By Jodi Walker
September 03, 2020 at 01:32 AM EDT
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Hey, whichever makeup artist or wig stylist or double-named-daughter taught Lisa Rinna the phrase “gaslighting,” drop me a pin in the comments… I just wanna talk.

I know we don’t see everything. I know Denise is crafting her storyline and trying to come off in a positive light just as much as everyone else in the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast is. And listen: I even know in my heart, my logical brain, and my literal eyeballs that could see Denise’s forehead vein pulsing as she tried to keep her stories straight, that Denise is lying about a number of things in regard to her behavior this season.

But I’m not wondering what she’s lying about — I know what she’s lying about, and I think I pretty much understand why. What I’m wondering is how we’re supposed to buy this story that Rinna and Erika are trying to sling at us in part 1 of the RHOBH reunion that Denise Richards is some master manipulator. Did I understand Erika correctly in implying that Denise’s pizza party was “a perfect setup” to “make us as a group look bad"? Am I to understand that Erika thinks Denise has such a skilled understanding of human behavior that she knew if she gathered her costars, and then seated her children and their friends a few yards away, that her costars would inevitably bring up threesomes, not quiet down about it when she asked them to, and thus, Denise would be able to frame them as a--holes???

I’m sorry, this woman?! The one who cannot sit up straight in her chair to save her life, or put on a dress unless she’s contractually obligated to? This woman has enough forethought to entrap a group of women into talking about threesomes in front of children all in the name of making them look bad?

I know it can’t feel good to be called out on Twitter all the time, and I know it doesn’t feel fair to suddenly be the villain when you’re sure you're the hero of this story — but this whole Denise takedown has just felt like such a reeeeach. Because, to me, it seems like if Denise Richards — excuse me, Denise F---ing Richards — were the master manipulator they claim that she is, this devious chess master might be a little better at defending herself. I mean, Denise has been able to watch this entire season now, and had weeks to prepare for the reunion…

And she still can’t get out of her mouth the very obvious defense that there is a major difference between her being open about her sex life with her friends, and her being open about her sex life with her children. Truly, if the woman had any innate sense for drama, she’d look Lisa Rinna dead in the Zoom-screen-eyes while she’s furiously screaming about liking tweets, and mimic Rinna’s “Ooooh, you’re so angry,” right back at her.

But before we get into that negativity, let’s start with some highlights:

MOST DELICIOUS SHADE: GARCELLE ADDITION (with an assist from the editors)

The RHOBH reunion starts off with an absolute banger of a moment when Andy asks where Garcelle got her jewelry, and Garcelle says it’s Asa’s line, from Shahs of Sunset. Garcelle then adds, “She has the most amazing caftans I’ve ever seen,” as the editors flash to Kyle listening with a clenched jaw, but just barely resist flashing back to Kyle’s fashion show full of nautical-themed caftans.

BEST GLOW UP

No, it’s not Kyle pinning her self-loathing bangs back into a bumpit. No, it’s not Dorit’s Medusa-chic updo. And no, it’s not Teddi’s pink mermaid hair, which I actually quite like on her…

It’s the reunion itself. Those Brady Bunch squares! The ability to zoom in on any configuration of faces at any given moment! The near inability to successfully interrupt on Zoom without stuttering to an awkward halt…it all just works! I know we already did this with Atlanta, and it was pretty great then too, but now that Bravo is able to FedEx actual cameras and what appeared to be at least 100 ring lights per Housewife, the visuals are incredible (while also a little unforgiving if one’s face foundation did not match one’s neck foundation).

Not only did the reunion look great, but I actually found it much aurally tolerable than most Housewives reunions which are typically 60 percent unintelligible screaming, 20 percent dramatic leg crossing, 15 percent blotting at one single tear with a folded-over tissue, and 5 percent Margo from Little Rock asking Rinna why her wigs always look like they’re first stretched over a bike helmet, or whatever.

Bravo

MOST DELICIOUS SHADE: SUTTON ADDITION

Listen, I still find Sutton’s whole vibe as unnerving as ever, but she’s also grown on me throughout the season. As she said herself: “I think we all have insecurities, and mine definitely came out in the beginning, so I did tense up, and I looked like a snotty a--hole.” But when Teddi attempted to call Sutton out for making her mind up the moment she saw Teddi’s “cute” black romper, and Sutton responded by simply saying, “Are you going to let my small disdain for your clothes get in the way of our friendship?” Well, I think she may have won me over forever.

My other favorite Sutton line, apropos of nothing: “I know lots of other mayors, by the way.”

BEST “YOU TRIED IT KYLE” MOMENT

I thought I’d seen it all from Kyle Richards. I’ve loved Kyle, I’ve despised Kyle, I’ve cried with Kyle, I’ve laughed with Kyle, I’ve watched her flee that restaurant in Amsterdam more times than I’ve watched any single other piece of entertainment in my entire life. (Gen Z has repeatedly binging The Office on Netflix, and we — we have the RHOBH Amsterdam scene, in all its variations.)

But never did I think I would see Kyle accuse someone of being disingenuous because — pause for laughter — that person doesn’t like her. Garcelle simply must have been lying when she said Kyle doesn’t listen to people or engage with them on a deeper level, because what other explanation could there be? Garcelle couldn’t just not like Kyle; she must be making it up to “create an issue,” as opposed to actually feeling like Kyle is unwelcoming, which Garcelle straight up said to her face multiple times throughout the season.

Kyle’s further proof that Garcelle is disingenuous and lying about not liking Kyle: that Garcelle donated $5,000 to Children’s Hospital at Kyle’s charity event and then never paid it. Because you know what’s incredibly genuine? Seeing that Garcelle didn’t pay the donation she offered, never once texting her to check on the status of said donation, and then saving it to prove that she’s deceitful on the reunion.

Still, I kind of like this dynamic between Kyle and Garcelle. It’s like a mouse who thinks she’s a lion going up against an actual lion, and suddenly realizing it’s a mouse…over and over and over again.

MOST SURPRISING MOMENT

I simply never thought I’d see the day that Andy Cohen would ask a Beverly Hills Housewife about Black Lives Matter and racial injustice in America… but the addition of Garcelle to the RHOBH cast has brought us many things, including this.

Garcelle talks about the conversations she’s had to have with her sons since they were three years old. About how she’s taught them to deal with cops, and how she was glad her son was in the car when she got pulled over so he could see how she kept her hands visible at all times and verbally said she was reaching for her wallet (not that those extra precautions always work when it comes to Black lives). Garcelle says that her white friends are often shocked that “someone like [her]” would have to do that, but she tells them it doesn’t matter what her resume says. “It took COVID, it took quarantine for everybody to be still and to watch George Floyd, and to be able to get things to finally change and feel hopeful,” Garcelle says. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Andy asks the rest of the women if they’ve been talking to their children about “this stuff,” and Kyle offers back an equally vague reply that it’s important to “talk about it, educate them, ask questions, and it feels nice to see some change happening finally.” Nice is not how I would describe the current revolutionary state of uprising in America, but I guess in the context of RHOBH, it did feel a little nice to see this small amount of change.

BUT THAT’S THE LAST OF THE NICENESS

Finally, it’s time to pivot to Denise, but at least in part 1 of the reunion, we’re not even addressing Brandi Glanville. No, we’re going back to where it all started — with Denise asking her friends not to talk about threesomes in front of her children even though she has a history of talking about sex not in front of her children.

Erika has prepared her outrage, and talks more in this reunion than I think she spoke the whole season prior. It’s been clear all along that Erika didn’t like being called out for having an adult conversation at what she understood to be an adult dinner party, which was understandable. But in the time between now and then, Erika seems to have made up her mind about Denise planning to make her look bad, and also that there was some reason Denise called Erika out specifically.

Denise tries to say that they didn’t get coffee solely for Denise to call Erika out about the dinner, but Erika wants to know: “Why me, Denise?” It is…dramatic! Erika is most offended that after she apologized at said coffee date, that Denise then talked about the dinner to Sutton and Teddi, as well. But to me, the fact that she also spoke to Sutton and Teddi about it seems to disprove Erika’s point that Denise singled her out over the sex-talk? Denise claims that when she spoke to Teddi and Sutton, she wasn’t trying to shame Erika or anyone else, she was just saying, “Mom-to-mom, it was awkward because now my kids are at that age.”

This is when Rinna cries out that it wasn’t awkward for Denise’s kids, and they didn’t ask her what a threesome was. Coincidentally, it’s also when I cry out at my TV that if Lisa Rinna doesn’t get Denise’s children’s names out of her gotdang mouth, I’m going to have to remove them for her.

Later, when Andy asks Denise if she was altering her behavior this season because she was worried about what her kids would think, and she replies that her kids don’t watch the show, Rinna starts chirping, “BULLS---, BULLS---!” And I just truly do not understand why Rinna thinks she has such a strong understanding of the actions and feelings of Denise Richards’ children?

Finally, Andy brings up the topic that must be what’s had Erika so worked up all along. He asks her to speak to the moment in the show when everyone was talking about Denise’s daughters potentially overhearing their conversation about threesomes, and Erika husked, “Please, they already know if they haven’t had one already.”

Erika insists that she was making that comment about teenagers in general, not about Denise’s daughters specifically. Which I can believe at face value, but surely Erika can admit that it sounded like she was saying that about Denise’s teenage daughters. There was no editing, there was no cutting — she said it moments after someone mentioned Denise’s daughters, and even if she didn’t mean it that way, it’s not absurd that people — including Denise — would interpret it as such.

But Erika absolutely refuses to own the way her comment sounded, telling Denise that “of course” she was upset by the comment “because that’s convenient for you.” Because somehow Erika making a comment that really sounded like a sexual suggestion about Denise’s daughters is much worse than Denise liking a tweet that said Rinna should be fired (and also that she was racist, which I think is referencing…a pretty problematic photo from a few years ago). Denise says she liked the tweet because it said Erika’s comment about her daughters was uncalled for, but Rinna cries out, without a single ounce of irony: “You LIKED THE TWEET, and in LIKING THE TWEET, it says EVERYTHING!”

The last 10 minutes are really a tour-de-something from Rinna as she screams about tweets, and finally, when Denise says that she wasn’t the one who kept bringing up the threesome disagreement at every dinner, Rinna starts sing-songing: “Gaslighting! Gaslighting! Let’s have some gaslighting!”

And let me tell you something — she is no The Chicks. But hey, here’s hoping things go a little more “Julianna, Calm Down” next week. See you there!

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The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Bravo’s guilty-pleasure franchise meets California luxe
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