'Vanderpump Rules' is 'emotionally edging' its audience — and I'm on the brink
Bravo aired part one of its three-part "Vanderpump Rules" reunion Wednesday night.
There were plenty of sequined gowns, James Kennedy tantrums, and shots of Raquel rolling her eyes.
But fans expecting a satisfying accountability session were sorely disappointed.
For the last two months, there's been a fat hamster nesting in my brain, and that hamster is obsessed with "Vanderpump Rules."
All day he slowly runs the hamster wheel, nibbles on cheese, and ruminates on the Ariana Madix, Tom Sandoval, Raquel Leviss cheating scandal. He is busy.
"Scandoval" has been heating up since early March when Madix found out that her boyfriend of nine years had been cheating on her for multiple months with her best friend.
Since then, fans of the show have been tuning in to catch clues of the affair, and to watch the inevitable moment when the entire thing finally exploded out into the ether, which was captured during a retooled season finale last week. In a chilled scene between Madix and Sandoval, he asks her if she "wants anything" (presumably, from the kitchen where he's standing). She replies: "For you to die."
Frustratingly, though not surprisingly, in the conversation that follows, it's Sandoval that seems lit with rage, not Madix. There is no "correct" way to respond to a partner's betrayal, but Madix for sure handled herself with grace, composure, and wit.
In the weeks leading up to the confrontation, I had hoped that Sandoval would offer Madix a mea culpa, but he seems constitutionally incapable of accountability. Of course, reality TV is rarely, if ever, about that, but it still stings to see that for all the external dialogues happening around the betrayal, the one being filmed allowed him to worm (with a mustache) out of really saying sorry. This is deeply unsatisfying.
On Wednesday night's reunion, the anticipation of accountability once again fell flat. Despite being surrounded by a roomful of castmembers who were more than willing to throw jabs, the whole thing felt muted, slippery, and soft. Yes, there were theatrics (James Kennedy will always deliver), but there was ultimately little in the way of catharsis. Too many of host Andy Cohen's questions were regrettably rooted in whether the relationship had been in a good place prior to the cheating, giving Sandoval an easy set up to say that his affair with Leviss had been the inevitable and justified next step. (Thankfully, Madix called both Cohen and Sandoval out for their pandering to that narrative).
Cohen's job as host is to hold Sandoval's feet to the fire, but he's doing the absolute least, and it shows.
Tom Sandoval is still shoveling the same shit. There is always an implied "but" anytime he begins offering a halfway apology and it's clear it's more important for him to stick to a consistent narrative than a truthful one. Fans will never get the actual timeline of events that we've been so diligently trying to complete.
He still won't come clean, even though he's hit absolute rock bottom and alienated virtually the entire 18 to 55 demographic at this point. It's so emotionally unsatisfying to not get that closure, to not see this man really express genuine remorse, or understand the non-logic of "every time I wanted to tell her, I got this vibe that she did just not want to fucking know."
We still have two more episodes of the reunion to go, so anything is possible, but I think we should all prepare for the disappointing worst.
And while that sucks for fans who have become unhealthily obsessed with this story (raises hand), it sucks for Ariana much more.
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