The stunning news that the Vanderpump Rules reunion will not in fact be concluding this week as I’d expected but will instead be stretched out into a three-part fiasco of semi-epic proportions sent me into a cataclysmic form of shock from which I might never recover. Do you realize what this means? It means that someone in the position to make key programming decisions at Bravo said aloud, "Let's devote another hour to people who have no talent other than being blandly provocative!" It means that there will be full segments listed on the production schedule like “Stassi & The Dildo” and “James Likes It When People Suck On His Skinny Bullshit Arms.” It also means that I will surely have to one day dig myself a subterranean bunker stocked only with the work of Flannery O'Connor just so I can finally detox myself of the arid memory of these dicks pontificating about nothing at all by reading about subjects that are less grotesque than the Vanderpumpers – and O'Connor's work is pretty fucking grotesque.
The truth of the matter is I've always enjoyed entertainment that is somewhat perverse. One of my favorite stories of all time is A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner's southern gothic tale that weaves obsession, a corpse or two, and strands of long grey hair left stuck in a hairbrush and it's all told in a nonlinear fashion that grabs the reader and makes her confront the very depths of depravity. (Since she's best known for her dramatic roles, perhaps Kristen can star in the movie adaptation!) That said, when I moved on in my literary exploration of the southern masters and procured myself a copy of O'Connor's Wise Blood, a novel about a preacher who spreads the gospel about how there is no God on street corners while wearing a ratty suit that was described so vividly I could smell it (it smelled like mothballs mixed with rotting cauliflower in my mind), it was all a bit too much for me. I needed a calming break from all the visceral misery and horror the words drew forth, so I rented I Spit On Your Grave and watched it on a loop until I felt safe again.
What commonalities exist between the work of literary geniuses who craft sentences so vibrant that they can haunt you for decades and the cast of Vanderpump Rules? Absolutely fucking nothing – except for two things: 1) a character's name and phone number in Wise Blood is written in a bathroom stall in much the same way I'm guessing Lala's is (how else would those countless businessmen who whisk her across the globe know how to find her?) and 2) the books and this show make my stomach turn and lead me to question what happens to one's soul in the long run after exposing it to such filth in the short run. But the difference between literature about grotesque people dancing through a grim world and people like James and Jax and Lala and Kristen is that these people are real. They walk amongst us. And, despite watching their own horrific behavior for the last few years play out across the sizzle of our airwaves, they have not learned a blessed thing.
Last week ended with everyone screaming at one another and I’d gladly go back to that moment in a second and declare it my happy place because where we begin this week is so much worse. See, this week starts with some talk about the bite marks James accrued on the back of his arms from a girl who clearly needs intensive inpatient therapy. How gross is it to hear this idiot discuss his sexual proclivities? It's so gross that I have decided to search far and wide for anything that will start to remove the icky taste this conversation is leaving inside of my mouth. Lifesavers are not working. Squirting Lemon Pledge in my mouth like it’s Reddi Whip is not doing the job either. In desperation, I've resorted to stuffing car air freshness in my mouth (pine flavor!) and pretending they're chew for the rest of the night. But returning to the discussion about this twerp getting laid, it’s revealed that the reason Lala reacted so poorly to his arm hickeys is because it bothered her that she was being disrespected. Yes, Lala is all about getting respect. Don't believe me? Google "Lala" and "pool party" at your own risk and then we can chat about her soaring levels of self-respect – but do so knowing that the image of the thick line of hair that’s sprouting up her stomach will be something you won't be able to block from your psyche for at least twenty years.
While you're feeling brave, take a gander at the flashback footage of Jax dancing behind Lala as they leave Gay Pride. The guy's arms flail above his head in a move that might as well be called the I'm-Gonna-Get-Laid boogie, but they both claim nothing really happened. Do I believe them? Honestly, who cares? I just hope they used protection if anything did happen because I'm betting their spawn will look suspiciously like that thing in 10 Cloverfield Lane. But let's get back to Jax! No, he's not envious that James is twenty-four years old because he had the best time in his twenties! His name was Jason then! He was a model! He lived with an older man in South Beach! He's still having fun lying to everyone around him today!
Here's a secret, everybody: true sociopaths never have to really grow up.
Changing course to romance, Andy asks Schwartz and Katie about their engagement. I've said it before and I'll say again that these two – despite their questionable taste in some friends and their reluctance to ever have sex and the fact that Katie gave him an expiration date by which he was to propose – seem like decent people. I hope they make it and I'll send them a fucking gift if they promise not to get married on television because then I'll have to recap it since this is an actual job now. And you guys? I send amazing gifts so at least consider not allowing Bravo to air your nuptials where Kristen will show up drunk whether she's invited or not.
Also: Katie and Schwartz finally had sex two and a half weeks after the proposal. They're going through a bit of a drought now, and I'm thinking my gift should maybe be some porn to get them in the mood. Does Williams-Sonoma sell porn?
Andy then turns the focus to Sandoval and Ariana. When are they getting married? Turns out Ariana is not really interested in being someone's wife and the look of unadulterated relief that spreads across Kristen’s face the moment she hears those words is so hilarious that I accidentally spit out my pine-flavored chew. As I'm still not quite over the tremors of listening to a segment about how James likes girls to suck on his scrawny biceps, I'm just choosing to shove that shit back in.
It’s not just Schwartz who is growing up, though. Another one of our boys took a major step this year, too! After all, Jax moved Brittany out from Kentucky so she could live out her dreams of working at a different branch of Hooters while living in a hovel and appearing on a reality show where she can be deceived in high-definition. Goals are good. Now, Brittany seems like a nice (albeit kind of stupid) girl, and I don't want to speak too poorly of her because girlfriend and her nipples have already been through enough. Still, in what universe does it even make sense that she wouldn't tune into a show her new boyfriend is on to see what he's all about? And even if she wants to believe she knows the "real Jax" – fuck, the pine stuff came out again in a burst of hysterical laughter caused by the notion that anybody believes anything about this guy is real – wouldn't it maybe still behoove her to check out the public persona of a guy she's moving in with? It turns out that the answer to all of my questions is a resounding no. She doesn't care that his reputation is that of a prehistoric layer of sleaze; she was perfectly thrilled to leave everything behind in Kentucky because she is entirely smitten with the sweaty guy before us. Besides! He bought her new tits! And she even manages not to projectile vomit across the set when Jax says about her breasts, "WE decided to go smaller." I think we're seeing forever love here. These two share everything, including her silicone.
Less optimistic are the chances that Sandoval and Schwartz will ever be sangria ambassadors for Lisa's alcohol line. Since they had a tough time formulating full sentences during any meeting they attended about joining the company, they might want to stick to the jobs they do best: modeling, bartending, and shilling their personal lives on cable television.
On to Scheana and Ariana and the seismic shift in their friendship. It's looking as though the two are doing better, but Ariana will cut you with the knife she's got hidden on her person (the one she carries just in case Kristen forgets that she recently announced that she's such a blissfully happy person) if anyone tries to declare that Scheana is her best friend. She values Scheana, sure, but she also realizes that relationships sometimes shift and she's just following the natural patterns that are developing. Ariana is way too normal to be on this show, you guys. Katie, however, is not too normal to be a proud Vanderpumper. She cannot possibly understand why Ariana is grumpy all the time just because every single time she walks into work or a party or a friend's house, she is bombarded with people telling her that it's silly that she won't make Kristen a friendship bracelet and just get over the past when Kristen set a goddamn egg timer so she could threaten Ariana's life every hour on the hour.
"This is the most toxic environment I've ever seen in my whole life," Ariana explains rationally. "How you guys don't see that blows my mind."
My guess? They all fucking see that they’re living and playing and working in a toxic environment – except for Kristen, who right now thinks she sees the bunny from Donnie Darko standing just outside the frame. But even though they know that being a part of this show is squelching their belief in humanity, the cameras that point at them make them feel too important to ever walk away. Quick note: should Ariana walk away, I'll send her a gift too. I wonder what kind of porn she likes...
Since reunions are all about revisiting things that have already occurred, it's time to figuratively jet back to Hawaii! Has the passage of time cured Kristen of her scalding rage that she wasn't invited on a trip that was partially set up to celebrate her ex-boyfriend’s birthday? C'mon! Her blood is still boiling that James got to go instead because it's not like these people even like him! But James is not the point here. No, the point is one Sandoval is trying to express and words are failing him so badly that he might need to act out his ideas and thoughts via charades. The guy is so flustered that Andy Cohen calls him "sweetie" in a way that is both sarcastic and sweet and I suppose it worked because Sandoval is finally able to articulate that he simply didn't want his ex-girlfriend showing up. The girl has been an absolute fucking nightmare for the guy and Sandoval is sick and tired of the fact that his feelings never seem to matter to his friends. Sweetie? Find new friends.
Hawaii took up at least two episodes of this season, so there's way more to talk about. For example, it was on those balmy and picturesque shores that Ariana first learned that Scheana and her mom had become text messaging penpals and the root of their discussions focused on how badly Sandoval sucks. The entire thing confused Ariana and she whips out her phone to go over the proof that Scheana betrayed her. To further the point that her own mother is not at all concerned about her choice in men, Andy reads out a tweet her mother posted to publicly support her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. Anyone want to ask again why Ariana and Scheana are not best friends anymore?
Also: Scheana's nose ring makes her face look sort of lopsided when she's shot in profile. It's kind of freaking me out. I shall look instead at Lala's face to calm my nerves – but wait! That sight is even scarier! It's not that Lala's not attractive, but she clearly also has a makeup artist who is trying to slowly kill by clogging her pores with foundation that was possibly applied with an aluminum shovel.
But now that we're back on the subject of Lala, a girl who showed off so much hair on her tummy in a recent picture that it can be French braided, she doesn't feel a bit guilty for whipping her top off in front of a bunch of guys who have girlfriends. Why should she? That kind of practice is what gets her, um, passport stamped by all the men she doesn't sleep with as they go flitting around the world together.
Also: Lala refers to herself in the third person. Ergo, Lala should know that Lala is dead to me.
Moving on to another moron, Andy would like to revisit the time Jax told Lala that Brittany was not heading out to California – while she was in the car heading straight for motherfucking California. What was Brittany’s reaction to hearing the man she was about to move in with allege that their relationship was as real as a mythical flying creature? Obviously she was so furious that she's still here. She was mad and all, but she really didn't know the full extent of his duplicity. Luckily, Scheana – the town crier of the group – let Brittany know what went down and I'm guessing she got over it because she's thrilled to be "standing by my man," a sentence she says without breaking down in laughter.
That makes one of us.
The last issue that took place in Hawaii that needs to be discussed is the moment Jax decided to steal some sunglasses, an incident that led to his arrest. Sure, he was intoxicated and all that time, but it's not like jail is anything new for the guy. He's been arrested about five times! Here's a good question: Andy wants to know if Brittany would have moved in with him had she known about his criminal past – and the woman who will never ever win a spelling bee just shrugs her shoulders because questions are hard!
Also: every single time James speaks, an angel and a daffodil wither away into dusty nothingness.
"I need a lot of help," Jax states as a way to rationalize his consistently repugnant behavior, and literally the only thing that surprises me here is the way nobody in his presence – cast members, camera crew, security guards, Lisa’s dog Giggy – breaks out into peels of uncontrollable laughter because that excuse is putting it fucking mildly. That any of these people continue support a man who will gleefully destroy each one of them in an instant is nothing but confusing to me and I’d try to psychoanalyze them to figure out why they continue to hang in there, but the pine-flavored air freshener has started to make me feel a little bit woozy.
The reunion is starting to wind down, but before it can end, it's time to bring out Stassi. She's rocking smaller and higher boobs, puffed out lips, and very blonde hair and she is so thrilled to be surrounded by the very people she once swore she wouldn't spit on even if they were on fire. (I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that was the jist of her tolerance for this group last time they were all shoved into a room together for a reunion.) It was really weird, she explains, watching the show when she wasn't on it, but she also has a public service message for James. She'd like him to know that his misogyny is out of control and Kristen nods serenely as Stassi says this. Yes, the same girl who banged the guy on a car hood after he spit on her door and called her a whore would like to support the claims that James is an asshole. He is! Still, Kristen’s reaction is pathetic. And speaking of pathetic, there's no other word to describe the way James smirks at his terrible behavior and then gazes down to the floor while mumbling that he's trying to change into a better person. James? I've been trying to spin around in my bedroom and change into Wonder Woman since I was five years old. Of the two of us, my transformation is far more likely.
Getting back to the girl who almost clawed her way to safety, Stassi is now acknowledging that she has a heart filled with bile and that's probably not a good thing. But Stassi has changed! She has opened her heart to Kristen and to Katie and so what that she did it the second cameras started rolling again? That was a pure coincidence! As for Lisa, she’d like Stassi to know that simply apologizing for being a shitty person doesn't negate the fact that she is still a shitty person and she knows full well that she crawled back into this dysfunctional fold with some new lips simply so she could get back on this show.
But now that she is back, she’ll get to talk some more about the sex tape she claims is the single most embarrassing moment of her life. (It's too much common sense to say that she'd never have to talk about the incident publicly again if she hadn't come back on this show, right?) As for Lisa's unflinching anger aimed her way, Stassi would like to make amends. She wants to give Lisa respect, but she doesn't like the way that Lisa holds things over her head. Still, she's willing to admit that she's made some mistakes – and she's willing to talk about every single one of them as long as there's a lens pointed straight at her face.
The reunion and the season finally end next week, but not before Jax threatens once again to knock James out, Ariana reveals she's not a Trump supporter, and Kristen and James' last sexual tryst is rehashed. Here’s what I know: it’s quite possible that I will need to drug myself into a stupor to watch the last part of this reunion. Therefore, if I happen to mention in my next recap that Kristen appears to be a new and improved version of herself, please organize an intervention for me immediately.
(A quick note: Reality Steve is taking a much-deserved vacation this week, so my Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recap will not appear on his site tomorrow. You can read it on nellkalter.com)
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.