By Jodi Walker
August 20, 2020 at 01:23 AM EDT
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Do you think one needs a passport to travel to the fake Capri, Italy, inside the Buca di Beppo, Encino? Because when Teddi and Kyle imported Brandi Glanville there, the customs and immigration process seemed fairly streamlined. Brandi just needed one reference from Kim, a phone full of boring text messages, and then — BOOM! She’s knee-deep in lemons, celebrating the Buca di Baby Shower of a woman she barely knows who is ready to go into the trenches with her to take down that notorious monster, Denise Richards.

Okay, please excuse my extra dose of sass this week. I let out an actual scream of guttural fury watching the preview for next week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and I will likely be riding that rage train all the way to the end of this recap.

It’s not that I think Denise is telling the truth about whatever happened between her and Brandi Glanville — in fact, I think the opposite. It seems clear to me Denise is lying about something, but whatever that thing is, it has nothing to do with these women who are trying to get to the bottom of it. Kyle herself says in her testimonial (where she’s finally managed to grow those bangs out): “If Denise did sleep with Brandi, it is none of our business, none — but Brandi told us this information, so regardless, Denise, unfortunately, is going to have to deal with this information now.”

Sis, can you hear yourself? If it’s none of your business, then why are you talking about it incessantly? Sure, Brandi said this information on camera (because your sister brought her to your house when she popped over to drop off some dresses, because Los Angeles is a notorious “I just happened to be in the neighborhood, which is 50 minutes away from my neighborhood” kind of city). But Denise has “dealt with this information.” She denied it. And if it’s “none of your business,” then why exactly are you making it your business to disprove that denial? Teddi and Rinna especially seem to be under the impression that they are entitled to know the truth about Denise’s personal life because proving that she lied about having an affair will also prove that she…once said something mean about them?

What this leads me to ask is: At what point did bringing up something that happened off-camera, in someone’s private life outside of the show that is potentially ruinous to their personal life, become fair game to talk about all season long on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?

When Kim Richards hinted at a rumor about Lisa Rinna’s husband that Rinna didn’t want to talk about, Rinna simply broke a wine glass over the table, waved it around, and announced that they would not be discussing her husband. When Eileen brought up Erika's child while making an analogy, Erika simply turned her eyes black, unhinged her jaw, and told Eileen, “Don’t you ever talk about my son again.” When Dorit was chased around a resort by a woman demanding to know where her friend’s missing check from Beverly Beach was while filming, it never even aired. No one made Rinna or Erika or Dorit keep talking about those delicate parts of their private lives; they let it go because it was clearly not fair game.

But when it comes to Denise, her off-camera affairs have been quite literally guided on camera, invited in to Buca di Beppo, offered a glass of wine, and given the opportunity pass their cellphone around like it’s reality TV show-and-tell. And my goodness, can I not wait to go in on the contents of that cellphone, so let’s just get into the nitty-gritty already.

For as much as Denise dominates this entire episode, we see her exactly once, headed over to Garcelle’s house full of HomeGoods Christmas decorations, ready for a little debrief of the Rome trip after their Thanksgiving breaks. Denise thanks Garcelle for being such a good friend to her in Italy, and they discuss how they’re both not in a great place with Lisa Rinna. Denise says that even though they talked things out, it’s going to take some time to feel like she can trust her again, and Garcelle says that the last few months, Rinna has seemed “harsher, relentless.”

In her testimonial, Garcelle says that Lisa Rinna “wants everyone to own it, but I don’t always wanna own it — it’s exhausting to own it all the time.” I can only imagine, given how exhausting it is to just hear Lisa Rinna’s constant demands for owning it.

Rinna trots her teenage daughter out to say officially for the cameras that her Instagram did not cause her eating disorder, which I don’t think was exactly what Garcelle was implying in Rome. But I also continue to think that we don’t need to discuss a teenager’s mental health on Bravo, a platform for judging and being judged by wealthy adults! So now, instead, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

The Capri Room at the Encino Buca di Beppo.

I could listen to Dorit earnestly say, "This is the first time I’ve ever designed a room in a restaurant," one million times. Because of course, this is the first time anyone has designed a single room in a single restaurant. It’s…not a thing! But Dorit has made it a thing, and boy, has she done it in yellow. What was once a room of red and white tablecloths, is now a room of yellow tablecloths. The room certainly does not look bad — it just looks like every franchised Italian chain you’ve ever seen, right down to the fake ivy…

The fake lemons, however, those are purely Dorit. And they seem to be what she’s hinging the entirety of her “stepping in a restaurant in magical Capri” vision upon.

But I can’t even hate — it’s all so Buca di Bizarre, you kind of just have to stand in awe of it.

Kyle arrives to see the Capri room ahead of the baby shower they’re throwing for Teddi. The day of the party is the first time Kyle mentions to Dorit that Kim and Brandi have both been invited to attend because they just happened to pop over when Kyle and Teddi were originally planning it. Dorit worries that’s not a good idea given that Denise is also supposed to be attending, but hopes everyone can be adults about it. Kyle scoffs in her testimonial: “Dorit, you’re delusional — Denise doesn’t care about Teddi’s baby shower! She doesn’t want to have conversations or work on things, so I know Denise is not coming.”

Is Kyle suggesting…that if Denise cared about Teddi’s baby shower, she would…show she cared about it by…coming and having a conversation with the woman she says has been spreading lies about her? Is that what…caring about a baby shower means??? Because, if so, I have been doing it very wrong.

Indeed, when Denise calls Dorit right before the baby shower to say she’s “*cough cough* sick,” Kyle huffs: “I just wish Denise would be honest, but instead she says, 'I'm sick' — that's what creates distrust.” Is it? Or does inviting an ex-Housewife to Teddi’s baby shower who just so happens to be spreading rumors about Denise’s sex life create distrust? (And wow, I’ve just realized that this exact same storyline is happening concurrently on The Real Housewives of Potomac — I really have been doing baby showers wrong!)

For a few blissful moments, this is just a normal baby shower: Teddi is surprised, there are onesies everywhere, and Kyle makes a toast, saying she “can’t wait for this Buca di Baby.” Which is actually very funny, and makes me wish Kyle would stop trying to manipulate storylines and just be the goofy sidekick she was always supposed to be. Because no matter her O.G.H.W. status, we know an alpha Housewife and a beta Housewife when we see them. Both are important! But an alpha, Kyle is not…

Garcelle on the other hand? Hoo boy, I think Rinna is going to wish she had made fewer calls for honesty by the time Garcelle is done with her. When Garcelle took Lisa to the Red Table over her dancing videos last week, I really got the feeling that she was just sick of Rinna coming after Denise and wanted to give Rinna a taste of her own medicine…

At Buca di Baby Shower? Garcelle is ready to do bad all by herself.

Toward the end of the meal, Dorit offers up a toast to Erika, whom they’re seeing for the last time before she heads to Broadway to star in Chicago. Raising her glass, Rinna says, “I am so excited for Erika to go and do something that I loved so much.” It seems like a few people roll their eyes, but Garcelle is the one who says it: “I’ve known Lisa Rinna for over 20 years, and when you’re with a friend, you support them 100 percent.” Rinna smiles humbly. Garcelle continues: “At the same time, I feel like, every time anybody has brought up Erika’s Broadway debut, Lisa has chimed in like, ‘I did it — 18 years ago!’”

Garcelle has not come off Rinna’s neck for two episodes straight, and even though she apologizes quickly later, I don’t think she’s going to let up soon. Especially after what comes next…

Garcelle and Sutton leave the party before everyone else. I groaned. In a move you have to see to believe the audacity of, once Denise’s biggest defenders are gone (save one), Brandi is suddenly texting Kim, saying she’s conveniently in the neighborhood and wants to make sure it’s still okay if she comes by. “She was invited!” Kyle replies as if that explains any of it.

Before Brandi arrives, Kyle and Teddi start in on their pro-Brandi, anti-Denise punditry. Teddi says she would have more respect for Denise if she’d just said she didn’t want to come to the baby shower…as though Teddi has historically taken Denise at her word. Kyle agrees, saying the whole point in Rome was that Denise wasn’t being honest about what she’d said about them.

“How do you know she wasn’t being honest, Kyle?” Dorit asks, and the heavens (conveniently painted on the Buca di Beppo ceiling) rejoice.

This is where Teddi and Rinna will begin building their house of cards to prove both that Denise is a liar, and that what they’re doing to try and expose her personal business is an act of righteous justice.

Part one is Brandi arriving. Part two is making the rest of Teddi’s friends at the other end of the table so uncomfortable that they straight-up say that they can just leave, and then they do. Parts three through 37 will be proving that Brandi and Denise had more of a relationship than Denise said they did, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Denise is a liar, and therefore must have lied about everything she’s ever said, including denying that she said two unkind things about Teddi and Erika once, which is enough reason to expose her private sexual history before the nation and the entire Buca di Beppo franchise.

Proving that hinges entirely on Brandi just up and offering for the whole gang to look at her text message history with Denise once she arrives, and Kyle has stated for the second time that Brandi is a lot of things, but she “has never known her to be a liar.” (A far more tech-savvy Housewives fan than I simply must make an edit of every time Brandi has said something in the past that Kyle will have to stand by as being 100 percent true at the reunion, probably starting with the things Brandi has said about Kyle’s marriage.)

The women tell Brandi the moment she sits down that Denise has denied everything she told Kyle and Teddi. So, Brandi tells them more details about her sexual encounter with Denise, saying that she was 100 percent positive that Denise had an open relationship with Aaron, but then when they were fooling around, Brandi left marks on her, and Denise told Brandi the next morning that Aaron could never know about their hookup, and she’d have to say the marks were from her costume for the movie she was filming…

Dorit asks why it would matter at all if Aaron was okay with it, which I was actually wondering as well because when Brandi first told this story, I think she said she found out Denise and Aaron had an open relationship when they were all out together. But before I can formulate that thought, Teddi yells at Dorit: “That’s her point, that’s when she realized she’d been lied to, guys!”

In her quest to expose Denise, Teddi is super exposing herself by being far too invested and well-versed in this Brandi narrative — it is very embarrassing to watch her yell about it.

Teddi assures us that “regardless of the sex stuff,” this proves they had “some sort of relationship, and Denise is saying that’s not even true.”

But it isn’t really regardless of the sex stuff, now is it Teddi? Because what I think Dorit understands, and why she’s fighting for Denise in her extremely glaring absence, is that Denise may have lied about her connection to Brandi precisely because of the sex stuff. But it doesn’t matter what she did and did not lie about, because Teddi and Kyle have believed Brandi from the beginning, and nothing Denise may have said would have changed their minds. That becomes extremely evident when Brandi whips out her phone and tells everyone that they can scroll as far as they want in her text messages with Denise. Brandi does this because she says she “can back it all f---ing up.” One might assume that means she has texts that prove a sexual relationship with Denise, or texts that show Denise talking badly about the other women…

But there’s nothing like that shown to us onscreen. As six people scroll through the private text messages of Denise and Brandi without Denise knowing about it, all we’re shown are a bunch of instances of “hey mama,” and “hi honey,” and “we should catch up!” Teddi is absolutely floating on air at the reveal that Denise and Brandi have a lengthy texting history proving their relationship. But to me, it actually proves…the opposite?

I could be totally brainwashed by annoyance with the storyline at this point, but to me, these messages kind of make a stronger defense for Denise’s story that she went out with Brandi a couple of times and had fun with her, but after a while, thought maybe she should keep her distance. There are, like, three different examples of texts where the editors are trying to highlight how friendly Denise is being, but if you read the whole text, it’s clear that Brandi is asking Denise to hang out, and Denise is basically saying that she’d love to do that after she finishes filming…or after her house stops flooding…or after she’s done drying her hair, or the dog stops eating her homework, or maybe April 31 would work.

A lot of the table’s argument for how close Denise and Brandi are hinges on the last text Denise sent Brandi: “Hey pretty mama, are you coming on our trip?”

Brandi demands to know why Denise would ask if she’s coming on their trip if she doesn’t have a relationship with her. “Because you’d just been at the Children’s Hospital Event, that’s why she asked!” Dorit cries on an island all her own. Rinna briefly pretends like she’ll defend Denise too, but once she sees a text where Denise says that she “loves” Brandi (a text Rinna conveniently has copied on her own phone in her testimonial), the façade is over. Rinna is asking the camera, “Why would she lie about having a friendship unless you’re really hiding something you never want people to know about?”

To quote my nemesis, Teddi: THAT’S EXACTLY THE POINT, RINNA!

It’s clear that I can take exactly none of this proof seriously when Teddi huffs, “If I’m fighting with you, I’m not saying, ‘hey pretty mama,’” leading Dorit to correct that Denise never said she was fighting with Brandi, and Teddi to revise that she wouldn’t say “hey pretty mama” if she was “distancing herself” from someone either… because a shallow pleasantry is exactly what I’m saying if I’m distancing myself from someone.

Anyway, after Dorit remains unconvinced, Brandi just up and yells, “I F---ING SUCKED ON HER F---ING C---, I HAVE A CLOSE F---ING RELATIONSHIP WITH HER, OKAY BITCH!”

And what’s left to say after that rock-solid argument? Rinna advises Brandi to try and sort this out with Denise, but then she goes over to Kyle’s house the next day and gasps that she wants to be able to stick up for her friend, but she can’t: “What if Denise is manipulating me? I feel duped, and I don’t like that feeling.”

Yeah, Rinna…tell us about it.

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