‘Vanderpump Rules’ Reunion Recap, Season 10, Episode 16
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‘Vanderpump Rules’ Reunion Recap, Season 10, Episode 16

May 18, 2023

There has been nothing ordinary about this season of Vanderpump Rules, which, for my money, has been one of the best seasons of reality television of all time. That includes that Daddy Moneybags Vulture III, the owner of this website, is letting me recap all three parts of the reunion, which he hasn't done in years. Historically I hated recapping the reunions because nothing happens. Other than talking about their dresses (and Ariana's revenge dress is perhaps one of the most iconic reunion looks of all time), there is little to parse. It's just who said what about whom and who said it the loudest.

This reunion also offers us another dilemma: There is clearly one right side. What Sandoval and Raquel did to Ariana and the entire cast is so awful and beyond the pale that no one I have seen on God's Green Internet possibly supports them. This makes all the discussions sort of boring and one-sided and has given real-life trolls like DJ James Kennedy and Lauren Kent (Hey, if everyone's going to do it to "Rachel," shouldn't we spread it around?) carte blanche to say and do whatever they want.

The fun discussions from the reunion come from ambiguity, and there are so few here that even Ariana had to say she's not bisexual anymore and take a side. (Please, Ariana, I am begging you, please get yourself a Hollywood power lesbian as a wife and quit this dirty reality game altogether.) Naturally, like everyone else, I am fascinated by the #Scandoval and want all of my questions answered and to hear every single detail about it. However, I’m afraid that some of the more ambiguous questions from this season — were Katie and Lala justified in their treatment of Raquel before the scandal broke, did Brock ever pay his outstanding child support, should Katie have gone to Scheana's wedding — are going to get skipped entirely.

There are also some things the cast seems to think are ambiguous that really aren't. Andy asked the whole cast, most of whom are cheaters, how they’re not hypocrites for coming down so hard on Tom and Raquel. Please, Tom Schwartz drunkenly making out with some girl pales in comparison to the long-running affair that Tom and Raquel perpetuated. Also, Sandoval seems to think that there is some distinction between the fact that he and Raquel had a one-night stand and then started having sex again at some later date. Starting an affair is like doing porn; it's a decision you make only once. Even if you do porn even once, that will forever be a part of how people see you. Whether you make one movie or a million, it doesn't matter because you did porn. Tom has done porn. Tom has done so much porn. He's done more porn than Ken Todd watches while petting the miniature ponies that live in the little shed behind his house.

Anyway, the hour even starts unconventionally, with Andy Cohen interviewing Ariana, Sandoval, and Raquel in what appears to be the couch section of the Burbank West Elm store. I’m not quite sure what purpose this served. It's giving us the facts that all of us Scandoval obsessives already know. (Need a timeline? We got timelines!) Everything else this segment offered us, I feel like we got more of and better during Ariana's Watch What Happens Live appearance last week after the finale.

Speaking of which, Ariana continues to handle herself perfectly. It almost reminds me of when I got beat up by a professional dominatrix (it was for a story!), and after all the pain, I just had this absolute clarity over everything. Ariana seems clear-eyed, level-headed, and a little bit mean, but also totally justified. She's not accepting any excuses, and she is giving Sandoval no quarter. That's what being able to occupy the moral high ground while wearing three red Ace bandages with matching stilettos and cheetah nails will do for you.

Sandoval seems resigned, like he knows that everyone is going to dog pile on him, so he might as well lie still and hope it hurts a little bit less. Also, whoever told him to stop bringing up old shit (I think it was Lala?) was absolutely correct. There is a big difference between James being a jerk at 21 and sleeping with Kristen to get on the show and Tom screwing over his life partner during a midlife crisis with her best friend. Sorry, there is no comparing and contrasting.

Schwartz didn't do much better. When he lays out his timeline of what he knew when he says he knew starting in late August. When Sandoval says no, which we saw in the trailer, it makes it seem like he knew sooner, but no, Sandoval doesn't remember him knowing until January, about two months before the scandal broke and after filming had wrapped. I feel like Sandoval is confusing Schwartz knowing they boned with when he knew about the affair, maybe? But, just like Ariana said, Tom coached her to be on the show; it is amazing that they didn't get this ironed out before the taping, and I loved Lala and James for picking up on this. The most important information we get is that he kissed Raquel before he knew what happened with her and Sandoval and that he and Raquel weren't fooling around for a smoke screen for the real affair. This last bit of info seems dubious, but I’ll allow it.

We get a bit into whether or not Schwartz should have made out with Raquel and, no, he shouldn't have. He tries to liken Katie sleeping with dudes when they were apart to his one kiss with Raquel. There is a difference, and that is that Katie never said he couldn't sleep around or date people. She asked him not to mess around with like six people in all of Los Angeles, and he couldn't be bothered to do that. I mean, the only thing that keeps him from being a worm with a mustache, like James called Sandoval, is that he doesn't have a mustache.

Katie comes off very well in the whole episode. Not only is she solidly in the right about everything discussed so far, but she also looks fantastic and, for the first time possibly ever, she seems like she has a good haircut. Scheana doesn't have much to do yet, so she sits on the end and cries, and I love her so much more, thanks to the final scene from last week's finale.

Who does that leave us with? Just James and Lala, the two terrible children from The Turn of the Screw, all grown up. I’m really divided on these two. While I love their Statler and Waldorf act on the end of their row, it is also way too much and pulling focus from what we want to accomplish at this reunion — getting all of the facts out of the Toms and just saying, "Yassssss queen" to Ariana while waving our right index fingers in the air while snapping with our left ones.

James sits down after one too many Monster energy drinks and is ready to rumble in the jungle before Andy's even had time to organize his cards. When James gets up to try to fight Sandoval, Andy and security have to get him back in his chair and behaving. Andy tells him, "You have to stay in your seat, dude," in the exact same voice he uses when talking to his three-year-old when he's having a temper tantrum. The voice seems to work as well on James as it does on Ben. This is all too much, too soon, and while James does have a part to play in this whole drama, he's making it all about himself, as LVP points out, when there are many more aggrieved people in the room.

Right now, I’m really holding all of my contempt for Lala. Strangely enough, I like Lala; I really do. She's funny, pretty, and can serve a great one-liner, and I think she's a master of the reality television arts and sciences. But she is a piece of work. It's that she always takes everything one step too far. I completely agree that her ex, Randall, and Sandoval are the same in that they’re serial cheaters you can't trust. However, calling him "dangerous" seems like a reach. Yes, he's emotionally dangerous for his partners and all around him, but he has never assaulted anyone. He hasn't stolen any money. He hasn't tortured a string of assistants with racist remarks like Randall.

Then, when LVP tries to take umbrage with the word, Lala tells her that she rejects Lisa's opinion. That's the thing about opinions: You can disagree with them but can't reject them. Just because Lisa has a different opinion doesn't mean that she should be shut up, like Lala tries to do to her.

Where I really take umbrage with her, though, is during the bullying talk. Scheana says that the way the other women on the cast were treating Raquel brought her back to when Katie and Lala were bullying her in earlier seasons. Lala says, "This isn't pre-K; this is Bravo. We all signed up for it. There's no bullying happening here." I agree with Lala that bullying is an overused term, especially in reality-television reunions. Being mean to someone, calling them names, or treating them like shit when they have wronged you is not bullying. To me, bullying has always been prolonged and systematic abuse by someone you can't escape, like a classmate, co-worker, or family member.

Based on my definition, that is exactly what Katie, Kristen, and Stassi did to Scheana for years. We even get a couple of clips, but what they subjected poor Scheana to in her early years was reprehensible. It was then, and it is now. The same actually goes for how Katie, Kristen, and Stassi treated Lala in her early seasons. I came to her defense more than once, saying she shouldn't be treated like that, only for her to turn around and do the same exact thing to Raquel as soon as she appeared on the scene.

Is what Raquel did to the group with Tom right? Absolutely not. However, Lala's poor treatment of this girl — screaming at her, calling her names, sleeping with her boyfriend, for Christ's sake — is bullying. What Katie and Lala did to her this season was bullying; no matter how awful she was after that, she didn't deserve that. Should Raquel be sad and alone in her little trailer exactly 100 yards from the studio watching it on closed-circuit TV like she's at a dance recital waiting for her class to go? Yes! But no matter how unprecedented this season and this reunion is, we can't ever say that's an excuse to torture and marginalize someone in the cast, even if it is for our entertainment.

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