This episode features two moments that should seem momentous but that happen so sadly often that we’re actually treated to montages of all the times they have both happened on screen. The first is Jax’s credit card being declined, which is sort of a metaphor for his entire existence, and the second is DJ James Kennedy groveling for his job back at SUR. I’m going to talk about the second one first because I think they are actually related.
James shows up to SUR ostensibly to eat alone and flirt a bit with his girlfriend Raquel, a single My Little Pony pool floatie bobbing in the water. While he’s there Lisa comes to join him and they talk about James’s newfound sobriety and how that’s affecting his life. (I don’t know if it’s making him look more handsome or if I’ve just been shut up in my house too long staring at headless torsos on Grindr, but James looked pretty foooiiiiinnnneee tonight.)
Raquel, the magenta briefs under a Hamptons tennis skirt, comes over and asks Lisa if she wants rosé. “Does the Pope have a balcony?” Raquel, a Lush bath bomb that smells like sugar-free gum and skipping third period, looks at her quizzically. “I don’t get it,” she says to Lisa’s face. Then in a confessional she says, “What? Does everyone know the Pope drinks rosé on the balcony?” There have been many flaws this season but I will say somehow, against all odds, it has made me vaguely appreciate the endearing vacancy and sincerity of Raquel, a Which Disney Princess Are You? Instagram filter where every answer is Ariel.
Anyway, James says it would be nice to be working at the same place as his girlfriend, though he falls short of actively asking for his job back. “Well,” Lisa says. “We actually don’t have a DJ tonight. Do you want to DJ?” Oh how convenient?! How utterly and shabbily convenient.
This, right here, is the problem with this entire season of Vanderpump Rules. Did James know this was going to happen when he sat down? I don’t know. Did Lisa know this was going to happen when she sat down? Absolutely yes. The crazy thing is, we don’t even see him DJ. We don’t even know if it actually happened. I don’t think it did or we would have had a shot of him exuberantly pumping his fists behind the decks in the SUR lounge. Lisa, the producers, or a combination of the two wanted to create this emotional moment and they entirely constructed it, whether or not that moment and its outcome was actually real.
This show has become less of a docusoap and more like The Hills or its insane British cousin The Only Way Is Essex. You even see it when Max (blech) takes Dayna (blech) outside at Ariana and Tom’s dinner party for a little chat about how he still has feelings for her. The setup is a little too pat, the lighting is a little too flattering, the cameras placed a little too perfectly, and Max’s revelation seems far too canned. They weren’t filming a moment, they were filming a scene. What they’re feeling might be real, I don’t know, but it is telegraphing a level of fakery that I have a hard time believing.
That is the concerning thing about Jax and his credit card being declined at the store. Starting with Jax’s first appearance this episode, when he’s at the sneaker cleaning store with Tom Sandoval, something about him seems off. When Scheana approaches him at SUR and says, “Do you want to see footage from my music video shoot?” and he retorts, hilariously, “Not really, mo,” but then launches into a rant about how everyone is always talking about how no one tells the truth so he doesn’t want to lie anymore, it seemed like he was, I don’t know, somehow altered? It was scary.
Then, at Max’s beach clean-up of the most pristine coastline in the entire state of California, Jax is texting about how it’s a stupid idea and Max should cancel it. Even though Brittany, sure of her contractual obligations, is still there to pretend to pick up trash when all she really wanted to do iwas gossip and show off her amazing new braids. When Jax finds out that Max was talking to Sandoval about the texts he disinvites both of them from his pool party on Friday.
The next day is Kristen’s T-shirt event. When introducing the event, Kristen says, “My work as an entrepreneur is never done,” and it is the single most hilarious thing I have ever heard come out of her mouth. Her work as an entrepreneur consists of putting slogans like “Don’t Worry, Drink Frozé, Be Happy” and “I Left My Heart in Rancho Cucamonga” on T-shirts and selling them at what appears to be an illegal, back-alley flea market. She also has a business partner in this endeavor. It seems like Kristen’s work as an entrepreneur has never really started.
Jax shows up at this event and immediately apologizes to Max and Tom and reinvites them to his pool party. He says he was being a jerk and he’s just angry all the time. “I call it having an episode,” he tells them. Wait, is Jax having a manic episode? It sure sounds like it. The acting out, the aggressive behavior, the profligate spending: all classic symptoms of such.
It seems like the episode is still ongoing. At the event, after squashing beef with Tom and Max he then starts it with Kristen over whether she had sex with Carter, maybe, or whether Carter saw a video of her having sex with another guy, maybe four weeks or four years ago. I don’t know. I lost the plot, which was only complicated by Kristen admitting in her interview that she was lying to Jax at the time to get him out of her face and to keep him from shouting about her sex tape in the very venue where she is trying to entrepreneur herself into selling a few more T-shirts.
After all of these blow-ups the cast is speculating that Jax is just creating drama because he’s not the center of attention anymore now that his wedding is over. They’re saying that he’s just bored and venting his rage at someone so he can feel some emotion. Schwartz says that their entire friendship he’s been on the receiving end of “rage texts” from Jax and he just deletes them and moves on with his life, the same strategy he employs for rage texts from his wife, which [pulls imaginary collar away from imaginary neck].
So, what, exactly, is going on with Jax Taylor? After Kristen’s entrepreneurial summit and TEDx talk, Jax goes home and tells Brittany, while misplaced-raging at her, that he smokes a lot of pot, then he gains 20 pounds, so then he “has to” go on Adderall to lose the weight and it’s a vicious cycle. The gays call this “Judy Garland-ing.” (Actually, we do not, but we should.) Okay, so is he just being a jerk? Is he having a manic episode? Is he just on a speed-induced roller coaster? It’s hard to say. Maybe a combination of all of the above?
This is why I brought up the incident with Lisa and James. Because of stunts like that, there is a nagging voice in the back of my head that doesn’t trust this show to be authentic at all anymore. Part of me thinks, “Someone just told Jax to start being a jerk to make things happen and create drama.” That is why he is “acting” so crazy, because he is acting. The problem with eroding the audience’s trust is that when it is gone we think what may be a mental health crisis or a substance abuse problem might just be another manufactured situation to boost the ratings. I don’t want to play these mind games with my reality television. I want to believe that what they’re feeling and how they’re reacting are a product of organic situations and emotions. I don’t want to question how it gets made, just like I don’t want to know how the hell Cadbury Crème eggs get made. I just want to enjoy them with a little bit of sticky goo running down my face.
Speaking of sticky goo on my face — no, it’s not time for the Tom/Tom slash fiction quite yet — I feel that I would be remiss not to issue a quick adjudication of the fight between Scheana and Brett about the music video. Scheana enlisted Brett’s help, supposedly months ago when they were still friends but flirting, to be the hot guy in her music video about banging one last time with your ex. When Brett came to film the video some of the things Scheana made him do — “fake strokes, fake laying pipe” and letting her kiss and lick his ears — made him uncomfortable, and he even claims he wanted to leave his jeans on while they filmed in bed.
Of course, no one should be made to feel uncomfortable at their job and should have the ability to remove their consent at any time. I assume that Scheana told him what the song was about and the details of the shoot in advance, including that he would be required to be in his underwear. I would like to assume that he knew the score going into the shoot, that he was going to be the big hunk of meat supposedly having sex with Scheana. If he was uncomfortable with that when the shoot approached because of a change in their relationship, he shouldn’t have shown up at all. Otherwise, he knew the score. Now he’s pretending he hated it because he thinks Scheana was actually into him. Scheana seems to have done the right thing and, when she found out he didn’t like the vibe, discontinued his participation and will find another solution that doesn’t require his reshoots. (And guys, the video. Sksksksksksksks as the VSCO girls say. Who is the random dude on the motorcycle? Was that supposed to be Brett?)
At Kristen’s T-shirt event, which Schwartz attended even though Katie stayed at home because she hates Kristen, Scheana showed the Toms the footage because she would show anyone who would even hover next to her phone for more than five seconds. As Sandoval was driving Schwartz home he asked, “What did you think of that video? Seems pretty steamy.”
“You mean moves like this?” Schwartz asked, leaning over to envelope Sandoval’s entire ear in his mouth while he kept his eyes glued on the road. “You mean moves like this?” he asked while rubbing his palm, with all five fingers flexed like the Pussycat Dolls’ undercarriages, down Sandoval’s rippling torso, barely concealed by one of Kristen’s thin T-shirts. “You mean moves like this?” he asked, giggling, and unbuckling his seatbelt and teabagging Sandoval’s shoulder repeatedly while he knelt on the passenger-side seat.
“Stop it!” Sandoval said, smiling through his annoyance. He saw an open spot on the side of the road and pulled into it, slamming the car in park. “You don’t need moves like that,” Sandoval put his hand on Schwartz’s thigh with his palm facing up. Schwartz eased his hand into Sandoval’s. They started into each other’s eyes, each of them licking their lips, their members ballooning slightly in their jeans, and the crackle between them, the unspoken rush of physical closeness, blossomed like a mushroom cloud.