The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
This week on our favorite show Rich Women Talk About Erika, the rich women talked about Erika. They talk about her behind her back, and they talk about her in front of her. They talk about her with their lawyers and they talk about her in the comments section of an L.A. Times article about her. Oh wait, they didn’t do that. In order to find the comments section they would have had to make it to the bottom of the article which none of them finished because it was too long. They even talk about her with Teddi Mountain Lion Mellencamp, the ghost of a TJ Maxx mannequin that burned up in a California wildfire.
We’ll get to Teddi in a bit, but the craziest thing to me was who everyone turned to for advice about the Erika situation, as if it would actually have any bearing on any of the women who sat around Dorit “Tax Dodger” Kemsley’s living room worried about the legal implications. Sutton calls a lawyer. Kyle calls up her best friend [the morally corrupt] Faye [Resnick’s] husband. Dorit calls up her husband PK, a case of ringworm wearing a tie-dyed bucket hat. I’m sorry, calling that man up for legal advice is sort of like finding a frog in your backyard and asking it to perform the Judy Live at Carnegie Hall album, both inappropriate and entirely futile.
I don’t get what any of the women were concerned about though. Yes, what Tom did (allegedly, but come on) is reprehensible and I wouldn’t want to be associated with that, but do you think that they could somehow get roped into a lawsuit or criminal investigation because of it? That seems a little absurd to me. At the beginning of the episode, at the meeting Sutton calls to talk about distancing themselves from Erika, she says she’s also worried about her reputation. She says that she is on the board of charities and ballet troupes and she doesn’t want them judging her. Yes, Sutton, think of the poor, starving ballerinas.
The reason Sutton is linked to Erika is because they are on a reality television program together. The people on those boards are already judging you and your life choices. Sutton willingly signed up to be part of a franchise that has already seen one cast member go to prison (Teresa Giudice), another one who is seemingly headed in the same direction (Jen Shah), and one who can’t stop herself from shitting on the floor (Ramona Singer). It’s not like Sutton signed up to be in the Justice League.
While I disagree with Sutton’s worries about her legal status and her reputation (not to be confused with the Taylor Swift album), I otherwise totally see where she’s coming from. She tells the group that she feels like Erika hasn’t been telling them the truth and that there are some inconsistencies in her story. Dorit echoes those sentiments and says that everything she knows about Erika is false and she doesn’t know what to believe anymore. I think it’s right and fine to bring those things up to your friend while still being sensitive to the hard time that she’s going through.
When the women finally get together at Kyle’s house for Erika’s grilling (it’s crazy this episode really only consists of two scenes and the small interlude of Garcelle’s family Christmas), I think Erika does a good job answering all of the women’s questions. Yes, her demeanor is flat and exhausted, a bit put upon, but she answers almost everything the women leveled at her.
Before Erika arrives at the party, there are two disclaimers from the women that I think deserve some attention. Lisa Rinna elucidates what has essentially been my stance on this whole situation when it started, to remember that Erika is innocent until proven guilty, that this thing is going to take a really long time to play out, and that there are some questions Erika can’t answer for legal reasons. (And let’s remember, this is not just a dinner among friends, it is a public forum, on the record, and could be entered into evidence.) I think we also need to pay attention to what Garcelle says though, which is that when you ask a person if they’ve been cheating, are they immediately going to come out and admit it? Probably not.
Sutton and the women’s big question is whether or not Erika knew anything: if she knew the indictments were coming, if she knew the Times article was coming, if she knew that Tom was stealing money from clients for years. She says no to all of it. Sutton also wants to know if Erika talked to Tom’s lawyers about “the story” because she doesn’t like that they are telling the same thing. She thinks that is proof that they cooked it up together. That could be true, or it could also be that the story they’re telling is the truth and that’s why it’s the same. The fact that they have the same story proves nothing.
Then Sutton brings up the “$20 million elephant in the room,” which is why money was being routed through her LLC that was the firm’s. She says she was kept away from the books of her own company even though she repeatedly asked for access.
Erika seems a bit exasperated by the whole proceedings, especially after she finds out that there was a meeting of the King’s Hand and the Quiet Council to discuss how they were going to handle the situation. Like she said, it was basically her friends getting together to decide whether they would believe her. She’s very clearly going through a difficult time and feels like she’s losing friends and allies, and that has to be hard for her to hear. She also says something I think the women and many of the fans need to hear, which is that she feels bad for all the victims in the cases Tom stole money from. “What was in that lawsuit is terrible and he will have to pay a price for that, if that is what happened,” she says.
While I was satisfied with Erika’s answers (though maybe not her demeanor, but who am I to police her feelings or affect?) I do have one problem with her story. Her reading of the events is that Tom started a cognitive decline three years after his car accident and the misappropriation of money started then. As Sutton points out, the lawsuit for a burn victim happened 10 years ago. From everything I’ve read in the Times, it seems like Tom was up to this for a lot longer than three years. To me, that doesn’t implicate Erika in his crimes (as Faye’s husband said, it’s very likely she had no idea what was going on with his business), just that she’s reading it wrong or has been told the wrong thing.
My other problem is when she says if he stole all of this money, she would like to know where it is. Well, it’s been spent, and some of that has been spent by Erika herself. I think she has yet to grasp how long she was living on other people’s money. She just sees the bankruptcy lawyers trying to get money out of her that she now knows is not there. It seems like all of the pennies have yet to drop for Erika, and, if she is a victim of Tom not fessing up to her for decades as she claims, that makes a lot of sense.
What she says, though, is true. What happened to that money and what he was or was not doing with it are things that only Tom can answer. As for how her friends should deal with it, Teddi Mellencamp really has the right thing to say. I know. I know. I didn’t want to believe it, either. When she first waddled into Kyle’s house I was like, “Get this Sominex of a person off of my OLED 4K TV immediately.” Never did I think I would see the day where it is Teddi — Teddi! — who I am quoting.
Anyway, she says, “A big portion of people at this table had lawsuits but it has nothing to do with anyone else unless it affects them directly. If you think Erika is lying to you, that’s the issue. But we don’t know, none of us know. But until someone tells me something else, I have to believe that he’s the asshole and you didn’t know.”
I think this applies not only to the women around the table (though I’m sure the lawsuits line is partly what accounts for Dorit clamming up about her objections to Erika when they finally confronted her) but also to fans.If you think Erika is lying or if you just didn’t like her from the beginning or past season or whatever, that’s fine. But there are plenty of us out there who believe what she is saying, and can see how the same facts present on the show and in the media paint a different picture. Like everyone at the dinner, we all agree that what happened to the victims is horrible, but as for Erika’s part in all of it we’re going to have to do the hardest thing of all, waiting to see exactly what happens.