Watch out, The Descendants! Bravo is in the running to make Hawaii depressing too! Last night’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills brought us back to the magical island of Lanai, where hotel pool boys spray your face if you ask them nicely, birthdays last a full week, and everything, if we are to believe Kim Richards, happens for a reason.
And thank goodness Kim and her ghoulish compatriot arrived on Lanai the moment they did — without Taylor and that bloated macaw Dana there, this vacation had a chance of being relaxing. Kim and Ken waddled into The Four Seasons Hotel a day and a half late, in time for Kyle to bemoan to her shirtless birthday husband that their suite was next door to Kim’s. Whoops! Did you make the mistake of not remembering everything that ever happens on God’s blue marble is all about Kyle? Don’t worry — that’s what Kyle is here to remind you of, every other second of this show!
But despite Kyle’s continued efforts to desperately shift the spotlight, Daffy Duck–like, toward her mark on the stage, this episode was totally The Kim Show. We were treated, for an hour, to the raw material that fuels a truly grand supercut of mishuggas from Kim’s thin, twisted mouth and into Ken’s massive, granite slab ears. She twisted and flinched and contorted her face like she was doing some impression of Kristen Wiig doing an impression of Kathie Lee Gifford. And what was fueling the Kim-isms? Drugs, alcohol, crazy, or all three? Yes, plus a past as a child actor. We’ve discussed all of this, doctor. Please put on some socks.
So once they’d settled in their suite, Kim and Ken wandered into the first group dinner wearing some bizarre and grotesque patterns out of a 1986 swatch book from Linens and Things. And as soon as they sat down, Kim lied about why they were late. Ken had to work, Kim asserted with confidence, even after she had already confided to Kyle about the driver’s license debacle, and to us, in one of her wrapping-paper-shirt testimonials, that she was full of beans in her claim that they were late for any other reason besides Kim being a mess and probably also loving drugs.
And that begat a whole daisy chain of ill will around the table, beginning with Kim aping her sister. You see, Kyle kissed Mauricio, so Kim decided to do the same to her boyfriend, the Rock Biter from The Neverending Story. It reminded us all of Kim’s debating style at the White Party, when she went head-to-head with Brandi by imitating and mocking what the braless one had to say. It’s a strong technique, and arguably how Santorum placed so high in Iowa after the debates.
After that awkward dinner interaction, the other Housewives changed the subject and landed on sweet, soothing gossip about somebody who wasn’t there. That always does the trick! They spoke about Taylor leaving Russell, and while the majority of the diners maintained the solemn mood of the news, Kim chirped in with something about how “now Taylor gets to the party!” And that was insane, even before she topped off that morsel with a prediction that, if Ken were to drink coffee, he could “rub her all night.” That was deeply gross and I regret having heard it.
Finally, in the midst of some other PDA involving Paul and Adrienne, of which I am definitively in favor, Mauricio made a toast to the concept of honesty, which was pretty heavy-handed. And that’s when Kim snapped, going so far as to call him “Maurice,” as Steve Miller claims, in “The Joker,” that some people call him (catcall whistle)! And yikes! That was weird, right? What part of Kim’s brain was being activated at that moment? Was it like when your mom was mad at you and would call you by your full name? Or was it her way of getting back at her sister by making her sexy, foreign husband less exotic in her coiled-up, addled tequila worm of a mind? Luckily Kyle, realizing she hadn’t pulled focus for at least ten minutes, began to cry, and Lisa worked her own brand of sensible, tough-love comforting as she dabbed her friend’s lashes with a dinner napkin. After all, it was KYLE’S HUSBAND’s BIRTHDAY and KYLE’S SISTER who was ruining it with her mental illness and addiction! Can we get a Kickstarter established to make sure Kyle gets flowers every day once Kim returns from rehab? I think it would help ease the transition for her.
The next day, Ken brushed his hairpiece with the delicacy of a new father powdering his baby’s heinie and boarded a shuttle bus so they could all go to a catamaran. Adrienne and Paul, who were dressed like parents on vacation, couldn’t keep their hands off each other, and Kyle and Lisa decided to go fetch Kim and Ken when they, predictably, didn’t show up in time. There was a whimsical scene in which the ladies were game enough to monkey around on the connecting balconies so it looked like a high-jinks-rich episode of a popular sitcom. But when they were shooed away by the gray ghosts of Witch Mountain and Troll 2, who had just then awakened from their hibernation, they decided to leave without them.
So the ladies and their mates took to the road, and then the boat, and then there was a scene where the adventurous ones swam underwater while the fussier of them sunned, and those snorkeling shots seemed to be provided by Carnival Cruises and scored by David Byrne, during his “whimsical fascination with World Music” phase. And all this time, Kyle posed and grimaced behind her giant sunglasses and breast-enhancing muumuu, because, I imagine a director reminding her, it was hard for her that her sister was missing out on the boat trip. “What’s my motivation?” Kyle asked herself before choosing the appropriate facial expression. Maybe she was meant to feel guilty for leaving her sister and her Gravelly Romeo behind. “I’m not going to hear the end of this,” she wondered aloud as the boat pulled away from the dock, her sister and her sister’s mister grimacing shadows (or shadowy grimaces?) in the distance.
But Kim was fine with missing the boat. (“LITERALLY!” —Bartlett’s book of Kim-tations.) “Everything happens for a reason,” she reminded herself, as her ropey neck tested the resilience of her choker necklace. And as Ken gobbled shrimp cocktail and scratched his eye bloody underneath his wraparound sunglasses, I began to realize, slowly but surely, that — while I hate agreeing with Kyle — she was right about this guy. This guy stinks. And while I imagine it would be easier to live in a Garry Marshall–directed world, in which all mentally challenged or weak or addiction-prone individuals are suitably matched up with similarly brain-damaged or otherwise “off” mates, real life isn’t like The Other Sister or Valentine’s Day. People who have problems with drugs, or with life, or with demons or with adulthood or with the general act of coping, need more than a sponsor as a mate. They need a person who’s more mature than them — who gets what reality is like, and how it’s different than reality television. Ken’s perception of the events around him and Kim, when he talks about how he’s sick of his girlfriend being disrespected, and how things are going to change if he has anything to say about it, finally showed us that he’s her partner in negligence. Kim needs a rock, not a Rock Biter. Can I get a joyful noise from the congregation? Amen! Now, how about a ticket for an advance screening of Joyful Noise?
So, while it didn’t seem to phase Kim that she and Ken had traded the boat ride for an “amazing lunch” by the pool, Kyle was driven batty that her sister screwed up yet again, and she expressed as much at the sixteenth of her husband’s seventeen extravagant Hawaiian birthday dinners. Oh, and before that, back in Beverly Hills, Taylor visited Dana, who had come straight from the combination Boston Market Rotisserie/Dick Clark–Sponsored Tanning Salon Franchise, and they talked about Taylor’s separation from Russell and mostly made awful faces at each other.
I also want to mention that Lisa drilling Kim and Ken about their “beautiful lunch” by the pool is probably one of the standout scenes of the season, if only because Lisa makes a great straight man and Kim’s never tried harder to seem calm and happy. “We really needed it,” she deadpanned, trying to seem lucid. It was the Seinfeld appetizer to the Curb Your Enthusiasm entrée, which, in this case, was the cuticle-evisceratingly cringe-y scene with Adrienne, Paul, Kim, and Ken moments after. You see, Ken interrupted a standard “How’s it going with your new beau?” talk between the Malooves and Kim with the defensive stance of a paranoid banana-bag who is used to being talked about only when he is in trouble. He broke up the pleasant trio with an aggressive, quasi-thuggish stance, flinging accusations and wielding a cell phone and only calming down once his bewildered Bambi tried as best as she could to assure him the wolves weren’t attacking.
Later, Ken wrapped a camel-hued fleece thing over Kim’s shoulders at the dinner party after telling her she didn’t like Brie. Look, I’m not claiming to know exactly what Ken’s deal is, but I do know, after this episode, that I don’t like it. I don’t know if he’s controlling the way Kyle claims he is, but I don’t think he’s sane and I don’t think he’s got his shit together one bit. Maybe that’s why I’m being nastier about his appearance than usual. And maybe I’m just in a bad mood today! (I’m fine.)
So naturally, the dinner table eventually turned against Crazy and Crazy, and everybody said in a different way how it was a bummer that Kim and Ken missed the boat trip. And no mention was made of how Kyle and “Maurice” must have paid for the trip, because I imagine Bravo flew them out — but they did host it, so their offense at Kim’s absence was justified. And Kyle paid some lip service to Kim having ruined Mauricio’s birthday, but that just silly, because even Mexicans are only born once. What does that mean? I don’t know. But I will tell you about other things that didn’t make sense at the dinner party. For one, Kim said something about how she likes to call Kyle “The Egg Beater, because all she [does] is stir the eggs”; Brandi forgot to wear pants and otherwise seemed perfectly charming throughout this entire episode; Camille acted hungry; Kyle pressed for an apology from Kim by glumly recapping all the modes of transportation she missed instead of outright asking for one; and then, in a feat of logic that only makes sense to Kim’s rum-soaked walnut brain, Kim retaliated against Kyle by quipping that her sister drives with a cell phone to her ear. And that made Kyle say, in return, that she might as well call Kim a child molester, because she knows nothing and they don’t hang out. And that’s when Ken said “We don’t care!” and then came a music sting, and the whole scene’s unraveling, plus Kim and Ken’s inevitable early exit just felt sad and forced. Not just because Kyle is bad at improv and nobody knows how to talk to each other, but because all of these people are on a show in which conflicts cannot simmer — they must be coaxed to a boil, but without the help of WGA minimum-paid writers. So failed actors and models who’ve been hurt and flown to tropical places to address their tumult say things like “Brush under the rug” and “Crawling up this tree” and other mixed metaphors that don’t speak to the real emotions these broken people are feeling. And yes, Kyle, you’re right. It’s not normal to be late to everything and to act crazy and be sick. But Kyle’s behavior of publicly and futilely expressing her frustration at her Kim until Brandi has to tell her that nobody’s mad at her until Kyle’s drying her false lashes with her dinner napkin — AGAIN — is abnormal as well. But unlike Kim, Kyle should know better.
Next week: The Return of Cedric! Kim on a bathroom floor being coaxed out by her goblin groom! Lisa’s tush in jeans! And Taylor appears in public with a black eye, possibly? Because God forbid we go a week on this show without having to think about the Armstrongs and their grisly, ambiguous fates.
Finally, I want to end this recap with a virtual standing ovation for the reboot of the new, five-nights-a-week Watch What Happens Live. Last night’s episode, with Anderson Cooper and Camille Grammer, plus Sandra Bernhard doing a weekly installation of her new segment, “Sandrology,” was a triumph. Bravo, Bravo! Also, on a personal note, if you’d like to see Ms. Sandra Bernhard live in NYC on February 2, she’ll be making an appearance at my show, "How Was Your Week Live," at the Bell House in Brooklyn, along with Tom Scharpling, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, and more special guests yet to be announced. I’ll be hosting the thing, and it would be grand to see you there. Tickets are available here. Thank you for indulging me, and I’ll see you next week for more Housewife Hawaiian high jinks!