'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' recap: Horrors in Hawaii
If there’s a moment that encapsulates the absurd tragedy of this season of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” it’s when Kyle, in a face-eating pair of sunglasses, and Lisa, wearing inch-long false eyelashes resembling enormous Amazonian spiders, field a dramatic call from Taylor. Her voice breaking, Taylor says she’s decided to end her marriage to Russell. Kyle and Lisa pretend to be surprised.
Yet as Taylor poured out her heart all Icould about think were Lisa’s insane eyelashes. “If she wears those suckers on a Hawaiian beach during bright, gleaming daylight, then what does she wear when she really wants to go for broke?” I wondered. Then I began to calculate how much time Lisa must spend putting on her fake eyelashes, or more likely paying someone to do it for her, and I realized I hadn’t heard a word Taylor was saying. Such are the perils of watching “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”: There’s just so much fodder everywhere it can be awfully hard to stay focused. The episode as a whole was like this, full of silly, cartoonish distractions that momentarily took our minds off the monumental bummer of the Armstrongs’ failing marriage, Russell’s impending suicide, and Kim’s rapidly deteriorating mental state.
It all begins at Kyle’s White Party in the tense, tear-streaked minutes after Taylor and Russell’s unceremonious departure. Kyle resolves to enjoy herself, an activity which for Kyle involves talking to perfect strangers about how upset she is, inhaling Fatburger fries and scowling at her sister across the dance floor. Looks like a blast! Meanwhile, Taylor and Russell are enduring one of the most uncomfortable limo rides in the history of reality television — and that’s saying a lot. Russell claims what Camille said was “an out-and-out lie,” while Taylor suggests it was merely an exaggeration. It’s a fairly typical semantic spat between spouses, except that the subject — domestic abuse — is gravely serious. The obliqueness of the Armstrongs’ conversation is what makes it all so bizarrely painful to watch.
But enough with all the serious stuff. The tents have barely been dismantled before it’s time for another Richards-Umansky family party/diversion. This time it’s off to Hawaii to celebrate Mauricio’s birthday and, as with the White Party, Kyle is beset with Kim-related anxiety. As the ladies sit around the first-class Hawaiian Airlines lounge, noshing on tater tots, Kim makes one of her trademark bumbling phone calls to say that her driver’s license is expired and she will have to take a later flight. It’s easily the third or fourth time this season that Kim has called someone at the last minute with a crackpot excuse for being late (previous excuses: power outages and bad hair). “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is starting to feel a little like a boozier, more melodramatic version of “Groundhog Day,” isn’t it?
After their luxurious, champagne-soaked first-class flight to Honolulu, the ladies (and Ken) are alarmed to discover that Mauricio has booked a somewhat boxy 30-seat private plane for the second leg of their journey. Oh, the horror! Aboard the plan, Kyle, still wearing her shades, clings for dear life to an enormous copy of the Zohar (which is to Kabbalah what “Dianetics” is to Scientology); it’s an image that is so stereotypically L.A. that no one would believe it if you wrote it.
Brandi opts for a different coping mechanism/cliché — Xanax. “I used to roofy myself. It was awesome. I wish I could still do that but it’s against the law,” she explains helpfully. You have to hand it to Brandi: At least she’s open about these things. Her drug-addled rambling continues at “sunset cocktails.” While throwing her sinewy arms around Lisa’s Ken, Brandi says Kim’s Ken looks like a “gay bull mastiff.” Lisa’s annoyed by Brandi’s flirting, but only because it means she’ll “have to put out tonight.” By the pool the next day, Brandi lounges about wearing a microscopic bikini that appears to have been strung together from an old doll hammock. Ken does some good-natured leering, but you get the sense he’s just indulging Brandi’s obvious bid for male attention. What a mensch! (It should also be noted that Lisa looks pretty fabulous under her fluorescent Pucci cover-up.)
At this point the producers must be patting themselves on the back for casting blunt, exhibitionist, fun-loving Brandi, a person so ridiculous she almost makes you forget how sad and messed-up this show really is. But even the ever-present threat of a Brandi nip-slip can’t shield us from that truth. One day, several phone calls and a few dozen cocktails later, Kim still hasn’t made it to the Four Seasons in Lanai. Yet again, the weirdest part of it all is what isn’t being said, but leave it to Paul to come closest to speaking the truth. Over breakfast with Adrienne, he says Kim was on the first leg of the flight but she “disappeared for quite a while” into the bathroom. Either she has the world’s worst case of irritable bowel syndrome or she’s got a substance-abuse issue.
Then Taylor calls to drop her bombshell. The suddenness of her decision makes me wonder, yet again, what happened off-camera. Earlier in the episode, Taylor sits for a session with therapist to the stars Dr. Charles Sophy. She calls Russell “bullying” and says she’s angry because “he cannot control himself,” and it’s pretty clear she isn’t just talking about the email. The session ends on an ambiguous note, as Dr. Sophy asks if Taylor’s relationship is worth all the trouble it brings into her life. Cut to a few days later, Russell’s already moved out and Taylor’s gushing about how she “feels at peace.” Given what we now know, the tidiness of it all rings incredibly false. Either things are about to blow up, or Bravo is doing some serious whitewashing.
— When Kim hears that Taylor got kicked out of the party, she assumes it’s for drinking too much. Oh, Kim…
— Brandi says she and Camille have a connection because they both have two kids and went through “crazy public divorces from actors.” Now that’s a recipe for lifelong friendship!
— Something else they have in common: flirting with pool boys.
— I really appreciate Lisa's commitment to the well-tailored shift dress, even when everyone else is dressed in flowing maxi dresses.
— Meredith Blake
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