If this were any other season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — or at least any of the last, say, seven seasons of RHOBH — this hour would have been your typical group trip episode wherein some of the gals go shopping, some do a weird sport, and they meet back up for a dinner that goes a little sideways. And this season, it would be all the more boring because COVID means it can't even go sideways in public, and everyone has to be sequestered to a house or hotel and eat out of very sad takeout containers.
All of that happened, of course, and it was boring — why are these women acting like they've never ridden a bike around a town before? (In Kathy Hilton's case, I would not be surprised to learn that she's never been to a town before, but she wasn't on this little bike adventure; she was inquiring if anyone was carrying chia seeds in their pockets so that she could make her now-famous morning/whenever-she-wakes-up milkshake.) However, in between the normal ebbs and flows of an RHOBH group trip episode, something wild keeps taking place in season 11: Erika continues to go through a divorce-turned-legal-battle with her estranged husband Tom Girardi, whom she continues to paint in a new and wild light each episode.
Last week, over lasagna and rock-hard rolls, we heard about how the fender bender that Tom got into a few years ago was actually a near-death experience wherein Tom drove off a cliff, was thrown from the car, and found unconscious by Erika. But he was also… missing for 12 hours, and then called Erika. And Erika also… assumed he was out cheating on her for those 12 hours. Also, as opposed to just tweaking his ankle like she originally said, we learned that Tom broke his ribs and ankle. This week, we learn that the head trauma inflicted by that accident — which even at the time, Erika and Tom covered up for some reason — turned Tom into a completely different person.
But the most important factor to the new revelations we learn about Erika and Tom this week: Garcelle is back.
It was her hosting gig on The Real that made Garcelle need to arrive at La Quinta later than the other women, but I think it's also Garcelle's gig at The Real that has prepared her for this very moment. Garcelle has always been down to just ask someone why they're rich in the middle of the breadbasket or tackle an uncomfortable issue at an uncomfortable time in an uncomfortable way. And now that asking people questions is literally her job, she seems to have gotten even more fearless about it — which I didn't necessarily think was possible.
Now, I'm not sure how I would feel about a straightforward friend like Garcelle grilling me even when I didn't want to talk. As a viewer, however, Garcelle is a vital tool to actually force some of these women to have a real conversation, rather than have a glossy conversation IRL, and then say how they really feel in their testimonials, where it does absolutely nothing. If Garcelle had been listening to that car story, she would have asked how Erika could have found Tom unconscious outside of the car but also been called by Tom for the first time 12 hours after he drove off a cliff — I know she would have. And maybe the answer would have been a simple one, and not nearly as suspicious as Erika's meandering story made the circumstances seem. We'll never know though because Garcelle wasn't there…
But now she is.
The women wake up the morning after Erika's emotional reveal still reeling a little bit (they're also hungover, good on 'em). Dorit keeps saying she can't believe how much Erika has held inside in a way I don't find totally genuine, and Sutton is beginning to sow her subtle seeds of descent, saying that it all reminds her of "the Madoff thing — like, what is actually happening?" Erika arrives from where she's staying at the nearby La Quinta Resort (so weird to see in the context of another reality show besides The Bachelorette), but since she didn't sleep well last night, she stays behind while the others go on a bike ride. After all, there's a brand new headline about Tom suffering a serious illness in recent months that caused him to be hospitalized. Erika says she doesn't know what it's referencing, but she's sure she'll find out in another headline soon.
There's a lot that Erika says she doesn't know. For example, she has apparently owned a house in La Quinta, in Kyle's neighborhood, for the entire time Kyle has been vacationing out there. She's never been inside said house and doesn't even know what the address is. Kathy says she could simply tell the security people that she has so many houses, she forgot where this one was, and they'll let her in. There is not a doubt in my mind that Kathy is speaking from personal and specific experience.
Ultimately, Kyle tracks down the address of the house, looks it up, and finds out that Tom sold it in 2018 — another thing that Erika didn't know about. This leads Sutton to hammer in the importance of getting a good financial forensics team to go through their entire financial history to determine appropriate spousal support in a divorce. She says in these kinds of high-yielding divorces, a forensic team finds the deepest, darkest money: "Like the Turks and Caicos money." But Sutton missed the conversation during biking earlier where the others hypothesized that there may not really be any money to be uncovered. Of course, the other option is that Erika might not want all of the money that's bounced around in their marriage to be tracked down.
Much like Erika: we simply don't know. But Garcelle is willing to put in a little leg work to get to the bottom of a few things that have her curious. Crystal filled Garcelle in on what she missed the night before — that Tom has been losing cognitive function for years, and also cheating on Erika for years — and Garcelle is a little confused. Because a few weeks ago, when Erika came over to Garcelle's house, Erika said that there was "no third party on his part" that she knew of. "I don't know why she wouldn't admit that to me, especially knowing my background," Garcelle says.
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But when Garcelle, Crystal, and Erika go on a hike together while the others go shopping, she has a lot more questions for Erika about the ins and outs of what's happening with her legally. First, in reference to Erika saying earlier in the day that she'd never had a debit card until she left Tom, Garcelle asks if she got an allowance. Erika grits out that she didn't get an allowance, she just bought everything on credit cards, and if she needed cash, she'd ask Tom for cash.
Garcelle knows she's being a lot, but she says in her testimonial that it's "killing me inside not to ask her" about this stuff. But it should be noted that Garcelle… is asking about this stuff. She is showing no restraint whatsoever! Because next, Garcelle asks Erika: "With any of the lawsuits, did you like, have a heads up — is that why you got divorced?"
You know, the one thing that Erika has been adamant about defending. She doesn't seem disturbed by the mounting evidence to prove that her husband was funding their lavish lifestyle with money he stole from the vulnerable parties he represented, but she is appalled that anyone would accuse her of a sham divorce.
In the scene we saw all over the season 11 trailer, Erika slowly nods her head "yes" to Garcelle's question about whether she knew about the lawsuits, but she says, "No I did not." Erika seems annoyed with Garcelle asking, so I'm surprised at how much she actually opens up… but maybe she feels like the table really has been cleared for an honest conversation. She tells Crystal and Garcelle that Tom's head injury three years ago made him act like a totally different person. He stopped having conversations like they used to have, told the same stories over and over, would forget what they were talking about while they were talking about it, and if she said anything about it, he would become rageful.
Garcelle asks, "So if all those things truly happened that they're saying happened, do you think it's because, mentally, things were in decline?" And Erika says yes; she doesn't think he was doing any of it intentionally, which is certainly the most directly she's addressed Tom's alleged misdeeds yet. As they head back from their hike toward the car, the women keep talking in a way that almost seems like they're not totally aware this footage might be used — I say that mostly because all of the camera shots are from far away, and maybe even drone footage. But the audio is crystal clear: Erika tells Garcelle and Crystal that she hasn't talked to Tom at all, but he calls her every day: "You know, it's just horrible, 'I love you, I miss you, come home, are you sure?' I'm like, you gotta stop, you have to stop honey, you need help — and I can't give it!"
Erika doesn't seem to be sharing this information begrudgingly like she was when answering some of Garcelle's prior questions, and Garcelle doesn't even ask anything to prompt this particular share. She's just opening up… she's opening up about something she's never admitted to the other women before and has perhaps even suggested the opposite at times. Erika has told everyone over and over that she hasn't spoken to Tom since the day she left their house, and early on, she referenced how angry he must be at her, and that she anticipated he would be vengeful. So something has changed: either Tom's attitude or Erika's story.
Perhaps that can explain what happens next. When they get back to the house, Erika, Crystal, and Garcelle continue to chat in the living room, and when everyone else joins them (Kathy with six heaping bags of Del Taco, obviously), Erika says that she may wind up having to leave early to deal with some things that are emerging from a hearing. That's when Garcelle speaks up: "Erika shared — if you don't mind me saying, Erika — that Tom calls her."
Now, Garcelle says it gently, like she really is just filling everyone in on details she assumed Erika would want to share with them just like she had with her and Crystal…
But to be fair to Erika — an instinct I rarely feel these days — it's not Garcelle's story to share. Crystal later says that Erika told her she didn't want to share that with the larger group, but Garcelle was already in the car at that point and didn't receive the same message. Erika's face looks stricken when Garcelle shares that Tom calls her, and she responds, "Well I do mind you saying that because I feel like you're betraying my friendship right now, but please, have your moment."
I wonder if Garcelle would have just apologized had Erika merely said she felt betrayed, and not added on that Garcelle "got it out of me once, and now you want to do it again." This idea that Garcelle "got" that information out of Erika is inaccurate, but it's clearly something she feels because she says it over and over again. Which would suggest that this wasn't information Erika intended to share, and maybe she's having regret about it. But Erika is so visibly upset, that I kept expecting Garcelle to apologize… but she doesn't. Erika says she was sharing a private moment that she hasn't told everyone, and everything is not up for discussion. "I've been very open, and very honest," she chokes out. "So I think that was dirty."
Garcelle doesn't like that accusation, but says that she'll "own it." She says in her testimonial that she genuinely thought Erika wanted to share that with the group: "I didn't think me asking Erika about Tom calling her to the friends she's known longest would be a big deal." Crystal seems very upset about what's happening because she knew the information was private, but also knows that Garcelle didn't know that, and therefore sees this clearly as the misunderstanding it is. But most everyone else seems upset that Erika is upset… but also confused. "What did Garcelle ask that was so bad?" Sutton asks in her testimonial. "People don't react to questions like that unless something else is happening."
Erika excuses herself to the bathroom to absolutely sob, and everyone else sort of stares around in stunned silence at the chill that's gone over the room. And, presumably, they'll be sitting there, staring at each other, eating Del Taco until the show returns next week with some answers about what the hell just happened. See you there!