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'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' recap: Designing men

November 15, 2011 |  9:12 am

Recapping the latest episode of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
I have a bold new suggestion for Bravo's producers. Instead of increasingly spreading out tempestuous gatherings over two, three and even four shows, why not just make the entire season one agonizing party, the better to be hashed out and re-created by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos on "Watch What Happens Live"?

This is essentially what has happened in this season's "Bev Hills" anyway, with the only difference being the venue and the parties attacked, like a special catfight edition of Clue. (Who attacked the woman on crutches in the drawing room with a champagne flute?)

We began with Taylor's breakdown (and the general hilarity over Lisa's hat) at the ski retreat. Next, the women smirked at a one-wedged Brandy at Kyle's charity event. Brandy's son peed on Lisa's lawn at the barbecue, Brandy confronted Kyle at the spa party, Dana's games party devolved into an argument over whether it was worse to be a slut than a meth addict, and Pandora's engagement party went off with only the minor hitch that Russell, this season's ghostly villain, was not invited.

It was this last indignity that probably served as the trigger for this week's carb-fueled conflagration, in which Lisa held a tea party and confronted Taylor -- quite politely, I might add -- for excluding her from a lunch the day before, which freed up Taylor to express a year's worth of ire.

We're all familiar with denial and projection, of course (save, obviously, Taylor's therapist), but it was still jarring to see Taylor, whose marriage is on the rocks, attempt to rally the troops to confess how much they all hate Lisa, like a new girl on the playground who hasn't yet conceived of the notion of strategy. Oh, poor girl: The women all talk about one another behind their backs (if you can, again, call anything telecast to millions of people "behind their backs"), but it's also quite clear what roles they play in the playgroup, and why. Lisa, Adrienne, Kyle are the generous alphas, secure in house and home. Camille: $50-million divorce payout. (It's its own category, yes?) Dana and Brandy: newcomers on rocky ground. And Taylor and Kim? They can't get their houses in order, so they can’t fit into the pecking order of the group.

It's striking how much the men in their lives seem to determine the women's position in the groups, but I don't think it's because of anything as regressive as the husband's wealth determining the highest position. No, it seems rather that the women's choices in partners seem to reflect their sense of self-worth, and Misters Giggy, Maloof and Mauricio -- supportive, mild, tolerable, in lurv -- are reflections of their own spouses' acumen.

Which is why it's unsurprising that, after Taylor left in an unsatisfied huff, the conversation turned immediately not to whether Lisa was the villain, but how much Russell was. We can all understand Adrienne tolerating Mr. Maloof hilariously trying to order dinner for her, because, you know, Adrienne doesn't let him. But Taylor putting up with Russell breaking her jaw -- but hating on Lisa for having an iPad screensaver of herself -- is something even the most supportive women can't comprehend. "We've been protecting you," they all chorused when Taylor came back and expressed amazement that Lisa hadn't been duly chastised. But not, it seems, from Lisa -- but from the knowledge of what she kept saying about her husband.

And while the ladies tried to figure out how much they needed to intervene, Taylor spent her interlude talking to Mr. Maloof, who'd wandered up to find his wife for a call, to the gates. She presented her jaw and he felt every side, nodding sympathetically at Taylor's outrage while telling her she might need a little filler on her other side. If this isn't a wake-up call, I don't know what is. Whatever's happening in your life, when the most supportive man there is the one who sticks needles in your face, you've got a problem.

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Complete Show Tracker coverage of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

-- Lizzie Skurnick

Twitter.com/lizzieskurnick

Photo: "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast members, clockwise from upper left, Lisa Vanderpump, Adrienne Maloof, Taylor Armstrong, Kim Richards, Brandi Granville, Dana Wilkey, Kyle Richards and Camille Grammer. Credit: Richard McLaren / Bravo

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