There is a moment in this episode of Vanderpump Rules, a strange combination of cringing embarrassment and rib-shaking hilarity, that will never be copied. It is the moment when Tom Sandoval — the only living human being who will ever stand up for Tom Schwartz, including Tom Schwartz himself — defends his best friend and platonic lover’s honor against their friends by saying, “Look at him. He’s like a battered wife.” Then Sandoval, who is standing in a tight black top and a face full of makeup, kicks down the door of the hotel bedroom where Schwartz is sitting.
In that moment we see Schwartz sitting on the bed, his head hanging down toward his knees like the last drooping leaves of a drought-ridden palm tree. He’s wearing the white undergarments from a night out in drag, a wig cap whose elasticity could send it flinging off his scalp at any moment, a face of makeup that was hastily and amateurishly removed, and a pair of yellow sunglasses that looks like something a self-labeled Instagram “influencer” would purchase at a gas station on the way to Coachella. Schwartz lifts his head up and looks through the door at his accusers and something like a smile comes over his face, as if he’s a toddler who has been caught touching his private area in the frozen-food section of a local Safeway.
It does not get funnier than that because, well, he does kind of look like a battered wife, sitting in the bedroom and licking his wounds. Then we remember that he is not a battered wife. He is not, in fact, even a woman. He’s just some drunk dude in half-dissolved drag whose girlfriend is pissed because he slept with some girl in Vegas. Even likening him to an abused spouse is incredibly distasteful — and that’s when you recoil from Sandoval’s description like a scrotum retreating from cold lake water.
It’s not only inaccurate; it’s also tasteless. One is a woman who suffers actual physical abuse. The other is a man who likes Jägermeister too much and has to endure nothing more than misspelled rage texts from his fiancée in the middle of the night. Still, man. It was sort of perfect, the whole moment. Reality-television gold.
Naturally, this final episode about Tom and Katie’s joint stag/hen party in New Orleans is about their relationship and just how lousy it is, but do we really have to go over that all again? Katie is an awful attention hog who refuses to listen to any voice other than her own. Tom is a mealy-mouthed pushover who won’t defend himself and trash-talks all of the women around him when he gets drunk. She tears him down for not defending her every whim and he lies on the floor like a pool of acid, dissolving everything that tries to get close enough to touch him. Katie has the support of all the women who are part of the Borg brain and Schwartz has the support of one man who does not know the distinction between a weave and extensions and probably should, considering he kind of has both. Their relationship is pretty balanced in awfulness. I mean, it’s six of one or a half-dozen of absolutely nothing.
When they finally sit down to talk about their differences, Katie wants Schwartz to own that he cheated, and he wants her to own that she has basically been a “nightmare” the whole time they’ve been dating. I mean, I could get into the ludicrousness of this argument and how they approach their relationship like a ledger of grievances, but I won’t. That’s because they finally alight on something that is true: They both need to let it go. That’s what being in a successful long-term partnership is all about, forgiving and forgetting, relinquishing all the slights and affronts, and working toward a mutually shared future of drunken spin-the-bottle games and ruining your children’s lives together.
There was one other scene that made my eyes bulge out of my head like Steve Buscemi eating an entire box of Sour Patch Kids all at once. It happens when Scheana Shay and her husband Shay Shay are talking about Tom and Katie’s relationship. It’s bad enough when Shay rambles on about how marriage is about listening to each other while his wife completely ignores him. But what makes this truly horrible is the dramatic irony of Scheana saying that she doesn’t need a prenup with Shay because she trusts him completely. “What are you going to do?” she asks. “Empty out my bank account? Show up at SUR and take all my tips?”
“Maybe,” he responds, like a comic-book villain already plotting what he’s going to do to her. Of course, between when this was filmed and when it aired, Shay did exactly that. He cleaned out their bank account and left her without a penny. Yeah, she should have been listening all that time.
This episode also left me with so many questions about how these people live their lives. Like, for instance, why exactly did we see Tom Sandoval running a razor across his forehead? It wasn’t his hairline or his eyebrows, but the Nicole Kidman Botox Zone between them. I have never seen any homo sapien — including Teresa Giudice whose hair grows so close to her eyebrows that she has a negative twohead — actually have hair on that area of his or her body. There is preening and then there is whatever that behavior is. It would be like getting electrolysis on the bottoms of your feet.
The other big question that I have is why the hell did Stassi and Kristen go in the pool at Stassi’s childhood home wearing all of their clothes? There is nothing worse than being in the water wearing an excess amount of fabric. Sure, the cool water against your body might feel good for a moment, but then you have to get out of the pool and peel all that sticky clothing off. Swimming like that is sort of like eating three boxes of Girl Scout cookies: It feels wonderful in the moment, but the regrets are almost instantaneous and the consequences not at all worth the pleasure.
Anyway, these women have all skinny-dipped in front of each other and the cameras numerous times. What’s stopping them this time? And after they decide to get into the pool, what did they plan to wear home? Did they bring extra clothing? If they thought that far ahead, why didn’t they bring swimsuits? Seriously, someone needs to explain the decision tree that leads these two women to prowl around a pool in dresses, because it is more mysterious to me than how they fill a Boston cream donut.
Then there is the mystery of just what is going on at breakfast between Jax and Brittany. No, I’m not talking about why Jax had two hunks of silicone on his face, but why the hell did it appear like Brittany had a shiner exactly the size of a drunk-lout’s fist next to her eye? Was that a bruise? Did she fall over? Did she sleep with her face on Jax’s face and he did a really bad job taking off his eye makeup and it smudged all over her? If Jax gave her that black eye and we’re not talking about it, that makes me very uncomfortable.
The one last question I have is why don’t Stassi and Peter give it another chance? They have plenty of chemistry while playing spin the bottle. They’re both single, attractive, interested in the reality-television arts, and obviously attractive. Maybe enough time has passed in the seven years since they first dated that things could go well this time? I think these two kids could make it work, don’t you? I wish them nothing but the best.
Oh, what a crazy night of spin the bottle that was. After everyone forced Stassi and Peter into a prolonged make-out sesh, Tom Schwartz gave me the gift that I have always wanted: watching him pull his junk out of his pants and fiddle around with it in a public space. Yes, he was giving Katie a lap dance where his pants and underwear were riding down and we could see the top of his butt crack working up and down and, if I were still a 16-year-old in a Connecticut living room without access to internet pornography like I was in the mid-’90s, that would have been the most erogenous thing I had ever seen.
But, as it was, it fell a little flat. Tom was enthusiastic and his moves were good, but it seemed as if he was a little distracted. Like he was moving his body over Katie’s but thinking of something else. Maybe it was the hard pressure on his lips from Sandoval only minutes before. It was that taste of something forbidden, something strong and a little bit scruffy. That feeling that burbles up around his belt when something unexpected happens, that feeling that he wanted to grab Sandoval by those extension weaves of his and pull his head back and nibble at his neck as their zoot-suited bodies crashed into each other like two rocks on the shore rattled by the waves. Maybe that is what he was thinking of while jiggling above his soft, reclining bride. All he could imagine was stiffness, creeping in little wisps around his consciousness, as Sandoval slapped him on the ass and he crumbled like a sand castle at high tide.