There are just certain things one should never do:
1. Enter any supermarket or CVS the day after Halloween when all the candy is 50% off and the sugary portion of the brain gets stimulated simply by looking at all of the discounted Twix that line the shelves like a caramel-and-cookie-and-chocolate-coated dream.
2. Meet a blind date on a boat that takes you far out to sea when you’ve never been that good a screamer.
3. Try on a bikini in December unless you’re tan, drunk, or surrounded by blind people who have been drinking.
4. Go shopping for electronics on Black Friday without having first rubbed Vaseline across your entire body. The slippery nature of the stuff will help you to stop the person who is trying to club you over the head so she can snag that humongous TV from getting a good grip on your forearm.
5. Watch the reality show you’re tasked with recapping when you are in a very dark mood.
Yes, I’m coming off perhaps the bleakest week of my adult life, a week where I lost a lot. I had to say goodbye to one of my greatest loves and it’s left me feeling a bit disoriented, more than a little bit lonely, and like I’m trying to swallow a craving that tastes both salty and sweet but the lump in my throat keeps getting in the way of gulping anything down, even a memory. Over the last seven days or so, I’ve been faced with realizing definitively who is there for me in the murkiest of times and who is not. I have watched life turn into death. I have lost water weight from crying the kind of guttural sobs I didn’t think my body even knew how to generate anymore and I have lost any sort of patience for assholes who try to hurt those around them. And it is with that mindset taking hold of my thought process that I’m going to issue a warning: if you want to read a nonjudgmental recap where the writer pretends these Vanderpumpers are not society-tarnishing demons, you should wander away from this page immediately. Come back next week when I’m sweet again. Call it projected fury caused by wrenching grief, but I’m venturing close to the shadowy corners tonight – and I’m inviting you to come with me as long as you’re willing to take the journey without a flashlight.
This one’s meant to be dark.
Luckily for someone like me who feels the need to rage just a bit, this season has already included such minor depravities as an intervention spearheaded by a wife who prefers that her husband remain tipsy; Jax’s nose covered in bandages and his ear stuffed with something that appeared to be hardened mucus; and Kristen and James attending couple’s therapy in an effort to save a relationship that is basically a cautionary tale come to life where all the characters are played by monsters with really bad hair. In other words, the moon is already creepy and full and the stark trees look extra menacing in the undistilled darkness of Vanderland.
Tonight’s descent into absolute nothingness begins at SUR, a restaurant at this point I wouldn’t even enter on a dare. Scheana seems to be doing much better than she was the last time we saw her when she was handing a cup to her husband so he could pee into it for a random home drug test. She feels optimistic that she and Shay will be just fine and he’s even going to take off a few pounds in the process of getting healthy and, dammit, she is going to learn to cook because nothing cures an addiction to painkillers like a frittata! Lisa listens to her employee’s lunacy for a moment before turning her attention to what Jax might be stealing from the premises tonight. Is it a SUR candle? A case of wine? Someone else’s nose cartilage in case his runs out for good? While I am momentarily preoccupied by adding “kleptomaniac” to my expanding list of reasons of just why Jax Is The Worst Person Alive, Lisa stays focused and asks him about Brittany. She’s back in Kentucky where I hope she’s shopping for more appropriate interview attire. In the meantime, Jax tells Lisa that Scheana and Shay’s marriage won’t last and when Jax is calling out your relationship, you’re either completely fucked or you will stay together forever.
In the back of the restaurant, James and Lala hang out and flirt and she tries to remind him that he dropped his drink the other night and the glass shattered everywhere and it was so adorable. James can’t remember that event because of those pesky blackouts he suffers from, but he does remember making out with the new SUR hostess who clearly needs to be reprogrammed into someone who looks at James and sees only the repulsive creature he is. For now though, Lala actually finds this prick appealing and she seems more than willing to throw down with Kristen, the chick who is James’ unofficial ex-girlfriend – and the kind of ex who will not go quietly. (Oh…why is Kristen’s ex-girlfriend status “unofficial”? Well, James hasn’t quite gotten around to telling her that he’s happily fucking someone new.)
Lo and behold, who comes wandering in just then but Kristen? I know! It’s such a random occurrence and not at all something set up by producers! Kristen walks in and approaches Lala at the hostess stand to ask if she will please tell James that she is outside. All of this suspenseful drama might be so very exciting if I cared about any of these people in the least, but like I said, I’m in a dark place and watching them intentionally making their lives complicated and miserable is actually offending me. Still, if someone knocked Kristen’s head right off her body and we got to see it roll down the back alleyway of SUR in slow motion, I might cheer up a tad. James leaves his DJ post to go talk to his psychopathic ex. He immediately lights up a cigarette and in a furious swirl of exhaled smoke he says that he doesn’t trust her. Settle in, because the entire story here is so ridiculous that it almost defies comprehension.
See, James (who hooked up with Lala last night and recently banged a girl named Jenna) tells Kristen that he believes that she has been untrue. She was in Detroit (?) for a modeling job (???) and she was out late with friends (?!%?!%) when her phone went dead so she didn’t call her philandering boyfriend who just last week called her a “fucking bitch” while sitting next to her on her therapist’s couch and her silence made him feel sad. Both of them sneer, “I don’t want to be with you” and their interaction is brimming and simmering with such hatred that I cannot help but spontaneously think about the definition of the word “crucible” and that it’s a container that allows things to boil to staggering temperatures and this bullshit relationship that’s playing out on television right now is like watching a crucible that’s about to explode and leave crusty debris all over the wall. And sticking with my literary allusion for just a second, who else wants to wager that if Kristen had lived in Salem in the 1600s, she totally would have accused everyone in town of witchcraft? I’d bet maybe anything on such a thing, including James’ face, which he gestures to and tells Kristen that she will never have it again in something that sounds far more like a promise to me than any sort of threat.
Inside where it’s safe, Lala feels flustered by Kristen’s presence so she seeks out Sandoval and Jax to vent about her concerns. Making her feel all better about the situation, Jax tells her that Kristen is absolutely crazy and that she totally knows where Lala lives. Back outside, Kristen tells James how good she was to him and his reaction is to tell her that he will not miss her. It’s vicious, their interaction, and James is maybe the cruelest person on this show and that’s saying something, though he is maybe also the most pathetic person on this show and that’s really saying something. This probably-uncircumcised dickhead walks away from her while chortling that he already has a date lined up for tomorrow night and it’s going to be so much “funner” than any moment he’s spent with Kristen. Then he takes a long drag on his cigarette like he’s a Bond villain created during a writer’s strike and I really don’t know why somebody strong has yet to kick the shit out of this guy.
“I love him so much. He’s my best friend,” cries Kristen – and I think she ought to get herself back to therapy stat.
Over at Scheana and Shay’s Sober House, Scheana is wearing inexplicable blue glasses as they welcome Ariana and Sandoval. Sandoval is there to provide some tips for healthy living to get Shay over the hump of ingesting a box of Otter Pops during the night and a fistful of pills during the day. He whips up a juice I actually want to try in spite of the fact that it looks like Gumby was melted down into a glass and he serves them some eggs and the guy is a rather good friend and I’m still really confused by Scheana’s glasses.
A brief twinge of fear settled inside me for a moment after the Sandoval scene. It was beginning to look like things on this show were moving into far too sunny a place for me to enjoy while in my own dismal mood, but fortunately Jax is back onscreen and he’s decided to be a tattletale who also happens to be in his thirties. He informs Lisa that her anti-fraternization policy is being systematically violated by the coupling of James and Lala, but Lisa doesn’t quite care and in fact finds it slightly humorous that Jax is being passed over in favor of a guy who appears to have skipped puberty entirely.
Still emotionally smarting from the loss of the love of her life who hates her, Kristen has invited her friend Rachel to meet her at a dive bar in the middle of the day. Turns out that Rachel is Kristen’s “Girl Power” friend – which means that Rachel needs to be caged immediately because God only knows what Kristen, the Wonder Twin from Hell, could do with an extra burst of power. At the moment, Kristen is depressed and so she does the healthy thing by ordering a bottle of wine and a straw. She also tells Rachel that James already has a date set up with Lala and that Jax told her that James and Lala kissed. Kristen has been up all night, thrown up all day, drank some wine, and is now embarking on plans to destroy Lala’s entire life because her therapist once told her that to channel her anger means that she is growing.
Not growing anymore is Peter’s hair. The ponytail is coming off as a sign of his burgeoning maturity. Plus, the guy needed a storyline and watching him attempt to date last season was haunting. As his hair is lobbed off, the guys discuss Kristen. Sandoval – who is obviously at the salon for Peter’s big hair day – thinks Kristen has zero self-awareness. He’s absolutely correct, of course, but Jax disagrees. Jax has a soft spot for the girl he once nailed on her boyfriend’s sofa and besides, he wants to help Kristen destroy anything that develop between James and Lala so he can bone Lala next because there has now been a vagina in his midst for more than an hour that he has been denied access to and the whole thing is just confusing him.
In some metal camper that gives pedicures while parked in some lot, Katie, Ariana, and Scheana get their nails done while talking about how Kristen has set in motion her campaign to destroy Lala because Kristen is nothing if not a master at the proper placement of blame. Scheana is on Kristen’s side here; she thinks Lala is the one to blame because she had the audacity to flirt with a guy who appeared to hate his own girlfriend. I find that logic slightly flawed. See, Lala doesn’t know Kristen so I’m not sure why she should have any loyalty to a stranger. (I’m not letting Lala off the hook that easily. I might not think it’s a big deal that she lacks loyalty, but I think it’s a humungous problem that she clearly lacks taste in men.) At any rate, Scheana thinks Lala is not really a girl’s girl and that’s why she wasn’t invited to get a gel manicure in a camper van. On a happier note, Scheana tells her friends that she and Shay are doing fine and they are pretending that they just got back from their honeymoon and everything is great and it’s awesome that his addiction was able to be solved without a little thing like rehab. Like the perceptive person she is, Ariana finds Scheana’s plan moronic and she knows that their collective embrace of blissful ignorance will ultimately only prove damaging.
Across town, Lala and James head out for something to eat. The food can’t get there soon enough because Lala has been starving herself all day for sport. James tells her that she’s beautiful and Lala says he is unlike any guy she’s ever met – which I guess means that she’s only met humans before. Then they discuss the malady that is Kristen and how she will likely confront Lala and I dislike all of these people so completely that I’m already setting up the Dexter-style plastic sheets and making popcorn so that I can fully enjoy the carnage. May nobody be left standing besides one of Lisa’s swans and both Toms! After all, Schwartz is adorable and Sandoval apparently can cook and the world needs better looking people who have mastered culinary artistry.
And now it’s time for the waitresses of SUR to meet with a sommelier so they can finally learn about wine and stop embarrassing themselves by offering to pair tilapia with a Pinot Noir. Lisa is emphatic that the diner’s experience must be completely high-end. That’s a fantastic goal for a restaurateur, though hasn’t the whole enterprise already been somewhat sullied due to the staff of one of her establishments fornicating all over basic cable? Still, I’d very much like a glass of red, please. Now.
After the corks are pulled correctly, Lisa and Scheana sit down and discuss how Shay is not working right now and Lisa advises her to be tough on her husband and not to make excuses for him. She wants them to make it through the hard times and for Shay to be working as hard as Scheana is to make things better.
Later on, a bunch of our favorite Vanderpumpers get together for a night out. Jax is sweaty as usual and Scheana is ready for The Kristen Show (wherein an adult woman loses her shit completely in public while a camera aimed at her face captures the veins that pop alarmingly when she screams at another woman) so she left her husband at home to come watch something fun. When James and Lala show up, it’s confirmed that they are “having fun” and right about then is when Kristen descends down the staircase and joins them all at the table with a wide smile plastered across her terrifying face. Like an asshole who now fancies himself a star, James jumps right in and starts verbally tearing Kristen to shreds and he seems surprised that Lala isn’t cheering him on and screaming something like, “So there!” into the face of the person who was his girlfriend up until yesterday. I’ll give Lala credit here for not swan diving into the fray, but she loses any built up goodwill by not walking away from the guy for good in that moment as she watches him take absolute pleasure in being so malicious.
It’s really hard to feel badly for Kristen though – it’s actually so difficult, I’m not even going to try to delve into my heart and locate some genuine sentiment for her. There’s something very sad about seeing someone show up to a venue populated by people who have violated her and deceived her, people she too has violated and deceived. There is no strength radiating from her eyes as she sits at a table with the toddler rocking some sparse sideburns who just gleefully broke up with her. I don’t see her confidence expanding as she stares at the girl who is about to take her place for the time being. The entire exercise is needless and it’s depressing and I give her absolutely no credit for willingly placing herself in this position.
Maybe I’d have some compassion for Kristen if she didn’t decide that her anger should be directed at the random girl who owes her nothing. When Lala approaches the evolved lunatic, Kristen keeps her voice level so as to appear sane and tells Lala that James refers to her as a slut and a whore. Then she grins her first actual smile of the season when James comes over soon after Kristen shared her secrets with Lala – he sits between them because he’s a total loser – and Lala tells James that she doesn’t want to talk to him right now. Seriously, these people are fucking damaged and if you think I’m mistaken, go back and freeze-frame the moment when Kristen realized she truly hurt some girl’s feelings and you will see unadulterated bliss steaming out of the ears and nostrils of a horrible person.
Lala feels really offended right now. She doesn’t like being called a slut and a whore and she’s definitely not basic, so fuck you and your dangly necklace, James! And as the room grows hotter and the drinks flow more rapidly and Jax sweats constantly and profusely while grinning at the conflict in his midst like a Cheshire cat on a blow and Adderall cocktail, Scheana reams James out for the words he’s used to describe Lala. Wasn’t it just an episode or two ago when Scheana implied that Lala was a hooker? Never mind about that! The most important thing to come out here is that Scheana proudly declares that she’s not a feminist and that is a fucking relief because the last thing women should ever believe in is power and equality.
It’s so much more important to encourage one’s addicted husband to lose some weight, isn’t it?
Coming up next week, James gets drunk and volatile yet again. Watching the preview made me roll my eyes – and then those same eyes filled with tears as I was reminded of how unfair it really is that a dog’s life must peter out but that this human douchebag will probably live until he’s fucking ninety.
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.