There's nothing that can fuck up a vacation more than a lack of compatibility amongst the people you're traveling with. You know what I mean. Like, sometimes you want to be at the bar until four in the morning because you've been talking to that scruffy guy who looks vaguely homeless but you know he's not because you caught a glimpse of his Prada boots and you've found out he's seen Springsteen play almost as many times as you have and he's been touching you lightly on the lower back for the last forty minutes in a way that doesn't make you want to shimmy out of your skin just so you can wash it in bleach and then the friend you're with announces that it's time for you to accompany her back to the hotel. (I'm just spitballing here, not recounting an actual experience with a friend who is now dead to me and one of the hottest men I've ever seen in real life. Also, hey Jason!) What I mean is that people who go on trips together have to be on the same page when it comes to how late they want to stay out and what it is they plan to do during the day and how you calling the entire closet while you’re still on the plane is totally fair. There must be some mutual respect that naturally exists or the vacation will turn into a miserable nightmare where you might consider doing something rash like flinging a friend off a cruise ship during a squall. (Again, that's just me writing fiction. I never once considered shoving a friend over a railing into the rough surf. Also, hey Jessica!)
So with the understanding that exists inside the mind of a rational adult that one should only vacation with people you're quite certain are not walking demonic entities, I can't really feel all that badly for any of the bullshit our Vanderpumpers find themselves in during their trip to New Orleans to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of two people who cannot stand the sight of one another. Look, it's bad enough when the bride and the groom stare daggers at each other over a breakfast of tequila and scrambled hatred, but the others along for whatever is the opposite of a hero's journey are also filled with barely disguised animosity. Think about it. On this one trip alone, the following enemies are expected to dine together...in public...on camera...in a place where there are knives:
Ariana and Kristen: Though she’s pretending to be sort of lucid these days, let us not forget that Kristen spent an entire season imagining out loud how awesome it would be if Ariana got run over by a Mack truck.
Katie and Scheana: Katie is consumed these days by three things and they are – in this order – herself, alcohol, and loyalty. But somewhat bizarrely, she has chosen to forget how blatantly disloyal some of her dear friends have been in the not too recent past and has instead chosen to focus on all the things Scheana has done that might very well prove (to an absolute drunken mess) that Scheana is a monster because she refused to take a piss on Lala in the back alley at Sur that one time. The two made amends at the latest party that was held in Katie’s honor (that would be party #217) because Katie eventually stopped screaming in Scheana’s face and called her “Bean,” but Katie is clearly a very angry girl these days and she will definitely get tired of yelling at her boyfriend about his impotence at some point and you just know that if Scheana’s in her eyeline when it happens, girlfriend is going to get blamed for something.
Stassi and Jax: I give Stassi a hard time because she’s a grown woman who treats friendship as a combat sport, but I would never for even a millisecond blame her for why this relationship ended. Jax is a fucking mess of an (allegedly) human being and he clearly treats his girlfriends like shit and you’d have to pay me way more than whatever Bravo is paying Stassi to constantly be around a guy who treated me so horrifically. It’s nice that Stassi gets along with Brittany and Brittany does seem like a sweet girl who has terrible taste in cavemen, but to have to dine across from an ex-boyfriend so frequently has to suck massively and in spite of how they’ve all played nice recently by diagnosing one another as sociopaths, the time will eventually come when one of them is going to blow – and it won’t be in that way that Jax likes to be blown by women and men.
Stassi and Scheana: I wholeheartedly believe that Stassi is waiting somewhat patiently for the day she can push Scheana off a mountain so Scheana can plummet to her death and Stassi can once again have Katie all to herself. I suck at geography so I’m not a hundred percent sure if there are mountains in Louisiana, but if I were Scheana, I’d keep my eyes open and wear shoes with some traction.
Stassi and Ariana: Ariana publicly declared that she will pretend not to find Stassi the walking embodiment of everything that is wrong with women and Stassi publicly declared that she was pleased that Ariana is willing to hide how much she loathes her and I believe these two are smart enough to keep their bitterness simmering on low for the time being, but you just know the day will come when they’ll battle again.
Jax and Sandoval: It is entirely clear to Sandoval that Jax is a horrible person. The guy refuses all accountability and reacts to being called out for his disgraceful behavior by shouting about all the terrible things other people have done in this or any other lifetime. But Jax has never really been punished for any of his actions. He’s lost no friends. Some girl still lives with him and brings him sandwiches. His tits are now bigger than mine – and mine are impressive. He slept with Kristen while she was best friends with Stassi and while he was best friends with Sandoval and the result is that they are all still vacationing together. I don’t expect that Sandoval will decide on this particular trip that Jax is actually a sweatier version of Beelzebub and he’s ruled by even worse intentions than the Master of Hell, but I have to hope he’s at least getting to that point and that could maybe make their interactions in New Orleans a wee bit tense.
Sandoval and Kristen: No worries in this area. Sure, she still stares at him as he crosses a room and bends over in rompers whenever he’s near, but she is so in love with her new boyfriend and she could care less about him or any of her other exes and that’s why she still stalks all of them online and goes out of her way to fully destroy their lives.
Now add to these simmering conflicts a bunch of camera crews and microphones that will record drunk preening participants barreling through the streets of a city that's already been through far too much and, my friends, we are about to have a diarrhea-grade shitshow on our hands.
The – well, let’s just call it “fun” for argument’s sake – kicks off tonight at Stassi’s apartment where Kristen stops by so Stassi has someone to complain to about all of her worries about the upcoming bachelorette extravaganza. I actually understand the stress Stassi feels. After all, New Orleans was her idea for a destination and it’s not like any of the trips these people go on could ever be described as “smooth sailing.” To increase Stassi’s chances that someone won’t be punched in the face over cocktails, I’d suggest that she quickly throw a burlap sack over Kristen’s head, bind it using one of those statement necklaces she used to make in her Arts and Craft classes, and shove the girl into a closet where she will have to reside for the next several days – but Stassi would never do such a thing. The girl needs allies and nobody agrees more with questionable behavior than Kristen so she’s definitely going on the journey. But I’m gonna go ahead and give Kristen some credit here and I’d just like to quickly announce that I’m not saying that because I have been taken Liam Neeson-style or bound up in a statement necklace myself. I think Kristen is correct when she tells Stassi that one of the reasons it’s been so hard for her to get over her ex is because they didn’t break up because he was a psychopathic cheating monster. They broke up because they weren’t ultimately compatible and that’s a hard thing to get over. Kristen is (gulp) being a wise and very kind friend here – and now I’m going to need a second to go stare into a mirror and point at myself while laughing for even typing such a sentence.
Over at Sandoval and Ariana’s house, Ariana’s mother is visiting and she’s just in time for the power to shut off because the microwave and the air conditioning cannot be turned on at the same time. I used to live in a place where the very same thing happened – and it sucked (usually) sweaty balls because often whatever was in the microwave was far more important to me in the moment than staying cool as a healthy cucumber. Anyway, Sandoval reveals to Ariana’s mom that Katie has been sending them rude texts (don’t worry – I’m sure she was totally sober when she sent them) about how the only thing she and her terrified fiancé fight about is how awful Ariana happens to be. The level of nonsense contained in those texts is nothing short of staggering, but what’s also completely baffling to me is that these two people are still joining this asshole on an upcoming vacation. I get wanting to be there for Schwartz so they can see him in his dress and pearls, but send the guy a stripper without a hoop through her nose and call it a fucking day.
Since someone actually has to work for a living on this show, Lisa shows up at PUMP so she can make sure the private party that’s being held there that night will go off without a hitch. The only problem she sees in her future is that the people throwing the party actually requested that James DJ the event and my guess is the particular person who made that request wanted to make sure he wouldn’t end up being the very least appealing person on the premises so he brought in a scrawny ringer. James shows up and he appears polite and sober and Lisa reiterates that he is not to drink on the job. There’s no way in hell anything can go wrong here.
Since Scheana has not been banished from her group of – well, for argument’s sake, let’s just call them “friends” – yet, she is throwing a little party for everyone. There’s a taco bar there, so even I’d show up at that event even though Jax is there and Schwartz is wearing a muumuu. Upon hearing from Sandoval about Katie’s latest round of texts, Schwartz shrugs and declares that he’s just going to shove her latest bout of crazy under a rug that’s now so lumpy that Jax wouldn’t even have sex on it. All the girls head into the pool where they play beer pong and eventually Katie and Stassi float over to one another so Katie can announce that Ariana really put a damper on the last party that was thrown in her honor and now she’s not even talking to Schwartz. (If you think these two things are not related in the least, it means you are fucking normal. Congratulations! The prize for that is never having to eat a chalupa in a pool next to Katie!) What does Katie have to do, she wonders, to get Schwartz to take her side? Should she be blonder and have an incredible ass? (Seriously, Ariana, I’m straight as they come, but I work out with your heiny in mind as a goal) Should she get drunk with the guys and be cooler? Actually, what Katie should probably do is reevaluate the way she speaks to her fiancé because if you’re the sort of person who complains about everything, after a while the other person just stops listening.
At a certain point, Katie sits alone in the corner of the party and sulks while Kristen, Scheana, and Jax approach Schwartz to try to get him to stop saying mean things about the lady he’s about to marry. Scheana implores him to figure out a kind way to communicate with her or to just go over and kiss her so maybe things won’t be so fucking awkward when they all have to vacation together, but when he comes over, she turns her face away. I get it. The guy’s in a muumuu and he tries to high-five her and watching siblings make out would probably be more romantic.
And now it’s time for the rest of the crew to pack, so we head to Jax and Brittany’s apartment so we can all watch Jax tell the luckiest girl alive that she better do all of his laundry this instant. Then we arrive at Sandoval and Ariana’s where we see that the butt pads have arrived – and that’s a fucking relief – so Sandoval’s ass will appear more womanly when he dresses in drag for Schwartz’s big night. Since Scheana and Shay were still residing under the same roof when this episode was shot, we get to watch them pack dick sticks and discuss how neither of them ever plans to get married ever again. And then we get to Katie and Schwartz’s place where they are vowing to one another to always have each other’s backs until the very end of time. Anyone want to place bets as to how soon that vow is shattered on a New Orleans street corner while Jax pees all over it?
When they get to New Orleans, the city is vibrant and colorful and they are immediately greeted with beads and the news that Jax’s credit card was once again declined. Man, drugs and tit enhancement surgery are expensive, huh? Another card finally gets accepted and everyone checks into their rooms as couples except for Stassi. I’ve known that pain; I feel for her. Having a better time are Katie and Schwartz. They’re still sticking to their proclamation to like each other for right now and there’s a chance that they could maybe even get drunk on the champagne Lisa sent and then hop into bed, but Stassi shows up to hang out with them. Since it took them months to consummate the engagement – which is something they stated on national television constantly – I’m guessing Stassi didn’t actually cock-block them in the slightest.
Also: all I want in life is a house with a moat and a palatial lawn where miniature ponies frolic and the ability to ask them sweetly under the gorgeous setting sun if they would maybe like a biscuit as a treat.
It’s nighttime and they all head to Bourbon Street where Jax spits a jello shot into Brittany’s mouth, which means she must have done his laundry and that was her awesome reward. Everyone is getting along and getting drunk when Sandoval finds himself alone at a table with Katie and he makes the grave mistake of asking a crazy woman how things are going. She explains to him that 90% of the problems she and the fiancé she does not respect have are because of tensions within their group of friends. First of all: that’s total bullshit and I feel comfortable making that bold declaration because these people have thrown their private lives on television for the last five years and we’ve all been privy to their problems. But second of all: if you really think your friends are ruining your relationship, be a fucking adult and make new friends. In any case, Sandoval listens as Katie once again says shit about his girlfriend and the way she didn’t murder Lala (who?) because Lala was mean to Katie and when Sandoval tries to remind Katie that she was the one who first made things contentious with Lala – that it actually wasn’t the other way around – Katie just cuts him off. No, refusing to listen to another person cannot possibly be the reason she and Schwartz fight! Sandoval, bless his pure heart and his terrible frosted hair, tries to push through and recommends that she and Schwartz get therapy and his advice goes just about as well as you’d expect.
In another happy corner of the bar, Stassi and Brittany sit down to talk about how alone she feels and that’s when Jax comes over. Though we all saw the revolting madness go down in high-def, it’s frankly kind of hard to even imagine that Jax and Stassi were once a couple because she’s just far too smart to have been with such a moron, but now he’s there and he wants her to know that he’s sorry. He’s sorry Stassi feels alone and he’s sorry Patrick never came to group events because Patrick probably would have wanted to shove his fist down the throat of the guy who hurt Stassi so repeatedly. But as sorry as he feels, Jax is dumb enough and drunk enough (and fucking sweaty enough) to announce that Patrick should have shown up to those events anyway and that’s when Stassi breaks down and tells him she might feel better if Jax just once and for all apologized for all the hideous things he did to her all of those years. For sleeping with a stripper and knocking her up. For fucking Stassi’s best friend on a sofa – twice. For lying. For stealing. For walking through the world basically unscathed after damaging so many people. And finally Jax does say that he is sorry and that he was a piece of shit. His eyes fill with tears – unless that’s just more sweat pouring out of his eyes – and he seems kind of sincere and Stassi thanks him and then quietly gets up and walks away so Brittany can turn to the weepy guy before her and announce that he’s never once apologized to her like that. Wait five years, Brittany, and make sure the local strippers are all on birth control.
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