Somewhere deep in the California desert sits the Pink Motel, an intentionally retro-style structure that has a Cadillac permanently parked in front that is painted the shade of pink normally only seen inside of a Crayola box or on the shelves of CVS this month if you happen to wander down the Peeps aisle.  It is at this motel that the servers and bartenders of Sur arrive for their annual staff photoshoot.

I already said this last week, but I find the whole act of pretending that there’s a photoshoot for waitresses who work anywhere other than Hooters to be a completely laughable scenario, and I actually took some time today and took a little poll.

“Were you ever a server, hostess, or bartender?” I asked every person above the age of eighteen-years-old I found myself encountering.  If the person answered in the affirmative, I asked if the place that had employed him or her had ever done an annual staff photoshoot, to which every person laughed except for one of my guy friends who peered at me closely and said, “This is really all about one of your recaps for one of those shows, isn’t it?  You have to stop watching that shit.” 

He’s got himself an excellent point.

But it turns out – in the most obvious swarm of results ever – that nobody who has had the distinction of waiting tables (me included) has ever participated in a fully-styled photoshoot for a restaurant, not even a friend of mine who used to be the hostess at Pastis, back when it was the coolest restaurant in all the land, according to people who lived in Nebraska and watched Sex and the City. 

I guess I shouldn’t spend too much time caring about the fact that the set-up for this situation is so clearly producer-contrived; I should instead focus on how very much I loathe Jax, a loathing that manages to grow exponentially from one week to the next in a manner I once thought impossible.  Speaking of Jax, he is very happy to be at the photoshoot.  He likes being styled to resemble a greaser.  And he enjoys preening for anybody holding a lens, including the cameraman who records him proudly declaring, “I look good.  I’ve got the Botox going…” and I cannot stop myself from wondering just how much of that shit he has injected into his face over the years and what he will end up looking like at the age of fifty, and the vision that comes into my head when I allow my mind to veer to that dark place is one of a tee-shirt clad Jax whose arms are covered in tattooed sleeves completely made up of girls’ names, his Botoxed face frozen in a feline-looking smirk.  It’s a rather terrifying image, and I genuinely fear that it will forever haunt my fragile psyche.

In the arid desert air, Jax isn’t the only one who is happy; the entire staff of Sur gets off on having their picture taken, which should surprise exactly nobody since “being inhibited” is not really the first qualification for somebody who chooses to appear on a reality show.  They all get attired in stereotypical fifties outfits, meaning that there’s a lot of leather and a few scarves tied around necks and guys wearing white tees as though they are the reincarnated version of James Dean, except this version has no talent.  But at least some of them get to puff away on cigarettes because the prop makes sense for the shoot’s concept, and that’s a fucking relief to the people who are about to face off with enemies they (idiotically) believed to be friends as a still camera snaps pictures and a film camera rolls and they are all dressed like they work at a low-rent offshoot of Jack Rabbit Slims – which reminds me that I really need to spend more time watching Tarantino films instead of Bravo programming.

Sandoval’s day starts off really well.  He discusses the products he typically uses – Clinique Bronzer for Men, in case any guys who are reading this are hoping to embrace a more masculine side – but the joy brought about by the voluminous mascara that he gets to wear is fleeting.  After the first round of pictures are complete, Scheana approaches him with the news that Jax recently announced to a tableful of people that Sandoval did in fact have sex with Miami Girl many months ago, despite Sandoval repeatedly denying the story.  Sandoval is furious about a lot of things as a result, the biggest being Jax’s latest betrayal and the fact that it allows Kristen to have “ammo” against him in her Quest for Truth, which incidentally will be the name of the movie that she’ll star in that will take place entirely in her own mind once she is sent to live inside of a padded room forever.

Scheana is concerned about this new/old reveal about Sandoval maybe-possibly-probably cheating on her best friend.  She tells him that it looks like the wheels in his head are turning, which makes her believe that there’s some truth to the story; plus, according to Scheana, Jax has been on kind of a “truth kick” lately.

(Quick public service message:  if you currently have anybody in your life whose recent behavior illustrates a shocking newfound ability to be honest, kick that person out of your life immediately.  Being able to tell the truth should not be a new trick for any adult.  It’s not like all of a sudden learning how to ride a unicycle.)

After the chat with Scheana, Sandoval then has to stand there and pose with his arch nemesis/best friend, and Sandoval looks pissed.  Jax, of course, has no expression whatsoever because he has absolutely no capacity to feel guilt – though that lack of expression could also be due to all the Botox.  The fury coursing through Sandoval’s veins causes him to flush far more effectively than any bronzer on the market could manage and it all reminds him of last year’s photoshoot and how terrible it had been to be in the same physical space as Jax just after it was revealed that Jax and Kristen had sex while she was in a relationship with Sandoval – while Sandoval was actually sleeping in the next room.  I’d really like nothing more than to see Sandoval finally break and sweat off all of his makeup and shove Jax into a cactus face-first and then tie him to that cactus and leave him there overnight so he will be ravaged by coyotes, but I can’t see any of that happening.  Instead, what I’m expecting is that Sandoval’s mouth will grow tight with unspoken anger and that maybe he will tear up and that Ariana will ignore the accusations lobbed against her boyfriend anyway and that next year we will watch Jax and Sandoval go out for cheap beers because they are still best friends – and the whole thing is so very confusing to watch when you are a person who values traits in friends like loyalty, compassion, and not going down on the person I’m in love with in my own living room.

Back at the shoot in the sweltering heat, the group has changed into bathing suits and they pose around an empty swimming pool, which I suppose could be a far-reaching metaphor about the emptiness within so many of them, but that could just be me searching for meaning that doesn’t actually exist in an effort to combat my continued frustration about not knowing what is inside Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase.  (Fuck, I need to go watch Pulp Fiction again right now, even though it’s a movie that I know by heart because anything would be better than watching James say, “People might think I’m just a busboy with mad DJ skills, but I’ve got the look, too,” which is then followed by a snapshot of him pouting for the camera that I really appreciated because I needed a good laugh and the tools that I’d normally use to extract my own retinas have gone mysteriously missing.  I suspect Kristen.)

But before I can decide if it’s Marcellus Wallace’s soul in that attaché case, first I get to watch Scheana tell Ariana about all that she has learned about Sandoval’s possible indiscretion, and the look of dread that crosses Ariana’s face as her best friend confronts her with this news on camera in front of a hairdresser is quite sad to see.  Ariana maintains that Jax is not a believable source and that Sandoval is not a liar or a cheater, to which Scheana tells her that he has been both in the past.

“How long did it take him to tell Kristen about you and him?” she asks. “Years?”  And then she tells Ariana that she believes that something happened in Miami, which causes Ariana to get really annoyed.

“Tom and I don’t have the type of relationship where we invite other people into our problems,” states Ariana, and I like Ariana because she has proven herself to be relatively sane, which is all it really takes to get me to appreciate someone on this show.  But the thing is, she is on a reality show with her boyfriend and his vengeance-spewing out-for-platelets ex-girlfriend and the whole thing is televised, so you can’t really maintain that your relationship is just between the two of you.  

That ship has sailed.

Being direct and, I suppose, a good friend, Scheana asks if Ariana believes the story and when Ariana says that she does not, Scheana promises that she will never bring the issue up again and the matter appears to be closed, at least until Kristen comes back later and tries to hack through that closed matter with a meat cleaver.

Away from the lies and the anger that is permeating the desert air – along with the unrelenting coating of cologne you just know James marinates himself in each morning – is Schwartz.  He goes to see his therapist on his own – well, with a camera crew, but that’s negligible, right? – and he’s there to discuss his fears about marriage, something that is not playing well at home because Katie wants a ring immediately.  The therapist validates his fears and he says how much he loves Katie and the issue is not at all resolved.

Over at the Pink Motel, the shoot is still underway, and I have to wonder where these pictures will end up being displayed besides on the front of my next Christmas card.  But before I can decide whether or not the envelope will be stuffed with mini golden Jaxes that will land all over your floor when you open the card and then get stuck there for a year – much like several rashes I’m going to guess that Jax himself might have suffered from – Sandoval approaches the man who continues to betray him and asks him to talk.  Jax has the gall to look annoyed by the confrontation and he acts as though he has no idea what Sandoval is talking about.

“It keeps being brought up,” Sandoval tells Jax about the rumors about him, his one-of-a-kind cock, and the girl in Miami.

“By who?” asks Jax, playing dumber than he actually is before sighing and saying repeatedly, “I don’t care,” which is, of course, the mantra they teach you at the first meeting of the Sociopaths United.

Jax, you see, is a founding member of the organization.

By the time Ariana walks over to discuss the issue, Jax throws up his hands and walks away, muttering about why he is involved and why “they don’t have the balls to talk to each other about it,” which is a funny thing for a man with symbolically-shriveled gonads to say.

Once the photoshoot for nothing is complete, Lisa invites Stassi to come meet her at Sur, which works out nicely for both of them.  Stassi can meet her shooting requirements and eat a fried ball of goat cheese and Lisa can use her producer status to get Stassi to come to the anniversary party for Sur, just in case the already-invited guests are not up to creating enough conflict.  Lisa also wants Stassi to talk to Katie, telling her that Katie has been a good friend, and Stassi agrees to show up.

Also invited to the party is Kristen, though that was a wrangled invite at best.  As she chooses a red dress to wear and makes a comment about how she is wearing the color because she is the devil – which is really letting herself off the hook far too easily – she also has these words of foreshadowy wisdom to impart about her goals of the evening:  “Tonight is just about proving that Tom is a cheater and a fucking liar.  They might think I’m an asshole, but they’re gonna know that Sandoval is an asshole, too.”

Cheers to saying this pathetic sentence in front of your adolescent boyfriend about a man you claim to be over before you arrive at a party nobody wants you to attend!

James seems cautiously optimistic about the night ahead of him – which proves he’s a moron – by saying, “I’m trusting Kristen not to cause a scene and not to act completely mental.”  My first thought centers on what, pray tell, is the difference between Kristen acting “typically mental” and “completely mental,” and my second thought is that I really hope that James gets to one day utter that exact same sentence at Kristen’s manslaughter trial.

At Sur, the guests all arrive including Vail, who flirts with both Jax and Peter because she has nothing else to do and Giggy, who is resplendent in blue.  As Ariana and Tom walk in, Kristen rolls her eyes and sends a text to either her one friend Rachel or to the pen pal she got in the fifth grade who has never met her and doesn’t know how insane she is, though the pen pal does know the distinguishing features on Sandoval’s penis.

Maybe Sandoval’s penis is in the briefcase…

When Stassi walks in with Kristina, Scheana is far from happy to see her and makes a rather cutting comment about how Stassi has no job and therefore has to go where there’s an open bar.  It actually reminds me of the kind of thing that Stassi would have said – though I think she would have said it with a bit more of a deadpan flair – and it’s too bad that these two women have total scorn for one another because they’ve actually got some shit in common.

It’s a little strange to watch Stassi do a shot with Kristen – a girl who legitimately betrayed her – but it’s more disturbing to watch Kristina, the ultimate Vanderpumper wannabe, tell Stassi that if Katie valued her friendship, she would have stood up and come over to greet her, which would be an odd thing for someone to do after being systematically ignored for making a choice that Stassi didn’t sanction.  It’s almost painful to see the lengths that Kristina will go to in order to kiss Stassi’s ass and I worry that Kristina is tall and she will have to bend over in order to give that rectum a good smooch and I hope that she doesn’t hurt her back because back spasms are the worst.  I’d also like to suggest that if Kristina really wants to nab herself a permanent spot on this show, she should start a rumor that she had sex with Sandoval, but I hope she gets creative and doesn’t say that the anal sex (that’s right, Kristina!  Raise the bar!) happened in Miami because Miami is soplayed out.  Maybe she can say the bondage-style anal sex threesome with the albino midget happened in one of the Dakotas.  

Those states get such little exposure.

Eventually, Stassi does go over to speak to Katie and they sit down together in a somewhat private area where they discuss how sad it is that things between them are so awkward.  

“It’s only awkward because you’ve made it awkward,” says Katie, reiterating that she hasn’t done anything wrong.  “If you had taken an interest in anybody besides yourself, you would realize that,” she states.

Stassi is stunned.  She thought that Katie would just apologize to her and that they could move on, and it’s right there that we get a window into the World of Stassi, a stratosphere in which people have always apologized to her, even when they were right.  I’m wondering if what we can glean from this bit of information is that, in the past, Stassi chose to hang out with people far less intelligent and far less strong than she is, perhaps as a way of maintaining full control.  That she has finally moved away from the majority of those people maybe shows some growth on her part – or it just proves that she is and always was a power-hungry bitch.  At any rate, Katie is right when she says that she is allowed to have changed her mind about people, something Stassi has done as well, but it’s too bad that their friendship is over because they both seem to have some decent qualities.

Over on the other side of the restaurant, Kristen greets Lisa with a double kiss and tells her, “I’m great,” which is potentially the least believable two words ever said out loud by an alleged human.  Lisa tells us in an interview that she hopes that Kristen will evolve now that she’s left Sur, to which I believe ever conscious viewer responded with, “Not a fucking chance.”

To the partially-evolved species in the red dress before her, Lisa says, “I hope there won’t be any trouble tonight,” to which the scientific marvel whose very existence might cause the ghost of Darwin to descend upon us to weep says, “If Tom weren’t a cheating liar there would be no trouble.”

I think I’ve watched the evolution of a sea monkey with more hope and expectation.

Lisa tells Kristen that if she were truly doing great, she wouldn’t care at all about Tom and Ariana and she actually implores Kristen to make things right with them, which is asinine advice that causes me to remember once again that Lisa is a producer of this show and that perhaps she promised the Bravo executives that there’s a good chance that this season could end with a murder.

Continuing the poor behavior by Lisa – a woman I usually herald as exquisite – she sees Stassi as she’s leaving and tries to get her to stay and speak to Jax.  Stassi is having none of that and she looks physically shaky at the thought of having to exchange words with her former boyfriend, which Lisa finds ridiculous.  Lisa is wrong here; Stassi and Jax are not a relationship that needs mending or closure.  Stassi needs to never be around these people again.  It’s not that she’s so great and they don’t measure up to her.  It’s that they are toxic for her and avoiding anything poisonous seems to be the intelligent road to take.

Outside, Kristina joins Stassi and hugs her as Stassi repeats, “I shouldn’t have come here,” and she’s right.  She should be anywhere else.  Stassi has not behaved perfectly over the last few seasons by a long shot.  She has been selfish and manipulative and nasty and the people who hate her probably have good reason to feel that way.  And watching the montage of Stassi walking away and Ariana, Sandoval, Schwartz, Katie, and Scheana happily call her out for acting like a tiara-wearing princess and pretending as though her birthday should be considered a national holiday and for her “corny statement necklaces,” it’s clear that those people have a point.  But when Jax finished that sequence by silently waving goodbye to her with a sneering and disgusting look on his face, the whole thing made my skin crawl and I am tempted to shrug out of that skin and then mail it to Stassi so she can use it as an organic material for her next necklace.

Stassi should take comfort in her decision to leave most of these people behind, and should she ever falter in that way of thinking, she should watch the next scene play on a loop until she either regains her resolve or goes spontaneously blind.  It is the scene in which Sandoval approaches Jax and asks if they can talk outside and Schwartz comes along as well, though I’m guessing his purpose is to serve as chewy, yummy eye-candy, because Schwartz says nothing throughout.  

In the glow from the outdoor bug lights in the alleyway of Sur, Jax looks demonic and old and used up and he just kind of stare at Sandoval as his friend confronts him once again about attempting to sabotage the relationships of those closest to him.  In one of my very favorite moments, Jax denies that he has ever done anything wrong, and the editors cut to a flashback that shows a sequence of him doing everything wrong, but nope – Jax continues to maintain that he never said anything to Kristen about Sandoval having sex in Miami, despite the fact that there was a table of witnesses and the entire fucking thing was filmed.  It was about here when I found myself studying Jax like he was a messy science experiment, like one of those volcanoes that spews fake lava that smells.  What exactly is his thought pattern here?  Does he figure that by the time the footage airs nobody will care that he sold his friend out?  Does he believe that he can leave Los Angeles before anyone sees the footage and go live forever in sunny Mexico, where he will change his name to Jeronimo?

Before Sandoval can scream or knit Jax a beanie that has his new name embroidered across the front, Kristen inserts herself into the conversation with a “Hi, boys!” that I’m sure she believes sounds both cool and confident.  Sandoval turns to the emotionally-crippled woman before him and asks if Jax indicated to her that he had slept with Miami Girl, to which Kristen smiles and says, “a million percent.”

“Why do you keep trying to destroy his life?” Jax asks Kristen, realizing that ricocheting the blame to this psychopath will probably be his best chance here.  “Shut the fuck up.”

“Jax, stop deflecting,” says Sandoval calmly.  “Kristen, you’re a psychopath,” he continues, even more calmly.

“Tom, I’m very happy in my relationship,” Kristen explains to him in a way that is – well, what’s another word for pathetic?  Pitiful?  Wretched?  Whatever the vocabulary choice, Kristen is all of the above and Sandoval knows it.

“Then move the fuck on and go be happy!” he rages.  “Stay out of my fucking life!”

And with that, Kristen gets up and walks away and I believe with all of my might that she thinks she has come across as lucid and calm and collected and articulate and closely resembling a human being – and her continued misguided perception of herself and of the nature of truth is rather alarming.  But before she can leave the place where even the kitchen workers hate her, she first walks up to Ariana, who is sitting with Katie and Lisa.

“I’ve said every last thing I could possibly say to your boyfriend and every last thing I could possibly say to you,” says Kristen while the women just stare at her, hoping that if they don’t meet its eye maybe it will just go away.  “Good luck,” she finishes with a smile and the whole thing screams of madness.

Back outside, Sandoval looks over at Jax with an expression of unadulterated repulsion and says, “What the fuck is wrong with you, dude?” to which Jax says nothing, sitting there in silence like he is the mute elder statesman of Douchebag Nation. 

Sandoval gets up and goes inside and approaches Ariana, who is still sitting with Katie and Lisa.  It is then that he apologizes that she has had to deal with the terrible people who are in his life and then he hems and haws for a moment and it looks like maybe he’s about to propose and all I could think was LOOK AWAY, KATIE, but what he ended up proposing was that Ariana move in with him.  She accepted and the two of them began to make out on the couch in front of their boss, something I try only to do on Thursdays.

Walking away from a couple who are about to mount one another right there on a leather banquette, Katie finds Schwartz and the two sit down to discuss Katie’s desire for marriage and Schwartz’s desire to wait, a conversation we all have at parties while cameras are pointing directly at us.  Schwartz insists that he loves her and Katie insists that he has six months to propose.  Here I must interject and say that I fully understand that Katie wants to get married and she has every right to feel frustrated, but I’m also rather certain that dragging a man kicking and screaming to an altar after giving him an ultimatum might not be the wisest thing Katie has ever done, and I’m including that time she dyed her hair the most unfortunate color of burnt sienna and then actually went outside of her house and into public where people with vision could see her.

After the romance that a forced ultimatum for an engagement ring brings about, Lisa calls everyone together and pours all of them shots and then she screens a slideshow of The Photoshoot That Occurred For No Real Reason.  When a picture comes up of Sandoval and Ariana, Kristen – who, again, is in her thirties – mimes the act of vomiting while she is standing in a crowd of people who hate her at a party she was barely invited to next to her adolescent boyfriend who now looks as crazy as she does and Scheana calls her out for her obnoxious and unnecessary reaction.

“This is bullshit,” says Kristen.  “I’m so sick of people hating on me.”  And that, my friends, is what is wrong with this idiot.  She causes all kinds of conflict deliberately and with intentions of malice and then she is confused as to why people hate her.  She’s a sinister, awful person and she might make excellent television, but I’d be fine with never seeing her delusional face again.

Walking away from the party, Kristen lets us know that she just wants to move forward with her twenty-one-year-old boyfriend who is a bigger man than Sandoval “in more ways than one,” and maybe these two crazy kids have a chance, because there’s obviously nothing that shows an unmitigated devotion to another person more than announcing his dick size on television.  Should they ever get engaged, I call shotgun on buying them the following off of their registry:  a box of extra-small condoms (because something tells me that Kristen is delusional enough to have hallucinated that James has the most gigantic dick in the land) and a bladeless set of knives.  Do those exist?  Can I patent a line of products called Wedding Gifts for Psychopaths?

It all ends – well, until what I’m sure will be a four-part Reunion – like this: Jax goes outside and realizes that his truck has been towed so he wanders around aimlessly, which is the perfect imagery for somebody so lost.  Katie and Schwartz walk away together and head home to an apartment that Katie has rigged with countdown clocks like the ones on Lost to keep Schwartz apprised of how much time he has left before he is forced to become a husband.  Tom and Ariana happily leave Sur filled with the excitement of moving in together, and I hope it will not be until the next morning that Sandoval begins to panic about how he will find room for Ariana’s grooming products in a tiny bathroom that is already stuffed with his own bronzer and tweezers and exfoliator.  Peter closes the door to Sur by himself and wanders away contemplating why he has not slept with Vail yet and it occurs to him that maybe it’s because he stared creepily into her eyes during their non-date, but then he shakes his head and tells himself that no, that can’t be the reason.  Scheana tells the camera that she is married to the love of her life, a man who has said twelve words all season, and that includes his vows.  And Lisa gets into her Rolls Royce and returns home to her palatial mansion with her devoted husband and her coddled dog and she looks around at the life that she has and she giggles because she knows exactly what is in the fucking briefcase.