Photo: Courtesy of Hulu
Normally, especially in the age of binge-watching, we don’t pay much attention to the “Previously on” that plays at the beginning of episodes. If you’ve seen and remember the last one, why bother? But this week, The Kardashians has really elevated the art form in a way we haven’t seen since “And that’s what you missed on Glee“burst onto the scene. The selected scenes from this season chosen to contextualize what we’re about to see are painful snapshots of a hopeful Khloe slowly but surely rebuilding her life with Tristan — and the montage feels more like a part of the episode than we’re used to with these intros.
It makes the following episode even more brutal than it already is. We pick up right where we left off, with Kim doing bicep curls in the early morning hours after getting word of Tristan’s latest infidelity and love child. Finally, after calling her sisters, she gets ahold of Khloe whom she breaks the news to over the phone. While we’ve seen this scene play out before, we’ve never actually heard Khloe get the news for the first time like this, and it’s as uncomfortable as you’d imagine. So much so that Kim eventually signals to cut the cameras (deadass, as Blac Chyna would say).
They call a family meeting to get everything out on the table, but Khloe understandably doesn’t show up. So instead, the meeting is an awkward scene where the situation is just debriefed by Kris, Corey, Kim, and Kourtney in full glam.
It feels like they’re tiptoeing around the situation since they don’t know exactly how Khloe will move forward. We’ve been here before, so it’s no guarantee that this indiscretion will actually mean the end of Tristan. Plus, they’re hyperaware that the public is watching and judging everything about how this will play out. There’s a clear struggle between taking the high road or putting him on blast, which Kim is tempted to do. But ultimately, she decides to follow the advice of Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” A quote unintentionally custom-built to be used by people on reality shows.
Though she skipped the family meeting, we get to hear from Khloe solo — ominously driving in silence like she’s in the title credits of Big Little Lies. She’s replaying every positive moment she’s had with Tristan in her head, now knowing that it was all a lie — but there’s a clear numbness, and she even says that when things happen to you a couple of times, you become immune to them. (But not with COVID, just FYI).
If you were worried that there would be no lighter fare this episode, in one of the starkest transitions of the season, we cut to a hyperbaric chamber at Kendall’s home. It unzips from within and out pops Kendall like the chestburster in Alien. She emerges with her laptop in tow. “I was watching a Netflix show,” she says, before correcting herself like the company woman she is, “I was watching a Hulu show.”
Quoting Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Kendall says that her home is filled with “gadgets and gizmos” aplenty that are meant to bolster her health. In fact, she has a whole room dedicated to them, which include massive machines like a TheraLight, HyperMax Oxygen, and a photo booth for some reason — the latter of which is the only one that I know what it does.
After her hyperbaric binge sesh, she FaceTimes Khloe to talk about the situation at hand — during which Khloe casually mentions that she fainted the other day from the anxiety. She not only has to cope with the betrayal but also with the public chiming in on it — which has been something she’s been struggling with since episode one.
While Khloe’s world is collapsing around her, Travis Barker has the genius idea to have Kris record a Christmas song. We’re told that Travis is super into Christmas — can’t you tell just by looking at him? So in his bicycle-filled studio in which all the lightbulbs are apparently blue, Kris gets behind the mic to lay down a track of the definitive performance of “Jingle Bells.”
Kourtney is cackling as she watches and clarifies in her confessional that Kris is not a pop star or rock star — instead pegging her as “a theater person, I guess.” What does this mean? What does Kourtney think a “theater person” is? Did Kris just narrowly miss the chance to perform at the Tony’s? When will she finally be stunt cast in Chicago? Is there a production of Gypsy coming to the Hollywood Bowl any time soon? When do we get her “Rose’s Turn”???
They play the finished product in the car, and it’s a hit. Kris says she’s ready to be a lead singer if Travis needs it (petition for Kris to cover “All the Small Things” next), and Corey says he’s never heard a Christmas song that “thumps like that,” so obviously he’s never heard “ Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses before. Kris tells them it was so much fun to record it and that it “wasn’t work” — which is probably because it literally wasn’t work. Yet, at least … who knows where this singing career goes.
Kim goes to see Khloe in her massive, Big Comfy Couch–size bed, where she talks about trying to navigate this situation. Kim finds herself, yet again, walking this line where she wants to jump in and essentially have an intervention about Tristan but also wants to give her sister the space that the family gave her during the worst parts of her relationship with Kanye. In that situation, she says everyone minded their business to essentially let her realize in her own time how bad things were, which she appreciated. But Khloe tells her there’s nothing to jump in on now, signaling that this will (hopefully) really be the final straw when it comes to Tristan.
The conversation is also acutely aware that the public is listening in — and it feels like Kim is alluding to her own experience to stand with Khloe and take some of the pressure off of her. They’re both justifying and explaining their decisions to stay in these toxic relationships for so long because they’re well aware of the barrage of unfair criticism coming their way. Khloe says it’s time to walk away, but she has no regrets about the chances and forgiveness she previously gave to try to make it work for True — no matter what the trolls say.
“All of you fucking trolls on the internet that make Khloe feel like the biggest piece of shit, I will find each and every one of you,” Kim terrifyingly says into the camera before her law-school intuition jumps in, “and … not threaten you on TV, but it’s wrong.”
Though we don’t get the famous Kardashian Christmas cards that we used to get with the whole family and would inspire knockout fights, the tradition lives on as Kim attempts to take one with her kids. At least I assume that the blurs whizzing across my screen at full speed are her kids — it’s impossible to know for sure. Kim glamorously strikes poses in the midst of the chaos, with crying, bolting children swarming her. “Most of the photos I saw were unusable because North was sticking out her middle finger,” she says — but those sound like the winners to me. Release the middle-finger pics!!!
Meanwhile, Khloe continues her press tour addressing the situation with each family member one-on-one with a visit to Scott’s house. They commiserate over their newfound shared singledom as a little treat for the Scott and Khloe shippers but wish for a brighter future — looking to Kim’s relationship with Pete for hope. We find out that Scott has become friends with Pete, which is a brilliant move on the part of Scott, who’s slowly securing his foothold on this show.
In a sad yet cinematic scene, Khloe packs up Tristan’s belongings in a single brown cardboard box that a producer likely picked up on their way there. A cat walks by that I’ve literally never seen before. Cameras pull out to reveal the crew in front of her — pure cinema.
The season has a full-circle conclusion, with the family shooting the show’s title card. While there, Khloe tells Kim that she’s talked with Tristan, but there’s not much to talk about. “I didn’t buy tickets to this fucking circus, but somehow I’m watching all these clowns act out in front of me,” she says. But they see it as a moment of clarity — finally, there’s no gray area when it comes to Tristan.
They each take turns wrapping up their stories with little bows: Khloe finally moving on from Tristan, Kourtney focusing on her happiness with Travis, Kylie getting ready to have a second baby, Kendall … actually she doesn’t have anything to wrap up so they just gave her filler lines, and Kim charging ahead with law school. But rather end on that serenity, we see Kris in a confessional seemingly getting some breaking family news on her phone, prompting the season to end on a dramatic “To Be Continued.”
The Kardashians has proven to be a show about many things: women getting out of cars in slow motion, Kris Jenner trying to pronounce cacio e pepe, and photo shoots. But most of all, it’s about this family navigating fame. And because of that — much in the way New York is the fifth character of Sex and the City — we’re the seventh character of The Kardashians. Well, maybe Scott is the seventh character, then us. Scott, then Landon Barker, then us. And maybe Gayle King should be in there, too, she kept popping up … okay, we’re maybe not the seventh character, but as the general public, we play a constant key role. Sometimes we’re the villain and sometimes we’re the hero, but we’re always there, and our presence impacts almost every story we see in a fascinatingly authentic way.