I have no idea where Brian Moylan is, but I’m super grateful to fill in for him on this particular recap. It’s one of my favorite Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episodes ever.
“Busted BBQ” represents the franchise at its most transparently formulaic and its most compulsively watchable self. The episode deploys that most ancient and reliable of plot devices — a controversy over a Housewife’s mention in a book. The book is quasi-Housewife Faye Resnick’s Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, and the controversy is sparked by a passage about Housewife Kathryn Edwards’s marriage to ex-husband Marcus Allen. RHOBH combines two tricks here: The digging-up-old-literary-dirt trick (as seen on Real Housewives of New Jersey, when Dina Manzo exposed Danielle Staub’s past in the book Cop Without A Badge), and the one-cast-member-writing-about-another trick (as also seen on Real Housewives of New Jersey, when Teresa Giudice called Caroline Manzo “as Italian as the Olive Garden” in her book Fabulicious). Double trouble! I saw this drama coming a mile away, and I couldn’t wait for the Lisa Vanderpump swan droppings to hit the fan.
This time around, the one cast member completely above the fray is Eileen Davidson, who goes to Italy with her family to scatter her late sister’s ashes. Like my main man Moylan, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper for Davidson, so this eminently sympathetic showing only upped the ante. Poor thing seems so anxious getting ready for the trip, and her family is horsing around. I was about to get annoyed on her behalf, until I saw her stepson Duke, who … well, what were we talking about?
The less said about the time I wasted watching Lisa and Ken Vanderpump check out a sex shop as the site for their next restaurant, the better. I am grateful, though, to be reminded that they pronounce urinal as “yuh-RYE-nul.” Clearly, we all need to follow suit. That’s just better, right?
Let’s see: What else happens before the big showdown between Kathryn and Faye? Well, for one thing, we get to know Kathryn a bit. As if last week’s chyron introduction wasn’t enough, I got a heavy feeling in my stomach when faced with a requisite solo sequence of Kathryn and her former football-player husband Donnie (hello!) jewelry shopping. It was so over-the-top to see them pricing multimillion-dollar necklaces and rings, but I’m not gonna lie, it was a little fun. At this point, if there were nothing distinctly unlikeable about Kathryn, at least her overly earnest confessionals — “I’m your average Midwestern girl, blah, blah, literally blah” — serve to make me appreciate the ridiculous Erika. Unlike Kathryn, Erika seems to have fun with all this nonsense.
Speaking of fun and nonsense, Kyle plays the role of the right hand of God or Andy Cohen this time around, not only hosting the party where the main trouble over Faye’s book occurs, but stirring the pot at said party with B-story tension over Yolanda’s Lyme disease. Lisa Rinna knows she shouldn’t touch that with Harry Hamlin’s ten-foot-pole, but she just can’t resist. And Lisa Vanderpump really does not want to talk about it because she knows she already looks like a bitch this season. Still, Kyle pushes because she smells a story. Just last week, when she complained about people’s prurient interest in her sister, Kyle had wisely said that there’s a difference between caring and gossip. Now, it seems quite clear where she falls along that line in respect to Yolanda. The same goes even more so for Lisa Rinna, which I hate to say because I’m into her these days. If your conversations are edited with footage of Taylor Armstrong making the same point, you know you’re on the wrong side of history.
Rinna’s got one thing going for her over most of the women, except maybe Erika: her sense of humor. It’s a sense of humility, really. Maybe it’s bogus, I have no idea, but Lisa Rinna is at least savvy enough to pretend like she’s in on the joke about herself. She doesn’t bristle easily. It makes for a nice, natural dynamic at her lunch with Kathryn — a far cry from the awkward one-upsmanship of Lisa Vanderpump’s Kathryn session. I know it’s all a facade, but some false appearances work better than others. Some of these dames really sell a “How ARE you, sweetheart?” better than others.
I (kind of) give that up to Faye Resnick. Say what you will — and let us not forget that Camille called her “the morally corrupt Faye Resnick” — but Faye does not dress the poison up. Throughout this conflict, Faye was dry, dry, dry, which I appreciate. She can’t get bent out of shape over the uncomfortable situation with Kathryn. More than anyone, she knows that she’s only at this non-barbecue barbecue because of that situation, despite what Kyle says about inviting Faye to everything. For that matter, Kathryn probably wouldn’t be on the show at all if it weren’t for the potential minefield of her history with Faye. Kathryn says she’s not here to pick a fight, but she’s also not here to make nice. Well, the second part’s true, hon. She even admits she feels cheated when Faye successfully avoids major sparks. Of course she feels cheated. If she can’t make some good television out of this, she’ll go the way of Aviva Drescher’s prosthetic leg next season.
In a broader sense, the Housewives are all Faye Resnick. They’re all capitalizing on a tragedy, whether it’s a sister’s death or addiction or Lyme disease or the O.J. trial. They have to play their scenes with passion or they won’t work. And if they can manage a bit of self-awareness, a tiny wink to acknowledge the irony of it all, then they can really win the Housewives war. It’s not that different from Saturday Night Live. The cast’s awareness of the comedy is part of what makes that show exciting — they could mess up at any time — but nobody wants to watch them laughing between their lines. And so, I have to salute Faye. At the end of her confrontation with Kathryn, she doesn’t even crack a smile when she says, “You look beautiful, by the way.”