On the night of Stassi's birth, all of the angels in the heavens gathered together every bit of sweetness and light they could find in the universe to form one perfect little girl – but then she left and we got Stassi. And tonight Stassi is multitasking like a champ, proving herself able to simultaneously pack a suitcase while plotting the destruction of whichever person’s name she picked out of a hat this week. Listen, I get why she hates Lala. They have zero history together, Lala has been nasty to Katie, and – while all of these people are somewhat shady – Lala’s shadiness is so massive that you can’t actually make out colors when you’re in her presence. (I feel terrible saying such mean things about Lala, but I think we’ll work it out after she offers to finger me.) Still, while I understand Stassi’s raging animosity in that scenario, I can’t quite get behind her burgeoning hatred towards Scheana. Her immaturity has finally done the impossible: it’s made me like Scheana – and now I’m concerned about what could happen next. Allow me just to say this: if something transpires on this episode that causes me to type the sentence, “James is terribly misunderstood and he’s the finest artist of this or any other time,” I will have to stop recapping this show altogether because I will have blown up my television set.
As for my current willingness to embrace a girl who was once the other woman in an affair and a bride who wore a crop top to her own wedding, well, for that I fully blame Stassi and Katie. See, last week Scheana got reamed out by a coven of regression-fueled monsters, and one of those monsters (that would be the blonde one with the really big necklace) would like us to know that faulty editing is really to blame for how histrionic and sophomoric she appeared. I don't follow any Vanderpumper on Twitter or Instagram, but I did click on some article about Stassi's reaction to the episode. The crux of it was that she first decided a team of editors was responsible for how she was portrayed and then she announced she felt "suicidal" because of the hate coming her way after she willfully cried on a bathroom floor while knowingly being filmed before screaming, "Stop being an asshole!" into the face of someone who was emphatically not being an asshole. But karma is a funny thing because then the actual asshole in the situation had to deal with people tweeting that she's a gigantic gaping asshole and I guess that really hurt the asshole's feelings. Good thing she'll surely redeem herself by completely overhauling her behavior tonight, right?
On second thought, the week of her Birthday Extravaganza is probably the last possible time Stassi would choose to embrace a brand new quality like self-awareness. And now Scheana must decide if she's willing to fly cross-country with three people who systematically berate her for something that never happened. I suppose it's a hard decision. Should she shove down her flaming animosity and celebrate the birth of someone who loathes her or should she avoid this misery-with-a-time-zone-shift altogether? Well, look at that: it's not such a complicated decision after all!
If this happened to be a show about normal people, I'd believe that last week's televised travesty would be enough for a few of the participants to cut Stassi, Katie, and Jax from their lives forever. I'm not saying someone like Kristen would make such a choice – she's barely lucid and it's not like anyone else is lining up to one day visit her in the asylum – but Scheana should realize that Stassi and Katie have friendship standards that are impossible to meet, as is evidenced by the way they've frequently turned on each other. As for Jax, his revolting willingness to compromise any sort of loyalty just so he can either be momentarily liked or forgiven for one of his transgressions is the sort of character trait that is probably permanent at this point. None of these people is changing anytime soon and, nasty tweets from the general public aside, being on this show only validates their typically awful behavior. They get attention for acting like dicks. They get paid for it. This show is not serving as a learning experience for any of them; this show is simply a springboard to four more reality shows where they’ll fight with even more people.
But on the reality show they're currently making fools of themselves on, it's time to celebrate the annual national holiday that is Stassi's Birthday. I, too, am shocked mail is not suspended on such an important day, but what doesn’t shock me in the least is how the show doesn’t get into the Stassi/Scheana thing right away and instead tosses us into an apartment with Schwartz, Katie, and Katie’s mother and grandmother as they all sit around and fold commemorative wedding towels that I think are serving as invitations. Those hideous things cost more than eighteen bucks a towel so Schwartz is already slowly going comatose and that’s when Stassi and Kristen walk in and they’re clutching wine glasses in their paws before they even sit down. Even as they are engaged in the solemn practice of folding wedding towels into symmetrical rectangles, they still find the strength to talk about how crazy it is that they have now racked up seven separate sources that confirm Lala procured her Range Rover by giving mammoth amounts of head. I’m not quite sure why this is still news, but the evident delight on their faces as they spout shit about this girl on camera is causing me to mildly shudder. Anyway, the talk eventually moves on to the plans for Stassi’s Birthday in Montauk, a faraway place Kristen has never heard of, and how they should all pack nautical-themed attire so that everyone who frequents Montauk will be able to recognize in a millisecond that these people have never stepped foot on those beaches in their lives. Once the clothing has been decided upon, Stassi tells everyone including Katie’s grandmother that Scheana is still being a huge asshole, but if she doesn’t show up for Her Birthday, that choice will impact everyone in the entire hemisphere. Again, it’s the glee in Stassi’s eyes as she considers that Scheana might soon be banished that’s just fucking gross, as is the way she casually tosses in that maybe Katie doesn’t even want Scheana to be a bridesmaid anymore, not since she has been exhibiting the “opposite of bridesmaid behavior.”
A grown woman actually said this.
Over at Scheana’s apartment, she and Shay discuss what a dick Katie is when she’s drunk and what bullies all of those girls are in general. Since Shay is human, he recognizes that the only way that group of girls tolerates Scheana is if she agrees with everything they say, do, and feel and he thinks all of it is fucking asinine. “Friendships don’t work that way,” says Shay – and he’s correct, but this dynamic is not a friendship; it’s a dictatorship where the power transfers back and forth between Stassi and Katie while Kristen grins gummily from the sidelines because neither of those girls ever tell her to her face that she’s legitimately batshit crazy. It is a transferring dictatorship where Scheana will never get to wield a bit of power, not even for a second.
Away from all this nonsense are Ariana, Jeremy, and Sandoval – and it’s nice to see them until they walk into an empty bar where James happens to be. He’s DJ-ing there now because you cannot keep a self-professed-while-high-on-what-I’m-guessing-is-blow musical genius down. Let this be a lesson for all of us! Lala shows up to give James her support next and greets him with the oddly phrased compliment, “This is way more better than SUR!” before announcing that she’s sort of been sober for nine full days. James claims to have spent the last few days sober too, just as long as nobody counts the sizzurp he’s slurping hourly to be any sort of alcoholic beverage. Once again, it’s lovely to know how committed these people are to learning and to bettering themselves.
When Lala sits down with Ariana, Jeremy, and Sandoval, she mentions how happy she is to be heading off to Sonoma to watch NASCAR races for Ariana’s birthday because those people know what it’s like to be an American and besides, if she doesn’t like it there, her secret boyfriend can send her a jet and whisk her away and she can repay him for such a sweet favor later by swallowing hard. Life should be really good for Lala right about now, but knowing that Jax will also be in Sonoma is putting a damper on her spirits. Since Ariana is Lala’s friend, she is willing to suck it up and go anyway, but she’s doing it with the understanding that she will not say one single solitary word to that sweaty asshole while they are trapped together in the desert.
And since now we’re talking about Jax, it more than mildly scares the shit out of me that he and Kristen are taking boxing lessons together. Sure, there is the possibility that one of them can be knocked out cold and it’s always good to look on the bright side, but allowing these two to become physically stronger is concerning. That they are even friends after Jax taunted Sandoval with having slept with Kristen back when she was his girlfriend is fucking icky, but even that’s not as icky as Kristen describing their complicated relationship as being like stepsiblings who have fucked twice. I’m pleased to announce that I was able to gag back some bile after hearing that perverse turn of phrase and was thus able to soldier on and sit through a scene where Jax sweated more than he normally does while saying things like, “This hurts my boobs.” I even made it through Kristen smiling wider than she even does when she’s imagining how she’ll show up to Ariana’s funeral in a bright red dress while Jax tells her that Scheana is terrified of Kristen, Stassi, and Katie. “No she’s not!” Kristen responds, almost clapping her hands in elation. It’s just so fun for her when someone else is hated as much as she usually is!
Since she’s been working as Lisa’s assistant, Katie makes sure to hand-deliver the very first wedding invitation directly to her. Lisa politely smiles when she unrolls the towel that will never touch the contours of her face because the thread count’s too low and then listens patiently while Katie begins to complain about Scheana. Seeing right through the total transparency of the situation, Lisa correctly informs Katie that the second Stassi came back into the picture, problems started. My guess is that Katie is desperate to believe that Stassi is not controlling her anymore so she denies the total logic of what Lisa says, but it’s clear that Lisa is absolutely correct and it’s sort of sad that Katie can’t see what’s pressed up against her face. Maybe she’ll figure it out by the time season twelve premieres.
Now it’s time for Jax’s breast reduction! Seems he inflated up a cup or two after swallowing so many estrogen-filled supplements and now he’s got the same nurse Brittany had for her breast enlargement! The doctor – who is better looking than everybody on this show – walks out into the waiting room to greet him and, while I’m generally suspicious of any doctor willing to sign a release to be on this show, it’s nice to gaze at something besides Jax for the moment. The patient is nervous about this surgery and if his level of horror is anything like mine was when the doctor announced that he was going to try to take out a whole layer of hardened breast tissue in one solid hunk, then we’re both going to need intensive therapy after this experience. The surgery itself goes well, but Jax is dismayed to learn that he should refrain from drinking during his recovery. Not drinking is really inconvenient when you’re heading off to wine country and you’re also a shallow and horrible human being who is finally able to gaze at yourself in the mirror only after some tequila races through your bloodstream. Poor guy. Luckily, Brittany is there to offer her support and not mind in the least when he groggily reaches out and grabs her tits, the ones he bought for her in the very same place he just went so he could go down a bra size.
Over at SUR, Lala is working when Lisa walks in. She remarks first on Lala’s terrifyingly pointy fingernails and then moves on to pointing out that the shoes Lala happens to be wearing are red-bottomed. Okay, so the thing is no random hostess can afford a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes and Lisa tells her it’s stuff like this that causes all the questions and all the prostitute-talk. “Well, I don’t like questions, but I like people being jealous,” this barely-evolved creature explains to her boss before telling her that she got her weekend shift covered so she can head to Sonoma for the weekend where she will be required to share one bathroom with Jax. Lisa wishes her well and suggests that she keep her top on the entire trip and Lala nods sagely like she’s never heard language before.
Across town, James and Raquel – the girl I’m praying he pays to pretend to be his girlfriend – go out to lunch. Raquel is getting ready to compete in the Miss Malibu pageant and she tells him all about the struggle to walk in heels while he sits across from her in a tank top. Once she finishes describing the myriad of elements that go into her Victoria’s Secret walk, James reveals that he really wants to get his job back at SUR. That’s his family over there, he explains, so he will crawl back once again to Lisa and beg for his job and not one lone bit of him doing this is because the rest of Los Angeles thinks he’s a fucking joke. He is a genius. He is a virtuoso! But if Lisa would maybe be willing to hire him back, he’d really appreciate that because he’s decided that Lisa is like another mother to him and he’s already dealing with the trauma from his parents’ divorce and he can’t sleep knowing that all of those thirsty girls at SUR might be growing fucking parched without the blessing of his presence.
Also: should Lisa refuse to allow James to come back to work when he asks her, his plan is to continue to beg for his job every single month like somebody set a fucking egg-timer. Seriously – why has nobody tried to deport this guy?
Back home after his surgery, Brittany dotes on Jax because, like most other men on the planet, he is a total baby when it comes to dealing with any kind of physical pain. Sandoval and Schwartz drop by to check on their friend – a guy I will never understand why they are still friends with – but their presence cheers him up. After they gift him with a binding camisole, they start discussing Sonoma. I cannot be the only person who saw the dread wash across Brittany’s face when Jax declared that he’d be able to be drinking again by Saturday. I also cannot be the only person who actually felt genuinely sorry for Schwartz when he explained that Katie is doing so much better when it comes to ingesting tequila – except for all those times when she becomes a monster.
Meanwhile, over at Stassi’s apartment, her little brother and her mother arrive. Her mother is wearing a romper and she is there for an entire minute and a half before she asks where her glass of wine is so a part of me now thinks that maybe this woman birthed Kristen, too. I’m going to need to leave this particular conspiracy theory behind for a bit, though, because now Stassi is explaining to her mother that she and her boyfriend have broken up once again. Listen, we have all had that kind of on/off relationship and it is fucking exhausting and embarrassing to have to give so many updates about a relationship status when it doesn’t even make any sense to yourself, so I can empathize with Stassi here as a fellow human being. But my empathy only goes so far and I can’t relate in any sort of way with how nasty she is treating Scheana, especially because Scheana has been really impacted by this entire experience. “I just don’t know how things get so blown out of proportion,” Scheana tells her own mother as they get pedicures, and I think her question might have been rhetorical, but allow me to answer it anyway. Scheana, dear? Things get so blown out of proportion when your entire life is fodder for a reality show that is not based around a competition like Survivor, but is instead based around crowning the person who can be the biggest asshole. Congratulations – you’re currently losing. Go somewhere even a stalker like Stassi can’t locate and celebrate.
Back at Stassi’s sweltering apartment, she sips some wine and asks her eleven-year-old brother for advice about what to do about Scheana. “Stay out of other peoples’ business,” he recommends, but Stassi will hear none of that because she knows that she has the right – nay, the moral obligation – to explain to Scheana over and over exactly what she has done that has not met her standards and she will rank all of Scheana’s offences and then shove her face right into a moldy pool of shame and she will do it in Montauk as long as Scheana is not terrified enough by now to refuse to join Stassi for Her Birthday.
Ariana’s birthday is happening at the same time as Stassi’s, but since Ariana is normal, I don’t feel the need to capitalize the event. Sandoval has organized the RV that will take them all to Sonoma – well, everyone besides James. He is not being invited for the second year in a row and he steadfastly blames Jax for the exclusion rather than blaming himself for his continuously moronic behavior. It’s probably going to be tough for Lala to be in Sonoma without her one real ally by her side. “I’m nervous,” she admits to Ariana, and I think we can all only partially begin to imagine the carnage that’s about to come her way.
The next day, James shows up at SUR to talk to Lisa and to tell her that he misses working there and he really loves her and Ken so much and she should just try to repress any and all of her memories about the many times he showed up to work hammered and started fights with his coworkers. Bygones, am I right? Lisa, however, has just about no patience with this asshole, the one who is still proclaiming that he’s the best DJ around even though most of the reason the guy is dying to come back is because nobody else wants to hire him. Some people just don’t understand White Kanye’s brilliance! But Lisa wants him to know that she sees him as “an arrogant little punk,” and rather than just nod and slink away from the lady who insists on telling him the truth, the arrogant little punk thinks it would be far wiser to tell his former boss that Jax has misbehaved, too. “Jax has not been disrespectful to me,” Lisa explains. “You have been disrespectful to me. My life is actually better without you in it.” And sentences like that perfectly explain why I cannot stop myself from loving Queen Vanderpump. I mean, I’d love her more if she never stuck this weenie on camera again, but I like to give credit where it is due. In the face of all this honesty, James decides to lie to Lisa about being completely sober and then appears gobsmacked when she has the audacity to suggest that maybe he shouldn’t be a DJ anymore. Then he leaves without a job and heads back into the SUR alleyway where frankly he belongs.
And still no decision has been made about whether Scheana will give in and join girls who hate her in Montauk -- she totally will -- but Ariana’s birthday is about to go down. Those fortunate enough to be nowhere near Montauk when Stassi, Katie, and Kristen invade its shores show up at the airport. They’re getting ready to fly up north, but Lala hasn’t arrived! Maybe she overslept. Maybe she’s standing them up. Maybe she’s so scared of being in such close quarters with Jax that she chose to master the art of digging a ditch somewhere far away from Sonoma. Or maybe she’s just as shady as she seems and she’ll show up at some point with some ridiculous story and a pair of shoes that cost more than a house and she will apply another three layers of makeup so she can look pretty in the desert and wonder once again why these people are so very reluctant to trust her.
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. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter