I once spent a week at a gorgeous villa in the Dominican Republic. We were given our own butler who served us lavish breakfasts by a private swimming pool. I had a golf cart to use at my disposal. The water I floated in was the kind of blue you only see in one of those deluxe Crayola packages, the ones that come with the extra special hues. And all of it might have been perfect had I not arrived with the kind of raging bladder infection that made me constantly aware of the fact that I am, without fucking question, a woman. The pain was searing and unceasing and it all was made somehow worse when I caught a glimpse of my agony in the rearview mirror of the SUV that was shuttling me from the airport to the place my family was staying, a place they’d already arrived at two days prior. In the reflection I saw physical suffering surrounded by about seven miles of hair that had already succumbed to the ravages of humidity and when I arrived at the front door of a palatial palace I never would have been able to afford on my own, my parents flung open the door with broad smiles that disappeared the second they saw my face. “Give me every pain pill you’ve got,” I croaked at them, and soon my palm was filled with medicine that was yellow and some of it was pink and my mother removed four of the pills so I wouldn’t overdose and I didn’t ask a single question about what I was ingesting; I just swallowed them without water and was blessedly asleep in less than an hour.
On another April vacation, I joined two of my friends in Barbados. All three of us were in desperate need of temporarily leaving our lives behind and we took off for the faraway beach with the hope that, when we returned home, the cosmos would have done their work and our existences would feel easy again. We spent the first few days lolling around on the sand and dancing at dinner and drinking lots of dark rum and all was relatively calm until Thursday when I stopped at an ATM and was unceremoniously informed that there was no money in my account because the rent check I’d post-dated had been pre-cashed and there I was in another nation without any cash. We weren’t leaving for another four days and I fell into a panic next to the counter inside the ATM vestibule and my friend Nicole pulled me out of there by unwinding me from the fetal position I’d curled into out of astonishment and fear and she gave me money to hold me over until we returned home where I could pay her back. (I also got my period two and a half weeks early the very next morning and she graciously walked me uphill to a gas station where she bought me tampons since I’d never considered packing any and I didn’t have the money to pay for them myself. The girl is headed straight to heaven.)
Then there was the time I went to California for a week. We stayed at the Montage in Laguna Beach and I surrendered to the luxury quite easily. I ate salads served to me by the pool and walked the dunes as the sun set majestically behind the horizon in the distance. I rubbed my light sunburn with a lotion I still believe was made by the Gods that smelled of verbena and wealth and not a bit of me ever wanted to leave. But all vacations must end eventually, so we boarded a plane bound for Manhattan and it must have been about two hours into the flight when all of a sudden the plane did a U-turn that everyone on board felt. “We need to turn back around and land in California,” said the pilot. “There’s been a massive power outage across the Eastern seaboard and there’s nowhere there for us to land.” This was not long after 2001; flying already felt scary on some weird primal level and I locked eyes with strangers and they looked as nervous as I felt and the pilot must have sensed the mood because he came back on and announced, “It’s not terrorism that caused the problem. They don’t know what it is, but it’s not terrorism.” Being the cynic, I couldn’t help but immediately think If they don’t know what it is, how can they know what it’s not, but soon we arrived again in the land of sunshine and, since there was nowhere else to really go, we returned to the Montage and I took a surfing lesson the next day. Eventually we found out the cause of the darkness had not actually been terrorism and that made me feel better, even when I discovered that someone who worked at the hotel entered our rooms while we lazily enjoyed the sunshine and stole all of our jewelry.
All of those vacations I took were defined by bursts of joy that were then pissed on by stark reality – and I’d still rather retake every single one of those trips than ever travel anywhere with the cast of Vanderpump Rules. On just Night One in New Orleans, Jax and Stassi cried, Brittany became resentful that Jax has yet to burst into tears over how horribly he’s treated her, Sandoval calmly recommended therapy to the bride-to-be, Kristen crouched behind a shrub so she could get better cell service because she was finding it difficult to track Lala’s movements from across the country, and Schwartz looked like he was torn between arranging for a pedicure prior to his day of drag or using his private time to fake his own death so he wouldn’t have to get married to a woman who publicly decreed that the only reason she and her beloved fight is because of their friends – and then she chose to go on vacation them. Seriously? I’d take the burning pee of a bladder infection any day.
Tonight’s episode begins on the dawn of a brand new day. Unfortunately, that brand new day is still being defined by all of the events of the day before, so Brittany decides to wake Jax up by reminding him that if he chooses to apologize to an ex for all of the ways in which he was horrible to her, he’d best also apologize to his current piece for the ways he is presently horrible. Now, I would have maybe just suggested that the guy stop acting horribly, but Brittany has her own methods for taming a sewer creature who would not able to spout out clichés about beating dead horses if his – or, apparently, Nostradamus’ – life depended upon it.
Over in Schwartz and Katie’s room, it appears the happy couple has slept separately. Schwartz rises from the couch and ventures into the bedroom area so he can ask his fiancé if she maybe wants to apologize to him for being all sorts of mean to him the night before. Turns out that somewhere around 4:30AM – you know, when we all make the finest choices – the two began meandering back to the hotel on foot. At some point during their journey, Katie decided she didn’t feel safe and she wanted to get a car and apparently communicated her wishes by bellowing at the love of her life while they stood in the middle of a New Orleans street. To Katie, this is yet another example of Schwartz not “supporting” her; to Schwartz, this is yet another example of why that faking-a-death idea might actually be the very best move he will ever make in this or any other lifetime.
Katie does manage to rouse herself for lunch with her bridesmaids and the group could possibly have a lovely time, but Kristen is there. See, Kristen apparently views her role on this show as being the one to take the side of whomever is currently in the wrong. Once she identifies that person, she will actively encourage him or her to block out any and all self-awareness like the fucking sun. And in this particular case, she does not take her dear friend aside and whisper that maybe her alcohol intake is screwing up the very relationship she wants to believe she’ll have forever. Kristen instead rails against Schwartz and how terribly he was acting the night before. You know what? We don’t get shown any of the footage – God bless you, Bravo editors! – but let’s just for argument’s sake believe that Schwartz was acting like an asshole the night before. Could it not still be the job of a best friend to mention how the guzzling of booze by the bride has gotten a wee bit out of control and seems to be the genesis of most of the traumatic moments that have recently gone down? Could Kristen maybe behave like a rational human being for one entire episode? Stop laughing, you guys! I’ve heard that there are potato chips out there in the shape of deities! That means anything is possible!
While the girls continue to validate one another’s crazy, the guys (and Ariana) head off for an alligator adventure. As they cruise through the bayou, Jax starts to wonder if Schwartz is wasted ‘round the clock so he can mentally escape the misery that is his existence. It’s a staunch observation. I mean, it’s not like I still don’t hold out hope that Jax will be eaten by an alligator, but I’ll give the guy credit for knowing his friend well enough to see that he’s plunging face-first into a depression pool made out of room temperature vodka. Sandoval does his part to be a good friend on this trip, too. He makes sure that every single cooler or box Schwartz opens while on the boat has a snake or some other form of reptile shoved inside of it and I think it’s because he realizes that giving Schwartz a stroke might be his buddy’s best way out of this fucking mess.
Back at the restaurant, oysters appear and such an occurrence means that Scheana and Kristen must go fleeing from the table because they don’t like food that comes in shells – or, according to Stassi, they don’t like to be around food in general. (Lord help me, but I’m starting to find Stassi really funny…and not in a laugh at her kind of way.) Anyway, while they hide from calories, Kristen explains to Scheana that last night, she and her boyfriend and Katie had an incredibly deep conversation and finally excavated all the gunk currently drowning Katie and Schwartz’s relationship in order to get to the real issue and it turns out that issue stems from Schwartz kissing some chick in Vegas two years ago. I know what you’re thinking: that was two years ago! He (maybe) only slipped some girl the tongue! Katie and Schwartz got engaged since then and have clearly committed to making one another chronically miserable for life! But we’re all forgetting a very important factor here and that factor is that Kristen became a part of this conversation and the lady who works part-time as an amateur forensic accountant so she can better decipher Uber receipts to catch a boyfriend in a cheating scandal is the same kind of person who will encourage the soon-to-be bride that her fiancé definitely didn’t just kiss that Vegas stranger two years ago. He totally fucked her, too.
I’d get into the motivations for Kristen’s lunacy here, but I’ve grown quite tired of trying to explain crazy, so allow me just to say that cheating in general can be relationship-ruining and soul-rattling, but if Katie and Schwartz decided to move on enough that they got engaged and sent out ugly dishtowels as proof of their commitment, maybe it would be wise for Kristen to encourage her friend to let go of what was clearly a very shitty mistake Schwartz made in his past. Of course, Kristen is a lunatic and she therefore projects her psychotic behavior on everyone in her midst like a fucking flu virus and now Scheana has caught it and the two of them vow that they will use their time in New Orleans in the best of ways and such a thing means they will get Schwartz to admit to his fiancé that he nailed a stranger over six-hundred days ago. Here’s to the best bridal party on the planet!
It’s a good thing that Scheana and Kristen aren’t along for the guy’s trip because a mess of crabs are thrown onto a picnic table in front of them and that sort of thing could make both of them reject food until the very end of time. Schwartz feels badly for the dead crabs, but Sandoval feels even worse for the man who sits in front of him looking nothing but dejected only a few weeks before his wedding. Once again he suggests that Schwartz and Katie get some therapy, but Carter is there to explain that the Vegas Infidelity is probably what creates all the problems the two of them share. “We had horrible problems long before that and long after that,” Schwartz responds – and I hope that wasn’t the expression embroidered on those fucking dishtowel invites. While Sandoval correctly announces that Carter’s words were clearly written by Kristen, it’s Jax to the rescue because he finally says what every single person is thinking: “You don’t want to spend the rest of your life like this.” Guess it’s a good thing he wasn’t eaten by an alligator. And then the festivities draw to a close with Sandoval beginning to cry because his best friend is acting like a battered spouse and he deserves better and Schwartz responds by placing his head down on the picnic table in submission and I wish he realized in that minute how much worse everything was about to get for him.
Back at the hotel, Katie is just about to apply a smoky eye to Stassi when some girl walks in holding a cake and begins gyrating upon her because she’s a stripper Kristen hired for the evening. I don’t completely understand the appeal of some naked chick writhing across your lap when you’re a heterosexual woman, but I’d probably be okay with it so long as she leaves the cake behind after her little performance. (Sorry. I’m off carbs and that cake is really the only porn I might ever need.)
It’s about six in the evening when the guys begin getting dressed like women for their big night out. They are not going at this alone, folks. They have called in professional drag queens to get themselves tucked and coiffed and lashed. Peter ends up looking kind of like Mrs. Roper, Schwartz looks rather decent as a blonde, Ariana pulls off dressing as some generic dude, but Sandoval and his Joan Crawford eyebrows and Jax with his blunt bob and facial hair will probably warp my delicate psyche for many years to come. They head out to a sports bar (one that allows dogs!) and it only seems to take a minute for Schwartz to begin chatting with two girls at the bar. This is probably a very bad idea for three reasons:
1. He is on camera.
2. His fiancé has trust issues, both her own and those implanted inside of her brain by her most supportive friends.
3. Kristen’s boyfriend is there and I would not be the least bit surprised if the guy worked for the KGB because you know Kristen’s got herself a type and that type falls under the banner of “someone as crazy as I am.”
Now listen, I’m all for allowing men their freedom, but even I will easily condemn a guy who lifts up his dress for a table of women and asks if they can find his dick. Seems the alcohol is flowing like a river and instead of going downstream it’s going down Schwartz’s throat because right here’s a guy who desperately wants to escape from reality. Unfortunately, when that guy also appears voluntarily on a reality show, there’s bound to be some messiness coming his way – and I’m not talking about the kind of messiness that is Jax peeing all over his dress because he is a man who is good at so little and I guess that includes aim.
While Schwartz engages in behavior that will probably get him recircumcised, Stassi takes the girls on a jaunty little murder tour! As the guide tells them the stories of the people who mauled one another with sharp axes, Kristen makes sure to jump into the conversation at every turn to announce that the killers had probably been cheated on and that makes their choice to swing an axe at someone’s head incredibly understandable. Once the trip down Killer Lane is over, the girls meet the guys back at the hotel. They’re still decked out in drag – Sandoval changed his wig because he will get all he can from this experience, dammit – and everyone is happy for the moment to see one another. Oh, but over on the side of the room is Kristen and she has committed to being a one-woman Greek Chorus that’s strung out on depressants. She takes a single gander at this finally festive scene and declares that everyone thinks Schwartz is so adorable but he is not that innocent and she will bring that lack of innocence to light and destroy everyone around her because she is just such a good person and anyone who can’t see that must have cheated on somebody in the last week.
Kristen pulls Schwartz aside to expound her wisdom and it goes a little something like this: all of the things he and Katie fight about are negligible because the only thing they’re really fighting about is how he cheated on her two years ago. Now, having this discussion with a man dressed like an unfortunate looking woman while he has so much beer inside of him that he can barely see straight is probably not the very brightest idea so the conversation doesn’t go all that well. Schwartz gets up, announces to everyone that Kristen is a basic psycho, and then stalks away while Kristen follows and explains what, in her convoluted mind, serves as logic. According to her, all will be fucking glorious if Schwartz decides to right now – in a crowd and on camera – tell Katie that yes, he did fuck that random girl two years ago. Kristen is positive such an admission will save Katie and Schwartz’s relationship, Sandoval is positive the very best thing he can do is get his best friend away from this walking human poison, and Carter somehow gets into the elevator with the two men who currently hate his girlfriend more than anyone else in the whole wide world and defends her honor without laughing.
The fight continues in the hallway. While Jax bars Brittany from walking out of their hotel room into some battle he epically coins The Ten Year War and Stassi watches the verbal carnage from her doorway, Sandoval and Schwartz attempt to disengage themselves from Carter. The only thing I can say about the guy is that he’s maybe the perfect person for Kristen and I’m terrified these two will 1) breed and 2) have triplets. At some point, Katie wanders upstairs and Schwartz slurs at her that she’s a moron who wants unconditional love – I would have strangled him with his wig, so good for Katie for showing some restraint here – and soon she is tucked away in her suite with her girlfriends and Carter explaining how she was really hurt by what Schwartz did in the past. Meanwhile, Scheana confronts Schwartz in his room and it sort of dribbles out that he doesn’t quite remember what happened with that Vegas girl, but no matter what happened, he’s done with Katie. He’s not marrying her. And I can only hope that someone saved that dishtowel because maybe now it’ll be worth something.
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. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter