This week, let’s start things a little differently. Let’s look at the things that we love and are grateful for. I am grateful for Danica, who is the one addition to this show that I can actually lobby for. Here is a girl who talked all sorts of shit about Max to Dayna when they were dating, and now that Dayna has vagina tingles for Brett, Danica says, “I don’t see him for you either.” She’s going to run around creating drama like it’s her job because it is her job. This is the kind of girl who talks about her two exes who have restraining orders against her while reapplying her lipstick and saying it was their fault for being too sensitive. This girl is a star. Give me more of her. Hashtag Justice for Danica.
I am also happy that after all of these years of being the villain, Kristen is getting something approaching a sympathetic edit. This does not mean that Kristen is a good person. This does not mean that Kristen should be forgiven for all of the awfulness she has perpetuated on this show for years. (And we thank her for her contributions to the cause of our ongoing entertainment.) However, I am glad that we get to see the emotional impact of Katie’s cruelty. When Kristen goes to Scheana’s sad apartment all the way in Marina Del Rey, she actually seems like she is going to cry because her two best friends have essentially ended their friendships with her so that she won’t attend a second wedding.
I love that Tom Schwartz is such a dipshit that he lost his first wedding certificate (and possibly the second), which necessitated an entire second wedding in Las Vegas. I also appreciate that he is inadvertently dressed in the sort of cowboy drag that is having a moment in the highest echelons of fashion. At his wedding, in his fringed shirt and cowboy hat, he basically looks just like Orville Peck, Diplo, or fashion mag editor Luke Jefferson Day. I also love that this look reminds me of one of the first VHS adult movies I ever owned, called How the West Was Hung.
Speaking of things that I love, can we talk about how immaculate Lisa looks in her puffy-sleeved emerald lamé top and big black hair when she goes to meet the kids for drinks at the Vanderpump Cocktail Garden? She looks exactly like Dynasty-era Joan Collins, which means she looked a little bit la la la la la la la, a little bit Alexis Carrington Colby. Normally I would find it super-cheesy, but for some reason when the Toms talk her into doing things out of character, like drinking from a beer bong or going zip-lining over the Las Vegas Strip, I find it hilarious and humanizing. This is the Lisa that we fell in love with in the first place.
And that’s it, boys and cocktail waitresses. That is the only joy that I took out of this excruciating hour that was perhaps one of the dullest episodes of reality television that I have ever seen, and I watched the entirety of Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club. The whole episode can be summed up in this one thing Lisa said about planning Katie and Tom’s second wedding in Vegas. “I will arrange the rooms, the transportation, the ceremony. I will get this done,” she says. That is exactly her strategy as an executive producer of this show, too. She will get it done. She will get the drama made. The problem is, she’s not doing a very good job of it.
While I totally believe that Schwartz is imbecilic enough not to actually file their wedding paperwork, the rest of this trip to Vegas reads like a flimsy excuse for an infomercial. This is a way to get the Vanderpump Cocktail Garden, with its whole bottles of vodka poured into punch bowls, on TV. It’s for us to see that Lisa Vanderpump is on the key cards at Caesar’s palace, for the GM of the hotel to talk about how successful their partnership is, and for Lisa and Nick Alain, a man who has turned Dr. Who cosplay into a design career, to debut their ideas for the Vanderpump Suite at Caesar’s. Also, I hate myself for thinking, “How much will that cost, and should that be the first trip I take when we’re all allowed back on airplanes again?”
When Tom and Katie get to Vegas, Tom is unpacking his bag and finds a navy-blue bra and is like “Bubba, here bubba is bubba’s bra, bubba,” and she is like, “Bubba, that is bubba not my bubba bra, bubba.” So there is this mystery bra, and she gets a little upset, and it’s an odd story point. I said watching the episode, “I bet Lisa planted that bra so that she could make a story out of it.” Guess what — I was right!
While everyone is hanging out, Lisa tells Katie this involved story about how she got Tom’s luggage sent to her room by mistake, so she put her bra in it. Since forgetting the documents was Tom’s fault but Katie couldn’t get mad about it, Lisa thought that she could get mad about this bra, which actually wasn’t his fault. This line of reasoning makes no sense at all. This setup leads to a half-hearted confrontation in their room, where Tom is actually more excited that he now has Lisa’s bra than Katie is mad at him.
Even worse, however, is the whole concocted storyline with Karrah, a woman who made the Faustian bargain of spelling her name like an idiot for a shot at reality television fame. Karrah is the waitress at the Vanderpump Cocktail Garden who looks and laughs just like Scheana, whom the whole crew makes a big point of talking to on not just one of their visits to the garden but on both of them. It’s like some sort of backdoor pilot to a show about the cast of this Vegas establishment. (Backdoor pilot is also what Max calls himself when he tries to convince a girl to try anal.) Karrah, much like fetch, is not going to happen, and the amount of time lavished on trying to get us to pay attention to her is cringeworthy.
The day after the wedding and subsequent party, Lisa calls Max about some invoices. He tells her he paid them but then, for some reason, tells her that they trashed their suite. She then FaceTimes him to see the suite because she doesn’t want them leaving a mess in an establishment where she does business. While he’s giving her a virtual tour, she says, “What is that in the bed?” Max tries to play coy and is like, “Oh, it’s nothing.” But we all know it’s a girl. We even see her manicured hand peeking out from under the covers, as if there is any human woman on Earth who would stay under the duvet with one hand out while her recent partner hovers around the room talking on speakerphone to his meddling English boss.
Finally, we get the big reveal. It’s Karrah! Max bedded down with Karrah, and now Lisa knows all about it because of a belabored, intricate string of events on a phone call. This thing is more staged than a model unit of a timeshare tower in Cabo. It is more manufactured than a fleet of Honda Civics. It is more scripted than, well, every single drama on television. It puts the scene by the SUR dumpster between Peter and Raquel, the human stepsister of that paper puppet girl who talks to you between levels of Candy Crush, to shame.
I know that reality shows are produced. I don’t even mind when producers are like, “We’re going to have this other wedding in Vegas just for the cast and you can all wear silly costumes, but just be yourselves and do what you would normally do.” That is the bargain we made when we became fans of this show, and I am totally fine with it. There are going to be circumstances to bring these people together, but they should then film what comes naturally. But I draw the line at completely making up scenes, scenarios, and storylines so blatant that producers clearly think fans don’t know the difference. We are intelligent, savvy, and hip to the magic of the reality television arts and sciences. Don’t insult our intelligence by trying to pass this off as organic. This is the second (possibly third, if you count Scheana) girl that this show has forced to hop into bed with Max, and I firmly, firmly believe that he has not actually had sex with any of them. This is not love, this is mechanics to make a story.
What made Pump Rules an amazing show is that Kristen and Jax cheated on Tom and Stassi with each other because they wanted to and they are awful people who don’t care about hurting those closest to them in life. That is great television. This is, well, it’s just painful. It’s sad and desperate and jerky and obvious, and I do not like it one bit. It’s one thing not to care about any of the new characters. (And honestly, I do not give a sloth’s testicle for whatever is happening with Brett, Dayna, Max, Charli, and the rest of them.) It’s another thing to be lied and condescended to by the show’s producers.
Anyway: In a giant suite in Vegas, Tom Schwartz and Sandoval were making out, Sandoval running his hands through the fringe of Schwartz’s Western shirt, which was open to expose his bare chest, his rapidly beating heart. It was a familiar clinch, one they had been in a million times, their bodies rubbing against each other, their hands so excited for the other’s flesh that they could barely stop on one part of the body long, never finding purchase, just grabbing and sliding all over each other. Suddenly, Sandoval broke their embrace. “Why are we doing this?” he asked.
“Because we’re in love,” Schwartz said, but it sounded a bit like a question.
“Are we, or is this just a construct? Are we behaving this way because something, somewhere, some greater force, has told us to do this. Is our love real or is it fictional?”
Schwartz got down on his knees and unbuckled Sandoval’s belt. “Let me know if this feels real,” he said, preparing to take the plunge but also wondering if this was, in fact, some kind of simulation that he would never wake up from.