This week on our favorite show, Rich Women Doing Things, the rich women do things. They leave their phone and purse at home before a road trip, so they make their sister call and talk to the woman working at the house. What is her name? IDK. “The lady,” apparently. They arrange a pop-up picnic with two hours’ notice, and up springs a delightful table on the beach right out of a Pottery Barn catalogue except for the fornicating seals (or are they sea lions?) just inches away rubbing their blubber on one another. They show up an hour late for a dinner in their own hotel and never really apologize for making everyone wait around in their tasteful black dresses. They fall asleep at a sound bath they planned for a little girls’ trip because the last time they did one, at one of Kim Kardashian’s baby showers, it was just so much fun that Kendall Jenner nearly drank a Pepsi.
Of course, all of these things are done by Kathy Hilton, our current court jester and, really, something of a folk hero. Add to this her confusing “camel toe” and the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” which could be the same thing depending on how many pairs of yoga pants you see daily. There is also the moment when she assumes everyone likes her because, well, why wouldn’t you like Kathy Hilton? Oh, or when she can’t figure out how to open the wine and makes her sister do it or when she is passed out in her pajamas for a below-the-covers nap (the deadliest of all nap variants). This episode is like a Kathy Hilton greatest-hits compilation.
Which brings me to my point: Kathy Hilton is a full-time Housewife. She is a friend-of in name only. Yes, people like Marlo Hampton in Atlanta film nearly as much as or more than Kathy does, but there is a distinction here. The way Bravo always separated the full-time from the friend-of is that we never see friends alone at their house. They are shown only in relation to the full-time women. So if we do visit Marlo’s house, it’s because NeNe stopped by to drink Champagne in her closet or some shit like that. Not only is Kathy organizing this trip (usually a no-no for friends) but she’s seen at her house packing alone for it. So by the rules Bravo set out for itself, that means she should be holding a diamond in the opening credits and her tagline should be “Why spend a night in Paris when you can own the whole hotel?”
Kathy picks a great hotel for them to visit. Well, it is an empty hotel whose rooms are decorated in a sort of outdated country-club chic. This place is all Colonial furniture with brocade upholstery and patterned wallpaper on top of walnut chair rails. It’s one gold toilet and a COVID outbreak away from being Mar-a-Lago. Garcelle is right: That place is haunted by the spirits of dead white people who hate Jews and food-stamps programs.
The location is a little weird, but even stranger is the transportation they use to get there. It takes longer to get to some Targets in Reseda from Beverly Hills than to drive down to San Diego, so why is each woman in her very own Range Rover? Couldn’t they at least pair up so they can talk shit about one another on the drive?
The best thing Kathy does on this trip, though, is something she learned from her sister, Über-producer Kyle Richards. When they’re at dinner, everyone is going around the table talking about how they feel. Kathy says, “I feel anxious because I sense there is some unresolved tensions.” Yup. Perfect. Like that line was fed to her through an earpiece. Get the women talking; get them cracking on about their problems and gripes. Excellent work, Kathy.
The unresolved tensions she’s talking about belong mostly to Erika and Sutton, and the reason they are unresolved is that Erika has no interest in resolving them. When Sutton goes to the hospital with a sprained ankle (she returned in a wheelchair and did not get a casserole), the rest of the women talk to Erika about her at lunch. Erika says that she does not like being called a liar, which we knew about her years ago, and that she has no interest in repairing her relationship with Sutton. Instead of trying to temper how she acts at Kyle’s dinner, she doubles down on it. “I don’t care that she felt threatened,” she tells the group. “She should feel threatened.”
This is exactly the wrong tactic to take. It’s sort of like betting on whatever team goes against the Harlem Globetrotters and then going double or nothing when they inevitably lose. This comes up again at the dinner after Kathy’s comment. When Sutton tries to explain how she felt at the dinner, Erika says, “I don’t care,” and follows that up with “Why are you talking to me? I have nothing to say to you.”
The insistence on shutting down Sutton isn’t helping Erika, especially considering that Sutton is on the show. It’s her job to listen to what Sutton has to say. She doesn’t have to apologize, she doesn’t have to do anything about it, but she has to listen to it. Yes, I think Sutton has to answer for calling Erika a liar, which she did, but Erika needs to answer for using scare tactics against Sutton and continuing to do so. This whole enterprise is built on conflict and conflict resolution. If she can’t pretend to want to resolve it, then it is not serving the formula. It’s like making a soufflé and then refusing to put it in the oven.
Later we find out that, at the dinner, Erika already knew her soon-to-be ex-husband, Tom, had a competency hearing and the conservator wanted to put him into a nursing home. Erika calls Kyle and Rinna, the most sympathetic of the Get Along Gang, to her hotel room to talk about it. She says she cared about this man for 22 years and doesn’t want to see him put somewhere “to rot.” I get that she’s concerned about him, but he could end up somewhere worse very soon. Instead of being in a home, he could be in prison. That’s a likely possibility and deserved if he did the things he’s been accused of.
It’s crazy that we’re watching Erika react to these things in real time, to take in this information, to see how her life was totally different than she thought it was, and to have her immediate feelings recorded. I’m sure fans will say she shouldn’t be thinking about Tom’s welfare or her own welfare when there are the concerns of the victims whom Tom (allegedly, but come on) defrauded. I wonder how she feels now that she’s had time to reflect. I can only imagine she’s reacting viscerally, emotionally, and without thinking about more than this man to whom she was devoted for so many years. Objectively, it doesn’t look like the “right” reaction, but what is the right reaction? Is there such a thing? And if we react incorrectly in the moment, can that ever be fixed? I don’t know. Erika doesn’t know. The staff at this haunted hotel don’t know because they have been stuffed into G. Gordon Liddy’s golf bag and thrown into the sea.
The other crazy thing that happens is a fight between Dorit and Garcelle that I don’t entirely understand. I don’t see why Dorit is mad that Garcelle says she doesn’t feel like she belongs “in this group,” which is Esperanto for “on this right here darn tootin’ reality-television program.” If that’s the way Garcelle feels, that is the way she feels, rational or otherwise. It does seem a little crazy to me that none of the women thought this might be about race, and even though Garcelle says it’s not, it clearly is.
The whole Get Along Gang (minus Erika, who is saying Santeria spells in her mind trying to make Sutton’s head magically explode) is needling Garcelle into “telling the truth.” Garcelle is telling her truth; they’re just not listening to her. She says this feels like it felt with Denise last year. That is the thing about the GAG and the truth; they think what you say is the truth only if it’s their truth, and they’re going to keep bringing it up and yelling at you until you bend or break.
Garcelle finally gets there, but it is a lot different from what they think. Rinna wants Garcelle to say she doesn’t like some of the women around the table, but it is really just a manifestation of the otherness Garcelle has felt her whole life. “Do you ever walk into a room and feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t belong?” she asks rhetorically. “Yes,” Kathy Hilton says in response. Breaking into tears, Garcelle shoots back, “Try doing that your entire life.” And that’s it. That’s the tweet or, in this case, the emotional heart of the matter. Garcelle doesn’t feel like she fits in with this group because it seems like it would be hard for her to fit in with any group of white women. The rich women do things, but most of them don’t have to be Black and they have no idea how Garcelle will react differently in this game they’re all playing, this game almost no one can win. Well, except for maybe Kathy Hilton.