The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap: It's a shame about the mom-shame
Did The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills get a special budget line item for flashbacks and flash-forwards this season? This episode starts with a flash-forward … that leads to a flashback … that transitions into another flash-forward … all to preview the episode that's about to air! The episode itself features no less than 10 flashbacks for context, some of which we've seen before, and some of which feature new content. And it all ends with a flash-forward of the rest of the season that, while enticing in its subject matter, makes time an even looser construct on this show than ever before.
I assume the editors are doing this to keep us engaged, but another good way of keeping an audience engaged is to, y'know, move the plot along. But by now, we should all know: those Beverly Hills housewives — they just can't ever seem to let anything go. And listen, I'm not trying to be like Aaron yelling, "Are you proud of yourselves?!" or whatever…
Of course, they're proud of themselves; that’s how they became Housewives. But Lisa Rinna whining about Denise leaving a party earlier because "if she had just stuck around for 20 minutes, this issue could be done tonight," might be the most delusional thing I've heard all season. I've never seen a fight on RHOBH take less than a half-season to resolve. At one point in the episode, Denise says there's no way she can win with the decision on whether to bring her kids to Kyle's party or not, and that’s true. If she brought her kids, everyone would tease her about having to be on their best behavior, and if she doesn't, they'll say she's being overprotective. Does Aaron help her case by talking like a See 'N Say that only features words from the Goop website? No. But the point stands that Denise has been cornered into a lose-lose situation
But as Kyle says in the weird flash-forward that kicks off this episode: I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first half of the episode is focused on Garcelle being honored at a fancy dinner for her work with the L.A. Mission. She wears a crystal-encrusted headband the size of a croissant that makes her look like a queen, which is a bold move while accepting a philanthropic award. But now that we're finally getting to spend some quality time with Garcelle, there's no question that she is exactly that: bold. She's also all the way over Kyle's bulls---, and happy to say so in a public forum. In the acceptance speech for her award, Garcelle thanks all of the people who have supported and loved her through the years, as well as her "new best friends," she says, indication toward the table full of Housewives: "…and some of them not so much."
Cackling, Teddi tells Kyle that Garcelle was looking right at her when she said that, and I've never liked Teddi more. (That will fade.)
After the ceremony, Denise tells the rest of the group that she needs to head out early. She has a 6 a.m. call time the next morning, an hour-long car ride home, and 30 pages of dialogue to memorize. Everyone complains that Denise is just running away from anything that makes her uncomfortable, and like, yeah — I wouldn't want to have the same fight over and over again with people who never listen to me even if I didn't have to memorize lines about my husband's evil twin brother showing up to take over the family business, or whatever happens on The Bold and the Beautiful…
But the woman legitimately has a 6 a.m. call time. Let her go!
It all feels eerily similar to what happened with Lisa Vanderpump and Lucy-Lucy-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named last season. Which is to say that the thing the other women are attempting to reveal about Denise — that she's more duplicitous than she lets on, that she's attempting to hide some part of herself — may or may not be true…
But they've chosen just the worst possible argument on which to stake their claim. "I think there's a part of Denise that is regretful for saying the big penis and happy ending thing," Rinna says in a testimonial after Denise leaves a late-night party because she has work the next morning. "I think she thinks she f---ed up, and I think she's compensating and trying to be the good girl, putting it off on us like, 'You guys are bad, I'm trying to be this good mother like mother of the year.'"
I would like to be extremely clear about one thing: no one has been questioned over her mothering a single time except for Denise, who has been questioned constantly because she said she didn't want her daughters to hear about threesomes from her friends. At least Garcelle has Denise's back at the party when the others start trying to explain the Santa Barbara conversation, saying: "She's just protective of the kids, I think she's always been very sensitive to it." Yes! A woman who understands that people parent different ways, for different reasons, for different kids…
And a woman who is also happy to be direct. "When I left Erika's house, I felt very uneasy," she says, pivoting her easy gaze to Kyle: "I feel like I bring things up with you and you glaze over them, and I have an example." Garcelle's example is that she met an actress for the first time on set yesterday, and within five minutes she'd revealed more about herself than she's revealed to Kyle since she's known her. I think what that example proves is simply that … Garcelle and Kyle have nothing in common. "I feel like I'm much more interested in what you have to say than you're interested in what I have to say," Garcelle says. And I wonder if that's totally true, or if Kyle is just more comfortable being disinterested in a person who she has to pretend to be friends with for money, whereas Garcelle feels more need for a genuine connection. Either way, Kyle says she's actually very interested in Garcelle, but since everyone has been saying she's the problem lately, "Bring it on, I mean, whatever."
"I don’t have to bring anything on, I was just making a point," Garcelle demurs back while taking a sip from her glass. Yeeeeeeeees is the guttural sound that escapes from my throat upon seeing the terrified look on Kyle's face.
Perhaps Kyle will have a chance to redeem herself at the family barbeque she's throwing for her fellow castmates and their children.
"I know what you're thinking," Kyle said in the flashforward that opened the episode. "A family barbeque after what Denise said in Santa Barbara? But I wasn’t being shady — my husband and I love doing barbeques as a way to get everyone together with their families, to just relax and enjoy the day." I would love to briefly note, however, that Kyle's husband is not in attendance, I didn't actually spot her daughter anywhere, and while aesthetic, the varying heights of poofs Kyle put out in place of chairs at the lunch table did not look particularly relaxing.
Before Denise attends the barbeque, she preps Aaron on what has gone down with the other women. I think this is important to note both because of Aaron's subsequent zero-to-60 in 2.5 crystals reaction at the barbeque, and also because Denise tells him that more than anything, she was upset with Lisa Rinna for calling her a hypocrite. Earlier in the episode, we saw a flashback of Rinna at the breakfast table in Santa Barbara saying, "We've done films, we've posed for Playboy, we have to f---ing own that … you can't be a hypocrite, Denise."
And I think when it's suggested that someone has to divulge every adult decision they've ever made to their young teen daughters in order to "own it" … that's the point at which we retire "owning it" as some pinnacle of authenticity.
I've seen Lisa Rinna try to stir a lot of pots full of a lot of crap in my day, but this has to be one of the crappiest because she just has no ground to stand on. It's not as if she's arguing that Denise shouldn't have had her kids at an adult party if she didn’t want them to hear adult things. She's arguing that Denise's children should hear those adult things?? And seemingly, that they should also be the dictators of their own parenting?? She keeps making weird comments about how she doesn’t think that Denise's daughter was really that upset about overhearing a conversation about threesomes as if that should change Denise's reaction as a mother to realizing that her daughter overheard a conversation about threesomes.
I think the nastiest thing Rinna said to Denise during the Santa Barbara conversation was blurting out, "Do you talk about the hookers around your kids, the hookers Charlie brings around? Because you've been quite free with us."
What is the implication there? That because Denise's ex-husband pays for sex and/or companionship, and because other people know about it, that Denise needs to be fully transparent with her children about it? That's what Denise says is the most upsetting: Rinna knows more details about everything her kids have had to go through than anyone else, and she's suddenly coming at her about it in front of everyone. "Being the children of Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards already comes with a lot of baggage for our daughters," Denise says in her testimonial. "It's so out of line that these women think, 'Don't worry, they'll get over it, they've heard way worse about their father, or you,'" Denise notes, correctly. "I don’t need my friends adding to that baggage."
If it's not clear yet, I am completely on Denise's side on this one, so my guard was all the way up when she arrived at Kyle's party without her children, and everyone began pointedly asking why they weren’t there. Denise tells Kyle they had sleepovers, but when Garcelle asks her at the lunch table where the girls are, she says, "Jesus, there was no way I was going to bring them … I got the note that the kids should not be within earshot of us." Kyle overhears this, and balks, "That's why your kids aren't here?!"
This is where things get murky. The other women, especially Teddi and Kyle, are upset at the implication that Denise doesn't trust them to be around her kids…
But what they've told Denise over and over for the last four group dinners is that they feel they did nothing wrong at that dinner party — the girls have probably already heard about threesomes, maybe they've already had threesomes (will never forgive Erika for that), Denise is a hypocrite for acting out a threesome in a movie and not telling her kids every single detail about it, etc. — and Denise thinks that something was wrong at that dinner party. So the only way for her to bridge the gap between those disparate perceptions…
Is to not bring her kids to another group gathering where they might overhear something she doesn’t want them to. Never once does Denise say that this has any bearing on the other women's own quality of mothering; it's just a decision she's making for herself. But the other women take the mere suggestion that Denise might make different decisions for her children than they do as a personal affront of the highest order. Teddi says that Denise not being comfortable bringing her kids around them creates "the implication of making the group look bad." If that sounds like a stretch of the English language, it's because it's also a stretch of logic.
But two can play that game! Aaron steps in to defend his wife, and while I understand the sentiment, he is ultimately ill-equipped to handle it. He keeps saying that he doesn't see the issue, the accusation is ridiculous, and he doesn't understand why they can't just drop it ... when these women clearly always see an issue, none of which are ridiculous in their eyes, and they won't drop it until they've put on a sequin gown and wept to Andy Cohen at a reunion special.
Rinna asks if Denise was more concerned with her daughters' friends overhearing the conversation, again implying that Denise's daughters' should have been somehow equipped to hear it themselves. One of Kyle's random, un-mic'd friends says that teenagers probably already know what a threesome is, and that's when Aaron really gets going: "Oh, you're an expert on it, huh? Okay, right. But if they know their parents are talking about this stuff, they're going to be more curious and google it, and all we're trying to do is separate parties." If he'd stopped there, Aaron might be dead on the money. But Aaron just can't help himself and starts bellowing in his mouth-breath-y way, asking if the other women feel good about themselves now.
Garcelle, whose own kids are there, and is one of the people who was yelling about threesomes, yet somehow doesn’t feel personally attacked by Denise's parenting decisions, interjects, saying: "Even if Denise says, 'I don't want to bring my children around this group,' that's her right!"
"But it feels like passive-aggressive mom-shaming," Kyle whines. Aaron rather hilariously asks her to elaborate on that point…
"When your wife says, it's been duly noted that I shouldn’t bring my kids around here, it’s a passive-aggressive way of saying, I don’t trust my kids around you guys." And at the exact moment, I'm screaming, "IT'S ACTUALLY AN INCREDIBLY DIRECT WAY OF SAYING THAT, KYLE!" Denise is dropping her jaw in that very particular way of hers where you can absolutely imagine her tearing apart a turkey leg Flinstone-style, and grunting, "How is that mom-shaming?"
Because no one has been telling anyone how to parent, except for everyone insisting to Denise that she's being overprotective. But before Denise can express that to the other women, Aaron keeps asking why they can't just get over it. Specifically by saying: "When people win, also people engage because they want to see how those people won." For sure, bro.
If you can believe it, that’s when Denise decides it's time to leave, dragging Aaron out and telling him to stop talking because the cameras are still rolling. He does not stop talking, telling everyone to take a good look in the mirror, as Kyle and Sutton trail after them. "If you want to leave, you can leave, but can I say something?" Kyle calls out.
"Thanks for having us!" Denise chirps back as she drags Aaron through the automatic gate, out onto the street, and into a preview of the rest of the season, featuring Brandi Glanville, those allegations, and Denise directly threatening Bravo. I'd say bring it on, but as Garcelle might note: I don't have to — Bravo's gonna give it to us either way.
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