We’ve never seen Erika Jayne like this before. And I believe this Erika Jayne.
The latest episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills focused largely on Erika as the news broke last December that her husband Tom Girardi, who she is in the process of divorcing, was being accused of some major embezzlement allegations. Via FaceTime, due to Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton, and Dorit Kemsley’s positive COVID diagnosis at the time, Erika speaks with Lisa Rinna and Kyle about how she’s doing “fucking horrible,” telling her friends “This sucks so bad,” and defending herself against claims that their divorce is a sham.
“Things that are being said are just wrong,” she tells them while petting her dog. “People are believing them and they’re everywhere. It’s terrible and I’m here by myself,” she says from the bedroom of her newer, smaller home she moved into the day she served Tom the divorce papers. “What’s being said is just insane, that my divorce is a sham. But nobody cares about the facts,” she said. “The answer is no,” she stated when the topic came up of the divorce being used so that she can help hide assets. “It took a lot of courage to leave and it took two seconds for some asshole to say it was a sham and everybody to believe it,” she says in her interview. “When I filed the divorce I was a golddigger; this week ‘you’re a conspirator.’ I mean, what the fuck? And neither one of them are true.”
A producer asks her when she first found out about the lawsuit and she quickly replied, “I can’t answer that,” but there’s a lot of other talking she can do. She tells the women that “I’ve got more lawyers than I can fucking afford.” She is also sure to tell them that Tom hasn’t given her one dime since she left and that she wakes up every day just thinking about “what I need to tackle on a legal front,” as well as stating in her interview that “I don’t know why I would be named in a lawsuit I have nothing to do with.”
She’s honest about her depression and “really high anxiety” and is mostly calm until the end of the call with her friends when she starts crying, but Rinna and Kyle express their support for her, saying “We’re here for you Erika, we know who you are, you are a good person,” and all she is able to get out is “I didn’t do this.”
When the news broke, people were quick to jump to conclusions, trust gossip, and assume that she was involved with the crimes. But along with The Housewife and The Hustler documentary, this episode should, if not change, at least shift people’s perceptions about what they’ve heard or read since last fall. In her six seasons on the show, she’s been called an Ice Queen and endured countless tweets about how she doesn’t open up, but she’s never been a liar. And we’ve never seen an Erika like this before. This is as open as it gets. She’s now delivering above and beyond what we expect a Housewife, especially one in the middle of a divorce and a multi-million dollar federal, criminal investigation, to be giving viewers.
Erika is not holding back when it comes to her abusive relationship with Tom. It’s clear he gaslit her, was controlling and demeaning, as well as withholding, withdrawing, and being just plain mean to her. Sure, it’s been fun to sit around and gossip at brunch about how this relationship could possibly work for the two of them and it’s easy to assume she’s a young hot lady for him and a rich, rich man for her. But after her latest admissions, I don’t think she knew. I choose to believe she was completely unaware of where the money that went into her career and her appearance came from. Erika is sure to let us know that she did ask, repeatedly, and he did brush her off, repeatedly. It’s easy to say she should have pressed for more, but that wasn’t the dynamic they established in their household. What’s harder is, you know, maybe not always blaming women for the way the husbands and men in their life choose to act.
It’s easy to compare Erika to other Housewives that have run into legal issues, though from what we already know, Jen Shah from Salt Lake City was her own mastermind, and New Jersey‘s Teresa Giudice simply did what her husband told her to. Erika…seems to be on a different intellectual level, but again, despite having cameras in their home, there is still so, so much we didn’t, and don’t, know about that relationship.
When Rinna and Crystal visit Erika at her new home, she confirms that yes, she has been frequently bursting into tears — and yes, she admits that as she’s pouring glasses of champagne for her guests. But she tells them “I’m not good” and talks about how “painful” it is to read about the sham divorce rumors. “People think that Erika Jayne brought down Tom Girardi. Tom Girardi brought down Tom Girardi,” she states in her interview, a sentence we would’ve thoroughly gasped at, had we ever heard that even a year ago. “I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created,” she says, and it’s this type of revelation that proves just how much she is moving beyond her relationship with him, and realizing how detrimental it was to her life — and sadly, will continue to be. She pleads with the women to “Please look at your bank accounts,” so that they never find themselves in this position, and also shares that she knows “How mean and how vicious and how utterly dismissive Tom is.”
But perhaps the most telling moment of the episode comes at the end when she meets up with Kyle for a hike that they never seem to actually start, as she’s in tears within seconds as they sit down to talk it out. “Oh my God Erika, I’m not used to seeing you like this,” Kyle tells her, and it’s true for all of us. “Kyle, this is so hard to do,” she says before putting her head in her hands and breaking into full sobs, complete with neverending mascara streaks down her cheeks. “I could’ve never predicted this fucking shit, ever,” she continues. “I have such a story to tell, I can’t tell it because it’s not the right time.”
And the sentence we never thought we’d ever hear her say happens: “I’m sorry, I know there’s snot coming out of my nose, I don’t even care anymore.” This is not the Erika we’ve watched for the past six years. This is a woman hitting rock bottom, feeling absolutely helpless, scared, and completely unsure of what’s to come. She’s not in glam mode, she’s in survival mode. She’s backed against a wall, stuck with the frustration of not being able to fully defend herself, and yet the cameras are ON.
Erika delivers the understatement of the year, that “Being the possible target of a federal criminal investigation is like, not cool,” and goes on to describe how Tom’s sight and hearing are failing; that he was “degrading” in front of her but he only pushed her away more. “As much as Tom encouraged me, I think he resented me every step I took forward,” she says in her interview, offering that his view of her changed around the time she started performing in Chicago on Broadway.
She also tells Kyle “He’s down to punish my ass all the way to the ground” and that “No, he’s not an angel,” as well as the fact that it was straight-up not great at home. This is a woman who knows she has broken free from an abusive relationship and doesn’t have to be scared to talk about it now with her friends, despite keeping it in for so long. She’s now lonely, depressed, and most importantly, not giving a fuck about what anyone thinks (outside of the courts). This is a woman who has been so guarded, protective, controlled, precise and specific about every detail of her image: her nails, her hair clips, her choreography, and especially her public image. The signs were there that Tom was garbage in the way he treated her and sometimes the other women on the show, but it seemed as though Erika co-signed it, that there was something about that she was drawn to. In hindsight, it’s terrifying to think about how scared and small he made her felt.
And so that’s why now I choose to celebrate her speaking up. Yes of course the timing is unfortunate, and I could be proven completely and utterly wrong. Seeing the racks of designer clothes on the show isn’t great! This is not fun to watch, especially for those on the other side of the lawsuit. But the fact that she’s opening up about Tom’s health, about her suspicions that he was cheating, and about the things she couldn’t control in her marriage, hell, even if it is a cover-up (which again, I don’t believe it is) there’s something very brave about that.
The Real Housewives are encouraged to be themselves and live their lives out loud, and most of them really do. Some louder than others. So if you want to believe this is a performance, that is up to you, but wow oh wow would this scene have Meryl shaking in her boots. Without drifting into full “men are garbage” territory here, I am going to choose to believe Erika based on what we saw in this episode. I have always enjoyed watching her and believe she brought a refreshing perspective to the show. I know not everyone agrees. But we all can agree that the families that are the victims in this case deserve justice. And despite her glam or her money or what appears to be a fabulous life, all women, including Erika, deserve to be believed.
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