By Josh Duboff. Photos: Getty Images.
When it became clear that there was going to be an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians this season that focused on the armed robbery of Kim Kardashian West in her Paris hotel room last fall, it was fair to wonder if the show—now in its 13th season—would handle the incident in a way that didn’t feel in some way exploitative. Perhaps in anticipation of this argument, Kardashian West tweeted a series of messages Sunday afternoon, hours before the episode was to air:
“Tonight's episode is going to be very tough for me,” she wrote. “However, I thought it was important to share this story through my eyes & not in an interview where my own words could be twisted. I have always shared so much & I'm not going to hold back when this was probably one of the most life changing experiences for me. I would never wish this experience upon anyone, but have learned some valuable lessons & feel so blessed to be safe home with my babies & husband. To my friends, family, and loved ones I can't thank you enough for being there when I needed you the most. To the French police, thank you for your incredible hard work.”
It does seem in keeping with their brand—share! everything!—that the robbery and its aftermath would be covered on the series. Though, of course, the story itself—a gun was held up to Kardashian West, and she believed she was going to die—is unprecedented terrain for a show that traffics mostly in lighthearted plotlines related to relationships and family feuds. Though it can feel at times as if the family is so famous that nothing could possibly truly rattle them, this episode, as it unfolded, served as a horrifying and violent reminder of the danger that surrounds them, and the importance of their closeness as a unit.
It was in fact a very affecting hour of television, one that managed to, from a factual standpoint, provide details and angles to the incident that had not been previously publicly known, and also from an emotional one, as Kardashian narrated the feelings and thoughts she was having both as the robbery took place and in the subsequent hours.
The episode began with some brief, grainy footage of the reality star returning to New York post-robbery to be re-united with her children, before jumping back a week earlier, as she prepared to leave for Paris. The first half covered the days leading up to the robbery, and were quite tense, as viewers—while watching Kim and Kourtney try on outfits and make small talk with Joan Smalls and otherwise enjoy their Kardashian lives—knew what lay ahead for the family. About halfway through, the show reached the robbery itself. Footage of Kanye West halting his New York concert after learning about the incident led into testimonials from Kourtney Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, and Kris Jenner—all of whom were in Paris at the time—describing the night. Kris said it was one of “worst nights of [her] life.” Kendall recounted that she started crying immediately in the nightclub when she was informed by hairstylist Jen Atkin that Kim had been robbed at gunpoint.
The most affecting scene in the episode was Kim’s reunion with children North and Saint in New York following the robbery, as a tearful Kris Jenner and Kanye West watched on. Similarly, there was something touching about Kris Jenner explaining in an on-camera interview that her first instinct, when finding out about the news, was to bring Kim her favorite blanket to wrap her up in it, as if that would make everything O.K. It was these moments—raw and precise and emotional, relatable to anyone who has ever been involved in a crisis—that connected viscerally in a way tailor-made for TV.
Especially when compared to regular episodes of the series, the hour possessed an intensity—and a quiet solemnity—that at times made for upsetting viewing. In their New York apartment, West said, “If anything had really happened to you, I wouldn’t have stopped until they were dead,” and that hypothetical just lingered in the air. On a plane to Los Angeles shortly after the robbery, Kim explained, “I feel like I’ve been in a fight. My body is just exhausted.” And there was really nothing Kris Jenner or Corey Gamble, with her on the plane, could say in response; in those moments, you just listen. At the close of the episode, Kim recounted that one of her thoughts, as she lay on the bed at the robbers’ mercy, was about if Kourtney would be able to “have a normal life” when she returned to the apartment to find Kim’s dead body.
The episode ended with Kim reflecting on the particulars of the night with sisters Kourtney and Khloe (they briefly FaceTimed with brother Rob, as well). The centerpiece of the show—and the reason for its great success—is that this family, whatever you may think of them, is extremely tightknit. There is no world in which this hour of television was not going to end with a group hug. The preview for next week’s episode indicates that the robbery and the fallout will continue to be explored (Kim is heard telling Khloe that she is being “reminded of what happened”). And it does not seem like things are going to get much less serious for the remainder of the season, as Kanye West’s hospitalization for stress and exhaustion is coming up. This is new territory for the show, but if producers manage to present these incidents with the same sensitivity and nuance as this one was handled, it could be seen as the most vital season of the show yet.
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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