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Two Separate Birthdays Bring Everything Together On Vanderpump Rules

Trading WeHo for the lighter locales of Sonoma County and Montauk, this week finally SURves up something good.

Vanderpump Rules starts 2017 off right with its lightest, most enjoyable episode yet. Freed from West Hollywood and its suffocating, underwhelming storylines (looking at you, Katie's wedding death march!), the SURvers make the most of their time in Sonoma County and Montauk.

To the rankings!

  1. Lala
    It's not technically an issue, but if there's even a twinge of darkness slowing things down, it's because of Lala. While she doesn't formally make an appearance, her absence from Ariana's party and from the SUR hostess booth has everyone looking a little worse for wear. They're either frustrated she flaked out on them, or legitimately concerned for her safety because of an overbearing boyfriend, who may or may not even exist, or "Tall Greys."

    My issue isn't with the narrative. It's that she talks a big game but couldn't be bothered to put in an appearance. Even Scheana went on a trip in which she stood a 60% chance of mysteriously disappearing.

  2. Scheana
    She goes on the Montauk trip as a last-ditch effort to save her place in the coven. And yet, if she were really that concerned about the future of her friendships, she'd be less of a Debbie Downer and just do the green tea shot.
  3. James
    To be clear: James looks great and I almost believe he's been sober for two weeks. Still though, he seems to be either on the cusp of actual change, or putting it off entirely. Instead of exploring an AA program, therapy, or the like, he meets Arthur (his good friend and mentor, as well as the former general manager of Pump) for ice cream -- his self-described new addiction -- and to ask for a job at Arthur's new place. It's light-hearted and quasi-flirty (there's a weird, nervous energy in the scene that feels like it's building to a kiss, or something) while also more than a little sad.

    To his credit, though, James does give us the most insight into Lala's vaguely abusive relationship we've gotten all season. So there's that.

  4. Tom Sandoval
    Sandoval really turns it out for Ariana's birthday. The RV could potentially turn into a crime scene, but for the time being, it's a bet that seems to have paid off. However, I'm going to have to state the obvious and say that Tom gets the episode's best-worst line. He's drunk, and he's frustrated Ariana doesn't want to have more sex, and in front of Ariana's brother, he says, "I'm not jerking off as an option. It's the only thing I have. It's all I have!" So close -- literally.
  5. Jax
    He's farting in a small space. He's in a compression vest he hasn't washed in a week that smells like garbage as he recovers from his breast reduction. He wants to lick Brittany's feet and says he'll leave her when she stops letting him do so. (Because, after all, what is a healthy meaningful relationship without daily sexual contact?) He doesn't drink at the vineyard because he's not a fan of wine, but will next time they go to a "vodka vineyard." He's a middle-of-the-road goofy mess.
  6. Brittany
    She's living her redneck dream and her best life; another nice showing from this season's constant saving grace.
  7. Katie and Tom Schwartz
    Removed from their wedding and burp cloth invitations, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Finally, with some breathing room, we're seeing a more relaxed version of this supposedly happy couple. Gone are the days of Katie angrily eating hunks of lettuce over the sink post-fight! Instead we get her talking about Santorini with a Greek god bartender and stealing a grapefruit from the bar. It's magic.
  8. Stassi and Ariana
    Nobody has a better time than the birthday girls, whose birthdays are the means for this week's strong outing.

    So Stassi briefly bursts into tears because the three girlfriends she's on vacation celebrating with are married, engaged, and in a healthy relationship. She saves it by begging a seagull to shit on her because she wants -- no, needs -- some good luck. Which could have been useful considering her birthday tradition of skinny-dipping was cut short by a lighthouse and a nearby crowd. In any event, it's a nice return to form.

    Then there's Ariana, who's finally letting her hair down and having a good time. I'm not her biggest fan, but drunken Ariana is this week's high tequila-mark. She's funny and relaxed talking to Brittany about sex, ("Girls don't always want to talk about tampons...and Bridget Jones's Diary. That's why we're wasted at Nascar talking about the Bone Zone.") and she's even better eating a hot dog in one hand and a steak in the other. Now if she could do us a real solid and get her brother to move out, that'd be great.

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