It’s that time again in New York when the trees rise stark and bleak against the backdrop of a sky that’s the color of a worn out grey tee, when you can see your breath leaving your mouth in a faded frosty cloud if you burst into laugher while standing on the street in the moonlight. It’s the time of year when I keep reminding myself that it might be very nice to invest in some footwear appropriate for the tundra and when everything I put on for work in the morning involves black tights that are designed to keep me from freezing my entire ass right off.
Yes, it is that time – or at least it’s supposed to be. I think maybe Mother Nature didn’t get the message, or perhaps she’s going through a tumultuous breakup and simply doesn’t have either the gumption or the energy to rain flakes of fluffy snow down from her expansive sky. There’s always a chance that she’s trying to ward off her own heady and chronic case of seasonal affective disorder and that’s why the trees here still have some stubborn leaves clinging to them. It could also be why I walked around all weekend in just jeans and a long sleeved tee and no jacket and I didn’t shiver even once. The brand new coat I bought that reminds me of the one Penny Lane wore in Almost Famous is still residing full-time in my closet. There has been absolutely no need yet to adorn myself with anything that once grew off of a faux sheep. The shovel that was worth every penny I paid for it last November stands patiently on my back deck. Last year it was frozen solid into a block of ice that remained until mid-April. I think it knows that it will eventually be called to action, but for now it’s reclining in peace and enjoying the sixty-degree balmy weather of an east coast December.
I’m quite sure that anyone who is not currently running for office would agree that what’s going on here is far more about the impact of global warming than Mother Nature dealing with the residual scalding bitterness of finding out that Father Time has been banging his mistress somewhere along the equator. It’s truly fucked up that I flung my windows open yesterday to enjoy the nice crisp breeze, that I’m not really sure where my gloves are or if I even have both of them anymore, and that every day the weatherman crows that we have just neared another record high temperature. But what I think we all must accept is that the weather patterns we’ve come to rely upon have shifted; that which we have come to understand and expect is no longer relevant. And if something like the weather can change so radically, maybe people can change too! Maybe Jax and James and Kristen and the thing called Lala can surprise us all by exhibiting character traits they’ve never shown before! Maybe some of those traits will be positive! Maybe these people are actually human!
It is with this new belief in the capacity for human growth that I entered into this episode of Vanderpump Rules, hopeful that all of our little Pumpers would shed their hardened and scaly skins that are mostly made up of desperation and narcissism and start showing off the smooth baby skin that glows even if a camera is not aimed directly at them. And my optimism soared as the opening scene at Vanderpump Manor showed Lisa and Ken happily agreeing to host a dinner for some academically gifted teenagers who live in homeless shelters who have never had the opportunity to eat a meal in a nice restaurant. The woman who runs the charity is lovely and she’s smart and Lisa responds easily to the request. She is legitimately excited to give these kids a special experience and Ken agrees with her entirely, as does the dog wearing pajamas he is cradling in his arms. Honestly though, that Lisa would exhibit philanthropic tendencies is not even a little bit surprising. She has long been a vocal advocate for the LGBT community and she single handedly operated the Brandi Glanville is Not a Useless Piece of Goat Shit organization for a couple of years before throwing up her finely manicured hands and disbanding that charitable endeavor on the grounds that it turned out that Brandi Glanville is in fact simply a useless piece of goat shit. Still, Lisa tried – and she vows to make sure that her work for this organization goes off flawlessly.
And speaking of the best laid plans – starring two men I wouldn’t completely mind getting laid by – the Toms are strategizing about how to make themselves seem indispensible to Pandora and Jason and their line of sangria. After recognizing that even abs as impressive as theirs probably come with an expiration date, these guys want to put a new career into motion and secure a salary that’s a bit more reliable than the one that comes with modeling. Pandora, Lisa’s daughter, runs the sangria line with her husband and neither of them is eager to suffer fools or to waste their time so Sandoval and Schwartz meet up to rehearse what they are going to say during their second meeting with them. If I remember correctly (I tend to block a lot of this shit right out because I’m not a masochist in every area of my life), during the Toms’ introductory meeting with Pandora and Jason, their big selling point was that Sandoval is now enough of a star that he can waltz into a bar in his hometown of St. Louis and sell the shit out of their fruity beverage. Unfortunately for him – and quite fortunately for anyone within a thirty-mile radius of St. Louis – Pandora and Jason are thinking more about global success and, should the Toms get hired, they must expand the manner in which they constitute success. They need to stop thinking small. To that end, the guys sit on Schwartz’s couch with Katie and debate what they should say during their upcoming appointment. Sandoval’s suggestion is that Schwartz should maybe say a whole lot of nothing because of that whole flustered thing he’s got going on and the guy has a point because Schwartz – so adorable while silent – does seem to struggle with formulating full sentences sometimes. Also, if they’re up for taking some random advice, I’d like to suggest that Schwartz not wear the hideous shirt he’s rocking during this scene to the meeting. That thing is so blindingly busy that it could give someone a seizure if stared at it for too long and it’s holiday time and nobody wants that.
Still, I’d rather stare at Schwartz’s ugly shirt for a year straight than glance at Jax’s face for a straight minute. He appears in SUR and makes a beeline for Lala, the girl he claims he did nothing with after they left Gay Pride together with roughly a gallon of vodka sloshing through each of their stomachs. Now, it was left ambiguous about what happened and I like to wrap my stories up neatly so I will just toss out a guess that Jax couldn’t get it up and that’s why Lala does not need to worry about carrying around a tattooed demon spawn. (Okay, fine – there’s always the possibility that both Lala and Jax realized that they would only complicate things by hooking up, but I have a tough time giving either of these people credit for thinking a matter through, especially while they’re hammered.) As for James, he feels terribly about sleeping with Lauren, the other hostess. He also regrets all but waving that chick’s crotch in Lala’s face while a used condom still dangled from it. He’s been calling Lala nonstop and behaving like the saddest puppy in the land (who has the worst groomer on the planet) and it’s pretty obvious that Lala appreciates that she’s got the upper hand again with this fucking doofus. But until she decides to allow him to spend time with her, she will do whatever it takes not to be lonely and that includes asking Jax out for drinks. Who cares that Brittany is coming back from Kentucky to be with Jax? It’s not like Lala wants to suck Jax’s dick or anything! She just wants him to be her friend because if several seasons of this show have taught us anything it’s that Jax Taylor is nothing if not an excellent friend to those around him. Sure, he might sleep with your girlfriend or tell vicious relationship-ruining lies about you or go running through a screen door until he needs stiches or shoplift sunglasses while you’re all on vacation because someone wasn’t paying enough attention to him for a second or two, but really, he is such a good friend and it’s so easy to see why Lala wants him in her life. And spending time with Jax has nothing to do with trying to grab herself more camera time, so stop saying such things! I tell you…cynics are crazy.
But here’s the thing: so far this episode we have seen the Toms brainstorm career goals, Lala refuse to speak with the guy who wronged her, and Jax coming (somewhat) clean about sort-of-kind-of having a girlfriend to whom he sort-of-kind-of wants to remain true. The changes I hoped for are actually panning out! These people are different! And fuck you, pessimists, who say that only ten minutes of the show has aired thus far and that there’s still plenty of time for these people to revert back to preverbal barbarians! Have faith!
Then James’ mother walks into the frame and I stared at her for several long seconds, so curious about the woman who birthed the evil troll sitting before her. Here’s what I can say about James’ mother: she’s quite pretty and young and she’s going through a divorce from James’ dad and, for some odd reason, she adores her child. She tells James that she is so proud of him and he gazes at her doe-like while tears fall down his cheeks and he tells her how much he loves her. And just when I was beginning to get Carpal tunnel syndrome from gripping the sides of my couch because my prophecy about our Vanderpumpers morphing instantly into good people was coming true before my very eyes, James began to discuss how distraught he is over the dissolution of his parents’ marriage and that’s the reason he drinks like a fish who’s failed rehab twice and enjoys starting conflicts with everyone he’s ever met. Now listen – I get that people deal with stress and pain differently, but allow me to make a brief comparison here. My parents got divorced when I was five. I saw my father die. I once ate a handful of Sugar Free Haribo Gummy Bears when there wasn’t a toilet or a nearby hole in the ground. I too have been through some difficult moments; we have all been through some difficult moments. But let’s be honest and call bullshit when the twenty-something sitting before us claims he’s behaving like a curved cock because he’s sad that his parents are splitting up. I’m sure he is upset – divorce sucks. I’m also sure he acts like a fucking monster because he exists and profits in a world that encourages him to think he’s famous. At any rate, he offers promises to his mother that he will be a better person from that day forward and I for one absolutely believe him but that’s only because I briefly swapped brains with a crazy person – and let me tell you, it’s way more fun having her brain.
James also tells his mother that Kristen all but wrecked him and then he informs us that nobody has ever hurt him the way that she did. I’m wondering if it was the fact that she was clearly still in love with her ex-boyfriend the entire time she dated James or if maybe she pissed on the toilet seat every morning. I don’t know what went down between these two and how it all turned so quickly from a cringe-worthy kind of love to venomous revulsion, but I do know that I hate myself for being even slightly curious about the facts here.
And then Christmas came early because the next scene is of Jax and Kristen meeting up to take boxing lessons so they can both get rid of their internal raging hatred and Jax wants us to know that he is so excited to be there, but it’s hard to tell because he just had Botox. I don’t even know exactly where to start. Should it be the spiky tingles of excitement that roared through me when I considered that there was an excellent chance that one or both of these people would be beaten to a pulp? Or should I focus on the fact that so far this season Jax has had a (third) nose job, Botox, and a clearly energetic session with the person who threads his eyebrows? As I’m just not sure, I will carry on and report the brilliance that transpired between the two worst people on any television show I have ever watched in my entire life.
“Jax and I have a very complicated, fucked up friendship,” says Kristen – and she could probably be describing everyone she knows here. She then explains that, bonkers though it sounds, Jax is loyal and I need this girl’s address so I can overnight her a dictionary that has pictures in it. Before she can look up the word “homicidal,” she tells Jax that she has a date coming up with someone who has money (and hopefully an extra straight jacket) and that she also heard a rumor that Jax and Brittany broke up. What’s that you say? Kristen is bringing up rumors? That’s so unlike her – said the dominant personality careening through her skull. As for what the deal is with Jax and Brittany, it all seems up in the air for now and it’s hard to really care and anyway, it’s way more interesting to hear Kristen opine about James, “The-piece-of-shit-son-of-a-bitch-twenty-three-year-old-brat. Like, suck it,” which is a totally normal thing to say.
(Also, quick note to breeders, shelters, pet stores, and storks that bring puppies to the front door: do not give a dog to Kristen. I fear it’ll be boiled on a stove and left for Sandoval or James to find.)
Back at SUR, Lisa calls a meeting and James is concerned that it’s because he’s been behaving disgustingly, but shockingly this is not all about him. Instead, Lisa tells her (onscreen) staff that she needs them to be there for the charity event and they all look more than happy to do their part except for James. See, James has a lot on his mind lately and there’s no excess room in there to care about helping kids far less privileged than he has ever been. I’m really starting to lose hope that this cast is turning things around like a summer’s day in winter and that thought gained a little bit of momentum when Lisa attempts to explain to Sandoval that he really needs to be prepared for his upcoming meeting and his blank face might as well have signaled a thundercloud to pass overhead and rain rejection letters down from the stormy sky.
Then Scheana and Katie meet in the back and talk about how Scheana and Shay are heading to therapy and how maybe they should be nice to Lala, but they can’t come up with a consensus about whether to welcome her into their collective bosom or hiss at her when she walks by, so they table the discussion for another day.
At the bar, James announces to the guys that he’s off to go pick up the rest of his stuff from Kristen’s house and Jax tells him that he just saw her and they went to boxing class together earlier in the day. Just the idea of the girl he hates most touching gloves with the guy he hates most makes James’ blood curdle like mine does when I see him in low cut tank tops. Jax also manages to drop that Kristen has a date coming up and the two guys begin to snipe at one another and watching it is like stumbling across a Battle Royale fought by two toddlers. These guys are so infantile and such dicks that I almost can’t believe that there are two of them – and that Kristen nailed both.
And speaking of Kristen, she greets the piece-of-shit-son-of-a-bitch wearing a little tank top and teeny tiny denim shorts that show off her labia because she doesn’t care about him at all and she makes sure to pour herself a gigantic glass of wine before he arrives. The conversation between them is as compassionate and gentle as you’d expect from people this horrible and James starts by bringing up how messed up it is that she hung out with Jax earlier and that Jax was the one who told him everything. Kristen’s reaction to hearing this comment is a smile of pure satisfaction because, remember, she is a shell of a broken human lady who enjoys watching other people experience pain. But it’s not like James is any better. He tells the girl he claimed to love that he wishes the next guy who lands her luck and that he won’t miss her because he’s been thinking about Lala and not her. Then he tells her she’s wretched and she tells him that he’s going to end up getting fired from SUR like she did and he responds by chortling that she will never get married and, if she does, she’ll end up divorced and she has nothing going for her but a stupid t-shirt line and she pretends to stay calm while cooing to him, “You’re so upset right now.” And the thing is, both of them are absolutely correct. They are describing one another perfectly and if they weren’t each so loathsome, they could maybe be actual soul mates. It all eventually ends with Kristen grinning triumphantly when James brings up her date with a guy named Alex who’d better start running now and James walks out of the apartment, first stopping to hock a loogie on her door and shouting, “Bye, slut!” down the hallway and I would like my regular brain back now please because just visiting Crazy Lane is fucking exhausting and soul-depleting.
Up next is The Tom Show. They show up to Pandora and Jason’s office and they both look cute. Both guys are sweating as they explain that they would like to champion the sangria brand as Brand Ambassadors and Sandoval is the one who can’t seem to put together the words to make a sentence, but one he does manage to construct results in him volunteering to work for nothing. The guys talk in circles and say things like, “I’m in!” to offers of nothing and they have almost no answers to any questions and I think the stereotype that male models are idiots just gained a wee bit more momentum. Then they accept a job that comes with absolutely no salary and walk out of the office more confused than when they entered it.
Inside Jax’s apartment where there are a few bikes on the wall, a huge mounted TV, and a well-worn futon, he and Brittany sit down to talk. He tells her that he and Lala had drinks together – that she asked him to hang out – and that he told Lala that he and Brittany had never broken up, which is kind of exactly the opposite of what happened. Then he makes sure that Brittany knows how much he cares about her and that she should definitely move in with him after professing to the masses that such a thing would never happen.
And now it’s the day of the Youth Dinner and Scheana is excited and impressed by how giving her boss is while Sandoval is in a tizzy behind the bar because the meeting didn’t go well. I think it’s pretty hilarious that he blames Schwartz for why things didn’t work out when he was the one stammering away. As is typical, Ariana listens to her boyfriend complain and remains calm and it’s nice to see what happens when there is one very stable person in a relationship. In another part of the restaurant, Katie sets up for the dinner, Ken shows up with Giggy, and Lala and Jax bond over how much of a jerk James is because he spit on Kristen’s door and they know that because Kristen called to tell Jax about it while the spit was still all drippy. Now Jax would like James to apologize to Kristen for impersonating a mentally incompetent caveman and Lala thinks it might be quite a while until James gets to tell her that she’s the prettiest girl in the world again.
What’s this? Sandoval and Ariana are fighting! They are fighting about something that they’re pretending is actually a fight about drinks they’re making and, no matter if Ariana’s totally wrong here, I want Sandoval to stop what he’s doing and apologize to his girlfriend because he knows damn well what the other women he has been with are like and he can’t lose this one.
The kids from the charity arrive next and they look fantastic and they’re beautifully dressed and so excited to be there. Fruity virgin cocktails are passed out to them and Lisa introduces the group to the servers and to her dog. The SUR staff is welcoming but it’s probably Scheana who is the most impacted by the gratitude she sees before her and it’s hard not to sit back and smile and hope that the entire night goes off as perfectly as it is right now.
But all of that joy goes right out the window the moment Peter approaches Sandoval in front of Ariana to invite him to attend a guy’s only weekend in Vegas. Heteronormative activities fuck everything up, thunders Ariana, and I’m kind of surprised that she’s turning into kind of a pill before my eyes and that anyone on this show used a word that has more than three syllables and I’d really appreciate cutting back to the appreciative kids gathered around a table surrounded by twinkle lights. Unfortunately, we end up in the kitchen where Jax confronts James about spitting on Kristen’s door and then Jax asks Young James, “Aren’t you tired of saying you’re sorry all the time?” and I laughed harder than I have all day. James doesn’t laugh, though. He is furious and he hates Jax and he wants to remind Jax that he’s fifteen years older than he is (which doesn’t really matter in this conversation, but it’s nice that he knows how to do math) and their voices rise louder and louder until Lisa busts into the kitchen to shut them the fuck up. Neither asshole will close his mouth because each one is a selfish moron who believes that the other person is not agreeing with him simply because he hasn’t shouted loudly enough yet.
“Just stop it, okay?” Lisa hisses to James like the true Jackie Collins heroine she was born to be. “Go out there and realize how bloody lucky you are.” And James retreats and tells Lisa he’s sorry because apparently he’s not tired of having to say he’s sorry all the time and Jax is still carrying on the conversation. He apologizes to Lisa too before he somehow calls SUR “my restaurant” and I’m disappointed that she didn’t knock his teeth out.
It will be a cigarette sucked down in the alleyway that will calm James down after experiencing such lunacy. But it might need to be a bolt of lighting Mother Nature heaves my way to level out my own heart rate after watching these people attempt to destroy themselves and one another while a microphone is strapped to their chests.
Next week, the guys head off to Vegas – so the girls do the only thing they can do after being left behind like they’re spinsters: they tongue the shit out of one another, record it, and send it to their boyfriends.
True love is so fucking sweet.
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.