We don’t ask for much from our Real Housewives. You don’t have to be rich or famous. (It can be even better if you just pretend you are!) You don’t have to be a housewife in the traditional sense, or even a wife at all. All of that we’ll give or take. But if you are going through the worst experience of your life, you better get your ass in front of a camera so all of us at home can watch. That is a nonnegotiable.
Which brings us to Wednesday’s premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Now that Denise Richards and her “Bravo, Bravo, f**king Bravo”s have exited stage left, it’s time for a new ‘Wife to take the hot seat. With a surprise divorce, even more shocking legal allegations and about eight million questions to answer, Erika Jayne is season 11’s proverbial blood in the proverbial water.
Only time — half a dozen prying castmates, some cunning producers and with any luck, a broken fourth wall — will tell how much Erika actually reveals this season, or how many of our one bajillion questions will be answered, but here’s everything we already know about what might be the juiciest drama to hit RHOBH in years.
Who are these people?
Skip this section if you’re a Housewives regular. This one is for the uninitiated, or for those who may be joining us anew out of morbid curiosity: Erika Jayne is the stage name and pop star alter ego of Erika Girardi, one of RHOBH‘s full-time diamond holder since season 6. Erika is known for confessional looks, the one time she screamed at Eileen Davidson in China and being married to a man 32 years her senior.
That man is Tom Girardi, who was one of the attorneys on the Erin Brockovich case! (He isn’t a character in the movie.) The couple met when she was working as a cocktail waitress and have been married since January 2000 — her second marriage, his third. Tom has made regular appearances on RHOBH, as recently as season 10.
When did Erika and Tom announce the divorce?
Erika announced the split in November — filing on Nov. 3 and citing irreconcilable differences — and said at the time, “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi. This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together.”
“It is my absolute wish to proceed through this process with respect and with the privacy that both Tom and I deserved,” she added in her statement. “I request others give us that privacy as well.”
When did RHOBH start filming the new season?
Bravo cameras were rolling by late October, which means Tom and Erika were very much still together — and that’s what we see in the season 11 premiere episode, which just makes it all that much more confusing.
So then what’s the legal drama?
One month after the divorce announcement, it came out that Tom and Erika were being sued for allegedly using their divorce to embezzle money from plane crash victims! The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several families of the victims of 2018’s Lion Air Flight 610 crash — including, as court documents state, “the widows and orphans who lost loved ones in the tragic crash” — with Tom accused of embezzling settlement money and using it fund their “lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles” and pay off loans to keep his law firm afloat. Yeah, the allegations are not great.
How much did Erika know about it?
That’s the question, isn’t it. The very same lawsuit accuses Tom and Erika of being in cahoots and faking their divorce. “While Erika publicly filed for divorce this month, on information and belief, that ‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm,” the suit claims. Erika claims differently, but more on that in a moment.
Oh my god. That’s a lot!
There’s more. And we’re not even going to touch the tweeted-and-deleted cheating allegations. In January, Tom’s brother filed to have him placed under a conservatorship, claiming that Tom’s “current condition has sadly deteriorated to the point where he cannot care for himself without assistance.” The documents alleged that Tom lives alone and can’t be “left to his own devices,” adding that his housekeeper is quitting because Tom “cannot pay them any longer.”
The temporary conservatorship was approved in February. In March, a psychiatrist told courts that Tom suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Will Erika be addressing all of this on the show?
By all accounts, yes. The season 11 trailer is heavy on Erika’s drama, with her seemingly reacting to the news of her divorce (“I did not see it ending this way. I was gonna hold that man’s hand ’til he died.”) and being questions by fellow ‘Wives Garcelle Beauvais, Dorit Kemsley and Kyle Richards about what she knew and when. (“No one knows the answer but him.”)
Now, will the season deliver on the trailer’s promise? Erika hasn’t always been the most open of books on RHOBH, so we’ll just have to tune in to find out — which is, of course, what Bravo wants. But Garcelle tells ET’s Brice Sander: Erika’s talking. When asked what will surprise fans most about season 11, she replied, “I think how much we delve into Erika’s unfortunate situation.”
“I don’t know if we know everything. I don’t know if we’ll ever know anything,” Garcelle teased. “Obviously, there were certain things that she could not talk about, but she was definitely much more revealing than I thought.”
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
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