Okay, let’s get this out of the way right at the top: Yes, I wrote Erika Jayne’s (New York Times best-selling) memoir, Pretty Mess. Yes, we are still friends. Yes, I have talked to her recently. She told me that everything that is happening with Tom took her by surprise and that she really opens up about it on the show and wants people to hear her side of the story before they can make a judgment about her and what is going on.
I think that is totally fair. We all know that she filed for divorce about a month into filming and that Tom is facing significant legal problems regarding the mishandling of client funds, or, as Dorit says in the trailer, robbing “orphans and widows.” Obviously, if Tom did what he’s accused of doing (which, like people doing cocaine in Dorit’s bathroom, I assume is true), that is despicable. If Erika had any part in helping him do that, that would also be despicable, and I would be the first one to say it, though it does look like whatever Tom was doing predates their relationship. So far, she has been very quiet about both the divorce and the legal proceedings, so I’m looking forward to seeing everything unfold in real time this season and judging her then, rather than calling for her to be locked up before we’ve had a chance to see her reaction.
I will say, though, some of the Erika stuff really hits different now. Seeing her dress Tom up for court in previous seasons made my skin crawl, not because of Erika but because now that we know what Tom did I can’t even look at him. Also, when she’s sitting in her closet with Mikey and her assistant and going over her looks and getting out her diamonds, knowing that some of the money funding that house and her lifestyle was most likely ill gotten does not sit very well — and, as Variety’s Kate Aurthur points out, showing off that wealth may be a problem for both her and the show.
It’s also clear that Erika wasn’t in a great place even before filing for divorce. At the end of the episode, when all the women are going around in a circle talking about how wonderful it was to have their kids around during COVID (except Rinna, whose kids were off dating reality stars), Erika does not have as easy a time of it. She says she was wandering around the house totally lost, upset that her stint in Chicago had been cut short, and didn’t know what to do with herself. She got on Lexapro, which is also my antidepressant of choice, and somehow managed not to gain 20 pounds as I did. So good on you, Mx. Jayne.
There’s even a change in her confessional look. She’s almost always in some insane outfit, as though Synergy had just cooked up a new costume for her on Jem and the Holograms. This season, though, she’s in a sharp red blazer with black buttons and businesslike hair. She is no longer Jem; this season, she is Jerrica Benton, and she means business. Someone get her a business lady’s special, immediately. But in her confessional, she says there are things these women don’t know about her personal life and “the bigger your life, the bigger your problems.” I have a feeling that is going to be the theme of this season and they used it as a bit of foreshadowing that Erika might not have intended when she was speaking to the camera.
As for the theme of the rest of the episode, it was back to Rich Women Doing Things, as usual. The Rich Women escorted their precocious children downstairs to meet with their private tutor, who was chained up in the bomb shelter like in a mash-up of Parasite and Killing Mrs. Tingle. They all sat in the bed together watching their friend celebrate her new nose job and her grown-out bangs, both of which were the result of accidents on a horror-movie set. They rented out their extra homes to their friend who needed an extra home while her extra home was undergoing renovations. They even gave that friend a $5,000-a-month break on the rent and, I’m sorry, there is no friendship worth $60K a year. That’s like three teachers’ salaries!
The big drama of the episode surrounds Lisa and Garcelle, who is dressed like General Zod from Superman II in her confessional look, all dramatic shoulders and slick topknot. Garcelle is still upset about how Lisa treated Denise Richards last season. Apparently, Garcelle is still texting with Denise a lot, which is interesting since I feel like Denise would have totally cut all ties with the show. Garcelle’s problem with Lisa is that if Lisa turned on a friend like Denise, what’s keeping her from turning on Garcelle?
Lisa doesn’t have much of a defense. “Hurt people hurt people,” she says. Yeah, but how did Denise hurt you by sleeping with Brandi Glanville and maybe or maybe not lying about it? I don’t get it. Lisa says she wishes she could have been like Garcelle and just said, “I don’t care what happened. I’m standing by my friend.” The obvious follow-up is “Why couldn’t you?” Lisa has no good answer to that, other than “It wasn’t honest.” Who made Lisa the Pants on Fire Police, anyway? So why couldn’t Lisa? Show reasons? Personal reasons? Iconic hair reasons? QVC duster reasons? No clue, and I don’t think we’ll ever know because the only explanation we get from Lisa is her reading off a list of wooden signs from HomeGoods. “Hurt people hurt people. I’m trying to be better, not bitter. Sometimes I’m a cunt. Dance like no one’s watching. Live. Laugh. Love. It’s wine o’clock somewhere.”
After their conversation, Lisa thinks things are all good between them. As she has so many times in the past, Lisa thinks she can just move on from mistreating her co-workers and no one is going to call her on it. Garcelle is … not there yet. I mean, it’s not as if she named one of her goldfish Rinna as a way to make fun of her, as she did with her goldfish Cheugy — oh, I mean Kyle. (Yes, TikTokers, I am using that wrong on purpose.) Garcelle is ready to repair their relationship but isn’t quite ready to trust Lisa, which I feel is a position that nearly everyone on the show has been in at one time or another.
This comes up at the party at Dorit’s house, which is a little bit of a nonevent, though we do get two delightful bits of shade out of it. Crystal, the new Housewife, meets Garcelle at the party, and they learn that Crystal’s husband and Garcelle’s ex know each other. “It’s not uncommon to know people in Beverly Hills through other people, but if you don’t know them, they might not be worth knowing,” she says in her confessional. Then a producer asks, “Do you know Dorit?” To which Crystal responds with a terse and simple no. Then, after they find out the “barbecue” food is tater tots with caviar and pigs in blankets, Erika says, “This would have been fine for a yacht in the Mediterranean, but we’re at Dorit’s house in Encino …”
The harshest read of the night, however, belongs to Dorit’s son, Jagger. When Dorit comes downstairs looking absolutely stunning in a sparkly red dress cut all the way down to her C-section scar, Jagger says, “I don’t think you look [dramatic pause] that good. It’s just a robe.” As much as I love being mean to Dorit, I’m sorry, kid, but she looks great. Everyone at the party brings their sartorial A game. Erika has on a belted punch of pink toile that looks like a classy version of Teresa Giudice dressed as cotton candy for Halloween. Rinna has on a bright-green jungle-print pantsuit that looks like the place mats at the Rainforest Cafe if you’re on LSD. Garcelle is in all magenta satin, including a matching mask. Sutton, as always, wears the best outfit — a fringed, beaded flapper dress with a rose print — but for someone else’s body.
The real sartorial standout, though, is Mauricio Umansky, who shows up in one of Luke from Summer House’s oversize fedoras (or maybe it’s one of Kyle’s castoffs), a gray blazer, a black shirt with at least 74 buttons undone, and a silver chain embedded in a perfect mat of chest hair. Since when does Maurice (as Kim Richards calls him) dress like someone attending Johnny Depp’s libel trial dressed as Johnny Depp himself? And he’s not even there to attend the party but to hang out with PK, the contents of every Porta Potty at Glastonbury emptied into the world’s largest Wellie.
As much of a shock as that is, there’s no bigger shock than Kathy Hilton — Kyle’s sister, who is a friend of this season and is therefore not bound by the Eileen Davidson Accords — talking about her love of doing dental work on friends. When Rinna invites everyone for a getaway to Lake Tahoe (or Lake Taco, as I like to call it), Kathy volunteers to bring her dental supplies, then tells everyone that even as a kid she would play “dentist” on neighbors and then her victims wouldn’t want to be friends with her. This is the weirdest thing I have ever heard, and I am glad Kathy Hilton is turning out to be an eccentric who isn’t afraid to let her freak flag fly. And, girl, did she let it fly, flapping out there in the Encino night, its cord clanging against a flagpole rhythmically, hypnotically, like a pulsating sound bath, like the bell of a new age ringing and waking up all the spirits clackering around these dusty hills.