by Tierney Bricker | Tue., May. 21, 2019 3:55 PM
They grow up so slow, don't they?
It's hard to believe but Vanderpump Rules just finished its seventh season in particularly dramatic fashion on Monday night, once again leaving us breathless and wondering where the show goes from here...but not for the usual reasons.
When the Bravo reality hit first premiered in 2013, viewers were introduced to an incestuous group of young and hot employees at The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump's Los Angeles restaurant SUR. They were living together. They were working together. They were all sleeping together. And it was real---with all of their friendships going back years before Pump Rules began.
After growing accustomed to the glitz and glamour of RHOBH, transitioning to its young offspring via a sneaky backdoor pilot that was promoted as a two-hour special episode felt crashing on your college-age cousin's dorm room futon. A little gross, a little nostalgic and a good f--king time, a callback to a time in your life you look back on fondly but with no desire to ever relive.
Over time, however, Vanderpump Rules has become one of reality TV's most successful shows, turning into a pop culture phenomenon so massive it even earned its own spread in Vogue. In the six years since its premiere, its cast of hungry SURvers have transitioned into mini-social media moguls in their own right, making the transition from their mid-to-late twenties into their thirties in only the way they know how: messily and entertaining as hell.
But viewers have noticed a subtle yet subtle shift in the show this past season, especially after the non-stop drama that season six, arguably the series' strongest outing, delivered, and Vanderpump Rules seems at a crossroads of which direction it will go in in future seasons: does the focus remain on the drama happening at SUR or shift more towards the cast's expanding lives outside of the restaurant, including getting married, having kids and buying million-dollar homes.
That is the question after the three-part season seven reunion: What happens to the show when this cast of lovable f--k ups actually grow the f--k up?
The Next Step Is Here
Every major romantic relationship on the show has gone through or are going through major changes, all taking another step toward a more mature ,a far, far cry from the days of Jax Taylor sleeping with Kristen Doute, his best friend's girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend's best friend, or Tom Schwartz being so drunk he made out with a random woman he thought was his wife Katie Maloney.
Jax and Brittany Cartwright are set to get married at the end of June, officially (and hopefully forever) ending Jax's f—kboy ways, just ahead of his 40th birthday. That's right, viewers will watch Jax, the oldest member of the crew, turn 40 next season. This feels like a good time to tell you he is older than Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Teddi Mellencamp. Do with that what you will.
While his cheating scandal rocked Pump Rules last season, Jax seems to have changed (some of) his ways in season eight after the devastating loss of his father Ronald Cauchi in December 2017. And it was because of Brittany's unwavering support and love for him during that difficult time that made him realize she was the one.
"It's the uttermost worst thing in my life that's ever happened," he said, "but it's brought our relationship...it's the best it's ever been."
Even Lisa Vanderpump, who has put Jax in his place more times than she's fired him (which is, you know, a lot), noticed a shift in him.
"I think he's kind of grown up," she told us. "He had a very sad year…losing his father, and I think when you lose somebody maybe it puts everything in perspective. It changed him."
Tom Schwartz via Instagram
But Jax and Brittany aren't the only ones settling down: Lala Kent is set to marry her boyfriend Randall Emmett in 2020, with the SUR hostess announcing the date on her Instagram Stories.
"So anyone that wants me to do anything on April 18th, I officially can't, because that's the day I get to marry my baby," Lala, 29, said. "We got a date!"
Recent "Fofty" drama aside, the couple is finally starting to plan their big day after "enjoying" their time as an engaged couple.
Similarly to Jax, Lala got engaged soon after the sudden and tragic death of her father in April 2018, recently revealing she's been sober for over six months with no plans to ever drink again after using it to self-medicate.
"Drinking for me was medication instead of celebration. Instead of going and talking to somebody about losing someone extremely important to you, we turn to things to medicate," she told Cosmopolitan. "I just want to make sure that I put my voice out there to say, reach out to someone, reach out to a grief counselor, partner with someone who can make you feel like you're not by yourself and going completely insane. Because when you lose someone. I've never had this type of heartache in my whole life, and it's foreign."
Randall, a Hollywood producer who does not appear on the show, became a major source of support for The Row actress, who told E! News' Justin Sylvester, "He's the only person in the entire world that knows how to deal with my heart and soul."
Aside from weddings bells, Jax and Brittany are also looking forward to hearing the pitter patter of baby feet sooner rather than later, with Brittany revealing during the reunion that she wants "lots of babies! I cannot wait to be a momma, everyone's known that."
Jax added they plan to try to conceive on their wedding night.
Also ready to start trying for kids? Tom and Katie, who got married in August 2016.
"I love kids," Schwartz told us at an event in late 2018. "I consider my dogs kids but yah, I'm ready for kids."
Jax added, "According to Katie last night and I quote, 'We're having babies at the same time.' She wants to have kids when we do."
But there might be one cast member to beat them to it: Stassi Schroeder, whose romance woes have been well-documented on and off bravo's airwaves (she left the show for several seasons to follow her then-boyfriend Patrick Meagher to New York).
After doomed relationships with Jax, who cheated on her, Frank Herlihy, the SUR bartender who tried to blackmail her with a sex tape, and Patrick, who hit on LVP right in front of her and constantly talked down to her, Stassi seems to have finally found the one in Beau Clark.
"I got everything I wanted. I got everything I said to my friends I want," she gushed at the reunion with Beau happily sitting beside her. "Someone who is going to be a part of my life all the time and wants to be best friends with y'all, wants to do the same things I do, that I feel like is an actual partner."
And they are so solid that co-executive producer Jeremiah Smith once predicted on the Bachelor Party podcast that Stassi and Beau would be the first couple to get pregnant, later clarifying, "It's going to be a close call between Brittany and Jax and Stassi and Beau."
Major Money Moves
The cast has made a massive exodus from West Hollywood, moving to Studio City. While it's only about a 10-mile move, the WeHo to Valley transition is basically like moving to another country to those who know Los Angeles. And the crew have definitely upgraded their living arrangements.
Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix were the first to buy, dropping a little over $2 million on a five bedroom and five-and-a-half bathroom home, complete with an outdoor pool and waterfall. Compare that to Tom's longtime apartment that couldn't handle the air-conditioner and microwave being on at the same time, which they lived in until they bought their first home.
"Tom has always looked as me as his secret weapon when it comes time to buy a house," Tom's longtime friend Douglas McFarland of ReDesign Real Estate and Design told E! News of helping the couple find their dream home. "We explored a lot of options in a lot of different areas (both fixers and new) and ultimately found that the quality and detail of this property was far superior than your typical turn and burn mc-mansion."
He added, "It's still hard to believe that this actually happened...I can't put into words how proud I am of Tom and how much he deserves this for himself!"
Just one week after Tom and Ariana became Valley-dwellers, Schwartz and Katie also decided to become homeowners, moving a mere five-minute drive away from their best friends. "We got FOMO," Schwartz said during the reunion, with Katie adding, "Tom couldn't be away from Tom!"
Not to be outdone by the Toms, the self-appointed number one guy in the group, Jax soon followed, dropping $1.8 million on their own home, less than a mile from his friends of 20 years. Brittany explained, "It's not like Tom and Tom are going to get a house and Jax isn't, yeah right!"
Finally, Kristen also bought her first home, "Five blocks" from Tom and Katie, while Scheana Marie purchased a home in Palm Springs after moving into an apartment in Marina Del Rey this past season.
"We're growing up. We're all moving to the Valley now," Jax told The Tampa Bay Times. "Maybe we should start, like, Valley Rules?"
Or maybe The Real Housewives of Studio City?
While they are all in the same neighborhood, it's actually the most distance that's been between Jax, Tom and Tom in years, as they all recently lived in the same apartment building (with Jax infamously being able to ride his beer cooler from apartment to apartment) and once all lived in the same apartment, with sheets serving as their walls and air mattresses as their beds.
"I think it's time that we all have a little bit of separation, we're getting older," Jax recently told Bravo's Daily Dish. "I'm OK with that, I think it's time to for a little bit of separation. I think it's time to start the next chapter of my life. It's nice to have a little space between us, we've been together so long.
Home Sweet Sexy Unique Home
The uncredited main star of Vanderpump Rules is SUR itself. The West Hollywood hangout has been the home to all of the show's most iconic and dramatic moments. It's where Kristen told her manager Diana to "s—k a d—k." It's where Stassi breezily said, "I don't know what I've done to you but I'll take a pinot grigio." More than one girl has been brought in to accuse one of the guys of cheating on their girlfriends while they were working. It's where it all started.
"Working at SUR is different from working any other restaurant," Stassi said in the very first episode of the show. "The servers all want to be models, actors, writers, singers. The servers at other Hollywood restaurants just want to be waiters at SUR."
When the show first started, she, Katie, Kristen, Jax and Tom Sandoval really were hustling, with Scheana coming over as the new girl from LVP's other restaurant, Villa Blanca.
Now though, just a handful of them still "work" at SUR: Katie occasionally waitresses, ditto Scheana, Brittany is also a SURver, and Jax continues to make sub-par Pumptinis from time to time. (Though it's notable the cast now publicly post about their "shifts" as promoted appearances.)
"You bust your ass as a waitress so you don't have to waitress anymore," Katie told Vogue, "but now I'm forever a waitress." Consider them the Lost Boys and Girls of WeHo, stuck in a state of arrested development.
But even when they are there to put in a "real" shift, it's pretty much impossible to get anything done aside from running a drink to a table or occasionally hosting.
"There are a couple of us that try to go in, but it's like Disneyland," Stassi explained to The Observer. "It's like they're a Disney princess at Disneyland, and you couldn't possibly try waiting a table because there's a line of 20 people right behind you trying to take a photo. They try and show up for as long as they can, but it only lasts about 45 minutes, and then they're like, "OK, gotta get out of here."
It might be time for the show to acknowledge that its stars have been ready to leave the nest—with almost all developing their own side hustles over the years. Stassi has hosted a hit podcast since 2015 and just released her first book, Next Level Basic, already a New York Times Bestseller. The Toms have a five percent in Tom Tom, the bar they opened with Lisa and her husband, Ken Todd, which continues to attract long lines each night of the week, thanks in large part to the duo making frequent appearances, more than happy to snap a selfie with fans willing to pay $15 for a shot that will numb their mouth for an hour.
But, as they noted to their boss in the reunion, "Our value doesn't come from money though...it comes from our presence," fully acknowledging that the cast members are some of the most well-known and beloved reality stars on TV right now, with celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Lady Gaga andJennifer Lawrence fawning over them. So it's jarring at the point to see them setting down Sally from Oklahoma's drink during a shift.
As Stassi put it: "Everyone is kind of working really hard, and we're not just servers anymore. My personal opinion on it is that this could be a show that shifts a little bit and could go on for-frickin-ever."
As the first-gen continues to move on, the show has slowly been restocking the staff at SUR. Introduced last season, Billie Lee has become a major secondary player, and LVP herself recently made a major and sure-to-be controversial hiring decision after filming ended.
"SURprise!!!!" James' girlfriend Raquel captioned a photo of herself in a SURver uniform. "You're looking at the newest addition to SUR's wait staff! May I take your order?"
After it was revealed the former pageant queen snagged a , fans immediately speculated she was hired to find an excuse for James to keep showing up at SUR, despite losing his job and to cause drama at the workplace. But it seems likely that next season could introduce other new personalities at the restaurant to give Raquel new allies or frenemies to interact with and who might just show up for her next puppy party.
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In her interview with The Observer, Stassi talked about the "crossroads" the show is coming to.
"Everyone is kind of working really hard, and we're not just servers anymore," she said. "My personal opinion on it is that this could be a show that shifts a little bit and could go on for-frickin-ever."
But can the show handle the cast growing up while SUR stays the same age?
"I mean, it could be like The Golden Girls, where we're each other's chosen family where regardless of whether the cameras are around, the same s--t is going on. They're the same people I hang out with, travel with, call on a regular basis. These are my friends, so not having the cameras around, nothing would change. If Bravo or whoever wants to watch us continue to grow and shift and see all those life changes, I think it could go on forever. But I mean, if they want to keep it just at SUR with servers, then that's different."
It's Not About the Pasta, It's About James
"James has never been a part of our friend group. Ever."
Likely the biggest question mark heading into season eight is James Kennedy's future on a show when no one else will film with him.
First introduced in season three as Kristen's new British beau, DJ James Kennedy quickly became one of the show's most polarizing figures, becoming and remaining a main cast member even after their tumultuous split. While fellow newbie Lala also clashed with the cast when she first joined the series, she eventually settled in, slowly forming solid friendships.
But season seven provided the worst divide between James, who once called himself "the white Kanye West" and the others yet, especially now that he no longer had an ally in Lala.
Mid-season, the entire cast minus James went on a group trip to Mexico. While Real Housewives trips often see any and all feuding stars vacationing together for maximum drama, Pump Rules is a different ballgame. These aren't co-workers; these are friends.
Still, James wasn't thrilled to be left out (especially when he was initially invited only to be uninvited).
"So I've been on all the trips," he said during the reunion, going on to reveal he was called "a liability" ahead of the season three trip to Hawaii, which infamously ended with Jax being arrested f or stealing sunglasses as the airport.
"I came back chucking because I wasn't the liability, was I? It was a big mess."
So after going on a few trips, including one to Mexico where he claimed to become "an international DJ" during, James reasoned, "I felt I earned the state to go."
Here's the big problem: almost the entire cast hates James. Like, real-life hates James, and when they say they don't want him going on "the group trip," they really mean they don't want him on the show after all of the offensives remarks he's made over the years, especially to the women on the show (namely telling Katie to "lose some f--king weight" and body-shaming her). He's WeHo Public Enemy No. 1 as far as they are concerned, a role he sometimes seems more than happy to play.
"Like, I don't want to ruin it for everybody," he told Vogue, "so I'm not going to say it, but like, you know, when I say things on camera, I know what I'm saying, okay. I know that I'm creating enter-f--king-tainment."
While he has a few defenders in Tom and Ariana, who seem to realize the rest of the cast are punching down when they gang up on the 26-year-old outcast, Kristen, Katie and others seem determined to take him down, taking issue with Pump Rules' storyline about James financially supporting his family. (They also help out their families, but do not talk about it publicly.)
"The perception of James would be almost 100 percent negative if we weren't showing the other side," LVP explained during the reunion." The other side was very important, to me, that we saw the compassion and support he was giving his family."
Looking to the future, James told Andy Cohen he's "working on music, traveling America, DJing, I've got a lot that I'm working on right now, so I have high, high hopes."
And those high hopes include possibly becoming the Jax Taylor for a new generation. Literally.
"I'll probably be doing it longer than them, 'cause they're getting old as f—k," he told Vogue. "So when Jax is 45, that's not cute anymore. I'll be 31, which is younger than Tom is right now. And he's killing the game. I could be like the Jax of the new generation."
It's likely it would have to be another crop of people as it's hard to imagine anyone filming with him by the reunion's end. Some choice quotes about James: "I am shaking because I hate him." "He will never be around me again."
Their biggest grip seemed to be that James has had the same pattern for years: "He apologizes and then the next day he does the exact same thing," Stassi said, "Whereas we are all working on our friendships and bettering ourselves."
Season seven saw maybe James' worst behavior yet, with the British DJ lashing out multiples times and his tirade against Katie ultimately leading to his firing from the restaurant and the loss of his beloved See You Next Tuesday residency.
"He deserved a lot worse than just getting fired from SUR, Katie said at the reunion." Translation: He deserved to be fired from the show.
So where does all of this leave us?
Season eight (which has yet to be officially greenlit by Bravo but c'mon) will document Jax and Brittany's wedding, some of the couples trying for babies, and the entire group adulting their way.
"I feel like the show could go on for like 15 more years, like the way that the Kardashians do," Stassi told Vogue. "The Kardashians are because they're a family. We are a family, but we chose our family. We're still doing the same shit. That's the only reason the Kardashians keep going, because they have to."
On the Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino podcast, Katie suggested it may be time for the OG cast to move to a new show and let Pump Rules repopulate with fresh blood.
"Get some 25-year-olds in there again. Get some little Stassis in there who are going to be insubordinate," she said.
It is getting harder to imagine Katie dropping a drink off at table 14 only to return to her $2 million home. But it's just as hard to imagine the show ever truly leaving SUR, especially when Vanderpump is an executive producer.
But their boss seems happy to see her cast actually evolving and maturing since hiring them years ago.
"More than anything, it makes me so happy to see them progress," she said during the reunion. "Also making the right choices. This is wonderful for you guys."
But is it wonderful for Vanderpump Rules as we know it?
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)
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