It’s fitting that Season 4 of The Kardashians, which streams Sept. 28 on Hulu, is airing just ahead of the most frightening month of the year, given that the premiere opens with a massive jump scare. No, not another close-up shot of Kris Jenner’s surgeries or her daughter Kylie trying to drive stick in the middle of a busy Calabasas road. Rather, the season begins with an outrageously loud drum beat that even Christopher Nolan would ask to tone down. It’s an energy that feels more appropriate for shuffling a few heads of state into a situation room and briefing them on an apocalypse that’s days away. The sound bangs into the frame as if the most cataclysmic, earth-shattering event ever has happened—and really, it has, lest we all forget about the appalling accusations that Kourtney lobbied against Kim last season, when Kourt alleged that her sister copied her Dolce Vita lifestyle.
It was worse than a Kourtastrophe; it was Kimageddon.
The two sisters are still at odds this season, but they manage to film a side-by-side, sit-down confessional (that doesn’t not look like the two of them are green-screened into the same shot) to air out their grievances. That’s much easier said than done, as they and the rest of America’s First Family are publicly coming to terms with the way their lives operate on a reality television schedule; they fight, make up, and then get even madder when they watch the episodes back and find out what each one said behind someone else’s back.
For anyone who has so much as dipped a toe into the world of the Kardashians, that’s not surprising to you. It’s how this cycle has gone for the last umpteen years. But for them, things are different now that the veil has been lifted. Their acknowledgement of their own confusing filming-to-airing timeline has even made the show much more spritely. Everyone’s far more animated than they’ve been since their microchips were first implanted, sometime around 2013, and it makes the entire affair a breezy watch. Now that they’ve finally settled into their new home on Hulu, the Kardashians have found a way to produce both the hijinks that made us fall in love with them, as well as the extremely petty drama we stuck around for. It also doesn’t hurt that the premiere has one of the funniest scenes in the family’s televised history, where Khloé quakes in fear at the prospect of sea beasts. Despite what a good amount of the American population seems to think, you can’t make this stuff up.
I come to The Kardashians for wish fulfillment. I absolutely am not looking for realism or relatability. So when Season 4 kicked off with a family trip to Cabo for a literal day and a half, I said, “Let’s hit it.” In fact, I’d like to dump some extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, just for good measure. I kid, I kid, but we’ll all be fossilized by the time Dune: Part 2 hits theaters anyway, why not have a laugh?
A family trip is the perfect way to begin any season of The Kardashians, letting us check in on how everyone’s doing before we get into the more drab events of later episodes. (I’m far more interested in who designed the pinstripe suit that Kim wore to speak at Harvard than I am in her actually speaking at Harvard, but congrats on getting the call, I suppose.) Well, the trip catches up with everyone but Kourtney, who has stayed home after another blowout fight with Kim, following the two women watching the final edits for Season 3 a few days prior.
If you can imagine this, cameras were indeed there to capture the fight. Kim calls Kourtney to invite her to a Dolce & Gabbana dinner as a peace offering, and things quickly fly off the rails. Kourtney accuses Kim of stealing something that was hers (the Dolce Vita aesthetic). Kim, then, tells her sister that she has massively changed personalities and everyone is concerned about her. “All of your friends call us complaining—whether you think they’re the ones going to you, they’re all coming to us on the side saying the opposite to us,” Kim says. “We’re on a group chat that’s actually labeled ‘NOT KOURTNEY’ so we know and have to funnel what your friends are saying to us.”
That alone is a shocking revelation. Kourtney, like any rational person, becomes incensed at the thought of her closest friends and family all talking behind her back. Kim doubles down and mentions that even Kourtney’s kids have come to voice their concerns to their aunt. This sends Kourt over the edge, capping their phone call in a very succinct statement: “It’s you, and my friends, and my kids, and everyone against me. You’re just a fucking witch and I hate you.”
Unsurprisingly, Kourtney is not on the Cabo trip. But Kim, Khloé, Kris, Kylie, and Kendall have all managed to put whatever drama they might have internally aside for a little fun in the sun. That is, so long as Khloé can shake her fear of whales. When their luxury villa’s attendant tells the family that the whales are jumping in the waters along their private beach, a look of pure, unbridled terror falls over Khloé’s face. I haven’t seen her face emote that much since Kris made a bad pun about her bangs. She’s visibly disturbed and it is absolutely hilarious. “I feel like I’m going to cry, I really can’t see [whales jumping],” she says.
In a brilliant, completely earnest cut to a confessional, Kris apprehensively tells us, “I can’t quite figure out where Khloé got this fear of whales. The thought of a whale, the glance of a whale, the conversation of a whale. It had to have been somewhere in her childhood that I went really, really wrong somehow.” Can you imagine the absolute torture that Khloé faced last awards season, hearing the title of Brendan Fraser’s latest film in constant conversation? Every mention of The Whale must have sent a chill up her spine—and that makes two of us!
Cut to Khloé, clad in an Indiana Jones hat, with a pair of binoculars sealed to her eyes, trying to spot her oceanic aggressors. Jaws-like cello music scores these hysterical shots of her fearfully looking around. “What are they doing, mating?” she asks. “That’s sick.” It’s as if she thinks the whales are going to swim onto land, waddle into her room, and gobble her up. She spots a whale fly out of the water, drops the binoculars, and starts running around screaming. It’s an absolutely brilliant sequence and the hardest I’ve laughed at this show in its four seasons. “My daughter bullies me,” Khloé says in a confessional, through gritted teeth. “She draws me pictures of whales just to fuck with me. She thinks it’s so funny.”
It is, in fact, so funny. And, unfortunately, it’s the funniest bit of the first two episodes of Season 4 (critics were sent two episodes for review). There are some other amusing scenes, but nothing can quite match up to the sheer glee that comes with watching Khloé sick to her stomach at the thought of a whale. But even the more intimate moments in the episodes after the premiere have a thoughtful cadence to them. Khloé opens up more about being put through the wringer by Tristan Thompson, who moved in with her after his roof caved in and he needed a place to stay. Kim and Kourtney are still at war, which is always a deeply fascinating sight: two narcissists arguing over who is more self-centered. Even Kendall and Kylie, normally the most wooden in the dynasty’s current era, seemed to have thrown back a couple of espresso shots each time the cameras went up.
The Kardashian-Jenner family will never match the heyday glory of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but I’ve long since stopped yearning for it. That’s all available for me to go back and rewatch at my next mental spiral. Now, I’m happy to sit back and take whatever these women are willing to give us. It seems that they, too, are happier to provide. I’ll take what I can get, since that kind of symbiosis doesn’t come easily—well, unless you’re a whale, in which case the whole ocean ecosystem works together in sweet harmony. I can only hope the Kardashians find that level of ease with one another.
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