In the opening moments of Tuesday night’s Vanderpump Rules Season 8 premiere, a random TomTom employee solemnly informs new girl Dayna: “He has a new girl every week, why else would he work here?” The “he” is fellow newcomer and TomTom “manager” Max, who slept with Dayna the night before filming started. This sort of fourth-wall-breaking aside peppered last night’s episode, where more than just the extras had to reckon with the undeniable truth that they were filming a television show. The same television show I was watching and would later review. The same television show that helped most of them buy million-dollar homes between seasons until production was all but forced to change the format and let these dummies graduate into some semblance of functioning adulthood.
There wasn’t a more fitting example of VPR’s sudden onset puberty than a conversation between Lisa Vanderpump and Lala, at the ever-ugly Villa Rosa. Needing a reason to be involved in a show named after the titular Lisa Vanderpump and her many, many Los Angeles eateries, Lala petitioned the cocktail baroness for a new purpose in life. Vanderpump agreed that Lala should pivot, considering she owns more private jets than her boss, and she instead gives Lala a “volunteering” position at Vanderpump Dogs. That the infamous dog shelter that toppled Lisa Vanderpump’s Real Housewives career being where she sticks her purposeless castmates is an irony not lost on me. But the uneven power balance between them was proof that things are changing—and swiftly—on Vanderpump Rules.
Aspiring actors slash waiters, once cast for their messy interpersonal relationships and prolific sex lives, have long since become the most famous reality television stars Bravo has ever produced. While she still serves as a producer, you can’t help but feel the unease in Lisa Vanderpump as she looks down at her creations and realizes they are swiftly climbing up her lofty summit. Lala eventually cries and thanks Vanderpump for “taking a chance on her.” What she really meant to say was: “Thank you for casting me on this television show.” But like the audience, Vanderpump knows the subtext.
Elsewhere in West Hollywood, a significant amount of time has seemed to pass since this stable of hot trainwrecks last screamed at each other across my television screen. Within minutes, the audience is led through four different, equally ugly Valley Village homes: Tom and Ariana’s, Tom and Katie’s, Jax and Brittany’s, and Kristen, her mania, and Carter’s. Before jumping into specifics, I’d first like to mention how equally I detest the homes I was forced to tour in this premiere. The interior design skills, like this cast’s self-awareness, is extremely lacking. All-white interiors, glass wall sconces, Wayfair pallet furniture—someone get these losers a decorator! (Or at least, delete their Pinterest accounts please.)
But like Vanderpump’s fears of Lala’s private jet, these homes are an uncomfortable reminder that things are changing quickly for this cast, and production doesn’t seem sure of how to handle it. For instance, Lala has a private jet, I’ve established this. Randall’s money—and her frequent spending of it—are somehow too ostentatious for Vanderpump to sensibly stick her in a cloth napkin sewn into the shape of a SUR uniform. Jax, meanwhile, has been on this show for much longer than Lala. By now, if their agents are competent enough, they should be making more than the day-rates they likely earned in Season 1. Not to mention that his home was purchased for almost $2 million dollars. Yet unlike Lala, he needs to “bartend” at SUR during the filming calendar because he needs to “save up for a wedding.” The logic falls apart completely!
Also, Jax looks much better than the last time he’s been on television! Perhaps his narcissism finally reached the point where he’s moisturizing and trading hyaluronic acid and BHA recommendations with Tom Sandoval (unlikely), or there’s something worse at work. I’ll let that speculation hang in the air, for now! And speaking of Sandoval, he also broke the fourth wall frequently in the premiere because of his “demotion” from being a best man in Jax’s wedding. Besides delivering an iconic aside, “He demoted me from best man to groomsman because I wouldn’t cancel my flight for Mother’s Day,” Sandoval admits to his friends that Jax will hold the most power “this summer” (read: season) because of his wedding to Brittany. In writing this, I see how little I’ve mentioned Brittany, but what purpose did she serve in last night’s episode than to serve as the prize object Jax gets to point to when discussing his many accomplishments? Want better, Brittany!
I’d also like to touch down for a bit on the most important television character in the history of our species: Scheana fucking Shay. Sorry to the rest of the cast—and I hope I don’t sound ridiculous—but she is the centerpiece of this show. Lala certainly thinks that honor is hers, and Stassi probably holds the most material power over her friends, but the structure of the show would completely fall apart if Scheana Shay was not bulldozing her way through scenes, delivering devastating monologues about her divorce, neediness, or commitment to chunky sunglasses. Consider her on-camera “introduction” to fellow newbie Brett, who she probably slept with, in the months leading up to filming. While explaining the lay of the land at SUR, she randomly interjects: “I’m divorced, it’s no big deal, it doesn’t define me.” Her naked flirtation and complete lack of self-awareness center the show’s frequent mania, grounding it in something recognizable and desperate and utterly beautiful. She also delivers an instant classic in her confessional after, spoken with more gravitas than any Oscar-winning actres: “He ghosted me. I literally bought him an Apple Watch to show him how much I cared about him and he couldn’t even use it to text me.” Scheana has more gravitas in just one fingernail than Meryl Streep could muster after a lifetime in Hollywood!
There’s a particularly harrowing moment at a housewarming party later in the episode, where Scheana’s latest boy toys find themselves stranded in Tom and Katie’s kitchen together. Like your average Los Angelos douchebags, they spend the majority of their time on-camera calling Scheana clingy, desperate, a bad kisser, overwhelming. Never mind that Max is technically her “boss” in principle, or that Brett first hooked up with Scheana after playing Scattergories at her dismal westside apartment. (No word on if the stuffed animal was present.) Scheana bursts into tears, both frown, and I’m sure the lot went on to have sex many, many more times.
And then, of course, there’s Stassi, who’s probably undergone the most severe transformation since first joining the cast in Season 1. She’s still a wreck, but there’s a peace to her that is refreshing, especially after six-ish seasons spent screaming at friends and storming out of parties. Beau, her now-fiancée, has also been upgraded from boyfriend to professional boyfriend. Good for him! I hate to define her growth by the man in her life, but I do believe he centers her in a way that many of her past partners—Jax, specifically—could not. Also, in his first confessional, he calls her out for using comedy and the macabre to cover up what she’s really feeling. Look at these adults! I was gagged though, when Stassi later meets up with Vanderpump, that her former boss is still committed to denigrating her castmates, even the ones she claims to have a fondness for. Repeatedly, she insists in her confessional that the name of Stassi’s book (Next Level Basic) eludes her, even though its a New York Times bestseller. It shocked me in how boldly rude it was! She was already thrown from RHOBH for acting better than everyone—hopefully, she doesn’t let her reputation sour in her last safe haven on television.
Other married people, Tom and Katie, are as gross as ever. In their first scene, they spend the majority of it talking like babies to each other while nailing MySpace selfies to the wall. I can’t remember what they actually talked about—something about his dick not working and their abysmal sex life—because I was fixated on the K & T letters sitting on their mantle. That sort of Home Goods energy is exactly what I expect from these two, and I’d like to see less of it!
What else? James and Raquel were pretty absent this episode, save for Raquel’s claim that James bursts into tears every time she puts her SUR napkin dress on. Tom and Ariana seem fine, even though she barely spoke more than a sentence this episode. It appeared last season she was looking to pull back, but I did relate to her energy when she stood in the corner of the explosive housewarming party later in the episode and frowned. Same, Ariana! Kristen remains a beautiful trainwreck, committed to death spiraling at least three times a year on national television. Is she with Carter? Isn’t she? I couldn’t care less. I will eat whatever she does up! And yes, I did laugh (even though I shouldn’t have) when three separate people asked her: “But how is it working out for you?” The “it” here means many things: Carter, her life, her death spiral, her place on this show. Keep it up Kristen, but while you’re doing so, please run as far as you can from Clearly Bad Man Carter, who is definitely manipulating you!
Vanderpump Rules is changing. Judging by last night’s episode, producers still have a ways to go before figuring out what to do with all these hot monsters with millions of dollars to spend on houses and Fashion Nova bandage dresses. But like last night’s episode also proved, I could probably watch this show for a million years, and then some. It is, without a doubt, a landmark in reality television history, and the alchemy of its cast is frankly unparalleled. The future of its progenitor, the Real Housewives franchise, is more uncertain than ever. But like these things tend to go, the child grows weak while their parent withers. Here’s to puberty, and uncertain future, and a season of Scheana’s chunky glasses covering her tear-smudged mascara!
- Stassi is still the funniest cast member because she said Scheana would move her dead body out of the way to take a selfie on a good side.
- Tom Schwartz cannot talk for more than five minutes without mentioning his dick problems and lack of a sex life.
- Glad to see Lala is doing well on her sober journey.
- RIP Stassi’s grandma.
- Person on a television show: “I feel like I’ve been lied to!”
- Kristen: “I want to secretly judge people and have like, lunch and stuff.”
- Pete is so fucking creepy.
- Speaking of Peter, how does he manage to look the exact same and also unrecognizable each new season?
- I’m screaming at Scheana immediately begins picking lint off of a completely different man than the one she just entered with seconds ago, completely aware the girl he just slept with is standing right next to her.
- [Scheana enters room wearing oversized sunglasses.]
- Lala reading Carter just... absolutely renewed my spirit.
- “I just crave honesty from people?”