Maybe the only that’s interesting to me about preparing for the onslaught of a blizzard is how it all starts to feel so primal. Our basic wants morph almost instantaneously into what we manage to convince ourselves are desperate needs and those needs cannot possibly be quelled without making a frantic trip to a supermarket and posting at least three completely unoriginal messages on social media. Me? I did it all. That’s right – I turned into the girl who ran out to buy shit like egg whites and three different kinds of cheese and more fresh broccoli than anyone should ingest outside of a dare. See, I recently began tracking everything I eat and I lost 8.6 pounds in only two weeks by scarfing down mostly seafood and vegetables and I wanted to make sure that turning briefly into a shut-in would not cause me to pile back on even a tenth of a pound because I’ve become mildly obsessive about what I’m eating and I’ve chosen to pretend that such an obsession is a positive thing and not the mark of a latent eating disorder. But then I realized that I was going to have some company during the blizzard and I am nothing if not an excellent hostess. And what do hostesses do? I thought to myself while coming to a dramatic standstill in the baking aisle of Stop and Shop. Hostesses bake brownies, dammit! And kick-ass hostesses bake brownies that have chocolate chips mixed into the batter and then they top those already-decadent chocolate squares with marshmallows that are shoved for a second into a hot broiler so the marshmallows will melt slightly and turn the perfect shade of toasty brown!
Like Odysseus being beckoned by a bipolar Siren, I began to listen to the insane voice inside of my head and that voice screamed that cheese should never be served without some nice crunchy bread and that only a Neanderthal would not pick up gourmet olives and fresh shrimp and the next thing I knew, I had spent two hundred dollars on groceries and my oven was churning out something besides zucchini. And since I was quite consciously ruining the excellent progress I’d recently made in terms of portion control and ass size, I decided to start sprinting about my home like a madwoman. My goal? To plug every device I own into an outlet so everything would be fully charged come the storm. This particular action – which I’ll consider both cardio and a core-based workout because it involved lots of bending – was dictated by some rather devastating past experiences when my power cut off the moment a swift wind blew through my town and I was left with only the fear and the fury that comes with having a phone that is rapidly losing battery power and the inability to watch even a bad movie. Listen: I’ve been through blizzards and hurricanes and freakish random experiences like when the electricity in my entire community shut down for six hours one cold February evening for absolutely no good reason at all and I have learned some things, my friends! Here’s what you must do to prepare for the likelihood of having everything spontaneously go dark:
1. Buy a jar of instant coffee. Who cares if it sits unopened in your cabinet for a year straight? If you have been blessed with a gas stove, you can heat up water and still get your coffee fix during a storm without resorting to shoving some coffee grinds under your gum like it’s tobacco, a real thing I did during Hurricane Sandy.
2. Shower the night before the storm, flatiron your hair until it’s straighter than it’s ever been, and refrain from tossing it up into a ponytail so it will continue to look pretty while you’re trapped inside of a house with way too many mirrors that you have to look at unless you’re playing a game that requires you be blindfolded.
3. Buy a blindfold.
4. Turn the temperature of the refrigerator as low as you can. When your strawberries become so frozen that they can be used as weapons, that’s when it’s cold enough in there for your dairy products to withstand the potential loss of power headed their way.
5. Conversely, blast your heat until you can hardly take it anymore. Think about it this way: sure, you are sweating your ass off in the middle of January simply as a precaution – and you are probably spending a fortune to do it – but just try to recall how unpleasant it was to sleep in the frigid air when you had no power for four days during both the hurricane and the last huge snowfall. Remember how your pinky toe almost snapped off even while swathed in four pairs of socks and you were lying beneath three comforters? Throw on a tank top and some boy shorts and stop complaining.
6. Charge your current laptop, your gigantic ancient laptop that has the DVD player, your iPod, your iPad, and your phone. Yes, eating brownies and having sex are lovely ways to pass the time, but so is checking email and watching a movie. Think ahead!
I spent the night before the storm gathering candles and searching for flashlights and locating my lingerie so I wouldn’t have to eventually search for it in the pitch-black darkness. I ran my dishwasher and did my laundry and made sure my extra blankets were easily accessible. I sorted through the clothing people have bought for my puppy and pulled out her yellow fleece and her pink sweater so she could look stylish while feeling comfortably warm. I backed my car in and popped up my windshield wipers so they wouldn’t freeze. I located my shovel and leaned it against the wall in my foyer. And then I got into bed and felt an exhaustion that was quite real spread through at least a third of my body and I realized that I had just allowed myself to feed into a frenzy that could and should have been totally avoidable. Yes, there would be snow – a lot of it. But I’d be stuck at home for a grand total of perhaps two days and that fear had caused me to spend and to consume and to prepare like the end of time was upon me? That fear had caused me to make a platter of brownies topped with s’mores?
Yup, it sure did.
Now sure, those brownies were unbefuckinglievable – but the storm passed and it’s time to hop back on the healthy eating track and try to forgive myself for falling victim to a desire that I allowed myself to believe was a pressing need. And if I can learn to forgive myself for making the questionable choice of eating a few (okay, five) brownies during a brief environmental crisis, maybe that means I can forgive the Vanderpump Rules gang for their choices too! After all, eating a marshmallow-topped brownie is right on par with stealing a pair of sunglasses or crawling with your bedazzled tail between your legs back to a group of people you swore you’d rather die than ever talk to again, right? Aren’t we all just flawed creatures by nature?
Speaking of creatures, tonight's episode is lovingly called "The Bitch Is Back," and I'm willing to bet that Stassi has never felt more proud since her name is basically above the title. You know how some people live by the adage that it doesn't matter what people say about you as long as they're talking about you? I'm pretty sure Stassi has that adage branded across what's left of her soul. And we'll get to the girl I'm embarrassed I once gave some credit to back when I actually believed she'd willingly walk away from this televised trainwreck, but first we need to swan dive into the carnage her forever-costars are getting into under heat of the Hawaiian sun.
We begin exactly where we left off, with Jax lying to Brittany about Lala. "Did I used to be a liar?" poses the current liar before answering his own question since I guess it wasn't rhetorical. "Yes," he says. And I think it's sweet that he pretends he's reformed, though I have to say that the guy's bountiful perspiration is quite the tell that maybe he’s being less than forthright. Still, none of it really matters because he's snagged himself a girlfriend who actually believes him and a group of friends who bizarrely don't tell him he's a piece of shit every hour on the hour. There's literally zero reason for this guy to change as long as he continues to socialize with people who refuse to hold him to any sort of standards that are usually associated with humans.
After being branded by the group a Jezebel who craves the feel of the wind whipping across her bare titties, Lala has slunk back to her hotel room. All she wants is to call her mother – and can I just say that I really hope there was at least a five-minute conversation between them once wherein her mother at least tried to stop her kid from appearing on this show? Anyway, Faith, Max, and James go check on her but she's pretty inconsolable. It's really breaking her heart that Jax lied about her – and right to her face! – and I get it. That kind of thing is upsetting, but in the context of this group it's not at all shocking and someone joining a reality show that's already several seasons in has to realize such a thing because to not have guessed this kind of thing would happen means that you’re kind of a fool. I mean, it’s akin to being stunned that ABC decided to put a certifiably insane person in the house on The Bachelor. In this day and age of reality television, you’re just not allowed to be naïve anymore, you know? Doing his very best to soothe the ravaged feelings of the special girl he adores, James decides he should crawl in bed with Lala and then hisses that she’s a tease the moment she asks him to vacate her personal space because he’s a guy who knows how to make women feel all better.
At the pool, Scheana approaches Ariana so she can put a Band-Aid over the puss-dripping wound she inflicted by telling Ariana’s mother all kinds of shit about her daughter. Scheana apologizes – sort of – but Ariana explains that she can't really forgive her because Scheana truly doesn't feel badly about what she's done and that it’s seriously fucked up that Scheana has publicly declared Sandoval a guy who’s only looking out for himself. Ariana’s got a good point here. Wasn’t Sandoval the guy schlepping Shay around town to get him in shape and keep him sober? Did he not show up at the crack of dawn to the home they live in that’s plastered with humongous glossy photos of Scheana’s face to whip the guy up a frittata? Scheana’s got herself a lot of nerve, and it's a really good thing that she’s already lined up a new best friend in Katie because Ariana is positively icy in their interaction and all of it just makes me like Ariana more. Because here’s the thing about Scheana: it's hard for me to like her but I feel sort of badly about having that reaction because she's just so bland that she shouldn't summon up complicated emotions in someone watching her shenanigans on television. She's not a full and egocentric asshole like James and she's not out-of-her-fucking-gourd delusional like Kristen but she is willingly friends with Jax and she really doesn't seem to get why her best friend doesn't want to vacation with a woman who wished her dead more times than anyone with an abacus could count. More than any of it, I think it's the nonsense with her husband that annoys me the most. The guy began the season as an unemployed addict and Scheana appeared understandably heartbroken by it all and she announced that she was committed to getting him healthy. Then we learned that her definition of “recovery” is “learning how to get tipsy instead of drunk” and it’s seriously fucked up that now she's annoyed that the guy is hammered while on vacation with a group of people who don't run to CVS to pick up conditioner without doing shots first.
Mini-brawls aside, they are still on vacation and the next morning dawns bright and sunny and everything is looking up except for Schwartz's penis. That's right – he and his fiancé have still not had sex. By this point in the abstinence process, I'm just puzzled. Does one of them have a raging bladder infection? Why can they not find a minute (or ten minutes) to writhe around together? Is it that they're always too drunk? Are we really meant to nod and agree when Katie says that she’d rather spend her time on the beach with fourteen of her closest friends (a collection that includes Jax and James) instead of wrapping her legs around her fiancé’s back? What is happening here? Meanwhile, in another hotel room, Sandoval is furious with Scheana for betraying him and trying to ruin his relationship with Ariana and in the room just next door, Scheana is also miserable because her addicted husband just doesn't seem to understand moderation.
There will eventually be time to deal with or continue to avoid everything that actually matters, but first it’s time to head out to the beach where they can drink alcohol from where it’s hidden inside bottles of suntan lotion because they're adults, dammit, and that’s what adults who don’t have drinking problems do. Just ask Shay! A bunch of them try surfing and a manatee sadly doesn't rise to the surface and devour four of them while Scheana decides the time has come to shame Lala for parading around in the skimpiest thong bikini ever seen outside of the clearance rack of a Hustler store. After belittling her for sport – an amuse-bouche of verbal battering if you will – Scheana decides to offer up a two-faced shoulder for Lala to cry upon by telling her that she understands Lala’s pain because she was once in Lala's shoes. Yes, she too was once the new girl at SUR and everyone used to think she was a dirty whore also! But she has redeemed herself! She stopped fucking that married guy and she married Shay instead and they are so happy and these people are the best friends a girl could ever have, except for Ariana who is a total bitch and flies off the handle for no reason, like that time she got annoyed when Scheana said how much fun it would be to include Sandoval’s ex-girlfriend on their trip. To her credit, Lala sort of gazes at Scheana suspiciously and doesn’t share anything that’s real and if she would extricate herself fully from the loser in the tank top, I might be able to get on board with Lala. I like fun bitches.
And now we’re back in LA and it's finally time to see Stassi. She stops by Kristen's apartment because, you know, bygones, and she's there for three whole seconds before a drink is thrust into her hand – which is actually two seconds longer than she usually lasts without a drink on this show. The two sit down on the couch where those who have been exiled must live out the rest of their days in shame and desperation and we find out that Stassi’s not doing so great. Her once-awesome relationship is on the skids. She and her boyfriend no longer live together and they had all but stopped having sex and they rarely spoke and I think I’m most concerned that Kristen is giving her advice that she's actually listening to because that’s a clear sign that someone’s a mess. The thing is, Stassi is somewhat self-aware. She’s willing to admit that she became too wrapped up in this guy and she allowed her friendships to fall by the wayside. She wants to rectify that situation – as long as she doesn't fully have to take the blame. And if she’s looking for validation that nothing has to be her fault, she's come to the right place because Kristen, Queen of Therapy & Mental Fortitude, has never fully accepted personal blame for the mess that is her own life and she can singlehandedly steer Stassi to Projection Land with her eyes closed and a warm can of Milwaukee’s Best in the cup holder.
As for what’s really paining Stassi, it's Katie she misses the most. Their estrangement was apparently made even more complicated due to the sex tape none of us even heard about until Stassi herself revealed it existed on last season's reunion show. Now, having footage of oneself fornicating with a giant dildo out there for public consumption would obviously be mortifying and I think whomever, um, spread it around is a horrible person. I'm embarrassed for Stassi and it sucks that this happened to her and nobody should have to be violated by someone you thought you could trust. It also sucks that Scheana allegedly showed the video to people and had herself a hearty giggle about the humiliation of the girl who attempted to repeatedly humiliate her on television, but I'm once again feeling some confusion set in as I listen to Kristen reveal Scheana's definite involvement. Hasn’t Scheana been a Kristen advocate lately for absolutely no reason at all? Is Kristen so hideously disloyal that she will turn on the half a friend she has left? Am I actually surprised that Kristen is an asshole? There are just so many questions to deal with, but it comes down to the fact that Katie knew about Scheana's involvement in passing the tape around and it hurt Stassi’s feelings that Katie went away with Scheana after knowing such a thing. As for her decision to cut Katie out of her life without a smidgen of remorse, Stassi regrets that now. See, if Stassi has learned anything about herself recently it’s that 1) it’s a very bad sign when boyfriends and girlfriends who are living together are not having sex and 2) the amazing capacity she has to toss people away with total impunity is not actually a mark of great strength and personal power, but instead a blaring sign of fucking weakness. Stassi really wants to make amends with Katie because she cannot believe that Katie got engaged and she wasn’t a key part of the moment and it’s odd that after all of this she still believes that everything is about her, but I’m gonna cut the girl a break because she’s already had to pretend to like Kristen and I’m not sure a human soul can take any more chastening.
Back in Hawaii, Jax is growing concerned that Lala is floating atop the same raft as Brittany because it might only be a matter of time before Brittany gets her head out of her ass and starts hearing the actual truth instead of what she's told is the truth by a sociopathic liar who's now her live-in boyfriend. And speaking of asses, James is rather transfixed by Lala's even though he’s rather miffed that the girl is such a tease for throwing him the sex eyes and then refusing to allow him to bang her. Meanwhile, Kristen – who can never keep good news to herself – texts Jax to announce that she's hanging out with Stassi. Scheana's response to the news is initially one of shock because she knows that Stassi is only out for herself and she's gotta be using Kristen, though she can't for the life of her figure out what she's using Kristen for and all Scheana’s very best friend Katie wants is for her name to never again slither out of Stassi's mouth because that bitch is dead to her.
In their hotel room later, two terrifying sights appear and I fear that neither image will ever leave my delicate psyche. The first is of Jax ironing bright red pants that are the color of murder that he actually wants to wear in public and the second is that the guy wears bikini underwear. I’d ask for a moment to gather my thoughts, but that process strikes me as a total fucking waste of time because what the guy says next is even worse than those permanent mental pictures. With joy and wonder in his voice, Jax explains that he really appreciates how Brittany has looked beyond this whole Lala thing. "One of the things I love most about Brittany is how she blows all this off," says Jax, which can be easily translated into, "I love that Brittany is desperate or foolish enough to believe all my bullshit." True love, everybody! Who's jealous?
The entire group shows up for drinks and dinner and they decide to partake in the spiked watermelon drink that will be excellent for Shay’s experiment with moderation. Before he can get shit-faced, Sandoval tosses out a new grenade when he makes a comment about whether or not James and Lala have had sex and the guy in (yet another) tank top looks suddenly like he's about to spill some news. "James," says Lala with some edge in her voice – and it turns out that yes, there is a story here. See, prior to Hawaii, these two crazy kids got hammered and almost fucked… except James couldn't get it up. Because he a chivalrous kind of fellow, James insisted that the issue was that Lala couldn't get him hard, though he does reveal to us that he choked and wants to try again. What I really want him to try to do is shove his entire head inside of one of Lala's ginormous hoop earrings and then see if he can get it out and maybe an earring can be used as a makeshift noose and these are the things I apparently begin to think about when I cannot take another second of such stupidity.
Trying to stop a bubbling conflict from boiling over, Sandoval beckons Scheana away from the table so they can talk about how she betrayed both him and Ariana. He explains himself rather eloquently and she sort of apologizes before maintaining she doesn't really regret a single thing she said and they both call one another "manipulative" and Sandoval remains calm the entire time and I don’t know if it’s that he hasn’t worn a beanie much this season or if he’s finally stopped bursting into torrents of tears, but I think I like this guy and I definitely like him when he’s sitting across from Scheana or Jax or James or really anyone on this show.
In the non-Hawaii portion of the world, Stassi and Kristen meet up at a bar because they’re such close friends again. The second they sit down, Kristen tells Stassi that she heard from Scheana that it is Sandoval and Ariana who are causing all the drama on the trip (which means Scheana rather conveniently left out the Lala/Jax/Brittany brawl and her own fights with her own husband and that Scheana herself caused the conflict with Ariana in the first place) and the look of absolute glee on Kristen’s face as she reports this rumor as fact is staggering in its levels of patheticness. "What's the point of having all this animosity and negativity?" Stassi asks Kristen – and I laughed for a good fifty seconds straight hearing that sentiment come from that chick's mouth and head into the other one's eardrum. But they can get back to other peoples' flaws in a moment, as well as why they desperately still want to be friends with those people. First though, Stassi has to inform Kristen that this Kevin guy she's been seeing and ordering Ubers for has a serious live-in girlfriend. And how does Stassi know such a thing? Well, she had a wee bit of time on her hands in between making ugly pieces of jewelry and she decided to Facebook-stalk the guy because the only thing more fun than a good stalking session is breaking the ugly news to her hopeful friend's face. How could Kristen not have missed Stassi's presence in her life?
Kevin, it turns out, is a friend of Jax's and he shows up and is immediately confronted with the news of Stassi's investigation. No, he insists, he's got himself an ex-girlfriend and besides, he wants something serious with the lunatic beside him! Then he leans over and shoves his tongue into Kristen’s mouth and even the guy's tragic pompadour looks terrified.
On their last night in Hawaii, toasts are made to the excellent friendships and undying bonds of loyalty amongst people who willingly destroy one another in high-definition for fun. Then Brittany approaches Lala to tell her that they should squash the conflict between them and Lala agrees because she figures she'll obliterate the girl with the truth at a later date. Then they all dance and drink while Jax explains that they are such a unique group and they'll always stick together and Schwartz and Katie have still not had sex and I'm honestly worried for them now.
As they pack to leave the island, Jax is really excited that nothing terrible happened while they were in Hawaii – besides his minor attempt to fully annihilate Lala's reputation and Schwartz’s testicles turning an alarming shade of cobalt blue. Of course, his proclamation is just a nifty piece of foreshadowing because, just before they leave, Brittany gets a phone call that Jax has been arrested. He did apologize over the phone though – a hundred times – for stealing a pair of sunglasses. "What do I do now?" asks Brittany, and I think I've got some answers for her:
1. Leave the guy to rot on the island.
2. Get yourself a shot of penicillin quickly.
3. See if you can revoke the release you signed to appear on this show because you're not coming off all that well.
4. Go back to Kentucky and hide. Are there caves there?
Since they are such a unique group of friends who will always stick together, they collectively call Jax's mom to tell her the good news and find out the guy’s bail is $11,000. As he has some free time because he's not getting laid, Schwartz contacts the bail bondsman and they get the guy released. He meets them at the airport after practicing his look of contrition the whole way there, but at least he's got a good excuse for committing larceny: he was drunk. Then he tears up and says the whole thing is so embarrassing and he didn't mean to do it.
Jax? I think I understand you. You had a want that you managed to convince yourself was a need. You thought you needed to get drunk before getting on the plane because being wasted for all those other days just wasn’t enough. You thought you needed a pair of sunglasses and decided you should just take them. You thought you needed to extricate yourself from any sort of responsibility so you chose to toss Lala and her bare tits into an inferno of blame. You made your choices and I for one understand them.
Want a brownie?
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.
(This week’s Vanderpump Rules column will not appear on Reality Steve’s site. The column will resume next week.)