What’s Going On In This Kourtney, Kim Kardashian Phone Call?

The fourth season of the Kardashisan family’s Hulu spinoff, aptly тιтled The Kardashians, began, like all great films, in medias res as all but one of the Kardashian-Jenner squad headed to Kabo San Lucas. Missing in action is Kourtney, with whom Kim has been feuding throughout the show’s third season and also on and off since 2008 (and presumably earlier, given they were both at one point children). For those with little clue as to what these two are always mad about beyond the oft-TikToked audio of “but I’m copying her dolce vita lifestyle,” it’s that Kim takes umbrage with Kourtney’s perceived disinterest in the family brand, while Kourtney resents Kim’s urge to spin everything into a money-making venture.

Though the sisters seemed to make as much peace as a season-finale episode would let them at the end of season three, tensions boiled over in the interim. “What’s harder than living it in real time,” Kourtney explains, “is watching it back in the edit, which isn’t a natural way of living.”

What’s to be made of the big new fight between Kourtney and Kim that occurred “three days prior” (okay) to the Cabo trip? The scene is sH๏τ from Kim’s point of view completely as she dons a T-shirt more distressed than she is, natural short nails, and a low ponytail to suggest an at-home casualness. She FaceTime audios (it’s giving “pre-war apartment with no cell service”) Kourtney to extend a backhanded invite to Milan for a Dolce & Gabbana event. “I would love you to come with me. I know that’s not what you wanna do …”

Kourtney’s polite refusal (“I’m a little Dolce’d out … but I’m always supporting what you’re doing”) immediately dovetails into a rehashing of last season’s drama and then they’re off to the races. “You see things and get riled up, I see things and get riled up,” Kim says, getting at the heart of the definition of what an argument is.

As toned down as Kim appears to be, much of the phone disagreement scene (which is dramatically zoomed in any time Kourtney stands up for herself) has Kim on the attack. She goes in on Kourtney’s clothes at her wedding (“It’s not that original! Everyone does ’90s!”) and her atтιтude (“You have a serious vendetta! You hate us!”) before admitting to being in a group chat called “Not Kourtney” (apt!) where they all complain about Kourt in private. Who’s in there … Khloé, sure; not Kris, who feigns surprise at the ongoing feud later in the ep. Scott is definitely in there. Maybe also Kylie and Kendall, but they have notifications muted.

“Take out my whole [bleep] side of the episode,” Kourtney says, her wish granted in the televised fight.

The faux-“ugly” aesthetic of the fight — her “no makeup” makeup, her loose jeans, forced humility — shows Kim at her worst, the argument ending with her weaponizing Kourtney’s children against her, claiming they come to their aunt to complain about their mom’s new, bad personality. In any other reality television show, it might feel like a moment of reckoning, but this new iteration of The Kardashians only ever emphasizes the closeness of the family, how they are the only people that matter to each other. They only fight in order to make peace bigger and better than before. Kim is only as badly behaved — narcissistic, vindictive, money- and style-minded — as her general audience has always presumed her to be. Kourtney can’t say anything about her sister that hasn’t already been said by someone else. “Anything you do is about you and how it looks to the world about you,” she tells Kim.

As the fight comes to a close, Kim asks Kourtney what she can do to make amends to which Kourtney tells her: “Think about it.” And that’s presumably what she’ll do over the course of the season. The only reason to expose herself as so cruel is to spend the season walking it forward into “We’re all sisters here” pro-family values and peacemaking, even if the argument comes to an abrupt end as Kourtney cries (somewhat iconically), “You’re a [bleep] witch and I hate you!”

What feels most compelling about their ongoing feud is that it stems not from their lived reality but from the punishment of being on reality television. There was almost a collective breath of relief when Keeping Up came to a close in 2021: Not only would we be free of the family’s shenanigans, but they, too, would be released from their theatrics. Still, how many of the same arguments can they peddle to distract from the new show’s relative lack of narrative? That the nature of the production of their show is harmful to their relationship is almost as offensive, perhaps, as the tedium of watching it: For every explosive fight, there is also a subplot about Kris and Kylie going to Gelson’s.