‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’: Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
“Dressed to the 90210s”
May 19, 2021

We begin with a dramatic introduction demanding to know “WHAT IS TRUE?” and “WHAT IS THE LIE?” and “WHO IS BEING PLAYED?” over scenes from the episodes that will play out in this, the eleventh season of this God-forsaken show. Buckle up, kids, because we’ve moved on from Denise’s Lesbian Affair, and onto Erika’s Alleged Multi-Million Dollar Fraud.

The thing is, this show is filmed months before it airs, and by the time this episode debuted, everyone knew who the introduction was referring to: Erika Jayne Girardi and her husband Tom. Now, a year after this debuted, we know even more, so I’m not going to pretend that any of us are going into this blind. We all know about Erika’s husband being accused of stealing from airplane crash victims’ widows and orphans, possibly using Erika’s businesses as a way to hide the money, her divorce from him, and his Alzheimers, and I’m not going to recap this season pretending that we don’t.

So let’s begin with a quick timeline of events that took place during and before the filming of this season so that we are all on the same page:

(And just real quick, before we get into all of this, let me note here that Erika and I have something very weirdly specific in common: we are both wives of lawyers who do airplane litigation. While Tom is a plantiff’s attorney, my husband is on the other side of the courtroom: he’s a defense attorney who represents an airline manufacturer that is not Boeing but which you’ve definitely heard of. And so as we go along, I will offer whatever insight I have in this very niche situation [it won’t be much].)

  • October 29, 2018: Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew. It was the first of two deadly crashes of brand new Boeing 737 Max planes in less than half a year.
  • Sometime between that date and 2020: A number of victims’ families hire Tom Girardi’s firm to represent them in a lawsuit against Boeing filed in Chicago. Because Girardi’s firm, Girardi Keese, is based in California, they hire a Chicago firm, Edelson PC, to serve as local counsel in the case.

And here’s my first “insider” comment: Chicago! Why Chicago? Boeing is headquartered there, and Cook County courts are very plaintiff-friendly. As a result, almost all major lawsuits involving air carriers are filed in the Cook County system, including suits against my husband’s client, even though they are very much not headquartered in the United States Chicago.

As a result, the big gun law firms who are involved in multi-million dollar lawsuits like this one, are often not headquartered in Chicago. So to represent their clients there, they have to hire local attorneys to be co-counsel during the case. (I’ve met my husband’s co-counsel and they are all lovely and none of them are suing us. Yet.)

  • Sometime between the crash and October 2020: A settlement is reached between the plaintiffs and Boeing.
  • October 18th-ish, 2020: Filming begins on season eleven of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
  • October 23, 2020: Erika films RHOBH and jokes about Tom being one of only two creatures she’s kept around during the pandemic. She also mentions starting a prescription of Lexapro.
  • November 3, 2020: Erika files for divorce out of fucking nowhere.
  • December 2, 2020: Edelson PC files a lawsuit against Tom Girardi, Girardi Keese, and Erika Girardi among others, claiming Tom embezzled money from the victims of the plane crash. The lawsuit says that after the settlement with the victims was reached, Boeing transferred a “substantial” amount of money to Girardi Keese to pay out the plaintiffs. According to the suit, the funds were never distributed to the victims but instead paid out to Girardi’s family members, including Erika. Their divorce, the lawsuit claims, is a sham to shield the funds from being properly distributed.
  • December 9, 2020: Erika asks a court to terminate the request made earlier that Tom pay spousal support and legal fees during their divorce.
  • December 14, 2020: Tom is held in contempt after declining to explain why $2 million was not paid out to victims. The hearing was held on phone, and Tom spoke only once to prove he was in attendance.
  • December 12, 2020: People Magazine reports that Tom had been cheating on Erika for years and that it was during her performance of Chicago that she realized nothing was going to change.
  • December 16, 2020: Girardi’s partners, Robert Keese, Robert Finnerty, and Jill O’Callahan sue him, claiming he didn’t pay them, either.
  • December 18, 2020: Creditors file an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Tom Girardi. On the same day, Erika posts screenshots of text messages claiming they were from a judge who was “fucking my husband Tom Girardi and he was paying her Saks bill and paying for her plastic surgery.”
  • January 20, 2021: Tom’s brother files a petition asking to be made Tom’s guardian claiming that he has major memory issues.
  • January 22, 2021: Erika moves out of their Pasadena home.
  • February 2021: Filming of season eleven of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills concludes.
  • February 26, 2021: People Magazine reports that Tom has been diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimers and dementia.
  • March 2021: Erika is included in a bunch of lawsuits against Tom, as a co-debtor, owing money to the Lion Air plaintiffs. Tom’s law license is suspended and the State of California seeks $5.4 million in back taxes.
  • May 5, 2021: The Girardi house in Pasadena is put on the market.
  • May 19, 2021: The eleventh season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills begins airing.
  • June 14, 2021: Hulu releases a documentary about the Girardis: The Housewife and the Hustler. The documentary reveals that Girardi transferred $20 million into Erika’s company EJ Global, and that Girardi claims to no longer have any money. The documentary also reveals that Erika was subpoenaed to give depositions in May 2020, and September 2020, months before she filed for divorce — the suggestion being that she knew what was headed her way.
  • June 15, 2021: Erika’s lawyers fire her as a client.
  • July 7, 2021: Erika hires a new lawyer.
  • August 27, 2021: Erika is sued by the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case for $25 million, claiming that she knew the Girardi Keese firm had been paying her expenses for the last twelve years.
  • October 2021: Filming for season twelve of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills begins. Erika is part of the cast.
  • October 12, 2021: Bravo is subpoenaed by Edleson PC for unaired footage of season eleven of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
  • November 3, 2021: The final episode of season eleven of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs on Bravo.
  • January 31, 2022: Erika is dismissed from the fraud lawsuit against Tom Girardi and the firm in Cook County. Edelson PC vows to refile the suit in California.
  • February 2022: Filming of season twelve of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills concludes.
  • February 21, 2022: Erika is sued by new plaintiffs, Manuel H. Miller and Kathleen Bajgrowicz, for $2 million, claiming that she knew about Tom Girardi’s scheme to keep money from his clients.
  • April 5, 2022: Erika is sued again by Edelson, PC, this time in California for $55 million, accusing her of being the “frontwoman” of Tom Girardi’s scheme.
  • May 11, 2022: Season twelve of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills begins airing on Bravo.
  • May 19, 2022: On an episode of Watch What Happens Live!, Erika reveals that Tom is in a memory care center and is declining.

THAT’S A WHOLE LOT. And I’m sure I’m missing some things, but hopefully that’s enough to give you some context for season eleven and the current episodes of season twelve.

Now, I have only watched one episode of season eleven so far, but from what I understand, Erika’s position during the season is that she had no idea Tom was defrauding his clients and putting the money into her business and that she had nothing to do with the scheme. That said, it is remarkable that her lawyers allowed her anywhere NEAR a camera while all of this was unfolding, and that she filmed A SECOND SEASON in this mess. Not participating in either season wouldn’t mean that she was guilty, just that she was being careful to not further incriminate herself with anything she said or did on the show.

But, you know, whatever. Her carelessness, our gain. So let’s dig in.

We begin the new season mid-pandemic: based on Erika telling Dorit that it’s been a year since their trip to Rome, filming must have begun in November October 2020. (From the very little Instagram sleuthing I have done, it looks like the Rome trip was in mid-November of 2019, and this episode began in mid-October 2020. This is important for the timeline purposes above.) Everyone is still wearing masks, people are testing before filming scenes together, people are still working from home, and all the COVID protocols are in place in restaurants and other public spaces.

Rinna stops by Kyle’s house, where Kyle is upstairs in bed, recovering from a nose job. Supposedly, she broke it on the set of Halloween Number Whatever, and if the plastic surgeon claims that his work repairing the damage happens to take ten years off of her face in the process? That’s just a lagniappe. (And not the actual reason for the nose job to begin with.)

Rinna and a somewhat dopey Kyle talk about how much they’ve missed seeing everyone during quarantine, though Kyle admits that her family and Dorit’s have been in a “pod” together and recently traveled to Mexico with one another. Rinna mentions that she has a dinner with Garcelle coming up, and both women note that it’s been about a year since either of them has spoken to her — not since the reunion.

I mean, not that I blame Garcelle after Kyle called her out for allegedly not paying for an auction item. Kyle reports that Garcelle unfollowed her on Instagram following the reunion, and she’s still smarting from it.

Meanwhile, Dorit drives Erika to Kyle’s, and along the way, they discuss how the past trying months have been. Dorit is all, “BEING WITH MY PRECIOUS BABIES HAS BEEN MAGICAL!” and Erika is like, “Yeah, I’ve been forced to eat dinner with Tom Girardi every night. I guess it’s been nice to ‘reconnect.'”

However, in a talking head, Erika admits that her career was on a roll when the pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt, and she clearly doesn’t seem to think there was anything magical about it.

They arrive at Kyle’s (despite trying their best to drive past it) and there is a very shrieky reunion, as Kyle tells them that she’s missed them so much. Well, not Dorit, with whom she’s vacationed, but you know.

We discuss the fact that Mauricio’s 50th birthday passed uncelebrated (join the club honey) and his disastrous “Moe-hawk.”

To be fair, it’s not great:

Erika laughs that at least Kyle’s husband has hair.

Among other things.

Dorit then invites the women to a cocktail party and “barbecue” at her house — and to use it as an opportunity to get all dolled up, since there won’t be any opportunities for them to make up fake events to shill their products anytime soon. Won’t someone think of the underutilized glam squads?

Meanwhile, over at Garcelle’s house, she’s doing shots of “vitality” juice and Fireball with Sutton and her friend Sheree.

Garcelle reveals to absolutely no one’s surprise that she has not seen the other women much, but has spoken to Denise. Sutton notes that she’s texted Denise a number of times, but she hasn’t responded. She just wants everyone to get along and doesn’t understand why they can’t.

To that end, Sutton asks Garcelle when the last time she spoke to Rinna, and Garcelle reveals, reluctantly, that Rinna left her a voice message, saying that she wanted to talk. Sutton advises that she do so, and get their relationship back on track.

“Who’s Lisa Rinna?” asks a blissfully unaware Sheree.

We head over to Dorit’s house one morning to observe her daily routine in the era of COVID: she wakes Her Insufferable Husband up at 9:30, before getting her children ready for school. And by “school,” I mean going to the basement to meet with their private tutor. You know, just like we all did during quarantine.

Elsewhere, Sutton is renting Kyle’s old house from Kyle and Mauricio while she remodels the house that she recently bought. And here I thought Kyle and Mauricio sold that house to upgrade to their current one. Turns out, they’re just extraordinarily house-rich — which I suppose you can be when you’re renting out your property for $25,000 $20,000 a month.

Garcelle and Rinna meet up at some tented, outdoor restaurant, where they agree that the world’s gone crazy. After some small pleasantries, Rinna tells Garcelle that she cares about her, she always has, and she wants to apologize to her if she’s hurt her. Rinna goes on to say “hurt people hurt,” insinuating that she’s “hurt” by something.

By what, exactly, is never explained.

Rinna goes on to admit that she was harder on Denise than she needed to be and that she should have stood by her friend more. Garcelle wonders why Rinna felt like she needed to pile on Denise; why couldn’t she just let the other women come after her and stay out of it? Rinna insists that she couldn’t sit by while Denise was so dishonest. “So what?” wonders Garcelle, “Why do we have to check each other?”

Rinna re-prosecutes her case against Denise: it’s not about whether or not something happened with Brandi, it’s that Brandi showed her plenty of evidence of a relationship of some sort between them, and Denise refused to admit to it. Garcelle waves it off: she never saw the texts and anyway, Denise said they weren’t real, so she doesn’t care.

Garcelle goes on to tell Rinna that having seen the way she treated Denise, she doesn’t know how she can trust her as a friend. Rinna first tries to claim that she was “really protective” of Denise, which I suspect would be news to Denise. Rinna then goes on to flatly declare that she can be a cunt, and that she knows that there is a lot of hurt there. But that she hopes that they can move on from the past. Garcelle warns that she is going to tread lightly with Rinna, but that she is open to trying.

At Erika’s house, she and her ladyhandlers are organizing her spillover closet as a means to talk about how hard quarantine was for her. The ladyhandlers ask her about Tom, and Erika gives a weird answer about how he’s “busy” but that with the courts closed, he’s also looking forward to business returning. “Like every lawyer, he’s on the cusp of exploding.”

I mean, that’s one way of putting it.

Dorit swings by Garcelle’s house in the valley for a visit, where Garcelle gives her a quick tour and introduces her to her two goldfish: Dorit the fancy black and white one, and Kyle, the ordinary goldfish. Someone’s still mad.

Garcelle shows Dorit her workspace and her bedroom, where she keeps some contraption for her back that looks suspiciously like some sort of sexytimes device.

Garcelle shares with Dorit that she had dinner with Rinna, and she’s still not sure if she can trust her. Dorit explains to Garcelle that she and Rinna didn’t get off on the right foot, either (even though Rinna’s known Garcelle for nearly 20 years, so we’re not talking about people who have just met), but that she’s since seen Rinna learn from her mistakes and grow. Garcelle asks Dorit if she trusts Rinna now.

Literally Dorit:

Speaking of Rinna, she and Kyle are on a mission to introduce us to the new housewife, Crystal Kung Minkoff, wife of Rob Minkoff, director of The Lion King, and other animated films. Ostensibly, Crystal is friends with Kathy Hilton, and she’s running some sort of toy drive for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. It’s under this pretense that Kyle and Rinna go barging into her home with bags of new toys, but really it’s to introduce her to the show.

So, they meet Crystal and Rob, hand over the toys, and after a quick tour of the house, including an opportunity to show off some Lion King memorabilia, the three ladies go outside to chat. There, Crystal talks about how she used ancient Chinese secrets to guarantee that her first child would be a boy and that she type-A’d her way into giving birth to her daughter at exactly 8 a.m. because 8 is an auspicious number in the Chinese culture. It’s a lot, but Rinna and Kyle invite her to come to Dorit’s dumb dress-up barbecue anyway.

As for the dress-up party, Erika chooses — her team’s words, not mine — “hooker Barbie realness” complete with some sparkly diamonds that may or may not still be in her possession.

Dorit chooses a plunging wrap dress that her son doesn’t care for because it “looks like a robe.” Her daughter shrieks that she can see her “BOOBIES!” Fire your glam squad and pay your children to dress you, Dorit.

The ladies begin arriving at Dorit’s in their ridiculous outfits, followed by Kathy who is accompanied by Crystal, and who had no idea what she was in for with these women. When she notes just how … green … Rinna’s suit is, Rinna insists that Crystal can borrow it! She can borrow it! Seriously, if Crystal wants to, she can borrow it!

Crystal’s response, and I quote: “yeah.”

When Garcelle arrives, Kathy Hilton — Kyle’s sister — mistakes her for Kyle.

Garcelle and Crystal know each other from their husbands having worked on Disney’s The Haunted Mansion together. In an interview, Crystal talks about how Beverly Hills is a pretty small town, and if you don’t know someone, they might not be worth knowing. This prompts a bitchy producer to ask Crystal if she knows Dorit, and Crystal flatly answers, “No.”

Kyle is the last to arrive, and Dorit is ready to give her shit for showing up late because she was getting glammed up. Kyle is like, “Yeah, yeah, ha ha ha, I get it.”

After getting rid of Mauricio and Dorit’s Insufferable Husband, the women retire outside for the “barbecue” which consists entirely of passed appetizers. Pigs in blankets, people. That’s what this “barbecue” is.

As everyone is enjoying their bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, Rinna announces the first trip of the season: a trip to Lake Tahoe. They all agree to go, and Kathy Hilton announces she’ll bring her “scissors and dental supplies.”

Sit down for a short horror story, because apparently as a child, Kathy Hilton liked to play “dentist” on the neighborhood children, and would bully them into allowing her to mess with their mouths.

During a bar break, Rinna tells Dorit that she and Garcelle are ALL GOOD, and everything is fine, thanks. Meanwhile, in the backyard, Garcelle tells Sutton that she’s “open” to making nice with Rinna, but she’s going to see how it goes. Sutton is like, “Well, according to Rinna, y’all are all good …” Garcelle is like, “Nope, it’s going to take more than one drink to fix things between us.” Sutton urges Garcelle to go back to that conversation with Rinna because there is some miscommunication happening.

Once the group is back together again, Rinna asks everyone what their “best moment” and “hardest moment” during Covid was, and Real Housewives, they’re just like us!

Sutton reveals that she pretty much stayed in bed for 8 straight weeks.

Kyle had an anxiety meltdown but enjoyed having all of her kids at home with her.

Crystal enjoyed the extra time with her children.

Garcelle, who didn’t have her kids with her, was horribly lonely.

And Erika reveals that her quarantine was very dark and led her to get on a prescription of Lexapro, an antidepressant.

In an interview, Erika hints at what’s to come, noting that there is “so much that these women don’t know about my life, my personal life.” She goes on to add that everyone has problems, but to paraphrase one Notorious B.I.G.:

Kathy Hilton asks if anyone has figured out who they can live without, and Erika laughs that she did that long ago: she’s down to two: Tom and the dog, and they are duking it out for the number one spot.

SPOILER ALERT: We know who wins.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs on Bravo.

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