Ten years of Keeping Up With the Kardashians later, and the Kardashian-Jenner family is still the warmest, loudest, most sprawling family most of us know. As the 10-year anniversary special, which aired Sunday night on E!, shows, the Kardashian-Jenner family has even spawned a vocabulary of catchphrases to describe their super-committed brand of family unity: “Our family has never been stronger and nothing will tear us apart,” said Kris Jenner, during a voice-over.
During much of the special, the Kardashian women — and Scott Disick — made veiled references to the events in their shared history that, as Kris said, threatened to “tear [them] apart.” When, for example, Kris in a flashback tells her girls, “We’re better as friends than we are the other way,” we all know exactly what she’s referring to: Her separation with her ex-husband, who is now known as Caitlyn Jenner.
The E! special was full of elephants in the room, but none blared its horn more than that of the presence — or non-presence — of Caitlyn Jenner (though Rob Kardashian’s absence came a very close second). In a clipped voice, host Ryan Seacrest asked Kris how Rob was. “Rob’s great. He’s working on a new clothing line, and we see him every day,” Kris replied, adding that he’s part of the family group chat. Even if Rob is absent from the show, Kris established that he's still part of the gang — unlike Caitlyn.
So, where was Caitlyn Jenner? While her daughters and ex-wife were primping for the 10-year anniversary, she was out in the Great Outdoors with her dog and her RV.
“I went overboard to be nice, to be friendly, to be open, but also tell my story and my side of the story,” Jenner said of writing the memoir on Good Morning Britain this September. “Since the book came out, I’ve never talked to Kris again. Kim, I haven’t talked to in six, nine months, whatever it is.” Jenner said she still spends time with her daughters, Kendall and Kylie.
If Caitlyn's book provided insight on her emotional truths, then the KUWTK tenth anniversary special flipped the script, and attempted to show the emotional toll Jenner’s transition, and its aftermath, had on the women in her family.
Caitlyn was almost entirely absent from the special. She appeared briefly as Bruce, during Kim’s introduction of her mother during the original teaser for KUWTK that aired 10 years ago. “He had no idea what he was getting himself into,” said Kim. Cut to a typical Kris-Caitlyn interaction, in which Kris is telling her husband that it’s embarrassing when he goes out in public “dressed in weird colors.”
But that was the family 10 years ago, and this is the family now. The current familial unit decidedly does not include Caitlyn. In fact, Caitlyn wasn't mentioned again until the very end of the special, when Seacrest pointedly asks each Kardashian-Jenner which part of their emotional lives was most difficult to film, and three of the women cite their changing relationship with Caitlyn.
“Probably the whole Caitlyn transition,” said Kris, who was the first to answer. The special cuts to previously unaired footage of Kris putting her head down on the table and sobbing.
“All of us could feel that pain,” Seacrest said. In affirmation, Kris added that one of the camera guys started crying, too.
Khloé then explained why, for her, being on Caitlyn’s show was more difficult that filming her breakup with Lamar. “With Lamar there is no secret. We were going through a breakup. I don’t need to explain the reasoning why. I was more afraid how people would accept your father, and I didn’t ever want to be mean to your dad,” she said, addressing Kendall and Kylie.
Kylie, who was last to speak, said “everything that went on with my dad” was the hardest to film. Yet she applauded Caitlyn for “living her true self.”
The women remained emotional, yet poised, while speaking about Caitlyn. They used "I" statements, and spoke about how the family shift made them feel. No wild, gossip-worthy accusations were flung. Essentially, they're following the Kris Jenner rulebook, which, according to Seacrest, she established before the show began filming.
“I remember Kris, when you started this show, there was one rule you gave to everyone. It was vulnerability. We’re gonna have ups and downs. We’re gonna go through things. But we’re gonna show it. We’re gonna do it. And we’re gonna go through it together," Seacrest said.
The special deliberately wove the Kardashian-Jenner women into an emotionally vulnerable, but united, front. Whatever they are going through with Caitlyn Jenner, they’re clearly doing it together.
Refinery29 reached out to Caitlyn Jenner's reps for comment.
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