- Vanderpump Rules -We Need To Reevaluate Stassi's Relationship With Jax On Season 1 Of 'Vanderpump Rules'
Welcome to Retro Recaps, where we revisit your favorite old shows and give them the modern recap treatment they always deserved. We've done, to just name a few, Lost's "The Constant," Gilmore Girls' dance marathon episode, that bonkers One Tree Hill episode where a dog ate a heart, The Real World pilot, the RHOC pilot, and the Gallery Girls pilot. (Check out all our Retro Recaps here.) Today, we dive into Vanderpump Rules. Caution: snark ahead.
There has been a trend recently of reevaluating women who were wrongly villainized. Monica Lewinsky, Britney Spears, and even early '10s tabloid fixture Courtney Stodden have been looked at under a new microscope of feminism and found to be treated very shabbily during their first go-round in the public consciousness. I think it’s time to give that same treatment to one of reality televisions great villains: Stassi Schroeder from Season 1 of Vanderpump Rules.
I’m going to put a huge asterisk on everything I’m about to say, which is that everything that Stassi Schroeder did to get herself fired from the show is abhorrent and she should not be so easily forgiven for weaponizing the police against her black costar (her only black costar) Faith Stowers. I think she got the reckoning she deserved for that. However, rewatching the fourth episode in the first season, “Vegas with a Vengeance,” which originally aired January 28, 2013 because we are all as old as Katie Maloney’s wedge haircut, the thing I was struck by was how wrong both the cast and the public were about Stassi at the time.
The central issue of that first season was whether or not Jax Taylor cheated on Stassi and knocked up a girl in Vegas. He denied it, but Frank, his fellow bartender, told Stassi about it and then went on to date her. Everyone else in the cast took Jax’s side and told Stassi that Frank was lying to get in her pants. I feel like the term “gaslighting” is overused and often misused but the idea that everyone, including us at home, believed Jax Taylor, a man who lies like a drunk freshman on a puke-strewn dorm bathroom floor, over Stassi, is unfathomable.
The episode starts with Stassi planning her 24th birthday party in Las Vegas, something that has become a tradition among her friends. Kristen Doute is mad that Jax has been disinvited after their recent breakup but that Frank, Stassi’s new piece, is coming with them. Everyone is so pissed off that Katie and Kristen refuse to let Stassi ride with them if Frank is coming and Toms Sandoval and Schwartz also won’t let him ride with them because they’re firmly #TeamJax. That means Stassi has to take the four-hour trek with Frank, a man with an acre of head but only a half-acre of face.
Scheana Shay (née Jancan), with a speaking voice seven octaves higher than the rasp she will settle into, is not invited because at this point she and Stassi still hate each other. Instead, we see her with her future husband Mike Shay serving him a cupcake for his own birthday. Wearing a pair of dangling earrings so long that they could chafe off her nipples, she tells him that she’s not getting any younger and that he better put a ring on her finger. Oh, honey. We’ve seen into your future. He does and it does not end well. If only I could slap a “Molly, you in danger girl” GIF over this whole scene.
There’s a small subplot where Stassi says she invites her real friends to her birthday first so they can get their shifts off from Lisa Vanderpump and then asks the B squad second so by that time they have to stay and work. We see this in action as Jeremy and Jen, two SURvers of color, ask Lisa for time off and she says, “No way!” The less said about this clearly manufactured storyline (and the people of color being the B-squad) the better.
We see Kristen and Katie on their car ride together to Vegas and Katie says, “I might look like a huge asshole, but I’m not the one being a bad friend here.” Her stance is that she is telling Stassi the hard truth that she doesn’t want to hear, that Jax is telling the truth and Frank is only telling her what she wants to hear to get into her pants. (Stassi’s answer: “So. A lot of people want to get into my pants.”)
The thing is, Katie, the meanest person on television, is being the asshole here. Her whole argument is predicated on the idea that Jax is telling the truth, which we all know now he is not. So she’s not being a good friend to Stassi, she’s actually being an awful person by believing Jax over Stassi. Also, showing up to her birthday with a scowl is not being a good friend. At some point Katie says she’s not going to sabotage Stassi’s birthday, but isn’t that just what she’s doing? Just being there and passive aggressively pissing on everything is sabotaging it. It’s being an asshole with a bunch of bad tattoos below her elbows.
This is when we find out that Jax has secretly come to Vegas with the Toms and perpetual bridesmaid Peter Madrigal so he can surprise Stassi and win her back. No one over the age of 25 thinks this is a good idea and considering Jax is 33 at the time, he should know better. When they arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (plug!) he tells Peter, “Did I do drugs. Yes. Did I sleep with a prostitute? Yes. Did I get a girl pregnant in Vegas? Yes! Did I get a girl pregnant in Vegas four months ago. No. Did I get a girl pregnant in Vegas three years ago before I met Stassi? Yes.” Is all of that supposed to acquit him somehow? (Also, the last time I was in Vegas 20 years ago I also did drugs and slept with a prostitute but the good thing about being gay is no one has to Postmates a Plan B the next day.)
The party officially kicks off when Stassi and the girls go to see the Chippendales dancers with the guys. There is a lot of homophobic-tinged comments where the guys are like “Ew, ball sweat,” but that said, I wouldn’t go see that show and I have been a lover of the male form since I first saw Aquaman in SuperFriends somewhere in 1982. It’s just a bunch of women screaming at a decibel that could shatter an eardrum made entirely of whatever Wonder Woman’s bullet-proof bracelets are made out of. (See, I told you. Big SuperFriends fan.)
The funniest exchange comes from the woman sitting next to the crew in the front row who is convinced that Peter, with his handsome face, huge chest, and greasy ponytail is one of the dancers who has been planted in the audience as a surprise. Peter is by far the most male-stripper looking person to ever been on television and that includes the specials when Sally Jesse Raphael would have male exotic dancers on her daytime talk show.
They then go to dinner at a Moroccan restaurant and Stassi thanks everyone for taking time off to show up to her birthday, and it’s very sweet. Then Jax shows up wearing only a winter-white chunky knit sweater with no shirt on underneath it. We all now know that Stassi’s birthday is in June (because it’s always after the Pride episode), which means that Jax is wearing a sweater in weather that is hotter than Channing Tatum’s grundle after his set as a Chippendales dancer.
He shows up and things immediately get awkward. He starts telling Frank to “suck my dick” and then tells him to “taste it,” and he means his dick on Stassi where his dick used to be. Jax really wants people to taste his dick, which sort of reminds me of when you take a sip of spoiled milk and go, “This is nasty. Taste it.” Tom Schwartz tells Stassi “Fuck you” and then pours a beer on her head, Frank is trying to defend himself, and Kristen is screaming at Frank, “Why did you start this shit.” Dude, he’s just trying to have a nice time with his girlfriend in Vegas and all of her friends are accusing him of lying and believing a guy who spreads more worthless fiction than James Patterson.
Everything moves outside and Tom Sandoval takes his shirt off to tussle with Frank. Then Jax, who is lit-rally foaming at the mouth, tells Frank that, “He’s a pawn.” Jax then whips off his sweater and charges Frank, who gets low and sort of picks Jax up by his midsection, avoiding his punches and taking a defensive stance. Yes, we call this a fight, but it was more of a tussle. Maybe a little bit of shirtless wrestling which, considering this is a “structured” reality show, sort of just makes it the WWE.
The next time we see Frank, he is also shirtless and I don’t know why all these guys need to take their tops off to wrestle, but there is a whole article about it if you care to wade into these pec-laden waters. Frank gets in a cab, the rest of the crew get into the Hummer limo that even the entire cast of Mob Wives would think is tacky, and Stassi is, as she says, “left covered in beer and alone.”
The next morning, when Kristen and Katie wake up with their respective Toms, Kristen immediately starts chugging out of a third-full handle of Popov vodka. Meanwhile, Stassi is downstairs with the B squad and she says, “I’ve never been so happy to see a group of people in my life.” Frank left because he didn’t want to be around Stassi’s friends who believe Jax over him. Kristen and Katie are talking about the night before and Kristen says, “I need Stassi to get what she put Katie through, what she put our entire group through.” Wait, what?
When I initially watched the show I was like “They’re right. Stassi is awful. She makes everyone call her ‘Queen Stassi’ and go on a trip they can’t afford for her birthday and she calls all the shots.” But now that the truth has come out, I know the real story. It’s not what Stassi put them through, it’s what they put her through.
Let’s think about it. These people passive-aggressively destroyed her birthday and then actively-aggressively destroyed her birthday by inviting Jax, calling her names, and pouring beer on her. They want her to dump nice guy Frank because he’s boring so that she can get back with Jax, a known cheater, philanderer, liar, and drug addict. How was Stassi ever wrong? How was Frank ever wrong? The only person wrong was, well, everyone else for telling Stassi that Jax wasn’t cheating on her, dissembling against her, and then making it out like it was her fault.
Later there is a scene at the club where Stassi goes out with her new friends and when Kristen tries to talk to her she just gets up on a box and starts dancing. Initially when I watched it, I thought, “What a bitch. Stassi won’t even talk to her friend.” Now I’m like, “Good move sister!”
She talks to the girls outside and Kristen says that Stassi is “being a bitch to her.” Oh, you don’t say. Only after you ruined her new relationship, sided with her ex-boyfriend over her, and ruined her all-important birthday. Katie doesn’t like Stassi’s other SUR friends. “They’re only blowing smoke up your ass. It’s temporary,” she says. Stassi has a great rebuttal. “They listen. They listen,” she says. “You sit there defending Jax because our little group is now broken so it’s like you’re annoyed with me. Why don’t you be annoyed with the people who knocked someone up in Vegas not me.”
History has acquitted her. Over the course of seven seasons we’ve seen Jax do all sorts of abominable things (and Stassi has done some too off screen.) But we need to apologize to her for taking the wrong side in every argument. Much like The Wicked Witch of the East, Maleficent, and Cruella, maybe it’s time she got her own sympathetic origin story. Or maybe we just tell her she was right and let her linger in reality TV jail for a lot longer. Yeah, the latter sounds about right.