I’m not even sure how to start this recap of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, except to say that in the grand tradition of the entertainment industry and famewhoring in general, the show went on as planned last night. Of course, that was in spite of the suicide of Taylor Armstrong’s estranged husband Russell, who had been featured prominently as part of one of the season’s major plot lines.
The premiere episode was recut slightly to feature a scene where all of the housewives gathered to discuss the death, but then things went on almost exactly as planned, based on what I’ve heard about preview episodes that had been sent out before Russell’s death. It remains to be seen how the rest of the season will handle the suicide, but let’s get to the business of last night’s episode, shall we?
We started on a very somber, very recent note. All of the Housewives (minus Taylor, plus a few husbands) gathered together at Adrienne’s house to talk about their feelings and thoughts on Russell’s suicide. Lisa and Kyle both thought that the problems stemmed from the pressures of the family’s financial collapse, and they all said that they had never felt any kind of personal connection with Russell, perhaps because of the negative things that Taylor had said about their relationship. All of the cast mates also expressed a hope that Taylor didn’t feel responsible in any way, because the choice to end his life was Russell’s alone.
The choice to get out in front of the suicide and address it first prevented us from having to wait all season for the other shoe to drop and Russell’s death to come up as part of the plot, which was a choice that I appreciated. It seemed as though relatively little editing was done to the premiere other than editing in that few minutes of footage, so it’ll be interesting to see if, when and how often we see or hear about Russell as the show moves forward.
And then, almost inexplicably, it was back to our previously scheduled Real Housewives of Beverly Hills shenanigans, already in progress. Lisa and Giggy met up with Lisa’s daughter Pandora at a hair salon to have various treatments and fancy things done. Giggy sat on Lisa’s lap and rested his chin on the nail table, practically daring everyone at home not to melt. Meanwhile, Pandora’s boyfriend was back at the house, asking Ken for Pandora’s hand in marriage. We all know my feelings about that sort of thing, but since I like Lisa and Ken a lot, I’ll let it go.
Our next stop was Kyle’s house, where she and Mauricio were packing up to move to a new, bigger house. Somehow that lead to talk of Kyle and Kim’s relationship, which is still completely broken. Kim has chosen not to return Kyle’s calls, although she thinks they’ll solve things and have a great relationship again one day. She just doesn’t know when that day will be, which resulted in some teary regrets on Kyle’s part. Berating your sister for being an alcoholic on a trashy reality show: Perhaps not such a great idea.
Then it was on to Camille’s house, where she was tooling around the enormous grounds in a golf cart to go say hi to her horse and check out the giant mountain of furniture that had apparently been freight shipped to her from her former house in the Hamptons by Kelsey. The mountain also contained her “Hamptons Shoe Wardrobe,” which shouldn’t technically be capitalized, but it sort of feels right, yes? It seemed to be comprised entirely of out-of-style strappy lime green sandals, which sounds about right based on the average taste level of a Real Housewife. And speaking of people who don’t talk, Camille and Kelsey are also on that list.
Of course, we had to head to see the Maloof-Nassifs next, who were terrorizing their private chef over some party menu. Paul wanted maybe guacamole, or maybe something with apples, or maybe sweet potato fries? But no Waldorf salad, because apples and mayo is crazytown, you guys. Who would eat something weird and exotic like Waldorf salad? Paul couldn’t imagine such a thing. The chef seemed ready to stab both of them with his Lime Green Knife of Insanity, a feeling that most of the household staff must have often in the homes of Beverly Hills.
Naturally, the party that would include the offending apple-mayo salad would also include our Housewives, which meant that Kyle needed to go shopping. She met up with Taylor at a boutique, and seeing Taylor walk into the frame was oddly jarring. I had fully prepared myself to not see her in the premiere at all, although I’m not sure why I assumed that she would be completely removed from the first episode; Bravo never said that she would be. Her first scene involved some uninteresting gossip about running into Lisa’s former permanent houseguest Cedric and how Lisa isn’t very nice to her. Kyle thinks its because Lisa is British and not particularly warm, I think it’s because she just doesn’t particularly like Taylor. I guess we’ll find out who’s right later in the season. (I think it’s me.)
Our next stop was Adrienne’s house for the party preparations, and it seemed as though I missed an earlier mention that the party was a screening for Camille’s episode of “[Bleep] My Dad Says,” probably because I was trying to evaluate Adrienne’s newest facial updates. (An upgrade, I think.) I’m sure that some conversation of some sort was also had during the pre-party, but I was too busy gawking at Adrienne’s glassed-in shoe closet to hear words or think thoughts. Add “glassed-in shoe closet” to my list of life goals.
Pretty soon, the rest of the Housewives arrived and I was unable to hear or think for a completely different reason – Kim’s suit. Someone actually told her it was great, although that might have been Kyle trying to be overly nice to patch things up, I can’t remember exactly. What I do remember is that it looked like it had come straight from the cast-off pile outside of the wardrobe closet at Dynasty. It had some kind of weird embroidery or beading around the lapels, and it was just…bad. Very bad. Very bad in a similar way that her pearl choker set was bad on last season’s finale, which makes me think that those items aren’t flukes, they’re actual things that Kim likes. That’s way worse.
In spite of all that, the entire group was able to put aside their differences and stop cringing at Kim’s suit long enough to watch Camille’s episode, in which she good-naturedly made fun of herself and generally scored a couple of points for the minimum required amount of self-awareness. Since she completely lacked it last season, we’ll count that as progress. At this point, things were ticking along reasonably, both at the party and in the episode.
And then everyone sat down to dinner, and we all know what happens when these people are forced to sit around a table and look at each other. Paul flicked a napkin with some champagne on it at Adrienne, and she flipped out and told him he was being rude, condescending and all-around ruining the dinner party. She also told him he wasn’t funny, which seemed like an extra step of meanness which even he wasn’t expecting. Paul just sat there, stunned, and didn’t fight back. They both seemed to enjoy their spats last season, so I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to see some issues with their relationship later on.
In other couples news, Paul asked Taylor how she and Russell were doing with their marriage, and she revealed that they had spent a lot of time in therapy and that they were trying to improve things. The wives started discussing whether or not their men would go, and Ken piped up to say that he’d never go and he wouldn’t want his wife to go either. Even under normal circumstances, those kinds of statements would seem awfully cavalier, but in light of Russell’s (who was not present) suicide, they were beyond the pale. I’m stunned that Bravo left in anything about how people who go to therapy are weak, considering the aftermath.
Unsurprisingly, Taylor was hurt and got up from the table without defending herself, and Kyle got up and followed her. They spoke in the bathroom for a while and then Lisa popped in to re-gloss her lips and assess the situation, with no apparent intent to smooth anything over. When everyone returned to the table except Taylor, Kyle explained that she thought Taylor might have been a tad offended (which she should have been, even though I love Lisa and Ken).
Ken got offended that she used the word offended, and as Kyle mentioned, all of these off-limits words are getting just a tad tedious – we still can’t say “insecure” because it makes Camille’s head explode, right? And then Ken let Giggy drink some $2200 champagne out of the gold-trimmed champagne glass, just to cap everything off. I’d explain that $2200 is more or less the monthly take-home pay for most people under the age of 25 in the fashion industry, but thinking about it too hard just makes me want to go back to bed. Earlier in the evening, we heard about how other dogs are jealous of Giggy because of his wardrobe and how beautiful he is. If nothing else, Ken and Lisa need to be in therapy to sort out their obsession with the dog.
Taylor eventually came out and Ken backpeddled just a tad, at which point Adrienne stepped in to smooth things over and move the conversation on, a skill that she seems to have with everyone but her husband. Lisa glowered, Ken bristled, Kyle scowled and Camille sat idly by, simply pleased to not be part of the argument. Eventually the awkwardness got so thick that Ken and Lisa excused themselves from the party and the curtain came down on the first episode.
As far as how Bravo did in dealing with Russell’s suicide, I’m a little split. On the one hand, I’m surprised that the show wasn’t delayed or the episode more heavily edited, particularly the last scene and all of its therapy-bashing, which would have seemed needlessly insensitive even under normal circumstances. On the other hand, I’m not sure that Bravo could have done anything that would have seemed totally right, save for scrapping the show entirely. And we all know Bravo; there’s no way in a million years that they’d actually do that.
Then, of course, there’s the business of the preview that always comes at the end of a season premiere. I’m displeased that Lisa appears to be one of the chief villains this season and I refuse to believe that she actually did anything wrong, but I’m also optimistic about the chances that “CRYSTAL METH WHORE!” will become the new “PROSTITUTION WHORE!” even though it is missing the brilliant redundancy of Teresa’s famous proclamation.