It's the 10th anniversary of The Hills, one of television's greatest achievements. Who could have predicted, back in 2006 when we were first introduced to Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, that the destruction of their friendship would make for such great television? That they'd become stars themselves, covered by tabloids and People and Us Weekly so incessantly that their off-camera lives would become part of the show? These days, the real-life drama the cameras miss is standard fodder for Real Housewives reunion shows, but when it happened on The Hills it was a new phenomenon. If you're filming a reality show with orchestrated story lines, what do you do when your real life starts to get in the way?
Everything reality television is now, it learned from The Hills. We still refer to "the producers" when talking about series creator Adam DiVello and his team, who crafted some of the best drama you've seen on television outside of Days of Our Lives and the O.J. Simpson trial. And now, 10 years later, we honor the series’s anniversary by rewatching and ranking every single episode of The Hills, from worst to best.
102. "You Did This" (Season 4, Episode 16)
Someone named Dino tells Audrina that Lauren hooked up with Justin Bobby, which is the most manufactured drama this show has ever attempted. I'd sooner believe Audrina is friends with the Flintstones' pet dinosaur, Dino, than this flagrant chicanery. Sometimes the behind-the-scenes machinations make for great television, as we'll find on the better episodes of the series. But other times, they lead to laughably offensive story lines like this. Lauren is as disgusted with Audrina and this plot development as I am. I can't even take this episode seriously; there's no way Audrina would ever believe that Lauren of all people would hook up with Justin Bobby. Who wrote this episode?!
101. "It's About Trust" (Season 4, Episode 17)
Audrina and Lauren make up, obviously, because Lauren clearly never slept with Justin Bobby. And now this two-episode story line is over and done with and it will never be heard from again.
100. "The Company You Keep" (Season 6, Episode 7)
You might have forgotten that Audrina dated Ryan Cabrera (part-time singer and, most notably, star of the beautiful piece of television known as The Ashlee Simpson Show) during the final season of The Hills. If you've managed to cleanse this from your memory, I certainly won't remind you of it anymore. If only I could forget.
99. "I'm Done With You" (Season 5, Episode 16)
Kristin tries to get Justin Bobby to commit to her, as if we haven't seen this scene a thousand times already between him and Audrina.
98. "Ghost From the Past" (Season 6, Episode 6)
Justin Bobby returns to the show for the thousandth time and this time he's in a fucking band. ENOUGH.
97. "Boyfriends and Work Don't Mix" (Season 1, Episode 6)
Heidi and Lauren have boyfriend drama, because all four of these people are the neediest people on earth.
96. "Between a Rocker and a Hard Place" (Season 6, Episode 8)
I've been watching every episode of the show and I still have no idea who 60 percent of the people in this episode are. McKaela? Allie? Who the fuck are these heffas?!
95. "Break-Up to Make-Up" (Season 6, Episode 9)
McKaela? Allie? Justin Bobby? Get the fuck out of here, Hills, with these Laguna Beach Season 3 levels of "who?!"
94. "Old Habits Die Hard" (Season 5, Episode 14)
Holly is an alcoholic for one episode and then decides she's going to stop drinking. I keep forgetting she's on this show, but congrats on the sobriety.
93. "Young Hollywood" (Season 3, Episode 13)
Heidi spends a lonely 21st-birthday party with just Spencer. Sad!
92. "Truth and Time Tells All" (Season 3, Episode 3)
Lauren is pressed about ANOTHER one of her friend's boyfriends. Girl, get a vibrator!
91. "Jason's Birthday" (Season 1, Episode 5)
Jason [gasp] ignores Lauren during his birthday party.
90. "Enough Is Enough" (Season 2, Episode 8)
Heidi goes to Santa Barbara with Spencer and Lauren is upset she didn't come back when she said she would so they could have dinner. This is an actual plot point. "If you really care, you make the effort," espouses Whitney, human paragraph of exposition.
89. "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (Season 3, Episode 11)
Lauren goes on a date with a model named Gavin and asks him, "Do you like Sean Kingston?"
88. "Onto the Next" (Season 5, Episode 17)
Justin Bobby finally ends things with Audrina and viewers' patience for good, because he has "feelings" for Kristin. But Kristin, ever the story line generator, is hanging out with Brody now and having shouting matches with Jayde at nightclubs.
87. "Once a Player" (Season 3, Episode 17)
Brody and Lauren talk about their non-relationship, which shockingly doesn't become a real one during this episode!
86. "Loves Me Not" (Season 6, Episode 11)
This is the penultimate episode of the series, so Heidi and Holly's mom shows up to L.A. and they talk about Heidi like she's dead since she's no longer on the show. How morbid!
85. "Can't Always Get What You Want" (Season 5, Episode 18)
Heidi schemes to get pregnant before Spencer can get a vasectomy. Jayde schemes to get Brody back. Kristin schemes to keep Brody and Justin Bobby circling her. It's all a bunch of half-baked nonsense schemes.
84. "Crazy in Love" (Season 5, Episode 4)
Stephanie is awful at her fake job at People's Revolution and Heidi drags Spencer to marriage counseling. Stephanie's entire job is a comedy of errors — there's no way Kelly Cutrone would have ever hired her flighty ass.
83. "Who to Choose?" (Season 4, Episode 10)
A cute Australian guy treats Audrina like a queen, so of course she ends the episode skinny-dipping with Justin Bobby.
82. "You'll Never Have This" (Season 4, Episode 11)
Stephanie randomly has a boyfriend named Cameron and she tries mending fences with her brother while Audrina continues flip-flopping between Justin Bobby and her sanity on a trip to Cabo for Brody's birthday. Spoiler alert: Audrina doesn't choose sanity. She never does.
81. "Better Off As Friends" (Season 4, Episode 3)
Lauren dumps her boring boyfriend Doug, and Whitney spends all her time in New York, prepping for the spin-off she'll be getting after this season (The City). But without her The City nemesis Olivia Palermo, this is fast-forwardable.
80. "The Next Move Is Yours" (Season 3, Episode 28)
Most of this episode is a fucking Bolthouse commercial, as Heidi flies to Las Vegas for "work." Spencer rushes there to save their relationship, because it's the season finale. Also, Lauren and Audrina have a sad conversation about their friendship that doesn't even go anywhere dramatic, so I'm not sure why the season ends on it. It's sort of a lame ending to what's otherwise been a great season.
79. "When One Door Closes" (Season 3, Episode 18)
Lisa Love delivers a Brechtian monologue to Lauren about how she ran away from home at 15 and went to Paris. In other running away, Heidi calls off the wedding and dramatically flees home to Colorado.
78. "Back to L.A." (Season 3, Episode 20)
Lauren returns from Paris and attacks Brody for hanging out with some girl while she was gone. Didn't she hang out with some French dude while she was in Paris? Hmmmmmm — OK, girl. Meanwhile, Whitney goes to work for The Hills boss everyone loves to hate, Kelly Cutrone.
77. "What Happens in Vegas ... " (Season 3, Episode 9)
The girls go on a boring trip to Vegas and have a boring fight with Justin Bobby.
76. "The Boys of Summer" (Season 5, Episode 20)
Another Hills season finale, another conversation about whether Justin Bobby is ready to commit to someone. Is he the star of this show all of a sudden? Who cares!
75. "You Can't Just Be With Me?" (Season 1, Episode 8)
Whitney tries to have a story line while she and Lauren lust over male models — one of whom is Tom Sandoval from Vanderpump Rules!
74. "Mr. Right Now" (Season 5, Episode 19)
Spencer tries to find out if Heidi is hiding a pregnancy from him, and Kristin continues this drama with Justin Bobby, Brody, and Jayde. This is the bottom of the barrel of Hills stories.
73. "When You Least Expect It" (Season 2, Episode 5)
Heidi misses Spencer, even though he was probably cheating on her. I feel you, girl, but this episode is also pretty depressing as a result.
72. "Meet the Parents" (Season 3, Episode 4)
This is the point when you realize Lauren refuses to film with Heidi anymore (which would never fly on any reality show now — thank God for contracts). Because The Hills transforms into two shows: Lauren and her judgmental opinions about the people her friends date, and Heidi and her relationship with Spencer, which leads them to Colorado to meet her parents. Heidi's mom is the HBIC, btw.
71. "Lauren and Jason, Part 2" (Season 1, Episode 4)
Lauren thinks dating Jason is a good idea, which is insanity, but it colors all her bad decision making for the rest of the series.
70. "Welcome to the Jungle" (Season 6, Episode 10)
The 100th episode of a television show should be full of surprises, drama, and centered around the characters you love. A trip to Costa Rica attempts to rekindle what we loved about the show, but with Lauren, Heidi, and Spencer gone, there's not much to care about. Brody and Kristin are still doing their mating dance and Audrina is still exhausting me with this Justin Bobby story.
69. "Mess With Me, I Mess With You" (Season 5, Episode 12)
I never thought The Hills would have anything in common with The Brady Bunch, but Heidi and Spencer's next-door neighbor Enzo hangs out with them in their house and I'm concerned as to why there's suddenly a child on this show. I mean, the only child besides Kristin, who goes from making out with Justin Bobby to causing drama with Audrina.
68. "Keep Your Enemies Closer" (Season 5, Episode 7)
Stacie the Bartender continues her quest to be a cast member by squabbling with Heidi over Spencer. I've truly never seen such an "I will be on this show come hell or high water" situation before, and it's a thing to behold.
67. "Back to New York" (Season 4, Episode 14)
We're back in NYC for this backdoor pilot for The City, which has Whitney meeting Jay Lyon, her eventual Australian boyfriend on the Hills spin-off.
66. "Dream Boy, Dream Job" (Season 4, Episode 18)
Whitney finally interviews for Diane Von Furstenberg so she can move to New York. STILL NO OLIVIA PALERMO, THOUGH, SO WHO CARES.
65. "One Last Chance" (Season 4, Episode 15)
Heidi begs for her job back while her sister begs for a couch to sleep on at Lauren's. The Pratt-Montags aren't nearly as fun when they're down and out as they are when they're scheming and destroying people's lives. The DiMera family of The Hills needs to get their mojo back.
64. "With this Ring ... " (Season 3, Episode 15)
For some nonsense reason, Spencer keeps trying to push Heidi to elope. It doesn't go well. Meanwhile, Lauren tries to find Whitney a boyfriend so she has something to do on the show.
63. "A New Bird" (Season 6, Episode 5)
The show is odd without Heidi and Spencer around. We're still involved in the same romantic entanglements of Brody and Audrina and Kristin, and now Stephanie is trying to date while sober. This show is officially going through the motions with only seven episodes left.
62. "Stress and the City" (Season 3, Episode 12)
Lauren and Whitney go to NYC, meet Marc "Yours to Try" Jacobs, and for the first time, popular music is played on the show instead of whatever white-girl acoustic band the music department has been using for most episodes. We get to hear J.Lo!
61. "Love Is Not a Maybe Thing" (Season 1, Episode 9)
BYE, JORDAN. Now Heidi can fall for the true love of her life, Spencer Pratt.
60. "Big Girls Don't Cry" (Season 3, Episode 2)
The first appearance of Justin Bobby! Also, Heidi gets engaged to Spencer because … girl, I don't know. These two are insane.
59. "An Unexpected Call" (Season 1, Episode 3)
Lauren and Heidi hate their responsibilities at their fake jobs. Showing up for 10 minutes for the cameras is really hard.
58. "Strike One" (Season 5, Episode 13)
Kristin is friends with Stacie the Bartender, who has now found her entryway into the show. Congrats, Stacie. Meanwhile, some things stay constant — Brody acts like a dick by hanging out with Kristin when it makes his girlfriend uncomfortable, and Justin Bobby, who's sorta dating Kristin, bails on her just like he always did with Audrina. Of course none of these relationships feel real or as important this time around; it's just sort of dating charades.
57. "Rolling With the Enemy" (Season 3, Episode 5)
Spencer breaks up with Brody because he's hanging out with Lauren. Maybe Spencer and Lauren are more alike than they want to admit.
56. "New Year, New Friends" (Season 2, Episode 9)
It's New Year's and Heidi is still torn between Spencer and Lauren, but on a positive note, Lo Bosworth has finally joined the cast (in a supporting role for now, but the Laguna Beach fave is here to stay till the end of the series).
55. "Who Do You Trust?" (Season 2, Episode 4)
Heidi makes up with Audrina, and Spencer hangs out with a bunch of Playboy models. It's as entertaining as it sounds.
54. "Goodbye for Now" (Season 2, Episode 12)
Heidi moves in with Spencer. Audrina moves in with Lauren. Whitney moves up in the Teen Vogue world, and yet, somehow, she still can't find an interesting story line.
53. "For Better or Worse" (Season 3, Episode 8)
Lauren thought she was gonna get cozy with Jason again, but surprise, he has a girlfriend and he's engaged. Party schadenfreude at its best.
52. "Father of the Bride" (Season 5, Episode 8)
The White Tie Affair, a band seemingly created just for this show, has two lead members that flirt with Audrina and Stephanie. I know the show has always been used to cross-promote bands, but this is especially egregious. In other egregious news, Heidi's cowboy dad shows up to cause drama for Spencer, and Lauren takes far too long to fire Stephanie.
51. "Sorry Boo, Strike Two" (Season 5, Episode 15)
Wait, this alcoholism thing might be serious. I thought it was overblown for drama, but Holly seems to have an actual problem that Heidi and Stephanie confront her about. It's a bit of real drama amid all of the nonsense still going on between Audrina, Justin, Kristin, Brody, and Jayde. It's a sore replacement for the classic Lauren-Spencer-Heidi feud of past seasons.
50. "I Want You to Be With Me" (Season 4, Episode 12)
Stephanie turns into Rita Repulsa and tries inciting her boyfriend into fighting with Brody to defend her honor. And speaking of Power Rangers, Audrina goes back to her Putty Patrol boyfriend Justin Bobby and ditches the cute Aussie.
49. "If She Never Met Spencer ... " (Season 4, Episode 9)
Holly gets Lauren to admit that she would be friends with Heidi again if she didn't have to put up with seeing Spencer. Audrina tries dating this hot guy named Colin, but she can't kick her Justin Bobby habit. Girl, let it go.
48. "A New Roommate" (Season 3, Episode 25)
Lauren, Lo, and Audrina decided to get a new place together, which is totally going to end badly, since the episode is loaded with Lauren and Lo throwing shade at Audrina. It's early foreshadowing for Lo vs. Audrina, but not much else.
47. "Out With the Old" (Season 2, Episode 1)
Jason and Lauren broke up, surprise surprise. And Lauren forever became The Girl Who Didn’t Go To Paris. This episode is mostly depressing because you realize Lauren ruined an entire summer on an idiot and Heidi and Audrina are squabbling over Spencer. It's never been more obvious that this show was before the invention of Tinder. There are other fish in the sea, ladies.
46. "Everyone Falls" (Season 2, Episode 11)
Whitney falls on Good Morning America wearing Hilary Swank's Oscar dress and Into the Gloss’s Emily Weiss lies and tells her she did a good job.
45. "Paris Changes Everything" (Season 3, Episode 19)
Lauren has a magical trip to Paris while Heidi and Spencer's relationship crumbles.
44. "No Place Like Home" (Season 3, Episode 27)
Lo literally cannot stand Audrina, and her facial expressions make me sad that this show wasn't around during the Tumblr era. Lo is always GIF-worthy.
43. "Mr. & Mrs. Pratt" (Season 4, Episode 19)
Justin Bobby is very funny, I will give him that. When Heidi and Spencer go missing and everyone pretends to be worried about them, he suggests to Stephanie and Audrina, "Maybe you should put up signs." But never fear, Heidi and Spencer get eloped so they can return to L.A. and stir up drama with their surprise. Whitney also leaves town for her spin-off, I guess, or whatever. Bye, Whitney! You never ever had a single interesting story line on The Hills, but you were great at being a "friend of," as the Real Housewives franchise refers to people who show up just to deliver exposition. Whitney is actually much more entertaining when she has a nemesis on The City, which was canceled before its time.
42. "Rumor Has It" (Season 6, Episode 2)
Lo is finally a lead cast member, which is great, because she's perfect and I wish she had more of a real story line. But Kristin's tabloid drama about having done drugs and needing to go to rehab can suffice for now, since that's far more interesting to watch than another Justin Bobby–go-round. Meanwhile, Spencer loathes Stephanie at this point and has started dressing like he's in the Manson family.
41. "Boys Make Girls Cry" (Season 4, Episode 4)
Brody mends his relationship with Stephanie and she embarks with Lauren, Lo, and Audrina on a Vegas trip for Frankie's birthday. Audrina and Justin Bobby bail on the club to avoid drama with Lauren and Lo, but there's actual drama when Frankie shows up the next morning and says Doug and Brody got arrested.
40. "Something Has to Change" (Season 4, Episode 5)
Brody and Doug's "night in jail" turns out to be nothing. I wish The Hills had been filming when Brody stopped a fight between then-girlfriend Avril Lavigne and a random girl, because that night sounds more entertaining. The best part of the episode is Lauren and Audrina's fight, in which a SINGLE TEAR rolls down Lauren's face. It's beautiful.
39. "A Night at the Opera" (Season 3, Episode 16)
HBIC Stephanie Pratt shows up and drags Lauren and Brody for how they're treating Heidi and Spencer. The hilarity of her showing up just to chew out Lauren, then sashaying away, is why I love her.
38. "A Change of Plans" (Season 1, Episode 2)
Heidi wants to drop out of school to take her dream job, which she won't even be working at anyway, because her actual "job" is reality-TV personality.
37. "When You Least Expect It" (Season 2, Episode 2)
Remember when Heidi pretends she's pregnant just so she can see if Spencer really wants to date her? The is the season Heidi turned bonkers, and the slow descent into madness is a sight worth documenting, but it hasn't yet become entertaining TV.
36. "You Have Chosen" (Season 2, Episode 6)
Lauren's voice-over at the beginning of this episode reaches high levels of petty as she talks about how dumb Heidi is acting. This is the beginning of the rift between Lauren and Heidi, and it's all because Lauren hates Spencer and Heidi loves him. Spencer is a cad, but Lauren comes off obsessed in this episode and it's obvious she's still reeling from her messy relationship with Jason. This is an in-between episode that's stuffed with overblown emotion, which is classic Hills.
35. "Somebody Always Has to Cry" (Season 1, Episode 7)
Jason gets jealous over Lauren's Laguna Beach past, and it's one of The Hills's first truly messy, dramatic moments.
34. "Second Chances" (Season 3, Episode 6)
Jason comes back into Lauren's life, and because she currently has no interesting story line, she decides to start hanging out with him again.
33. "All Good Things … " (Season 6, Episode 12)
It's all over. Audrina moves to Hermosa Beach, single and alone THANK GOD (bye, Justin Bobby). Stephanie and Lo move on with their boyfriends (technically, Stephanie moves on to the British reality show Made in Chelsea, which is like a British version of The Hills, and it's fantastic and you should watch it). Kristin moves to Europe. But the ending … let's talk about the ending, which blew my mind the first time I saw it in 2010. As Brody watches Kristin drive away, the Hollywood sign behind him is revealed to be a backdrop and they're all standing on a backlot. It was a canny move busting the fourth wall like that, and it was kind of a perfect ending to the show. Of course, this wouldn't be The Hills without some behind-the-scenes drama. There's a second ending to the series in which Brody returns home and finds Lauren waiting for him there, as if they've been together the whole time. It officially aired in 2013. That would've been a cute wink at the audience, but seeing as how Lauren had been gone from the show for two seasons, it doesn't really make sense. But it's nice as a bonus scene to enjoy all of the insanity that The Hills was for the six seasons it aired on TV.
32. "Elephant in the Room" (Season 6, Episode 3)
Spencer has gone 50 times around the riverbend. I'm surprised he never had a legitimate breakdown on this show, but it's also Spencer, so who knows if it's all a put-on or if so many years of machinations have finally caught up with him.
31. "A Date With the Past" (Season 3, Episode 26)
Stephen Colletti shows up so Lauren can relive their relationship from Laguna Beach. Except that all she does is drag Justin Bobby while on her date with Stephen — romantic!
30. "You Always Miss a Best Friend" (Season 4, Episode 6)
Heidi's sister Holly reaches out to Lauren when she moves to L.A., in hopes of rekindling their relationship but also rekindling Heidi and Lauren's. Good luck with that, sis. These episodes are always pretty depressing, because you remember that at its heart The Hills was a documentary of the slow disintegration of a friendship between two women.
29. "Drama Follows Them" (Season 4, Episode 2)
Heidi and Spencer surprise Stephanie at her birthday party, which causes Brody, Lauren, Lo, and Lauren's cardboard cut-out boyfriend to flee. Lauren manages to not flee immediately, however, which must mean a producer blackmailed her into staying for 20 minutes after Brody left.
28. "This Is Goodbye" (Season 6, Episode 4)
Spencer's behavior gets so erratic that everyone on the show decides to cut him and Heidi out of their lives. Before, only Lauren refused to film with them, but this seems to be the line that blurs between reality and the show, where the entire cast is kinda like, "Nah." It's sort of fitting that for all the drama they've caused, Heidi and Spencer leave the show not with a bang but with a whimper.
27. "It's On Bitch" (Season 5, Episode 11)
The Hills has lost it heart. It was always a kind of sad show about the disintegration of Lauren and Heidi's relationship, but now that Kristin Cavallari has joined the show, it's about catfights and boy drama and literal fights. It's not shocking that women would swear at each other, nearly get into fistfights, and scream, "It's on, bitch!" at one another in today's reality-show landscape, but when The Hills morphed into this, it was pretty jarring. At least it's entertaining.
26. "Put on a Happy Face" (Season 6, Episode 1)
The final season starts with an actual burst of drama, thanks to the DUI Stephanie got IRL and Heidi's VERY NOTICEABLE plastic surgery. She'd clearly gotten surgery before (those breasts two seasons ago were very new), but this is the first time you could look at Heidi and go "Wow, this person has had a lot of plastic surgery." She's grown into it in later years, but this episode was jarring as fuck. The dramatic reveal of it is fantastic — you don't even see Heidi's face on camera until she shows up in Colorado to see her mom. Her mom's reaction is very real and I love it, because even when the situations aren't always real, The Hills is best when the emotion is real.
25. "I Always Had a Little Crush" (Season 5, Episode 5)
The girls crash Brody's boys' trip in Hawaii and Audrina, ever thirsty to generate a story line, bless her heart, now has a crush on him. They end up spending the night together in his room, and while Brody claims nothing happened, literally no one else believes it. When faced with the fact that Brody's girlfriend Jayde will not be pleased, Audrina says, "Bring on the war." She's clearly been taking lessons from Spencer, but Lauren seems mildly amused by Audrina's antics instead of pissed. Which further betrays that whole "I'm upset Lauren might have hooked up with Justin Bobby" story line she cooked up last season, since they're both so nonchalant about an affair.
24. "Everything Happens for a Reason" (Season 5, Episode 2)
Brody and Spencer finally squash their beef and have a reunion. This is the show's OTP.
23. "It's Her Move" (Season 4, Episode 13)
Heidi gets fired for getting wasted at work, which in turn probably enticed a bunch of viewers to show up at the [redacted] spot in Hollywood. I wonder if she'll get the job back so Bolthouse can keep advertising themselves on The Hills. I'm legitimately wondering; Heidi's job status is one of the few things I don't think anyone really recalls when they remember watching this show.
22. "Playmates Bring the Drama" (Season 5, Episode 6)
Audrina's affair with Brody gets her on the receiving end of a drag from Jayde. Audrina bubbly floats through the entire episode, eating up all the drama as she usually does. If we actually cared about Jayde, it might be a slightly more interesting story, but instead it's mostly another "Brody is a dick" story, which we've seen far too many times.
21. "New City, New Drama" (Season 1, Episode 1)
The very first episode of The Hills. Lauren and Heidi move to L.A., Lauren gets a job at Teen Vogue and Heidi wants to abuse her velvet-rope privileges. Lauren caves and lets Heidi and Audrina sneak into the party and hang out in VIP, which almost "jeopardizes" her internship. As if Lauren really ever interned at Teen Vogue and as if the entire point of the party wasn't for Heidi to sneak in to cause drama. Here we are at America's first true foray into fake scripted drama, and it's as beautiful as you remember.
20. "I'm Done With You" (Season 5, Episode 3)
The Hills dips back into the comedy well by having Lauren get Stephanie a job at People's Revolution, and Heidi confronts Stacie the Bartender at some dive bar. It's all very funny, because Heidi is best when she's actually fighting with someone and not crying about Lauren for the umpteenth time.
19. "When Spencer Finds Out ... " (Season 3, Episode 22)
Spencer and Heidi find out that Stephanie went to Lauren's birthday party, which isn't nearly as explosive as you'd imagine. The best part of the episode actually comes from Whitney, Lo, and Audrina cackling like the three witches from Macbeth when Stephanie shows up at the birthday party. When the show embraces comedy, it's superb.
18. "Timing Is Everything" (Season 1, Episode 10)
"She's going to always be known as the girl who didn't go to Paris." Lauren picks hanging out with Jason during the summer over going to Paris. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. They break up shortly after she picks him over Paris.
17. "Don't Act Innocent" (Season 4, Episode 8)
Brody drags Stephanie at a pool party for going out with Doug behind Lauren's back, but is conveniently not an asshole to Doug. Misogyny from a straight white guy? What a shock! Lauren, for her part, actually consoles Stephanie after Brody makes her cry — until she catches Stephanie in another lie of omission about a second date with Doug. Sis needs to call up Spencer and learn how to tell a lie.
16. "What Goes Around" (Season 3, Episode 10)
Jen Bunney returns just so we can discuss Lauren's SEX TAPE RUMOR again. Heidi blames Brody, Brody blames Spencer and Heidi, Spencer maybe admits at the end that he did it in a conversation with Heidi? You never get Mad Men subtlety in The Hills, but you could read Spencer's expressions in the final scene a myriad of ways. God, he's great at this.
15. "Apology Not Accepted" (Season 2, Episode 10)
Lauren is on some wack B.S. where she blames Jen for hooking up with Brody and doesn't blame Brody. They have coffee and laugh about it! Her final confrontation with Jen is cold as ice.
14. "Just Be Careful ... " (Season 3, Episode 23)
For as much as everyone drags Heidi, Spencer, and Brody for their shifting allegiances, it's actually Audrina who changes with all the colors of the wind every season. Now she's back to being friendly with Heidi, which is sending Lauren into insanity, and it's just a marvelous way to ratchet up the drama as we near the season finale.
13. "I Heidi Take Thee Spencer" (Season 4, Episode 20)
Heidi's elopement has damaged her relationship with her mom, so there's no one else for her to turn to but her ex-best friend. With Whitney gone and Lauren's return for Season 5 up in the air, we get an emotional moment between Heidi and Lauren for the finale. Seeing Lauren hug a crying Heidi is a truly earned moment after four seasons of their roller coaster of a relationship. The episode doesn't even end on Lauren — it ends on Heidi and Spencer attempting to make their marriage legal in a courthouse … but not going through with it. But of course, Lauren returns for half of Season 5, so the book on their relationship isn't over yet. But this episode has far more raw, emotional resonance than their manufactured final moment together in the series next season.
This episode is fascinating because of its surprise ending. People magazine, along with some other outlets, reported that the teased wedding — which featured Heidi at the courthouse saying, "I, Heidi, take thee, Spencer” — was probably fake considering that there was no marriage license on record for Heidi and Spencer. And they were right: The new season premiered and Heidi and Spencer still were not married. The “missing” marriage license wasn’t missing so much as it “never existed.” The couple wasn't actually married until April 2009.
12. "An Unexpected Friend" (Season 3, Episode 21)
Spencer and Heidi are "on a break" and Lauren wants nothing to do with either of them, so the genius of Stephanie Pratt being added to the cast is that she gets to interact with Spencer, Heidi, and Lauren. Having her film with all three finally gives the main characters of the show a common thread, since most of the season has felt like two different shows: the LC show and the Speidi show. The Hills is always most fascinating when you can see its reality-show gears turning.
11. "With Friends Like These ... " (Season 2, Episode 7)
Jen Bunney has her 21st birthday at Geisha House, which is hilarious, because she's been in and out of Les Deux all season, so what does being of legal drinking age even matter? Lauren makes the party all about her drama with Heidi, because of course she does. And Heidi bails for an after-party with Jen, leaving Lauren and Audrina at the goddamn bar. It is HIGH pettiness. But 70 percent of The Hills is people being petty, so you can hardly blame Heidi.
10. "Don't Cry on Your Birthday" (Season 5, Episode 1)
STACIE THE BARTENDER. Yes, this episode also has Heidi crashing Lauren's surprise birthday party on a boat. And yes, they cry about their friendship and hug while Britney Spears's "Out From Under" soars on the soundtrack. ALSO YEAH, Spencer punches the shit out of Cameron for texting Stephanie that he's flirting with a bartender. But this episode marks the first appearance of Stacie the Bartender, who manages to become a regular on the show, which is hysterical.
9. "When Lauren's Away ... " (Season 4, Episode 7)
Stephanie acts like a sneaky heffa and goes on a date with Doug while Lauren is in Italy, but the most important part of their date is the fact that TAYLOR ARMSTRONG FROM REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS INTERRUPTS IT. Linda Thompson, Brody's mom, runs into them at their restaurant, and her unnamed guest is none other than Taylor.
What a beautiful moment in television history. EVERY REALITY SHOW IS CONNECTED.
8. "The Best Night Ever" (Season 2, Episode 3)
This episode has everything you need from The Hills: Audrina showing up uninvited to Heidi's birthday party, Jen Bunney not minding her own damn business like a "friend of" on a Real Housewives franchise and dragging Audrina for showing up, then Lauren and Brody fleeing the party to share a romantic kiss while looking at the Los Angeles skyline. And this all takes place at Les Deux, the City Dionysia of The Hills.
7. "We'll Never Be Friends" (Season 4, Episode 1)
Because it's a new season, of course someone from Lauren's past has to pop up for her to date. This time it's a guy named Doug, who's hot but boring, so enough about him. This episode is actually about Audrina's birthday party, where Lo's attitude toward Audrina manages to be shadier than the queens on RuPaul's Drag Race. This all leads to the third-most iconic line in the series's history, when Lo and Audrina have it out over their non-relationship. Lo tells Audrina she needs to make an effort to be friends, to which Audrina responds: "I don't care! We'll never be friends." Lo's taken-aback face and slow walk away is one of The Hills's best moments.
6. "Girls' Night Out" (Season 3, Episode 24)
Spencer crashes Heidi's girls' night out with some girls of his own and they have a blowout fight at the club. All the relationships from the beginning of the season have been upended, and this is definitely peak Hills. This is the period of the show everyone remembers the most. It's also the period when Heidi attempted a music career, her single "Body Language" leaked, and she and Spencer released her music video "Higher," which is still the best music video that has ever been created in the history of music. Lauren even gets a job offer from Kelly Cutrone at the end of the episode. We've officially left the Teen Vogue era behind — these kids are bona fide reality show stars. America cared as much about what they did off-camera as they cared about the show by this point.
5. "They Meet Again" (Season 3, Episode 7)
Lauren is shocked that Heidi and Spencer showed up at the same restaurant as Jason and her, as if the producers weren't like, "We're tired of Lauren and Heidi not filming together anymore — let's orchestrate a run-in." But the best part of this run-in has nothing to do with The Hills. It all takes place at the restaurant Ketchup, which would later close and become Lemon Basket, the setting of a reality show competition where D-list celebrities fought for the chance to run a restaurant. Heidi would end up competing on this show (Famous Foods) along with Juicy J, Jake Pavelka, and Danielle Staub.
True story: I visited this restaurant when I first moved to Los Angeles, and my friends and I were one of the three tables in the establishment. The next time I visited, we were the only patrons. It closed soon after. R.I.P., Lemon Basket; they had pretty good mac and cheese.
4. "Something Old, Something New ... " (Season 5, Episode 10)
You'd think Lauren was leaving Los Angeles with the dramatic way she's moving out of her house and "saying good-bye" to everyone, but no, she's just leaving The Hills. This was an actual end of an era; we all knew Lauren was leaving and that her final episode would feature Heidi and Spencer's wedding. Whether she'd show up at the wedding was the surprise, and lo and behold, she does! Mostly because, as she claims, producers locked her in a basement for two hours. But that's the price you have to pay for drama, and Heidi's shock at Lauren's appearance is probably the last truly genuine moment the show produces. But speaking of DRAMA, Kristin Cavallari joining the cast and showing up at the wedding as a surprise is a stroke of genius. Heidi even talks mysteriously about "that person" who's "single now" that she invited to the wedding, like Kristin is Joan Collins joining Dynasty. Kristin even catches the bouquet outside the church as Lauren flees out the side door, leaving all her enemies alone for good. Well done, show.
3. "Forgive and Forget" (Season 3, Episode 14)
This episode features the second mention of Sean Kingston in the series and also a musical performance from him. Remember "Beautiful Girls"? Anyway, Lauren and Heidi just happen to run into each other at an event and have it out over the sex tape. But that's not the best part. The best part is when Heidi goes to Lauren's apartment to apologize to her for the past year. She claims she did nothing, Lauren still thinks she let Spencer ruin her life. But Lauren is about forgiveness now. And this is when we get the classic line: "I want to forgive you … and I want to forget you."
2. "Hi Lauren, It's Spencer" (Season 5, Episode 9)
Heidi's wedding is coming up, and Lauren has two episodes left before she bolts this series for good, so Heidi clearly wants Lauren at her wedding. So, of course, the only conclusion to this story line that will satisfy viewers is Spencer apologizing to Lauren. And he actually does it. Sort of. Well, not at all. After this episode aired, Lauren went on The View and said, "To be perfectly honest, I wasn't on the other end of that call." LMAO. Imagining what conversation a producer is actually having on the phone with Lauren, or what food she was having delivered for lunch, makes the episode one of the series's funniest. And if that's not enough, Kelly Cutrone finds the recently fired Stephanie at one of her parties and drags her to hell for how bad she was at her job. Kelly knows drama better than any of these kids. She's a natural.
1. "You Know What You Did" (Season 3, Episode 1)
Your memory hasn't failed you: This is the best episode of The Hills. This is the first moment when the real world and the fake world of the series blended together into one nightmarish confrontation. On The Real Housewives, the women are always having fights over social media drama and tabloid rumors. But The Hills always tried to maintain that this was just a show about a group of normal girls living their lives in Los Angeles. After two seasons, however, the cast had become even more famous than they'd been on Laguna Beach and they were actual celebrities. That's why rumors of Lauren having a sex tape could actually pick up steam. Who cares if some random Teen Vogue intern has a sex tape unless she's actually famous? During the hiatus between seasons, Spencer spread the rumor that Lauren had a sex tape. But when this episode aired, Lauren assumed that both Spencer and Heidi were to blame, and thus the explosive, accusatory "You know what you did!" from Lauren to Heidi at Les Deux was born. It's the most iconic quote in the show's history, and the episode is just as sublime. It's the En Sabah Nur to every other reality-show confrontation that's come since.