Did Brandi of ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ go too far?

A few things happen in this episode on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” many of them painfully mundane. Kyle gives her terror-behind-the-wheel Alexia a new Mercedes. Ken gets his hip replaced. Lisa reprimands one of her employees. Paul tries to barbecue and shows off his unfortunate back hair. None of this matters, because the focus of this episode is THE FIGHT. Yes, on a show that spews out verbal smackdowns the way Duggars pop out babies, this battle royale might actually be memorable past next week. In fact, I think it continues into next week, as that’s the impression we get from the promo, and (thanks to the long, spidery reach of the Internet) it might have been the basis for a cease-and-desist letter against Brandi Glanville filed by Adrienne Maloof. So, whatever kickstarted this feud must have been horrible, right? There’s no way of knowing, simply because Bravo didn’t air it.

Things start off civilly enough. Lisa invites the girls to Sur Lounge to try out the new menu of itty bitty foods, and it’s all quite lovely. Brandi, who appears to have an unfortunate run-in with fillers between last week’s episode and this one, has made sure Scheana (a girl who slept with her ex-husband Eddie before Leann Rimes nabbed him) won’t be working, so the path is cleared for polite conversation and gentle giggles. Well, that could have happened except for two things: one, Brandi (who declares herself “the truth cannon” earlier in the episode) is there and two, Adrienne isn’t. 

When asked why she and Adrienne don’t seem to be getting along, Brandi eagerly takes the floor. Adrienne is a liar. Adrienne doesn’t really have a book deal. Adrienne and Paul tried to bully her into tweeting lies for them. Adrienne has chipped away at her. And then, Brandi decides to tell everyone at the table about the alleged lie Adrienne allegedly told. And Bravo cuts away to Kyle, who is staring at Brandi with a creepy, doll-like smile frozen on her face. When the alleged lie hits her, she rears back in her seat, as if the smell of gossip, once so enticing, has just taken on a whiff of eau-de-corpse. 

Apparently, Brandi’s big reveal seems to signal an end to the evening, as the ladies politely file out of the room like lemmings smelling the sea. Kim, however, can’t understand. She needs to process! The fact that she is willing to mull things over with the nearest big-lipped housewife she can find (Taylor! I keep forgetting she’s on the show!) suggests Brandi’s revelation will not be easily forgotten. And when Kim decides to share it with Adrienne and Paul at Mauricio’s big party to celebrate the launch of his real estate company, The Agency, you get the impression Mauricio won’t be selling any condos that night. Well, not unless some megamillionaire likes hysterical screaming with his or her retail therapy.

While I was watching Paul and Adrienne become more and more incensed about Brandi’s allegedly defamatory lie (I know, a lot of allegedlys here, but with these women it’s hard to know what’s real, what’s fiction and what’s reality TV), I kept wondering what could possibly be so dreadful that Adrienne has to stomp around the party promising a lawsuit. 

So, I’m thinking Brandi has accused Adrienne of killing an old boyfriend and storing his body in an old tanning bed, or of having a chronic bedwetting problem, or something that will either embarrass her so fully she can’t leave the house or land her in the hoosegow. Wetpaint has a theory and a source. If their story is true (allegedly, allegedly, allegedly), I have to admit that I just don’t see the big deal. If it’s a lie? There’s nothing about it that’s actually defamatory. Yes, it is about the Maloof-Nassifs children, and if they haven’t told the kids about this yet, it could be problematic. But I would fully expect they would be telling the kids at some point. While I don’t think it’s a bad thing (and, in fact, one of the former housewives has always been very open about doing the EXACT same thing herself), keeping it a secret (if it is a secret) from the people directly involved makes this seem shameful when it doesn’t have to be. But if Paul and Adrienne never plan to tell their kids? Well, keeping this secret is denying them some fairly important information they’d likely dig up eventually. 

I’ve never really understood why anyone who has a closely guarded secret goes on a reality TV show anyway. Even Maloof, who has what we can only call stupid family money to hand out to lawyers, must realize that she was taking an enormous risk appearing on a national TV show (if, of course, what Brandi said is true). But if she’s not hiding anything, her reaction (and Paul’s reaction) seems excessive. The girls gossip. The Internet gossips. What we know of any public figure, whether it’s a politician or a “Survivor” cast-off, is probably a mixture of truths, half-truths, misrepresentation and creative editing. If Brandi defamed Adrienne in some way, she clearly wasn’t the first. I’m fairly sure someone has pointed out that Adrienne’s voice sounds like it’s being run through the exhaust pipe of an 18-wheeler. 

What’s most interesting about this, though, is that Bravo called uncle and chose not to air this moment. I’m guessing nailing down a housewife to do this show isn’t quite as easy as, say, plucking a wannabe from obscurity for “American Idol,” and there are many escape hatches incorporated before cameras ever roll.  Lawyers are involved, contracts are scrutinized, and firm requests made. I doubt Bravo was trying to be the better party by respecting Adrienne’s privacy. No, Adrienne probably let the powers that be know that, when faced with her lawyers, they weren’t that powerful. 

As in all things, money talks — and it underscores one of the many, many flaws of reality TV. Producers can reveal anything they like about the poor, sad sap who goes on, say, “The Bachelor” and doesn’t have the resources to do anything about it when he or she is edited into a Neanderthal. It takes someone with legal eagles on retainer to make a network or a TV series buckle. While some could argue that it’s unfair that Adrienne could (and, granted, I’m assuming she did) silence the show, I would say it’s unfair that it’s usually the other way around — reality TV, more often the big gun, can create any reality it wants, show video on a loop of some unlucky goober unwittingly farting when he thought the cameras were off, or deprive contestants on a competition show of sleep and then cherry pick every cranky moment to create a “character” we love to hate. The problem with reality is that it so rarely hews anywhere near the truth — but the lasting impact is very real. 

I know, I know — anyone who signs up for one of these shows gets what they deserve, right? At this point in the long history of reality TV, anyone who thinks they’ll come across as charmingly normal is either, yes, charmingly normal or (and this is more often the case) deluded. But where is the line in the sand for reality TV? Adrienne was (allegedly, supposedly, possibly, I’m running out of words here) able to draw it, but who else?

More than one Web site has suggested (possible spoilers ahead!) that Adrienne will not be returning next season, that she and Brandi did not take the big group vacation to Paris, and that even if Adrienne had wanted to return, Bravo didn’t want her back anyway. This is hardly a tragedy, given that Adrienne hadn’t added much to the series lately. Her scenes of bickering with Paul, which once seemed sitcom-cute, now just make me uncomfortable. Adrienne probably lacks the Teflon skin needed for reality TV (which we discovered when she was deeply wounded by Lisa’s wisecracks about her dog), which may be overly sensitive or simply suggests her need for privacy outweighs her narcissism. 

It’s pretty clear that Adrienne and Brandi’s battle seeps into all of the relationships of the show, with the other housewives forced to pick sides and, I’m guessing, all future events having to be carefully orchestrated to keep either party from inadvertently revealing information that might be used against her in a court of law. It even gives Kim and Kyle a new reason to fight, as Kim’s helpful disclosure to Adrienne and Paul pretty much ruins poor Mauricio’s work-centric party. Whether or not any of these resulting battles are real, let’s hope they don’t dominate the rest of the season. As Brandi might say (after Bravo’s censors have had at it), this bleep is getting to be not so much bleeping fun anymore. 

Whose side did you take? Do you think Bravo made the right decision — or do you think it wasn’t their decision at all?