We must address when Brett, a Crest White Strip come alive, invites Scheana over to his house to film a YouTube video for his channel. This is not a taping; this is an act of aggression. It’s a hate crime. It’s a nuclear bomb with a one-meter radius, which is a description I usually reserve for what happens after my husband eats prepackaged Indian meals we buy at the supermarket.
First of all, it’s insane that Brett has nearly half a million subscribers on YouTube. What does this dried-up blob of Play-Doh have to say that 500,000 people are interested in it? Well, we see that most of his videos are of him working out shirtless, so this is starting to make a lot more sense. “Most of my subscribers just want me being my authentic self, because I have a lot of women following me,” Brett says. By “authentic self,” he means his “most naked self,” and by “women” following him, he means “homosexuals.”
It’s never clear exactly what he wants Scheana to talk about, but within five seconds of starting to film, he calls the 34-year-old “middle-aged,” which, even for a person who does as much drinking as Scheana, woefully underestimates her life expectancy. Secondly, she says that she is sleeping with “fuckbois,” and Brett says, “If we attract the energy we put out into the world, does that mean you are a fuckgurl?” Oh, Brett. I have never heard ridiculous New Age tenets redeployed as a verbal IED before, but there he goes. Also, there is no such thing as a “fuckgurl.” Women, in our society, aren’t allowed to sleep around willy-nilly and treat men like shit in the way that men can women. That is an equivalency so false it could be one of Scheana’s eyelashes.
Jax, on the other hand, is clearly middle-aged. With his 40th birthday, he is officially older than many Real Housewives and far too old to be a “full-time bartender” at a second-tier WeHo eatery. There’s something about Jax that has been starting to grate on me this season, and I think it’s his complete absence of joy and self-awareness. He throws an ’80s-themed party (Scheana wins for best costume dressed as Jem of Jem and the Holograms if she was leading an aerobics class), but then says it’s only a suggestion, not a theme. He shows up dressed as a hair rocker with a giant mullet wig and a midriff-baring shirt and says, “I would have just worn this anyway.” This is all because he doesn’t want to admit he’s having a theme birthday after Sandoval did it last episode and he complained about having to put some actual effort into doing his job. Hiding oneself in flimsy semantics is the kind of thing that the president of the United States would do, and maybe that is why I find it so distasteful.
He also can’t admit that the prank that Sandoval (and Max, I guess, but I would rather leave him out of this narrative entirely) pulled is pretty funny. When they arrive home to find their trees covered in an entire Costco-size pallet of toilet-paper rolls, Brittany thinks it’s a gas, but Jax is just annoyed. It isn’t just that he got got, it’s that he knows he has to clean it up, too, and he can’t look past that to appreciate the prank.
Jax says he’s going to pay Sandoval back for what he did, but he’s either too lazy, complacent, or self-involved to actually plan anything. Instead, Lala’s boyfriend, Randall, a fleshy lump that I’m actually starting to warm to, orchestrates the whole thing. The after-party for Jax’s birthday is at Sandoval’s house — the emptiness of which Jax has to make fun of at every petty opportunity — and Randall arranges for two actors in LAPD squad cars to show up and arrest Sandoval for vandalism.
They get him in handcuffs and pull him out into the street and plop him in the back of the car. Katie is out in the street practically crying about his arrest. Ariana is in the driveway totally freaking out. Schwartz is in the background grinning that Sandoval finally got what was coming to him for all of his unpaid parking tickets. The whole scene is a mess, then Jax steps in and is like “BOO-YAH! I GOT YOU!” but he didn’t even do anything. Randall, a far better prankster, arranged it and bequeathed it to Jax for his birthday. It’s sort of like saying you can sing like Adele just because someone else paid to have her song played on the jukebox.
I can admit that this is a very good, Punk’d-level prank. It is very funny, and, while embarrassing for Sandoval, it put him in his place. I can also admit that the optics of involving the police and a false arrest might come off as tone deaf; if one of the participants involved was black, this would have been a totally different story, something that could have had deadly implications. However, Katie’s reaction seems outsize to me. I think that Katie is embarrassed that she was the one most affected by a prank that turned out to be totally fake. Also, it’s easy for Katie, from her party of entirely white people in her mostly white suburb of Los Angeles on the cast of a show that is whiter than Vail in January (in so many senses), to be offended on behalf of black people. What I’m saying is that Katie is not wrong, but Katie is also not right. Also, where is Katie’s outrage, in the middle of a national toilet-paper shortage, at Sandoval for wasting all of that precious, precious ass-wiping paper?
It also seems ironic to me that Katie is standing up for decency and understanding while lobbing around cruelty so casually. She threw a wine party–slash–girls’ night at her house for every female cast member of the show but left Kristen out on purpose. She knew Kristen would find out and be hurt. She knew this would happen, and she did it anyway because Kristen said something mean to her at a party. Katie should care less about the social impact of a prank that Russell plays on Sandoval and more about her emotional impact on the people in her immediate orbit if she wants to see some trend toward kindness in the world.
Also, if I were Kristen, I would have barged right into that damn party, gotten right up in Katie’s face, and told her just how mean and awful she’s been for just about her entire tenure on the show. That would have made excellent reality television. That Kristen demurred from this occasion to show up as Scheana’s “plus one” shows why she is not a true practitioner of the reality-television arts and sciences.
Speaking of Katie’s wine party, I am about to admit something that might be very painful. Guys, I might have been wrong about Raquel, the one pack of Minions Valentine’s cards left on a Rite Aid shelf on February 15. She is the kind of girl who will drive you to your AA meeting, run some errands, and pick you up on time. She is the kind of girl who will cover your shift for you at SUR so that you can go to an audition you surely won’t get. She is the kind of girl who will get you a skinny margarita at the bar and not even make you pay her back. Raquel is and forever will be a free yoga mat you get after buying 12 Moon Juices in eight days, but she is also a good person and, well, I think she’s being unfairly beset upon by Lala. At the wine party, Lala decides she needs to make a scene with Raquel because Raquel was talking about how mean Lala was to her at Sandoval’s birthday party when Lala, for no reason, basically called James gay to Raquel’s face. Lala says that Raquel took her “genuine concern and made something dirty out of it.” No, I think Lala feigned genuine concern so that she could hurl some accusations at James.
Going into the party, Lala says that she needs to remind Raquel to stay in her lane and let people like Lala run shit. She does not need to do this. Raquel, for all of her craven, fame-hungry, wanna-stay-on-the-show-by-any-means behavior, does not need to be reminded to sideline herself. If Lala wants to minimize Raquel, all she needs to do is ignore her. Lala has ingratiated her way into the main cast of the show while Raquel, a pair of Jessica Simpson gummi sandals, is still trying to peer her way in. Lala giving this her energy is elevating Raquel in a way that just dismissing it never could.
As Lala points out, Raquel is a yapping Chihuahua and she is a pit bull. Grabbing Raquel by the neck and dragging her all around the dog park does not make her look powerful, it does not make her look like a boss, it makes her look cruel. Yes, she looks cruel wearing an immaculate lace top with delicately layered ruffle sleeves that the bulbous pink extremities on Raquel’s blouse could only hope to be, but she looks cruel nonetheless. “If we can’t agree that she’s a bully, we can all agree that she’s a bitch,” Raquel says of Lala, and I caught myself nodding in agreement and had to question everything that Catholic Jesus ever taught me.
Speaking of cruel, we have to go back to Katie and Tom for a second. When Katie has her crazy reaction to the prank, Schwartz has an equally crazy reaction, yelling at Katie for not thinking it’s funny. “It is funny,” he says to her. “No one gives a shit about your opinion.” He follows that up with, “I’ve never been more turned off in my life. That is why I don’t have sex with her.” Beau, decent lovable Teddy Ruxpin Beau, says he never hears people spew venom like that. I don’t really like it.
Sandoval seemed to be handling things, though. He confronted Schwartz’s ire with love, hugging him, mauling him with his arms, trying to drag him somewhere closer to sanity, wishing he could drag him up the empty stairs of the empty house, drag him into his mostly empty bedroom, drag down his very full underwear, and show him the love and sexual attention that Katie obviously will not. He wanted to breathe his own love into Schwartz, inject it any possible way he could — with his tongue, with his fingers, with his entire being if necessary. He wanted to pound the hatred out of him, over and over, as Schwartz bent over and received his love, sweating on the wrinkled duvet, his moans cascading out of the window and across the valley as the red and blue lights of fake cop cars sputtered on the street below.