Hot Take: Lisa Rinna & Sutton Stracke Carried This Season of ‘RHOBH’

This season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was basically sponsored by the tragic chronicles of Erika Jayne. From the embezzlement allegations against her (estranged) husband Tom Girardi to the scrutiny of her suspiciously well-timed divorce filing and everything in between (rolling cars, snowstorms, cheating, emergency surgeries, burglaries) there was no shortage of content to cover. In the words of Scheana Shay, it most literally was all happening to the untouchable ice queen Erika Jayne. 

But a scandal can’t stand on its own. As Meghan King so graciously set the precedent with CancerGate, and the Potomac ladies exercised with Michael Darby, you truly need someone to both recognize the potential of a Bravo God-gifted scenario, and to take a firm stance and ask the hard questions. And in this season of RHOBH, both Lisa Rinna and Sutton Stracke understood the assignment. 

Erika may have brought the tangential legal woes, surprise details about her and Tom’s pretty mess-y marriage, and more, but Rinna and Sutton were the vehicles who made that content a conversation about the cast’s stance on the matter(s), rather than a full-blown Erika pity party. 

Hear me out.

If it were up to Kyle or Dorit (sans PK), the season most definitely would have steadily chugged along. Shocking news about Erika would drop and they would run to comfort her. They’d patiently listen to her confusing explanations, partially because they didn’t want to cause waves and partially because they couldn’t be bothered to read a 4,000 word article in the LA Times

Which sure, would still be semi-interesting, because we’d see Erika’s response to the news in real time, and may have even gotten a shady comment or two from Dorit during a confessional. But overall, it’s safe to assume that even though the cast may have *gently* alluded to their suspicions behind closed doors, they likely would have never confronted Erika IRL. 

But what we got this season was so much more entertaining than the above. Sutton gave us ruthless investigative journalism, while Rinna presented us an unwavering, court-worthy defense of Erika. Despite their differing positions on the matter—actually, because of their differing positions on the matter—Sutton and Rinna’s strong opinions shifted the storyline beats away from just a regurgitation of the headlines, and made it about the cast’s dynamic in relation to how they felt about snow in Pasadena and rolling cars.

And that’s what makes a strong Housewife and memorable season. The glamorous houses and cute family moments are nice additions, but the real tea is hearing the ladies voice their stance on matters that the viewers and Bravo fandom sure as hell are tweeting about and taking sides on. 

Because Rinna and Sutton took the risk of sharing their perspectives, it paved the way for the others, including an initially timid Kyle and fence-sitting Dorit, to throw shade at Erika’s ever-changing stories, discuss what Erika knew/didn’t know, and even speculate about whether Tom was of sound mind. 

And because Sutton was on one end of the spectrum, Rinna’s 180-degree POV complimented the stance by showing another side. Even though Rinna is generally getting heat for her actions this season (and last…), we can’t forget that her over-the-top opinions and pot stirring nature are why she’s a good housewife—she’s an exaggerated character with strong opinions, and that gives the viewers something to talk about and the cast something to fight about. Without someone like Rinna (or Sutton) initiating conflict, we’d be watching a season where everyone’s hunky dory… yawn.

And bless Rinna for giving us a B-storyline between Garcelle and herself (ICYMI: Garcelle questioned why Rinna didn’t take that same gumption to defend Denise Richards the season before as she did with Erika). Rinna’s stance—which yes, is not the side most Bravo fans agree with taking—gave Erika a partner in crime blindly loyal friend, reminiscent of vintage Kyle & LVP. 

Rinna and Sutton aside, the closest we got to confrontation was Garcelle saying “that’s not what you said the other night” to Dorit, after Dorit said to Erika that she didn’t want to pry into the legal situation. I hardly can imagine Garcelle stepping up to initiate that dialogue without Sutton, just given Garcelle’s later commentary on how she felt she didn’t fit in. And need I remind you, SUTTON was the one who called the everyone-but-Erika is-my-reputation-affected meeting at Dorit’s house, that so nicely gave Garcelle a Dorit soundbite to reference.

So TYSM, Sutton and Rinna. Even though Erika brought the headlines, you arguably made this the best season of RHOBH since PantyGate. 

Dear Erika Jayne, You’re Not The People’s Champ

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is having its best season in years. The scandal revolving around Erika Jayne and her soon-to-be ex-husband Tom Girardi is salacious, shocking, and downright nasty. I know that thanks to Erika’s scandal, this season is a lot more interesting than most. However, after seeing a few of her social media posts, I felt the need to speak up. Erika, you might have brought the heat, but you refused to play the game that we know as Housewives. Let’s get into why her uncontrollable behavior, her constant lies and deflections, and lack of a moral compass to the victims of her husband’s alleged crimes could’ve been the downfall of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills this season. 

Let’s start with the fact that Erika is paid a very cute coin to participate in this show willingly. She knows what her job entails and her behavior is hypocritical considering that she, along with the Fox Force Five, held Denise Richards to the fire last year for running away and lying all the time. While Erika might not run away from a conversation, she has made some of her castmates want to jump out of their skin and run into traffic after having a conversation with her. See, Erika doesn’t know how to be a grown adult and have actual conversations about what’s happening in her life. Instead, she cries and whines and flies off the handle when confronted about an issue. When Sutton confronted Erika at Kathy Hilton’s dinner party about her inaccuracies when recounting Tom’s “accident,” Erika went ballistic. First of all, who screams at someone at a dinner party? Let alone at Kathy Hilton’s house. Second of all, Erika knew she was going to be confronted with this, because this wasn’t her first time having this type of discussion with Sutton. How can you pretend to be surprised when none of your stories add up? Especially when you’re adding allegedly at the end of every story. You mean to tell me that Tom (allegedly) got into an accident (allegedly) and broke his hip (allegedly) and injured his brain (allegedly). Your son (allegedly) found him in a ditch (allegedly) in the middle of the forest? “Allegedly?” Girl, this is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, not mad libs. 

Let’s also address the fact that none of Erika’s stories make sense. Every time she talks about her situation, she adds new details—a telltale sign someone might be lying. First, she said Tom was found in a ditch in the middle of the forest. She goes on to say that she refused doctors’ orders for him to go into surgery for an “ankle-related injury” because his brain injury could be “affected” by the anesthesia, which was later disproved by fellow Housewife and anesthesiologist Dr. Tiffany Moon. Then, she tells us that Tom’s house was broken into (which was true) but then she says that the robbers attacked him and that her son went over to help and then ended up in a car accident on his way back home, due to snow. Not just any car accident, oh no, it couldn’t just be ANY car accident; she tells us that her son flipped over five times in the snow. Strangely enough, there actually was snow in the LA area at the time, but it seems doubtful that it was really enough to cause a big car accident. See, Erika can’t seem to keep up with her endless stories. She adds the word “allegedly” at the end of every story that she was “there” for. She constantly twists the narrative to make it seem like anyone who raises any eyebrows to her situation is a villain and that she is the victim here. 

Speaking of victims, let’s talk about the actual victims in this case. Tom Girardi is being accused of some downright disgusting shit. Allegedly (I got you, Erika), he took money from burn victims, orphans, and widows (it makes you feel sick) and from just about a good chunk of his clients. Supposedly (we love a synonym), Tom used this money to fund his extravagant lifestyle, which included the lifestyle of Erika Jayne. Now, here is where Erika loses people. Erika refuses to show any sympathy; instead, we get many scenes of her crying about how f*cked up her life is. As Garcelle said in a confessional, “What about these poor victims that have nothing and now have less?” Girl, I promise you if you can afford to live in LA, pay for glam, and pay for extravagant and rather expensive outfits amid these lawsuits, then you’re good. You might not be where you once were, but you’re not the actual victim here. On another note, you’re not the reason why the show is spectacular this season. If it wasn’t for Sutton and Garcelle constantly questioning your lies, we would’ve been stuck watching you push out a narrative that we know isn’t true. If it wasn’t for Kathy Hilton and her quick one-liners, the whole season would’ve revolved around you giving us the same old rehearsed confessional reads that you give us every season. You didn’t bring your A game this season; the success of the season isn’t because of you. 

I wish Erika had shown more sympathy toward the actual victims. I wish she didn’t go out of her way to attack anyone who contested her unbelievable stories inundated with inaccuracies and faulty timelines. You can’t proclaim to be “the people’s champ”, when you can’t even tell “the people” the whole truth. If you couldn’t speak your truth due to legalities, then you shouldn’t have signed up for another season of the show.  But then again, it is “XXPEN$IVE” to be you, especially with all the money you’re going to have to pay back to these poor victims. Allegedly.

Image: Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Hot Take: Let’s Keep Erika Jayne On ‘RHOBH’ For As Long As We Can

There’s nothing that brings the internet together like a good old fashioned scandal. Whether that’s Hilaria “how you say cucumber in English” Baldwin, the O.J. trials, or Tom and Erika Girardi vs. everyone they’ve (allegedly) f*cked over. 

As of late 2020, Erika Jayne/Girardi officially transcended the reality TV world into mainstream news and pop culture after she filed for divorce from Tom and the couple was sued for allegedly leveraging their breakup to embezzle money. And even though the Housewives franchises are no stranger to legal scandals (Teresa Guidice, Lynne Curtin, Jen Shah, etc.), Tom’s reputation and the sheer gravitas of the situation has catapulted the story into major news outlets like the LA Times and CNN — but most importantly, it’s being featured on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Up until this season, Erika Jayne was the Kourtney Kardashian of RHOBH: boring AF (Kim said it, not me). And sure, unlike Kourtney, Erika has been interesting to look at, but beyond that she’s been cold, reserved, and truly an enigma wrapped in a riddle and (allegedly stolen) cash. 

IMO, getting to feature the divorce/lawsuit this season is the best thing to happen to RHOBH in a looooong time. Over the past few years the franchise has been littered with trivial storylines like PuppyGate that drag out for 10 episodes longer than they should, so bringing in an actual scandal to basically be the eighth cast member this season is bringing much-needed dimension and depth to the show. Otherwise, you just know the entire season was going to be ViolateGate (Sutton vs. Crystal). Yawn. 

And I commend Erika on what she’s given us so far in season 11. She’s basically the Faye Resnick we never got — divulging her perspective on the lawsuit, commenting on Tom’s declining health, and sharing her real feelings about her and Tom’s relationship now that she doesn’t have to protect him. Her storyline this season has seriously resurrected the franchise from the brink of irrelevance, lacing it with a hint of true crime-ish elements combined with a more open and off-the-cuff Erika who’s actually pulling her weight within the cast. 

And that leads me to my hot take: let’s keep The Pretty Mess on RHOBH as long as she’s still being… well, pretty messy. 

If I’m getting too far ahead, there are CliffsNotes below to get you up to speed. But if you already have your PhD in the Erika/Tom scandal like me, feel free to skip the summary and get straight into my open letter to Bravo on why they should keep Erika around for season 12. 

Erika’s Involvement in the Lawsuit(s)

About a month after Erika filed for divorce, Edelson PC filed a class action lawsuit against Erika and Tom, alleging that the couple embezzled settlement funds meant for victims who lost family in the 2018 Boeing plane crash. The lawsuit also claimed that the “‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money…”. 

On the heels of that, Tom’s former business partners filed a separate suit against him, claiming that Tom kept funds over $315,000 that he owed them for his own gain.

And although all this shadiness was allegedly orchestrated by Tom, the scandal is being framed in a way that implies Erika is guilty by association — and not just because of the allegedly opportunistic divorce, but also because her company EJ Global received over $20 million in loans from Tom’s law firm

That $20 million was probably spent on her glam squad’s room and board during cast trips alone (kidding) (not really), which makes it all the more sad to know it could have been used to pay victim settlements — and all the more infuriating considering it did not belong to Erika in the first place. And that’s a sentiment the judge agrees with, after ruling that specific victims can go after Erika for up to $11 million to replace the amount Tom never paid them.

Why This Sh*t Is Interesting

What punches up the entire storyline is the juxtaposition between the way the media/lawsuits are framing Erika, and how she’s portraying herself on RHOBH

While the lawsuits suggest that Erika had some part in/knowledge of Tom’s shady dealings, the RHOBH version of Erika is acting as if nothing illegal happened. In fact, she’s enraged that people dare speculate that the divorce timing was suspect, saying during the latest episode, “What’s being said is just, I mean, it’s insane. That my divorce is a sham, but nobody cares about the facts.” She also explicitly said the divorce wasn’t a ploy to hide assets while FaceTiming Kyle and Lisa. THE TEAAAA. 

I’m the first to admit that she’s in a sh*tty position, mostly thanks to Tom. But we can’t forget that Erika is a performer by trade with an alter ego that even Danielle Staub couldn’t pull off. We’ve seen her transform from the world’s best poker player to a puss-patting, bodysuit-wearing, loud and bright singer/dancer. All this to say, her time on the stage and those two episodes in The Young and the Restless prove that she has the chops to act the part that her PR recommends. 

And as much as I love to analyze what’s strategy and what’s not, at the end of the day I just want good TV. So Erica sharing those tidbits about the lawsuit hit hard, as did the comments about her and Tom’s pre-divorce relationship. For the past five seasons, we’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of Tom “styrofoam cup” Girardi. Not a peep of indiscretion or disagreement, and not even Kim Richards piped in threatening that she had dirtBut Erika has finally, finally expressed several iotas of emotion and raw stories about their relationship this season, and whether those are her true feelings or a narrative suggested by her PR team (or Mikey), it makes you wonder, what other dirt is she going to spill, now that she’s not protecting Tom?

And we’re going in the right direction. So far this season, Erika has detailed his heartless goodbye, admitted she was pissed he didn’t come see her on Broadway, and even expressed her fear about her public perception post-divorce in the last episode when she said, “I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created.”

And there are logical reasons why Erika is being more real. For one, she needs that Bravo paycheck more than ever, especially after detailing her fears about the attorney fees in the latest episode. Now that she literally needs this job, it’s in her best interest to involve herself in the storyline and bring some actual juiciness — whether that’s Tom related, post-divorce dating stories, etc. 

Another reason to keep her on the show is that despite the accusations, Erika’s still proving it’s expensive to be heeeer-er-er-er by boarding a PJ and sporting a $189k ring. That’s some major BDE when you’re in the middle of an embezzlement lawsuit, and some very Jen Shah-esque energy that makes for ridiculously entertaining TV. 

And while Erika’s attorneys briefly dropped her and then took her back (for reasons we can only speculate), her castmates have continued to show their support and allegiance to Erika, both on the show and on social media. From Kyle and Lisa dancing to “XXPEN$IVE” and most of the ladies wishing her a happy birthday publicly, they clearly don’t feel a need to distance themselves at all. Truly women supporting women, in the words of Ramona Singer. 

Thanks to Tom, Erika’s part of a truly impactful scandal that I’m 100% sure will be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. With that being said, capturing Erika’s perspective on the RHOBH is a fresh, deep, real storyline that’s captivating AF. And because court cases take forever and Erika can only say so much right now, Bravo can easily milk this content well into next season as well. Not to mention, Erika will definitely be opening up with some new storylines about post-Tom life in an effort to stay relevant (and liquid… with those big lawyer bills). 

Image: Bravo