Premiere zeroes in on Taylor and (absent) Russell's journey through couple's counseling, especially after Ken started a tempest in a teapot

By Lanford Beard
Updated September 06, 2011 at 05:05 AM EDT
Lisa Vanderpump Housewive
Credit: Adam Olszewski/Bravo

So let’s get to the elephant in the room: Tonight’s episode, “Back to Beverly Hills,” began with a support group-style discussion between all the housewives (save Taylor) and their husbands about Russell Armstrong’s suicide. They were universally confused, sad, and worried for Taylor. There was a weird fork in the conversation where Lisa basically said, “Taylor set us up to hate him,” and Kyle — who was the most emotional of all the Housewives — became angry at Russell for choosing to end his own life. In an interview, she said, “Life goes on … It has to.” In the wake of reports that Russell partially blamed the show for his downward spiral, do you think the ladies were advised to exculpate themselves? Since Bravo refused to cancel the show or push back the premiere date, I won’t argue against the inclusion of this conversation to at least acknowledge his death. But what, if anything, do you think this segment achieved?

Before we get to the main event, let’s suss out tonight’s theme: Everyone hates the Vanderpumps! Mainly they hate Lisa, but by night’s end, they have equal reason to detest Ken. I’ll go into that in a minute, but first, let’s lay the groundwork. In one corner, we have Adrienne and Paul’s chef, who has had a distaste for Lisa since she insulted his food. In another corner, Taylor viewed Lisa with suspicion based on her gut feeling that Lisa didn’t like her. Kyle hilariously convinced Taylor that Lisa’s bitchery was “a British thing.” And in the final corner, the Maloof-Nassif’s new dog Jackpot, a fluffy little leather daddy with designs on Giggy. Ken explained that Giggy is often disliked by other pooches because of “his clothing and his beautiful face,” though I’m beginning to think it’s because of the company the Gigster keeps.

The primary action tonight occurred as Adrienne and Paul, back to their love-it-or-hate-it banter, hosted a $#*! My Dad Says screening party in honor of Camille’s cameo on the show. For his part, Paul would have preferred to sequester himself to a private viewing of Camille’s star-making turn in 1996’s The Naked Detective. Even before Adrienne and her hubby cracked open the Angel champagne, which they boast is the most expensive in the world, they were at each other’s throats. The quibbling turned into full-scale bickering at the post-screening dinner. What is with these people? Can they not host a dinner party without someone getting publicly flayed? It’s like every day is Thanksgiving — and I mean that in the worst, most dysfunctional-family sense. Oh, but it was just a warm-up.

NEXT: Couples counseling does not pleasant dinner conversation a-make

Adrienne proved impressively tone deaf as she abruptly ended her bickering with Paul by publicly extending an olive branch to all of her guests and saying she hoped they could “get along.” Lisa pulled out her first, admittedly predictable, zinger of the night, asking, “Does that mean you two, as well?” Paul ratcheted up the discomfort by putting Taylor on the spot about her relationship with Russell. It was like opening Pandora Vanderpump’s box! Why, Paul, why? Taylor admitted that she and Russell were working through their issues in couples counseling. Cue Camille, who found a way to be jealous of Taylor’s failed (though momentarily intact) marriage. “At least you’re getting to go to therapy. Kelsey never even gave me that option. Hrmph.” To be fair, Camille’s remarks were edited in from an interview. In real time, Kyle actually beat her to the punch, wasting nary a second in bringing up the fact that Kelsey abandoned Camille without going to marriage counseling. That’s okay, though, she’s just emotionally unsatisfied.

And then all hell broke loose. Ken proclaimed that he didn’t believe in therapy because it signals weakness. He said he, perhaps because he’s an Englishman, believes people should have a stiff upper lip. Maybe Kyle was right? Maybe it is a British thing? (I tease.) Intentional or not, this insult proved too much for Taylor. She scurried into a bathroom with Kyle and awesomely said of Ken (I’m paraphrasing), “You carry around a fluffy-headed dog who wears purple polo shirts, and I’m the one who’s weak?!” Since she was nowhere near her hag quotient for the night, Lisa first barged into the bathroom to apply lip gloss disdainfully, then accused Taylor of trying to break up the Kyle’s friendship with her (Lisa) by dragging Kyle into her problems. Yes, dear, because it’s all about you. This woman’s marriage is crumbling before her very eyes, and her primary objective is to snatch away your bestie.

NEXT: In which Ken runs away to the circus to display his talent of putting his head entirely up his own ass

While Taylor wiped away tears and tried to pull it together, Kyle returned to the table to explain to Ken that he hurt Taylor’s feelings. Only she made the mistake of using the word “offended.” Ken objected to this word. Objected, I say! He demanded she retract the word in favor of something arbitrarily less “strong” like “upset.” Even when Kyle gladly rephrased, Ken wouldn’t drop it. At which point Kyle was all, “Listen, jackhole, I’m trying to tell you that you made an emotionally fragile woman cry, so drop the Word Police act already.”

Other highlights from the night: In response to Taylor’s admission she was seeking counseling, Kim said, “Do anything — if it’s therapy, going to Africa… ” Maybe I’m running in the wrong circles, but who goes to Africa to patch up their marriage? The white lady Dave Chappelle is our Kim. Somewhere during a break from the fighting, Ken piled on some extra offense by bringing Giggy to the dinner table and letting the little fur ball drink out of Adrienne’s $550-a-stem champagne glasses. News got back to Giggy’s arch non-canine nemesis, Adrienne and Paul’s chef, who issued marching orders to his waiter: “Remember, my first food. If the dog gets in the way, step on it.” And at the end of the night, after the Vanderpumps excused themselves, Camille said, “I’m just glad… ” So she managed to make the night about her… precisely because it wasn’t about her? Camille will not give up her title of Most Hated Housewife so easily it seems.

In also-rans, Kyle will be filling the Kim-sized hole in her heart by “supporting” Camille post-divorce. This season looks absolutely bonkers, not least of which because Kim at one point screamed out, “Taylor’s in a suitcase!” And last but not least, welcome back, Pandora Vanderpump! I had nearly forgotten about you and your absurd name. Pandora was the only Vanderpump who was feeling the love as her dreamy boyfriend asked Ken for her hand in marriage.

So, Housewives hussies, who do you think was in the wrong tonight? Are you sad that Lisa is proving to be a first-class shrew, or did you always suspect she had it in her? Was there anyone you did like during tonight’s episode? Will you keep watching this season even though it’s marred by the inevitability of Russell’s death? What was the highlight of the coming-soon footage for you? (Mine was Kim calling someone a “pig-slut,” which is officially 2011’s “prostitution whore.”)

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