Taylor Armstrong, his estranged wife, was, understandably, not part of the gathering at Adrienne Maloof's manse.
How exactly did the cast react to Armstrong's death? And did Taylor appear in the show at all?
Group Therapy: Setting a somber scene for tonight's episode was the recently taped discussion by the cast about Russell's tragic suicide. Most agree that in focusing on supporting Taylor, maybe they didn't pay enough attention to her estranged husband. "We didn't really see Russell," Kim Richards notes, while Lisa Vanderpump more bluntly confesses, "I had too much information to want to connect with him." Adrienne agrees: "The things we were told about their marriage was heartbreaking." Camille Grammer adds, "I think what we were doing was just protecting our friend."
Kyle, the most emotional of the bunch, suggests that Russell's fall from grace in status-oriented Beverly Hills contributed to his suicide: "Financial status is so important [here], you need to keep this front of what you have." She adds, a bit naively considering Russell's well-documented legal problems, "That's all he ever wanted to be—be successful and be a venture capitalist…when it all went down the tubes it was too much pressure." Then Kyle offers just the segue Bravo needed to continue with their regularly scheduled programming: "As difficult as that is, life goes on…it has to."
Cleaning House: Surprisingly, very few scenes featuring Taylor were cut from tonight's premiere, nor did the episode shy away from the subject of her troubled marriage. In fact, in her very first appearance, a shopping trip with Kyle, the brunette alludes to the marital strife after Taylor resolves to speak to Lisa, whom Taylor finds "intimidating": "This is the year for me that I do have to make sure that I'm at least speaking my mind," she says. To which Kyle responds, "If people are in your life because you haven't been speaking up to them, it's time to clean house." However ambiguous the editing makes this seem, the allusion here is to Russell, not Lisa, and the often-discussed communication breakdown within the Armstrongs' marriage.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Last season Adrienne contrasted her lighthearted bickering with hubby Paul Nassif with the Armstrongs' "unhealthy" relationship. Still Adrienne's comments about her marriage raise some flags: "Like two ships passing in the night, we enjoy each other's company—in small doses…Two hours is a long time for us," she says jokingly. No one was laughing when the couple quarreled at a dinner party they hosted to celebrate Camille's guest gig on $#*! My Dad Says. In fact, their argument regarding a toast made the guests almost as uncomfortable as an appearance by Allison DuBois' electric cigarette.
Sister Act: At least the literal olive branch Adrienne extended after her toast led to some goodhearted teasing between the Richards sisters, who, says Kim, "haven't had much of a relationship" since last season's epic blowout. "I'm going to bite the bullet and be civil with my sister," Kim resolves, while Kyle acknowledges, "It's still kind of shaky ground between us."
Table Manners: Certainly not helping matters at the dinner party was Lisa's husband, Ken Todd. First he offered Adrienne's $550 champagne glasses for their dog, Giggy the Pom—to drink from (taking a health gulp himself afterward), horrifying Kim and Bernie, the hired Anglophobic chef. Then he responded to Taylor's admission that she and Russell were using psychotherapy to work on their marriage by saying, "If I had to go see a therapist to make my marriage better I would feel weak." Not only did this shockingly not end up on the cutting-room floor, but Bravo chose to highlight his insensitivity by airing it twice, including a pre-commercial tease.
Big Bad: Apparently Lisa and Ken (but not Giggy—please not Giggy!) will be getting the villain edit this season, alongside newcomer Brandi Glanville. The Englishwoman characterizes Taylor's behavior—leaving the table in tears after Ken's comments—as "manipulative." After Ken and Kyle exchange heated words (what happened to that olive branch, anyway?) and Taylor returns to tell Ken, "I'm really fragile right now, I'm going through so much that it's a lot," Lisa decides it's time to make an early exit. "For a change I wasn't part of the drama," said last season's hellion Camille.
Coming Up: The ladies vacation together on the beach and at the slopes, Adrienne washes a chicken with handsoap, the group endures still another "dinner party from hell," Kim finally meets a man who might be destroying her family, Adrienne and Paul's relationship becomes more strained, the Richards sisters unite to go after "slut pig" Brandi Glanville, houseguest from hell Cedric crashes Lisa's party, Camille and Kyle clash again…and Taylor appears to have "a nervous breakdown."
Finally, after previewing the dramatic second season, tonight's show concluded with a sensitivity bookend: a service announcement from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
But the show will go on—it "has to," right?
What did you think of tonight's episode? Was Bravo insensitive in depicting Taylor's anguish, or did it hit exactly the right note? Have your say in the comments.