Monday night's season-two premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was more heavily anticipated than most.
From the first frame, the Bravo hit directly and immediately addressed the mid-August suicide of Russell Armstrong, the estranged husband of star Taylor Armstrong and father to Kennedy, their 5-year-old daughter.
Minus Taylor, the core cast was shown gathering at the home of Adrienne Maloof on Aug. 29 to hash out the tragic news.
"A lot of us have some guilt about not seeing this coming," admitted a tearful Kyle Richards. But, she cautioned of Russell, who hanged himself at age 47 amid his crumbling marriage and financial woes: "You cannot feel responsible for that, nobody can. It was his choice. As difficult as that is, life goes on. It has to."
And the show goes on too — but with major, ongoing alterations in light of Russell's death.
"We've completed editing on the first few episodes, but are still reviewing the rest of the season," the show's executive producer, Douglas Ross, tells Us Weekly. "Russell does not appear in the first several episodes. At this point, I can't say if Russell will appear at all."
What scenes were definitely left on the cutting room floor for sensitivity's sake? The premiere episode originally featured Taylor, 40, shopping for lingerie in an attempt to spice up her flagging marriage to Russell. "You're not going to see anything like that," a show insider says.
One scene that fans did see on Monday's premiere was an awkward dinner moment at the Maloof house — in which Lisa Vanderpump's husband Ken Todd calls the Armstrong's decision to try couple's therapy "weak."
"Lisa was very upset that the producers weren't taking out that part," admits the insider.
But Taylor's big-time meltdown — "I'm breaking!" she cries in a teaser for the season — will indeed see the light of day later this season.
In the meantime, behind the scenes, the Housewives are rallying around their grieving friend.
"They all asked that her story be handled delicately," the source says. "This has brought them all much closer together."