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'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills': Taylor Armstrong goes off

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“The Giggy is up!” Taylor Armstrong declared on last night’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. This statement came during the midpoint of the most uncomfortable confrontation of the series franchise yet, eclipsing even the Richards’ sisters limo tussle from the season 1 finale. Lisa Vanderpump may have invited her 90210 pals and Taylor (note the distinction) over for a spot of tea, but Taylor had other plans. She tore into the British crumpet for any number of reasons while the other ladies looked on in silent horror. Our own Karen Valby called it “a deeply weird, troubling hour of TV” and “a relentless look at Taylor barreling off the rails.” But how did the afternoon escalate from Earl Grey to abuse revelations?

Though Taylor’s now-deceased husband Russell was only name-checked in this episode, his shadow hung over it heavily. His reactionary e-mails to the Housewives about tabloid leaks and the behind-the-scenes conversations Taylor had had about him set up a thick tension that permeated the tea party. Lisa may have been the person Taylor had the courage to confront about abusive behavior that day, but much of the evening’s conflict was probably spillover from Taylor’s resentment towards Russell.

What made the evening really uncomfortable, though, was Taylor’s insistence on getting her say long after Lisa had apologized. Taylor was no longer the victim, but the bully. It became clear that Taylor wasn’t really trying to be Lisa’s “friend,” as she claimed repeatedly, but was trying to inflict the wounds on another person that she felt inside herself. The ladies quickly realized what was going on beneath it all, and that’s where things got Real.

Why was this the most uncomfortable Housewives yet? In short, we were ripped out of the glittery Housewives world. This wasn’t a game night squabble or a passive-aggressive spa get-together. This was a real woman so terrified to break a cycle of alleged abuse that she was, in fact, perpetuating it. So, when Taylor claimed she wanted to be honest and open, Camille was right to point out, “I don’t think you want to put everything out there. Be careful what you say because we’re all protecting you.”

Given what Taylor has revealed in the time between Russell’s suicide and last night, the shock factor was definitely diminished when Camille finally said out loud, “We don’t say that he hits you… we don’t say that he broke your jaw. Or that he beat you up and he hits you. We don’t say that. But now we said it.” That doesn’t mean it was any less painful to watch. It flew in the face of how Housewives franchises operate, preserving the illusion of glamor at all times. In watching that moment, haunted by the specter of a dead man and tainted by the ugliness of abuse-as-tabloid fodder, the Real Housewives were finally real. And it was dreadful.

What did you think, PopWatchers? Were you as uncomfortable as we were at last night’s episode? Did Russell’s August suicide make the confrontation even ickier than it otherwise would have been? Are you on Team Taylor or Team Vanderpump? The tea time confrontation-turned-intervention continues next Monday.

Read more:

EW Recaps: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Taylor Armstrong says late husband was abusive

‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ talk Russell Armstrong’s suicide on ‘Anderson’