At some point in 2019, producers and camera people loaded their equipment into Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Denise Richards’s car, and filmed Richards and husband Aaron Phypers being chased by a mysterious vehicle. This encounter is later retold at a dinner party, where the two reveal Phypers’s research into “alternative” cancer cures has drawn the ire of Big Pharma because it yields “tremendous results.” The other Housewives are notably confused, their looks of worry and terror deepening when Richards calmly puts her hand up in sworn testimony and says, “If we end up on the side of Mulholland, you know why.” It is never brought up again.
Season 10 of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which will air its finale Wednesday night, has been a strange and melancholy experience. Bravo, in its early episodes, teased the eventual implosion of Denise Richards’s many friendships as if it was an apocalyptic prophecy. Its premiere episode even ends on a cliffhanger, as Kyle Richards reveals that Denise had ceased filming with the cast after her alleged affair with Brandi Glanville was brought up on camera. (By Brandi Glanville, of course.) Viewers, believing the hype, thought the schism would rend the season apart, as headlines in the Daily Mail foretold of doom and destruction for Bravo’s ostensible flagship: “EXCLUSIVE: Denise Richards stops filming RHOBH after her passionate months-long affair with Brandi Glanville was exposed by castmates on a trip to Rome.”
Things quickly soured for RHOBH. What Bravo had hyped as a ratings bonanza and all-out war between the wives was, in actuality, a few sporadic “fights” at snoozy dinner parties, edited between the occasional baby shower or chain restaurant opening. Denise Richards was present for every episode of the season, and the dramatic reveal of her alleged reveal happened mere episodes from the finale. The details of her rumored romp with Glanville feel inconsequential, and a tad homophobic. Denise has even continued to film press, behind-the-scenes footage, after-show specials, confessionals, and the reunion, casting doubt on Kyle’s proclamation early in the season that Denise has disappeared.
Weirder still: the car chase, the season’s clearly defining moment, was never brought up again, besides that fateful dinner party. Bizarre! Cameras were present for the chase, during which Richards whispered, “There’s that weird car again.” Producers thought to give her multiple confessional questions about it and dedicated the back half of an early-season dinner party to the mystery of Aaron Phypers’s cancer research. Afterward, however? It might as well have never happened!
Every time Teddi Mellencamp began another monologue about accountability, or Dorit complained about the labor of renovating a chain restaurant like Buca Di Beppo, I felt another bit of my sanity slipping out from my brain into a congealed, rotting mass on the floor. Phypers says his work into curing cancer—which is just your body trying to protect you from even WORSE diseases, apparently—has attracted the attention of BIG PHARMA, who is TRYING TO KILL HIM AND HIS FAMILY. Richards even says that they might end up with their car smashed over the side of a cliff. A CLIFF!
I know homophobia traffics well. Rumors about gay husbands and lesbian affairs have plagued all iterations of the Real Housewives for exactly this reason. But seriously, it’s mind-boggling that Bravo thought that Richards and Glanville’s alleged hookup was the safest bet for a season low on stakes, when a plotline about nuclear fusion and bogus science slipped them by so easily.
Once again: Denise Richards stood up, at a dinner party surrounded by cameras and producers and famous people, and boldly proclaimed that one day, Big Pharma’s secret militia might drive her and her husband off the side of a cliff. They literally never brought it up again.