By Matt Lally, Hollywood.com Staff
As a fan of Lisa Vanderpump, the dolled-up doyenne of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I was primed to tune in to her spin-off, Vanderpump Rules, when it debuted earlier this year, especially after its brilliant trailer of smoldering gazes and extra-slo-mo cocktail spillage. It turns out, however, that Lisa, the boss, plays a somewhat peripheral role on VDP Rules. This is not necessarily a negative though, as the cast of young employees at her resto-lounge (the only word grosser is ""gastropub"") SUR are indeed a more compelling focal point. There is a particular standout in Stassi Schroeder, who just may be the most despicable villain in the history of reality television. This girl is a nightmare.
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Stassi (a reality TV addict who also did a stint on The Amazing Race and on Oxygen's Queen Bee) is so vile that it's incendiary. To watch her speak and act feels like watching Fox News if you're a liberal. You can't believe that someone could position themselves from such a backward set of ethics and you desperately grasp for their true motivation. In Stassi's case the motivation seems to be insecurity, anger, and entitlement. We are introduced to her in the first episode as she makes it known that she does not care for or approve of Scheana, the vowel-laden server we saw on RHOBH as she apologized for sleeping with Eddie Cibrian and thusly destroying the marriage of Brandi Glanville. "Scheana is so far below me in terms of class," says Stassi. "I went to an all-girls boarding school in New Orleans and she's not the kind of person I would ever want to surround myself with." This is Jules Kirby level self-unawareness. She goes on, ""When people come in and I don't like them I try to make them quit. Seriously. I have made girls quit just by being mean because I thought they were assholes.""
Stassi takes the position that she doesn't approve of Scheana as a "homewrecker," "man-stealer," "whore," etc, but, as Lisa suspects, it is likely (guaranteed) that her aversion stems from her insecurity about her relationship with Jax, Sur's lovable dufus bartender. Stassi picks a series of seemingly arbitrary fights over events as innocent as Jax fixing a shift drink for Scheana to slightly more questionable moments like Scheana rubbing sunscreen on his back at the LA Pride Parade, in which SUR has a float (as if Lisa Vanderpump needs to tell the gays where her restaurant is). The fallout from the latter gets so drawn out and overblown that you find yourself pacing around your living room as you watch, yelling intermittently at the TV screen for Stassi to grow up and/or calm down.
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She's a pit bull and what's worse is that her bile is contagious. Not only does she draw her coworkers and supposed besties Kristen and Katie into the suntan lotion fiasco, her jealousy is so infectious that she prompts Kristen to give her boyfriend Tom grief for sleeping with a girl before they even met. Tom then gets chewed out by Lisa for "winding" Kristen up. Tom can see what's going on and articulates it well: "Stassi loves to project her insecurities and what happens is her insecurity spreads like the plague onto Kristen."
The turmoil continues as Stassi breaks up with Jax. She is not being treated in the manner she feels she deserves, yet we get the sense there may be another issue at play, specifically Frank, another bartender (what ever happened to workplaces where fraternization was not encouraged) with whom she starts hooking up immediately after (if not before) the breakup. As Jax confides in Frank about his and Stassi's relationship, Frank encourages him to go out of town for the weekend. Frank gets in there, playing on Stassi's vulnerability. If that wasn't bad enough, when Jax crashes a party at Supper Club and wins Stassi back with some romantic words, Frank dredges up an old skeleton from Jax's closet, accusing him of cheating on Stassi with a pornstar in Las Vegas a couple months earlier and putting a bun in her oven.
The viewer's frustration reaches new heights as you can plainly see Frank is making this up in order to beat Jax out for Stassi's affection. Making it up is perhaps not the right phrase since Jax did in fact get a girl pregnant in Las Vegas, but according to Jax it happened long before he and Stassi got together. What Frank has done is to fudge the timeline. Maybe I'm overconfident in my ability to read people but I believe you can plainly see in Stassi's face that she's been sleeping with Frank when she claims she hasn't, and that Jax is telling the truth with respect to his side of the story. Tom agrees, as do Kristen and Katie, who tell Stassi Frank is making it up to "get in her pants." Obviously. We watch Stassi decide that the allegations are true, accusing Katie and Kristen of disloyalty for giving Jax the benefit of the doubt. As Kristen says, "Stassi wants to believe the rumor is true so she can end the relationship with Jax and it can be his fault and not hers at all." It should be noted that despite their reservations about Jax's guilt, Kristen and Katie have no problem participating when Stassi and Frank spitefully deplete a case of Cristal Jax has been saving for a special occasion.
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The anticipation for an altercation between Frank and Jax is high, and way the promos were cut promises its going to get physical. Unfortunately they're all talk when it comes down to it, although Jax and Frank (and Tom for some reason) do take their shirts off in the parking lot outside Stassi's birthday dinner in Las Vegas (which is always appreciated for this rippled bunch) they never come to, ahem, blows. Stassi's friendship with Kristen and Katie appears to be over, and the only question is how it took this long.
In order to round out the profile, let me call attention to some of the even more unsavory behaviors we've witnessed: Stassi has admitted that the only reason she wants to go to graduate school is to get back under her parents' wing financially, she uses the phrase "boo-ya, winning, suck it" when she perceives to have one an argument with Jax, and she claims to be a descendant of Swedish royalty which, please. Lisa's partner Nathalie has asked repeatedly for Stassi to be fired but Lisa insists on keeping her on purportedly out of respect for Stassi's close friendship with Pandora, Lisa's daughter. But we know, as Lisa does, that this is the Stassi show and as long as we remain masochists for her vitriol, she's not going anywhere. "I am the devil," she says, her lip quivering, "and don't you forget it." Oh, we won't, lady. Like you would ever let us forget.