The season premiere of Vanderpump Rules aired last night on Bravo, packing just a portion of the punch the rest of the highly-anticipated season, which is bound to be full of drama, feuds and revelations.


While what we saw for the most part was very unsurprising, like Scheana centering herself in Scandoval, attributing her weight loss and Zoloft use to the fallout over it, Katie Maloney still needing a stylist (like, yesterday), and Ally and James getting their first home together, there were some things that were…unexpected.

The cast attended an event at Tom Tom, and as Ariana descended on this restaurant that held incredibly painful memories for her, producers aired a montage of some of the key moments in Tom and Ariana’s relationship over the years. It was very surreal to watch the montage, knowing that during some of these instances being highlighted, Tom was already having an affair with Raquel. This really illuminated what I, without wanting to be dramatic, would call Tom’s sociopathic tendencies. But moreover, it illuminated the depth of their relationship and just how dirty Tom did her.


In true Ariana fashion, she displayed remarkable strength throughout the episode, even despite a very minor breakdown at the Tom Tom event. Considering the crew started filming about three months after the news that shook the nation, and considering at the time, Raquel and Tom were still sending letters and packages back and forth to each other (at their home!) we should all be impressed.

She described being surprised at just how triggering being there was for her, a nerve that was quelled with a few drinks, some of her best girlfriends, and lots and lots of fans. It’s a good thing Tom Sandoval was still in New Zealand filming Special Forces because it would’ve been an absolute sh-t show for him, methinks. But perhaps the most surprising moment came when Lala Kent hinted that she may be open to reconciliation with Raquel.

During a confessional, she described being able to relate to Raquel over remarks last season about feeling like she had to be loyal to Tom because he was the only person she had left out of the group of friends. Lala, indirectly alluding to her relationship with super gross Randall Emmett, said she knew what it was like to be isolated from your friends and family, to have your power stripped from you, and to be manipulated and overcome by the power of the man you loved. At one point, Lala even said there was truth to all the things people said about her when she took up with Randall, and all the names she was called, which included being labelled a homewrecker and a whore.


As someone who has watched the show from inception, I can’t say that this admission is typical for Lala. She fought these claims vehemently for years. In truth, she hasn’t always been the most reflective or apologetic person. But I think we’ve been seeing a huge shift in her mentality over the last two or three seasons – and I attribute that to two things. The first is her sobriety and her ability to finally see things clearly for what they are. But the second thing is something I’ve written about before, which is matrescence.

In most cases, I’ve written about matrescence as this major transformation that happens when a woman becomes a mother. She evolves into a certified bad ass, someone you simply cannot f-ck with because of the power they know they carry after conquering the physical challenge of carrying and delivering a child into the world. And for the moms who become mothers through adoption, guardianship, surrogacy or the slew of other ways you can become a mother, yes, matrescence is still yours, because the gruelling, daily, thankless job of being a mother hands it directly to you.


But for Lala, matrescence looks a bit different. Matrescence, in her case, looks like finally being able to lend sympathy and empathy, and to understand and appreciate the nuances of the human experience, which are not things we’ve typically seen from Lala. She’s a gritty, hard-hitting hustler that knows how to get her way. To hell with anyone and anything that doesn’t align with her way of living.

Yet, in the premiere, we saw her moved to tears on a few occasions, once in conversation with her mom, again in conversation with Ariana, and again in a confessional, describing not wanting Raquel to “carry” the shame of Scandoval with her forever, because she knows what that’s like.

Against the backdrop of some very trying times for Andy Cohen and Bravowith the levying of several lawsuits from former castmates, Vanderpump Rules has a great deal of power to help remind people why we watch these shows in the first place. Seeing the evolution of castmates like Lala, seeing the very real issues that can arise in life, like Tom and Ariana having to navigate the sale of their shared home, and perhaps most significantly, something I’ve predicted before, which is the changing of minds in the court of public opinion, particularly as it pertains to Raquel.


We saw a bit of that last night, when Lala spoke to Ariana about the fact that she reached out to her, leaving a voicenote suggesting a conversation. Ariana, who, just last year during the reunion urged Raquel to do the unthinkable with a cheese grater and wished everything shy of death on her and Tom (though, perhaps she did mention death) now seemed warmer and softened her tone, saying she wishes her well, but can never revert to a friendship with her.

Beyond the changing of minds in that scope, which I expect will also extend to fans, considering that has very much been the case on social media as people wake up to the fact that Tom didn’t get nearly the blowback that she did, we also see Lala changing her mind about Ariana, questioning her rapid rise to fame, slamming her ascension, saying:

“I’ve never seen someone be cheated on and suddenly become God!

It is a fair point. We’ve seen quite a few feuds and spats play out on reality TV – in and outside of the Bravo network. Consider the time The Bachelor’s Clayton Echard slept with two out of three final women on his season, only to dump the two that he slept with and couple up with the one he didn’t later on. Granted, the two women that he was intimate with went on to have their own season of The Bachelorette, appearing in the show making a joint effort to find their forever man for the very first time in franchise history. But even that historic approach to the show was nothing compared to the opportunities that Ariana seized, which included an appearance on The View, a spot on Dancing With The Stars, and a starring role as Roxie Hart in Chicago.


In Ariana’s case, the attention she got in the fallout of Scandoval not only bolstered her status, but also the show’s fandom. I remember there being nothing more exciting than someone posing the question of “Who is this Ariana chick and why am I seeing her everywhere?” and going on to do a critical breakdown, followed by a critical analysis, of the seasons-long build up and significance of the scandal. I cannot tell you the friends I made simply because of our united allegiance to the “best reality show ever”. But back to those lawsuits Bravo is facing.

It certainly helps to have a show like this, despite the role Raquel, specifically, played in bringing attention to the mental health issues that people can experience during and after the filming of a reality show. Because though I’ve written about facing an ethical dilemma in consuming this stuff, ethics can easily go out the window when there is this much anticipation and drama to look forward to and enjoy.

Bravo will certainly need to learn to toe the line better between providing the quality of entertainment viewers get from watching a show like Vanderpump Rules, while still ensuring that there are boundaries and regulations that protect the people tasked with bringing us the entertainment. Because the only thing better than watching these shows and waking up the next day to talk about all the drama, is getting to do that without the nagging feeling like you played a part in someone experiencing anything from an assault to a mental health crisis.