I have a hard time writing about Erika Jaynerardi, the Real Housewives Institute’s newest favorite living sculpture and your Aunt Linda’s soon-to-be-favorite dancing star. It’s so much easier to make fun of the awful way Lisa Rinna tries to say Tommy Hilfiger or call PK a size-small condom filled with a million leper dicks. I could spend ten whole paragraphs talking about Dorit arriving at an event in a Lincoln SUV, stepping out onto the curb, and then collapsing onto the pavement like a structurally unsound rotting jack-o’-lantern collapsing in on itself on November 22. But to adequately express my love for Erika Jayne … well, it’s a bit harder.
I think it’s because I can’t add anything to Erika Jayne, she is just so absolutely perfect on her own. She sits there in her confessional in a quilted blue bomber jacket with a top pony and just tells it like it is. She does not mince words, she is not prone to outrageous fits of emotion, and she just gets it. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but she does and I love her. There are a million ways to say something is awful, but only one way to praise something without sounding like a totally ridiculous sycophant. It’s easy to make fun of her main gay Mikey, who might as well be shouting, “Yaaaas beech! We are eating glamour and shitting out Cartiers! We are so rich that Fort Knox wants to weave our merkins and make our pussies gold, queen!” That is simple, but love of Erika Jayne is complicated.
Her trip to watch her mother act in a play only cemented my admiration. It reminded me that we know about the lives and histories of all the other women, but we know way more about Erika’s patting-the-puss alter ego Erika Jayne than we do about the wise and sober Erika Girardi. After a few glimpses into her life, it seems more than ever like Erika Jayne is a defense mechanism. She is all sex and intimacy and nude illusions so the audience will think they have some connection with her, but they don’t. Not really. As she’s whispering in your ear and dragging her manicured nail down your face, her real self is 60,000 feet away, sailing over you in her private jet.
As Erika tells it, her distance comes from growing up with a young, single mother who had to work to support her. Her mother pushed her to make her own dreams come true and do everything for herself. Erika is tough and independent, which is what we love about her. She suffers no fools because her mother did not suffer her and foolishness of any sort wasn’t tolerated. Renée did not have time for Erika to be a crybaby, which is why Erika can’t stand extreme outbursts of emotion or unnecessary drama.
Strangely enough, this is what makes her an ideal Housewife. When someone gets all histrionic, Erika is with all of us at home, rolling our eyes and wishing they would stop but secretly loving every moment of it. Erika doesn’t want to be part of the drama and she will halt it in its tracks when she sees it happening. When Lisar was in Mexico railing about how Eden stabbed her in the back, Erika could have flown off the handle and told her she was being a stupid liar. She did not. She made sure Lisar was okay, patted her hand, and told her that she really needed to stick to the facts. It was absolutely perfect. People always underestimate Erika’s kindness.
The issue that Dorit has with Erika stems from Erika’s inherent need for authenticity. She keeps her distance from people and needs to get to know them a bit before opening up. Dorit, on the other hand, is so narcissistic that she thinks anyone whom she has devoted even an iota of attention upon should naturally love her. She is such a magnanimous soul that if she deigns to even talk to a person, of course they are going to love her. The fact that Erika doesn’t pisses Dorit off to no end. It demolishes her entire worldview and she can’t have her self-worth wounded like that.
While we learned a lot about Erika when she went home, it still reminded me a lot of that Beyoncé documentary on HBO. It is an incredibly calibrated reveal. Erika is still very much in control of her image and how people see her. Even honest moments with her mother at her grandparents’ graves seem restrained. Also, she doesn’t bring friends with her to her mother’s place — she brings her employees. This way she can excuse the glam squad when she wants to. Everything is on her terms, which is just the way she likes it.
The only real question I have is: What the hell kind of crazy graveyard was that where her grandparents are buried? It is more like a wildlife preserve than an actual cemetery. Is that what things are like in the south? They just have so much room that you can have a discreet little burial in the woods under two modest stones and people can commune with nature and have lizards jump on their legs while they try to reminisce? That is nuts.
There isn’t much else going on this episode, especially since the show has turned into something of a branding bukkake. Kyle holds a rosé launch for The Fat Jewish at her store Kyle by Alene Too and Mauricio shows up wearing a The Agency hat and it is just shill, shill, shill, shill, shill for the Richards-Umansky clan. Then Lisa Vanderpump has a lunch at her house to celebrate her daughter Pandora’s new rosé. Then she continues to remodel her pet sanctuary and gets her own plush bottle of Vanderpump Pets–branded rosé for dogs to chew on. That is three — count them, three — rosé launches in the span of 42 minutes, minus commercials. Actually, this show is now about three minutes and 54 seconds without commercials because, honestly, this thing is like a WEN by Chaz Dean infomercial you wake up to at 3 a.m. after you pass out on the couch with the TV on.
However, there is a good moment at the end of the episode between Lisa, Lisar, and Cult Jam. In this instance, Cult Jam is John, the COO of Vanderpump Pets (who can totally get it, bee tee dubs). After Lisa invites everyone to Hong Kong so that she can talk about Chinese people torturing dogs (which, let’s be honest, is another commercial, but one for a good cause) she eventually has to invite Lisa Rinna, with whom she’s been waging a cold war for the better part of the season. This is a very interesting conflict because Lisar hides behind her less-than-genuine sunniness to get along with everyone, while Lisa hides behind her wit to get away with insulting everyone to their faces. The two have a brief conversation about how they want to get over everything that happened last season and move forward. They agree that they’re going to make it happen.
Then Lisa pulls the trump card: She says that if Lisar is really honest, she’ll take off her fake eyelashes and give them to her. This is an act of hazing and humiliation but Lisa, being Lisa, can get away with it because she can just be like, “It was a joke.” Lisar, on the other hand, needs to do it to prove herself to Lisa and also because her defense is her agreeability. She can’t be the ultimate game gal but refuse to take off her eyelashes. With two little plucks and the heaving sigh of some spirit gum, Lisa wins the war and leaves her victim sad and defenseless in the middle of an incomplete puppy store.
Lisar lowered the sunglasses over her half-naked eyelids and pulled on the heavy glass door covered in brown craft paper. She leaned her body back against the weight and slingshotted herself forward, blinking as the light bombarded her eyes. Sure, they were just fake eyelashes, but she felt different somehow, lighter. Like she was wearing sneakers without socks or had gone commando that day. How could she do that? How could she let Lisa do that to her, as she smiled and giggled while ripping apart her face like that in public — worse, on camera. She was going to make Lisa pay. Kill her with kindness. That’d been her strategy all along, but no one ever wound up dead. The only one who suffered was herself, as the continued indignities piled up in rotting mounds.
Suddenly it all caught up with her as she stopped dead in that sun-bleached sidewalk, her heavy purse dangling from her wispy, upturned arm. The tears started to well up and, for the first time ever, she wasn’t worried about her lashes. But that was the problem, the thought of those fallen soldiers, like dried up caterpillars wriggling around Lisa’s bony hands. She raised her non-purse hand up to her nose as if to stop something, as if a gesture could hold back the flood of emotion. She stood there still, blinking back the rush as the sunlight burned everything around her.
“Are you okay?” a passerby paused, her hand on Lisar’s shoulder.
“Oh, yes. I’m fine,” Lisa said, with an over exuberance that tried to stifle a sniffle. “I just thought I needed to sneeze.”