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'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' recap: Do the shuffle

December 13, 2011 |  8:55 am

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Shifting alliances, of course, are a seminal part of the "Housewives" experience. (Atlanta's Nene Leakes and Kim Zolciak's five-year feud-to-friendship has been particularly impressive.)

But though the staid Bev Hills crew generally restricts itself to friendships that morph over the course of a season, not an episode, last night's switcheroo turned Axis powers into Allies.

The war itself was, of course, over parties--what else?--this time the highly contested hen 'do for Pandora's engagement versus Adrienne's impromptu get-together, which just so happened to be across the street, at Adrienne's own hotel, the Palms. On that side, we found Adrienne, Camille and Dana whooping it up in private suites, dining privately, bowling in private lanes, then dancing, most suggestively, with, pretty much, each other. On Lisa's side, the new alliance was between the lady herself and Taylor, who was filling in for Kyle, who'd absented herself to plan for her own White Party and do a photo shoot for her book. (That’s Switzerland, for those still interested in my metaphor.)

Let the dance-off begin! While Brandi and Camille twisted suggestively on one side, a lap-dance contest over Chippendales dancers cemented the trust between the new compadres, Lisa and Taylor.

This brings me to a note that spans the entire "Housewives" franchise, but seems most pronounced in California--possibly because of its no-fault divorce law. The show, of course, is called "Real Housewives," but I've never seen so many solo ladies in my life, dressed in what seems an assortment of spangly gowns for non-events with non-partners, and nary a good time to be found.

At the Palms dinner, Camille decried the million-dollar lollipop holder Dana pulled out, stating gently to the camera that she could think of a better use of a million dollars. True--but I could think of a better use of these million parties. I'm all for lives of jazz and abandon (could a Fitzgerald fan be anything less?) but where the Housewives get it wrong is that they've forgotten that parties are life's dessert, not the main course.

A brief refresher, ceaseless revelers. Parties, in pretty much every culture known to man throughout time, serve a few key purposes: to celebrate events, introduce people to others, spark romances, and serve as a release from workday tedium. Is it surprising that Lisa and Adrienne -- who work, have husbands with whom they communicate, and families that are greater than props for Mommy -- always seem most able to actually celebrate something, whether meeting their team's fans or planning a million-dollar wedding?

Not so the others. During the last season of Orange County, my trusty and tolerant fellow viewer began to refuse to even watch the show for its camp appeal, philosophically rattled by the specter of blinged-out ladies headed to obscure events in flimsy, soon-to-be foreclosed houses in that too-bright sunshine, certain the joyless gatherings fueled by maxed-out AmExes somehow heralded the end of civilization.

Our Beverly Hills ladies are not so bad -- their houses are more than paid for, and the bling, I'm pretty sure, is real. But their cocktail-fueled nights lack an essential element of mystery, since the only thing that can happen is a breakdown or a friend breakup, interactions that can only alter with the pitch of the yelling.

So, maybe it's time to invite those Chippendales dancers to every event. Sure, they're shallow, coarse, vaguely disgusting, and complete fantasies. But in the world of the "Real Housewives" celebratory circuit, that might actually be a start.

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

-- Lizzie Skurnick

Twitter.com/lizziesku

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