Kendra On Top: Are Hank's tears real or is he manipulating her?
At the close of Kendra on Top last week, Kendra Wilkinson's marriage was still very much in limbo — particularly since Hank Baskett had yet to return from New Mexico with the couple's son, Little Hank.
With little to no communication from Baskett, Wilkinson kicks off this week by doing what she thinks she must: damage control.
Seeking professional help
And, for Wilkinson, that involves a whole team of PR professionals and legal counsel.
"I don't know if I'm going to be ruined, broke, whatever. I need to know I'm going to be OK," she explained to her personal assistant after kissing baby Alijah goodbye and leaving her with the nanny.
With naysayers claiming the entire scandal is a publicity stunt, couldn't her focus on her financial situation be construed as evidence she and Baskett weren't emotionally invested to begin with?
Probably not, says SheKnows dating and relationship expert, Andrea Syrtash.
"This season, Kendra has voiced that she's never really been on her own — she went from her family's home to the Playboy Mansion and then moved in with Hank," Syrtash said. "It's not uncommon for newly single people to stress about finances; and in Kendra's case, she has a scandal to navigate on top of it. Anyone in her position would wonder if and how it may affect her career."
As Wilkinson arrives at her lawyer's office, she notices paparazzi waiting idly for her arrival.
They manage to make it inside without any major mishaps or meltdowns, though, and Wilkinson is greeted with concern and what appears to be genuine affection by her agent, manager, attorney and publicist.
Wilkinson opens up about some of her concerns — could friends be leaking information to the press? Who can she trust? — and gets some pretty solid advice in return.
"We just have to make sure we look at each decision choice by choice," said her manager. "And it's simple... but it's not gonna be easy, period."
But when her attorney brings up the idea of separation or divorce, Wilkinson can't pull the trigger just yet. It's clear she is torn between sticking it out and trying to move on. And, also, it's clear that she still loves her husband.
"I spent a couple days thinking, 'I hate him, I hate him, he can die.' And then I thought, 'Wait, I want him to be Hank again, but he has to admit something. You can't live your life in a lie," she said.
Still, if one especially constructive thing came from the meeting from the viewer's perspective, it's that we finally got the full story on the wedding ring situation. (Yes, she definitely flushed them.)
Yikes. At least it was cathartic for her?
The happy reunion
When Wilkinson gets back home, Baskett's car is in the driveway and, for the moment, the thought of dealing with Baskett is eclipsed by the realization that Little Hank is home. When Wilkinson sees her son, she bursts into tears and essentially tackles him in a hug, understandably — she hadn't seen him in over a week.
When the news of the scandal broke, Baskett's parents happened to be visiting from New Mexico. After Wilkinson got the call from her agent, Baskett and his parents checked into a nearby motel ("This is when rumors began of Hank going to a motel with the 'nanny,'" explained executive producer and series creator, Kevin Burns, "It was his mother!).
The following morning when the family was besieged by paparazzi, they decided it was in Little Hank's best interests to go with his father and grandparents to New Mexico.
"Hank left with his parents and Little Hank that same day and returned with him 10 days later," said Burns. "Our production team alerted Hank that we would be there to cover the moment when they first saw each other. That is exactly what you see in the episode. We were not restricted in any way."
The moment of truth... sort of
That moment comes when Wilkinson sees Baskett sitting in the living room and you get the dreadful sense that this little family's entire world is on the brink of breaking apart for good.
Wilkinson makes a good mommy move and sends Little Hank upstairs to take a bath so she can finally confront Baskett — the moment we've all been waiting for.
But then, when they first meet eyes, it's just kind of heartbreaking. Baskett looks pitiful and Wilkinson looks like a woman who is still in love with the broken man sitting in front of her.
When Wilkinson asks him, point blank, if he cheated on her, Baskett firmly responds, "No."
If he didn't do anything, though, why is he so upset? When she asks what she is supposed to do now, his response of "I don't know... I'm at your mercy" only heightens this sense that he is hiding something.
Syrtash isn't so sure. "Hank's tears are real, and I don't believe he's crying in order to manipulate her — though that's possible. It's likely that Hank really loves Kendra and feels remorse, guilt and/or anxiety over what he allegedly did."
Admittedly, it's pretty gut-wrenching when Wilkinson asks if she is supposed to be the one person to believe Baskett and he responds, "If there was one, I would want it to be you. I would pray it would be you."
But it's OK for Wilkinson to be angry and dubious right now, assures Syrtash.
"Kendra needs to look at the evidence and listen to her gut above all else. She's not betraying her husband by questioning him or doubting his story against the evidence she's collected. She can support her marriage by seeking help with and without her husband, but they won't get anywhere if both of them aren't completely honest."
As the episode ends in the midst of their tense discussion, Baskett's last words are, "I want to be here." And that, at least, seems like a pretty honest start.