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'Keeping Up With the Kardashians' recap -- Lamar Odom goes MIA, so does Kim (pretty much)

Khloe Kardashian, left, Kim Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian

Khloe Kardashian, left, Kim Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian arrive at the Tao Nightclub at The Venetian Las Vegas to celebrate Kim's 33rd birthday. (Oct. 26, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

As the Kardashian family gets ever-closer to world domination (love 'em or hate 'em, you know it's true), the E! reality show that was their claim to fame has become two things: first, a source for factchecking gossip stories about them, and second, a big fat gimmick. Third, it's thinly veiled PR for all the other ways they make money -- but hasn't it always been that?

Arguable, all reality shows are gimmicky, but Sunday's episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" went for some of the cheapest thrills I've seen since its inception. (Yes, there is not an episode I haven't seen. Sigh.) Khloe, Kendall, Kylie, Rob, Bruce and a few of his kids go camping/alien hunting. That was one of the two main storylines, I kid you not.

The other revolved around the premiere of Kris' talk show, titled "Kris" because of course, and how nervous she was, and how Debbie Downer (aka Kourtney) isn't being supportive and blah blah blah. In real life, the show may or may not be picked up after its six-week run over the summer; Fox slammed reports that "Kris" is dead in the water after "abysmal" ratings. So we'll see.

In case you were wondering whether Kim REALLY wanted to do that little video message on "Kris" shortly after giving birth to daughter North: She didn't. Only a few weeks postpartum, if that, she complains that none of her clothes fit and calls herself fat, even tearing up as cameras are ready to roll. It's hard not to feel for her -- though this is a woman whose big concern in that moment was, "I don't want the ends of my hair in the shot." So take from that what you will.

The most interesting family drama is deliberately downplayed. First, Kim gets only about five minutes' total screen time this episode, which, on the heels of her basically saying North won't be on "KUWTK," ever, during last Sunday's episode, makes me wonder whether producers will phase her out altogether. (If you missed last week, Kim tells Khloe that Kanye and North "didn't sign up for this, I did," and how she loves seeing her niece and nephew say and do funny things on "the show" -- breaking that fourth wall, Kimmy! -- but that Kanye's preference for privacy adds a different dynamic to their decisions than say, Kourtney and Scott, who pretty much couldn't care less.)

Could this be a sign of the show's slow demise? Kim (and her sex tape) was the only draw for the show in the beginning, so how can it possibly go on without her? And how can it possibly go on with her without any mention of her fiance and baby? For a "reality" show that is about a person's life, those are some pretty big aspects to leave out. (Filming has been underway for weeks on Season 9, so it's guaranteed to last at least that long without a cancellation. But after that, is it doomed?)

Also buried is the Lamar Odom saga that the show is trying very hard to shroud in mystery. They're either keeping things vague to protect Khloe and Lamar's privacy (ha!) or, more probably, to keep people watching. In actuality, it's just annoying. If I'm watching, it's because I want answers, darn it! Anyway, on the aforementioned camping/alien hunting trip, Lamar continues that weird thing he does of calling Khloe incessantly, and doubting that she is where she says she is. (After hanging up with Khloe, he immediately calls Bruce and asks to speak with her, as though to prove she is with him.) On their way home from the trip, Khloe takes a call from her assistant, who says she arrived at the Odom home to bring Lamar breakfast only to find he wasn't there, and she doesn't know where he is.

"So he's MIA," Khloe says. "He can't just cut off contact with me like that."

In a confessional, Khloe admits she knows "it looks weird" to her family members, who can tell something isn't right. She also says for the second time this season that she's "trying everything" to help Lamar, but "nothing is working." Oh, and while discussing Cory Monteith's overdose, Khloe and Bruce get into a debate about whether addiction is a choice or a disease, with Khloe arguing the latter. No mention of Lamar, but of course, it's about Lamar.

So this is what "KUWTK" has become: not so much a means by which we actually "keep up" with the Kardashians (because that's what gossip sites are for), but rather a way to find out whether the tabloid stories are fact or fiction, albeit months later, after everything has been been filmed and edited. Too bad we often find out those "fake" stories were actually real (as in the case of Kris denying she and Bruce split up when in fact they had). It remains to be seen how much of the truth we'll actually get from Khloe regarding her marriage.

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