‘Vanderpump Rules’: Ariana Is Starting to Look Like the Post-Scandoval Villain

Lisa Vanderpump is ready to heat up the cold war between Ariana and Sandoval in the latest episode, which sets up Sandoval’s big return to the group dynamic.Updated Feb. 20, 2024 9:02PM EST / Published Feb. 20, 2024 9:00PM EST Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/BravoThe Scandoval was the biggest moment in Vanderpump Rules history, and a historic watercooler sensation that

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Lisa Vanderpump is ready to heat up the cold war between Ariana and Sandoval in the latest episode, which sets up Sandoval’s big return to the group dynamic.

Alec Karam

A photo illustration of Lisa Vanderpump and Tom Sandoval on Vanderpump Rules.

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Bravo

The Scandoval was the biggest moment in Vanderpump Rules history, and a historic watercooler sensation that helped the Bravo staple ascend far beyond its typical reach. Suddenly, the show was a cultural tentpole, with the cast even scoring seats to the White House Correspondents Dinner.

And no one felt that rise more than Ariana Madix, who went from a supporting member to the face of the show. From a plethora of endorsements to a Dancing With the Stars spot and her newly minted run as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway, Ariana’s on top of the world. But, the year-long scorned-ex-turned-success story is nowhere to be seen in Ariana’s actual contributions to the show this season.

This week’s VPR saw Lisa Vanderpump set the stage for Tom Sandoval’s return to the fold, proving once again that, in this world of scandalous deviants, no one stays down for long. It’s a fact Ariana should be well aware of, but her poor strategy was on full display tonight, and she might have made a fatal misstep.

It all starts at Sandoval and Ariana’s still-shared house, where Ariana and Katie Maloney are preparing for James’ pool party. Aggravated by Tom Schwartz bulldozing his way into the group the night before, the two have no sympathy for the lost Tom feeling ganged up on. And they have even less interest in accompanying the group to the Tahoe trip, knowing Sandoval will be there.

Lisa Vanderpump on Vanderpump Rules.

Lisa Vanderpump

Bravo

“I would rather eat a jean jacket,” Katie says in a confessional. “Plus, we gotta open up a sandwich shop.”

This was filmed last summer. That alleged sandwich shop still isn’t open, nor does it have a proposed opening date, and it’s February 2024. Somehow, I think Katie could’ve blocked off three days for a cast trip. But, stay dedicated to making bad TV, I guess.

That’s what’s really frustrating. Both Katie and Ariana have every right to disdain the Toms. They suck! But this is a reality show, and the way to take down annoying people is not by ignoring them for your fake sandwich shop. Furthermore, Ariana avoiding the trip only allows Sandoval to sneak his way back into the group and loosens her iron grip. Horrible strategy from the sandwich girls.

In other news, Ariana shares that her Lyft driver from the night before was the same driver she and Sandoval had the night Ariana discovered the affair. How’s that for serendipity? If only he could’ve talked Ariana into going on the trip.

Next, Scheana and Lala make a pitstop at Lisa’s before the pool party. Last week, Lisa’s one-on-one with Sandoval set off alarm bells for her, as she worries for his mental health. And, let’s be real, she worries for the health of the show if Sandoval is iced out, given the immense momentum going into this season.

While Lala and Scheana respond defensively, they let their guards down when Lisa brings up her late brother, who died by suicide. It comes across genuinely, striking a cord with both ladies. Lisa knew what she was doing by dividing and conquering. Schwartz may have awkwardly whiffed his shot last week, but Lisa is quietly maneuvering behind-the-scenes, possibly ready to oust Ariana.

Before that, the group have one last cast event sans Sandoval. James’ pool party is a cute little time, but Sandoval opts for a much icier plunge. Juxtaposing the fun pool party with Sandoval’s American Psycho bath is very inspired, and very funny. Sandoval has such a seriousness to him that really elevates his character. It’s amazing he positioned himself as a relative normie for so many years.

Back at the pool party, Lala inquires with Ally about James’ newfound sobriety. She wants to approach James and be there for him, but doesn’t want to overstep. She follows this healthy conversation with another healthy conversation, making peace with Schwartz. Lala, is that you?

Ariana, on the other hand, doubles down on disdain. When Scheana tells her about their chat with Lisa, Ariana is beyond annoyed, and has no sympathy for Sandoval’s possibly suicidal thoughts.

“I can understand that maybe he has had some thoughts and some feelings, but like, those thoughts and those feelings are based on a situation that he created in which he didn’t give a fuck about anybody else’s mental health,” she says in a confessional.

It’s totally fair to hate Sandoval and want him to die, but Ariana, girl, some thoughts have to stay thoughts. At the same time, watching Ariana embrace her villainy is much more compelling than the hero story of a girl and her sandwich, so keep doubling down. Speaking of those sandwiches, where on Earth did Katie get this Something About Her floatie? First, you open the shop, then you make the merch. What happened to class?

The next day, Lala invites James to her apartment to talk sobriety. It has been three months since James decided to be sober, and this time, he’s planning on staying that way. While James previously was sober a few years back per the request of then-girlfriend Rachel, he says this time is different, as he’s doing it for himself.

Both he and Lala are really making a go at it of being healthy, well-adjusted adults, and only time will tell how long that can last. I mean, in the case of James, where abuse allegations are floating around, I’m not super optimistic.

Over at Schwartz’s place, we finally meet his infamous friend and pseudo roommate, Jo. And no, they’re not dating. I’m not sure what they’re doing, but I love her presence. Schwartz is like a kid cosplaying as an adult, and Jo seems like a fantastic babysitter. She even gives at-home haircuts!

Sandoval comes over and crashes this sensual haircut, and Schwartz invites him on the Lake Tahoe trip. Schwartz is hoping the group can put their issues behind them, and just have fun. Sandoval, however, doesn’t want to make nice with Scheana and Lala. Very pissed over their press tour slamming him, Sandoval still resents them deeply. But Schwartz is more optimistic, especially after his conversation with Lala. With Katie and Ariana opting out of the trip, it’s time for Sandoval to make a beeline back into the fray, if he can only let go of his ego.

Meanwhile, Scheana and Brock meet James and Ally for a pre-Tahoe double date. Carrying the bone of Sandoval sympathy, Scheana tells the group about her talk with Lisa—just like Lisa intended. She’s worried about the upcoming trip, as is Ally, who knows she’ll end up feeling bad for sad sack Sandoval. They’re very clearly toeing the line of accepting Sandoval back into the group, while recognizing Ariana’s scorched earth mindset with both her ex and his friends.

Will uninterrupted time with Sandoval heal the wounds, or deepen the divide? I’d err on the side of the former, and I think Ariana and Katie are in for a rude awakening when the cast return and the dynamics have shifted. Reality TV 101: Never opt out of the cast trip.

“It could get dark and messy real quick,” Brock says. God willing.

Over at Vanderpump Dogs, Lisa has a surprise for James: his estranged dog, Graham. If you’re lost, this is the dog James and Rachel shared, which she held custody of following their split. It’s not entirely clear why Rachel put Graham up, though one can assume it’s related to her post-Season 10 stay at a mental health facility. Either way, James is reunited with his one true love, and all is well in the Vanderpump Valley… for now. Stay tuned for Lake Tahoe.

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