Sandoval Is Torched, Raquel Watches

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You can tell a movie or TV show is excellent when it feels like it’s gone by way too quickly, leaving you with an abrupt feeling of sadness right after the most enthralling high. That’s how I would describe consuming the absolutely riveting and hysterical first hour of the three-part Vanderpump Rules reunion, where James Kennedy and the rest of the cast call Tom Sandoval every name and made-up slur (“worm with a mustache”) under the sun while Raquel Leviss, because of a restraining order, watches on a TV in a trailer.

Whatever producers forced Leviss to watch her now former lover get torn to shreds and then eaten alive by this group of lions before she’s thrown into the den herself are absolutely sadistic—but also geniuses. It’s not even that Leviss appears shaken watching the man she loves get verbally eviscerated and nearly punched. This season has proven that this woman is completely unflappable (among other adjectives).

That said, she’s watching this reunion from this hideous RV like an episode of The Wheel of Fortune, sighing when Sandoval flubs an answer and giggling when things get too ridiculous. I would honestly watch 1,000 hours of Leviss having to process information on an LG monitor. Let’s put that on Peacock!

Anyway, let’s get into the actual shitshow. Before the entire cast gathers before Andy Cohen, we get some (sort of unnecessary) preliminary interviews with new Raising Cane’s spokeswoman Ariana Madix, Sandoval, and Leviss. We even flashback to the interviews throughout the show, mostly to catch Sandoval in his lies. Cohen asks the trio many of the same questions we’ve already gotten the answers to over the past two months. I’m guessing the producers weren’t prepared for the cast to go on so many goddamn podcasts leading up to this.

But the details about the Scandoval, how it started, if Sandoval and Leviss are actually in love, blah, blah, blah is hardly the most thrilling part of this reunion. After all, we’re here to watch Sandoval try to push out tears, Madix aggressively rolls her eyes, and Kennedy transform into the Hulk. Luckily, Cohen cuts right to chase, asking Sandoval if he has anything to say about everything that’s happened at the top. For some reason, Sandoval begins his teary-eyed spiel with, “I just want to thank everyone…” like he’s accepting an Oscar.

Of course, Kennedy cuts him off to remind him that he’s not Daniel Day-Lewis. In fact, this entire hour is just Sandoval uttering two or three words before being shut down by Madix, Kennedy, Lala Kent, and Katie Maloney. At one point, their entire row starts booing. I’m shocked that Madix didn’t pull a tomato out of her bra.

Kennedy, by far, is the biggest heckler. On one hand, Sandoval, his de-facto mentor, did sleep with his ex-fianceé after footing the bill for his extravagant “Rachella” engagement. On the other hand, Kennedy is a terrible person, who has a larger track record of disrespecting women than all the men on this show combined. But he’s funny enough that he can get away with his hypocrisy—at least for three hours.

Twice, Kennedy gets up from his seat to lunge at Sandoval before Cohen and a security guard hold him back. Meanwhile, Lisa Vanderpump—who really doesn’t need to be here—is doing her best to mitigate, telling the peanut gallery to chill out and defending Sandoval from Kent’s tongue-lashing.

Vanderpump already took some heat for her surprisingly graceful treatment towards Sandoval in the finale. And she’ll probably make viewers even more upset at her during this reunion. However, it’s clear that both she and Cohen, who remains pretty objective throughout the episode, are somewhat nervous about how much this incident has blown up.

Bravo hasn’t really dealt with a scandal of this scope before, even during 2020’s racial reckoning. And it’s clear they don’t want an employee to have a mental breakdown or worse on their watch. (Not that the network hasn’t milked this thing for all its worth.) Vanderpump is clearly trying to protect her business partner and mentee, especially for an (albeit god-awful) act that most people have the privilege of handling in private. Not to mention, that most people have committed on this very show, as Cohen reminds the cast. (Kent rebuts that no one—at least on that stage—has slept with their best friend’s partners).

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Still, Sandoval has managed to vilify Madix following the affair and publicly humiliate Leviss at his recent concerts. So it doesn’t seem like he’s necessarily trying to reduce the backlash.

This first installment isn’t entirely about the Scandoval—though every conversation ends up coming back to that. Schwartz and Sandoval explain why it took so long for their flop restaurant to open. Shay apologizes for defending Leviss’s behavior throughout and talks about mending her relationship with Kent. Maloney and Schwartz discuss him breaking their “no hooking up with friends” rule.

This feeds into one of the only real revelations from the episode, which is that Schwartz and his alleged gal pal Jo apparently went on a secret double date with Sandoval and Leviss to Big Bear earlier this year. When Schwartz denies that it was a double date, Madix yells, “Wwhat was it, a f-ckfest?!” It’s one of the funniest things she’s ever uttered on this show in nine years.

Ultimately, this first reunion episode ends as hilariously as it begins with Kennedy being so triggered by Sandoval’s antics that he has to leave the studio. Cut to Leviss staring blankly at a screen.

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