Vanderpump Rules is a show immune to spoilers. Whether you jump into the darkness at episode 1, when its bone-chilling, pre-Botox’ed cast was just a group of sweet summer children, or join us for the most recent Juvederm’ed and married-off moments in season 6, you will understand the world for what it is: a clusterfuck of young people who cannot stop self-sabotaging and moving laterally, measuring out their lives with glasses of pinot grigio and doses of Adderall. A man nearing 40 steals a pair of sunglasses on a beach vacation. A grown woman drinks from a baby bottle. It doesn’t matter what happens, really, or what’s happened before, because every season delivers a unique tragedy that pulls from the past like a black hole of lacking progress. It’s like if that line “I wanted to destroy something beautiful” from Fight Club crawled out of the primordial ooze to become a reality TV show about the beautiful, self-immolating youths—which would make Fight Club actually good.
The premise is: Lisa Vanderpump—a British import and Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member who is like if Mary Poppins drank rosé and was really fucking rich—owns a bunch of bars and restaurants in West Hollywood, one of which is called SUR Restaurant. SUR stands for Sexy Unique Restaurant, which means the restaurant’s name is actually Sexy Unique Restaurant Restaurant. And at SUR, the ambience isn’t the only sexy unique thing: the staff are all hot and desperate to be famous by any means necessary. And they are all having sex with each other. Without further adieu, meet Vanderpump Rules.
That the show begins with an opening montage soundtracked by a nearly operatic electronic mix with the lyrics “you know that it’s our time / these are the best days of our lives” is, perhaps, the greatest theme song troll of our time. Our heroes are 20 and 30-somethings who rent one-bedroom, carpeted apartments in L.A. — the kind where if you use the microwave and the A/C at the same time, you lose power entirely. They work for tips and they do Doritos commercials. So, these are, in fact, not the best days of their lives. (At least, hopefully).
The opening titles also show the cast in slow-motion, scantily clad and pouring drinks in what is meant to be a sexy way. They are framed as gods, making it all the more thrilling as we watch them cry and fight in a dingy alley, sucking down cigarettes and cheap vodka, coming closer and closer to the sun. We want to see our gods torn down, even when they are community college dropouts from Florida. And we want to write about it, even if we have a useless English degree from Rutgers.
Here, I will be your Dante through the inferno of Vanderpump Rules. Through the show’s wildest moments, you will learn of the key players and keepers of darkness in this world. By the end of our tour through hell, you, too, can be a Pumphead if you so choose. And oh, my sweet one. You should so choose.
Let us go then, you and I, like patrons searching for a table at Sexy Unique Restaurant Restaurant. Here are the top, most insane moments that will prime you for viewing Vanderpump Rules.
The Vegas Strip Mall Brawl
In season 1 of Vanderpump Rules, a cheating conflict I won’t fully spoil arises between the show’s original kingpins: Jax and Stassi. Jax is a 30-something model-bartender when we meet him, chiseled into traditional attractiveness and classic stupidity. He was the model for the cover of Assassin’s Creed and once graced the pages of Trump magazine, if that gives you any idea of the aesthetic and identity of this person. He’s a player and a hoe, known for being as promiscuous as he is devious. In this moment, we find Jax wearing a chunky white knit cardigan (bare-chested with nothing underneath, like a sexy, unique Paddington) and in Vegas to crash the birthday party of Stassi, his recent ex. Stassi — young, blonde, beautiful, and always demanding attention, especially on her “fucking birthday!” — dumped Jax after cheating rumors swirled, so naturally he drove hours to Vegas to show up to her birthday dinner uninvited and proceeded to incite bedlam in a strip-mall parking lot, literally charging like a bull, ripping his chunky sweater off to be inexplicably shirtless for it all. He asks Stassi’s new guy “how’s my cock taste?” for that extra oomph. Why? We could be here for days. The lack of impulse control is just — *kisses fingers* — sensational.
Jax’s Nose Job Journey
As the seasons move forward, Jax continues to progress physically (never emotionally), somehow accruing more tissue on every inch of his body as time passes. Jax is a liar. Maybe not pathologically, because it doesn’t seem that he believes his own lies, but definitely compulsively. Here is a short list of things he’s lied about: his name, his past, job prospects, jail time, shoplifting, cheating, maybe cancer, and probably the reason for his multiple nose jobs. You see, Jax seems to be perennially “on one.” The cast chalks it up to attitude, but one might surmise that it’s a bit more artificial than that. We see his doctor reference his “breathing problems” and deviated septum, but one wonders—how did it become so? Well, possibly by putting shit up his nose. Jax undergoes many surgeries throughout the series, each time acting as if he’s seriously ill and demands care from a moral standpoint. He claims once that he has a growth on his pectoral muscle, maybe a result of all the supplements the ice queen Stassi throws down the sink as she calls him stupid and useless in twenty different ways. He seems to fake a cancer scare here, but we may never know. We can only watch as his septum ebbs and flows.
Struggle Musicians, et. al.
Vanderpump Rules is a show bursting at the seams with talent. Our heroes pursue everything you can in L.A.: clothing lines, fitness apps, modeling, acting, beauty blogs, and, of course, careers in music. Scheana Marie Shay, who once gave an 8-minute interview to a gossip outlet after seemingly hooking up with John Mayer exactly one time, is the first to dip a toe into the musical waters, hitting the studio to create pop music she hopes will make her the next Lady Gaga. She self-admittedly can’t sing, but that doesn’t stop her from going to the studio to yelp and literally moan (“like a porn star!” her producer directs) to create hits like “Good As Gold” and “That’s What I Like.” She performs one song maybe 80 times, over and over, on the group’s gay pride parade float, claiming that “the gays” love her music. Oh.
Of course, Scheana isn’t the only one: fresh-faced newcomers DJ James Kennedy and Lala Kent liken themselves to “Eminem and Dr. Dre,” collaborating on hits like “Ain’t Nobody Got Me Feelin’ Like I’m Feelin’ You,” which sounds exactly how you think it sounds. The British James calls himself “White Kanye” while Lala repeatedly calls herself “gangster” and defends her “man,” so, I mean, you get it. You’ll see the aging nice guy bartender Tom Sandoval dabble in music too — he’s arguably the most technically skilled — but the embarrassment isn’t as high, so it’s less fun to sing along to.
“IT’S NOT ABOUT THE PASTA!” is something you may have recently heard shouted in jest, and if you haven’t, you need a whole new life, obviously. In the most recent season of Pump Rules, Lala, James, and their friend Logan dine at Sweet Chick, where they aggressively day drink, which is something no one does at Sweet Chick. Lala tells James a story about eating his girlfriend Raquel’s pasta at the club and James loses it in a fantastic fashion, screaming that her man is fat and will leave her, leading her to leave the restaurant. He chases her outside, emphatically yelling “it’s not about the pasta!” The debacle is just plain fun to watch, but the real joy is in the mystery: fans speculated that “pasta” was their code for cocaine, because who the fuck eats pasta in the club? To be fair, the “club” is a Sexy Unique Restaurant Restaurant. The cast claims it was really about the pasta. You be the judge.
All reality shows need villains, but Vanderpump Rules makes everyone a villain at some point. At the beginning of season 5, Lala and James have been ostracized: her as someone who fucks people’s husbands and he as just a complete asshole. So naturally they show up to an event where everyone who hates them is in attendance and proceed to engage the cast in a hurling of insults, then drinks. Lala darkly body shames Katie, Stassi, and the others: “I see we haven’t been working on our summer bodies.” She claims she taunts when she’s bullied, and Katie, known as “tequila katie” for her drunken outbursts wherein she calls people whores, has definitely bullied Lala. In this situation, no one is innocent. And no one wins. And everyone gets a drink thrown on them. Because this is sexy and unique.
There’s no shortage of physical violence on Vanderpump Rules, whether it’s shoving, slapping, drink-throwing, or forehead punching. It happens, and it happens everywhere: the dark alley behind SUR, inside SUR, at Lisa Vanderpump’s rich friend’s restaurants, in Mexico. If it’s a place in L.A., the odds are the cast has fucked shit up there. In the second season of the show, a cheating storyline so explosive I won’t super get into it rocks the cast, moving slowly and painfully as we watch in horror. You can imagine Jax is at the center, so Stassi is involved, and at one point, she backhands Kristen on the neck. Later, sweet Tom Sandoval punches Jax squarely in the forehead, slowly muttering right before like he’s casting a curse: “Jax…it’s like you don’t feel anything. Do you feel this?!”
We’d be here for days if I covered all the petty actual jabs on the show. They’re thrilling, though. Always deserved, bringing a guilty pleasure catharsis to the viewers as we watch these low-tier gods and goddesses tear each other down, vying for some sun they’ll never reach — and even now, as they do become more famous, it only gets worse. Welcome to hell. Raise your glasses high.