TV & Movies

How Vanderpump Rules Can Move Past Season 11’s Divisive Reunion

The show’s future could hinge on letting go of one of its stars.

‘Vanderpump Rules’ Season 12 Should Lose Tom Sandoval
Nicole Weingart/Bravo

The ending of Vanderpump Rules Season 11 was bleak, to say the least. Even the Bravo show’s namesake, Lisa Vanderpump, was at a loss for words as the May 28 reunion wrapped up, solemnly stating, “I don’t know how to make this better.”

The Season 11 finale ended with the cast divided, after Ariana Madix walked out of an event to avoid speaking with her ex-boyfriend, Tom Sandoval, who had cheated on her with past co-star Rachel Leviss. This frustrated several castmates, causing Lala Kent to break the fourth wall and argue that Madix’s behavior is a slap in the face to the rest of them, and jeopardizes the show.

It also felt like a series finale (with its emotional montage of throwback moments), and Bravo’s decision to not go into production this summer sparked concerns about the show’s future. Fans also did not receive the cast’s sentiments well, especially after Madix’s tearful reunion reaction, causing speculation about whether she’d even return if there is another season.

However, one way the show can move on is by letting Sandoval go. The choice to frame the finale around Madix’s refusal to have a forgiving conversation with her ex implies that he’s an essential asset to Pump Rules. But the show can survive just fine without him.

Ariana Is More Essential

Ariana Madix and Andy Cohen on the Vanderpump Rules Season 11 reunion. Griffin Nagel/Bravo

The cast treated Madix’s choice not to interact with Sandoval as if it were detrimental to their show. While many people think his cheating scandal revived the show and gave it mainstream attention, Madix actually deserves the credit.

Sandoval may have been the one to cheat, but it was Madix who brought the affair revelations to production and held him accountable publicly while her emotions were still raw. Whereas, Sandoval planned to keep his indiscretions off-camera.

Sandoval’s Story Feels Complete

Tom Sandoval and Lisa Vanderpump on Vanderpump Rules Season 11.Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Undoubtedly, Sandoval is an essential part of Season 11 as the cast navigates the fallout of Scandoval. But now that the exes said their peace at the reunion, with Sandoval finally apologizing for his affair, and Madix tearfully wishing that he just stayed away from her, there seems to be no way forward for them on the show.

For better or worse, Sandoval’s story feels complete. And given how most fans on social media are on Madix’s side, even criticizing other castmates for pressuring her to speak to Sandoval, it seems like viewers aren’t interested in another attempt at a redemption arc.

Pump Rules Has Survived Worse

Stassi Schroeder and Jax Taylor on Watch What Happens Live.Bravo/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

While Sandoval is one of the few OG cast members to star in all 11 seasons of Pump Rules, along with Scheana Shay and Katie Maloney, he’s never been the main character. In the early seasons, he was Jax Taylor’s earnest sidekick-turned-frenemy and part of a dynamic duo with Tom Schwartz. Arguably, Taylor’s departure put him more in the spotlight.

Longtime viewers can argue that Taylor and Stassi Schroeder once led this ensemble show, with their former romance connecting the group and providing the most drama. A show without either of these lightning rods once seemed incomprehensible, but when they were let go after Season 8, the show went on. Pump Rules not only survived without them, but received its first Emmy nominations.

It’s Time To Bring Back An OG

Lala Kent, Katie Maloney, and Ariana Madix on the Vanderpump Rules Season 11 reunion. Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Given their history, Madix, Maloney, Shay, and Kent can easily generate enough drama for a 12th season. So much so that replacing Sandoval with a new cast member on Pump Rules isn’t really necessary. But if the show wants to add one more strong personality into the mix, it might be worth bringing Schroeder back into the fold.

Andy Cohen hinted at wanting Schroeder back in the Vanderpump Cinematic Universe after he ran into her at the grand opening of Madix and Maloney’s sandwich shop Something About Her. The only problem is he isn’t sure if she’s ready to return to reality TV. “I think I might have thrown something out there as I always like to,” he told Us Weekly. “I do [miss her on Bravo].”

For her part, Schroeder rejected a spot on the spinoff, The Valley, and said she doesn’t watch Pump Rules. However, she remains friendly with much of the cast, and even admitted on the Call Her Daddy podcast that she had FOMO about not getting to confront Sandoval during Scandoval. “Not being on this last season, it’s like my talents were wasted,” she said. Maybe it’s not too late to rectify that.