Keeping Up with the Kardashians: S08E20: "Kylie's Sweet 16"
By Mark Abraham· Nov 13, 2013
Editorial Note, 1 June 2015
Just F.Y.I., these recaps were written before Caitlyn Jenner came out, is the reason they use the incorrect name “Bruce” and pronouns.
“Kylie’s Sweet 16” is all about how fears that kids will never grow up and fears that kids are growing up often come from the same place.
The Set-Up: In the previous episode, “Close Encounters of the Kardashian Kind,” aliens were mostly among us: Lamar acted weird, Khloé acted weird about feeling weird about Lamar acting weird, Rob acted weird but supportive about Khloé acting weird about feeling weird about Lamar acting weird by saying Khloé shouldn’t feel weird, Kris acted weird about Kris and so did Kourtney, and some moustachioed guy told a weird story about being abducted by actual aliens. That abduction story is why I used the modifier “mostly.” It was only the aliens who abducted that moustachioed guy who were actually in outer space.
Well, sure. Kendall is clearly an alien robot.
Kendall: WITH MY RECENT CATWALK UPGRADE I AM NOW FULLY COMPATIBLE WITH “WERKING IT.”
This season finale is really only a finale to maybe the last few episodes of this season (I’m thinking at least the previous four, starting with "More to the Story"); these episodes all feel like they’ve been cobbled together from extra footage to address certain big-ticket news stories that occurred while the earlier part of the season was airing over the spring and summer. I mean, certainly the Sweet 16 party in this one and the camping trip in the last one seem like planned story “events,” but a lot of the rest of the material in these five episodes has seemed pretty doctored, and therefore disappointing. Now, obviously I’m using “disappointing” in relative terms; we are talking about a show I’m sure most people watch while falling asleep late on a Sunday night or in reruns later in the week while they fold laundry or get dinner ready, after all.
Kim: That’s KJ Business Lesson #8: Make sure the show makes sense at any level of engagement.
Right. But my point is that these episodes have been especially sketchy: hard, obvious edits in the midst of “natural” conversations; clearly MacGyvered ADR dialogue, meant to give flow to dialogue; stories cobbled together from non-sequential and cherry-picked footage; and the strange decline of Khloé Kardashian as a loveable character.
Khloé: Sometimes when you go around when you come back there you are, y’know?
I’ve said it before, but while I feel sympathy for the real Khloé Kardashian due to the way her marriage is falling apart, the presentation of Khloé the character this season has dulled most of the appeal Khloé used to have. The back half of this season is fairly nakedly intended to muster sympathy for Khloé, but it’s really having the opposite effect. Every time she shows up to talk vaguely about how hard things are and how we just couldn’t possibly understand? I’m like, “sure, I don’t. But…do you want to talk about it? Or just tell me I ‘couldn’t possibly understand’ over and over and over and over and over and over?” Because, like, that makes me think that I do understand: that the only point of all this is to justify Khloé’s decision to end her marriage. Which…I was already on board with that. You do you, Khloé. It’s cool.
Khloé: But…things just get bigger than you sometimes, y’know?
Kendall: I AM AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU RESIZE THE TOO-BIG THINGS TO BE MORE EQUAL IN SIZE TO YOU, SISTER.
Mercy, Dolce, Gabbana, Rocky, Bella, El Lagarto, Reggie Bush, Kris Humphries, & Lamar Odom: (Eye rolls + ghost eye rolls.)
The A-Plot: Are you ready for teenage angst? How about middle-aged angst? Kris Jenner, super mom, wants to throw Kylie a Sweet 16 party, but is also freaking out about Kylie (and Kendall) growing out of their teens but not immediately becoming fully-grown adults in their late ’20s with profitable careers she can manage.
Kris: I thought I would have had this problem nailed on my sixth attempt, you know?
What we get is a classic mom/kid fight. At the party planner’s, Kylie eye-rolls her way through Kris’s party ideas: booking a whole train, bumper cars, Disney world. And sure, in Kylie’s defense, this is truly a mom’s idea of what “unconventional” means, so even though Kris is proud of Kylie for being unconventional, she interprets that to mean something very different from what Kylie actually is. On the other hand, maybe Kylie should tone down the eye-rolling given that she comes from a well-to-do family that is going to pay for whatever the hell she wants.
Kylie: I want an Alice and Wonderland-themed party!
Oh. Um…sorry, Kris. I guess my definition of “unconventional” is also different from Kylie’s, in that mine is actually unconventional.
Kris: Why won’t anybody play bumper cars with me?
Kris is upset because she feels like she’s putting so much work into this party and therefore Kylie’s eye-rolling grates. Which is fine, although Kris: you can’t really get upset about work that we all know you assumed was yours to do because staging elaborate parties for your daughters is like your favorite thing in the world. Which Kris knows, of course, which is why she re-orients her frustration towards something else entirely: Kylie’s super-messy room. Ignoring the fact of how self-serving it is to turn Kylie’s disrespect in one arena into a teachable moment in an entirely different arena, it’s pretty funny that Kris decides that she will usher in Kylie’s new 16-year-old maturity by denying Kylie her driver’s license until she cleans up her pig sty of a room, and further she decides that she will ensure that Kylie respects this deal by…mostly cleaning up her room for her? Eh. Don’t overthink it. Kris logic doesn’t need to make sense. But so Kris gets some staffers to essentially pull out old clothing and hats from under Kylie’s bed and from the floors of her closets and place that stuff in bags for Kylie to go through. It’s worth mentioning that Kris does not touch anything properly stored in Kylie’s closet, or throw anything out. Not that this will matter, obvs.
Presented without comment, here are a selection of the faces Kylie makes when she finds out what Kris has done:
Immediately, of course, Kylie gets super-pissed that Kris invaded her “privacy.”
It’s a good scene because (1) Kris is absolutely justified in being annoyed at her daughter’s impatience and santimony while (2) being absolutely wrong that she can leverage Kylie’s dissatisfaction with labor we all know Kris assumed without argument into a teaching moment that (3) provokes, of all things, a teenager’s feelings about privacy. Because even as most of us were watching this going, “Poor Kylie. It must be so hard when your parents buy you everything,” we were also going, “Bah! If my parents had touched my stuff like that, I would have been super-mad!”
Incidentally, Kourtney and Khloé sum this generational divide angst up perfectly. Kourtney’s reaction is the best: “well…did Mom go into her closet? Or did she just clean up the junk all over her floor?” Exactly. But also besides the point, as Khloé notes, because Kylie is still fifteen. Of course Kylie is going to be upset, because “privacy” is one of the few examples of power teenagers can effectively wield against their parents—not to mention that half the time there are things in “private” rooms that teens don’t want discovered—so they always bristle at having it infringed upon. We all did.
Kylie—assisted by Khloé, who gets off scot-free here, just as she did when she and Kris egged Kim's house earlier in the season—takes her revenge by raiding Kris’s closet to steal all her shit and put it in bags. Kris discovers them and makes the right argument in the wrong way, appealing to abstract concepts of “respect” and putting her foot down about it being “my house.” She gets a hilarious assist from Kim, who pops up in the doorway behind her—like one of those frequent Arrested Development reveals where the camera pans over to a heretofore unseen person right there in the room—to note that Kylie is a slob because she leaves food on the counter. And then Kim jets, like, “lates.” So Kylie runs off to her room again, screaming that she’ll organize her party herself, thank you very much.
Kris: What is going on?
Khloé: Things always can’t not help but sometimes not be the way you want them sometimes, y’know?
Kris: …I know legal said to “minimize the specifics,” Khloé, but: really?
Later, Kylie admits to Kris that organizing the party was hard. This appeases Kris, which I’m sad about because she’s falling for one of the oldest teenage tricks in the book: getting your way, getting your parents to foot the bill, but then also saying how it was a real learning experience to fly without a parental net, so THANKS, MOM! And that’s ignoring the fact that, like, shut it, Kylie. It isn’t “hard” to have your parents’ money and a team of party planners at your disposal. All you did was say “I want this, this, and this.” Yeah: super-exhausting.
“But so where is Scott in all of this?”, you might be asking. At the party, Kylie’s teenage friends try to rile a drunk Scott up, which leads to some amusing Scott-faces:
Scott confessionals that these teen-morons waylaid him in the bathroom—the disdain in his voice both remembering the event and during it when he says “Tom Ford” in response to some weirdly aggressive question about where he got his jacket—to the point where Kourtney got mad, thinking he was getting too drunk at a Sweet 16 party. Scott follows Kourtney and Khloé and Malika into the bathroom and insists that teenagers were bullying him, so maybe Kourtney could stop frowning like he’s a lame drunk uncle instead of a hip brother-in-law, and then he gets an assist by sad Khloé who essentially drops the hammer that Scott’s a good guy and a good husband and a good father and maybe Kourtney shouldn’t push so hard. This is partly because of course Khloé recognizes that at least half of what Kourtney’s pulling right now isn’t actual anger but rather the unadulterated glee she takes in pushing Scott’s buttons, but partly because she’s upset that Kourtney can’t stop the faux-drama with perfectly-stable Scott while her own marriage is in free fall. The only blemish on this nice Khloé moment is that from our perspective Kourtney doesn’t know about Lamar yet, so I can’t tell if I’m reading that stuff into this or whatever Kourtney and Scott can it immediately because they recognize what’s up.
After that tangent (let’s call it a rare D-Plot), Kris cries during a video that Kendall made that “it feels like time and life is going by at lightning speed”—which I think is not the same thing as the speed of light?—but finally gets over her potential empty nest syndrome. Because, seriously: maybe by the sixth child things are going to seem pretty routine and quick? Maybe that’s just how it shakes out? The solution probably isn’t to micromanage your youngest daughter’s life.
The party looks expensive but lame, if you were wondering. There are lots of playing cards taped to the wall.
Kylie: So unconventional.
The B-Plot: Okay. So Khloé wants to non-talk about the sitch with Lamar some more. I basically said everything I could possibly say about this last week, and unfortunately most of those remarks still apply this week. The only new stuff that comes this episode is Khloé’s argument that things have progressed to the point where she can no longer manage it herself. I assume she means that shit is going public, and people are going to find out, but: vague is vague is vague, still, even if the message of this episode is “my marriage might be falling apart.”
Which of course means that the main purpose of dwelling on this some more is, in the grand tradition of Kim Is Very Sad About Kris Humphries plots of episodes past, to showcase an extended sequence towards the end of the episode between Khloé and Rob that goes exactly how you might expect it to:
Rob: So, just to be absolutely clear, you have tried everything you can think of to try and help Lamar, and those things are not working?
Khloé: I feel really bad and helpless about how I feel really bad and helpless, y’know?
Rob: It is good that you have tried everything you can think of. This makes you a good person. It is also true, for the record, that Lamar’s behavior is hurting you, which means it’s okay if…you want to do something different.
Khloé: Yes. The things that are getting bigger than myself are causing me to re-evaluate my life in unexpected ways, y’know? Also, to answer your as yet unasked question: as of this point I do not actually have a plan about what I am going to do, but I may be forced to do something that is extreme.
Rob: Dear sister, I feel that I should reiterate that you have to live your own life, even if that hurts you deeply. Because I think we both agree that Lamar is not a bad person, but this situation is. For the record, you are not at fault.
Do you think that covers it? Do those of you who were mad that Khloé is uncertain how to deal with Lamar being a drug addict who is also suffering from severe depression feel more sympathetic to our plucky heroine now? I mean, part of my issue here is that nowhere during this episode’s endless talk about this subject are the words “crack,” “depression,” or “divorce” mentioned, but part of it is more basic: who needed this justification? There are plenty of reasons to hate on Kardashians, but I don’t think anybody that knows that Lamar Odom is a drug addict who is very probably fucking around thought, “geeze. Why is Khloé not standing by her man?” They’re celebrities. Celebrities get divorced every damn day. Khloé’s own sister got separated from her second husband after barely two-and-a-half months, and that was just because her husband was boring. I think Khloé’s in the clear here.
I know I’m repeating myself, but I really don’t get the point of spending so much time on this if you’re not going to tell the actual story. These three or episodes have done little more than (1) imply and then explain that Lamar was acting non-specifically erratic; (2) explain that Khloé tried really hard, off-show, to deal, but couldn’t; and (3) conclude that maybe she needs a change. Even given that I totally respect her privacy and therefore don’t expect (2) to play out onscreen, why do (1) and (3) entirely involve confessionals where Khloé dully outputs vending machine fortunes like, “some things are just bigger than you, y’know?”
We know. This should have been exactly one subplot of one episode. Stretching it out this long, over the course of five episodes, only serves to highlight just how PR-oriented this supposedly-fluffy show can sometimes be. It’s very sad about Lamar, and I’m very sad for Khloé. But I felt that way without seeing any of this play out on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. All the show’s iteration of this situation has done is triggered my sense of skepticism and suspicion about the whole thing, like Khloé thinks there’s something she needs to defend herself against. That’s not something I thought before this drama played out onscreen.
And that’s not even all of it, because, the other thing that is vague and unexplained is Rob’s mental health. Although here at least Brody clearly diagnoses Rob as being “depressed” for not going out and missing family events, including Kylie’s Sweet 16, because he is dissatisfied with how he looks, which…Brody isn’t a doctor, but at least he incisively says something about it. The issue for Rob is that he’s decided that Lamar is off the reservation enough that the Odom household isn’t an environment that is conducive to Rob’s goal to better himself.
Presented without comment, here is a selection of faces that Brody and Rob make while bro-ing out and talking like…well, I’d say “like certain boys talk when girls aren’t around to see,” but then again Rob talks all the time about giving his sisters pearl necklaces, so he’s an exceptional case:
Basically, Brody tells Rob that he needs to put a picture of a “big, fake-ass booty” on his wall and then workout towards being “yoked-up” enough to be able to put his “face in that thing.” Lovely, right?
I don’t know if we’re supposed to assume that this conversation sways Rob, but at the Lamar Summit he tells his sister he needs to move out. Khloé briefly attempts to drama queen like Rob is abandoning her, but she acquiesces, because: what are you gonna say when your brother spends all his time eating snack cakes and carving bear sculptures with a chainsaw and talking about his sperm touching your body? Like, I don’t think the question should be “why would Rob move out?” Nah. It’s, “why the hell hasn’t Khloé turfed his ass years before?”
Kendall: ROB IS MY BROTHER. PLEASE STOP IMPUGNING HIS REPUTATION.
The whole Lamar Summit is plagued with dropped audio, weird cuts, tense music, and Khloé and Rob making weird facial expressions. It’s this dense wad of confusion. It finally, mercifully ends with Khloé noting that she’s going to have to tell her family, except…that’s also the end of the episode, and the season, like it’s just this abrupt cut to credits, like even the editors were bored to death with this shit.
Editors: (Eye rolls.)
The C-Plot: Kendall offers to take care of a friend’s pig but jets off to New York for a photo shoot. Kris is initially pissed that she’ll be forced to deal with the pig, but quickly falls in love with it, awesomely, because she’s dealing with empty-nest syndrome and because she’s as much a fan of Charlotte’s Web as she is of Gidget and because this particular pig/child will allow Kris to clean up its life with bling collars and nursery shit without complaining or being all “Moooooom.”
I mean, this story is a joke, because North lives in Kris’s house, at least right now, but still, it’s cute:
Although you know Kris is really thinking this:
Kendall is so surprised at Kris’s love for the pig that she jokes about getting Kris her own, which leads to the weirdest but also surprisingly-sensical moment of the episode, when Scott scoffs from across the room—like one of those frequent Arrested Development reveals where the camera pans over—and berates the sisters present that they can’t get Kris a pig because she’s way too busy ingeniously managing their careers for them, so maybe they should stop being so ungrateful already. It’s hilarious, because of course Scott is the only one in this family who recognizes the effort Kris puts into her job, because Scott is kind of afraid of Kris, while everybody else is her daughter. Or Rob.
Later, Kendall steals the pig back from Kris and gives it back to the pig’s real owner. This part was kind of glossed over, but…did Kris kidnap the pig? Is that what happened?