How the Kendra On Top premiere was real, relatable and so devastating
For the past three months, Kendra Wilkinson's life has played out in the headlines. But on tonight's Season 3 premiere of Kendra On Top, the public finally gets a peek behind the scenes as Wilkinson struggles to deal with husband Hank Baskett's very public cheating scandal.
When news broke back in July that Baskett had allegedly cheated on Wilkinson with a transsexual model, I was shocked. I had legitimately thought they were one of those reality TV couples who could actually make it.
But then, in the wake of the allegations about Baskett, rumors began to surface that the entire affair was just a grab at ratings. Skeptics felt such claims were bolstered further when the teaser trailer for the third season of Kendra On Top began airing, playing up the scandal.
Seriously, though... why would anyone make up something like that? Why would anyone subject their family to such scrutiny? I was interested to see if tonight's premiere seemed sensationalized at all.
The episode starts with Wilkinson's best friend, Jessica Hall, arriving at Wilkinson's house to console her distraught friend. And, y'all, she really needed consoling.
Wilkinson is bawling — literally collapsing in Hall's arms — and I get it. You can't fake that kind or raw emotion. Believe me, I've been there.
Once Wilkinson regains some of her composure, she laments to Hall that she thought her life was picture-perfect. When Hall asks (like most girlfriends would) if she ever suspected anything, Wilkinson admits she's never been the type of girl to keep tabs on her man.
Something doesn't add up
This is an interesting point, because it seems as though Baskett had a lot of freedom in their relationship. Perhaps too much? We asked our SheKnows Dating and Relationship Expert Andrea Syrtash to weigh in.
"Too much freedom doesn't cause someone to cheat," she said. "The bottom line is that if someone will cheat, he will cheat whether or not you are monitoring him. Freedom isn't the issue here — communication is. In a healthy relationship, you should have separate interests, but not separate lives. It's not nosy to check in about each other's days and schedules."
Fair enough, right? But regardless of whether Wilkinson checked in with Baskett enough, I can see how she would have been blindsided — especially when the episode flashes back to five weeks before.
The couple was preparing for baby Alijah's arrival, and they seemed so in love. When Wilkinson jokes about Baskett not being over her after two kids and six years together, he says, "Babe, we could be together 20 years and I still wouldn't be over you."
Ouch. Insert knife into heart here. Of course Wilkinson is having a hard time wrapping her head around how Baskett could do this and what she should do!
"It's tough for Kendra to reconcile this situation since she was betrayed by the person she trusted the most. This isn't a small thing, but it doesn't mean their whole relationship was a farce," Syrtash said. "Hank wasn't necessarily lying to Kendra. He can love her deeply and have found a way to compartmentalize his affair."
Real or contrived?
Eesh... tough stuff. It seems to me that Wilkinson is genuinely sorting through some heavy emotions on air, but I can see how detractors might claim it seems scripted — if they are only basing their judgment off of her "to the camera" confessionals.
So, we asked the show's executive producer: How much time passes between what we see being filmed and Wilkinson explaining those things to the camera?
"We try to do interviews within a day or two of filming a scene. Often when we are editing, we have to go back and ask Kendra to explain what was going through her mind, and that might be two to three weeks out. The interviews in the premiere of Kendra On Top were done within a week of Jessica arriving at Kendra's home."
Doesn't it make sense then that Wilkinson would seem at least a bit scripted in those moments? She'd had time to step back and reflect for a hot minute.
Throughout the episode, Wilkinson wonders aloud if she was somehow at fault. "Was he not attracted to me because I was pregnant? What did I do wrong?" she asked.
This kind of response is not uncommon, Syrtash says, but it can be unhealthy. Also, she points out, people rarely cheat because they aren't physically attracted to their partner.
"More commonly, people cheat because they are looking for attention or approval from someone else or because they crave variety," Syrtash explained. "In Hank's case, he may have craved this particular sexual experience that no woman, not even Kendra, could've given him."
As for the debate over her wedding rings — Wilkinson tells Hall that she flushed them down the toilet, but skeptics say that's doubtful — only Wilkinson and Baskett know what really went down.
"There were only two people present when Kendra flushed her wedding rings down the toilet: Kendra and Hank," said the executive producer. "Hank begged Kendra not to do it, but there was no stopping Kendra from doing what she did. Our production team learned about the fate of the rings after it happened. Our cameras were not there."
Infer what you will from that.
The bottom line
For the most part, the premiere does what I think Wilkinson is hoping it would — paint a picture of a family in the throes of a crisis. They may be a celebrity couple, but they're still a real couple, and they're trying to make sense of a situation that anyone would struggle to understand.
Like any good parents would do, they try to shield their kids from the situation as much as they can — a move our SheKnows Parenting Expert Vera Sweeney says is spot-on.
"Children should never be involved in adult affairs," she told us. "Their minds are too young to be able to process these types of issues. Little Hank should never be made aware of parental disputes. I think it was the right decision to keep him in the dark about the reality of the situation. Let children be children."
As the episode ends, an emotional Wilkinson spills a bottle of breastmilk (breastfeeding moms will feel her pain) and is visibly overwhelmed when the phone starts ringing off the hook, waking up the baby, as she struggles to pump a replacement.
This, I thought, is a mother. A wife. A woman going through what will likely be the darkest days in her marriage. So I applaud Wilkinson for being brave enough to let us in.
When cheating scandals occur in celebrity marriages, we only ever get to see the end result. For once, we're getting to see a family in the thick of it, just trying to piece themselves back together.
And I, for one, think that's pretty commendable.