Last week, before actually important news saturated the airways (I’m speaking, of course, of the atrocities aimed at innocent civilians in Paris that shocked everybody and Charlie Sheen’s tragic medical diagnosis that shocked nobody), Bravo updates were appearing in the press constantly. For a few days there it was impossible to go online and not see that two new Housewife shows are heading our way like an Earth-shattering comet and that Brooks, the smarmiest man ever to walk the streets of the OC, admitted to doctoring the documents he waved in front of cameras on his I Have Cancer press tour in a misguided effort to prove (through falsified medical records) that he indeed has been stricken with a deadly disease. But before anyone can say anything, let’s just all go ahead and accept that fine, Brooks might have fabricated those documents, but he’s totally not lying about anything else and he obviously has a disease (I think it must be the disease that causes his unceasing smirk that I’d love to kick off his face with a stiletto) and if you believe anything else, you’re just an asshole. Either that or you’ve got yourself some working synapses.
The thought of two new Bravo shows appearing on my television brought on a strange combination of excitement and terror and I think it’s because I’m starting to be aware of the lengths the participants of these shows are willing to go. In fact, I sat back and contemplated some of the craziest moments we’ve already been privy to and they include, but are obviously not limited to, the following:
o Kim Richards drunkenly proclaimed sobriety before being arrested – for public intoxication.
o The husband of one of the Housewives committed suicide and, before he was even embalmed, his wife wrote a book about the abuse he’d allegedly leveled her way before, during, and after production.
o A woman wearing a red sari crashed a White House dinner.
o An electronic-cigarette-puffing psychic sneered that she wouldn’t help someone locate an abducted child.
o A self-proclaimed MILF suggested that her son get a fellow Housewife “naked drunk” and then looked the other way while the two almost banged in a bathroom during a dinner party.
o A lawsuit was served over comments one Housewife made about the exact scent of another Housewife’s vagina.
o The Miami women made it through meals with Elsa, a woman whose plastic surgery makes her look just like the monster in Goodnight, Mommy, without desperately texting Dr. Terry Dubrow for help.
o A husband of a New York Housewife was exposed as an Ashley Madison client.
o A Housewife wrote a pilot called Life Twirls On inspired by her own life because, after all, she twirls and she’s nothing if not a star!
o One Housewife was hauled off to prison – I like to think of her now as “Theresa Incarcerated” so I can simultaneously visualize a woman born without a forehead and pay homage to the late Amy Winehouse – where she undoubtedly misses her family, her privacy, and her leopard-printed apparel.
o A violence-prone Housewife ended up on Broadway while another was magically turned into a magician’s assistant.
o A woman threw a party for her football player boyfriend of two whole months that culminated in her presenting him with a trophy for no good reason at all.
o Jill Zarin.
Just thinking about all of those moments, it’s clear that the newest Housewives are going to need to ratchet up the crazy and so are all the other cast members of Bravo shows if they want to make a dent in the already mangled Lucite coating that covers this network and its “stars” like a cheap condom. The reality waters, already crowded, are just becoming ever more populated. Shows about being below a deck or on top of a mountain or serving a platter of food to someone in a restaurant have to make their mark somehow. Since tables have already been flipped and on-camera evictions have already transpired, I think the Vanderpump Rules bunch is going to have to collectively commit to having no moral fibers whatsoever in order to even get talked about this season. And if their brainstorming session on how to be controversial ends in tears because thinking is hard, might I suggest that they all form a cult where every new recruit must be indoctrinated by sleeping with Jax and they all worship nightly beside a bonfire where one of the tees from Kristen’s awesomely profitable new line serves as kindling?
Since it’s really hard to select a guru from this group, I’m going to just sit on that idea for a while and focus instead on what our Pumpers are bringing this week. As I haven’t successfully blocked out last week’s coming attractions completely, I vaguely remember that this episode will explore Scheana’s husband’s drug problem and the fact that Lala the Fun Bitch takes sponsored trips, though unless they’re sponsored by the Taliban, I can’t imagine that anyone will actually care.
This episode begins at some boutique that sells retro-style clothing where some of the waitresses from SUR meet up with their boss so they can try on potential new uniforms. After they’re done twirling before Dame Vanderpump, Lisa makes sure to let Katie and Scheana know that she’s a bit cross with them for giving Lala a hard time. Now I love me Lisa Vanderpump in just about any scenario, but watching her pretend that the new girl wasn’t cast on this show specifically to cause conflict makes me feel as dirty as that chick Kristina must feel to still – after all these years – not have made it into the opening credit sequence yet. That shit’s gotta sting. At any rate, Katie and Scheana let the truth out of the bag about Lala traveling as some rich guy’s piece but all Lisa responds with is that none of it is their business and it’s time for them to play nice, which I’m certain is exactly what the producers of this show (Lady Vanderpump included) really desire because nothing brings about higher ratings than people getting along.
Over at SUR, the bartenders are annoyed. They are being tasked with learning how to make the drinks most guzzled at Lisa’s other restaurant, Pump, and they’re not all that interested in mastering the fine art of creating the Pumptini. Not only do they have to learn how to make new drinks – a true inconvenience for a person who tends bar for a living – but they must do it under the guidance of Eric, the Bar Manager over at Pump. (I capitalized Bar Manager because I think it’s implied that we are supposed to see Eric as A Very Important Person.) Jax, his hair parted to the side like he just came from an elementary school where he sat in for picture day in the hopes of claiming a new girlfriend, tells Lisa and her husband Ken that no, he will not end up working with Eric, but that bold proclamation is shot to hell by one syllable and one stern look from Ken. I could care less about bartender angst or that Jennifer Lawrence’s favorite drink involves crushed raspberries, but I could watch Jax pretend to be important all day long while crushing raspberries because I like the way he sweats from the exertion of it all.
In another area of the restaurant, Lisa approaches our favorite fun bitch to ask about how her modeling shoot went and who the photographer was and Lala responds by twirling her hair and attempting to look adorable in a way that probably worked to get drugs off a guy in Capri but might not turn out so well here. She comes clean quickly by explaining that okay, she was really preparing to jet off to Italy to take some pictures and serve as some legs-closed arm candy but she didn’t actually go through with the trip because she had herself a mini breakdown and went home to be with her mother instead. Lala’s having a tough time because Katie and Scheana have just been so mean to her and taking selfies with her mom makes her feel better and she’s okay now and I for one am tremendously relieved.
But one person who is not having an easy night is Scheana. She has locked herself in the bathroom of the restaurant and Katie finds her there and is told that Shay, Scheana’s husband, got drunk last night and is feeling depressed and he hasn’t been home since. The guy isn’t happy, Scheana says, and she looks truly devastated that her brand new husband is clearly experiencing a crisis that is more than just a very bad mood.
The next day, Lisa walks down the street carrying a swan. Like Shay, Hank the Swan is also experiencing some depression so Lisa took him to the vet to make sure he’s okay. The vet told her that Hank will work through his issues and he’s ready to hop back into her moat and so, with that crisis contained, Lisa can go and focus on getting her waitresses properly trained by Richardson, some guy who also works at Pump. (Stop being silly. Of course this is not intentional marketing synergy to advertise both of her restaurants! Lisa just wants to have her staff trained by the best people possible!) Richardson suggests that the staff use some elevated language to sell the shit out of the menu and then he blandly hits on Katie. All the while, Scheana fights to keep back tears and tries to remember that she needs to ask her customers if they would like sparkling or still water.
And now it’s time for an appearance by Tom Schwartz, Adorable Model. (I figure that if I capitalize “Bar Manager” I should certainly turn Schwartz’s profession into the most proper of nouns.) The job today requires that he feel a few women up in front of a camera (including some girl I’m quite sure appeared on the first season of Project Runway) but all the groping is acceptable because he’s using his earnings to buy Katie that engagement ring before the clock strikes twelve and she rushes to reset it because she’s not letting go of the guy any time soon, ring or not. And yes, I know that they are currently engaged and I think that’s lovely and I wish them well, but I’m not buying that she would have left him if the engagement hadn’t occurred.
Far away from any true happiness, James, Kristen, and a whole lot of alcohol hang out by a grubby pool. James is such an awesome person, you guys! I mean, he feels guilty for lying to his psychotic girlfriend but, at the same time, he’s very confused! See, he doesn’t actually regret doing the thing he lied about because the sex he and that girl Jenna had was great and it actually makes him a gentleman to declare such a thing on camera. Still, he can’t help but love the pathetic woman sitting before him too. Ugh…it’s so hard to be James!
It might be harder to be Kristen, though. She sits next to this child and listens as he gleefully lies to her and tells her that while he has never been unfaithful, he doesn’t quite trust her. In her interviews, she explains that all the guy is really doing is projecting his guilt upon her – and she deals with it all by staying with him and she doesn’t even try to shave the ridiculous hair off his head or slam her foot into his chin ass to try to even it out. I tell you, I will never understand some people.
Back at SUR, Lisa wants to let Katie and Scheana know that Lala is fragile and she deserves everyone’s kindness (can I be the only one who thinks that Lala is laughing hysterically in a bathroom stall while this conversation about her fragility goes down?) and Scheana responds that she’s got way too much going on right now to throw the new girl a Welcome to Sur/Don’t Fuck Jax party. Yes, Scheana admits, she’s probably being a little bitchy these days, but she’s working to try to save her marriage and that’s her priority.
In an apartment where far too many people besides him have gotten laid with one of his girlfriends, Sandoval enlists Schwartz to help him move out the couch that is encrusted with Jax’s petrified semen. Once it’s removed like the biohazard it is, the two discuss the ring Schwartz is buying for Katie. Sandoval seems happy for his friend and that’s the kind of thing that makes me like him, but the talk quickly turns from joyful proposal talk to a conversation about a new marriage that’s imploding. They know that Shay has been drinking a lot lately and that he’s going through some stuff and they resolve to get in touch with the guy to make sure that he’s okay. Then they give the sperm-splattered couch to Faith, the new SUR waitress, who will need to get a vaccination immediately.
Speaking of patient zero, Jax is hanging out in the alley behind SUR when Lala approaches. Like any heterosexual male who has absolutely no desire to fuck the young woman sitting before him, Jax inquires as to how she likes SUR and how the other girls have been treating her. Now here’s the thing: I don’t personally know Lala and I already hate enough people on this show that I’d be pretty happy anointing her my newest favorite reality show waitress, but she has just made it utterly impossible for me to ever write anything positive about her by saying that she doesn’t know too much about Jax. (Oh, okay. She’s pretending she’s never watched the show before joining the cast! Clever! And believable!) But she has heard that he gets around and that girls everywhere have been “Jaxed” and she’s not sure what that involves, but to her it sounds like a whole lot of fun. Um, Lala? Let me enlighten you, dear. Being Jaxed eventually involves ingesting penicillin, becoming an automatic member of the worst club for females on the planet, and dealing with chronic itching when you pee. Mystery fucking solved.
Anyway, Lala tells this trustworthy specimen that the girls are making her feel like she’s back in middle school – where you just know Lala was the sweetest girl in the cafeteria – and then listens as Jax explains that the person who moved from Kentucky to be with him is not his girlfriend. Rather than either of them getting up and fleeing into traffic to escape sitting across from one another, Jax instead lets us know that he sees a lot of red flags when it comes to Lala. She’s trouble, he claims, and that probably means he’ll be lying on someone else’s couch with her before the season finale.
At Scheana’s house, Ariana shows up to talk to her friend and Scheana finally comes out with what’s really going on in her marriage. She is confused and heartbroken and afraid as her husband self-medicates to cope with something that sounds an awful lot like depression mixed with addiction and both of those are potentially dire issues that cannot be cured overnight. Scheana’s doing here what a lot of people who are close to an addict end up doing: she blames herself and she continues to keep the majority of his secrets – for now.
The next day – or on the same day or during the previous day because who can tell what fucking day is on a show that plays fast and loose with both continuity and morality? – Lisa learns from James that he and Kristen are going through a rough patch. Quick question: did they ever go through a patch where they skipped through a field of daisies? Anyhoo, Lisa thinks Kristen is an emotional cripple who cannot possibly be a supportive partner to anyone with a pulse and she believes James would be better off if he slept with a corpse.
But a happy moment is afoot because Schwartz, Sandoval, and Scheana show up at a jeweler to choose Katie’s engagement ring. Trying on rings can’t be easy when your own marriage is blowing up in drunken smithereens, but Scheana shows some selflessness here and I find myself hoping that things work out for her in much the same way I often hope for Jax’s deportation on the grounds that he is simply bad for our nation. Sure, Scheana almost lost my piling-up goodwill the moment she alluded to paparazzi bombarding her the moment she slips her wedding ring off (she is very famous), but I’m choosing to ignore that for now because she tells the guys that she hasn’t spoken to her husband in four days and that his drinking has become so severe that it’s now impacting his psyche. Sandoval, acting as the grown-up here, suggests that if Shay is not happy as an individual, there’s no way he can be happy as a couple and his advice is well worth revisiting after they all toast to Katie’s engagement ring with champagne and a chorus of “congratu-fucking-lations” because champagne combined with choruses are really classy.
While they’re at work, even Jax notices that Scheana isn’t doing well. He and Sandoval decide that they need to speak to her husband because it’s looking like the guy could really use some help. Out of all the people on this show, Sandoval strikes me as the most perceptive when it comes to empathizing with the feelings of others so I hope he follows through and tries to do anything he can. But in the meantime, there is vileness in our midst. Lala is working the phone while James stares hard at her leeringly before walking over to give her the most awkward hug seen outside of a haphephobia convention. Then he tells her that he’s heard some of the girls are giving her a hard time, officially ruining this episode as my submission to The Feminist Awards, and he manages to also make me gag by saying the girls allegedly have “antsies in their pantsies” because of Lala’s arrival on the SUR scene. Honestly, there was so much that I violently cringed at in two minutes flat that I’m now worried for my health because I’ve heard that cringing is bad for the liver, but I shall soldier on and try to ignore that James described Lala’s personal space as their very own truth circle before declaring his dislike for bush. And after all that, Lala feels drawn to the guy proving definitively that this girl is either a total fucking idiot or just savvy enough to realize that bouncing like an implant between the men-children of SUR will snare her plenty of screen time.
Despite the fact that James might get laid, there’s even darker clouds on the horizon. Scheana sits down with Lisa to explain that her marriage is a mess. She started noticing just three months after their wedding that Shay was drinking a lot and mixing the alcohol with pills and it got to the point where he was taking at least five painkillers a day. Lisa, concerned and blunt as always, comes right out and says the guy is an addict while Scheana explains how this entire thing has rocked her world so badly that she can hardly recognize her life anymore. Like cheating, a secret addiction is a betrayal. It’s also a genuine disease (meaning its nothing like what Brooks has) that impacts everyone and everything in its path and this season has officially just turned dark and tragic.
Call off the search for the cult leader. One's clearly not needed anymore.
Next week, James and Kristen go to therapy together because a relationship so glorious deserves to be saved and Shay’s wife and friends stage an intervention on camera. I’m not sure that Lala made it to the intervention, though. I think she was stuck on line at CVS picking up the prescription she required after getting Jaxed.
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.