The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap: Who is Hunky Dory?
The best seasons of The Real Housewives present a season-spanning, unavoidable paradox: I can know that, morally speaking, Monique should not have slammed Candiace's wig into a plate of charcuterie, and yet still consider Monique the protagonist; I can want the best for Kim Richards while still wanting the worst possible thing for Kim Richards — to star on a reality television show with her sister, Kyle; and on this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I can love both Sutton and Crystal equally, even if they diametrically oppose every single thing about one another.
Crystal and Sutton are two parts of the same whole; they are two perfect math equations for what makes a dynamic Housewife coming together in season 11 to create pure chaos. Watching Sutton kick up a Tasmanian Devil dust cloud of insecurity all over Lisa Rinna's yard, screaming about Crystal's "ugly leather pants," while Crystal stands calmly in said leather pants, smirking at the chaos she's wrought via the use of one single word was simply a classic Housewives moment. And I'm thankful for both of the Housewives that brought it to us.
So, when the editors opened with this classic Housewives moment, only to then immediately cut to Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna at the market three days earlier, I could not believe they were suggesting that Rinna picking about baby portobellos somehow caused this earth-shattering rift between Sutton and Crystal… ONLY FOR THAT ASSUMPTION TO ACTUALLY BE PROVEN TRUE BY EPISODE'S END! This is the butterfly effect of rich women: the Bolognese Effect, if you will.
Lisa and Harry are at the market because they're preparing to have the women over for a lunch to celebrate Garcelle's birthday, and put Harry to work turning their home-garden harvest into his famous Bolognese. Elsewhere, Crystal and Erika play tennis on Kathy Hilton's tennis court while Kathy sleeps inside, welcoming them into her fully blue-and-white home (pajama set included) afterward. Kathy and Crystal both commend Erika for starting over without any of the "help" that she became accustomed to living with Tom over the last 20 years.
It's a refrain that Rinna echoes later when she and Sutton visit Erika's new rental house, which Erika repeatedly describes as "cute" and "tiny." I think it's a defense mechanism to get ahead of anyone else talking about the downgrade in size of her living accommodations, but the suggestion that Erika is living humbly while entertaining her friends in a cabana at her $9,500/month rental home, and housing her clothes and shoes in two gorgeous spare bedrooms is… annoying! Ultimately, Erika tells Rinna and Sutton that she's happier now because, "when you're not being heard, when you're bringing up real things that need to be talked about, and it's pushed out — there's only so much time before you go, 'You know what, wait a minute.'"
Which is to say that Erika tells Sutton and Rinna (and us) absolutely nothing about the reason she's getting divorced. Because that's what Erika does: purposefully says a lot in order to say nothing. As opposed to Sutton, who is always accidentally saying everything while trying to play it cool. When she arrives at Erika's house, Sutton acts faux-coy about giving Erika a Dolce and Gabbana coffee table book that happens to feature photos of herself inside it. And that's fine! That's a nice gift, and it's fun that Sutton is featured in it. But as a fellow Southerner, I've been working on a theory about Sutton's gift-giving: namely, that she always arrives with a gift not because she's particularly generous (although, she very well could be), but because, by making herself the generous, well-mannered friend, she gives herself value that she's perhaps not fully confident she possesses otherwise.
I say this not because I know Sutton personally, but because this is a type of person. We all know one. If you're a millennial, and you therefore worship at the shrine of Enneagram, you probably know them as a toxic 2. They push their help and generosity upon others, but when it's not valued, they become insecure and needy. Sutton brings Fireball to parties to telegraph that she's quirky and fun; she brings monogrammed gifts to every group trip to endear herself to each woman; and it is absolutely no coincidence that, in this episode, Sutton suddenly starts spiraling at the exact moment that her enemy (Crystal) presents a thoughtful birthday gift to her main ally (Garcelle) on the one occasion that she's shown up empty-handed…
And herein lies the value of Sutton to us, the RHOBH audience: our girl is an absolute field day of fascinating human behavior!
But before we get to those Fiestaware bowls full of Bolognese, I think it's about time we address the Dorit in the room: is she a "Friend Of" this season? What is going on?! Is she really giving so little that she's repeatedly not showing up until the very end of each episode? We see Garcelle at home with her boys, and Kyle at home with her girls, and Kathy at home with her croissants — but Dorit doesn't show up on our screens until Kyle picks her up for Rinna's pasta party, at which point, she drones on about how she's making the natural transition from bikini designer to wedding dress designer because she is, at heart, a designer. (This does, however, give the editors an amazing opportunity to flashback to Dorit's artisanal foray into restaurant (room) design at Buca di Beppo last season.)
Finally, it's time to descend upon the Rinna abode for what might just be the scene-of-the-season. Things get off to a rocky start when Kathy immediately greets Sutton as "Tomassina," and Sutton once more gets very passive-aggressive about it, saying, "that's fun" — because it was all fun and games when she was making jokes about walking in on other people naked at Crystal's expense, but now that the jokes are at her expense, it's time to let the mouse go!
But things settle down once Harry serves up the Bolognese and joins the women for lunch, at which point he expresses his feelings about his 19-year-old daughter Amelia dating 37-year-old Scott Disick: he thinks it's odd, but hey, he married a 44-year-old woman when he was 29. Which is, very obviously, not the same situation by — let me crunch a few numbers here — 10 years of maturing.
Weird conversations about Scott Disick's habit of dating famous teenagers aside, it's a nice, relaxed lunch that soon converts into a birthday party for Garcelle when Rinna surprises her with a cake. When the other women start producing gift bags from under their chairs, Sutton looks stricken. She exclaims that she didn't know she should bring a gift, as the editor's flashback to Rinna telling everyone the week before that she was going to surprise Garcelle with a cake, and they were welcome to bring gifts if they wanted; a conversation Sutton was very much there for, but it was after the last time she got worked up about Crystal feeling violated by her weeks ago, so she was a little distracted.
Now, however, she's laser-focused on the fact that Crystal teamed up with Kyle and Kathy to give Garcelle a ring that she'd recently admired on Crystal, a gesture that Garcelle finds so thoughtful (a descriptor that Sutton works very hard to be). Sutton starts aggressively applying lipstick in a way that feels like the grown-up version of chewing on your own hair. Kyle registers that something is off, scoots over to Sutton, and does her Kyle thing: tries to force Sutton to talk about something that is clearly going to derail the entire party.
Sutton says she just doesn't want to be there and doesn't like being where people don't like her, while she sits one seat away from Crystal, who can almost definitely hear them, but as usual, doesn't care. Which is, of course, the main source of Sutton's rage. She cares so much that this thing between herself and Crystal is unsettled, and Crystal doesn't care at all. Because for Crystal, it is settled. She felt Sutton violated her privacy, and she's fine with moving past that. She's also fine with Sutton not liking her word choice because it's how she really felt. But Sutton can't move past the mere idea that she violated someone. She is the one who keeps bringing it up, and she is the one who keeps saying there's a sexual connotation when Crystal has said repeatedly that she doesn't mean that Sutton violated her.
Kyle pulls Sutton toward the bar station in Rinna's yard and demands that Sutton tell her what's really going on. After enough pushing, Sutton explodes, "She's talked about me behind my back to everybody, I've tried to say my piece, she never apologized to me, and I've had it!" Kyle admits in her testimonial that Sutton is being irrational, yet she keeps pushing her to talk about it because she's not okay with Sutton not being okay. Hey, Kyle? Maybe this isn't a "solve it in the yard" kind of breakdown. Maybe you need to be okay with your friends being upset sometimes.
Because then everyone else starts showing up in the bar area for birthday shots, and things really go downhill. Garcelle and Dorit arrive first to find Sutton weeping, and when they ask what's going on, Sutton replies with a line for the ages: "I pray to Jesus every day, you'd think he'd throw me a bone — I just need a bone, y'know?" No one knows what she's talking about, and when they find out that it's still about Crystal, they're floored. "Sutton, we're done with this!" Garcelle cries, nay, pleads.
Sutton says she knows that she needs to move on, "but it's hard for me to sit there and pretend everything is hunky-dory when it's not." By this time, Kathy has arrived at the bar and inquires, "Who is Hunky Dory?" because she earnestly believes it's Mr. Dory who has Sutton so upset.
But it's not Mr. Dory — it's Crystal, who hasn't said a word to Sutton all day. She did, however, say (literally) one word that Sutton didn't like weeks ago, and Sutton still hasn't recovered. So, when Crystal finally makes her way to the bar, she finds Sutton crying, "We have to fix this because I'm not happy with her," completely unironically. "Me again?" Crystal asks, surprised, but seemingly resigned to her fate to be forever responsible for Sutton's lack of happiness.
Sutton says that Crystal has said a lot of things about her — no, not today, but she's thinking about them today! — and she can't sit across the table from her. "Really?" Crystal says in what I read as a genuine tone of surprise, but Sutton reads as disrespectful of her feelings. But it wouldn't really matter one way or another. Garcelle asks Sutton to just say what Sutton needs to hear from Crystal to be okay, and Sutton spits out, "I don't need anything from Crystal!" Which is so clearly untrue, it's a little heartbreaking. Sutton needs so much from Crystal, and Crystal won't give her a lick of it.
What Sutton says she needs from Crystal is an apology — which she won't give — and a retraction of the word "violated" — which she also won't give. But what Sutton seems to really need from Crystal is for her to — I don't know, validate her in some way. To show that she cares as much about this as Sutton does. But she doesn't. To quote another powerful Housewives force, Crystal said what she said, and she's standing by it. But she's also taking it a step further. Because Crystal's complete nonchalance also has the power to decimate Sutton, and Crystal knows it.
Crystal allows Sutton to yell at her a little about how she's "used so many words about me," and then when Sutton brings herself to a boil and screams, "The word violate is really crazy to me, I mean, what crazy planet do you live on?" Crystal simply deadpans: "Um, not yours." Three words — one knife.
Sutton really starts spinning out, and Crystal reiterates that she used the word correctly, and she'd say it again. Kyle chimes in that she thinks Sutton wants an apology, and Crystal briefly considers the "I'm sorry you're upset" route, but when that enrages Sutton even more, she just tells her that she's not getting an apology: "You're upset because you're jealous — period."
Sutton says that is it, she's leaving, and in the time it takes her to stomp back to the patio, she's able to think of her comeback, which she shrieks across the yard so hard, her knees buckle: "Jealous of what, Crystal? Your ugly leather pants?!"
And in Beverly Hills, them absolutely should be fightin' words. But for Crystal, they're just further proof that she's won. She stands in the yard, one hand delicately tucked into the pocket of her ugly leather pants, and smirks after the woman who has been screaming at her for the better part of 10 minutes. To me, it's all very reminiscent of that one Mad Men scene between Michael Ginsberg and Don Draper:
Ginsberg/Sutton: "I feel bad for you."
Don/Crystal: "I don't think about you at all."
Indifference really is the ultimate insult — and y'all better gird your loins because Crystal and her signature smirk are serving up a full-service Comedy Central roast this season.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Bravo’s guilty-pleasure franchise meets California luxe