'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' recap: Eventrapment
Forget being a writer. I want to be an event planner, because I now see the job involves getting drunk with rich people on the libation of your choosing on their dime, launching a shoe line in which there is no need to showcase the shoes and, in general, burning money.
This episode was another party face-off, this time between Andrienne Maloof's new shoe line and Lisa Vanderpump's planning for daughter Pandora's wedding. The two women, formerly close, have been at odds lately, this time because Adrienne was hurt that Lisa isn't holding Pandora's bachelor party at her Las Vegas spread but, rather, at the competing establishment across the street.
I've just realized yet another advantage of being an event planner for the rich and fractious: They save all their grievances up for their friends. We saw this also in the spectacle of Taylor's therapy, which took place in the presence of a nice man who seemed terrified to be on camera but had put on a very nice bespoke suit for the event.
I used to think that both the subject -- and the therapist, obviously -- who agreed to put what is by law and practice private, inviolate and intimate on camera were missing the point. But after seeing this session, I'm wondering if the only way reality stars can be genuine is to stick cameras in every intimate moment.
Taylor, in a neutral-face palette for the occasion, linked fingers with Russell, and Russell himself was forthcoming -- may I even venture, happy -- as he extolled how therapy had helped strengthen their union. While Taylor still slumped dramatically in her chair as if issuing breathy goodbyes from her deathbed, Russell copped to being absent and neglectful. And for the first time, Taylor let us see her strong feelings for Russell, albeit feelings too obsessive and desperate to be called "love." ("When he's good to me, it's the best -- and when he's bad to me, it's the worst.")
Brief digression here: I kind of like Russell. I have no idea whether the Bravo producers are showcasing the late businessman in an attempt to bump up the drama about Taylor's accusations or to be evenhanded. (Note the therapist asking, with Hulk-like echoes, "And when you get angry? What happens ... when you get angry?") But all I see is a man who is clearly making a genuine effort to be social and emotional on behalf of his wife when neither is in his nature, in contrast to Taylor, who drops hints about his physical abuse when it suits, then poses for family photos when it doesn't. (Note: I have no idea whether, like the Hulk, Russell in fact reverted to a rageful wife-beater once the cameras were off. But of all the "characters" on the show, he seems most artless in the art of self-presentation.)
Speaking of self-presentation, it was a hoot for the ladies to see that Adrienne, who'd assembled the crew to showcase her new shoe line, debuted it along with the designs of a (fabulous, I might add) shmatterati given to long gowns. This meant we merely saw the peek of a heel in waves of chiffon, like the sprig of mint on a bowl of tiramisu, instead of the entire shoe. (@BravoAndy showed the actual line on "Watch What Happens Live," prompting the comment: "I think it's hard to pull off both an ankle strap and an ornament.) The gleeful Lisa went so far as to tell Miss “Mal-hoof” to watch out for the forthcoming “Vander-pump” -- a quip she's probably been saving for ages.
There were also rumblings of a new alliance between Camille and Brandi, who share, as Camille says, "a similar situation." Brandi "tells it like it is," the Grammer heiress said affectionately. (Though still too much for Kyle's "taste," in a pun I can't explain in a family paper.)
As we've seen on the very popular Atlanta "Housewives," the consequences of "telling it like it is" -- divorce, adultery, hair-pulling, child-support fights -- are far more real and engaging than, say, Caroline Manzo dispensing advice on the radio to relatives who are kind enough to call in.
On the Bev Hills show, the great question of this season is whether Russell was a wife-beater, and why, of course, he took his own life. Of course, we'll probably never know the answers. But though I'm interested to see more of the ladies "tell it like it is," I'm most interested, in Taylor’s case, how Bravo does.
-- Lizzie Skurnick
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