In Season 7 of the Bravo series Vanderpump Rules, the kids are finally growing up. Well, they are and they aren’t! Despite getting older, they maintain the emotional development of hyena cubs. With arguably only one exception (the angel-cum-martyr Brittany), they are a cast of villains who only occasionally reveal their ability to understand and display empathy. Every week, we’ll discuss each episode’s most villainous moments (and one moment of redemption), which will help determine who exactly is The Worst come season’s end. And now, Week 2!
It’s only Week 2, and the Sur tribe is already forcing me to break format. The cruel acts perpetrated on the second episode of Vanderpump Rules can almost entirely be blamed on two people: Kristen Doute and James Kennedy, DJ. Before we pit these two against each other, we should acknowledge a quick fall from grace for Jax Taylor, née Jason Cauchi.
Honorable Mention: Is This the Beginning of the Great Jax Regression?
Things are looking pretty good for Jax. Last episode, we saw him propose to Brittany, a woman who should scorn him but instead loves and supports him. He bought a big ring, he pulled off a sweet proposal, and then, in Episode 2, he whisks her away to a surprise engagement party with all their friends. It is, dare I say .... nice! Then, at said surprise party, he slips just a bit, admitting he still has to make it through the bachelor party before getting to the wedding.
He makes this admission to friends Peter and Tom, the latter of whom had a remarkably difficult time “getting through” his own engagement without incident. (He cheated on his wife.) Jax may as well have a giant “proceed with caution” sign glued to his forehead.
Kristen vs. James, a Race to the Bottom
Back to the real battle of Episode 2: Who is the villain, Kristen or James? Some backstory on these two: In Season 4, James is introduced as Kristen’s new boyfriend. Theirs is a rocky relationship, spanning a couple of seasons and rife with insult-ridden breakups, shameful hookups, and too many cheating allegations to count. Eventually, they break up for good. Suffice it to say they don’t care for one another.
Now it may seem as if James is the clear victor (loser?) in this battle of villainy: He attacked Brittany, he’s constantly rude, he calls himself White Kanye. But Kristen’s history means that her counter-attacks on James aren’t exactly shining acts of heroism. Let’s tally.
The episode begins with James admitting his cruelty to Brittany and saying that he wants to apologize to her and Jax with an engagement gift. Moments before, he also mocks Jax’s age and face. That seems like a point for James.
But from the get-go, we also see Kristen plotting her revenge; in fact, she’s plotting against James at Jax and Brittany’s engagement party. Nothing is sacred.
Lala has her own reasons to be angry with James (not worth explaining), and she agrees with Kristen. Still, she—a woman formerly best known for her vicious attacks and performative nudity in front of cast members’ boyfriends—thinks that perhaps Kristen seems a little unreasonable.
Technically, Kristen hasn’t done anything yet—she’s just being vaguely threatening, which, over the past few seasons, has more or less become her default demeanor. Soon though, she spirals into full-on conniving. She tells Stassi that she’s planning to reveal James as a cheat to his sad-eyed girlfriend, Raquel.
It’s not really the plan that’s so villainous: If James is a cheater (and previous history should suggest so), then outing him as such could be justified. But it’s clear in her descriptions of the upcoming attack that Kristen isn’t focused on righting wrongs; she’s hell-bent on the targeted destruction of a person she loathes for her own personal gain. She doesn’t seem to be protecting her friends; she just wants to win.
Kristen’s long-time friend Stassi (well, except for when they weren’t friends because Kristen slept with Stassi’s then-boyfriend, Jax) has been known to manipulate and attack. But she’s—gasp—done some maturing, and seems to have outgrown such behavior. Still, when Stassi is critical of your tactics, it’s time to pause and do some soul-searching. Kristen, at this point, has earned herself … let’s say, four tally marks.
To review: James 1, Kristen 4.
If James were to let Kristen embarrass herself for accusing him of cheating while the ever-faithful Raquel defends him, he would come out ahead in all of this. Of course, his ego would never allow that to happen. First, he says this is all happening because everyone’s “obsessed” with him.
And then, as he is wont to do, he belittles a woman—the uninvolved Katie Maloney-Schwartz, in this situation an innocent bystander—for her weight.
James has insulted Katie’s body a handful of times, and she’s candidly discussed her self-image issues before on the show. This is what he does, she explains in a confessional: He finds a person’s insecurity and uses it to publicly shame them. It’s not a random put-down, it’s a measured strike. James earns himself another handful of tally marks—whatever, stop keeping count, it doesn’t matter. Kristen’s grudge-holding is unflattering, and her machinations border on diabolical, but she still remains more decent than James. At least so far! It’s only Episode 2, so she could still take the title.
This Week’s Villain: James Kennedy, DJ
Plus: This week’s Moment of Redemption: Tom and Ariana
It’s simple, but the moment when Tom and Ariana lose their minds over a stackable washer and dryer unit in James and Raquel’s apartment is (a) super-relatable and (b) an encouraging sign that these people might be (again, gasp) growing up.
In past seasons, cast members have displayed similar levels of excitement over tequila shots and bar fights. They’ve come so far!