The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap: When Erika left Tom
The Apollo Moon landing… Pink Floyd at the Berlin Wall… any number of royal weddings…there are certain moments in history that you simply have to participate in as a collective society; that you have to watch live in front of your television, lest history move on without you. For Bravo truthers, Erika finally giving any morsel of specificity about unexpectedly filing for divorce from Tom Girardi - whose assets would be frozen not one month later due to legal entanglements - is one of those moments.
The "TO BE CONTINUED" card has been cleared, the door to Sutton's Parisian Luncheon has been dramatically opened and shut, the crucifix in her foyer has somehow not clattered to the ground behind Erika's smirk, and there's simply no more delaying what's owed to us - for Erika and the RHOBH editors. And listen, it's not exactly like Erika walked through that door and exclaimed that Tom has been defrauding his clients for years, and she knew all about it. She was as guarded and measured as ever in the explanation of her divorce - but there's a subtle story being told in between the lines of that calmness too. And you can consider my attention rapt as the tale unfolds in front of us.
This episode begins where the last one left off (and, uh, also where the last one began): with Erika dramatically entering Sutton's luncheon, an unreadable look on her face. It turns out that face belies a very squealy, typical party entrance, as though everyone hasn't been wondering what the hell is going on for the last week. My relationship with Kyle is forever complicated, but when I see her tottering around in the back of the fray, rapidly oscillating between smiling nervously and darting her eyes at Erika, I can't help but appreciate her absolute inability to ever play it cool. Because this is not a time to play it cool! Everyone attempts to for as long as they can, but when the lunch conversation finally turns to Sutton buying a new car, Erika offers up that she just bought a new car (there seems to be a suggestion that a Range Rover is part of her humble new life), and she concedes that it's time to address the elephant in the room…
Everyone visibly clenches.
I visibly clench in my home. I cannot believe this is finally happening; men landed on the moon, the Berlin wall came down, and Erika Girardi was forced to talk about her divorce from Tom on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. "My life drastically changed this week," Erika starts off. "I let go of my Lamborghini, I let go of my 16,000 square foot home, I let go of my marriage, I let go of everything." (The ordering of that statement is one of those subtleties I was referring to earlier.)
Erika says that she left her marriage because Tom was pushing her further and further out: "The conversations that I used to have were now reduced down to a sentence or two." As the editors push the cameras through her empty Pasadena mansion once more, Erika says that she had to make the choice that was right for her because she couldn't live like that anymore. And she purposely didn't share any of it with her friends because, "it would put you in a bad position if I were to give you information that you had to hold," and it would put her in a less advantageous position, legally speaking.
After Erika made her decision, she spent about 30 days organizing her life in order to leave Tom. The editors flashback to Erika in her auxiliary overflow closet at the beginning of the season, talking about getting rid of things, yes, but as I recall, also giving glowing reviews of Tom to Mikey for no reason.
And herein lies the difficulty of receiving this information from Erika. It's a big deal to leave a marriage that isn't serving you well. Erika offers two negative Tom anecdotes up throughout the episode, one wherein he told her "thanks, hun" after she told him she loved him on the day she was leaving him, and another where he told an associate, "If you think you can afford her, you can have her," in front of Erika. The bottom line that Erika seems to be offering up is that there is - and always has been - a power imbalance in her relationship with Tom, and there was no room for her to assert her needs or opinions into their marriage. Because the narrative of their marriage has always been that he scooped her up and supported her when she needed it most, she had to "shut up and be grateful."
That's not a healthy dynamic, and if Erika is leaving for those reasons, we as viewers would want to support her in that…
But it's hard to offer up emotion and affirmation when Erika is holding back so much… emotion and information. She doesn't seem sad, she doesn't seem mad, she's just moving forward like a shark - if she stops moving, she'll die (or tell the truth, which might be worse). After Erika wraps up her "I can't be in this marriage by myself" presentation at Sutton's luncheon, Kyle actually tells her that it seems like she's telling this story "like clockwork."
"But Kyle, I have to," Erika responds. She says in her testimonial that she filed on Election Day in hopes that the news would get buried among more important things, but that's not what happened. And therein lies the "what remains unsaid" of everything that Erika is actually saying. If she was trying to keep this divorce as under the radar as possible… and she was being as methodical about this choice as possible…why would she choose to file for divorce during the filming of her nationally televised TV show? Why was she offering up glowing reviews about how Tom accepts her for who she is three days before she filed? What isn't she telling us - and her friends - about what necessitated this split?
Obviously, Erika doesn't have to tell her friends, or us, or anyone (except, I guess, the State of California, legally speaking) anything - but that's not going to stop us from having these questions. So, for now, this is what Erika has chosen to tell us: on Election Day, she dropped Tom off at work, drove back to their home, packed up her things, and moved into a rental house. (The editors helpfully offer some points of comparison like that her old house was 16,000 square feet, four bedrooms, and nine bathrooms, and her new house is 2,150 square feet, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. It's totally gorgeous and has a pool - this is not exactly Yolanda Hadid moving into an efficiency apartment in season 6. The next morning, Tom got served the divorce papers, and Erika hasn't seen him since. She assumes he's thinking, "You wanna be big time, you wanna go out on your own, f---ing go."
And the final word from Erika - that I won't be able to shake until we get some actual answers - as she sits in her glamorous testimonial look, is this: "Look, is it great to be able wear this jacket? To live in a big house? Yes. But at what human cost?" Indeed, Erika. At what human cost did that jacket and that house come?
As you can imagine, it's difficult to be entirely invested in anything else happening in Beverly Hills after a line like that, but I was surprisingly charmed by Garcelle's dating coach. I love having a single Beverly Hills Housewife, and I absolutely want to see what Garcelle is bringing to a first date (I hope it's cleavage). Garcelle admits that truly letting someone into her life feels like "relinquishing [her] power" that she - and her mother who brought her to the United States - worked so hard for. It's hard for her to trust that anyone would truly have her back, but a dating coach with a portable whiteboard and an ability to bring tears to the surface in two minutes flat is her first step toward trying.
Elsewhere, Kyle makes Sutton get a mammogram (a great habit of Kyle's), and also tells Sutton that Crystal told Dorit she "violated" her in Tahoe in an effort to get Sutton to nip this Crystal situation in the bud, as opposed to just letting it filter into nothingness by never talking about it again (a bad habit of Kyle's). I've been impressed with how much wreckage that one little Tahoe trip caused, but one of the Beverly Hills Housewives' worst traits is their inability to let anything go - let the mouse go, if you will - and I do think a lot of that comes down to Kyle. Her attempts to "nip things in the bud" require a lot of prolonged conversations where everyone just reinforces their own ideas over and over.
We see Dorit and Kyle have yet another conversation about what happened on the plane (Kyle interrupted Dorit, Dorit snapped at Kyle), but the bottom line is that Dorit talks too much, Kyle inserts herself in the middle of conversations too much, and they're never going to change that about themselves. They can just live happily together until the next time it happens.
Likewise, Crystal thinks Sutton did something wrong (entering her room unannounced, and making a weird joke when she saw her naked), and Sutton doesn't. The flashback shows that Sutton was being weird, but not quite as weird as Crystal perceived her being. Everyone has a different opinion on this, no opinion is fact, and the only way to stop talking about it - and not ruin a completely adorable dumpling-making party at Crystal's house - is just to stop talking about it.
That's not exactly what happens, but Crystal and Sutton do talk about not talking about it a lot. First, they talk about it in private when Crystal pulls Sutton aside to say that she's aware people are still talking about what happened in Tahoe, and she's sure it's annoying Sutton as much as it's annoying her. Sutton says she's also been made aware of that, but more specifically, that Crystal didn't keep her promise not to talk about it to the other women. Crystal gasps that everyone keeps asking her about it, so what is she supposed to do, as the editors helpfully provide flashbacks of Crystal telling literally every single one of the other women what happened, in full detail, after they asked, "What happened?"
I don't really blame Crystal for telling the other women what happened, but she probably shouldn't have promised not to when she clearly wanted to. Still, both Sutton and Crystal agree that they'd already decided to move on before they left Tahoe, so they need to just get in front of the other women and tell them that they've moved on, so everyone else should too…
And then they get in front of the other women and make it very clear that they haven't moved on. Sutton draws everyone's attention, recaps their awkward moment in Tahoe, and Crystal wraps the speech up with: "It's important for us to let you know it's truly over." To which, Sutton says, if it's really over, Crystal needs to stop talking about it to other people. Crystal blinks hard, and then reiterates that she's not going to talk about it anymore; Sutton says it's defamatory to say she "violated" her. Crystal says there were no boundaries in that moment; Dorit chimes in to support Cyrstal; Garcelle chimes in to stop Dorit from chiming in. "It's over!" Crystal cries out. "Well, while we're on this topic, I'm not crazy," Sutton brings up out of the blue, telling Crystal that it was not okay to call her manic just because she had two bad days. "I'm going to believe you," Crystal says, which Sutton doesn't like.
It is a totally normal, healthy, and productive conversation between friends…
Just kidding, it's enraging nonsense. At least there are dumplings afterward to make everyone happy, and Erika ominously saying, "I just have so many challenges in front of me, and there's so much that these women don't know," to take us into next week. See you there!
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Bravo’s guilty-pleasure franchise meets California luxe