Wow. So! What do you think was the most uncomfortable moment of last night’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?
- Kyle working herself up into a martyrish lather, crying her lashes onto her cheeks because it was awkward to tell the Armstrongs they couldn’t come into her White Party?
- A mentally ill and substance-riddled Kim nonsensically lashing out at a perfectly calm and apologetic Brandi?
- Russell and Taylor Amstrong smooching lasciviously en route to Kyle’s party, after deciding they need to have more fun, now that Russell is done being a “bad boy”?
- Realizing Mauricio is the kind of hot guy who wears a chunky, corded necklace with an open shirt?
Any of these answers are correct, up to and including footage of Lea Michele proving, on the post-show Watch What Happens Live finale, that she is the most irritating person on God’s green earth. I know I’m the last one to come around to this revelation, but Jesus H. Christmas, are all Stagedoor Manor alumnae so grating, you could use their personalities to get cheese ready for nachos?
But, back to our girls. Let it be known that, while I’ve been defending this season since its premiere while fellow Housewives fans tell me how hard it is to watch because of how dark it’s gotten, I did find last night’s episode the cringiest and most difficult to endure. That’s right, I’m not a bile-breathing mud monster! I’m not even RELATED to Lea Michele.
The show began in the House of Vanderpump, with a requisite bit of Pandorian Fluffery before the inevitable course of horrible events began their descent on the characters of this sad, odd berg. Wedding “Pranner”(Get it? He’s an offensive Asian stereotype!) Kevin Lee brought in a stripped-down music ensemble to audition for the role of “Pandora’s wedding band.” So a woman with her God-given nose and arms that didn’t look like they could fit through the holes of an electric pencil sharpener played a ditty on piano, and Lisa danced with Giggy while Pandora’s hot piece reveled in his request being filled for something “a bit more Motown,” because none of those people know what words mean.
And then the meat began to rot. The business began innocently, as atrocities often do — with Dr. Paul Nassif fumbling with his printer and cementing his status, to me, as the only COMPLETELY likable — nay, lovable — person with integrity on this show. I love Dr. Paul. You can judge me accordingly in the below comments, but I find him authentic and resonant. So, he was cursing at his Epson when Adrienne came in and told her husband that Camille had called. Apparently, the most recent Mrs. Grammer had received a threatening e-mail from Russell, who said he would sue her based on Camille’s saying out loud and on-camera that Taylor had told her and the rest of the Housewives that Russell beat her, and, in one case, had broken her jaw. So that was terrific. The episode was already off to a rollicking start on the night before Hanukkah. Which reminds me to plug my Kidz Bop country-music CD, “A Rollicking Hanukkah!” It wouldn’t be selling well even if it did exist.
So, Adrienne and Paul, who are this series’ resident grown-ups, responded to Russell’s threat by foreshadowing its consequences on the two all-cast events the producers had in the wings: Kyle’s White Party and the group’s trip to Hawaii. How would those two things go, now that Russell is getting litigious? Were all of the other Housewives next on Russell’s suing spree, since Taylor had told each of them about his abuse of her? If so, maybe rubbing pointy, horrible elbows with the Armstrongs was not a great idea? “Friends don’t sue friends,” Adrienne posited, wisely lumping Taylor in with her late husband’s vile actions as his probable corroborator. And, yes, thank you for asking; my pilot for SVU: Probable Corroborators is indeed going to series. Mariska Hargitay will play every role, Klumps-style!
So then, in anticipation of her White Party, which, true to its name, was not attended by a single televised person of color, we got a peek into Kyle’s party-planning technique. First, she buys a chandelier with somebody who has O.J. Simpson’s cell number. Then, she hires the fattest guy she can find to make sure the flowers at the event are lavender, because LOL, it’s a white party, what? And finally, she stuffs herself into the least flattering gown she was able to find at a My Super Sweet 16 wardrobe auction, moments after a woman hired to brush her hair tells her how great she is. I really hate Kyle, guys. I know she’s getting the Bitch Edit this season, and granted, like others on this show she’s neither a psychopath nor a damaged husk of a sick weirdo, plagued with addiction and other dusty, menacing shadow-birds that fly around the bone-basket under the flesh and hair extensions that, in essence, exists to house and feed demons. But that’s why her narcissism and histrionics bug me even more. She knows better! Or should. I know I’ve covered this, but, just, f--- her. Blecch! Okay.
So, during Kyle’s readying of her house and face/body for the whiteness that would soon flood it, she got a call from Adrienne, who told her about Camille’s e-mail from Russell. And that made Kyle sort of be like, “Oh that sucks — can I go and do my lip gloss now?” until Adrienne made sure her fête -throwing, fidgety friend knew that the reason she was calling is because Camille didn’t feel comfortable attending the White Party knowing the Armstrongs were going to be there, and frankly, neither did anybody else, considering that they were all privy to knowledge about Russell’s wife-battering tendencies, and hence liable to be served with legal action at any given moment. So then, Kyle realized that this whole crisis was, in fact, all about her. Naturally, she began freaking out.
And meanwhile, this whole time, the producers must have dangled some sort of carrot-shaped salt lick made out of anti-seizure medication and Peach Schnapps to get Kim Richards back on the show. So before the White Party, we got to see exactly how awkward it looks to see Kim eat. She sat at a table with her two daughters — the innovatively named Kimberly, who treated her mother to a gut-busting anecdote about how she took two Nyquil the night before (“Huh-HA!” guffawed Kim the elder), and Whitney, who is as pretty as her taste in tops is sleeve-eccentric. The point of the scene was to show how iffy Kim’s kids are about Ken, the murky lurker, but I had to rewind it three times just to watch Kim Richards hold a fork like she’d been raised feral and had only just learned what the shiny-pointy thing in her hand was for. She pushed around her sad rice pilaf and depressing sautéed peppers, and I couldn’t look away. It was like watching a bear on a bicycle. We also found out in that scene that Ken would be going with Kim to Kyle’s party, and all of us got to imagine what that man’s complexion would look like against a white background.
Finally, we were at the party. Faye Resnick’s stupid chandelier hung from a tree, and a blond girl spun records, and margaritas were poured and sushi was served, and we still don’t understand the occasion, but who cares. Mauricio wore the aforementioned man-necklace and his mother arrived in her finest toilet paper cozy, and soon the cast members arrived, beginning with braless Brandi. And there was some fuss made about how this would be the first time she’d be in the same space as Kim, but that was sort of glazed over for the higher-stakes issue of what to do about the Armstrongs, until Kim vs. Brandi blew up near a staircase, as those things do.
You see, Kim, who wore white pants and her infamous pearl choker from last season as well as everything else shiny she could wrap around her beef-jerky stick neck, entered with Ken, and, after making it past Dana-Pam’s combination Salutation and Felching Station intact, gravitated toward Brandi like a demented moth to a halogen bulb. The moment Kim saw the Mean Lady Who Said the Things That Time, it was on. Kim lunged at Brandi, who stood by docilely and bralessly, and spewed her own bizarre recollection of their Game Night feud while her sea turtle boyfriend stood mutely by. There was finger pointing and shouting, and Brandi, to her credit, laughed when she could have snapped back, and everything about Kim’s behavior seemed like that of a small dog who, perhaps, was bred in a puppy mill — OR INTO THE DISNEY STAR SYSTEM? Thank you, I will take my Pulitzer Prize now.
None of her barking was reasonable. That said, there WAS one Kim quote I’d like to share with you from her Brandi Stairwell Altercation — a veritable Frost/Nixon of minds meeting, to be sure.
“It’s a shame a pretty girl like you has a truck-driver mouth.”
I’m not one to embroider things on pillows nor upload my wares to Etsy, but that dictum did a splendid job of evoking John Waters’s self-proclaimed favorite line from The Wizard of Oz: “Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?”
And meanwhile, the Good Witch (that phony, Kyle) was whipping herself up into a luscious, cream cheese frosting over the drama that Adrienne and Paul were kind enough to remind her of. Namely, that Taylor and Russell were en route, and Camille, who’d already dropped her trench and cozied up to Dedra, who beams more and more brightly in her mistress’s proximity the longer Kelsey is out of the picture, was at the party along with a whole bunch of other women who would prefer to not get sued.
Soon Lisa appeared, and, to a lesser extent, so did Ken, who is truly only noticeable when Giggy is absent. Lisa betrayed whatever fleeting integrity she’s earned so far when, after being briefed on Russellgate, stammered that perhaps Taylor didn’t know her husband had sent Camille a threatening e-mail. Whether it was out of denial or ignorance, Lisa haplessly maintained that, as in the case of the Us Magazine Affair, Taylor likely had no idea her creepy Suicide Ghost husband was clicking “send” in Microsoft Outlook. And meanwhile, this whole time, Paul and Adrienne acted like America’s Parents and said, with level heads, "you guys should call Taylor and tell her." “But we HAVE called Taylor!” Kyle and Lisa bleated. But Taylor was unreachable because she and Russell were on a business trip, fleecing suckers in Vegas in between therapy sessions with that sockless osteopath. So, they all realized with varying degrees of disappointment that Taylor was about to be blindsided by the cold fact that she and her sue-happy husbo weren’t welcome at the White Party.
So, Lisa, Adrienne, and Kyle, plus their respective spouses, decided to greet the Armstrongs on the lawn and tell them they couldn’t come in. But not before Kyle made a big show of how much turning away an invited guest ripped her insides apart! She summoned all sorts of emotion-fluids from her acting days of yore, and made her husband feel her heartbeat, because that’s one way in which actresses who aren’t working impose drama onto the people in their lives that they’d prefer were audience members.
Lisa hemmed and hawed and made excuses for Taylor, because they’d had such a lovely time in Vegas together at Pandy’s Bachelorette Party, or Chipwrecked: The Experience, so she was uncomfortable signing off on the matter. But Paul and Adrienne were calm, reasonable, and resolute in maintaining that not only Camille, but all of them, should keep their distance from these two skeletal sociopaths, because now that our overburdened court system had become a player in this soap opera, this wasn’t no Watch What Happens Live drinking game anymore.
And for the record: Was kicking the Armstrongs out at the gate the best way to handle this situation? Considering nobody was able to get hold of Psycho Taylor before the party so she could deny that she had any knowledge of what her psycho husband was doing? The answer is this: I have no idea. I really don’t. I’m shrugging my shoulders, and not just because it’s been a long year and I’m very tired. I think that what we watched last night was an imperfect storm of producer-mitigated inevitabilities and unforeseen tragedy. And after Russell’s e-mail, the Armstrongs were indeed in desperate need of a wake-up call from the group. That said, we’re also dealing with a matter that’s swirled, Gogurt-like, with all kinds of issues: Russell’s alleged abuse of Taylor, Russell’s litigiousness, Taylor’s pathological tendencies, our knowledge that the Armstrongs reportedly acted in tandem defrauding their investors, plus our hindsight that this guy eventually killed himself. The short answer is: These are garbage people. But the bigger picture is that, while hard to watch, they do make for exquisite and compelling Reality Docu-Soap TV. I don’t know how Bravo would be able to do this show without Taylor.
We all know what happened next. The gang confronted the Armstrongs on Kyle’s lawn, after we had to battle our eggnog reflux watching Taylor and Russell phonily coo at each other in the backseat of that limo. And Kyle bawled with the intensity of a young Lea Michele begging her parents to drive her to a Carnival Cruise Line audition, when it was, in fact, Kyle’s job to keep herself together. As the hostess, she was supposed to report on the decision the group had made as it related to her party, and instead, she was a mess because there is no fate worse to a onetime actress than not being loved by everybody.
Only Paul was on-message. He explained why Russell’s actions were unacceptable, and everybody got nervous watching the late Mr. Armstrong reactionarily twitch with rage. There was some quibbling about “misunderstandings” and other gray areas that guilty people create, because confusion is their only escape hatch. And then Kyle blubbered something about the actual charge that Camille had repeated to Russell, without using specifics like “Taylor said you broke her jaw,” which made it easy for Taylor to respond to the vaguenesses by claiming “I exaggerated” and for Russell to say “That wasn’t true” and “Camille was out of line.” And watching that was excruciating, because abuse is one thing, but the defense techniques of garbage people are another.
And Kyle tried desperately stuffing the spotlight into her heaving décolletage, apologizing to Taylor and Russell over and over again before getting the satisfaction of hearing that they weren’t mad at her. And then, the Armstrongs rode off into the distance, their wings slightly clipped, their garbage heads cowed, and their revenge instincts refueled. None of us knew whether to feel nervous for Taylor or angry at everyone in the universe besides Paul, and some of us felt lumps in our eggnog-y throats which we quickly suppressed with night cereal, which is the best kind of cereal, before retiring to bed. And then, we dreamed of violence and lying and suicide and shouting, and little Lea Michele in her fancy shoes, telling Andy Cohen how Bethenny Frankel is her idol in every way. It was a rough night, and I wish I could say we were better for enduring it, but that — along with whether we will all embrace this new year with integrity and kindness and honesty and resolve — remains, still, to be seen.
Happy New Year, everybody. May nobody — good or otherwise — ever destroy your beautiful wickedness.