This week's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills offered the series's deepest look yet into its own superficiality. In a world where art imitates life, where does that leave reality TV?
Let's get started: Lisa Rinna goes full-frontal in a graphic scene as her personal waxer, Eiko, makes a house call. Sure, the actual genitalia are blurred out, but I can very clearly see the edge of Lisa's pelvic bone and the ridge of skin between her legs. It's a startlingly, well, naked moment, and yet somehow, it reveals only a fabrication. I had been struck by just how thin — how skinny — Lisa Rinna looks in earlier scenes, but then, after she flipped over to get her backside waxed, I marveled at her perfect bubble butt. This is all calculated at great effort and cost.
The shadow of Yolanda's upcoming surgery shrouds much of the episode's proceedings. Any surgery is a potential health risk, but Yolanda's procedure — which will remove her silicone breast implants and the silicone that has leaked into other parts of her body — is based on a relatively new idea, that the silicone may be compromising her immune system. It's one thing to wax your "hoo hoo" (as Lisa Rinna calls her vagina), but it's another thing entirely to have to find out that the chemicals pumped into your chest may be causing an illness. That really calls some people's values into question. Yolanda even mentions that her children have been afflicted with similar ailments, possibly because they breast-fed on her implants. It's horrifying that Yolanda actually seems less image-obsessed than some of the other Housewives. How could she have known her boob job would have these (alleged) consequences? She points out that these things just haven't been around long enough for studies to prove them safe, just like Botox. But uh-uh, no thanks. Kyle and Erika are not willing to even consider giving that up. Values.
I don't mean to sound preachy. I'm part of this messed-up world too. I got a lot of flack last week for my criticism of Erika. Lacking in integrity as I am, I watched this week's episode predisposed to change my feelings, hoping I'd like Erika and conform to the herds of internet commentators. And can you guess which factor finally won me over to her side? I think she's pretty. Seeing Erika with her hair pulled back to jog with Kyle and Yolanda, then to meet all the girls for drinks, I couldn't get over how beautiful she is. (Beautiful, albeit plastic. Lisa Vanderpump compares her to a Barbie doll.) When her scenes were cut together with confessional footage featuring a different hairdo — a big blowout from side to side — I felt my hate bubbling up again.
Yes, ladies and ladies, I judged Erika last week because I didn't like her hair. Sure, there's lots to dislike about her on a deeper level, but that's true of everyone and certainly true of every Real Housewife. We are all mixed bags … but I couldn't get over Erika's hair. Slick it back, then mention how all her friends are gay, and suddenly I'm putty in her diamond-encrusted hands.
Kyle likes Erika too. Are they on the road to a close allegiance? As a fan of the Richards-Vanderpump alliance, this worries me because Lisa V. and Erika are clearly going to be rivals. The show is clearly setting up a "this town is only big enough for one over-the-top pink lady" conflict. Lisa is super catty, grilling Erika about her marriage and her husband's age and their sex life. She's such a mean girl. I hope this doesn't come between Kyle and Lisa.
Besides being the type of people who "love to have fun," Kyle and Erika also bond over how much easier their children have it than they did growing up. It's the classic conundrum of the first-generation wealthy. You want to give your kids everything, but you want them to appreciate it the way only someone who comes from nothing can.
Vanderpump never seems concerned about that, although now I'm concerned because when was the last time we saw Pandora? Are they okay? And if so, for God's sake, Pandora: Crank out some grandchildren please. I cannot believe my life involves watching a rich, middle-aged couple take their swan to the vet for diarrhea. I love dogs, so all the Jiggy stuff was fine, and I even got through the miniature horse stuff last week, but I have to draw the line at Hanky the ducking swan. (See what I did there?)
We all love to criticize cast members when they blame the editing for making them look bad — it's a total rookie mistake, so Jill Zarin 2010. Still, I have to question Eileen's edit this week. Is she really so malicious as to bring up the fact that everyone was talking about Yolanda behind her back? What purpose could this serve, other than to stir up drama? And it's one thing to throw Taylor under the bus — who among us hasn't wished to do that? But why would Eileen out Lisa Rinna? Aren't they BFFs? Very awkward when Yolanda leaves. Then again, maybe I'm just imagining how I'd feel if I were there. Nobody seems to bat an eyelid. Maybe they can't bat their eyelids, but they really don't seem perturbed, as if Yolanda's staged exit was always in the script.
The episode ends with a very moving scene. Just before leaving for surgery, Yolanda explains to her mom and her kids that, should anything go wrong, she's written a will and put it inside the safe. At first, I was annoyed. Are we really going to close the year on Yolanda? I've always found her dull and slightly annoying. But then, the scene becomes cute and funny. I'd forgotten how much I like Yolanda's mom — maybe more than anyone on any Real Housewives franchise, she never seems like she's playing to the camera. She exudes a genuine warmth and intelligence. How funny is it when she responds to Yolanda's "Can you believe I'm 51?" with "Can you believe I'm 47?" They won me over with that, then they had me through the tears around Yolanda's will. Is that a real moment, though, or just convincing fiction?