Reality TV

So You Want to Start Watching Vanderpump Rules

A beginner’s guide to the wild world of SUR.

by Brian Moylan
Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Bravo; Shutterstock

It was the wildest, silliest, pettiest reality television scandal since Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage. Many Bravo fiends will surely remember exactly where they were on March 3 when TMZ reported that Vanderpump Rules star Tom Sandoval ended his 10-year relationship with Ariana Madix because he’d cheated on her with another co-star, Raquel Leviss, who was supposedly also interested in Tom Sandoval’s best friend Tom Schwartz. (Yes, there are far too many people in this scandal and most of them are named Tom.) As Bravo people started talking about it incessantly on social media, #Scandoval took off, breaking into the mainstream media and infesting the larger celebrity gossip industrial complex with what was otherwise a slightly niche Real Housewives spin-off. Because of all that Bravoholic yammering — and a sense of pop culture FOMO — there are now plenty of people out there who want to dive right in and start watching this show that launched a thousand clips… on RadarOnline.

But how to go about doing it? First of all, every episode is streaming on Peacock. (If you’re going to do a binge, shell out for the commercial-free plan and then just revert back once you’re done.) The current season, which was filmed before Scandoval (but fear not, the producers rushed back out to record the drama in real time to tack onto the end of the season) is available on and the Bravo app if you have a cable subscription.

Below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about where to start, who to pay attention to, and just how much punching, cheating, and drunken revelry you can expect from each season. (The short answer: a lot.) Trust me, this is a journey you’re gonna love so much that you’ll be ordering up Pumptinis and goat cheese balls in no time.

The Basics

When Vanderpump Rules launched 10 years ago, on January 7, 2013, most viewers didn’t even know what it was. An episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills aired as normal and ended with show standout Lisa Vanderpump setting up a sit-down between her ally (at the time) Brandi Glanville and one of her employees, Scheana Marie. Scheana had a long-term affair with Brandi’s husband, C-list actor Eddie Cibrian, who eventually left her for country singer LeAnn Rimes. The two have their conversation and Scheana leaves to go start her shift at SUR, one of Lisa’s West Hollywood restaurants, whose name, I kid you not, stands for Sexy Unique Restaurant. Its employees are called SURvers. Next thing you know, we’re knee deep in an episode of this new thing, this wild frontier of a bunch of horny 20-somethings who never seem to make the right decision no matter how hard they try. Featuring Real Housewives of Beverly Hills standout Lisa Vanderpump, the latest episode of RHOBH just blended into this premiere also featuring the English restaurateur.

In the first season, we meet the core cast, which is basically three best guy friends dating three best girlfriends. We have SUR bartender Jax Taylor, the show’s villain, a narcissistic pathological liar and a serial cheater. Somehow, you’ll love him. At 31, he is also the oldest in the cast, as everyone else is in their early to middle 20s. He was roommates with Tom Sandoval, an aspiring actor and musician who is also a SUR bartender, and Tom Schwartz, an aspiring “mactor” (aka model/actor) who is the only one of the crew who has never worked at SUR, mostly because he is a limp tube sock of a man.

These three are dating, respectively, Stassi (née Anastasia) Schroeder, a former Amazing Race contestant who says she’s the devil and has been the star of the show since Season 1. Her besties are Sandoval’s girlfriend Kristen Doute, who is always either crying, yelling, or crying and yelling, and Schwartz’s girlfriend Katie Maloney, who once fell through a skylight but you don’t learn that until like Season 7. That’s how many surprises this show has for you, that her disfiguring injury doesn’t even rank until the show is well in its adolescence.

The only other core cast member from the first season is the aforementioned Scheana Marie Shay Marie Davies Carrington Colby. The aspiring pop star was brought over from Villa Blanca, one of Lisa’s other restaurants, to serve as the connection between the spin-off and the mothership. However, from the minute she arrived, the rest of the girls shunned and made fun of her for being a “homewrecking whore.” Ten years later, she has finally given up trying to get into their good graces.

Now that you know what you’re getting into, there is only one question left.

Where To Start Watching Vanderpump Rules

Season 1

Start Here If: You are a completist

Sick of Jax constantly cheating on her, Stassi breaks up with him and starts dating Frank, another SUR bartender. The crazy thing is, Katie and Kristen take Jax’s side and tell Stassi that Jax didn’t cheat on her. He totally did. Trying to get Stassi back, Jax crashes her birthday weekend in Vegas (where even the boys went to see Chippendales, for some reason) and then whips off his chunky knit sweater in a strip mall parking lot to tussle with Frank. This gambit does not work. He then starts dating Laura-Leigh, a recovering crystal meth addict that Jax then dumps immediately after he attends a Narcotics-Anonymous-style meeting with her. Scheana confronts Brandi and, well, all the girls on staff, because they treat her crappier than a dirty diaper.

Number of episodes: 10

Essential Episode: 104, “Vegas with a Vengeance”

First Season: Everyone

Last Season: Frank Herlihy, Laura-Leigh Moser

Who Cheated on Who: Jax cheated on Stassi with some random girl in Vegas

Who Punched Who: Jax and Frank punched each other

Season 2

Start Here If: You want one of the best seasons of reality TV of all time

To prove his love for Stassi, Jax gets her name tattooed on the inside of his bicep. He certainly doesn’t regret that now. Just when she starts thinking of taking him back, a rumor emerges that when he was still “figuring things out” with Stassi, he slept with her best friend, Kristen, who was dating his best friend, Tom Sandoval. After denying it all season, Jax finally admits it. Stassi throws a party so she can share the news with everyone and humiliate Kristen publicly. That’s just how we do at SUR. Meanwhile, Kristen is also worried about the new bartender, Ariana, a good friend of Scheana’s who once kissed Sandoval three years prior, when he was still with Kristen. Scheana releases a single, “Good as Gold,” which is a legit bop.

Number of episodes: 17

Essential Episode: 213, “Bitch Slap”

First Season: Ariana Madix, Kristina Kelly

Last Season: No one

Who Cheated on Who: Jax cheated on Stassi with Kristen, Kristen cheated on Sandoval with Jax, Sandoval cheated on Kristen with Ariana

Who Punched Who: Sandoval punches Jax, Schwartz pours a beer on Katie’s head

Season 3

Start Here If: You want the aftermath from the messy season before

After their cheating scandal, Sandoval and Kristen break up. He starts officially dating Ariana, who moves into his shitty apartment where you can use either the microwave or the A/C but not both. Kristen starts shacking up with Englishman James Kennedy, who is a busser at SUR and best friends with Lisa’s son. He refers to himself as the White Kanye without irony. However, Kristen is still obsessed with Sandoval and Ariana and even brings “Miami Girl,” who Sandoval supposedly cheated with on a guys’ trip, into the restaurant, setting off a huge melee while on the clock. What ever happened to customer service? Kristen, who Lisa always hated, finally gets fired from SUR but stays on the show. Always storming out in a huff, Stassi leaves SUR and the show mid-season to move to New York. While she’s back visiting, she delivers her classic line to Scheana, “I don’t know what I did to you, but I’ll take a Pinot Grigio.” Scheana gets married to her boyfriend Mike Shay (known as Shay) and everyone hates her crop-top wedding dress.

Number of episodes: 21

Essential Episode: 313, “Miami Vices”

First Season: DJ James Kennedy, Vail Bloom

Last Season: Vail Bloom

Who Cheated on Who: Maybe Sandoval with “Miami Girl”

Who Punched Who: Sandoval punches James (but it’s more like a face shove, honestly)

Season 4

Start Here If: You want to join the “New Era”

When Lisa brings new hostess Lala into the fold, James and Jax immediately start fighting over her, even though James is still with Kristen and Jax just moved this girl Brittany, who he met in Vegas, from Kentucky to LA to be his girlfriend. When Brittany can’t get a job at SUR she works at Hooters, showing off the new rack Jax bought for her. Kristen and James finally break up and he goes right into Lala’s arms. Katie issues Schwartz an ultimatum, so he finally asks her to marry him. Scheana and Ariana are feuding when Scheana finds out that her husband Shay is a drug addict. Oh man, this is getting too real. Mid-season, Stassi comes back from New York with her tail between her legs and a sex tape scandal on the horizon.

Number of episodes: 24

Essential Episode: 420, “Push Comes to Shove”

First Season: Lala Kent, Brittany Cartwright, Faith Stowers (the only cast mate of color ever)

Last Season: none

Who Cheated on Who: James cheats on Kristen with Lala, Schwartz cheats on Katie with some girl in Vegas, probably

Who Punched Who: Kristen punches James

Season 5

Start Here If: You like mess

It’s becoming clear that Lala has a sugar daddy, so all of the girls are really mean to her except Scheana. Then Katie tells Scheana that she can’t be a bridesmaid if she’s friends with Lala, so she freezes her out. When Tom Schwartz gets cold feet about their marriage, Katie yells at him that his dick doesn’t work. Jax spreads a rumor that his girlfriend Brittany and Kristen hooked up, but he is a liar and they did not. Kristen does comedy; it ends badly. James has a new girlfriend named Raquel. She looks like a collab between Bambi, Hello Kitty, and a generic lip plumper. Tom and Katie do their bachelor/bachelorette party in New Orleans and Schwartz and Sandoval do drag and then fight with their partners about cheating rumors. The season ends with Tom and Katie getting married, and Sandoval is so moved he wipes his tears on Katie’s dog’s ears. The night ends with Lisa offering to go into business with Tom and Tom on Tom Tom.

Number of episodes: 24

Essential Episode: 517, “Drag Battle”

First Season: Raquel Leviss

Last Season: No one

Who Cheated on Who: More rumors about the Toms, but nothing substantial

Who Punched Who: Someone should have punched Lala when she said Katie “wasn’t working on her summer body.”

Season 6

Start Here If: You are insane. Not this season.

The group is thrown into a tizzy when we find out that Jax cheated on Brittany with his old coworker Faith. (The hookup may have occurred in bed next to an old lady that Faith was caring for at the time.) Brittany tells Jax to rot in hell. Scheana gets a boyfriend named Rob who can hang a TV in less than seven minutes. Kristen starts dating Carter, a woolen beanie that somehow turned into a whole person. James and Lala clash over James’ new girlfriend Raquel and have a confounding fight about Lala eating some of Raquel’s “pasta.” Lisa almost scraps Tom Tom when the boys are too busy partying and miss an important meeting. Brittany forgives Jax and they get back together.

Number of episodes: 25

Essential Episode: 601, “Masquerade”

First Season: Brian Carter, Billie Lee (the series’ only trans character)

Last Season: Faith Stowers, MeeMaw’s Beer Cheese

Who Cheated on Who: Jax cheats on Brittany with Faith

Who Punched Who: They’re too old at this point

Season 7

Start Here If: Don’t bother with the season, just watch the reunion

In the premiere, Jax proposes to Brittany and Stassi debuts her new boyfriend, Beau, who is the nicest, sweetest, cutest, realest human who exists in this whole universe. Why is he with Stassi? Lala tells James’ new girlfriend, Raquel, that he’s been cheating. James makes fun of Katie for being fat so Katie tells Lisa that either she can work at SUR or James can, but not both. James gets fired. Scheana hooks up with this hot bartender, Adam, who likes penguins but doesn’t like Scheana back. Schwartz and Katie get in a barnburner of a fight because Schwartz gets upgraded to business and Katie doesn’t. Tom Tom opens. The Toms arrive in a motorcycle with a side car. The fallow period begins.

Number of episodes: 24

Essential Episode: 716, “I Don’t Like the Sound of Your Voice”

First Season: No newbies allowed

Last Season: Billie Lee

Who Cheated on Who: James cheats on Raquel with everyone (including maybe a dude)

Who Punched Who: Seriously, could we get some fights?

Season 8

Start Here If: Nope, burn it with fire

This is the season the cast finally stopped pretending anyone wanted to work at SUR anymore. With the exception of Brittany, all the core cast have moved on, grown up, and moved into big fat modern farmhouses in a cursed place called Valley Village. Along with the oldies but goodies, we meet a whole new cast of characters who work at SUR, Tom Tom, and Pump (Lisa’s gay bar situated conveniently between the other two establishments). They all suck, with the exception of Danica, who got suspended for fighting with her boyfriend on the clock. When Jax tells Lisa that it’s “his show,” she gets her revenge by firing him and his wife Brittany.

Number of episodes: 24

Essential Episode: None, to be honest

First Season: Randall Emmett, Charli Burnett, Brett Caprioni, Dayna Kathan, Max Boyens, Danica Dow, Brett Willis

Last Season: Jax Taylor, Brittany Cartwright, Brett Caprioni, Dayna Kathan, Max Boyens, Danica Dow, Brett Willis

Who Cheated on Who: This show cheated on us by airing this season

Who Punched Who: I’m shocked Katie didn’t punch Kristen

Season 9


Start Here If: SKIP!

This is the show in its COVID era. The restaurants are closed. Why are we even following these yahoos? All anyone does this season is sit around in their big, boring houses in Valley Village having theme parties. It is the only thing more deadening than sitting alone in your home not having theme parties. After the BLM summer of 2020, Stassi and Kristen get fired for calling the cops on Faith to falsely accuse her of a crime years ago. Brett and Max from the previous season also get the boot for past racist tweets. Lala and Scheana both have young children and Scheana has a new man, Brock, who may not be paying his child support back in Australia. All is (mostly) forgiven because he is a huge man who wears tiny bathing suits. James and Raquel get engaged and Tom Sandoval pays for it, but they’re broken up by the reunion, when Raquel gives James back the ring.

Number of episodes: 17

Essential Episode: The reunion, when Raquel returns James’ engagement ring

First Season: Brock Davies

Last Season: Randall Emmett

Who Cheated on Who: We were all trying not to get COVID!

Who Punched Who: Yawn

Season 10

Start Here If: You’re a messy bitch

After two horrible seasons, fans were fleeing and it seemed like Bravo was weighing its options. When Schwartz and Katie announced their divorce, there were rumors in the fandom that they only did it so that the show would get renewed. It seemed to do the trick. Add to that the fallout of Lala’s breakup with her baby daddy Randall Emmett and the explosive LA Times expose about his shady business practices, and it looked like there would be plenty of story for a good season. Little did we know that the best story would pop off when filming ended, making us re-analyze everything we’re seeing on our screens now. Were Schwartz and Raquel really into each other, or was that plotline him covering up for his best friend Sandoval? Would we have been Team Raquel when Katie and crew were super mean to her about her galaxy lights if she didn’t go cheating with Tom? Even before the Scandoval has fully unraveled, this has already been a gift from the reality gods.

Number of episodes: TBD

Essential Episode: 1005, “Lovestruck at the Discopussy”

Who Cheated on Who: Sandoval with Raquel, Raquel with Schwartz (?), Raquel with Oliver (?)

Who Punched Who: It happened off-camera, but reports that Scheana punched or hit Raquel after learning about the affair kicked off restraining order drama between them.