By Jodi Walker
August 13, 2020 at 02:07 AM EDT
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This episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills had something that an episode of RHOBH almost never has: LEVELS. People are attacking, people are retreating; people are eating crow, people are forgiving; people are weeping into leather jackets, people are weeping into hotel tables; producers are coming on camera and talking Housewives into staying seated at one single dinner so that they can get a damn storyline out of this damn season!!!

Now, I am not a universal Housewives historian because I don’t much mess with Orange County or New Jersey, but otherwise, I am quite versed — and I feel like watching Chris the Producer persuade Denise into staying in a scene because it was in her best interests was…unprecedented. In recent seasons, we’ve heard more of the producers asking questions and prompting the Housewives in their testimonial segments, and we’ve even seen a number of Housewives cameramen (perhaps the most dangerous job in television) be manhandled, and we’ve seen security come running. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen a producer step in and influence a situation.

And I really have to hand it to the editors for not previewing the entire scene in advance because I was stunned to hear Chris the Producer come out of nowhere and talk Denise into staying her ass at dinner. Because probably the only thing I agree with these Definitely Not Mean Girls (and apparently Chris the Producer) on is that it is annoying when Denise flees the scene. Because even if Denise doesn’t ultimately defend herself perfectly…even if it’s incredibly evident that she’s lying about at least a few things in regards to Brandi’s rumors…even if she does look like a Lisa Frank drawing come to life in that neon-lit testimonial outfit…she did at least finally ask a few of the right questions tonight. Including but not limited to: “What is the issue, Teddi?”

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The episode picks up with the final scene we saw last week, wherein Rinna inexplicably gets extremely defensive about Denise saying that Brandi said she’d slept with other women at the table. “I don’t believe she’s ever said that,” Rinna hissed, her voice rising to "don’t you ever go near my husband" levels with a quickness. “Don’t say that, don’t even put that out there,” she spat down the table at Denise, who everyone has been actively spreading the exact same rumor about for the last three nights.

Denise says that she’s not lying about what Brandi said to her, and Teddi asks, “When were all these conversations happening if you don’t even know Brandi?”

Y’know, I really wish Teddi would just take all this energy and apply it toward solving cold cases on podcasts like every other at-home detective of our generation does, rather than terrorizing Denise all over Italy. Teddi keeps demanding to know why Denise is suddenly saying that Brandi is the one who said all of the bad things now when she could have said it at the table the night before. Oh, you mean the table where you rattled off a laundry list of accusations against the woman, and then, I guess, expected Denise to have her ironclad defense ready?

A laundry list of accusations that, by the way, Teddi, were told to you by Brandi Glanville after you had allegedly only met her once…but you have a hard time believing that Brandi could've mentioned to Denise that you’re desperate or Erika is a cold bitch without them being best friends and/or lovers??? These are inconsistencies of LOGIC, Teddi!

I’m not challenging Teddi’s assertion that Denise’s story seems suspect. But let’s say Denise is lying — what does Teddi expect? That if she exposes enough cracks in the story, Denise will finally give in and tell the truth? And further, if that truth is that Denise and Brandi had sex, why is that a truth that Teddi feels so entitled to know? The women say they care more about if Denise said bad things about them, but I think only Erika is genuinely concerned with that. Rinna, Teddi, and Kyle just want Denise to admit that she’s a liar of some kind, which…is not really a thing that liars often admit. I mean, just look at Teddi, who stated over and over last season, “I will not tell a lie,” while actively being caught up in a season-long saga that began with her admitting to lying.

Denise says flat out that she didn’t say anything about the women in the group, and that Brandi is the one who has been talking trash. “It’s not clean, someone’s not being honest,” Rinna says from down the table in that very prim way of hers where she just knows she’s doing something. Then suddenly — going from sanctimonious to rage in approximately 1.2 seconds — Lisa yells, “Denise you have chosen to sit here, you have to f---ing own it!” Denise says that she has owned it, but it hasn’t been good enough for them.

“Denise, you wanna be here, you’re here, if you don’t wanna be here, then go” Lisa yells at her friend of 20 years because she…won’t admit to something that Rinna has decided is true, I guess?

Finally, Garcelle — Queen of Queens, Mother of Reads, Slayer of Housewives — finally asks the question I have been dying for someone to ask: “Why are you guys choosing to believe Brandi over Denise, who you have more of a relationship with?” Kyle tries to cut Garcelle off with an “actually,” and Garcelle informs Kyle she will not be doing that today, and she will be finishing her statement. Garcelle says that she doesn’t know Brandi personally, but from what she’s read in the press, it doesn’t make sense that they would automatically believe Brandi over Denise.

To the cameras, Denise says that most of the things Brandi told them she said, Brandi actually said, and Denise didn’t fight her on them. Except for Teddi, who Denise says she has, in fact, said “much worse s--- about.” I wish Denise had just said that to Teddi in this moment, not only because it would have been shocking, but also because I can already imagine Teddi’s face at the reunion getting to call Denise out on the fact that she is lying…and it’s is going to be tough to take.

Rinna asks the group at large if they have anything else they want to be honest about, and Garcelle steps right on up to the plate, saying under her breath that she just wants to take the spotlight off of Denise….

So, she asks Rinna if she thinks that her extreme fitness and frequent dancing around on Instagram in her underwear is difficult for her daughter, who has been open about having body issues.

It is absolutely as pointed, inappropriately personal, and kind of in violation of the unspoken Housewives rules about family as everything Rinna has been throwing at Denise all season, and I’m glad Garcelle did it. After all, maybe a taste of her own medicine is what has Rinna singing a different tune the next morning. Not because she’s actually as apologetic as she seems, but probably more because she suddenly heard what she sounded like and realized it was gonna be baaaaad out there for her when this season airs.

Rinna and Denise must literally run into each other in the lobby the next morning because, for some reason, their very pivotal scene is filmed with a handheld camera. Rinna says that she texted Denise the night before to check on her after dinner and Denise didn’t respond, “So I think she’s mad at me.” That is…an educated guess, indeed.

Denise tells Rinna, “The energy that you’re projecting toward me comes off like you’re attacking me and interrogating me, and for several of these big dinners, you’ve been coming off as a mean friend!” Denise asks Rinna why she even invited her on the trip, and Rinna defiantly says, “Because I love you and you’re my friend.”

“Well it doesn’t come off that way,” Denise says, and I applaud her for finally nailing a response. She tells Rinna that if she ever saw her crying at a table while everyone was coming for her, she would have her back no matter what, and she has. The editors flash back to earlier in the season at Denise’s dinner when Kyle kept telling Rinna to “f--- off,” and Denise told her not to say that. Rinna finally relents that she was trying to clear the air the night before, but she “did it in a f---ing terrible way.” Denise says that Rinna has always been a good friend who has people’s backs, and she has never seen her act like this.

Suddenly, Rinna is weeping. Well, it’s hard to tell if there are actual tears, but she’s definitely thrashing around and gasping for air like she’s weeping. “I don’t want to hurt you, Denise, I don’t want to hurt you,” she cries. “Then please stop,” Denise says.

“I should’ve come to you, and I should’ve warned you,” Rinna cries. “Even though you were on a plane, I should’ve sent a text, and I didn’t, and I think that’s where I feel really bad because you would’ve warned me.” Well, even if she’s faking it, I’m glad we at least have that statement on the record, because Rinna really could have avoided a lot of grief for all parties involved if she had just warned Denise about what Brandi told Kyle and Teddi. Maybe then, everyone could have just had the fun Italy trip that they kind of end up having after Rinna’s apology, with half the women going to Sunday mass (well…standing outside of St. Peter’s and getting “God by osmosis” as Sutton puts it), and Dorit and Kyle having to put on little hair bonnets that made them look like sentient condoms in order to wear their Vespa helmets and ride around Rome in itty bitty sidecars.

Even when the group joins back up to go to the final dinner of this trip, everyone is laughing and having a good time. It’s almost enough to make you breathe a sigh of relief; it’s almost enough to make you overlook the fact that Sutton is wearing yet another inexplicable outfit, this time in the form of a fuzzy orange vest over a literal T-shirt, I don’t care what designer it may be from.

But those sighs of relief would be wasted breath that you could be gasping instead, because, after three dinners of being on the defense, Denise is ready to play offense. Garcelle has been begging for Denise to stick up for herself, but she says even she didn’t see this Denise coming…

Denise asks everyone to toast to Rinna organizing this trip for them, and then she says that she’s glad she and Rinna got to talk things out: “Because you are a big advocate of being our true authentic selves, and if I’m being brutally honest — there’s so much judgment from this group.” Everyone awkwardly lowers their still partially raised glasses. “Every single f---ing dinner, I have been on the receiving end of what feels like being attacked as soon as we sit down, and it’s not f---ing cool!”

Denise says that her husband didn’t want her to come on this trip because he had a feeling it would go badly, and Erika rolls her eyes. So do I, because that’s just my physiological response to Aaron, but Denise does make her next point a solid one: “You kept asking me to be honest, but anytime I was, no one believed me.” Kyle tells her that when things are brought out into the open (ever so conveniently at Kyle’s house, with Kyle’s sister prompting), they have to be addressed in the group.

“No, they don’t,” Denise grits out through her teeth.

Kyle asks Denise who exactly has attacked her. “You haven’t attacked me?” Denise exclaims. “You drag in Brandi, that’s not f---ing coo, and you know what, it has gotten to the point — this is the God’s honest truth—where it’s MEAN GIRLS.”

The music amps up, and everyone jaws drop down in a way that made me truly believe that Denise was making some very specific reference to the Lindsay Lohan movie that I didn’t understand. Everyone is aghast that Denise would call them mean. But if these women can’t admit that they’re being mean — even if they want to couch it behind some holy quest for the righteous truth — then what are we doing here? Everyone is mean sometimes!

Dorit begins to say that she understands what it’s like to feel attacked, but in the middle of her sentence, Garcelle gets up from the table, saying she needs a moment. Denise, perhaps jealous that someone has stolen her move, takes the opportunity to say she’s done. She’s said everything she’s going to say, and she leaves, as everyone calls after her not to go.

Outside, Denise finds Garcelle crying, but she says she’s just tired and misses her kids, and that probably felt particularly potent as she listened to the same argument happen for the fourth dinner in a row. Garcelle says in her testimonial that’s she’s proud of Denise for finally sticking up for herself, "but I think Denise not giving full closure to this is going to keep it brewing underneath.” But Garcelle doesn’t say that to Denise to stop her from leaving…

CHRIS THE PRODUCER DOES. As Garcelle heads back inside, and Denise looks for a car to take her back to the hotel, a voice calls out, “Denise, let me just say something — you going back is a big mistake.” At first, it sounds kind of like a threat. But then we see Denise and Chris the Producer talking, and it’s clear that he’s advising her on how the other women are going to receive her leaving. “You can’t come in here and make a big speech like that, and then not hear anybody else’s opinion about it,” he tells her like he’s writing my color commentary for me.

As the other women complain inside about Denise leaving yet again, Chris the Producer asks her: “You wanna move past this? Let’s figure out how we can move past this.” Like an annoyed teenager being told to she just has to spend 30 minutes at her great aunt’s house, Denise says, “Okay, fine,” and Chris the Producer leads her by the elbow back to the restaurant. Oh, it is a moment for the Housewives history books!

In her at-home testimonial, Denise says: “I’ve been hearing what these bitches have to say for months…but then there’s the part of me that goes, 'Y’know what, I actually do like these women, and I’ve had fun with them before,’ so I need to go in and see what the reaction is.” And the reaction turns out to be that everyone is just so thankful that she came back, that they all agree to move on. They eat the most amazing looking pizza and talk about the craziest places they’ve had sex — planes, trains, and automobiles, and what sounded like a number of hospitals — and for a moment, it really feels like these women could all be friends again…

Right up until the preview of the next episode rolls wherein Brandi Glanville is attending Teddi’s baby shower. This entire season needs a trip to the Vatican, I swear. See you next week at (as Sutton calls it) Buda the Pepo.

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The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Bravo’s guilty-pleasure franchise meets California luxe
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