'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' recap: Botoxic
A brief survey: Which is a worse faux pas? Choosing gold over silver for a wedding table's place settings? Refusing a brief hit of Botox while your mother-in-law gets a touchup? Or pitching a hissy fit worthy of "Valley of the Dolls," "The Women," "Mommy Dearest" and just a hint of "La Cage Aux Folles" at an intime party of an acquaintance with whom you are not even close?
You will forgive me for the pun, but the knives were out on this episode of Bev Hills, in which Lisa debated wedding napkins (pink or white) from the splendiforous table options of Celebrity Wedding Planner to the Stars Kevin Lee; Kyle demurred Mr. Maloof's touch-up offer of a nice shot or two at her mother-in-law's face lift checkup; and Taylor, at Brandi's first party ... can I even explain what Taylor did? Words fail. Taylor did this:
Words still fail. But OK. Fans will quibble, of course, over whether Deedee raised the volume by rising to defend Camille; whether Taylor's situation is a mitigating factor; and, especially, after Taylor had done everything but plunge a dagger in her breast, whether Brandi made things worse by busting in and asking Taylor to leave.
Here's my thought: Though party spats have become de rigeur (and, I imagine, producer-mandated) over the entire Housewife Galactic Empire, Taylor, as any 5-year-old could tell you, started this one, loudly maintaining at the bar she was grateful for her REAL friends, not certain OTHER people. Even when that certain other person -- Camille! Camille! -- had not only been texting to apologize for what was not even a crime (why is forcing someone to confront the abuse they've told you about verboten?), but offered another apology directly at the party, which Taylor, in outraged impatience, declared to the cameras she was not "feeling."
What she was feeling, however, was the right to to pitch an insane, screaming fit (encouraged, I imagine, by Kyle’s snipe at Brandi's if-you've-got-it-flaunt-it see-through gown.)
Of course, a brief spat is acceptable -- like two birds raising their plumage threateningly, nipping, and then withdrawing -- but Taylor had an actual breakdown that necessitated her party companions' pulling her away from the railing, and then holding her back physically as she hurled invectives at anyone within the blast radius.
Here's my thinking again: Such a breakdown, which is very different from a simple fight, is something the conscious mind should either be able to control, or said conscious mind should be repaired to a safe place. That's something Taylor's less-close companions have always advocated for vociferously, while seeming-friend Kyle seems content to treat Taylor's increasingly disturbing explosions as pure expressions of a betrayed victim -- the better, I'm sure, to cast light on her ideal husband and children.
This could not, of course, go unnoticed on "Watch What Happens Live," and @BravoAndy had the lady herself on after the show to explain her behavior. (Gallantly, the question of the night was not "Should Taylor be hospitalized immediately?" but "Did DeeDee go to far?")
Not completely unlike the fallen politicians at news conferences in which they are called to account for their sins, Taylor had her talking points: "Domestic violence can seem very confusing to others"; her apologies: "Of course I'm grateful for the support of my friends"; her explanations: "I was worried that because Camille had stated the abuse publicly, it would get worse"; and a very sad admission: "When Kennedy and I found him, she asked, 'Did Daddy do something stupid?' "
Still, we, the viewers, are caught in a conundrum. Did Russell's abuse (let's leave poor DeeDee out of this) actually drive Taylor into an active state of insanity? Did Russell abuse Taylor at all? (After all, he's the one who's kaput, not her.) Would even a Real Housewives therapist allow a wife to stay with a known wife beater? (They're actually required to report it. I mean, also to not film sessions, but let’s not split hairs here.)
It seems almost certain that Taylor's appearance on the after show was necessitated by her forthcoming memoir, which will sell better to viewers if it seems to come from a woman who's gone from victim to victor rather than an unbalanced, caterwauling mess.
Still, for a reality show, the most disturbing part of the episode was how absolutely unorchestrated it must have been. Because, while we have seen the Housewives lose their tempers, integrity, empathy, grasp of grammar and, of course, dignity on several occasions, I don't think we've ever seen one actually lose her mind.
-- Lizzie Skurnick
Photo: "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast members, clockwise from top left, Lisa Vanderpump, Adrienne Maloof, Taylor Armstrong, Kim Richards, Brandi Granville, Dana Wilkey, Kyle Richards and Camille Grammer. Credit: Richard McLaren / Bravo