There exists a world, it seems, where the highest aspiration one can possibly dare to dream is that one day you will become a server Sur, a Los Angeles restaurant that I think serves Mediterranean cuisine, but the only thing I’ve ever seen anyone order from the menu and then consume is a fried ball of goat cheese.
Now, I’m not a crazy person; there’s probably nothing more delicious than a fried ball of any kind of cheese, but I’m also pretty sure that it would be to the benefit of your immune system to never nibble from a morsel of food that has ever been handled by a few of the servers at Sur who also moonlight as the stars of Vanderpump Rules.
For the uninitiated, please allow me to tell you that I firmly believe that Vanderpump Rules, the spinoff of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that airs Monday evenings on Bravo, is perhaps the greatest television program of our time. I feel relatively comfortable making such a claim since Lost has been over for a while now, Mad Men is sadly drawing to a close, and the newest incarnation of Twin Peaks won’t be on for another year. Into the void, as though a gift from angels who fly through the silvery heavens, plopped Vanderpump Rules, and I am delighted to be your guide through recaps of a show starring people with very few personal boundaries, absolutely no desire to maintain any semblance of privacy, and the staunch unwillingness to ever conceive of the day when their participation in such a televised-for-posterity trainwreck might hamper their future plans.
A little background first to the show at hand: Vanderpump Rules follows a bunch of waitresses and bartenders who work at a restaurant owned by Lisa Vanderpump, that cheeky minx who became a breakout star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’ll happily go on the record and say that I think Lisa Vanderpump is as close to walking perfection as a member of the human species can be. She is intelligent and snarky and can identify an asshole in three notes or less. She might also be the most gorgeous woman over the age of fifty who regularly appears on my television screen, though it’s awards season now so Helen Mirren is about to give Ms. Vanderpump a run for her money.
Lisa owns Sur, and she breezes in and out of the ridiculous happenings with frequency, raising an eyebrow here and dropping a pithy putdown there, but the focus of the show is on her staff, a bunch of people in their twenties and thirties who should probably know better than to hitch their future to fleeting reality fame. But until they come to their senses, let’s take a look at the key players:
We should probably start with Jax, the bartender. I’m all for betting that the guy’s given name is not actually “Jax,” though if it is, that should tell us a lot about the creatures who raised him. However, I think his real name is something like “Lucifer” or maybe “Mephistopheles” because the guy might be the closest thing to the devil that has ever graced basic cable. He is in his mid-thirties and I thought he was good looking before I heard him speak, but now the only things that come out of his mouth are badly-told lies. If he’s called out, he likes to take down everyone in his path and yet the rest of the crew remains his friend. My guess he has a ton of dirt on each of them and they’re all afraid of the repercussions of bailing on the sweaty guy in their midst.
Jax is best friends with Tom Sandoval, another Sur bartender with a penchant for wearing beenies and for falling into heaps of tears, the kind that make the weeping that Jason Mesnick exhibited in his Bachelor finale look restrained. Sandoval doesn’t seem like a bad guy; it’s pretty clear from his evident disgust for Jax’s behavior that he’s got some kind of moral center buried underneath the unfortunate tank tops he wears. But he’s in a bit of a quandary this season. As he’s enjoying a healthy relationship with his new girlfriend Ariana – another bartender at Sur – he might have to join the witness protection plan to get away from Kristen, his former girlfriend, who is a waitress at Sur and the prototype for why some men fear women in general.
See, Kristen is out of her fucking mind. It’s difficult to adequately describe crazy, so let me instead just give you a brief rundown of some things Kristen has done on this show: she slept with Jax (who was the boyfriend of her best friend Stassi) while Sandoval, her boyfriend at the time and Jax’s best friend, was asleep in the other room; she regularly tells her ex’s new girlfriend that Sandoval is cheating on her though she has, at best, questionable proof that an infidelity ever took place; she cannot stop the evil look of glee from flashing across her face when she hears that anyone besides her is in pain; she went to Sandoval’s house to pick up her mail wearing a dress with a neckline so plunging, her nipples served as accessories to the outfit; and she got herself a rebound relationship with a guy who busses tables at Sur. His name is James and he’s twenty-one and he watches his mentally unstable girlfriend get dolled up to go get her mail at her ex-boyfriend’s apartment while pretending that he’s fine with it all.
Kristen used to be close friends with Katie, another Sur waitress, a girl who strikes me as simultaneously articulate and boring as hell. Katie cut Kristen out of her life because of the cheating episode and now focuses her attentions on repairing her relationship with another guy named Tom. Tom2 is very cute but has a hard time standing up for himself. If he and Katie end up breeding, I’m imagining the world will be blessed with a nice but bland toddler who might get beaten up in daycare by a kid whose parents have backbones.
Katie has recently made amends with Scheana, a girl who can apply false lashes quicker than you or I can throw on flip-flops. She’s all brows and lashes and bold lipstick and she proudly proclaims that she’s more of a guy’s girl. She is getting married this season on the show, though the wedding has already taken place in real life, and Scheana wore a crop top as she walked down the aisle, a fact that I think tells you everything you really need to know about Scheana.
Vail is the new girl, the hostess of Sur. A former soap opera star who announced that her nasal cavity had collapsed due to her former love of blow, Vail is a Princeton graduate who uses vocabulary words that might help you win a game of Scrabble. Unfortunately, she is a also moron, a fact made crystal clear after this exchange last week with Jax:
Jax: They all know what kind of person I am. I’m not a good person. I have a lot of issues.
Vail: You’re hard not to love.
Vail, honey? Run quickly away from Jax and make sure to stop at a CVS on the way to the shack you’ll need to hide inside of until you develop an aversion for douchebags. At CVS, pick up a few bottles of antibacterial gel, which you should rub across your entire body and through your cascading hair because you got close to Jax and I’m rather certain he’s got some kind of critter crawling across his body that’s trying to leap free or commit suicide.
Finally, we have Stassi. Stassi doesn’t work at Sur anymore. She used to, of course – otherwise, how would she have snagged herself a place on this show? She used to be a waitress and she was once best friends with Katie and Kristen and she was the girlfriend of Jax, but now Stassi has somoved on. She met a non-Sur guy and she quit her job and now she might do something in styling, but while this show is filming, she does things like drop into Sur and make all kinds of comments about how the place is a time warp and that nobody who works there has moved on in life – which she says while she’s in the restaurant chowing down on goat cheese balls. Stassi is clearly intelligent, a girl who has a slew of insults for others always loaded into a chamber and ready to fire. She somehow has a ton of control over the mindsets of the others, something which is evident because she is the topic of conversation even when she is in a different time zone than the rest of them.
Whew…you’re now caught up on the players and now it’s time to dive into the waters of Miami, the location where Scheana and her mute fiancé Shay are holding their joint bachelor/bachelorette parties. Everybody but Stassi is along for the ride because Stassi is so over the Sur crowd and besides, she doesn’t have to be there in person because they’re all fixated on her even in her absence.
We begin with the gang all waking up after a night of typical debauchery that involved strippers and lap dances and all the generic bachelor party scenarios. And while I want to blame her misguided good cheer on the fact that maybe she has residual alcohol poisoning, I think it’s just stupidity that causes Scheana to marvel, “No one’s even fought!”
Sitting next to her is Ariana, probably the person I like the best on this show, who has had knots in her stomach for the entire vacation because Kristen seems intent on staring bloody, poison-filled daggers at her whenever they find themselves in the same room, which is something that’s been constant over this vacation. And Ariana, bless her heart, has been wading through the hateful craziness with poise and with style, trying to keep her growing ulcer to herself so as not to ruin her best friend’s festivities, but the girl looks ready to break and it will happen by nightfall.
But before the sun sets, we get the following scenarios laid out for our guilty pleasures:
1. Sandoval meets up with an older guy who was the modeling scout who started his and Jax’s careers. John, a bleached blonde who looks very South Beach, is gay and Sandoval intimates that Jax and John lived together and got very, um, close during those years when Jax was named “Jason,” which I suppose cancels out my theory that he was named after Satan. John will be joining the group for dinner, so we will get to see if Jax/Jason/Satan responds favorably to a man who might have been his former Sugar Daddy.
2. Ariana, who has cheerfully committed to doing all the nonsense you must when you are in someone’s wedding party, is organizing a game where she and Scheana are wrapped in toilet paper that is meant to resemble a bridal gown. Into the silliness wanders Kristen, the human equivalent of the foreskin that was cut off of Jax when he was still an infant named Jason, and she announces that she’s late to the toilet paper game because she was having sex with her boyfriend – and then she proceeds to say horrible things about Ariana under her breath. And she says these things to Scheana, Ariana’s best friend, who doesn’t punch Kristen in the throat for saying such shit, something that could be due to personal restraint, the fact that she’s bound in too tightly by the toilet paper to get in a good swing, or because she’s a friend who doesn’t value loyalty nearly as much as she should.
3. At the pool, Jax announces that the longest he’s ever gone without having sex is maybe five days, and I would like to take a moment and ask all the women who have chosen to lie on top of Jax over the years to gather in a field somewhere and engage in a mass prayer session to absolve themselves of their sins, or at least to acknowledge their collective poor judgment.
4. Ariana, who has been an amazing sport as she has had to dodge nasty looks and comments for days, finally breaks in the backseat of a taxi and sobs to her boyfriend that Kristen’s behavior is hurtful and constant. Sandoval resolves to help make things better, which he tries to do in the episode’s key moment of crazy, but we’ll get there…
What actually saddens me as a human being who is not an asshole is that I know that Kristen must have been filled with pure sparkling joy watching this episode. When Ariana is wiping tears from her cheeks, I can almost hear Kristen chortle with happiness, and any decent person in the universe should find that reaction repulsive.
But wait, my friends, there’s more! Arriving at dinner was John, who was embraced warmly by the man he calls Jason, and there seemed to be several innuendos flying about like a scrotum sack that he and Jax had been together sexually in the past. Now, let me be absolutely clear: I have no issue with homosexuality in the slightest, but I’m gonna need to insist that John join those women I’ve banished to the field and start praying to absolve himself for the sin of being with a man like Jax – I mean Jason. Ugh, this name thing is confusing!
Back in Los Angeles, before the tear-ridden main event, Stassi stopped into Sur and sat down for drinks with Lisa. It came out that Stassi was furious that her best friend Katie had betrayed her by joining the bachelorette festivities where people who had hurt Stassi were gathered. It didn’t matter to Stassi that Katie went because her boyfriend is friends with that group and she wanted to be with Tom2; no reason would suffice for betraying Stassi, a girl who might love conflict more than Jax loves sex, more than Kristen should love lithium, and more than I love chocolate. Katie is dead to Stassi, and if she’d just come back from Miami and start withering away to nothing in Stassi’s presence, Stassi’s life would have meaning again.
But before Katie can apologize or grovel or tell Stassi to go fuck herself, we head back to Miami and into a bar where Kristen looks at Ariana and mutters, “She makes my skin crawl,” to her boyfriend James, a guy who might need to start making better choices as far as girlfriends go since his in bonkers. And as James leaves her to stew in her fury, Sandoval walks over to Kristen.
“Want to go talk outside?” he asks, and you guys, I am telling you, no woman in all of creation has ever gotten up from a leather banquette more quickly than Kristen did.
Outside, she immediately gets teary and Sandoval, to his credit, didn’t take any joy in her pain. Instead he kindly stated, to the girl who slept with his best friend while they were living together – twice – that he wanted Kristen to be happy and that he wanted to be happy himself, and that after six years together, they just couldn’t make it work and that he was happy with Ariana and he wasn’t trying to throw his happiness into her face. And then, as the girl he once loved continued to cry before him, he began to cry too and he told her that he cared about her and he thought he would spend his life with her, but it was over and could she please be kind to Ariana and he in turn would be nicer to James? You know, James – the love of Kristen’s life?
It all would have made for a nice televised moment if the camera hadn’t cut to a close-up on Kristen's face the second Sandoval began to cry. In that instant – in that one shot alone – it became clear that Kristen is deranged. She felt full of hope for her future with Tom, not hearing that he was basically begging her to be decent to the girl he’s now in love with. And when Tom went back inside, an ominous instrumental beat began to play, like the one before Jason mangles a victim with a machete in the Friday the 13th movies and Kristen sat there with a smile and in an interview stated, “Tom still has strong feelings for me, and if Ariana weren’t in the picture, Tom and I could maintain some sort of relationship.”
Now, you might be thinking that the woman was drunk, so let’s give her the benefit of so many doubts and see what she says in the sober light of day, shall we? Okay – here’s what she said:
“I wish Ariana would get hit by a Mack truck but not die. She’s the Other Woman. She’s a home-wrecking whore. She’s got to go.”
So, as the end of this episode drew to a close, I realized several things. I’m not a psychiatrist or a pharmacist, but I’m thinking that Kristen needs high levels of medication, Ariana needs a good hiding place where trucks aren’t permitted to drive through, Katie needs a best friend who doesn’t put her in a time-out, and Jax needs to be disinfected before he touches another wine glass that then gets released into society for the good of all mankind.