, and having come from such a spindly fuse originally — it was truly agonizing) and screamed that nobody should be talking about her behind her back, ever, as though women who are friends do literally anything else when we get together besides gossip about mutual acquaintances. What are we supposed to talk about? Seriously! Cats? Lamps? Shoes? Cakes? Well, we don’t. Taylor coming to terms with being talked about when she’s not in the room is as belatedly realized as her observation that one of her fellow Real Housewives of Beverly Hills castmates might be, well, a little narcissistic. I am not here to tear Taylor down — I know she was suffering. But nothing she is saying is rational at face value. She is literally screaming for help. She is yelling at a person trying to help her because she can’t yell at her abuser without fear of being hit.
Shortly after confronting Lisa, Taylor did a lap around the Vanderpump driveway before coming back to the tea for the finale of this week’s show. She had an interlude with Paul the coffee-sipping Billy Goat Gruff at Lisa’s gate, and he sort of nodded and listened and then touched her face inside her cheek to make sure the filler he injected into her cheek was evening out nicely.
And while that perfectly normal thing was happening, the other Housewives were — you guessed it — talking about Taylor. Because she had just left, for one. And also, because she had told them in the past that she was being beaten by Russell.
And this is the part in the show during which more hems and haws were accrued than at a Rick Perry podium times twelve. Because nobody wanted to say definitively that Taylor had been beaten, and by nobody I especially mean Kyle. The way she backpedaled around the matter of did or didn’t Russell hit Taylor made Kris Jenner look like a stalwart pillar of loyalty.
In fact, it was Camille who then saved the day. Camille, who lost some weight and grew a pair, harnessed whatever strength she had left in her lithe, tan, mostly boobs and eyeballs frame to call out what everybody else had been, until then, too scared to outright say. And she made sure Taylor heard it too.
Maybe Camille skipped a Klonopin before she rode over to Lisa’s for tea. And maybe she was mad as hell from her own divorce tribulations and wasn’t going to fucking take it anymore, and that included being outraged on Taylor’s behalf. Maybe Camille was just finally sick of getting fucked over by the pricks that keep all of these women — these aging trophy wives who’ve given their fertility and youth and kindness over to lives of being frail and bizarre and dependent on others’ blood money, whether it came from a suicide-bound embezzlement trail or alimony payments rendered from the spoils of starring on Starz’s Boss. Maybe Camille didn’t want to see her friend/co-worker/castmate die by the hand of a mentally ill person who had already been habitually abusive to her, by Taylor’s own admission. Then, if that had happened, she’d feel responsible. Then, her heart would break. And that was something she couldn’t live with. And four nannies or zero nannies; self-satisfied first season or heavy eyelids or whatever else you want to pin on Camille, her instinct around Taylor’s protection is one that, first and foremost, belongs to a decent person and a good mother. I hope Camille wins full custody. And I hope, one day soon, these women have their victorious chapter.