3 Things That Kept Me Up After the First Episode of ‘The Kardashians,’ Season 2

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Four months have passed since the first season of The Kardashians ended, and we’re back for season two with a premiere centered on Khloe’s most recent—and perhaps most epic—public heartbreak. Tristan Thompson, Khloé’s longtime on-and-off partner and the father of her first child, True, is discovered to be having a baby with another woman. That betrayal would be painful enough for the matriarchy without the added revelation that Khloé and Tristan had, only “days before,” become pregnant with their future son through a surrogate. Existential gloom pervades the episode—even in scenes intended to incite hope—so for those who critique the Kardashians for their “hyper-curated” narratives, these bracing 45 minutes might offer some compensatory realness. Here are three things that kept me up after the sophomore season premiere of The Kardashians.

Khloé’s Multi-Layered Exposition About the Betrayal

The first four minutes of the episode kick off with Kim and Khloé discussing whether “it’s time” for Khloé to “talk about it.” What, exactly, is “it?” Suspense builds until we meet Khloé in a confessional, where she tearfully tells the camera that there was more to the story in last June’s season finale. “That day, when you guys were shooting with Kim about Tristan, when you found out that Tristan was having a baby with somebody else,” she begins—and the shot cuts to a flashback from the first season: Kim on the phone in her workout room, hearing the news, and calling others in the family to announce it. The shot returns to present-day Khloé, who says, “there was just something I wasn’t ready to talk about,” and explains that she’d known, even then, that there was not one, but two babies on the way. Apparently, unbeknownst to the film crew, this was the bombshell that Khloé dropped on Kim over the phone—finally contextualizing Kim’s reactions in that scene. I’m obsessed with the “metamedia” manner of this introduction’s editing, seamlessly cutting between Khloé’s revelatory exposition and paradigm-shifting flashbacks.

The Lion-Themed Baby Shower

Have you ever noticed that, in the Kardashian simulacrum, ceremonies and celebrations serve as episode endgames? This episode was largely driven by Khloé’s resistance to having a baby shower—and the party she got once she finally relented. We see Kris fretting with stuffed animal lions amid beige balloons, explaining, “We’re thinking it’s a Leo baby, so it’s a lion shower!” Edna Aphek and Yishai Tobin have written at length about the “semiotics of astrology,” which, in a sense, were utilized in theming the baby shower. What do I mean by “semiotics?” Astrology assigns certain images, representations, and backstories to the zodiac—the lion is associated with late-summer birthdays, for example. Such signs allow us to simplify our own self-concepts and use them to relate to one another—which might be why astrology had such a heyday on social media a few years ago—and they make for a helpful hack when party-planning under duress. The Kardashians have some of the best branding brains in the world. Is it any surprise that Kris thought to decorate a party according to one of the culture’s most beloved—and relatable—semiotic systems? 

Kris’s Description of Khloé’s Family as “Nontraditional” 

When Khloé breaks the news of what happened to cousin CiCi, Kris adds, “Here we are again, and it’s not happening traditionally as it happens for a lot of people.” It’s hard to be sure which part is reading as “nontraditional” for Kris; the situation is certainly unique and complicated, but America is made up of all kinds of families. One thing that did strike me, however, was the way the episode touched on deeper discourse around surrogacy. We never once see the surrogate, raising quiet questions of whether consciously centering their role would have been more—or less— ethical. Were they narratively necessary, or would they just be distracting? 

At another point, Kim and Khloe discuss Khloé’s emotional detachment from the reality that she has a son on the way. Is it because she is not the one carrying the child? Is it because she no longer has a partner with whom she can pass the time while she awaits his arrival? The labor—pun semi-intended—of gestating someone else’s baby is not often explored in mainstream conversations, and this episode feels like a great excuse to dig into sociologist Heather Jacobson’s book Labor of Love: Gestational Surrogacy and the Work of Making Babies, which examines the topic with focus on the surrogate experience. This was an episode that explored themes of detachment and loyalty, all in the context of a “modern family,” and it delivered the kind of raw content audiences have been asking for of the Kardashians. Until next week!



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