Keeping Up with the Kardashians: S08E21: "A Very Merry Christmas"
By Mark Abraham· Dec 04, 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.
“A Very Merry Christmas” is all about boredom, mostly, and also flatly stating all the things that the previous 20 episodes of the season merely hinted at in a variety of excruciating ways. Which, of course, raises one important question: why wait three weeks to just come out and say these things? Why didn’t Khloé, for example, just clearly articulate this stuff during her convo with Rob?
Kris: Because part of the reason you all watch our shows is to see when and how we’ll talk about this stuff?
Kourtney: This is also the reason why Scott and I still pretend to hate each other sometimes, even though I clearly barely care about being on this show anymore outside of making my salary.
So, yeah: Khloé and Lamar are having problems. Bruce and Kris are separated. Kim makes way more money than everybody else. Rob is still struggling with his self-esteem. This is all said simply and bluntly—like a checklist, really—in a very short scene midway through this atrocity of an episode, essentially making this very merry special episode a big fuck you to everybody who sat through all the build up of the previous episodes only to have the actually interesting, climactic things happen off screen. Thanks, Kardashian/Jenners! I’m so glad I slept through your Greece sojourn for this. Also: thanks for this season never ending! Also: how the hell was this episode not called “A Very Merry Kristmas”?
I can’t deal with providing a full recap for the episode. The first 40 or so minutes of it (and that’s sans commercials) is just Kris, Bruce, Kourtney, Scott, Kim, Khloé, Rob, Kendall, and Kylie sitting around in their faux-jammies watching videos of how insanely spoiled these kids were and playing a White Elephant gift exchange. They were cute as kids, don’t get me wrong, and the late ’80s and early ’90s haircuts and outfits are a thing to behold, but it seems like on every Christmas the Kardashians ever had Santa brought them kid-sized vehicles and real live horses. Which would be fine, except that the theme of this portion of the episode is “family is what’s most important us, just like it is to the rest of you,” and I’m sorry if I think that several Christmas living rooms’ worth of what looks like the entire stock of an FAO Schwarz outlet doesn’t necessarily jive with that message. No matter the current economic climate.
Kris: But that joke I made about getting 10% of Kourtney’s $10,000 lotto ticket was funny, wasn’t it?
Rob: And that joke I made about the first time that Khloé and I slept together was funny, wasn’t it?
Bruce: And that joke I made misreading “WWJD” as “WILD” was funny, wasn’t it?
Kylie: That wasn’t a joke, Dad. I know that, because I know I was the only one being funny, because I looked like I hated being there the entire time. Because I did.
The one real revelation we got was that Kendall and Kylie had great, vibrant personalities when they were kids. Their present ones are not what I think Bruce would count among his Christmas miracles.
The Second Half: Of course, ignoring this episode altogether would mean ignoring the latter part, which is amazing, you guys! It’s all about that Christmas Card they released. This one:
Whoops! But remember the days? (Oh. You don’t? That’s probably because they weren’t on television yet.) Actually, this one:
I don’t care about how ludicrous the card itself is, really. I mean, I do, because the photographer, David LaChapelle, makes this big deal about how this image will say “something about the time and place where we live,” and all I can see—with the screened images of Kim and Bruce’s Olympic shots plastered all over the walls—is that it speaks to the love/hate relationship the Kardashians have with fame and Bruce Jenner’s impotence metaphorically made tangible. I mean, I suppose LaChapelle could be trolling them, but he talks about his ideas in that empty way that some artists have that immediately turns me off. He really doesn’t want to explain his ideas at all, is what’s actually going on.
But what’s awesome is that this episode seems geared towards stopping the backlash before the card was even revealed at the end of the episode, making this the first time in the history of these shows that an episode of the show is anticipating the reaction rather than trying to deal with it well after the fact. Which is revolutionary for Keeping Up with the Kardashians!
You can tell because LaChapelle does not come off well in this episode. And I think that’s probably fine to a certain extent; famous photographers seem to get a lot of rope when it comes to being dicks, so it’s not like his portrayal here will ruin his career. But despite the fact that it’s clear the Kim kind of pushed him on the rest of the family because Special Guest Star Kanye West suggested they do this (and, let’s face it, their cards have only been getting less Christmasy and more glamor over the past couple of years, so this kind of leap was inevitable), and despite the fact that after the ordeal is over the three eldest Kardashian siblings—in a severely staged sequence—talk about what a great experience it was, the meat of the sequence barely even attempts to disguise LaChapelle’s disgust with having the male members of the family or any kids in the photo.
North is not even mentioned; Special Guest Star Kanye West is on tour; Lamar’s Lamaring; Rob’s sad about his physique; and Scott doesn’t give a shit. Which leaves Kendall, Bruce, and Kourtney as the troublemakers.
Kendall, because she wants Bruce in the picture, so she immediately goes to him and explains Kris’ generic acceptance of LaChapelle’s idea—which Kris mostly did because it removed the need to deal with Lamar—in a way that makes Bruce feel that this is evidence of Kris negating the detente they’ve come to since separating, which is to say that they’re still making decisions and parenting together. Kris smooths this over pretty quickly, even apologizing, so Bruce is in.
There were no jokes in the previous paragraph, because: boring. But the funny part is that Bruce actually sees this as a victory; when LaChapelle mealymouthedly claims that he’s glad Bruce is there, Bruce pumps a fist in the air like he just battled communists and won despite 1000:1 odds.
It’s Mason and Penelope that are the sticklers. The set for the shoot wasn’t “child proofed,” so LaChapelle repeatedly tries to argue that the kids can’t be in it because of safety. That’s bullshit, of course, though whether it’s bullshit because he’s just being a child-fearing dick or it’s bullshit because he’s being a calculated dick who wants to exploit the Kardashians for his artistic treatment of reality show fame is unclear. Either way, Kourtney doesn’t truck with bullshit, so when LaChapelle claims he doesn’t “want to be the Grinch who stole Christmas” because he doesn’t want the kids around, Kourtney blankly says, “you are.” And then, without missing a beat, says, “just kidding!” in a voice that clearly isn’t, because calling Mason over in just the cutest little tux you’ve ever fucking seen. Set and match.
What an experience, right? Except: a Christmas Card is something lots of Western families do. Being able to hire David LaChapelle to shoot your family Christmas Card is an experience basically nobody could have. Otherwise, though, you’re just like the rest of us.