The enjoyment of Vanderpump Rules has always been predicated on the fact that Jax Taylor is one of the world’s great narcissists and assholes. This is a man who, when we first met him, was cheating on his girlfriend with his best friend’s girl, whipping off his shirt in Vegas parking lots to get in fist fights, and getting arrested for shoplifting a pair of sunglasses. You would call him a shitheel, but that would be an insult both to heels and to shit.
But these days, there is so much to hate on Vanderpump Rules. There is the whole manufactured love triangle between Brett, Dayna, and Max, which Stassi summed up perfectly by saying it’s a bunch of people who can’t decide whether or not they have feelings for each other. It’s like trying to drink a mug of almost-cooled cocoa or room-temperature beer. There is also this weird tendency of the show — one executive-produced by Lisa Vanderpump — to repeatedly detail how horny Lisa Vanderpump’s much younger employees are for her, including an interlude this episode in which Tom Schwartz imagines erotically what it would be like to shave her legs. Who would put these people into their very own slash fiction? That seems like an invasion.
There is also the fact that, with each passing week, this show turns more and more into The Hills. This week, Dayna and Brett even went to Hyde. HYDE! Apparently Charli works there, like she’s a prospective fling of Benji Madden’s from 2006. I mean, what’s next? They’re going to send Danica to Les Deux to shout “You know what you did!” at random passersby?
There were some moments of fun in this episode, things that reminded me of the old days. I particularly loved when the comedian made fun of Brett and Beau at Dayna’s comedy show (and her comedy wasn’t as bad as Ariana’s or Kristen’s). I loved Tom and Tom struggling to decide whether to take their $50K check from the first year of Tom Tom or to plow it back into the business, knowing they made ten times that just by appearing on this here program. I also enjoyed when Brittany called up Katie just to remind her that she rage-texts as often as Jax, because anyone reminding Katie that she is the meanest person on television is just what I’m after.
I liked when Scheana said Jax called her stupid for booking her music-video shoot on “his big day,” and she told him “his day” was June 29, i.e. his wedding. Damn, Scheana, way to get out those claws. And by claws I mean your nails, and by get out I mean always have them on, even when it makes me question how you wipe. I particularly enjoyed them referencing all of Jax’s Instagram Stories about going to LIT Method in Hollywood (I wonder how much the company paid for all of that exposure), which just served to show how alienated he is from the entire group. They’re all carrying on with their lives and talking trash about him, and all he can do is go and work out three times a day because of the Adderall or the weight gain or a manic episode or whatever the hell is wrong with Jax at this point.
The thing about Jax going off the rails this time is that it is so predictable that it is so obviously wrong. It is so annoying that it washes away the goofy charm we usually get from him. This all goes down because he was rage-texting Max and Tom Sandoval and others from the group, disinviting them to his pool party. They decided then, as outcasts, to throw their own pool party at the same time. Was that a little mean? Yes. But as far as they knew, they didn’t have anywhere else to be, so why not party? By the time Jax had reinvited them, they’d already hired DJ James Kennedy to work the event, so he was unavailable to spin at Jax and Brittany’s.
Hearing this news, Jax dances around his enormous open-plan kitchen that would give a Property Brother nocturnal emissions and yells about how “petty” Tom Sandoval is. This coming from a man who just disinvited all of these people from his party for, I don’t know, talking about how he got mad at them over text? There was some ostensible reason, but there really wasn’t a reason at all. There is no petty bigger than that. That is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. That is a Petty Zoo. That is Petty Larceny (which should really be Jax’s drag name).
It certainly doesn’t help that Jax’s rage consists of likening Tom to a “crybaby little bitch” and a “woman,” because Jax can think of no bigger insult than to be a woman. Speaking of women, I want to feel bad for Brittany, but I don’t. When she tells him the reason they started their own party is because Jax rage-texted all of them, he says, “So it’s all my fault then?,” to which she replies, “No, it’s not your fault. But you shouldn’t have rage-texted them.” In other words, it was totally his fault, but she can’t bring herself to say it.
I get Brittany’s predicament. She’s stuck with the Devil’s bargain she made in marrying Jax Taylor, which is that she has to remain married to Jax Taylor. I do believe she loves him, and she defends him like a fat man in a tank top, board shorts, and flip-flops will defend his right not to wear sunscreen in Branson, Missouri, but this does seem to be taking a toll.
Lisa has Brittany and Ariana meet her at Covenant House for some volunteering, and Ariana makes the very salient point that no one would still be friends with Jax if it wasn’t for Brittany. He has been horrible to each and every one of them, which is even more damage than Katie Maloney, a whirlpool of spoiled mayonnaise and eye rolls, has done. Why would any of them stick around at this point, other than liking Brittany and their paychecks on the show? Brittany says everyone would except for Tom Sandoval, but to me he seems like one of the most loyal friends Jax has, someone who will keep putting up with him like he’s a black-sheep brother rather than a friend he could actually distance himself from.
Because of this split, Sandoval attracts most of the “new crew” and some old friends to his party. He gets Dayna, Danica, Charli, Schwartz, Katie, Peter with a couple of hoochies in tow, Kristen and Carter (who are “dating” again), and on the ones and twos DJ James Kennedy, who comes along with his girlfriend, Raquel, a TikTok dance so embarrassing even JoJo Siwa won’t do it. Jax can only attract Brett for some reason, Lala because her man and Jax are bosom buddies, and Stassi and Beau.
Stassi is there for an ulterior motive. She wants to give Jax a talking to. She is not wrong that she is the person to do this, because not only is he afraid of her, she also has nothing to lose by calling him on his shit. She might even know him better than Brittany. She says his recent litany of mean texts makes it look like he’s losing his mind. “I am losing my mind,” he tells her. Then, in a confessional, he says his brain is “sprained” and that just like you don’t walk on a sprained ankle, you don’t walk on a sprained brain. But do you walk on a brain at all? Does that mean, because his brain is sprained, he can’t think? Does this sprained metaphor have to do with the fact that his brain is sprained? I don’t know.
This is classic Jax. He tries to say he makes sure everyone is having a good time, but he’s having a bad time, a ploy to play the victim that Stassi calls him on. Then he tries to blame it all on his mental health. Stassi tells him he can struggle with his mental health and still control his actions. The problem is that everyone is speaking sense to Jax. Everyone is telling him he’s behaving irrationally and alienating people. But will any of this work? No. We’ve seen him in therapy. We’ve seen him in anger management. We’ve seen him doing Reiki with that woman he was in love with. None of it has worked.
There is no changing him. There is no improvement, just a lifetime of frustration and chemically induced bad behavior. I think that is the ultimate problem here. When he was younger, we all thought, Oh, he’s crazy, but he’ll grow up someday. Everyone on the show has grown up a bit — even Katie and Stassi. But not Jax. He is inexplicably the same person he was when he started because he won’t admit his faults, even when he’s seeking cures for them. He is forever stuck in a prison of his own devising and, without any arc, he is very frustrating to watch.
While Lala slipped down the blow-up slide in Jax’s backyard so quickly she almost skidded across the lawn and Charli and crew twerked at Tom and Ariana’s house, Schwartz got a message from Sandoval. “Come up to my room,” it said. He went upstairs and there was no one in the master. He heard splashing in the bathroom and tapped the slightly open door so it swung wider. There he saw Sandoval with one hairy, wet leg hanging over the side of his claw-footed tub. “Why don’t you come and shave me?” Sandoval said, taking a disposable razor and dragging it across his forehead before handing it to Schwartz.
Schwartz put one knee down on the wet floor and dragged the razor down Sandoval’s shin. It was so hairy he couldn’t shave it clean — just a few long hairs came out, clogging up the razor. But he smoothed his left hand up Sandoval’s leg, from the calf, to the bulbous knee, to the hard but meaty thigh. Further and further, the hair getting thicker, though soft under the soap water. He finally got to Sandoval’s junk, half hard and half buoyant in the water, waiting to be greeted, waiting for anything other than a razor, because neither of the Toms really wants things smooth. They want it rough, they want it complicated, they want a clench so soapy and wet it’s going to be hard to explain.