This week on our favorite show, Women Eating Edibles at the Wrong Time, the women really ate their edibles at the wrong time. Now Kyle, Rinna, Sheree, and Sutton are drooling on the couch, rambling about how they haven’t studied for the LSATs like Kim Kardashian at a job counseling session while Erika is shouting at Garcelle and Crystal on the other side of the room.
Honestly, no matter how you feel about Erika or her legal troubles, the scene was electric, and I think the most honest discussion we’ve had between Mx. Jayne and the rest of the cast about what is going on with her, how she feels about it, how they feel about how she feels about it, and how they feel she feels Garfield feels about tequila that has been rolled in barrels for three months.
Before that, I guess we should quickly touch on what is happening with the rest of this trip, and it’s not much. Kyle, Diana, Crystal, Rinna, Dorit, and Mauricio all go skiing, and not one person tells Dorit that her Fendi helmet and matching goggles are not only stupid but also ugly. Erika goes snowmobiling with her “non-friends” Sutton, Garcelle, and Sheree. Sutton can’t be bothered because there are goats nearby and she has to whisper to them her secrets like she’s Yoko Ono on the first day of the sun being in her Cancer or some shit.
It’s nice, fun, and all jolly good games and most people are so worried about how Sutton and Diana will get along that they didn’t even think that this Erika shit would come out of left field. They should have had an idea when Crystal and Garcelle started talking about it during a post-activities catch-up in their big fat rental house.
Everyone gets in their respective vans to go to dinner, where Mauricio will keep his head down and pretend that his lamb chops are way more interesting than everyone else at the table. That might be because he took half a tab of LSD he found in the freezer stuck to the bottom of a Skyy Vodka bottle. It’s crazy how these ladies are dressed at a “casual” restaurant in Aspen where an entrée probably costs as much as an entire Buca di Beppo franchise in the Valley. They’re all in these insane designer duds and never looked more out of place. Garcelle is in a hoop skirt. Erika is in a slinky lilac Andrews Sisters gown. Sutton is in some see-through leopard print thing that is so short and tight that she can’t get into a van.
I get this is a TV show and these are the things we demand they do, but also, know the occasion. This is Aspen. There are grates in front of the restaurant doors so people can wear their ski boots in. They don’t need to look like Bella Hadid in an ad for a perfume you never heard of that’s on sale at the duty-free store in the Shanghai airport. At the table, everyone gives Kathy Hilton shit for carrying a tote bag she got at a store as a purse. Let me tell you something: She is the only person at the table dressed like a real rich person. Real rich people don’t care. They take totes to these crappy dinners and save the good purses (and bragging about them) for galas. You know what rich people certainly don’t wear? Fendi helmets with matching goggles. That’s why a show about real rich people would be boring, so instead, we get this show about class-conscious people trying to hardscrabble their way to the elite like so many ants crawling up a garden trellis.
The only major conversation at dinner is when Garcelle asks Erika about a pair of $750,000 diamond earrings that were in the tabloids at the time as having gone missing. (Sidenote: Does Andy Cohen own a stake in Reality Blurb? How did they become the go-to news outlet of choice when this story was circling everywhere? Is Us Weekly not good enough for you?) (Sidenote, the sequel: The Los Angeles Times did a whole investigation into the earrings.) Erika tells Garcelle that if the judge tells her to give the earrings back, she will. When Garcelle pushes her about why she doesn’t want to give them back to help the victims that Tom took money from, that’s when she turns. “I’m not guilty,” she snarls. “How dare you say that shit about me?”
After dinner, they all return to the rental that is so sterile it frightens Dorit right into a free hotel room with Diana. (Who has an extra hotel room, like it’s a leftover donut just sitting on your counter?) Garcelle calls Erika, now obviously intoxicated, over to praise how open she was talking about the earrings, but the nastiness burbles up to the surface even more quickly this time.
What makes this situation difficult is that they are both right, one emotionally and the other intellectually. Here are the two arguments:
(1) Crystal and Garcelle say that they would give the earrings back. They think that if they were gotten illegally (which they almost surely were), they wouldn’t want them anyway and would want the money to help the victims. Yes. This makes total sense. I wouldn’t want what are literally blood diamonds in my jewelry box. Crystal talks about making them whole, and I think many fans have been saying Erika should do something like this as soon as the news broke.
(2) Erika, however, is also right, if only on a technicality. She says that justice has to be served and that the court isn’t going to let her get away with anything. She will do whatever the judge tells her. She also refers to people as “alleged victims” and says they don’t know if they are victims for sure yet because the legal action isn’t done.
Erika is technically right. They have not been found to be victims. We don’t know what money bought those earrings or when. We don’t even know, at least in a definitive legal way, if Tom stole the money. But also, come on! It sure looks like he did. We can at least acknowledge that bad things happened, people are hurt, and some people have never gotten the money they deserve. I think that compassion is what fans have wanted to see from Erika.
To Erika’s point, who would she even give the earrings to? Should she pawn them off and write a check to the families of the Lion Air crash? What if the judge tells her that the money should have gone elsewhere? Erika points out she’s had the earrings for more than 15 years. They weren’t bought with Lion Air money, but all signs point to Tom doing this stuff for a very long time, so who decides what was stolen and what was not? Who decides how to best make everyone whole? It’s not Crystal and Garcelle. It’s not Erika. It’s not the fans (though maybe it is Kathy Hilton’s box fan). It’s not even the people who tweet about it the most. It’s the court. This shit is complicated, multifaceted, and deeply entrenched. There is way more going on here than any of us know about, so it’s hard for any of us amateur onlookers to know the totality of what is happening or what Erika should do.
But reality television isn’t made to deal with these issues adequately. Constructing these nuanced conversations into an entertaining structure is hard. Also, we want things that are morally black-and-white. We want heroes to love, villains to hate, and for those sides to switch every season. We want an issue dismissed for good as soon as it has been discussed at the reunion. Pantygate? Never heard of it. Lucy Lucy Apple Juicy? Beats me.
That is not what is going to happen here. This could take years before everything is sorted out, all of Tom’s money has been tracked, and people get what is due them. That’s not the bite-size story line that we’re used to, and it will not play out on Andy Cohen’s timetable. Though, as the dark lord, you figure he might be able to cast a spell or two to speed this shit up.
I get Erika’s position, but Kyle, executive producing from across the room as always, is right when she says Erika is using the wrong tactics while arguing. She says that Erika should say something like, “I do care about the victims and want them to get what they deserve, but we have to be patient with the process.” That is the smart and measured response, and I think something that everyone could agree would be suitable.
That’s not the response Erika gives, though. Instead, she says, “I don’t give a fuck about anyone else but me.” She tells Crystal to cite facts in her argument when she obviously can’t just call them up on her phone. She gives us swagger and bluster when she should be giving us more sympathy. Even Kyle, her staunchest defender, says that when Erika says these things, she can’t defend her. Kyle tries to get her to talk about how she feels like a victim, too, but she refuses. She only says, “I’ve been a wife who is left in ruins.”
This is the wake-up call, I think, that Erika needed. Even those who disagree with Crystal and Garcelle and how they handled this (like my husband), they manage to express opinions that many fans hold. Ideally, Erika would see that those opinions are valid and find a better way of diffusing them, but no. I also think it’s good that at least one Get Along Gang member, Kyle, stands up to Erika and questions how she has been handling this whole situation.
But it doesn’t end well for anyone. Erika wants to keep fighting with everyone, even as most on the couch are agape at the venom coming out of her mouth. Dorit and Rinna escort her out of the house, knowing the longer she is on-camera, the deeper the grave she digs for herself. Even then, she can’t help herself, “What about the facts, you dumb cunt,” she shouts from the driveway, scaring even the bears that are feasting on the garbage of the rich. The door to the car closes, and the night huddles around her as she slouches into the car’s back seat. Still, nothing is finished, nothing is done. Tom is still sick, people are still unpaid, fans are angry, her cast is against her, and there’s nowhere safe, not this back seat, the mountains, the earth, the air, or the sea. Erika is stuck in the same churn of events, making her more and more nauseous with each turn of the eddy. And the end, like a single snowflake somewhere in the atmosphere, is both far away and entirely uncertain.