‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’: All hat, no cattle

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
“The Great Divide”
November 21, 2011

We rejoin the Vandertea party just as Camille reveals what we all knew long before the season even began: Russell beats Taylor. There. Now they’ve said it. Camille undermines her new heroic stature a wee bit by adding that the ladies, they are all confused and don’t know whether to believe Taylor’s accusations since Taylor doesn’t show any signs of physical abuse. But the bottom line is that Taylor needs to be honest. And with that, Camille storms out of the Vandertea party.

Taylor, Kyle and Lisa are Vanderstunned — not at what Camille said, but that she said it on camera. Not that this is what they actually say. And let me step away from the ha-has for a moment to discuss this from a media criticism perspective, because I find it FASCINATING. Previously, I had noticed on The Real Housewives of New Jersey that the cause of Teresa’s problems with her brother, Folletto, were always given in rather vague terms, that everyone seemed to talk around the issue. The truth of the matter was Folletto believed his sister changed as a result of being on the series, but the producers, for reasons that are still unclear to me, edited the material in such a way that no one ever directly said that. I don’t think for half a second that there isn’t a pile of footage somewhere with Melissa and Folletto and Kathy and Jeff Goldblum, Jr. all saying, “being on The Real Housewives changed Teresa,” but it’ll never see the light of day.

Similarly, in this scene, the women are not scandalized that Camille addressed Taylor’s abusive relationship — they are scandalized that she addressed Camille’s abusive relationship on camera. But notice, they never say that. They talk around the core issue — that Camille exposed the abuse to the world — by saying mealy things like, “I can’t believe she said the thing she said!” or “I can’t believe she said that in front of other people!” But never, “I can’t believe Camille just exposed Taylor’s abusive relationship to the entire country by mentioning it on camera!” Because airing that would belie some sort of completely insane sense of cinema vérité that exists in NO ONE’S MIND BUT THE PRODUCERS. To admit that the act of filming the series has an effect on the subjects’ lives is the most obvious thing in the world to everyone but the producers, it would seem. Of course it changes people. Having your life filmed, having cameras follow you and your loved ones, that is going to have an effect on your life that otherwise would not have happened if there were no cameras. THE SHOW IS NOT REAL LIFE. ADMIT THAT THE SHOW IS NOT REAL LIFE, PRODUCERS.


After Camille stomps off, suddenly, somehow, it is unVanderclear, Lisa and Taylor are friends. Something about how Lisa finally Vanderstands how desperate Taylor is and how much support she needs. Kyle and I aren’t buying it.

In other Vandernews, Pandora’s wedding is fast approaching, and she has ugly pink bridesmaids’ dresses to pick up and ugly giant pink invitations to pick out and what I am certain will be an exhausting-for-everyone-who-will-be-within-earshot-of-them Las Vegas bachelorette party to plan. Because this is Beverly Hills, Pandora has her choice of family friends who happen to own casinos where her party can be hosted: La Maloof or the guy who owns Planet Hollywood. Pandora chooses Planet Hollywood for her gaggle of attendants to get drunk in, and the “Chipmunks” as Lisa Vanderefers to them, to grope, and the hideous hot pink beboxed, berosed and bejewled invitations that cost $150 a pop.

Kim and The Bridge Troll continue the process of moving in together which involves, AND I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP, the two of them hanging up a bridge in their living room. I LIKE BRIDGE, The Bridge Troll says. BRIDGE GOOD.

Kim also goes on to describe herself as “an Arabian horse” before illustrating this with a “MEOW!” Yep. Nothing to worry about here. Everything is perfectly healthy and normal.

At Kyle’s, Faye Resnick comes over to calmly and intelligently explain to Kyle that abusive relationships are more emotionally complicated than Kyle seems to understand. That women often stay in relationships out of hope or love or emotional desperation, and maybe it’s not as easy as “Well, if he hit me, I’d just leave him,” the way that Kyle and La Maloof and Lisa want to make it out to be. Kyle nods, but I’m not convinced any of this penetrated.

Sometime later, Kyle meets with Camille and La Maloof for some noms, and to discuss The Taylor Situation some more. Camille haz sorrys, and attempted to text Taylor an apology or 50, but Taylor, she is not interested. La Maloof assures Camille that she was not in the wrong — she was just being honest — which, WORD. And La Maloof goes on to shrug that if Taylor didn’t want them to have an opinion on her relationship with Russell, then maybe she should have left it for the professionals to handle. DOUBLE WORD.

Oh, good, it’s time for another inappropriately over-the-top party for a toddler. After last year’s $50,000 “Let’s All Wear Weird Hats and Drink Colorful Cocktails to Celebrate a Four-Year-Old Child” party, Taylor has decided to do something more kid-friendly. To this end, she’s rented a ranch and brought in a petting zoo, a mechanical bull, pony rides, bouncy houses, a taco truck, an anatomically correct horse cake, a close-up cat magician who was cut from America’s Got Talent and a 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago so, HAPPY FIFTH BIRTHDAY, KENNEDY!

There’s some manufactured dramaz when 10 children’s tables don’t arrive from the rental company and Taylor runs around holding her head and threatening to have another nervous breakdown, if she could only find a suitcase to sit in. But TRIUMPH! The tables arrive. THANK GOODNESS. CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THERE WERE NO KIDS’ TABLES? CHAOS. CHAOS WOULD HAPPEN. Listen, this party is very important to Taylor because it is a real chance for Kennedy to commune with nature, and that communion? It would have been MARRED FOREVER if those tables didn’t arrive in the nick of time.

Suitcase sobbing fit averted!

It would seem that Pam’s gift to Kennedy is a song written and performed by Pam’s stepson and a 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago, which is exactly what every kindergartener wants. Taylor flirts shamelessly with the 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago, and assures him that his song made her cry. But as we all know, that’s a low hurdle. The 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago, he is leery and kinda gross.

Both Kim and Brandi show up, which gives Brandi an opportunity to hobble over to Kim and attempt to say hello, and begin the process of apologizing. Kim, however, is not having it, and stares past her as if there isn’t a limping blond giantess in front of her. Because she is an actress! (Kim, to her credit, does tell a funny story about how when she was younger, she thought that she was an expert horse rider, but it turns out, she was just used to riding Disney horses which are apparently very docile and well-trained, just like the Disney park employees.)

Speaking of not having it, Taylor — once she’s done ogling the 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago — informs Kyle that she has, in fact, received apologetic messages from Camille, but TOO BAD. NOT ACCEPTING. HAVING IT SHE WILL NOT. Kyle smiles pleasantly and nods.

La Maloof has her own set of complaints that she wants to share with Kyle: what’s the deal with Lisa and Pandora’s Vanderlette party being held at A DIFFERENT CASINO THAT IS NOT THE LA MALOOFS?! Unacceptable. (Never mind that perhaps Pandora and her bridal party might have wanted to stay on the Strip rather than in a hotel that is on the other side of the freeway, BUT WHATEVER. NOT OK.) Kyle smiles pleasantly and nods.

It’s time for the big song from the 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago! Except that maybe it is not, as Russell intervenes and insists that the family go take a bunch of posey pictures and present his “really nice gift.” When Pam suggests that the music needs to happen, and happen now, Russell snarls at her to back off. Pam growls in an interview that Russell is more concerned with making the appearance of being the Father of the Year than celebrating Kennedy, and she’s not entirely wrong. But then the 7th place American Idol finisher from 5 years ago sings his silly song about how Kennedy makes every day feel like a birthday, and the anatomically correct horse cake is brought out, and then a real horse is presented to Kennedy, because that is not only a perfectly reasonable gift for a kindergartener, but also a supergreat idea. Again, Pam, somehow the voice of reason, notes that if these people couldn’t handle a tiny purse dog, what on Earth gives them the idea that they can handle a horse? GOOD POINT, PAM. THIS IS A VERY GOOD POINT. (Of course, we all know the horse is the least of the Armstrongs’ worries in the long run, but still.)

And in the end, the lesson Taylor takes away from everything that has happened to her, what she takes away from her friends saying the unsayable — that Russell beats her — is that relationships be hard. OH, TAYLOR.

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs on Bravo Mondays at 8 p.m.

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