Spoilers are ahead. We're four episodes into season 11, and already The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is really delivering. We've got Sutton Stracke versus Crystal Kung Minkoff. We've got Garcelle Beauvais versus Lisa Rinna. We've got Kathy Hilton versus a can of Red Bull at 1 a.m. And now, it's time to see if RHOBH is really going to give us what we want when it comes to Erika Girardi's Election Day divorce and legal situation with husband Tom Girardi.
During her six seasons on the show, viewers have often found themselves feeling like Erika wasn't opening up fully about her personal life in a way that some other Housewives have. When we think of Erika, we think about her designer outfits instead of her personal drama. So, when it was reported last November that Erika and Tom were divorcing, and soon after, that Tom was involved in a complicated legal battle involving alleged embezzlement, fans were — at best — cautiously hopeful that we would actually hear about it on the show.
Now, the end of episode 4 has put things in motion. The episode primarily takes place during the cast's trip to Lake Tahoe, but with two minutes left we get a "Four days later" caption on screen. And what was four days later? Election Day 2020.
RHOBH uses a clip from Today of the hosts talking about the biggest news story of not the day, week, or month, but the biggest news story of the past four years — this is important. We'd already seen the cast talk about the election during the Tahoe trip, so it didn't come totally out of left field that we'd see action from the day on the show.
But, we don't see Kyle Richards checking election returns or Dorit Kemsley choosing the perfect Fendi outfit for the polls, instead we get Kyle, Dorit, and Rinna all receiving a shocking text. The full message, from Erika, appears on screen. It reads:
"Ladies, I truly consider you my close friends and this is why I'm reaching out to tell you that I filed for divorce this morning. Thank you for supporting me. This will be tough."
Of course, the women are all shocked. They FaceTime each other and note that they were all just in Tahoe and Erika didn't say anything about divorcing her husband. In fact, the Tahoe episodes repeatedly showed Erika saying positive things about Tom.
"It’s Erika, so whatever's going on she had to do it like this. She couldn’t tell anybody," Rinna says, seemingly referring to Erika's closed-off nature. Dorit points out that Erika and Tom were together for over 20 years. "A long time to spend with someone to all of a sudden be done," Kyle says.
That's the end of the episode, but it's far from the end of what we know about the situation in real time. Erika would later allege that Tom cheated on her, and both Tom and Erika are currently accused of embezzlement, among other legal issues Tom is facing individually.
What seeing the situation play out on the show emphasizes, though, is how savvy Erika seems to be about the news cycle — a good skill for any celebrity to have, really. Releasing divorce news on Election Day, especially Election Day in 2020, is a good move if you don't want to make too many headlines. "Burying a celeb split over a holiday is a time-honoured celeb tradition," David Caplan, a celebrity news editor who worked with People, told MTV in 2015. "From a logistics point of view, news outlets, particularly the celebrity media, are either shut down or working with a skeletal staff, so pursuing the story and advancing it is difficult since it simply means there are less reporters available to dig further and to disseminate the story to the public." This applies to holidays, but also works for Election Day, when staff is around but the focus is elsewhere.
We also see in the episode that Erika texted her friends at 9:15 a.m. PT, meaning that they found out about the divorce right before the news came out in the press. TMZ reported that Erika filed for divorce at 9:34 a.m. PT.
People magazine reported the story at 1:16 p.m. ET, which is 10:16 a.m. PT, and that publication had its own statement from Erika. She made very sure this news was getting into the world on her own terms.
While we know what's happening in the present day, RHOBH can still show us the behind-the-scenes of it all. How will the women react to Erika's news to her face? Did she only talk to Rinna, Dorit, and Kyle about it? How much will she really open up about the demise of her marriage on camera? Andy Cohen has repeatedly promised that fans will be surprised at how much we get from Erika. It looks like next week, we'll start finding out.