I attended a wedding once where the bride leaned in to kiss her brand new husband during the first dance and he pulled away from her, recoiling. To this day, I can feel the reverberation of the walls in the place as they shook from the collective gasp let out by the guests who were surrounding them and watched it happen.
At another wedding, there was a rain delay. I was a bridesmaid. I arrived at the beautiful location at noon to take pictures with the rest of the wedding party. There was no food set out for us anywhere – no water either – and we baked in the Florida sun for hours until the rain came. Sadly, Reese's Pieces did not fall from the sky. It was probably going on hour seven of this wildly unnecessary bout with starvation when I began to seriously contemplate stripping some bark off a nearby tree so I'd have something to gnaw. Three hours later, the storm subsided, my friend sauntered down the aisle, and dinner was finally served. The salmon I ordered was brought to the table raw – and not in that good-sushi kind of way, but in a this-chef-sucks kind of way.
Then there were the nuptials I attended for a woman desperate to be married and a man desperate to believe he's straight. When the priest pronounced her no longer single and him heterosexual, the kiss was long and full of tongue and something I can't ever again unsee.
I had to miss a friend's springtime wedding because I'd already planned a vacation with my boyfriend. I felt terribly about missing her big day, but there were nonrefundable plane tickets involved. Turns out, I missed quite a wedding. There was a cake people couldn't stop raving about (the single most important thing at a wedding besides true love and a pre-nup) and a moment when the bride's brother went to punch his father and accidentally clocked his mother. I know what you're thinking and I'm pleased as spiked punch to confirm that, fortunately, the knockout occurred nowhere near the cake because that would have been a total disaster.
I bring all this up because it is my staunch belief that those compromised celebrations will be seen as fucking perfection in comparison to the engagement party Katie and Schwartz are throwing for themselves. Sure, the weddings I attended were colored by deception and hunger and bloodshed, but Kristen Doute didn't attend a single one. She must've been far too busy winning a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama to show up for cocktail hour. (Just to be clear, I will never – and I mean ever – tire of the ridiculous comment she made that she's best known for her dramatic roles and I vow to somehow include that line in every single recap from this day forward in much the way I used to comment so frequently on her limp hair or the fact that the woman is a bonafide lunatic.)
We'll eventually get to the scene where Lisa considers moving rather than allowing Kristen and Stassi to wander the perimeter of her expansive home during Katie's engagement party, but first there are a few other matters to contend with, including me offering a quick disclaimer that I've had a fever of 102 all day and it's quite possible that half of the observations I'll make tonight will be born out of a hazy NyQuil hallucination. I'll do my best to make sense, but I must say I'm finding it mildly comforting to consider the possibility that maybe this entire show is just an illusion. I already fear the sobering disappointment that will surely accompany my fever breaking.
This episode is entitled Just the T.I.P, because this show is really classy. Trust me: even my sweatiness fever dream could not come up with a title like that one. We start at SUR on a night where the entire cast has been slated to work. Jax is pouring drinks, Lala is trying to avoid having flashbacks to that time in middle school when someone made fun of her bangs, and Katie is approaching her boss to see if she can throw her engagement party in her yard. I'm going to take a wild guess here and imagine that this is something Lisa has already agreed to after production promised her they'd cover all costs, including reseeding the entire property, but let's pretend that she's hearing this request for the first time because it makes perfect sense that a person who waits tables for you will view your house as her own makeshift catering hall. Lisa agrees to this ridiculous proposition as long as it's just a teeny barbecue where Kristen and Stassi will be roasted like suckling pigs on a sharp spit. That's right – Lisa is not comfortable having either woman anywhere near her home and Katie wants her party to have swans frolicking about so she agrees to cut Kristen and Stassi from her guest list, though let's be honest here and acknowledge that, at this point, Kristen only shows up to events where nobody wants her. It's sort of a game, you see, except only she is playing and somehow she still comes out of it looking like the loser.
Now it's time for Sandoval to get glowy for his upcoming music video so he heads to see Gregory, esthetician to the (reality) stars. Ariana gets her glow on first while Sandoval rattles off how much money this video is costing him. He has to pay for equipment and catering and insurance in case his band's music causes people's ears to bleed and, being that he's already about nine grand in, he might as well spend a bit more money on a microdermabrasion before the shoot. Normally I'd say that one might want to avoid potentially irritating skin procedures so close to a time when a camera will be shooting you in close-up, but Gregory is wearing a fedora from 2002 so I totally trust him.
Later that night – or later some other night because continuity is shot to shit on this show – Kristen stalks down a street. She is in blue and she walks with a purpose and sure, I thought maybe she was heading to an AA meeting, but it turns out she's meeting James at a bar. Remember how he used to cheat on her and laugh about it? Remember how hilarious he thought it was to spit on her door and scream into her face that she's a whore? Well, now he misses her and he’d love for her to just forget all about those incidents in much the way she thinks everybody she's harmed should forgive her, too. As for Kristen, she tells us that James is blowing up her phone due to his neediness and she is just so grateful to come in second for once in the Most Pathetic contest so she deigns to sit down with the guy. Plus, she heard there will be alcohol there and nothing says fun more than slogging back a bottle of booze in front of the guy who is pretending that he's embracing sobriety.
Poor James. He misses Kristen because he too is insane and it's just no fun to be batshit crazy on your own. He wishes he could take back all the terrible things he's said to her and he wants her to know he's sorry. As for Kristen, she wants James to know that she's moved on with Carter, a man she claims is smarter than she is. Impossible – screamed nobody.
"How do you not miss me?" whimpers James. "We were the fucking shit, Kristen."
"I’m a great catch," Kristen tells him later while she inhales an entire cigarette in one drag as they stand on the street. She is crying because James just admitted to sleeping with one of her friends while they were together. Honestly, there's not much more I can say about this scene. These are two revolting people who are damaged and damaging and they need to be quarantined lest they infect the rest of us with their awfulness. And random observation? James looks like a Simpsons character.
A weepy night on a corner seems to have done Kristen some good because she's ready to check out her burgeoning business the next day. She's been working on her tee shirt line for about a year and there have been some complications along the way. Seems Kristen and her first partner had a falling out, which is odd since Kristen gets along with everybody! But now that former partner is dead to her and business is picking up and Stassi has even agreed to wear her shirts so, um, score? Less promising is the news that Kristen and James rekindled their skeevy love after he admitted to cheating on her because she thinks apologies are more romantic than roses. Stassi is mildly grossed out at hearing the news of the hookup and she's decided to become Investigator Stassi so she can to try to figure out what really happened between James and Kristen, which is what I suppose one does when one is patently unable to believe even a syllable that escapes from the mouth of a best friend. Also, Stassi has literally nothing else going on in her life and she can only sculpt Katie's facial features out of clay for sixteen hours a day before her fingers cramp and she needs another way to pass the time. (What's that? She should get a job and no longer rely on an income that is doled out as long as she destroys her relationships? Well, I suppose that's another idea.)
At a certain point, James tells Lala that he and Kristen had sex and they did it on top of the car. Now children, what have we learned from this scenario? I think we’ve learned that Kristen and James are morons, that Kristen cannot stop herself from lying to her friends, and any fantasy any of us has ever had about having sex in the vicinity of a hubcap has now been destroyed forever.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Lala asks James. She's confused. Why would James run back to Kristen when her presence caused him to lose his job? It's a question he's never even considered before and I officially hate this guy more than I've ever hated a guy in real life.
Over at Katie and Schwartz's apartment, Scheana and Shay have arrived to help them plan their party. Schwartz wants a taco truck but Katie doesn't and she wins because the guy never really takes a stand. Then she informs the others that Lisa has made it clear that Stassi and Kristen are not permitted at her house. Scheana acts surprised for a moment before remembering that Lisa's decree might kind of make sense. After all, it was at Scheana's engagement party when Kristen admitted to fucking Jax and punches ensued. If Katie's party can even come close to topping that, Kristen will have to sneak onto the premises, pee in the moat, murder a swan, announce that she is pregnant with James' child, and shriek that she's a catch as asylum workers haul her away.
Back at SUR, Jax approaches Lisa to ask if he can have Saturday off so he can fly back to Hawaii for a court date. He has no idea what the outcome will be and he's stressed out about it and burying his face in Brittany’s new cleavage only soothes his nerves sometimes. He's aware, he claims, that his actions in Hawaii were foolish but Lisa's not all that convinced that he's changed. "Do you feel remorse?" the normal woman asks the Neanderthal. "Of course," the Neanderthal replies before carving a note to himself with a twig that he needs to find out what "remorse" means.
Now it's time for some turtle races, which I'd happily watch for a year instead of having to look at Jax’s sweaty face as he pretends to feel guilty. Kristen and Carter, The Smartest Man Alive, meet up with Scheana, Shay, and Stassi. Stassi and Scheana give one another a kiss hello and I'm mildly interested in how deep Stassi needs to get with Katie before she feels able to turn around and tell Scheana to go fuck herself. At this point, though, Stassi is playing nice. It has to be killing her just a little bit.
Katie and Schwartz show up next and Stassi almost has an orgasm just from seeing Katie's face. Katie is pleased by how refreshingly enjoyable this new Stassi is and my advice is that she should suck in all that refreshment now because there's not a shot in the bowels of hell that Stassi's nasty side has been slaughtered by a little thing like being momentarily humbled. My guess? The second she feels comfortable, the old judgmental and bossy Stassi will be back – and she will be wearing a necklace that defies comprehension.
Also: Katie and Carter had a one night stand a bunch of years ago, proving that there are apparently only twelve people in Los Angeles and that's why there's so much swapping amongst this group.
During the turtle races, Katie lets Stassi and Kristen know that's she's got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that her engagement party is going to be held at a mansion! The bad news is that they are banned from said mansion because the owner of the palace believes that they both suck so exponentially that their presence will cause the house to combust. Cheers!
Both Stassi and Kristen are stunned – stunned! – that Lisa doesn't want them there. In fact, they act like they can't for the life of them figure out why so many people hate them. Are they both blind and deaf? Does each suffer from short-term memory loss like that guy in Memento? Are they together living a folie a deux, an actual psychological condition wherein delusion is shared (along with a huge box of wine) by people who live in a close proximity of one another? Or can they really not see that some people have zero reason to welcome them back into the fold having finally realized that a life without posturing assholes is nothing but joyous? At any rate, it's actually hilarious to watch Stassi mutter that she has hateful feelings right now running through her head because she says it so calmly. She's obviously concerned that, if she flips out, Katie might not agree to go to the prom with her anymore. I feel like we're watching an impotent version of this girl on our television screens and every single time she bites her lip to keep from saying what she really wants to say, I can't help but wonder if she thinks this infamy is worth it. My guess? She does.
Before he heads back to Hawaii to face the judge, Jax takes Brittany out to a romantic dinner. "How do you feel that this might be your last free meal?" asks his big-titted human support system. "I just hope it goes as well as you thing it will," she singsongs next and, at that, the felon has had just about enough. It's not like he robbed a bank! He just stole sunglasses for no reason! He's tired of being the butt of the jokes! He's also tired of hearing about marriage and he chooses to enlighten his girlfriend (who moved across the country to work at Hooters and be with him) that marriage is something he might never want. And Brittany? She wants a marriage and a family and...she wants it with this guy? Yes, apparently she does, even after the piece of excrement in question brings up the anti-marriage stance in the first place and then gets annoyed with her for reacting to anything he said when all he's trying to do is have a romantic night with her during which he can freely discuss all the reasons he'll never marry her. He's clearly trying to push her away but he's far too much of a coward to do it directly. Instead he will chip away at her every bit of strength until she crumbles and slinks back to whatever southern state she came from in the first place.
The next day, Schwartz meets up with Jax to play golf. Schwartz, proving again that he's a decent person, listens as Jax tells him about the marriage talk he had with Brittany and he realizes instantly that his friend is a moron for not comprehending that every sign he's sent Brittany has told her that he's ready to commit to her. But enough about marriage! Maybe they can talk about Sandoval's music video? Actually, Jax would like to put the kibosh on that discussion topic, too. (Soon all he'll be able to talk about are the environmental benefits of windmills.) Jax would rather discuss religion or politics than Sandoval's band. Now, you couldn't pay me to watch Jax discuss religion, but I'd pay you to let me have a political discussion with the guy because I would happily verbally destroy him in seven seconds flat or however long it takes for him to realize there's an election happening in November. But the grossest thing here is not Jax’s rampant and hurtful stupidity. No, it's his refusal to be happy for his friends that makes me realize what a truly awful human being the guy is. He's ragged on Schwartz's engagement and he scoffs at Sandoval’s musical dreams and it’s glaringly obvious that his negativity is due to him being just a mess himself. What's not clear to me here is why anyone still speaks to this guy.
And now it's time for Sandoval’s shoot and there's even a real craft services table! This shit is legit! As for the video's concept, it has something to do with mad scientists helping to liberate people from the prisons of their own minds, which would be puzzling even without all this cold medicine racing through my system, but I'm not quite sure how the guitar covered in dildos fits into the equation. Perhaps I'm just not hip enough to figure it out – or perhaps there's never a reason for a dildo guitar and Jax has a point for believing deep in his blackened soul that this music video is a total waste of time.
As part of his act of planning the engagement party, Schwartz arrives at Lisa's house. He open up the pony pen to pet one and Diamond, one of the ponies, walks into the house until Lisa comes down and ushers it back outside. Then she lays down the law:
1. The party must take place on the farthest corner of her lawn.
2. Nobody can use her bathrooms.
3. Stassi and Kristen will be shot with tranquilizer darts by guards upon arrival if they try to show up.
It all sounds more than fair to me.
Speaking of Stassi, she's out looking for an apartment and she brings Kristen with her. The two of them launch into a totally ridiculous conversation about how fucked up it is that they're always being left out of things. It's not just what they're saying that's so insane but that they're having the talk while looking at apartments. You know, there are just times when you can smell producer involvement. Dear viewers, methinks this is one of those times.
And just like we all knew she would, Kristen is planning to crash Katie's party. It doesn't seem to matter to her that she repulses the host or that the bride simply didn't care enough to fight for her presence. No, Kristen will show up anyway and I wonder if there’s any sort of limit on how much of a walking joke one lone adult can be.
Back at SUR, the gang tells Jax to wear a suit to court and to appear full of remorse in front of the judge. Also, Ariana hates everyone.
And now Jax must pack for his trip to Hawaii. Is he afraid of going to jail? Well, that's hard to say. He feels like his apartment has become a jail now that a girl he invited to live there is there all the time. Maybe while he's pleading for his freedom on the balmy shores of Hawaii, Brittany can pack up her shit and go live on some curb. And really? At least he bought her boobs. Is there another parting gift more meaningful and lasting? Herpes?
Next week is the season finale and, upon learning that, I literally murmured, "Oh, thank God" out loud. See, I'm sort of done with these people who emotionally slaughter one another with only commerce in mind, but at least it appears that we'll be going out with a bang. According to the previews, Lala violently pushes Kristen, Jax maybe decks James, and Kristen – who sadly does not appear to have a bloody tranquilizer dart lodged in her back – not only crashes the party she wasn't invited to but gives a motherfucking toast.
She's a catch, you guys. She's a catch.
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.