‘Vanderpump Rules’ recap: Men behaving badly

Warning: Fragile male egos on display.

Mar 6, 2020, 8:54 am*

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Molly McHugh 

Molly McHugh

Vanderpump Rules has managed to become one of the most beloved—or reviled, depending where on the reality television spectrum you fall—shows in recent history. Once a mere spin-off of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, today VPR stands on its own merits, those merits being tequila shots, screaming in alleyways, love triangles, Taco Bell, fluid friendships, and a very flexible definition of feminism. Now the cast is back for season 8, and we’ll be doing weekly Vanderpump Rules recaps.

Our recaps will give you the need-to-know details and rehash relevant backstories so you’ll leave with an intimate knowledge of our SURvers’ neverending saga. Oh, and there will be GIFs. See You Next Tuesday! (Er, Wednesdays to be exact.)

Vanderpump Rules recap, season 8, episode 9: “If You’re Going to Drink, I Can’t Stop You”

Well, well, well, it’s Stassi’s birthday! If you are a true VPR-head, you know that the No. 1 holiday is Pride, but that a close second is Stassi’s birthday. It’s tradition for our Scandanavian princess to whisk away the cast for a weekend excursion dedicated to… her. Usually, she screams at someone. There have been physical altercations. Often, professional makeup artists are on site. This year, Stassi joins her boyfriend Beau and Katie and Schwartz for a single, sad cupcake at a coffee shop. This is being a grown-up. Times. Have. Changed. 

Ariana happens to share the same birthday, and the group chats about how awkward her upcoming birthday party will be given the fight between Jax and Sandoval that resulted in Sandoval’s dismissal from the wedding. Not just a wedding. The wedding of the century! Truly, we cannot escape this wedding; it is part of every single storyline, every single scene. It follows us around each weekly episode of VPR, haunting us. I hate it. And I’m here to deliver some bad news: According to Brittany’s Instagram, the actual episode where the wedding will occur doesn’t come for another couple weeks. I’m so, so sorry. 

Eventually, at Ariana’s birthday party, Sandoval completely cowers to Jax and gives our sweaty, overgrown Disney villain the on-camera, groveling apology he needed. Jax gets to act like the big man (“It’s squashed, water under the bridge, bro”), and moments later in his confessional admits it is definitely not squashed, it is not water under the bridge, but he just had to act like it was in order to move things along. Also, you can’t cry “all I want is an apology,” get a genuine one, and then not accept it without looking like a complete ass. But it’s like Jax thinks whatever he says in a confessional doesn’t apply to the overall impression he leaves viewers with during a season. Because, again, he is a moron. 

So Sandoval is back in as a best man, and Ariana can officially tell Brittany she’s in as a bridesmaid. Whatever. I hate this wedding. Moments later, Jax and Brittany call Lance Bass, who’s now officiating their wedding after the public found out their original pastor was a hateful homophobe, to discuss the ceremony. Just to make it clear how little Jax has learned from any of this—really, from anything, ever—he jokingly suggests Lance, who is gay, wear “multicolored robes” to the wedding. This man is disgusting, and it’s increasingly difficult to give Brittany a pass; she’s right there, grimacing yet guffawing alongside him, acting like it’s the funniest thing anyone’s ever said. 

This season is so dark. It’s got me turning against Brittany, and I remember a time when that seemed impossible. The sentiment behind Brittany’s addition to VPR used to be something along the lines of “maybe she’ll be good for Jax,” and then it became “maybe we can save her from Jax,” or even “maybe this girl can take down Jax.” But she’s in it. She’s standing by her man, and when that man has absolutely no self-awareness or concern for anyone besides himself, that’s the wrong call. Jax has done a lot of bad things: cheated on his partners, lied to people in his life, slept with his friend’s girlfriend, stolen, physically assaulted people. And it’s like, now that he’s not being outrageously awful, he thinks he’s a “good person.” Saying hurtful things or supporting someone who says hurtful things without so much as acknowledging that anyone aside from himself matters, by comparison, is nothing! He wants the Most Improved ribbon, we should all be giving him a pass! Really, we’re all complicit here: Jax has gotten so many passes over the years that he can’t believe this is the thing that people are standing their ground on. 

It seemed like Brittany might stand on that higher moral ground and bring Jax up with her, but clearly there’s a sense that he’s come as far as he can and she’s backsliding a bit to make it work. And there’s another couple who are echoing parts of this pattern: Raquel and James. In this week’s B plot, Raquel goes out with her friends for a night of fun and drunkenly ignores her phone for the evening, prompting James to text her an unstoppable litany of insults.

The girls tell her she’s being verbally abused, because she is, and she shouldn’t stand for it, which she shouldn’t. Eventually, Raquel confronts James about his reaction. And… he defends himself. He only did that because he was drunk, he’s never mean to her when he’s sober, he says. (Also, keep in mind he had quit drinking for the… I don’t know, millionth time, when this season started.) The two get a little weepy together and he swears he’s really going to stop this time (after yelling at her and previously telling her she caused him to lash out, of course). 

Feels unlikely! And it sounds all too familiar: A dude prone to hostile tirades and offensive rages and a partner who struggles to amend that behavior, while ultimately accepting “it is what it is,” as so many reality TV stars like to say in their confessionals. Which, of course, just means they’re disengaging from the conflict. Excluding themselves from the narrative, if you will. But that’s not how it works, and Brittany has found that out this year, what with VPR fans slightly souring on her. She was universally beloved by the cast and audience, but you roll around with pigs—and Jax is definitely a pig—you get dirty. James hasn’t earned quite the same reputation as Jax yet, but he’s well on his way. And Raquel would be wise to take note. And not for the show, good god, but because she’s a human being who shouldn’t be spoken to this way, and certainly shouldn’t want other girls and women to think her’s is a positive relationship, so long as her boyfriend doesn’t get too drunk. 

(While I can’t defend any of James’ behavior in this episode, he says what I’ve been thinking all season:) 

As I said, VPR is getting increasingly dark. I suppose things were supposed to feel comparatively lighter as the crew heads to a castle in Kentucky (Kiiiiiintucky!) for the wedding, where Jax continues to find ways to demote Sandoval for his previous infarction (he’s now Tom No. 2 and isn’t allowed to stand as close to Jax). Jax is like a mall security cop: Give him the tiniest amount of authority, which he knows he never stands to get again, and he will abuse it as much as possible. We get it, you child, it’s your birthday party and you want to pass out invitations to everyone except the kid who beat you at dodgeball. And then once you bless him with an invitation, you won’t give him any cake. 

This needs to end; we need to take this man’s power away. But buckle down friends; we’re entering the home stretch. Of course, I’m sure Jax will find something to get mad about afterward, too. 

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*First Published: Mar 5, 2020, 12:43 pm