Monday night’s Vanderpump Rules gave us everything we could hypothetically want from Bravo’s televised safari into the alcohol-soaked den of iniquity that is West Hollywood. The episode, “Karma's a Bitch,” opened with a woman throwing a drink at her truly baffled ex-boyfriend and ended with a hulk of a flailing bartender having a meltdown in the middle of WeHo street, only to storm off into the night and punch a phone booth (yes, there is still one phone booth in Los Angeles and Jax Taylor found it). Yet, there’s one problem here; all of this loud, boozy drama should have fans at the the edge of their seat, but, instead, it’s simply a bizarre form of reality TV deja vu.
Out of the gate, it’s important to remember these bookend explosions stem from a simple misunderstanding, the most boring form of conflict, and Jax’s detective skills, the least trustworthy investigation tools known to man. In last week’s “The Smoking Gun,” the guys ask James Kennedy if he “hung out” with ex-girlfriend Kristen Doute the previous evening, despite the fact they both have significant others.
James, trapped somewhere between abject drunkenness and a nasty daytime hangover, gives a very earnest affirmative because everyone was hanging out with Kristen last night. When it becomes clear “hang out” is a euphemism for adulterous sex, James freaks out, because it seems like nothing actually happened. Instead of recognising the DJ is incapable of lying in his current inebriated, dehydrated state, Jax tells everyone James admitted to “fooling around” with Kristen. That isn’t real.
This mountain of truly uninteresting lies then bleeds into “Karma,” which builds upon the non-drama with new versions of old stories. Kristen possibly cheating on her boyfriend Brian Carter with DJ James Kennedy is a literal copy of a storyline from season 4, as everyone keeps saying. Carter says it, Kristen says it, flashback footage from the year 2015 says it. Maybe the entire dilemma would seem a tad more original if Vanderpump Rules itself wasn’t determined to prove how repetitive this calamity is. And, even if the mystery of Kristen, James, and the sex pillows wasn’t a sequel to past plot lines, the pair’s enraged screaming match simply sounds like an echo from their 2017 reunion show spat, down to the cruel insults.
Jax’s episode-closing meltdown suffers from the same weaknesses. During the blow-up, Jax screams curses at boss Lisa Vanderpump, gives all of SUR the middle finger, and gets kicked out of the venue that has been paying his bills for nearly a decade. When Tom Sandoval attempts to calm Jax down, he responds with an unintelligible rant before finally storming away and punching that poor phone booth. Confusingly, Jax doesn’t even seem inebriated during all the yelling. Instead the whole scene has either the air of desperation for attention or for this whole reality TV thing to simply be over and done with.
Yet, we’ve already seen Jax have a full-on public meltdown before. In fact, we saw one just this season. In “Back In The Saddle,” Jax exits a different Hollywood bar to have a surprise screaming match. His partner in yelling that time was girlfriend Brittany Cartwright, who called her philandering beau to accuse him of sleeping with Faith Stowers more than once. By the end of the conversation, Jax was screeching at the top of his lungs at his girlfriend to “SHUT UP” and stomping around the street.
The only difference between “Saddle” and “Karma” is how Jax’s meltdown ends. Earlier this season, he calmly returned to the bar after terrifying everyone. This time around, Jax fully exits the situation, going so far as to rip off his mic. That’s why, when you watch Jax run off into the Hollywood hills, it’s difficult to not also think about a different season 6 episode, “Screams And Queens.” In that instalment, Stassi sprints out of her own birthday party screaming into the night. No one chased her before and no one chases Jax now. Everything is the same and no one is having a good time.
That’s why the only way to fix Vanderpump Rules is with a true shake-up of the cast. During last night’s drama the only reaction shot that actually mattered belonged to brand new hostess Billie Lee. Although the cameras repeatedly checked in on Katie Maloney and Scheana Marie’s eye rolling from a SUR couch, all I wanted to know was what Billie thought of this nonsense. And, has she been on any dates lately? Raise your hand if you would rather hear about Billie’s burgeoning WeHo love life than Jax’s “little fucking baby” behaviour, to quote Lisa Vanderpump. Oh, yes, it’s everyone.
Similarly anything involving the very attractive Adam Spott, SUR’s new barback, is better than Kristen Vs. James Round 34 or Jax’s temper tantrum. Adam has barely said five words out of his perfectly square jaw, and has still managed to fuel chaos between Scheana, Jax, and Brittany. Now, imagine what would happen if he was actually given some screen time. Adam even comes with unexpected Bachelor National connections — what fun.
Historically, Bravo reality shows are terrible at letting go of their OG cast members. That’s why the women of The Real Housewives Of The O.C. have been having the exact same arguments for well over a decade, or why Real Housewives Of New York opened season 10 with nearly an identical fight to last year’s Bethenny Frankel-Ramona Singer snipe-fests. Vanderpump, one of the net’s decidedly youngest shows, doesn’t want to fall into that same trap. And, it doesn’t even have to, since Lisa Vanderpump is never going to stop hiring the hot new things who flood Hollywood with dreams of fame.
It’s officially time to let the most famous monsters of SUR off of their merry-go-round of drunken madness, and hand the reins over to the next generation. Just ask rising Vanderpump Rules queen Lala Kent.