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Vanderpump Rules Returns For Season 9, Bratty as Ever

The show's returning stars may have babies now, but they're still acting like children.
  • A pared-down cast delivers still brings the drama as Vanderpump Rules kicks off its ninth season. (Photo: Bravo)
    A pared-down cast delivers still brings the drama as Vanderpump Rules kicks off its ninth season. (Photo: Bravo)

    If you thought that because Vanderpump Rules spent the pandemic-dictated hiatus between its eighth and ninth seasons shedding its most problematic, confrontational, and racist cast members that the new season would resemble a more toned-down or better behaved Vanderpump Rules, I have some news for you. By the end of tonight's season premiere, DJ James Kennedy has engaged in a shouting match with a Vanderpump family member, Tom Sandoval has thrown a fit over the name of a restaurant, and Lala Kent has taken a drink of her own breast milk out of a baby bottle.

    The fifteen months since the last episode of Vanderpump Rules have been eventful, to say the least. Of the 16 main-credits cast members from last season, half were let go between seasons — including OG cast members Stassi Schroeder, Kristin Doute, and Jax Taylor — most of them after being accused of racist comments or actions. Meanwhile, the pandemic shut down the entire restaurant and nightlife industry, which meant that even if Vanderpump Rules had been able to gather up their remaining cast members and try to carry on, they couldn't. While the rest of Bravo's Real Housewives universe (of which VDPR is a spinoff) resumed production by either isolating its cast-member interactions or casually flouting mask and distance guidelines (and often both!), Vanderpump Rules was pretty much paralyzed until restaurants and bars like SUR and TomTom could re-open. But now, as Lisa Vanderpump herself says in the premiere, "We're back, baby!"

    Speaking of babies, cast members Scheana Shay and Lala Kent have both had babies since we last saw them — Summer Moon and Ocean, respectively — and are currently in a fight. This will be familiar to viewers of the show who know that Scheana rarely kicks off a season without being mad at someone for "not being there" for her during her time of need. And if you've been following her on social media, you already know that Scheana has a new man in her life, Australian "Aquaman" Brock Davies, who joins the cast this season. We'll see if this one lasts.

    Speaking of "we'll see if it lasts," DJ James Kennedy is now two years sober, and hoping to get back into Lisa's good graces yet again. We've seen this particular behavior loop play out countless times on VDPR over the years, so it's certainly not the most exciting development. What we haven't seen before is what ends up transpiring between James and Lisa's son Max, who are apparently longtime friends (news to us). Suffice it to say that the clash involves an argument over splitting a salad at lunch, a moment that threatens to put the legendary "it's not about the pasta" fight to shame. It's genuinely one of the most bizarre fights ever aired on this show, and probably the best reason to watch the premiere.

    While the new show still dutifully checks in on the gang at Lisa Vanderpump's SUR restaurant, where younger cast members Raquel (James's girlfriend, a literal fawn in the woods), Charli, and Mia work, you get the strong sense from tonight's premiere that the bulk of this season's action will be centered around TomTom, the bar co-owned by Lisa, her husband Ken, and himbo besties Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz. The pair and their respective significant others, Katie Maloney and Ariana Maddix, survived the cast culling and seem to have emerged as the new centerpieces of the show. Things were already moving in this direction, as the series has become more and more enamored of the boys' own brand of overly self-aware homoeroticism, which is presented so cheesily as to almost make it back around to being endearing. To wit, their first appearance this season comes as they pull up to TomTom in their motorcycle/sidecar combo, wearing matching green cable-knits.

    One of the ongoing storylines set up in the premiere is that the Toms are planning to open a new restaurant in the fake-sounding neighborhood of Franklin Village (Vanderpump Rules is good at many things, but none better than inventing Los Angeles neighborhoods out of thin air; "Valley Village," I'm still not buying it!). The boys play it up like the conflict is going to be whether Lisa gets angry at them stepping out from under her wing (Lisa does not seem to care all that much), but the real conflict is that Tom Sandoval and Katie can't stand each other, and her involement in the business is going to be a problem. The clash in the premiere episode involves Tom Sandoval's suggestion that the new place be called "Schwartz & Sandy's," which Tom Schwartz thinks sounds like a kosher deli (he's not wrong) and Katie thinks just sounds idiotic (she's not wrong, either). Predictably, this leads Tom Sandoval to throw an absolute temper tantrum.

    The centerpiece event of the episode is a birthday party for Scheana, where simmering conflicts between Scheana and Lala, Lala and Ariana (podcast drama, which has become the #1 source of conflict on these shows, if you don't count federal indictments), and Sandoval and Katie all boil over.

    All in all, the Vanderpump Rules premiere offers a clean break from its discarded cast members, even as it offers up much of the same from the wayward souls who remain. Squint real hard and you might even find it comforting that after fifteen months and a world-changing pandemic, the dummies at SUR and TomTom have not, and will not change. The world keeps on turning, and Tom and Tom keep on riding in that damn sidecar.

    Vanderpump Rules returns for its ninth season on Bravo tonight, September 28th, at 9:00 PM ET.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Vanderpump Rules, Bravo, Lisa Vanderpump