If you’re here, then you already know Ladies of London is a total delight. These women — excuse me, these ladies, some of them of Sandwich variety — are as metropolitan as you want the Housewives of New York to be, as glamorous as you want the Housewives of Beverly Hills to be, as provocative as you want all the Housewives of Atlanta to be, as drunk as the kids of Vanderpump Rules are, and as filthy rich as … well, as we all want to be.
Now in its third season, Ladies of London still feels like such a fresh addition to Bravo’s reality TV lineup that Vulture felt it must be documented on a weekly basis. (I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s exactly like a Housewives show, just with more catchy British pop songs and a slightly higher chance that one of the women has slept with someone who’s 30th in line for the British monarchy.) Much like Caroline Stanbury herself, we’re a bit late to the party, but you can’t tell us that’s wrong because we went to boarding school and therefore have a blank check to do whatever we want whenever we want. We’re also having our makeup applied by our paid best friend and looking effortlessly chic in a leisure sneaker and leather joggers, so there. DAAAAAAHLING.
Unfortunately, this week’s episode is not the most explosive hour in which to start our little adventure. Of course, the Ladies of London aren’t really about explosions, are they? After all, one of the most dramatic ongoing arguments in the show’s history is about the time one woman tried to make another woman eat fruit … which, once again, brings us to Caroline Stanbury. On Ladies of London, all roads lead back to Caroline Stanbury. She’ll make sure of it.
Now, I can both admit that Caroline is an ice-cold monster and still enjoy her presence — the same way I can be scared of Patrick Bateman and still enjoy Christian Bale’s performance. In its third season, the Ladies of London can easily be divided into those who have had it with Caroline’s performance in British Biatch, and those who are happy to stand safely in her icy shadow. The haters would be American ex-pats Marissa and Julie; on the minion side is Julie and the goddess Sophie; waffling around in the middle is Adela; and somewhere in her kitchen, rolling up a ball of green junk while wearing a fur coat and transcendentally eating fruit, is Caroline Fleming.
This episode finds every single one of those women gathering in Scotland for a trip hosted by Stanbury herself. She says it’s to show the women that hosting should be about the guests, not about the hosts, but mostly it’s just to make fun of Julie. (There’s a packing montage that you could get in any old Housewives show, but it’s even better here because there are more children with tiny British accents running around saying, “Mummy, my tooth got wobblier!”) After everyone has appropriately meditated with their best preflight orbs, the women arrive in Edinburgh to what Julie will remind you is a rented castle. Because, Queen bless her, she just can’t help herself.
Altogether, arriving at Dundas Castle brings an even bigger bounty of unexpected castle quips. From Caroline Stanbury: “Oh, isn’t this beautiful. I do love a good castle.” From Caroline Fleming: “When I was a child, I thought everyone lived in a castle. All my friends’ parents had castles!” And Juliet’s expert commentary: “This looks like Downton Abbey.” Never change, Juliet. (Just kidding, change — you’re awful.)
Caroline Stanbury lays out the rules for the weekend: The women only need to come to lunch and dinner, come for breakfast if you want or sleep in if you want. See, Caroline’s whole thing is, [tips Willy Wonka cap] “The rules are … there are no rules!” Except, of course, [Oompa Loompas roll in with the taffy-pulling machine to stretch you back to normal size because you didn’t follow the rules and shrunk into a tiny little Lady of London] absolutely no fruit, no asking her to do anything ever, no comments when she’s two-and-a half-hours late for dinner, and if you mention boarding school, it’s the chocolate river chute for you, my love!
The ladies step out for a quick Champagne and cigarette break, which I try desperately not to find elegant, and then it’s time for room assignments. This can only mean three things: fabulous printed wallpaper, luscious rich-people upholstery, and talking shit about everyone you’re traveling with. On the car ride over, Caroline Stanbury let loose in front of Julie — she of the loosest lips and JUB-iest balls in all of London — that she knows Marissa has been spreading rumors about her Dubai move. Per Emily Post, Julie waits the appropriate 12 seconds before relaying this information to Marissa, and suddenly, in a room covered in rosebuds and Marissa’s 18 breast pumps, the two begin hashing it out.
Caroline says, yes, she has heard that Marissa has been questioning her reasons for moving to Dubai, but she hasn’t brought it up because she understands that it’s something small in Marissa’s currently tumultuous world. Caroline continues to shrug it off as if she’s not too bothered and then adds, “I was just a little disappointed because you’re not a stupid woman.” Goodness. When Caroline hits the right angle, I swear I see the Babadook, but still, you have to admire the artistry of her attacks.
Marissa doesn’t put up much of a defense, simply saying that she didn’t make up the legal troubles rumor; she just heard that it was a rumor from Juliet. Then Caroline goes and tells Juliet that Marissa said she’s the one who started the rumor, and Juliet’s entire life flashes before her eyes. But that’s not what Juliet said … and that’s not what Marissa said … even though it’s what Caroline is saying to anyone who will listen. Why? The root of all this fuss she’s kicking up isn’t a rumor about why she’s leaving, but more what Marissa says in her testimonial: “Nobody cares why you’re moving — just move!”
Nobody cares why Caroline is moving, and they certainly won’t care after she’s left, a time that is rapidly approaching. And the worst thing in the world to someone like Caroline Stanbury is thinking that at any point, on any day, anyone else in the world might not be thinking about Caroline Stanbury. In Caroline’s world, she is the only thing worth thinking about. So pull Juliet’s leash just a little bit closer, frighten Sophie a little bit more, and hold the ones you love just a little bit tighter — so tight, that in their asphyxiation they remember who brought them into this world and who will bring them out.
Okay, now that that’s all taken care of, the Ladies of London can truly shine: It’s time to dress for dinner! The first dinner in Edinburgh is just a casual night out, so Caroline F. wears a simple, sequined mock-turtleneck shift dress, Caroline S. wears a braless liquid-bronze wrap blouse, and Sadie wears the hair that will surely be featured in a Smithsonian one day, alongside “the Rachel” and Farrah Fawcett’s bangs. I hold Bravo personally responsible for making me watch these glamorous women climb over the middle seat of an SUV and ruining the idealized image I have of them when they are, in fact, just like me and my girlfriends ordering an UberXL with a sub-4.7 rating.
Alas, they surely have my crew beat when it comes to, uh, dynamic dinner conversation. At the restaurant, Caroline toasts that she hopes they can “have a fun, girly bonding time” (cough, make fun of Julie) and remember why they all became friends in the first place (cough, TV) before she leaves in a few weeks (cough, LOVE ME). Sophie says she just can’t believe everyone she loves keeps leaving her, which is actually incredibly dark and sad, but Julie thinks she’s just “so far up Caroline’s hiney she could be practically her legs.”
Adela reveals that the last time she had sex was Christmas, and Marissa informs the table that until recently, it had been since September, and even then it was just the tip. The classy Ladies of London, everyone! The conversation does soon turn decidedly less playful when the ladies begin talking about their wines of choice. Adela, who has been sober for 18 months, says that in her addiction, she was a white-wine witch: “You drink to drown your sorrows, but they learn to swim.” (A Frida Kahlo quote — they are classy!) The women ask Adela about her experience, and she gives them honest, straightforward answers. When she finally hit rock bottom, she says she tried to commit suicide because she just wanted to make all of the pain go away. The women nod solemnly. And. Then. Juliet …
Y’all. How little empathy would you have to have, how self-absorbed would you have to be, to hear someone’s earnest struggle with addiction and suicidal thoughts — something which they have now overcome, by the way — and respond, “I cherish life because I’m so grateful for love, life, and family, so I am super-uncomfortable with someone talking about their joy in taking their life.” At least she says that part in her testimonial. At the table, she vocal fries out, “Is that not … selfish?”
Listen, I understand that Juliet is coming from a place of motherhood and can’t imagine leaving her children behind. Even for a dummy like world-renowned blogger, Juliet Angus, I can have an ounce of empathy. But it’s frankly disturbing for her to not even be able to imagine that mental illness and substance abuse can alter one’s perception of their own reality. It’s not just that she has her initial thought, but that she feels it so necessary to share that thought with a woman who is being vulnerable with her friends, and then refuses to back down even after every other person at the table tells her she’s being aggressive. Caroline Stanbury tells her she’s being aggressive! That’s like Mike Tyson telling you you’re fighting too dirty.
But Adela handles it gracefully, then everyone folds themselves back into Scotland’s tiniest RAV4s to talk about their bushes on the way home. At breakfast the next morning, there is absolutely nothing available to eat but sausages and kedgeree, which perhaps explains the swift dissolution of the breaking of fast, wherein Sophie tries to ease some tension between Marissa and Caroline F. by saying that she loves everyone while pointing at them individually …
Until she gets to Juliet. I think Sophie is trying to say that she loves Juliet, but she’s just not sure how much Juliet loves her. (Who knows, though. I’ve made it pretty clear that I have a Sophie bias.) In response, Juliet shows her true American side by losing her damn mind and demanding to know what that’s supposed to mean. Sophie explains that there was a little negativity at the table last night and Juliet screams, “You don’t know negativity! I’m going to show you negativity!”
And we’ll be here to recap it all.