Never in all of my days of reality-television observation have I witnessed an argument where more people were both right and wrong about something than the conflagration about whether DJ James Kennedy should be invited to an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta. I feel like the only person who can meaningfully arbitrate this discussion is honorary mayoress of Puerto Vallarta and patron saint of Andales, Victoria Denise Gunvalson Jr., a woman who knows what it is like to be wrong about everything but also maybe a little bit right about everything too.
The argument starts when Tom and Tom invite Jax and Schwartz’s triplet brothers Brandon, Billy, and Bert to see James DJ at a club called Ohm. The club seems packed and James says that they want him to DJ there once a week or once a month for what must be significantly more money than he makes in a shift at SUR. Still, he’s obsessed with working at SUR because he says it’s “home.” I think it’s more like he’s obsessed with being on this here reality-television program and he feels like if he is no longer connected with the mothership then he’s going to be asked to leave and his fame, the one thing that makes him feel worthy to continue sucking the polluted oxygen on this planet, will be taken away from him.
At the nightclub the Toms tell him that they’re planning a group trip and that, of course, James is invited. Just as this goes down, Jax is like, “Oh, this is a really bad idea and the girls are not going to like this.” Jax seems to be the only person who is entirely right, which is a sensation about as odd as getting tasered in the gooch.
When Schwartz tells Katie that James is invited, she says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Oh hell naw.” When Katie tells Stassi and Ariana, who are sitting with her at a cat café when she gets the phone call, they say, and again I’m paraphrasing, “What the fuck is wrong with these jackasses?”
Of course Katie doesn’t want James there because he called her fat and she issued an ultimatum to Lisa that either James continues to work at SUR or she does. Lisa chose Katie and fired James for the second time. Stassi hates James because of Katie, and Ariana actually likes James for the same inexplicable reason that her boyfriend does, but she is smart enough to know that there is no way he can be around all of these other people that hate him.
Let’s not forget, Kristen, who is also invited, hates James because of their past relationship. Brittany hates James for making a fool of her at SUR. Jax hates James for the same reason that Frankenstein hates his own monster. Everyone hates James and their reasons are entirely justified. If this were a daytime soap, James would be murdered next episode because everyone on the show has a motive and we would have no idea who threw the hair dryer in his Jacuzzi. (It would end up being Faith so the rest of the main cast can stick around.)
How can Sandoval be right to invite James? Well, because we know this is a contractually obligated group trip, the one that they go on every year, and as a member of the cast James should be invited. But Sandoval is also wrong to invite him because, well, he’s treated everyone like shit.
What Sandoval is right about too is that everyone should just get over their hatred of James. As he points out, everyone is fine with Jax being around when he has literally lied to and cheated on every single person in their friend group. Also Katie has done much of the same things that she accuses James of, namely bullying Kristen and calling Lala mean names for no good reason.
Where Sandoval is wrong is that what James did to Katie is so much worse, and sticking by him, especially at this very particular moment in history, is a bad idea. Sandoval sticking by James is how abuses against women, large and small, are allowed to proliferate in this society. By telling Katie that she’s just as bad and that she should get over it, he’s creating a false equivalence and allowing James’s horrible track record of how he treats women to slide by.
During their blowup in the SUR alley — a future UNESCO World Heritage Site — Katie is right in that she didn’t get James fired, that James got himself fired. It is his awful behavior toward women and in general that put him in jeopardy long before Katie made an issue of it. If he hadn’t called her fat, there is nothing Katie could have done to get him fired.
At least Schwartz is mostly taking his wife’s side in this argument, but, as Ariana likes to say, he’s letting Sandoval take all of the heat for inviting James and then disinviting him, when Schwartz is actually the one who invited James in the first place. To his credit, when it comes to finally telling James he is officially uninvited, Schwartz is the one who does it so Ariana, while right, also ends up being wrong. See, no one can win. No one.
Schwartz tells James when he comes into Tom Tom for no reason whatsoever. This scene seemed so staged which, whatever, I don’t really care, but it seems to dovetail nicely with the argument that’s going on this season on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills about how much Lisa dictates the action of the show. Here it seems she clearly had James come in to ask some dumb question about DJ-ing at SUR on Saturday afternoons so then Tom and Tom could dump him from the cast trip. But while the setup is fake, James’s reaction seems real.
When they tell James that he is uninvited to yet another event, he inevitably freaks out and tells them, “It’s up to the girls when it’s not even their place.” First of all, it is entirely their place. Second of all, yes, it is up to the girls. James likes to pretend that he’s changed and he’s made all of this progress, which he has, but he hasn’t tried to make any amends to the people he’s wronged. He hasn’t really apologized to Katie. He hasn’t done anything to make any sort of reparations that might get him back into the good graces of the group. Yes, Jax is still an asshole and wants more credit than he deserves for getting on the straight and narrow, but at least he’s demonstrating that he’s serious. Jax, for once, has stopped playing the victim, another one of his behaviors that James should think about emulating.
This whole thing seems to be a proxy fight for whether James gets to continue to be on the show. I think that Katie and crew — including Lala, his former ally — want to ban James from the group and therefore get him fired not just from SUR but from Vanderpump Rules as a whole. That is not going to happen, so I think the girls need to revise their strategy and at least figure out what concessions they can get from James to make life around him tolerable. And then James needs to fulfill those concessions and not pop off every time his awful actions have a consequence.
At Tom Tom he resorts to calling Schwartz a “pussy” because he is standing up for his wife, who James has repeatedly called fat right to her face. Schwartz, like someone taking Viagra for the first time, finally stands up for Katie and throws something at James and seems like he’s willing to fight him. As Sandoval hustles James into the back room of Tom Tom, Schwartz barks out that James “should be ashamed of yourself, bitch.”
He’s right. James has taken the bait for the millionth time. He needs to take these things in stride and say, “Okay, I get it. I’m working on myself and I will find a way to make this better.” But because he is a broken person and an ideal candidate for reality-television stardom, he just calls people names, climbs up the wall, turns his head around backwards, and vomits acid on everyone below like he’s a girl who just crawled out of a well in a Japanese horror movie.
After James left, with his tail and his dignity between his legs, Schwartz cornered Sandoval in the back room of Tom Tom and tried to run his fingers through Sandoval’s flat-ironed hair. “Don’t,” Sandoval said.
“What?” Schwartz asked. “I just want to make this all better.”
“No,” Sandoval said. “I have a headache.”
“Bullshit. You’re just pissed at me about this whole James thing. Are you mad about James or because I had to have Katie’s back and not yours.”
“Neither. Both. I don’t know. Leave me alone.”
“What, are you just going to call Beau now when you need some butt humping?”
“Maybe I will.”
Sandoval stormed off, making a stand, but his heart felt like a motorcycle without a sidecar, or a sprig of mint that Jax refused to muddle for a mojito.