When there is nothing left to own, you have to set yourself on fire

In which I return to survey the wreckage of Denise Richards.

High Drama is back, resurrected by the truly egregious display of fuckery throughout the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion. (Did it need to be three parts? Did they show restraint by editing out a fourth episode that was just Denise silently weeping and going over her sides?)

But seriously, I miss writing, which is to say I miss writing about theater, Housewives, horror, and any other facets of pop culture I’ve managed to find a way to talk about here. Between my full-time job and the ongoing collapse of civilization, I can’t promise a return to full regularity, but I’m going to do my damnedest to be as online here as I am on Twitter. Posts will continue to be free, though I hope you’ll consider an unpaid subscription just for the thrill of having an extra email to delete from time to time.

Anyway, enough preamble. Now that the season has (mercifully) ended: RHOBH power rankings.

1. Dorit. I truly never would have guessed that Dorit — Dorit — would end up in the top position, but there really wasn’t that much competition. She had a great season! As a homosexual who doesn’t understand fashion, I’m not sure I get all her looks, but Dorit continues to strike me as someone cosplaying as a glamorous person, and I love that. Like pretending that Buca di Beppo is a very important Italian restaurant, I think it qualifies as camp. She was also one of the few women who emerged from the season appearing to be at least mostly decent, believing Denise over Brandi because Denise is her friend and sometimes that’s just what you do! Should Dorit be the voice of reason? Well, no, but here we are.

2. Garcelle. The only reason Garcelle didn’t claim the number one spot is that she simply wasn’t around enough, and that was really unfortunate, because I enjoyed every one of her appearances. She strikes me as someone who is genuinely busy, both professionally and personally, and I can understand why she opted out of so many group events. It just made her feel less integral to the season as Sutton, at times. It’s not Garcelle’s fault that the Housewife she most closely allied herself with ended up preemptively fleeing the show! But while she may not have been as present as I would have liked, she did call out Kyle and Rinna on their bullshit, and that’s reason enough to put her in second place.

3. Sutton. Give this woman a diamond. Sutton arrived insufferable and quickly became a breath of fresh Southern air (I’m confident she smells of peaches and magnolias underneath the Dolce & Gabbana). Sutton told Dorit to “let the mouse go,” an instantly iconic line. She called Teddi boring to her face. And, most importantly, she seemed eager to be part of the group in a way that could have been Elyse-level cringey if she hadn’t been so damn charming about it. I adore Sutton, and I really feel like she’s the perfect blend of rich lady nonsense and surprising self-deprecation this franchise needs. Along with Garcelle, she’s the only one of these women I actually want to hang out with.

4. Erika. I’ve always been a little chilly on Erika (get it? because she’s cold), but this was mostly a good season for her. She felt engaged in a way she hadn’t been in ages. She was fun, she was communicative, she didn’t make Eileen cry for no reason. I actually appreciated the way Erika stood up for herself with Aaron, because it did remind me of her first season beef with PK. Also, genuinely happy that she got to do Chicago, and since I was lucky enough to see her in the role, I will afford bonus points for her being a damn good Roxie. Unfortunately, by the end of the season, Erika had turned on Denise. If she’d opted out of the pile-on — which she easily could have done — she’d be up there with Dorit.

5. Denise. I really wanted to root for Denise this season, because the villain edit she was getting throughout the early episodes was so transparent that it felt ridiculous. She didn’t want her kids hearing the women talk about threesomes. Who cares? Where I landed with everything that followed is that she probably had sex with Brandi, but almost everything else about that story was made up with the intention to harm her. Sadly, Denise did herself no favors with the way she handled everything, including her snarky confessional quips that made it seem like she was lying. But she was also put in a tough position, and I do believe she was probably thinking about what Brandi spilling about her open marriage could do to her family, particularly her ongoing custody clashes with Charlie Sheen.

I was fascinated by the way Denise tried to essentially dismantle The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills from within, as Brian Moylan so beautifully articulated. But while I enjoyed seeing Denise confront Rinna on the fundamental flaw of her character — Lisa is so committed to being a good reality TV personality that she will torpedo a 20-year friendship for the storyline — by the end of the reunion, it was just unpleasant to watch. Denise didn’t want to make the devil’s bargain that so many of these women have made, sacrificing their reputations and emotional wellbeing for a chance at celebrity and exposure. (Frankly, she had done that prior to joining the cast.) By the time she wanted to opt out, however, it was too late, and no amount of “Bravo, Bravo, fucking Bravo” could save her.

6. Kyle. The one backhanded compliment I will give Kyle is that she was more upfront about being an asshole this season, and I guess I respect that. I don’t think it’s owning it, the way Rinna would demand, so much as being unable to hide what a selfish, petty, manipulative person she can be. I think she had more to do with the The Plot Against Denise Richards than she will ever admit: My theory is that Kim passed along the information, and Kyle decided to make sure it got on the show. Aside from that, she’s not a particularly compelling presence, and she’s as much a backseat producer as LVP was at this point, so I’m not sure why she continues to get a pass. What does she offer that we should have to put up with this? Her pathological inability to restrain herself from doing the splits at least once a season? I could live without it!

7. Rinna. I honestly believe that Rinna thinks she is earning her paycheck, and frankly, she pretty much is. But there’s a fine line between stirring the pot and sadism, and she really slid full force into relentless cruelty by the end of the season. Maybe there are people who enjoy Rinna’s schtick, which is to play the soap opera villain under the pretense of being a truth-teller who just wants people to own it, but her obsession with crushing Denise was one of the ugliest things I’ve seen on this franchise in years. Even after she’d clearly “won,” in the sense that Denise was never going to return to the show, she couldn’t let the mouse go. To see Denise genuinely shell-shocked at the betrayal of a friend, and Rinna’s smug pride at a job well done, was truly revolting.

8. Teddi. Natalie Walker said it best: “I do not like when the people on TV are both evil and boring. Choose!” Who is Teddi Mellencamp in this world? Even if I were just focusing on her on-camera behavior, she would be at the bottom of the pile. Teddi is a completely useless addition to the franchise, a needy, unlikeable attention drain who was determined to destroy Denise because Denise maybe called her thirsty and boring once — and truly, who among us. Oh, and then there’s this horrifying shit. Please fire this woman, both because she’s bad TV and, more pressingly, because she is doing active harm with her platform. Shame on production for enabling this.

Photo via Bravo.