Over the last couple of months, Vanderpump Rules fans have been gripped by Scandoval – a cheating triangle involving two friends (Ariana and Raquel) and Ariana’s long-term partner and OG Vanderpump Rules cast member Tom Sandoval (one of the two Toms, who the show has been built around – particularly since a huge cast changeup a couple of years ago).
The reunion went exactly as we thought – Tom Sandoval was defensive and shifting blame onto Ariana, trying to shame her for wearing a t-shirt while they had sex. Ariana was justifiably angry and on point (the Harry Potter dig was excellent). Raquel was… blank. I don’t know if blank conveys the emptiness behind her eyes. Vacant. Idle. Disengaged. You could hear the wind blowing between her ears. It was like watching a puppet, a literal stuffed animal, amongst real people. She had less emotion at the reunion than most of us had watching the reunion.
As raw as it was, there’s also a fourth wall component that is unspoken. When Raquel and James broke up, she could have easily been left off the show if not for her friendship with Ariana and Scheana (another OG, who has been best friends with Ariana for years on and off the show). They kept Raquel on the cast and paid with their friendship.
The other component here, and it drove me nuts, is Tom talking about Ariana not wanting to be intimate with him when he was staying out until 5-6am nightly. Tom and Tom’s drinking was alluded to but drugs have been a silent presence on the show (particularly coke and Adderall) when the hard partying comes up – so much so that a few seasons back, it was assumed that a fight about “pasta” was actually a code-word for cocaine.
At best, Tom Sandoval was staying out all night and wanted sex when he got home (something no partner would be OK with!). At worst, he was drunk (and more) and f-cking her friend. So the t-shirt comment is obviously sh-tty under any circumstances but it’s extra egregious considering what kind of partner he was.
The “big reveal” that kept fans theorizing for weeks was that Raquel did a post-reunion truth bomb interview. Basically, liars lied. Tom and Raquel lied about their timeline, they were having sex while Ariana was at a funeral for her grandmother and cheating much more often and earlier than they admitted to in front of the cast.
From a production standpoint, this cast did their job. Cameras were up before TMZ broke the story and they filmed every moment. When you make your living this way, you can’t run and hide when something real goes down and to their credit, they stuck it out.
Since the reunion filmed, Raquel has gone quiet (reportedly in a mental health facility but that is unconfirmed); Ariana has been on WWHL (she and Tom are still living in the same house); and Tom Sandoval is being a heatscore and doing Howie Mandell’s podcast (which pissed off Andy Cohen).
A common point made, even by Andy Cohen himself, is that people cheat and this show is built on cheating. Executive producer Alex Baskin has said they will not allow two separate casts because that doesn’t work and he is right. The calls for firing are not from die-hard fans because we know that shows need villains! Reality TV needs storylines. There must always be a hope, even a sliver of it, to redemption because you cannot have a show without one. Long-term estrangement is terrible for storylines and can grind a reality TV show into the ground.
The question now is how will the production team get everyone back in the same room next year? Raquel and Tom will be game for redemption, but what is the benefit to Ariana and the rest of the cast? Why would Katie (who has shown true growth this season and made her ex Tom Schwartz look like the fool he is), Lala, Scheana or James ever film with Sandoval or Raquel? Even Tom Schwartz, who has been ride or die, has said he pulled back from Sandoval, despite their business ties. That is the human level but on the professional level, they all know that this is great for the show and they all want to keep the paychecks coming in. Reality TV stars, even the biggest and most popular, do not have much leverage.
Vanderpump Rules typically films through the summer and there’s talk about former cast members like Jax and Brittany and maybe Kristen coming back. This would work as there’s no way to bring in new people right now. The audience does not have the bandwidth for that. The exhaustion and overstimulation we have gone through requires some rest. But not too much. This isn’t HBO, we aren’t waiting three years between seasons.
Attached - Ariana shopping with friends late last month.