The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
This week on our favorite show, Rich Women Doing Things, the rich women did things. They howled at their lost dogs, hoping that would lure them back to their well-appointed lanais for cuddling and swaddling. They had breakdowns about their daughters not wanting to leave the house because they’re working on their Megan Thee Stallion nails. They took their daughters who are in relationships with reality TV stars on a tour of the vintage couture they have stashed in Ikea wardrobes in the garage. They introduced us to their daughters who are normal Kappa Kappa Geniuses at boring universities and tried to organize a playdate with another daughter who is a supermodel and dating a reality TV star (a separate one), as if the two of them would have anything in common.
But mostly, this week, the rich women got COVID. Kyle, Dorit, and Kathy Hilton all came down with the coronavirus and so the entire cast (and I assume crew) had to self-isolate for 14 days until they could all be cleared. This also meant that Kyle’s family hightailed it to the desert and Dorit had to stay away from her kids and was probably glad to escape the greasy spring roll fingers of her husband PK, a Kangol hat someone fished out of a porta-potty. I’m sure Kathy took up residence in an entire Hilton while the rest of her family just carried on like nothing happened. The rich get COVID different, and other than the symptoms, it seems like a bit of a holiday.
Did they all get it at Lisa Rinna’s backyard Olive Garden–themed party? Is that Harry Hamlin’s secret blueberry pie ingredient? There was a lot of spittle going around, with all of the yelling between Crystal and Sutton, which finally wrapped up after it started last episode. I am sort of loving the fire-and-ice friction between Sutton and Crystal. Sutton flails about like an eel on shore while Crystal is the calm hawk waiting to swoop down and make a meal out of her. Just look at this exchange:
“You’re an inappropriate, awkward person. Period,” Crystal says. “And then you want to cry and get empathy. You’re not going to get it.”
“I wasn’t crying to get empathy. I was crying because I wanted to leave,” Sutton counters.
“Then leave,” Crystal finishes her, like she’s Sub-Zero ripping her opponent’s cranium and spinal cord out of her body. I know that Crystal was being a little bit mean and issuing Housewives apologies left and right. (You know, the old, “Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but I’m not taking it back.”) But I am also proud of Crystal for sticking to her guns. Garcelle is right that to finally finish this fight, Crystal is going to have to bend a bit to find peace. But why is no one asking Sutton to bend? Why isn’t anyone telling her to calm down, that it’s not that big of a deal that Crystal used the word “violated”? Why is Crystal the one who has to cater to Sutton’s feelings? Is this the white fragility that Eboni K. Williams has been teaching us about?
At the end of the argument, when the hatchets have been buried in Rinna’s backyard along with Harry Hamlin’s doomsday canned food stash, Lisa says, “Live in the moment. That’s all we can do.” Sutton slyly says, “And lock your door.” Everyone laughs. That’s it! That’s the thing! That’s all Sutton needed to do: Turn it into a joke and laugh at herself a little bit. Then this thing never would have reached Lucy Lucy Apple Juice proportions. At least we got to see Crystal at her best, and while I may not be a Sutton fan, I appreciate the unhinged dynamic she’s bringing to the group.
Now — a sigh as deep as a Chicago pizza — we have to talk about Erika. There are many readers who don’t like my thoughts about her ongoing situation, since I worked on her book and maintain a friendly relationship with her, but I think that Kyle sums up my feelings when she says, “Innocent until proven guilty, because I have to go by the person I know.” Much like Kyle, the person I know wouldn’t have willingly defrauded people, but if and when evidence proves the contrary, I will certainly listen to that.
That said, Erika is clearly going through it, and for all the people who have accused her of being withholding in the past, there isn’t one question in this episode that she left unanswered. Well, okay, there is one: A producer asked her when she first heard about the lawsuit, and she said she couldn’t answer that. That’s unfortunate, because it would help establish a timeline and show whether or not the lawsuit had anything to do with Erika leaving her relationship. Instead, we’re going to have to continue to conjecture. (And all of your conjectures are fine. Feel free to disagree with me!)
We first see her talking about the revelation of the lawsuit with Lisa and Kyle while they’re all still under quarantine, and she seems to be struggling with the news. She doesn’t like that people are questioning her divorce as a “sham” to hide assets, because not only is she worried about the lawsuit now, she’s also worrying about how she’s going to pay for all of these lawyers she can’t afford. Yes, she’s still living pretty comfortably and is better off than the burn victims or families of plane crash victims, but all of our struggles are individual.
When Crystal and Lisa stop by Erika’s new “bungalow” — which she scoffs at as small, but come on, if the shoes have their own room, it can’t be that bad — Erika tells Crystal to keep an eye on her bank account, to know where her money is, because if it ever goes down, she’s really going to want to know. Erika says that she had no idea how much money there was or where it was coming from. She also shares that she was being sued in a case in Arizona and when she asked Tom about it, he said not to worry about it. When she pressed him, she says, he told her he didn’t want to talk about it. Yes, that should have alerted her that something was going on, but how was she to know how she might be implicated if Tom wouldn’t talk to her about it?
The impression we’re getting from Erika of her marriage now is that Tom was always the one in control. He had the money, he controlled the money, and Erika should be happy just to be there. She also talks about his resentments about her career success, which jibes with what I know about Tom and how he felt about Erika’s success after being cast on the show. He’s a guy with a big ego, and he was used to going to events where he was the big shot and she was Mrs. Girardi. But now, even at legal events, he was Mr. Jayne, and I don’t think he liked that one bit. Erika also talks about how Tom’s hearing and eyesight are going, and he refused to let her care for him or to even get help.
Those who believe Erika is acting will say that this all fits very squarely into Tom’s narrative that he’s unfit to stand trial and that Erika has no idea where any of the money is. But for anyone who thinks that Erika is acting, her final scene with Kyle where they meet to go “hiking” — and by “hiking,” I mean ruin their makeup on tree stumps on some dusty trail somewhere — is a stunning test of that theory. As Erika breaks into tears about the lawsuits, her relationship, her fears about the future, it seems like there is no way she is making that up. If that is Erika acting (no tea, no shade), I don’t think her career as an actress would have stalled out back in her 20s. If this is her acting, then she is Streep-level good.
“My divorce is not a sham. It’s not,” she tells Kyle. “No one wants to be in the position I am in right now. Being the possible target of a federal investigation is not cool, to have all those things said about you that are not true isn’t cool, and have everyone basically question everything. It’s lonely, and it’s quiet.” It’s also interesting how she can disparage Tom on one hand and talk about how she would hug him and he wouldn’t hug her back but at the same time worry about him physically and emotionally. I think that is the kind of complicated relationship she has with him, pissed at him for bringing her to this point but still caring enough that she wants to make sure he’s all right, or at least hoping he’s all right. “It’s just torture to see someone just melt in front of you,” she says about him.
But the most revealing thing she says is “I have quite a story to tell, and I can’t right now because it’s not the right time.” We got more personal disclosures from Erika in this episode than we have in all of her past seasons. It’s as if now that her relationship is over she can finally give us the truth rather than the illusion she needed to believe to stay in it. If she’s finally telling us all of this — about Tom, about their life together, about her anxiety, about her psychiatrist — what is she still not telling us? What are the secrets that she is still keeping, either for legal or personal reasons? No matter how you feel about Erika and her culpability in this matter, we’re all still dying to know.