Seating at a Bravo reunion is very important. On a recent episode of the podcast Las Culturistas, Andy Cohen revealed that those who sit closest to him are the ones who have had the most drama over the past season of their respective show. So it makes sense that during the Vanderpump Rules Season 10 reunion Ariana Madix has been sitting directly to his right. But directly to his left is Lisa Vanderpump, not Tom Sandoval, the person who ultimately sent this season’s scandal into motion. It’s a perplexing choice, because Vanderpump has done nothing to earn that spot, and placing her there draws even more attention to the fact that she no longer belongs on her own spinoff.
Yes, Vanderpump Rules is her namesake, and she is the one who ultimately hired everyone to work at her restaurants and in turn end up on the show. But seeing Sandoval lean around her to talk to Cohen and Madix is a visual reminder that Vanderpump has little to contribute to the breakdown of this season’s drama because she was barely involved. The show is no longer about the Real Housewives alum, and the cast is loudly letting her know during each part of the reunion.
When the series started, Vanderpump was the obvious puppetmaster of her twentysomething staffers. She feigned disinterest in the drama of their lives while in the same breath dropping bombs about gossip spread in her restaurants with a twinkle in her eye. There was an unspoken competition among the cast members to become Vanderpump’s favorite, whether by being an excellent worker or creating compelling storylines to keep viewers interested in the series. She was a mentor to some, an adversary to many, and the aspirational center of these young people’s lives.
But those young people have grown up over the past 10 years. Raquel Leviss and Charli Burnett were the only ones still working at SUR in Season 10 (and given recent developments, it’s unlikely that Leviss will return to that serving gig). Most of the cast have successful businesses of their own, and even Sandoval and Tom Schwartz, two of her most devoted followers, started their lounge, Schwartz & Sandy’s, without her involvement. Each person on the show has a sense of self and confidence that they didn’t before — they no longer need Vanderpump’s approval. And as fully realized adults, they’re able to create their own narratives, dive into their personal struggles, and reveal new sides to themselves without Vanderpump coaxing it out of them.
So far during the reunion, she appears to be aligning herself with the wrong side. She’s the only one (other than Schwartz) who sympathizes with Sandoval. She’s ultimately on Madix’s side, but her interjections attempting to justify Sandoval’s actions are met with vitriol from the others, most of all Lala Kent, one of Vanderpump’s former favorites. In past seasons, going after the series’s matriarch would mean being instantly condemned, but here, Kent gains support of her co-stars. In that moment, Vanderpump became the villain of her own show.
It’s not like Vanderpump doesn’t have other options if she did leave the series (or, as housewives like to say, go “on pause”). She has a new restaurant and several business ventures in the works at all times. With recent cast shakeups, now could be the time for Vanderpump to return to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, where she can once again be at the center of the action, earning that reunion spot next to Cohen.
Part 3 of the Vanderpump Rules reunion airs June 7 on Bravo and an extended “Pumped Up” version streams on Peacock the next day. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.