In the immortal words of Boyz II Men, it’s so hard … to say good-bye … to yesterday. That is what we did. That is what this whole show was, a bunch of women who can’t let yesterday go, just clutching to him like he’s a full-body pillow on the coldest day of the year. Or maybe it’s not yesterday that they’re clinging onto. Maybe it’s fame. Maybe it’s sisterhood. Maybe it’s a steady paycheck from Andy Cohen’s National Bank and Trust. Whatever it is, they’re holding on for dear life like they’re in a hot-air balloon tethered 500 feet in the air.
Sorry, wrong episode. In this episode, we get Jill trying to remake her famous chocolate-chip banana bread. What is this whole experiment except trying to remake a thing that everyone once loved but then putting it in muffin tins so that it would be smaller and easier to eat and that changed the whole damn recipe? It wasn’t banana bread, it was just like crusty banana-muffin tops that looked like scarred Communion wafers.
Little of consequence happens in this episode, but there is still enough to be fascinated by. How did Taylor order pizza in the middle of the night, and half of the house didn’t notice? And how did Dorinda break her own rules by eating pizza in her bed? While we’re talking about beds, how is Dorinda’s even messier than Paige DeSorbo’s bed on Summer House, even though Dorinda spends less time in it than Paige does? (Paige spends 45 hours a day in her bed.) And why is there a giant TV right at the foot of the bed, so close that Anderson Cooper could reach out from CNN in the middle of the night and tuck you in himself? And how, just how, did Vicki not know she was crying when she was crying? Is that a lack of self-awareness or a side effect of Botox?
It’s all fascinating. The canoeing trip is fun if only to see the ladies freak out about being in the water and have no idea how to work the paddle, shaft, tip, bulbous end, taint, ball sack, or any of the other words for weiner that the instructor uses to try to teach them. Then the women go off to lunch, and Jill makes them play a game where they all have to put an adjective about the other women on a piece of paper, and Jill pulls them out of a bag like she’s reading tea leaves. They all think Jill talks too much, and they all think that Vicki is self-involved, which she sees as a compliment. This is why Vicki will forever be great television — even if Tamra officially won these here Housewives Hunger Games by being the only one invited back to her old show.
The only incident in the house comes when the women go to Shaker Village and Outhouse Memorial Museum for dinner. Dorinda seems soberish for a change and is joking about how she will start a travel agency to take groups of women on trips. (This could be a Below Deck–esque franchise, and Peacock should look into it inmediatamente.) Brandi tells her just not to yell at everyone on the trip. It is funny! It is a good line. Everyone laughs.
Dorinda is not laughing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dorinda laugh at a joke about herself. Instead, she turns Brandi Glanville on Brandi Glanville. She says, “Don’t get so drunk you make an ass out of yourself in someone’s house.” There is a world where Dorinda says something like this back at Brandi as another joke. Like if she said, “As long as you promise not to call everyone ‘motherfuckers.’” That’s pretty funny and lighthearted and shows Brandi that, just like Dorinda is not perfect, neither is she. That is how friends joke. The gays call it reading, and it is (what?) fundamental.
The problem here is the tone. Brandi told hers as a joke, and Dorinda told hers as a takedown. She then follows it up by saying that Brandi is the only person who has ever shown her ass in her house, and we know that is physically impossible because Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Cooch Guard Morgan has been at her house a half-dozen times and must have shown the whole undercarriage at some point. She then talks about Brandi lifting up her dress to show her tits and says that her dress would have been a shirt for most people.
Finally, Phaedra squashes it with a “Let’s be kind,” and everyone has to remind Dorinda that, bitch, she yells. The only difference between her and Old Yeller is that (30-year-old spoiler alert) she doesn’t die at the end. Dorinda tells Brandi her feelings are hurt, and Brandi apologizes to keep the peace. When Brandi goes off crying, Vicki and Tamra tell Dorinda that she’s upset. “She’s crying?” Dorinda asks. “I’m crying.” Yeah, sorry, but her eyes are as dry as every woman in that house when Brandi suggests they make out.
This is why I think fans won’t want Dorinda back on television after this. It’s the cruelty. It’s the lack of self-awareness. It’s the mean-spiritedness. Brandi may have her awful moments, but she’s not afraid to be vulnerable, laugh at herself, or come off as the villain. Dorinda has just as many awful moments but can’t see them, can’t apologize for them. She takes everything too far, except forgiveness.
They get over it at the Last Supper, which we can call it because of the religious connotations, where it’s just a lovefest with all of the women talking about how they have bonded for life and would make this trip again, and aren’t they such great friends. Sadly, no one cut to Vicki and Dorinda’s ongoing Twitter feud to show just how quickly those bromides evaporated once everyone was out of the Berkshires’ summer.
Phaedra did make one excellent observation about the women at the table. As Real Housewives, each has something special about them, but also something peculiar about them. They’re not just women who live their lives out loud. They’re not just hard-drinking, hard-partying, hard-fighting reality-television professionals. Deep down inside, there’s also something about each of them that is fundamentally broken, something they thought fame could stitch back together, like Marco’s ripped shirt he knows Brandi won’t Venmo him $100 for. (I wouldn’t either, but I would pay $10 a month for his OnlyFans.) I think that’s why we love them all, even the awful ones. It’s to figure out the pathology. It’s to put our fingers in their wounds so that we don’t have to figure out how to heal our own. Or, better yet, so that we can.
Phaedra underscores this point by giving all of the women a Bible and a copy of a religious text that a friend of hers wrote. I don’t love politics in my Housewives, but I love religion in them even less. Then Phaedra calls out Bishop Hezekiah Walker to give a little sermon and lead the women in song. It was much less Jesus-y than it could have been, which I am pleased about, especially for my favorite Jewess Jill Zarin.
He makes one good point, though, when he says God wants us to find inner peace. I’m not sure that is what the Catholic Jesus intends, but I think it’s something we should all want for ourselves, something that can live inside of these beef cages we haul around this planet and make the journey much easier. He says, “It’s not fame, but you need something inside.” That is what this show is ultimately about. It’s about broken women who thought fame, money, and notoriety could fix everything that has happened to them — dead spouses, relationship abuse, bullying, bad divorces, LeAnn Rimes — and then, one day, realized that it couldn’t; it would take something more. Well, not everyone has gotten to that realization yet, but as Bishop Walker’s choir sings, it will get better. Slowly, every day, day by day, bit by bit, cell by cell, atom by atom, it will get better.
That night, with the lord’s spirit in all of them, the ladies returned to the house. Dorinda bid them adieu and took her sparkly pants and her bodysuit with the ill-advised cutouts upstairs to retire. When she opened her door, she saw that the mess had been moved … no, all the furniture had been moved. There was a pentagram drawn on the floor in blood with a white column candle at each tip of the star. In the middle of the circle was a woman in a long robe wearing a long crimson gown with a mask over her face that was fashioned with the skull and antlers of a long-dead deer. She held a bloody knife in the air and was waiting for Dorinda to approach.
“What the fuck are you doing in my room?” Dorinda asks. “And have you been binging Yellowjackets or something?”
“I am here to complete the circle,” the woman said. “When you are all dead, when the circle has been sealed with the blood of my rivals, then a portal will open up, and I will be allowed through.”
“The show! I’ll be back on the show. Andy will have picked me once more!”
She lunged for Dorinda, who finally thanked God for those boxing classes with Martin that Leah McSweeney dragged her to. She dodged the lunge and kicked at the woman’s feet, toppling her to the ground. Dorinda jumped on top of her, slamming her hand into the floorboards until she dropped the knife. Only when she was safe did Dorinda crawl up the woman’s body and kneel on her shoulders, keeping her pinned in the middle of the Satanic scrawl. Dorinda grabbed the bottom of the deer skull and ripped it off.
“Carlton Gebbia, former Real Housewife of Beverly Hills?” she asked. “It was you all along!”
“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you and those pesky kids.”
Marco, the butler, ran into the room, and Dorinda, without moving her knees, turned her head to see who entered. “I heard what was happening, and I called the cops. They’ll be here any minute.”
Dorinda turned back to look at Carlton, but she was gone. The pressure on her knees wasn’t her bony shoulders but instead the floor. The pentagram was gone, the candles were gone, the robe was gone. All that remained was the head of the deer, lying on its side, staring back at Dorinda. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, she could only stare into the voids where its eyes used to be, like they were vortexes drawing her in, welcoming her as if into an abyss that would never close.