This season of Vanderpump Rules is a little bit like Foosball. You recognize it, you think you know the rules, you’re sure it will be at least a little bit fun, but once you start playing, you’re like, Why the fuck does every tech office have one of these in the kitchen? This is, as the Spanish say, basura caliente.
The other funny thing is that it feels both rooted in the past and utterly devoid of it. This episode’s best moment is the remix of Scheana talking about her famous enchiladas. (I thought Scheana was most famous for her chimichangas, but I don’t know if we’re talking about the same thing.) Also amazing is any reference to Scheana’s banger of a dance single, “Good As Gold,” and her shouting it from a SUR bartop in season one. Also amazing is Scheana timing her new man, Brock, to see if he can hang a television in less than seven minutes, something her old boyfriend Rob was apparently able to do. Brock got it done in about 5.5 minutes. They say a man has one inch for every minute it takes him to hang a television; luckily for all the boys out there, it takes me about 53 hours to hang a television, so when it is hung, it is hung, ahem, very well indeed.
All of this stuff is in Vanderpump’s past. It makes me ache for a show that doesn’t exist anymore. When we find out that Charli, who has been located and returned back to her normal life of captivity much like Shannon Beador’s dog, Archie, is going to have a “culinary party” in her new, shitty West Hollywood apartment that she shares with her boyfriend, Corey, I’m stoked. I’m mostly stoked because I thought Corey, who is a legit snack, was going to be on the menu. I’m also stoked because we haven’t been to a shitty WeHo apartment banger since Brittany found out Jax had cheated on her with Faith while they were lying next to an old woman in a coma. That’s all I want: a shitty WeHo party and then everyone screaming at one another about it the next day in the back alley of SUR next to the dumpster at the broken-down break table. Is that too much to ask?
Then, at the last minute, Ariana offers up her antiseptic house in Valley Village for Charli’s “Around the World in 80 Plates” adventure, and we’re robbed of the promise of a red Solo cup turn-up in an apartment with bad wall-to-wall carpeting and window-unit air conditioners that are visible no matter what angle the camera is shooting from. We’re just back in another of the interchangeable modern farmhouses where grown-ups entertain, and Sandoval is still trying to put out the mood lighting like a rave-themed party at the University of Arkansas Sigma Nu house.
The party’s premise is that Charli, for issues she won’t really get into, hates all foods and hasn’t tried anything. All she has ever eaten is pizza, quesadillas, and PB&Js, which are the three major food groups of all smelly teenage boys. Screw Stassi’s next book; I want the Charli diet manual where all you eat is crap and you still look like a Scores waitress. Can you believe her story line is that she hasn’t eaten food? We’re used to Jax cheating on everyone he’s ever been with, Katie yelling at Tom that his dick doesn’t work, and Kristen repeatedly getting fired from jobs, and we have gotten all the way down to “Charli tries mussels.” That’s the plot of the episode. HURRAY!
The party is a bit of a flop, except that Raquel, a K-pop single about espresso martinis, gets a little bit wasted and doesn’t know any of the questions in a weird game of truth or dare. She cannot think of a First Lady, a boy band, a rapper, or the word phallic. Yes, I like Raquel now, and I don’t want to call her stupid. But when she calls herself stupid and when James points it out to her, then it is my duty as a very disciplined and well-regarded reality-television-program recapper to point it out to the rest of you. I just must. It’s part of the job.
The other thing that feels like a rehash of old business is Sandoval and Lala’s conversation at the return of “See You Next Tuesday” (three years old and already nostalgic). Sandoval thinks Lala is being a hypocrite for having boundaries about what she will and won’t discuss “with the group” on the show, yet she put all of Scheana and Brock’s shit out there. Then he tells her that when she first started dating Randall, no one did that to her. About that, he is totally wrong, as a Sandoval so often is, and the editors give us the clips to prove what a beating she took for dating a married guy and talking about getting a Range Rover in exchange for BJs.
Tom is right about something, however. Lala says that she never feels like she belongs in the group and that she’s always isolated. Tom tells her, quite accurately, that she brings it on herself. Yes, she always has to appear tough, she always has to appear right, she always has to aggressively police how she is feeling about any situation, and she does all that at the expense of everyone’s approval. As Brock points out, Lala says she will treat people disrespectfully and if you have a problem with that, then it’s your problem because she’s just being herself. She cries to Lisa about this problem and how she has changed, but her behavior, ultimately, is exactly the same now as it was when she was a fame-chasing hostess.
Lala eventually says she’s always trying to prove she belongs “in the group.” There was a point when Katie and the Witches of WeHo were trying to keep Lala from being on “their show,” but that time, like Von Dutch hats and Les Deux, is long gone. If Lala keeps feeling that way, it’s a residual problem of hers, not the group’s. How more central to the show could she be? Most of the cast aren’t even original members. The only OGs we have left are Kate, Scheana, and Sandoval — if Lala doesn’t feel just as central as they are, there’s nothing they can do about it.
Also, just like old times, Lisa totally manufactured the story line about Raquel and her nose and how James had “bumped it” to create drama on the show. While this might have happened, I long suspected that no matter how hard he hit her, it wouldn’t have caused her nose to go all crooked. A visit to former Real Househusband of Beverly Hills Paul Nassif confirmed that. But was Lisa really going to have lunch with Paul, then lunch with Raquel to talk about going to see Paul, and then pay a visit to Paul where they all have to pretend as though James maybe beat her up but really didn’t just out of the kindness of her heart? This was more scripted than a high-school production of Arsenic and Old Lace.
Eventually, we are left with the only good thing about this episode, which is Tom and Tom’s “deep dive” to figure out the mission statement, design plan, and other details for their upcoming bar, Dumb & Dumberer. A deep dive just means they’re drinking mushroom tea, lounging around Sandoval’s house, spilling vodka everywhere, and eating whipped cream right out of the canister while staring at Sandoval’s blinking frat-rave lights. The thing about creative sessions on drugs is that you think you’re coming up with very interesting concepts, building castles in the sky, reinventing the wheel, gilding the lily, and tossing the salad all at the same time. What you’re really doing is just rambling incoherently, and the “future-retro dive lounge” you imagined doesn’t exist at all.
As Schwartz and Sandoval are lying on the floor, both on their backs, their heads inches away from each other, Sandoval hears the whipped-cream cannon go off in Schwartz’s mouth. “Hey, bro. Let me get some of that,” he says. Instead of passing him the gun, Schwartz rolls over on top of Sandoval, presses his lips to his friend’s, and passes him a mouthful of warm, half-dissolved whipped cream. It’s more erotic than it sounds. They start making out furiously, the mushrooms making every moment feel like a whoosh, every sensation on their body like a tsunami of pinpricks ebbing and surging like the tide through a bed of seaweed.
Schwartz can’t take it anymore. All of the sensation, all of these little bubbles of warmth, is flowing directly to his crotch, making it swollen and hard. He gets up on his knees, undoes his pants, and takes it out of his boxer briefs. Sandoval props himself on his arm and just stares at it, slack-jawed and drooling. “Dude, is it the mushrooms,” Sandoval asks, “or is it always this big?”
Schwartz slides his palm over Sandoval’s hair and latches it behind his head before pulling it close. “Does it really matter?” he says with a sly grin that feels like the edges of his mouth could stretch to eternity.