The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap: No more Fancy Drew
I didn't know much about the seaside hamlet of Del Mar when the gals showed up there last episode, checking into a beautiful but clearly haunted hotel. I was pretty sure it had something to do with that delightful Kristen Wiig movie that came out earlier this year, or maybe… sunglasses? Now, however, I am convinced that Del Mar exits somewhere within the Twilight Zone, no matter how many times the editors try to tell me that it's San-Diego-adjacent…
Because this was one of the most bizarre Real Housewives episodes I've ever seen. And not in the normal way that Housewives can throw you off your axis, like when a woman starts chucking crudité at her coworkers or splashing hot tub water at the camera crew.
The bizarreness all revolves around Erika, of course, for whom acting friendly and pleasant to be around this season might as well be throwing a chef's salad at someone's head. Indeed, Erika's sudden good mood this episode is unsettling for the same reason that Kathy Hilton can casually say, "I had an accident where I was hit while doing a Barbie commercial with a golf ball really hard," and I have absolutely no doubt that it's true… but when Erika says, "Tom's house was broken into and he confronted the burglar, and then he had to go have eye surgery, and then my son had to go over and help, and then my son rolled his car five times on the way home," I have a few clarifying questions…
Because everything about Erika's behavior is suspicious this season, and no one is saying it but Sutton, and occasionally Garcelle in her testimonials. That Kyle and Dorit continue to say, "I believe Erika OF COURSE," while repeatedly calling every single thing she says "unbelievable," feels like gaslighting at this point. It's starting to make me feel crazy, even though I know that I've never once been hit by a golf ball while filming a Barbie commercial, nor flipped my car five times during a freak L.A. snowstorm…
RHOBH season 11 was a fun haunted house while it lasted, but I've had one too many encounters with one too many ghouls, and I'm starting to get legitimately scared.
And this episode started off so normal! Kyle doing spot-on impressions of her fellow Housewives while on a wine tasting tour is basically an annual tradition at this point — and if you ask me, she's wasted her potential as an SNL cast member in order to stir this eternal RHOBH pot. At the wine tasting, which Erika is absent from, Rinna brings up the story about Tom's house being broken into. Everyone is gasping for breath as she lays out the details, but let me tell you: the story doesn't get any more comprehensible when it's stretched out over more than just one breath.
But the absolute most delicious moment comes when Rinna is wrapping up the retelling, with everyone still worrying about Erika's son's safety, only for Kyle to tack on the kicker: the car flipped "because it was snowing." Kyle knows what she's doing. Kyle knows that everyone will find Erika citing snow in L.A. an unbelievable detail, and she loves being the one who gets to deliver it, just waiting for someone to call out the absurdity. Further, Dorit knows what she's implying when she says in her testimonial that walking out of a five-flip car crash unscathed is something "you only see in the movies"…
It is absolutely wild that Kyle and Dorit have repeatedly accused Sutton of not telling the truth when she doesn't repeat verbatim every single thing she's ever said in Erika's absence. But they're out here assuring the audience at home over and over that they believe Erika… while so clearly trying to convey that they don't believe her at all. Rinna is a nasty little hobbit who will tell Crystal that she's coming to a pool workout in a swimsuit only to show up in full leggings… but at least she isn't toeing the line. At least she's prepared to go down with this ship.
Kyle and Dorit are trying to get away with a bunch of bulls--- in international waters. (That will not be my last maritime pun, unfortunately, but it will absolutely be the last time I say anything even remotely positive about Lisa Rinna, this I promise you). Sutton conveys as much when she says that this burglary story is obviously absurd, but she's done her part already: "I don't want to play Fancy Drew anymore — I'm letting Scooby and Scooby's friends figure it out." If Sutton has a testimonial ghostwriter, they're the best in the business.
When Erika rejoins the group for dinner that evening, she's damn right chipper compared to anything else we've seen from her all season. She says she watched a few murder shows while the other women were wine tasting, and considered that her situation could be much worse. And then she rolls out this doozie: "What I'm going through sucks, but y'know, this man's done a lot for a lot of people — people can step up… and help him right now." Everyone around the table who has skimmed one single L.A. Times article about all the good Tom Girardi has done quite literally chokes on their crab legs at this assertion…
And no one's saying this part, but I will: per her own accounts, Tom did a lot for Erika, but she's… divorcing him? For what she says are reasons that… sound a lot like the extremely tough familial circumstances of dementia. I'm always very moved by Crystal's stories about her dad as she supported him through his own cognitive decline (and loved her buying everyone a bottle in his honor at the winery), but I wonder what she thinks about Erika choosing this moment to leave Tom, while also choosing this moment to get all sanctimonious about the people who are… also leaving Tom???
I actually do believe that Erika genuinely cares for Tom. But it's hard to simultaneously believe that while also believing her claims that this isn't a "sham divorce" to hide assets and save her from his own inevitable fate. As has been said over and over again by the internet and also Erika's co-workers: it's hard to believe all of what Erika says because so much of what Erika says contradicts a different thing that Erika has said.
But you wouldn't know it from the way her co-workers respond to Erika in this moment! They just move on from her talking about all the good that Tom has done to asking about his burglary, her son's car crash, and assuring her that she's going to come out on top of this. An actual quote from Kyle Richards, who will go on to ask Sutton why she's not joining in when everyone starts ooh-ing and aah-ing at how fun Erika is being tonight: "You're beautiful, you're talented, you have so much going for you, and it's a really rough ride, but you're gonna be okay." That's a lovely sentiment to share with a friend going through a hard time…
And it's not at all in line with what Kyle has been saying away from Erika's grinning face tonight. "There's something weird about this," Sutton says in her testimonial. "It's like they want to prove they're her friend rather than ask questions — and compare that to last year with Denise."
Sutton has made many good points this season (and I shan't forget — a few bad ones, as well!), but this might just be the biggest head on the biggest nail she's ever hit. The editors offer a helpful assist by flashing back to Rinna absolutely interrogating Denise over whether she spoke badly about the other women (a tip which, let's not forget, she'd gotten from Brandi Glanville). And it was all in service of figuring out if Denise had sex with a person whom she claimed she hadn't. These women were litigating whether Denise would call another woman "mama" in a text message if they weren't close friends… and they won't even ask Erika to elaborate a smidge on the time that snowfall in L.A. caused her son to flip his car five times without getting hurt.
Because they're scared of Erika. Obviously. And hell, Sutton is scared of Erika too, but to quote Ned Stark: "The only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid."
But Sutton needn't worry about being brave alone any longer (at least until the recently announced four-part reunion). Because Erika has up and decided to be nice to her again. At the crab-leg dinner, Erika dolls out random compliments to Sutton for her entrepreneurial ventures, and the time she chartered a private jet to take everyone to see Erika's Broadway debut. When a producer asks Erika in her testimonial if these praises are an attempt to smooth things over with Sutton, she scoffs, "No, I wouldn't smooth s--- over, but I'm not gonna ruin everyone else's trip."
You know… like the consummate truth-teller Erika demands everyone acknowledge her as, lest she unhinge her jaw and swallow them whole for daring to question her authenticity.
If you can believe it, things get even wilder the next evening when Kathy Hilton charters a boat, hires Brian Malarkey from Top Chef to cater, and someone proposes the most cursed of RHOBH activities: a game. While Sutton scoots along at the back of the pack on the way to dinner — oh, have I mentioned that Sutton and her injured foot are on a scooter for this entire episode, including when she boards a nautical vessel, inexplicably, ass-first — Erika quite literally sidles up to her and apologizes. "It's just been rough, honey… and I'll get through it, but I had to lash out, and I apologize," she says with true warmth in her voice. "The important part is that we can keep moving forward."
To the producers in her testimonial, Erika says: "Do I want to work it out with Sutton? No, I don't." But don't you ever call her a liar!!!
Erika relays her conversation with Sutton to everyone else on the boat, and they're all relieved at the idea of peace. Kyle — a nightmare — smirks in her testimonial that Sutton should just smile and sip her drink, despite calling Sutton out for doing that very thing the night before. Erika actually does go on to share what feels like one honest moment when she describes what it's like to want to laugh while knowing that if she laughs too much, people will think she's not remorseful enough; to feel down while knowing that if she hangs her head too low, people will think she's guilty…
But there's no time to dig into any nuance of what might actually be fueling Erika's bizarre behavior — it's time to play Never Have I Ever! Garcelle suggests the game, and you better believe she hits the ground running with, "Never have I ever stolen anything," while raising an eyebrow at Erika. Additionally, you better believe that Kathy ignores the rules of the game altogether to say something she has done — had sex in a doctor's office — and that the RHOBH women once again permanently traumatize a lovely man in their employ, Captain Troy, by turning the conversation to strap-ons before the sun has even set.
For the record, no one has ever done that one, but Erika says she'd be open to it, before devolving into an angry, throaty growl about how all she really wants is for a partner to "shut the f--- up, I don't even KNOW you." At which point, Sutton, who's been fairly gracious for most of the episode, finally comes back around to choosing violence in her testimonial: "I'd have a lot of rage too if I lost all my money." Yowza. See you back here next week for the season finale when Garcelle finally invokes Denise Richards' name outside of the testimonial chair!