A Vanderpump Rules Guide To The Valley’s Mess

Photo: Casey Durkin/Bravo

The Valley, Bravo’s new Vanderpump Rules spinoff, has been called everything from “​​the best show currently airing on Bravo” to “dreaded” to “the living embodiment of that study that shows marital satisfaction substantially decreases in the first two years after having a child.” The show stars former VPR SURvers Jax Taylor, Brittany Cartwright, and Kristen Doute. Jax and Brittany are joined in wedded(?) bliss (???) by friends they’ve made in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles’s trashy older sister who sneaks you cigarettes when you’re still a minor. Meanwhile, their friend Kristen yearns for motherhood despite never dating even one suitable potential father.

The Valley is full of people taking their second shot at reality-TV fame. Taylor and Cartwright either quit or were fired from VPR in 2020. Doute was definitely fired from Vanderpump that same yearafter calling the police on fellow Pumper Faith Stowers. (Stowers is Black, and in 2020 Bravo was taking racism seriously.) Why’d Kristen do it? Because Faith slept with Jax while he was dating Brittany. But in fairness, Kristen has also slept with Jax. And may have slept with Brittany? It’s a lot. To understand the incestuous waters in which The Valley swims, here’s a timeline of how this all played out on VPR, with some supplementary viewing suggestions if you want to experience the full mess.

Season 2, Episode 14, “I Lied”

This is the episode that made Vanderpump Rules. Sure, season one made some noise (the shirtless Vegas fight comes to mind), but season two was where the show began to sing. All season, Kristen Doute had been denying sleeping with Jax Taylor. How could she? Jax is her best friend Stassi’s on-again, off-again paramour. He’s her boyfriend Tom Sandoval’s best friend who isn’t also named Tom. She’d never. Except she would, and she did, while they were watching Drive and Sandoval was sleeping in the next room. The look of manic glee on Taylor’s face after getting punched by Sandoval will be one of the last things that flashes before my eyes when I die.

Season 4, Episode 2, “New Blood”

In the words of Taylor Swift, “Let’s fast-forward to a few years later.” Jax has met a girl in Vegas named Brittany. Everyone who meets her decides she’s the purest innocent ever born to this sinful earth and is way too good for Jax. This episode introduces Brittany to the world, to Lisa Vanderpump (a job interview in a lacy romper, we love to see it), and to the real love of her life: Kristen Doute. Doute has broken up with Tom by now, and is dating James Kennedy. In this episode, we see Detective Doute use Kennedy’s Uber receipts to prove he cheated. But she doesn’t break up with him, dragging this thing out for the rest of the season. This establishes Doute’s pattern of dating awful men and never dumping them, something Jax brings up in episode one of The Valley.

Season 5, Episode 2, “What Went Down”

In the season-five premiere, Jax starts a rumor that he caught Kristen going down on Brittany. This is something that wrecks Brittany, who comes from a conservative family and has a very conservative pastor (more on that later). But the rumor and the fights it inspires need another episode to mature. The follow-up has everything: Lisa Vanderpump making pussy-eating jokes at Brittany’s expense, Jax’s absolutely insane style of conflict resolution, Kristen not really remembering whether anything actually happened between her and Brittany, the Vanderpump Dog Festival, Jax flirting with Lala while torpedoing his relationship with Brittany, and yet another rancid Doute boyfriend.

Valley cast member Jasmine Goode doesn’t come from Vanderpump Rules. Sure, she worked at SUR (as evidenced by a picture of her standing with a blurred-out Peter in the show’s premiere), but she’s a network-TV reality star, okay? Jasmine was a bachelorette during Nick Viall’s era, and her season of Bachelor in Paradise is notorious for its toxicity. When Christen Whitney (also from Nick’s season) joins the fray, it lures Matt Munson’s affections away from Jasmine. Jasmine winds up orchestrating a bullying campaign against Christen, which gets her dubbed “Scallop Fingers” by the rest of the contestants. Now let’s see this energy match against Jax Taylor, please and thank you.

Vanderpump Rules: Jax & Brittany Take Kentucky Episode 4, “The Gospel According to Jax”

The seeds of Jax and Brittany’s marital strife were sown long before they got married. In their first spinoff, the clunkily titled Vanderpump Rules: Jax & Brittany Take Kentucky, what really happens is that Kentucky takes Jax. In this episode he is grilled on religion, gets his face sprayed with deer piss, and endures an endless parade of Brittany’s family members telling her she could do better. Even Brittany’s ex is in the mix. It seems now, after one season of The Valley, Brittany has finally decided to listen. Plus, there’s a whole scene about Mamaw’s beer cheese, as featured at Jax’s Studio City.

Season 6, Episode 5, “Sex, Lies, and Audiotape”

This may be the best episode of Vanderpump Rules ever. Yes, I’m counting all of Scandoval in this estimation. Everyone is still reeling from the reveal that Jax cheated on Brittany with Faith, and that it may have happened in the same room as a woman to whom Faith was providing hospice care. Then we find out Faith recorded Jax shit-talking Brittany, and sent the audio to James. The episode hurtles towards its wild conclusion, when Brittany plays the recording at her housewarming party, and everyone loses their goddamn minds. This episode and the one that follows it gives Brittany her catchphrase: rawt in hell. We also get a cameo from Jax’s motorized cooler.

Season 6, Episode 17, “The Smoking Gun”

Sometimes it feels like Jax Taylor is a child who’s captured a bug in a jar. He shakes it and shakes it because he loves to see the bug panic. And Kristen Doute? She’s the bug. This episode shows just how Jax can spin TV out of nothing, creating an entire cheating scenario in his head with some pillows as his only evidence. He gins up (tequilas up? It’s on a trip to Mexico, after all) an affair between exes Kristen and James Kennedy, seemingly to cover for Tom Schwartz. The married Schwartz woke up in another resort, which should be a bigger deal! Instead, everyone is trying Doute for crimes against fidelity. And Kristen falls right into the drama trap, throwing a drink in James Kennedy’s face and causing the biggest hubbub of the whole trip. Dance, little bug, dance.

Season 7, Episode 10, “So Vain in Solvang”

This is a crazy Kristen episode for the ages. Lala Kent takes the girls on a PJ to Solvang (cutting the travel time from three hours to around 20 minutes, someone call @CelebJets), which means taking Kristen to travel-anxiety town. She eats flowers from a bush, she falls down a lot, she’s compared to a drunken giraffe. We also see Jax heroically not cheat on his fiancée. (If you want more, watch the season-seven premiere in which Jax’s proposal to Brittany involves a porta-potty.)

Season 8, Episodes 10 and 11, “Jax’s Last Hurrah” and “Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Cauchi”

The big Jax and Brittany wedding two-parter. We never thought we’d get here. A lot of season eight involved the media uproar around the pastor who was set to marry Jax and Brittany. The dude was wildly homophobic, which didn’t fly with the queer-adjacent Vanderpump Rules brand. Luckily, Lance Bass stepped in to officiate the wedding? Lance Bass is just one of the inexplicable things about Jax and Brittany’s wedding. Why is Larry Birkhead there? Why isn’t Jax’s mother? Why did Kristen bring Carter even though (1) he’s awful and (2) they broke up? These episodes not only feature the wedding of Jax and Brittany but also the divorce of Kristen from the Witches of Weho. Doute is team Brittany now, for better or worse. Plus there’s a teeny-tiny clip of Brittany’s GBFF Zack, who eventually makes his way to The Valley. 

Watch this to understand why Jax needed a Bravo show again. Jax Taylor was the first contestant eliminated from E!’s House of Villains, because he’s a creature of Bravo. Our boy was not cut out for competition reality where you have to hide what you’re thinking and feign humility. Jax Taylor needs to be bragging, shouting, bossing people around, and generally setting himself up to be clotheslined by fate at every opportunity. He’s bad at competing with people like Omarosa, but he’s exquisite at stirring up shit with Kristen Doute. That’s where he belongs, making a buffoon of himself in the San Fernando Valley and on our TV screens.

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