The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap: 'Honey, I show up'
Welcome, sports fans, to our Super Bowl. The sport in question is mining facial expressions to figure out if Erika Jayne/Girardi knowingly accepted millions of dollars owed to orphans and widows and only divorced her husband because the feds finally came calling. The opposing teams are "left couch" and "right couch." Andy Cohen is, of course, the referee… and also the team owner… and the mascot… and the closet thing we have to a cheering crowd.
Which brings me to a longstanding gripe I have with Housewives reunions: the ability to determine a definitive winner would be much improved by a live audience who could boo and cheer as the women lob lines that they're sure will be their redemption tagline, but most often prove to be their demise. But in lieu of a jeering crowd, perhaps we can just agree that — for part one at least — the couch that derides Garcelle about petty squabbles, while Erika sits directly to their left, uncommented upon… is the definitive loser couch. (Sorry to Crystal, who doesn't deserve to be pulled into the "left couch" fray, but as sports fans often say: there's no "I" in "team.")
Just like the Super Bowl: Original Football Flavor, there's no guarantee that the season 11 Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion will be the fearsome fight we're hoping for. But just like Garcelle when Dorit accuses her of checking out this season — honey, we show up. Now, do we need to show up for a month's worth of episodes to successfully cover the happenings of season 11…
I don't know, maybe? I'll personally scream if we have to listen to even one more second of Rinna naming her wigs (or worse, outsourcing naming her wigs to her co-workers), but other than that, part 1 of the RHOBH reunion was actually pretty heavy on content. Starting with:
"I'm not a [paycheck] quitter"
Andy kicks off the reunion by giving the people what they want: the Housewives finally back to sharing two tiny couches, sitting elbow-to-elbow, sequin-to-ready-to-wear-wedding-dress…
And also with Erika staring down the barrel of Twitter's toughest questions. When Andy asks her what the biggest misconception she wants to clear up is, she says that she wants people to understand that she is sympathetic to "the alleged victims of all of Tom's alleged crimes." Unfortunately, Erika has adopted her weirdest, iciest Mid-Atlantic accent, so her already vague expressions of sympathy sound like they're coming from Madonna doing a Judy Garland impression.
Andy asks if Erika's lawyers advised her to quit the show, and she says of course they did, but she said no, "because I'm not a quitter and I wanted to honor my commitment." Andy — already showing off the many skills he learned in Christiane Amanpour's MasterClass on Broadcast Journalism over the last month — doesn't skip a beat when he follows up with, "How much did the fact that you don't have your former husband's income to rely on play into [that decision]?" Erika says that when she made the decision not to quit at the beginning of the season she was "literally just trying to survive," but now, the RHOBH paycheck "has become more of a consideration."
Which, I'm guessing, is the most honest and straightforward thing we'll hear her say for the next four weeks.
Most improved Housewives: Sutton Stracke
Sutton isn't a perfect person, but she might be a perfect Housewife. Rarely do these montage packages make me laugh, but between Sutton talking about Erika pointing her "doo-doo nail" at her, tearfully wondering why Jesus Christ cannot throw her a bone, and earnestly waving her security-blanket-face-roller while somehow expecting Crystal not to laugh in her face… the woman was a riot, as well as a rabble-rouser this season.
She's also dating now since her dry-toast boyfriend broke up with her on their Valentine's Day trip. That turns out to be a fact that Erika is baffled by because, though she'd like to be dating "something with a big penis," she is finding no dates right now. But much like buying Bentleys or blowing up Kyle's fireplace on the way out of Bel-Air… Sutton just thinks dating is fun.
Most long-winded Housewife: Dorit, for the 100th time
Is there anything more poetic than Dorit rattling on for five minutes straight about how frustrating it is that Garcelle won't just tell her directly that she talks too much?
No, there is not, and we get pure poetry as Dorit works her way through her fury over Garcelle's passiveness for what you'd assume was the first time given her lack of brevity, but we all know is at least the tenth time we've heard her talk about these "little jabs." And I can certainly agree that Garcelle is more biting in her testimonials than she is around a dinner table… but why isn't Dorit spitting mad at Kyle about that? Why not Sutton?
Garcelle may not be able to say it without being further maligned by Dorit and Rinna, but I think it's worth noting that Dorit speaks to Garcelle differently than she speaks to anyone else. I think Dorit has never forgiven Garcelle for the time she questioned Dorit over saying that she was exposing her children to other cultures by employing Black and brown people in her home — which, roll the footage, is absolutely what Dorit said — and then further exposed her entire ass by defending her statement with, "uh, Garcelle, my mother's best friend is Black." But it seems like Dorit would rather be immediately offended at the suggestion that she might have a racially backward thought in her brain than examine the idea that she might have a racially backward thought in her brain.
So, why am I going off on this tangent, trying to figure out Dorit's motivations, instead of hashing out her fury over Garcelle taking "little jabs" at her for the 30th time this season, you may be asking…
Because when Dorit absolutely screamed, "LET ME FINISH GARCELLE" in Garcelle's face in a way that I have never heard her speak to any other cast member—I did not like that. I did not like that at all. And Garcelle may be willing to move on from this argument, but I can make no such promises.
Now, I'm not saying that Garcelle is perfect either. I found the way Garcelle waited until the reunion to bring up that she heard Lisa Rinna told someone she didn't like Garcelle bringing race into the show because it's "not that kind of show" to be pretty reminiscent of Kyle bringing up that Garcelle didn't pay her Children's Hospital donation without ever talking to her about it first.
But the thing I find endlessly watchable about Garcelle as a Housewife is her willingness to admit that she's not always sure why she's acting the way she is, and her attempts to work through it in real-time. When Rinna immediately starts wailing that it's "pretty unbelievable" that Garcelle brought the race comment up now, and asks why she would ever insinuate something like that, Garcelle is pretty much like, I don't know, because it made me really mad to hear it, and I don't trust you.
To which, Rinna actually has the nerve to further wail, "THERE WE GO, let's go there," as though this is the first time Garcelle has ever said she doesn't trust her, and not the — checks notes — 101st time she's said it. Between Dorit and Rinna, I genuinely cannot understand their insistence that Garcelle has never directly told them what's bothering her when she has… very directly told them what's bothering her. Many, many times! But Garcelle repeatedly telling Rinna that she still doesn't trust her somehow also ends with an agreement to move on after Rinna totters over to "right couch" to hug Garcelle and beg her for another chance, even though she's been spitting fury at her all episode…
Which is why I don't trust Rinna, nor her reunion ponytail that I refuse — refuse! — to call by name.
Til reality TV do us part
Kathy Hilton and Kathy Hilton's pocketbook are inexplicably brought onstage before Andy segues to Erika with this little ditty: "Erika, we had a lot of questions about your marriage."
Oh did you, Andy? Perhaps what Andy really means is, "I had a lot of questions about your marriage." Because he then lists off the things about Tom that have made him raise his eyebrows over the years, like Tom not reading Erika's book, or especially Tom not going to see Erika perform on Broadway. He asks why Erika didn't leave Tom sooner if he was cheating on her. Erika says that she told Tom, "If you're in love with someone else, divorce me, and go be with her," to which she claims he said "NOTHING."
So, Andy segues into asking if Erika was faithful to Tom during their marriage. And we end part one of the RHOBH reunion with the first of many unknowable looks playing over Erika's pained, exhausted, perhaps-should-have-quit-when-her-lawyers-advised-her-to face. And you better believe we'll be back, waiting for an answer next week. Because, honey — we show up.