The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap: A federal criminal investigation is, like, not cool
"It's mile one of a marathon, and that's really the truth," Erika says early on this episode. She's talking about the revelation that she's being implicated in a suit against her now-estranged husband for allegedly embezzling money from widows and orphans. But she also could have been talking about the way the editors innocently opened this episode with Crystal's smirk-that-launched-a-thousand-screams that carried us out of last week, only to then deliver a marathon episode complete with criminal charges and enough mascara tracks to make Lauren Conrad weep.
I think I could have ridden Crystal's week-old smirk and resulting conversation for the better part of an hour, but no — this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is simply serving it up hot, heavy, and occasionally, atop a balcony. In this episode alone, we got the confrontation to (ideally) end all confrontations between Crystal and Sutton, three Housewives contracting COVID, the news breaking about Tom and Erika being sued while the women were in quarantine, and Erika having a full-on, potentially somewhat honest breakdown while sitting on rocks with Kyle.
At one point, Rinna FaceTimes with one of her daughters (and her daughter's Love Island boyfriend), and you could actually feel the episode come screeching to a halt the moment a "vlogging camera" was mentioned. If this season manages to convince the editors that we do not require scenes of Lisa Rinna FaceTiming from her garage, then it will have done its job. But already, it is doing so much more than that.
Following last week's "To Be Continued," this episode picks right back up with Crystal calling Sutton jealous, and Sutton storming off screaming those seven little words you always dream your second-favorite RHOBH Housewife will say: "Jealous of what, your ugly leather pants?!" The chaos that ensues among the other women in response to Sutton insulting Crystal's pants is a gorgeous sight to behold. Kyle is teetering around on kitten heels, gasping, "She said ugly leather pants, she said ugly leather pants." Garcelle, Erika, and Rinna are rushing over to talk Sutton into not leaving. Dorit is probably still applying lip gloss in her front-facing camera…and Crystal? Crystal is still standing completely still, in the middle of it all, still smirking.
She lets the other women fawn over Sutton, who is sobbing, "I didn't handle that well." And for some reason, it is their top priority to assure Sutton that all of her behavior is totally fine, and to get her back to the sitting area to continue to try and have the same conversation she's had with Crystal four times over — you know the one that has never once gone well?
And it's not going to go much differently this time! You know why? Because these two women don't like each other. They don't get along; they don't see eye-to-eye; they do not view the world through a similar lens. And most challenging of all, one of them is completely fine with that, while the other thinks she's entitled to everyone being nice to her, even when she's actively unearned that social lubricant. I am, of course, talking about Sutton, who I still can't help but enjoy for moments like these in her testimonials: "Y'know, that was wrong of me… I think they were pleather, not leather pants."
The moment everyone sits back down, Kyle is all, Hey Sutton, why did you randomly start weeping about Crystal and threatening to leave in the middle of Harry's Bolognese course? Crystal asks if she said something to trigger Sutton, and Sutton replies, "No, it's just your presence." All of the other women suck air in through their teeth, but Crystal doesn't flinch, and for once, Sutton is being straightforward with Crystal about what upset her in this specific moment. "It's hard for me to be here with you because you made judgments about me without knowing me," Sutton tells Crystal.
So Crystal is honest with Sutton right back: "You know that line, 'When people show you who they are, believe them?' It's that." But for some reason, it's fine for Sutton to say that she's uncomfortable with Crystal's actions, but it's mean for Crystal to say she's uncomfortable with Sutton's. "Why are you constantly mean?!" Sutton cries out, and Crystal has had it. You can tell Crystal has had it because her voice finally raises above the tone of a casual conversation. "You're upset because you want me to apologize for something you did!" Crystal replies. "Let's be clear, I will not apologize for your actions." Sutton starts sputtering about Crystal getting her finger out of the air, so Crystal takes it a step further: "You're an inappropriate, awkward person — period. And then you want to cry and get empathy. You're not gonna get it, trust me."
At some point, the other women stop interjecting, I assume, because they have finally recognized Crystal as a powerful new player. And perhaps because she's just been called out for crying, Sutton somehow manages not to cry now, responding that the only reason she was crying originally was that she wanted to leave.
"Then LEAVE," Crystal bellows.
Is Crystal a little "mean" in her approach to finally telling Sutton what she thinks of her? Sure! But I firmly believe Crystal was pushed to this point. After all, she was still nice to Sutton after Sutton cried about being excluded from racial stereotypes… so I really don't think Crystal is mean just to be mean as Sutton seems to be claiming. I think Crystal is mean to Sutton specifically because she's been backed into a corner where the options are either be "nice" and cave to the other women's demands that she lie about her true feelings… or be mean enough to make them stop.
Garcelle asks Sutton to put on her big girl panties ("the high waisted ones!" — Kathy E. Hilton, in the middle of a serious conversation), and tell Crystal what she needs from her to move on. Y'know, the exact same question she asked the last time they had this argument. But this time, Sutton has a slightly different response. She didn't like that Crystal called her manic, and the other women fill in the blanks that it was a particularly sensitive subject because Sutton's father was manic, a fact she had just told Crystal about the day before. And it was insensitive for Crystal to call Sutton manic — but, once again, Crystal can't change the way she feels, and she won't be persuaded into doing so. So she apologizes for making Sutton feel bad with her word choice, at which point Lisa Rinna screams out, "Don't say it unless you believe it!"
And Crystal, once again, asks them to see that she's choosing her words carefully precisely because she means them: "Lisa, did you hear what I said? I said, 'I feel bad that I said it, and I won't say it again.'" With that, Crystal and Sutton agree to move on, and in her testimonial, Sutton says this is her lowering her expectations — which is often an incredibly healthy choice! And in any other season, we would have recapped this Sutton/Crystal fight in a few more kitchens, and gone to a few more rooftop bars. But not on RHOBH season 11 — no, in season 11, you can go ahead and buckle up for the breakneck pace of five-title-cards-per-episode. Starting with:
FOUR DAYS LATER
Kyle, Dorit, and Kathy have tested positive for COVID. And there's not even time to let that sink in, because:
DEC. 2, 2020: WEEK 2 OF QUARANTINE
Garcelle calls Sutton to see if she's looked at the news today. Sutton fires up, ahem, Fox News lickety-split and sees that a lawsuit has been filed against Tom Girardi for allegedly embezzling money from the families of plane crash victims — a lawsuit that also accuses Erika Girardi of filing for a "sham divorce" to hide assets. And everyone is in quarantine, restricted to their iPads during one of the most significant revelations in RHOBH history.
TWO DAYS LATER
Kyle, Rinna, and Erika gather on Zoom to discuss how Erika is doing following the announcement of the lawsuit. Erika doesn't quote Dorinda Medley to answer, but I will: Not well, bitch! Erika says that it's insane to call her divorce a sham, and "nobody cares about the facts."
She proceeds to provide no facts for us to care about. That may sound a little callous considering that she is clearly going through it in this scene, but that's because…
FIVE DAYS LATER
Finally out of quarantine, Crystal and Rinna go over to Erika's (very nice, $9,000/month) home to check on her. And this is the conversation that made it difficult for me to muster any sympathy for Erika throughout the rest of the episode, even if — huge, giant IF! — she learned about the allegations against Tom at the exact moment the public did.
First, Erika says that people "want to believe" that her divorce is a sham "because there's a sadistic streak in everybody." Which I take issue with. Not that there's a sadistic streak in everybody — there is. But it's that exact streak that has made Erika Jayne famous; that is foundational to the TV show she stars on; that has given her the amount of financial independence it took to be able to rent this $9,000/month house. Erika doesn't owe her viewing public anything, of course. But we also don't owe her our allegiance when the tough gets going, and she has to get tough. Because reality TV is not a court of law; there's no "innocent until proven guilty" here (just ask Denise Richards). This is an industry built on casting judgment based on a limited supply of information! But much more important than any of the silly social dynamics between Housewife and Bravo audience is the fact that…
Erika is not the biggest victim here. In fact, she was possibly benefiting from her husband's alleged embezzlement, a fact that she shows no signs of bothering her. When Crystal and Rinna first arrive, she tells them that she called her psychiatrist because "it's too much pressure. It's so painful when you read things about that lawsuit." I assumed, as I'm sure most did, that she meant it was painful to read about the vulnerable people that Tom is accused of misleading and stealing from…
But she doesn't! Using a lengthy Daily Mail headline as a tool to show just how self-absorbed Erika is being, the editors bold out the itty bitty part that says "sham divorce" — surrounded by the parts about widows and orphans and embezzlement — as Erika cries, "It says my divorce is a sham so I can hide assets!" That's the sole painful part for Erika, who says that if Tom is going down, he's taking the whole ship down with him: "The people that stayed by him, the people who were loyal to him… he's made a mess for all of us." Yes, Erika, Tom has made a mess for you and his colleagues, and absolutely no one else.
It's simply hard to find sympathy for someone who seems to be offering so little herself.
AN UNTITLED AMOUNT OF DAYS LATER
Erika meets Kyle in the park, and this time she's ready to let her emotions run free. No, we don't get any real details, or any complete denouncement of what Tom is accused of having done — which I feel like would be my number one priority were I to find myself in the same situation — but Erika sobs to Kyle that she feels helpless. "There's nothing I can do except wait to tell my side of the story." She says that of course her divorce isn't a sham because who would want to be in the situation she's in right now, capping that thought off with a top contender for line-of-the-season: "Being the possible target of a federal criminal investigation is, like, not cool."
Erika cries that Kyle would be shocked at how quickly people distance themselves from you when times get rough. It's all very lonely, and she says she hopes Tom has someone checking in on him, but it's not going to be her. She makes it clear in her testimonials that Tom wasn't as supportive at home as he made himself seem to the outsider, especially in recent years. "I can't believe I'm saying this," Erika says, pausing for dramatic effect, "but as much as Tom encouraged me, I think he resented me every step I took forward." She thinks he'll punish her until the very end. And that's exactly where she feels like she's arrived: "This is the end."
It's also the end of this recap, but thankfully, not even close to the end of this season. See you back here next week to wade through more Daily Mail headlines and mascara tracks, searching for clues.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Bravo’s guilty-pleasure franchise meets California luxe