Keeping Up with the Kardashians: S08E19: "Close Encounters of the Kardashian Kind"

By Mark Abraham · Nov 06, 2013
Editorial Note, 1 June 2015

These recaps were written before Caitlyn Jenner came out, is the reason they use incorrect names and pronouns.

“Close Encounters of the Kardashian Kind” is all about how this season? Is apparently damn determined to never ever ever end. And also aliens.

The Set-Up: In the previous episode, “All Signs Point to North,” North was born and a bunch of non-chronological stuff happened to explain why North was both the climax to this season and also never going to appear on this show.

Meanwhile, Kourtney and Scott have done very little all season while Khloé spends more and more time on camera being sad about “complicated” things in her life that she doesn’t actually explain. Which is what happens again tonight, so: yay?

But so I was wrong last time. This isn’t the finale. It’s not even the penultimate episode. It’s the penultimate penultimate episode. I don’t mind being semantically redundant there, though, because redundant is the theme of season 8. With all the boring shit and drawn out story lines, why the hell did they think they needed 21 episodes this season?

The A-Plot: Bruce Jenner, American hero, wants to have a camping vacay with his children, and actually gets to have his way, with only his four eldest children (Burt, Casey, Kourtney, and Kim) not attending. Everybody piles onto an RV and drives into the Las Vegas desert, Bruce behind the wheel smiling like a boss, like he’s just invented driving, camping, and fatherhood, and he’s just so fucking proud. It’s a pretty awesome Bruce moment, actually, because while you can just smell the sanctimony, you can also tell his kids are all happy to be with him and each other, and that’s nice for a guy who won a decathlon against the communists in the Dark Ages, right?

Brody: Plus we had all these watermelons!

Brody Jenner.

…it’s funny, because there are seriously watermelons all over the camper. They’re like tribbles. People can’t sit down; they’re falling from the cupboards and occupying the bathroom; Rob keeps accidentally trying to make out with one because he’s that sad and lonely. It’s good times.

Anyways, Khloé—possible communist—has this whole other plan from Bruce’s where camping is boring but aliens are awesome and so she convinces Brandon, Leah, and Brody to help her, Kendall, and Kylie distract Bruce into taking a side trip to Area 51. Rob does not appear to be involved in any of this. Because: Rob.

Rob Kardashian.

Khloé keeps going on about “hunting aliens,” but eventually it turns out that what she means is that she’s hired an alien expert and an alien abduction survivor to guide them to Area 51 and explain stuff (which we don’t hear much of, presumably because those guys live off of their tours and stories). So it’s all a little whatever, except for the part where everybody asserts they can see U.S. military folks aiming sniper rifles at them when they approach a military base. Which…duh?

The best part of all this is that it turns out that Travis Walton (his chyron says “Alien Abductee”) is like Bruce Jenner’s biggest fan. I bet he still has vintage boxes of Bruce Jenner Wheaties he’s never opened. According to Kendall, Travis even dressed up to meet his American hero:

Travis Walton, present.

It’s weird and sad and funny all at the same time, because Travis mentions how disappointed he is that Bruce is just so Bruce-ish throughout all of this. Like, it’s no surprise that Bruce doesn’t believe in aliens—he believes in the indomitable human spirit, after all—but it is maybe just a little surprising just how childish he is about his kids chatting with these guys. He keeps pointing at cows and asking “are those aliens?” and interrupting Travis’s abduction story and avoiding the family’s two guests like they’ll give him cooties. And, like, while intellectually I’m with Bruce on the whole alien thing, he is being pretty mean. Also, I do have to admit that Travis looks almost the same now as he did when he was abducted:

Travis Walton, 1975.

…which either means he actually did get abducted and shot up with some youth serum or, either way, Bruce is just being pissy because Travis has aged so much better than he has.

Travis: My American hero is such a dick. I guess my alien captors were right when they told me that meeting your heroes never turns out how you expect.

Bruce finally succumbs to admonishment from Kendall and Kylie and chats with the guy. Awesomely, Travis’s other skill besides surviving an alien abduction turns out to be Bruce Jenner flattery, and you can see Bruce melt a little. Emotionally, I mean. Not like, in the face, because I know that’s an easy mistake to make.

Later on, the kids light fireworks and then actual aliens emerge from the bushes and it turns out Brandon and Brody actually do have a sense of humor and hired some folks to scare the shit out of their step- and half-siblings. Although they’re lucky Rob didn’t pull his gun on the aliens. Which: I forgot to mention that Rob and Brody brought their guns on this trip. Which I guess is maybe what all the watermelons were for?

And then Kylie says that she thinks the fake aliens are real anyways, because they look so real, and I hope she puts a picture of them on her Tumblr and Kim gets jealous that she never thought to dress like a monster in a 1950s B-movie.

The B-Plot: Kris is excited and nervous about Kris, and: yeesh. So basically we have to sit through a whole thing about this talk show Kris did that we all know got cancelled months ago. Not to mention that we also all know the backstage gossip about how the Kris crew hated Kris and the fact that she often hoarded all the extras that would normally be dispensed among the crew for her family members. So, like, this was not a great story for Kris Jenner, media mogul, but…apparently, according to this wishy washy version, it totally was.

For starters, this episode never explicitly states that Kris got cancelled, and certainly doesn’t address the rumored dissatisfaction of the crew. Instead, this episode frames the whole thing as a victory for family and hard work and American mothers and…everything, I guess. The message of this story is that Kris thinks that just like moms everywhere she had this particular dream and wants her kids to support her, which really only serves to highlight how Kris Jenner has no idea what moms everywhere are actually like, or what kinds of opportunities they have access to in their everyday lives.

But so this show. The basic plot is that Kourtney is critical of how Kardashian-centric the first episode is and tells Kris so, who immediately starts to whine—and let me make it clear that Kris Kardashian is a woman who never whines, so this was a disappointing development—about how Kourtney couldn’t even just congratulate her on all the hard work and effort, and…what the fuck, Kris? Kourtney is being a little harsh, but she’s not wrong. If you want to make the correct argument, point out that it was your first time; don’t act like you deserve a gold star for effort. But since the show didn’t get better, that can’t be the climax to this story. And since the show doesn’t want to do the actual climax—Kris getting cancelled—we get Kris Jenner And Her Children That Love Her.

The resolution to this is mostly, weirdly enough, explained from Khloé’s perspective while she’s still a passenger on the camping van of alien excellence. While Khloé narrates, Kourtney apologizes to Kris in a flashback for no clear reason, and then Khloé convinces Kim to do a congratulations video for her mom. We do get a brief sojourn with Kim who is stressed out about this because she’s not sure she feels post-baby ready enough yet to make a public appearance, but otherwise the story just ends with Special Guest Star Kanye West’s appearance on Kris.

And then at the end Kris concludes that her first “season” was a great success. For her, I guess. For Kardashians everywhere.

Ugh. I’d be hating on this plot a lot more, except…

The C-Plot: Khloé talks some more about the whole Lamar thing without talking about the whole Lamar thing. It’s unfortunate they’re choosing to handle it this way, I think, because this episode actually had some good moments: Bruce and Khloé arguing about whether drug addiction is a disease, Lamar making awkward phone calls to various family members, and Rob trying to defend his sister. And that last without Rob once saying something inappropriate about fucking his sister!

The problem, as usual, is that all of this is weightless in-show because in-show we’re still playing coy about what’s going on, as if the audience isn’t already well aware, because…we do know. Like, I just want them to insert a confessional where Khloé says something specific enough that it makes this storyline make sense. For example:

Khloé: Lamar is really struggling with personal issues lately, and while I’m trying to be supportive I really needed this camping vacation as a break.

That’s not exactly opening the vault, obvs, but it’s at least an expression of feelings. Like, I’m not expecting her to say, “Lamar is depressed and has had past issues with drugs and he’s maybe using again,” necessarily, but…something. Instead, Khloé just talks around that idea. And even if they don’t have the right footage, because at the point this was filmed Khloé was still trying to be optimistic and supportive and private about this stuff? This is one of those situations where I wish they’d insert a non-chronological confessional where she gets a little more precise than “things are weird right now, and it’s not black and white, and things are complex and hard to understand.”

It’s that “black and white” thing that gives me pause about all of this, because even if Khloé doesn’t want to talk about it, that defense makes it pretty clear that she does want people to understand that her decisions are complicated right now, for reasons of love or support or legality or whatever. Which…you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be coy about the issues but also exploit our knowledge of those issues to defend yourself.

To put it another way: look, Kardashians? Whenever you deal with this shit on the show, I feel like you’re talking to the people that already hate you in that myopic, weird way where they dismiss you as money-grubbing dilettante shit heels who have no sympathy for anyone, and are just constantly looking for more evidence to support that view. But…why do you do that? You’re not going to change their minds, or the minds of folks who just don’t watch you at all, preferring instead to believe that reality television is a figment of their imaginations.

But the rest of us normal folks who may not be as rich as you? We may have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to certain aspects of your show, but we don’t think really complex problems like My Husband Is Using Crack Again And That’s A Function Of His Depression Which Makes It Really Hard For Me To Functionally Deal With It Or Him Even Though I Still Love Him are black and white, so vague arguments that This Thing You Aren’t Ready To Talk About Yet isn’t just Black And White? Those arguments Make No Sense. And because a lot of your show’s story lines this endless season have Made No Sense because they’re being delivered in this stilted, half-voiced way where your audience already knows 50x as much information as you’re willing to give, it makes enjoying enjoyable stuff like Alien Sleepaway Camp that much harder, because half the show is a vacant narrative with no plot points.

I mean, obviously I’m not expecting Khloé, for perfectly valid emotional, legal, and ethical reasons, to slam on her crackhead husband or to let out all her shit on national television. But the most we get out of her is this actual quote:

Khloé: Even though I don’t like camping, right now, y’know I need all the distractions I could get. They’re kind of like therapy for me so, um, this camping trip, I am definitely looking forward to.

Like, huh? Why is this string of vague whatevers lodged between Bruce trying to convince Khloé to get Lamar to come camping and an argument between Bruce and Khloé about how much sympathy one should have for Cory Monteith? I mean, we know why, but why is the show acting like we don’t? Except when it acts like we do? If you’re not going to talk about it, don’t. Just ignore it on the show. I watch this show to see Bruce Jenner be a dillweed on a family camping vacation; not to see Khloé stare blankly at the camera and say random, non-specific platitudes about how shit is hard.

Mark: Keeping Up with the Kardashians is really struggling with personal issues lately, and while I’m trying to be supportive I really needed this season to end because it’s just too much for me.

For reals, people. Two more to go. And the next one’s a Kylie and Rob episode.

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