I was talking with some guy I know a few days ago and since we can’t possibly spend all our time disagreeing over whether or not Donald Trump is a demonic entity created by scientists strung out on PCP in a frigid laboratory in the wilds of Siberia who were tasked with birthing something that would one day bring about the total extermination of civilized society, we eventually moved on to the topic of Vanderpump Rules. (For the record, I think my Siberian laboratory theory makes quite a bit of sense. It certainly makes more sense than a president-elect waving away intelligence briefings because he’s decided that he’s already smart.) Anyway, the gist of the conversation I had with this person was about how long Vanderpump Rules could possibly stay on the air with this particular cast and I laughed hard when he asked me this question and then replied that I was relatively certain the only way some of these people would ever leave this show would be in a straightjacket or in a body bag.
I get what he’s saying, though. I understand when he wonders aloud about how many more lies about dick-sucking Lala can possibly tell and how many more pairs of sunglasses Jax can potentially steal and how many more ways James can act like a half-witted troglodyte who’s been stricken with scurvy. Surely, this guy posited to me, viewers will eventually stop tuning in to watch the same idiots doing the same idiotic things – and, he added, wouldn’t this cast want to walk away from this reality television purgatory at some point? It was that last question I spent some time considering, even before I saw a link to an interview some very brave person did with Kristen in which she revealed how she would love to be on this show for at least five more years. Stop and think about that for a second. Kristen has already been on this show for five seasons and she’d like to go ahead and double that time and she seems to have absolutely no hesitation about remaining on a program that has already gleefully captured her doing the following:
· Admitting she slept with Jax (Sandoval’s best friend) while her boyfriend (that would be Sandoval) slumbered peacefully in the next room, totally unaware that his best friend and his girlfriend were boning on the couch. Oh, and Jax was Stassi’s boyfriend at the time – and Stassi was one of Kristen’s dearest friends.
· Upon finally coming clean with Stassi that she indeed nailed her boyfriend – the same awesome guy who screamed “You came three times!” at her while they all stood in a crowded bar – Kristen got backhanded hard across the face in public and on camera. At least Stassi’s a necklace kind of girl. Had she been wearing statement rings, Kristen would’ve been sliced in three.
· Once Sandoval finally harnessed the good judgment that allowed him to cut the bonkers-crazy woman from his life, he chose to move on with Ariana. Did Kristen accept his choice with anything resembling dignity? No, my friends, Kristen is allergic to dignity because someone once told her it has gluten in it so she instead all but drew maps showing the exact location of where she would eventually bury Ariana’s body. She begged to go on vacations with people who hate her. She flew in some random chick from Miami who claimed she hooked up with Sandoval while he was in a relationship with Ariana and then she brought the girl into SUR and sat back to watch the carnage she so jubilantly created. She probably slept atop a pillowcase that was covered with some of Sandoval’s petrified semen. She showed up at her old apartment where Sandoval still lives to “pick up her mail” while outfitted in some plunging halter dress that was the color of emerald green desperation.
· Not having inflicted nearly enough harm upon society with her own bullshit machinations, she then brought James into our lives because the lunatic living near her cerebral cortex once whispered late at night that nothing says “perfect rebound guy” like some scrawny loser who tells himself hourly how special he is because he knows deep down nobody else will ever say it to him for as long as he lives.
· She fucked James on the hood of a car after he called her a whore and spit a gigantic ball of phlegm on her front door.
· She finally got herself fired from SUR after recommending that one of her managers go suck a dick.
· She apparently keeps a fake engagement ring in one of her dresser drawers at all times.
Can you even imagine what the next five years will involve? (Just so we’re clear, anyone who has their money on a séance that ends with rivulets of blood dribbling out of Ariana’s eyes while a raven wearing a romper crawls out of a cauldron and nestles itself against Kristen’s bony shoulder needs to get in line. I made the call first, motherfucker.)
But let’s get back for a second to how being on a show like this might not be such a wise thing. Remember when this series first started and Kristen claimed to be an actress? Listen, I’m willing to bet she’s probably a relatively decent actress, especially if she’s the type to go all Method since the arsenal of demented lunacy she has at her immediate disposal is probably something even Stanislavski didn’t realize could exist. But let’s also think pragmatically here. What kind of reputable producer or studio would hire this woman now? Just looking at the insurance end of it, Kristen has come off as crazed and unreliable for a good half a decade. She was fired from her waitressing job for essentially being an asshole. She has raging rage issues. I don’t think she’s ever appeared onscreen without clutching a cocktail. She seems very proud to not have even a bit of self-awareness. And Los Angeles? The place is crawling with actresses who want to be in movies, and I’m pretty sure the ones who will eventually make it will not be those who have already proven themselves to be psychologically erratic – and that’s me putting it kindly because ‘tis the holiday season and I want Santa to think I’m nice so he’ll bring me expensive lingerie, a pair of Nike Metcons, and a pony I will name Rufus.
Perhaps more of an issue than the likelihood that Kristen would even make it through an entire film shoot without telling the cinematographer he can suck a dick if he tries to use a lens without a filter is the problem that, at this point, who will ever be able to buy Kristen as anyone other than herself? Ever wonder why all those reality stars who try to become movie stars rarely make it? Sure, a supreme lack of talent is one of the things probably holding scores of them back, but they can’t all be untalented. A factor that must be examined here is what it is that gets lost after you’ve decided that full access to your life is your single greatest commodity. We’ve watched Kristen behave like a monster for a really long time and she’s either too foolish or too desperate to realize that this sort of exposure has murdered her acting aspirations. There is no mystery about her anymore – none – and that sort of thing destroys an important element of the movie-going experience. Most of us want to willfully suspend disbelief when watching scripted entertainment. We know it’s in our best interests to achieve a desired momentary escapism so we happily believe that Johnny Depp is really Willy Wonka and that John Krasinksi’s body always looked like that of a soldier and not a Scranton paper salesman. We will buy Leonardo DiCaprio as a blow-snorting stockbroker and then believe he’s a vengeance-obsessed frontiersman just a few years later, but it’s not something that happens just because DiCaprio is a fine actor. What’s also a huge part of the equation here is how one of the reasons an actor like him disappears into his roles is because of how little access to his actual life he has been willing to grant the public. We know the guy dates model after model and that he’s an environmentalist, but what else do we know? The man has been internationally famous for over twenty years, but have you ever seen him give an interview in his own kitchen? Can you imagine him allowing Access Hollywood to ride to the Oscars with him in his eco-friendly limo? Are you even able to fathom a scenario in which he would decide to let cameras film him during a therapy session?
It’s precisely because the answer to all of those questions is an emphatic “Fuck, no!” that helps someone like Leonardo DiCaprio keep his mystique – and it is precisely the total embrace of transparency and the willingness to whore out her own life that will keep someone like Kristen from ever doing anything besides starring on reality shows. It will always be this way, at least until those Siberian scientists finally figure out a way to kill this cheap television genre altogether. And yes, all of this rambling started simply because that guy asked me just how long this show could possibly last, and I think the correct answer here involves pointing at Kristen and saying, “It’ll last until that one covets pride more than she covets attention.”
I look at certain people on this show and I just know they’ll be reality TV lifers. Jax, James, Scheana, Stassi, and Kristen will get spinoffs and trudge into Marriage Boot Camp and yank hard on the rope during the tug of war on Battle of the Network Reality Stars. James will start shit with some illustrious costar from Chrisley Knows Best while Jax sweats and mumbles about how he wishes he could kick the ass of that random guy who was on season fifteen of Big Brother and Scheana will still be calling herself a singer when she stars on a very special episode of My Cat From Hell. This is their present and this is their future – and this, I suppose, is their choice.
Speaking of choices, this episode begins with Lisa Vanderpump choosing to dole out all sorts of responsibility to her only-periodically reliable staff. Gay Pride is upon them and she needs her workers to create a party-type atmosphere while she is off riding the official bus with the British Consulate. (Most people could never get away with saying such a sentence, but this turn of phrase rolls off of Ms. Vanderpump’s gilded tongue like she’s just ordering another cup of hot tea.) As his boss instructs them to please take this day seriously, Jax decides to verify that James – he who is now fired and forever cast away from Vanderpump Kingdom – will be nowhere on the premises. He will not be there, and it’s sort of a shame because James would probably wear that hot pink cap just as well as he wears all of his disgusting tank tops. Man, I miss that little weenie already. As for the women, they are told to put on “bodysuits” made of latex that are beyond skimpy and DEFINITELY will cause a few of them to get a bladder infection. Ariana looks fucking amazing in that thing, though. I’m only attracted to men – although not really to any on this show, minor crush on Schwartz aside – but I’m just gonna go ahead and agree with Jax that Ariana has the perfect ass. I will, however, refrain from slurping after saying such a thing in the way Jax does because I’m not a repulsive human being. As for Lala, she’d love to try on something even skimpier than she usually wears to work, but she might have a problem because she left her house without undies. This is the sort of comment that causes Katie and Scheana’s eyes to almost roll right out of their heads and when they collect their corneas from the floor, they will be able to get back to work on the giant W they plan to sew on the front of all of Lala’s tops.
I just need to take a second and say how hilarious I find it when the entire cast – except for Stassi and Kristen, who apparently don’t have jobs – is scheduled on the same night. Since they clearly fancy themselves stars instead of servers now, I just get a kick out of watching them pretend to be common folk for the afternoon while cameras follow them and record every scintillating thing they utter. The conversations are already crackling. Sandoval, you see, has decided the cocktail book Ariana is working on could only be better if he gets involved because bartending is his passion in life. Such a statement both confuses and concerns me, but there’s no time for me to really worry about Sandoval because it’s time for Scheana to saunter up to the bar and pretend she needs something so she can do her scene with the boys. This unscripted moment is all about Scheana telling Jax and Sandoval the gossip she just heard from Stassi about how Lala’s married boyfriend’s wife found out about her husband’s affair by seeing video of the pantyless one cavorting with her man. The absolute joy on Scheana’s face as she spreads (on-camera!) rumors about infidelity is really too ironic for words, no? Anyway, Sandoval and Ariana might be the ones who will finally get to the bottom of who Lala is dating because they are planning to get drinks with Lala and her mystery guy and Scheana is already frothing at the veneered mouth as she plans how she can tell Mistress Stassi this brand new information. I tell you, the manner with which Scheana craves that girl’s acceptance makes me want to shower. With bleach.
Also: According to Sandoval, Range Rover just gives away cars sometimes. I’d like one in black.
Stassi arrives at SUR next and makes sure to ask Lala to put her in Katie’s section, preferably in a spot where their “winter bodies” won’t cause too much consternation for her fellow diners. Yes, Stassi drops this little expression right in Lala’s lap – the one with no undies – and then enjoys watching the briefly startled look come over Lala’s face because just like you and I survive on water and chocolate and caffeine, Stassi survives on conflict and confrontation alone. Lala sort of ignores her but Stassi is not left alone to rethink her insult for too long and that’s probably a good thing because I would be horribly disappointed with her choosing to hurl any follow-up insult besides, “The jerk store called and they’re all out of you!” Anyhoo, two very blonde friends of Stassi’s we’ve never met show up immediately. They all squeal hello to one another and they’re not sitting down for more than a fraction of a fucking second before it comes out that these two are the bridge to a new Bravo show about people acting like dipshits in Montauk. She might not have her very own spinoff yet, but it seems Stassi is the link from this show to the one I have already promised myself I will avoid at all costs because I already question humanity far too much for my liking. These blonde twins are heading out to Montauk for the summer and Stassi announces she’s never been to the Hamptons and since it’s going to be Her Birthday in late June, she wants to fly out and join them. She invites Katie and Scheana to come along – to someone else’s house – and manages not to point in Scheana’s face and laugh the way she so desperately wants to when Scheana admits that she has never even heard of Montauk. Anyone else see how blaringly obvious it is that Stassi so hates Scheana? It’s seriously all I can look at.
The next day, momentarily been freed from the latex, Ariana shows up at SUR before it opens so she can have some photos and instructional videos taken for her upcoming cocktail book. Sandoval is with her and it’s a good thing he’s there because he can tell her how to muddle and stir in a way that is fueled by his gigantic levels of passion for making drinks. He also volunteers to be the one to speak on camera and then he sweetens the deal by dropping trou right in front of his horrified girlfriend and the poor writer who made the unfortunate mistake of hitching herself to this rickety wagon because she foolishly thought these two people could one day make her rich. As the setup begins, Sandoval’s suggestions do nothing but annoy the shit out of his girlfriend; she sees right through him. She knows he wishes he had been approached to do this book and what she’d really appreciate is that he allow her to enjoy the spotlight while keeping his pants pulled way the hell up over those narrow hips of his.
In the back of the restaurant, Scheana, Katie, and Brittany discuss heading to Montauk for Stassi’s Birthday Extravaganza, but the plans are complicated when Brittany tells them she might not be able to join them. See, Ariana’s birthday is around the same time and she already mentioned maybe planning a trip of her own. This is all news to Scheana! She and Ariana were once close as sisters! Rather than speak to Ariana directly, however, Scheana will sit back and wait for an invitation to be included on Ariana’s vacation even though she can’t go because she has already made other plans and she would sooner slice out her own pancreas than ever cancel on Stassi. Speaking of slicing out organs, Lala strolls over to the table just then and mentions that she heard chatter about Montauk. As Katie stares daggers at the chick who has called her fat for the better part of a year, Scheana makes the probably grave mistake of speaking full words to Lala. Some of those words are about how they can’t be at Stassi’s thing and Ariana’s at the same time, but Lala is a girl with many solutions. They should just fly private, she recommends. And sure, she tells Scheana, she can get them a jet. Wait: is some company giving away free jets, too?
Poor Lala. It’s not her fault that she has a problem flying with regular people in some large tube in the sky! How could she not suck off rich gentlemen so she can travel without the general public? This is all really just an example of her having high standards and being exceedingly classy, okay?
After the photo shoot, Ariana and Sandoval meet up with Lala for a drink and some very important information comes out quickly. First, Lala is planning only to cover her nipples with tassels during Gay Pride and she’s also finally being invited along on a trip with her coworkers. She’s made the cut to come to Ariana’s birthday – the one where they are going to watch a NASCAR race in Sonoma – and while there will be plenty of time for them to discuss all of the secrets of Lala’s relationship as those cars whizz down the tracks, Sandoval decides to bring it up here that there are all sorts of stories flying about as to who Lala is dating. The girl will not release the man’s name, and with the manner in which she’s holding this information so closely to her tasseled chest, there’s no way the guy is not married or pretend-separated or ninety years old with a faulty pacemaker or Ryan Gosling. Listen, I too would prefer to play 20 Questions in order to find out the actual identity of this guy also (Question 17: How much do you hate yourself after the jet flies away and you’re left rubbing Neosporin on your chafed knees?), but instead we are forced to revisit just how badly Sandoval wants to be the star of Ariana’s book.
“You’re not going to take away attention from me,” Ariana states bluntly, her words as hard as her tushy – and then she fucking doubles downs when Sandoval rolls his eyes at her and she responds, “Don’t fucking roll your eyes at me, you fucking bitch.”
The little bitch stares at her with his eyebrow twitching and then explains that everyone (Jax! Scheana! His mom!) asked why it would be Ariana of all people who was asked to do a book and not him, the man who loves bartending more than the sun and the moon and the air – nay, more than even life itself! Fuck all that love, though; Ariana’s not budging on this one.
Also: the commercials for the new virtual realty headset thing makes it look like people are having orgasms in front of a riveted crowd. Lala would like two of them for Christmas.
But now it’s time to move on from nonsense to something with legitimate stakes. The attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando left fifty people dead and those people were targeted simply for being part of the LGBTQ community. The fear and despair of such a brutal event is coloring the L.A. Gay Pride event because how could it not? There’s a genuine danger now inherent in being in a public place during a large event that so many have a problem with even occurring in the first place and so many lives have already been lost. Lisa is emotional and so is Katie, but Lisa believes the day must go on and she wants to be a part of showing her support. She explains that she will not hold it against Katie if she decides not to work that day because she realizes Katie is feeling anxious and people just react in different ways during emotionally traumatic situations.
Helicopters fly overhead, more SUR employees announce they will not be showing up due to the inherent danger, and texts are rolling in about a man who was stopped on Santa Monica Boulevard with a cache of guns. Meanwhile, Lala’s mother called to tell her that neither she nor her Range Rover can go anywhere near the Gay Pride parade so she’s one of the people staying home and she will just have to wear her pasties and tassels next time she goes to the dry cleaner or to the doctor to pick up some Penicillin. In another apartment, Katie, Schwartz, Stassi and Sandoval gather and ruminate over how very scary this world has become and how senseless all this vitriol and violence truly is. “As though they haven’t been oppressed enough,” Schwartz says – and that kind of sentiment solidifies why I kind of love him. All of it, though – all of the murder and all of the terrifying possibilities that are only growing – have gotten to this group and they sit there and drink some wine and they cry real tears because this isn’t some bullshit fake fight about someone dating a guy who may or may not be married. This is haunting. This misery is real.
Back at a very empty SUR, Peter calls the staff to see if anyone is still planning to come into work. He gets a lot of voicemails, but one person who fully shows up is Lisa Vanderpump. She boards that British bus, the one not protected by any sort of bulletproof shield, because she is defiant in her fury and her sadness. “That’s what today is all about,” she explains. “It’s about standing up for what you believe in.” The woman is a goddess.
Sandoval decides that if Lisa can be brave enough to ride in a float under such circumstances, he can certainly show up for work. He’s not the only one. Jax and Brittany also walk in because Brittany told Jax that they need to show their support and Ariana makes her way there, too. At some point, Sandoval and Ariana take a break from serving drinks to apologize to one another for the fight they had over the book and while I don’t condone calling one’s boyfriend “a little bitch” – especially when it is recorded in high-definition for posterity – I do think this couple is well suited for one another.
Adorable as always, Schwartz shows up at Gay Pride in a backwards baseball hat, a look I can’t help but love on boys because it reminds me fondly of being in smoky fraternity house basements. He’s proud to live in West Hollywood and he’s proud to support this event and he’s so sunny and positive that I really hope he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown before his own wedding.
Also: Ariana sticks a bit of lemon peel in between her ass cheeks and then serves it to Schwartz in a drink before Sandoval humps Schwartz’s head, so really, in spite of everything, it’s just another day at SUR.
And now, because the nation has not yet been through enough, we are thrown into James’ apartment for the guy’s first scene of the night. He’s alone and playing maudlin chords on the keyboard that he keeps outside of the screen he pretends is a bedroom door. Lala shows up so the two of them can make music, but before they can create something James will insist is a masterpiece, Lala informs him that Jax will be attending Ariana’s birthday. This information causes whatever artistic synapses exist in the confines of James’ brain to spark and sputter and he lashes out at Ariana for killing the mood he had going on, but she’s not about to listen to his bullshit on a day when she feels stressed because she’s still reeling from her newest breakup with the man I’m betting you anything she calls “Daddy.”
Back at PUMP, Lisa makes an impassioned speech thanking those who still came out amidst so many security threats for showing their commitment and their strength and their courage. It’s a nice moment, and not just because it in no way involves James’ face. She eventually makes her way back over to SUR where Sandoval is shirtless and dancing on the bar. He jumps down to tell Lisa how proud he is of her for getting on that float and for being so good and so brave, and dammit if my eyes didn’t fill with tears as because what he said was so clearly genuine.
“I love you, Lisa,” Sandoval says.
“I love you, too,” she responds with a smile.
And you know what? I believe both of them.
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