Usually I like to welcome you to the Housewives Institute Bulletin with some jokes and a couple pieces of big news you might have missed, like that Kathy Hilton is not returning to RHOBH or that Shannon Beador took a selfie with her devilish ex David at the Quiet Woman. But not this month. Instead I would just like to express thanks. Thanks to Tom Sandoval’s narcissism and Raquel’s [insert armchair diagnosis of your choice here], we got one of the best seasons of reality television of all time, and hashing out the minutiae of the dumpster fire happening in the SUR Alley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with the smartest, funniest, best fans on the planet made it that much more enjoyable.
So this issue is a tribute to all of you Scandoval lovers. We have the winners and losers of the whole affair, a peek at what’s going on with Schwartz on Stars on Mars, and a walk down Raquel nickname memory lane. But first, the big question facing Vanderpump fans: Where do we go from here?
The Post-Scandoval Era Is Upon Us
How in Lisa Vanderpump’s pink garden are they going to film season 11?
On the eve of the finale of a record-breaking season of Vanderpump Rules, executive producer Alex Baskin — who runs Evolution Media, which produces the show along with RHOC, RHOBH, and others for Bravo — gave an interview to the Hollywood Reporter debunking some popular internet rumors and saying Raquel is not pregnant and that the focus of the show is not moving to Schwartz & Sandy’s. But mostly he walked back his previous comments suggesting that the big revelation at the end of the reunion might make the cast reevaluate whether they want to sign their contracts for the next season. He gave some hints of what season 11 might look like now that contracts are going out, saying there are discussions about bringing back former cast members; that the cast can’t really say, “Sorry, but I’m not filming with that person”; and that Vanderpump Rules as we know it is going to look pretty much the same. (Although it may have some interesting new competition in the form of Hulu’s just-announced Vanderpump Villa, which is about the staff of Lisa’s French chateau and guest house and will be produced by Lisa herself with a different production company, Bunim/Murray.)
“The cast knows that those conditional demands never work,” Baskin says. “It’s a matter of dialing in what is organic for the group to be together, what makes sense. And knowing we want to see where they go from here. It can’t be a show with separate islands. That doesn’t work and it’s not exciting if we have groups who agree with each other but never interact.”
I agree with what he says, but how exactly is that going to happen? Will there be cast parties at Tom Tom and no one shows up but the Toms? Is Scheana going to be forced to have the Toms crash her inevitable vow renewal in Punta Cana, the two of them sitting in their robes watching from a balcony like the new Katie Maloney and Kristina Always Both Names Kelly? And what if production does force everyone to hang out with the Toms? Is every episode just going to be DJ James Kennedy and Lauren Kent (that’s for trying to pretend like using the name “Lala” is somehow different from using “Raquel”) shouting at the Toms about how disgusting they are? That’s not really a show I want to watch.
And what about Raquel? Baskin says they’re in talks with her team, but she can’t be capable of doing another season. I don’t know that I want to see her do another season. Yeah, what she did was awful, but this horse is already dead. We don’t have to set it on fire while it tries to apply false eyelashes.
So if Raquel is out, who is coming back? Katie just said she doesn’t think that Stassi Schroeder or Kristen Doute, who were fired in 2020 for racist behavior toward castmate Faith Stowers, are interested in returning. Although Doute returned for a flip-flopped scene with Ariana in which they tried to exorcize their mutual ex, doing a little cameo and coming back full time are two different things. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Kristen at some lunches, but, yeah, I don’t think she’s going to be hanging out at SUR in the opening any time soon.
That leaves us with Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright, the heirs to a MeeMaw’s Beer Cheese fortune. Please, in the name of all the saints in heaven and the reality stars below, do not bring Jax and Brittany back. Jax and his lying, cheating pathology had become tired by the time he declared it “his show” and Lisa Vanderpump had him summarily banned from the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard that she won in a duel with the man who discovered West Hollywood. This pasta-ed-up blowhard shouting about how he was right about Tom Sandoval the whole time is the last thing this show needs.
But the show clearly needed something before season ten kicked off; it had been faltering with fans and in the ratings for years. And this season did show some improvements outside of the Scandoval of it all. Lisa Vanderpump’s role had become increasingly irrelevant over the years, but I loved how this season repositioned her from lording over the SURvers at her restaurant to serving as mentor to different groups of budding restaurant entrepreneurs. It seems like there is a future in a show set up like that, with Lisa as the bridge between the two sides — if not trying to make them get along, then at least getting them into the same venue for filming opportunities.
With or without Lisa, though, Evolution still has to figure out how to blend two camps that absolutely hate each other. Does the show try to pull a season eight and bring in a whole new host of characters who work at Schwartz & Sandy’s? Maybe. Do Ariana and her coterie of gays get more attention for sitting around watching Love Island? Also maybe. Or maybe the show becomes about forgiveness, who can earn it and who deserves it … Oh, please, this isn’t a reboot of The Leftovers. We want absolute messiness, and we want it now.
The problem facing Evolution is the same one facing another Bravo-aligned production company, Sirens Media, which put RHONJ on pause after the intractable rift between Joe and Melissa Gorga and Teresa Giudice and the 180-pound hunk of ground beef she recently married. In recent years the show has become entirely about sides, with Melissa huddling on her couch with Margaret Josephs and new girl Rachel Fuda, and Teresa standing by with her sniveling toady Jennifer Aydin and other new girl Danielle Cabral. (Where’s Dolores? Just letting that fence give her inner thighs splinters.) Before the RHONJ reunion I was team “Fire both Melissa and Teresa and start over,” but after Melissa’s masterful gloves-off performance and Teresa following her man down the rabbit hole, I can envision a future where they both get to stay and the show continues on.
But again: How? It was already inorganic that Katie and Tom Schwartz had to have dinner in Mexico to celebrate selling their house when they clearly hate each other post-divorce and would rather be anywhere else. How are we going to get people who loathe each other to such an electrifying extent in the same room again and have it seem like anything akin to, well, reality?
The good news is that is not our job to figure out, and if you can, you should call either Evolution or Sirens immediately and trade in your soul for a career in the reality-television arts and sciences. But these people have given us so many great shows, so many excellent moments over the years, that if anyone can figure it out, it’s them. Just please don’t let the answer — on either coast, or really ever in life — be Jax Taylor.
VULTURE’S COMPLETE GUIDE TO SCANDOVAL
The Winners and Losers of Scandoval
There’s never been a reality-television scandal as cut-and-dried as the one we’ve been marveling at for the past three months. It’s clear that the winner here is Ariana and her whole side of the reunion and the losers are, well, everyone else. But let’s turn the lens on our microscope up one level and see how some of Scandoval’s more outlying entities fared.
LOSER: Lightning Bolts
Not even Zeus wants his anymore.
LOSER: Sandoval’s Mom’s Retirement Fund
She sunk it all into Schwartz & Sandy’s, a restaurant that has had its Yelp reviews permanently frozen.
WINNER: Katie Maloney’s Hair
In ten seasons she had never once had a good hair day until she showed up to film that reunion. Shellac that wig and never take it off.
LOSER: White Nail Polish
It’s Joey Buttafuoco pants for millennials.
WINNER: Love Island
Who doesn’t want to sit around and watch this with Ariana, Logan, and the rest of the crew? (Yes, Tom, it is a time commitment, but that’s what makes it fun!)
This scandal is the worst thing reality TV did to the pageant circuit since Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
WINNER: White Claw
Scheana sitting in her trailer 100 yards from the reunion watching it while gripping a can of hard seltzer was literally every single one of us.
LOSER: Coors Light
The Toms’ and Raquel’s drink of choice was disgusting to start with. Now it’s on a whole different level.
This hasn’t been the Chinese spying app’s biggest or best scandal, but it really was where all of us were going to get our news for months.
LOSER: The Most Extras
Imagine the indignity of being Tom’s backing band and having to play concerts every night to a crowd of people who hate you.
It revitalized a flagging franchise, made a whole heap of cash, and found itself in the Zeitgeist in a way it hasn’t been since the glory days of Real Housewives.
LOSER: Andy Cohen
He’s an executive producer on all the Housewives shows, but not Pump Rules. However, his faces did win the reunion.
I don’t think we’re ever going to see a reality-TV moment like this again, and it has been an absurdly amusing ride.
How Are Our Friends Doing?
Checking in on Tom Schwartz on Fox’s Stars on Mars.
He narrowly escaped being booted first and left us this very telling quote.
The Name Game
From the first moment Raquel graced our television screens, I didn’t like her. She seemed like a certain type of striving, vacuous California girl with nothing at her core other than a desire for fame and probably the Hailey Bieber smoothie from Erewhon. I decided then and there that every time her name came up in a recap I would give her a scathing epithet. Although my linguistic war on her eventually ceased — I was blinded by her charm for a season or so — I figured it was appropriate to pay homage to her reign of terror by recapping everything I ever called Raquel (and thank you to Institute member Ashley for compiling this list).
• If a pumpkin spice latte grew legs, walked itself over to a SoulCycle class, bought itself an adult coloring book and a pair of Tory Burch flats, and then showed up at bottomless brunch 15 minutes late, it wouldn’t be any more basic than James’s 21-year-old beauty-pageant girlfriend, whom he met at New Year’s Eve at Pump
• A random bit of glitter you pick off your face on a Sunday morning
• A $9.99 bikini top from H&M
• The line in front of Sephora for a Jenner sister’s new lip kit
• An 11:11 wish for the perfect pair of yoga pants
• A half-finished La Croix that someone left behind on their table at Sweetgreen
• An owl that can’t muster even a hoot
• A Hello Kitty backpack with nothing inside
• A casserole made out of only yellow Starburst and discontinued lip gloss
• Fifteen different eyeshadows in search of a palette
• Boring, dumb, and more monotonous than a YouTube video where screaming goats sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
• A balloon of whippets you do while tailgating to see an unranked state school play football.
• A stalled Barbie Ferrari
• The human equivalent of Sweetgreen transitioning to a tech company
• A carousel horse with one hind leg missing
• A deck chair left out in the sun too long
• A scrunchie on the doorknob of an abandoned room
• The Goop candle that doesn’t smell like Gwynnie’s vagina that no one bought
• A dish of Sparkle Dog–brand dog food with no water in it
• A cell-phone tower disguised to look like a palm tree
• A pair of yoga pants that have lost their stretch
• A Starburst that … wait, I’m not going to do that today
• The last vegan pizza left in Whole Foods during coronavirus hoarding
• The one pack of Minions Valentine’s cards left on a Rite Aid shelf on February 15
• A free yoga mat you get after buying 12 Moon Juices in eight days
• A pair of Jessica Simpson gummi sandals
• A bottle of kombucha someone left in the back of a Lyft
• A Mentos commercial that ends in tragedy
• A TikTok challenge made flesh
• A Japanese vending machine that only sells schoolgirls’ panties
• A brand of rosé Champagne for puppies
• A luridly pink Rabbit vibrator whose batteries have died
• The human stepsister of that paper puppet girl who talks to you between levels of Candy Crush
• A Pinterest board for mason-jar wedding centerpieces
• All of the melons in an Edible Arrangement
• A human version of Dexter’s sister Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory
• A single My Little Pony pool floatie bobbing in the water.
• The magenta briefs under a Hamptons tennis skirt
• A Lush bath bomb that smells like sugar-free gum and skipping third period
• A ”Which Disney Princess Are You?” Instagram filter where every answer is Ariel
• A TikTok dance so embarrassing even JoJo Siwa won’t do it
• A TikTok challenge that only three people did
• A Botox vial with a Depop store
• A good witch who uses a mascara brush as her wand
• A TikTok sea chantey about lip liner
• A piece of Away luggage that will only allow itself to be packed with Fashion Nova
• A strawberry salad with unicorn dressing
• The pink dog on Paw Patrol with eyelash extensions
• A scrunchie-flavored La Croix
• A K-pop single about espresso martinis
• A gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free keto seaweed cupcake
• A catered floral-dress-themed tea party in a public park
• All of the colored bits in a Funfetti cupcake sculpted into a toy chihuahua
• A Depop listing for an original Jonas Brothers–tour T-shirt
• A miniature pinscher in a “Girl Boss” sweater
• A Peloton class that only plays “Baby Shark” on a loop
• A gorgeous-looking succulent in a little pot that says “THRIVE” on the side in glitter letters but whose leaves are used for making the world’s most deadly poison
• A scam Instagram account that’s trying to get you to invest in crypto
A selection of the best Vulture’s Bravo Recaps Industrial Complex had to offer this month.
Vanderpump Rules: “Lala knows deep down inside she and Raquel are the same person. They’re both name-changers who wanted to use reality television to get really, really famous, and they might have fucked some shady-ass dudes to get there.” [Reunion Part 3]
Real Housewives of Atlanta: “The Real Housewives of Atlanta is in the midst of a crisis. It’s beginning to feel as if the visual revamp of the show was the equivalent of Phaedra dressing a corpse up in its Sunday best before being buried six feet beneath the Earth’s surface.” [Season 15, Episode 5]
Real Housewives of Orange County: “The name of her yoga studio is Devi Rebel Yoga, but based on the sign, it looked like Devl Rebel Yoga as if it was named after both Rebel Wilson, no one’s favorite Australian, and Devl, which is “Devil” with no i, which is probably the name of an app for Satanists.” [Season 17 premiere]
Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard: “No matter the race, throwing a group of attractive, camera-hungry young people in a house filled with alcohol is not going to turn into a convention about civil rights. There’s been bountiful conflict, more than enough to balance some of the poignant conversations about race, creating an authentic portrayal of modern Blackness.” [Season 1, Episode 5]
Below Deck Sailing Yacht: “Colin admits that he and Daisy ‘have always been flirty’ with each other, but that their finally acting on it is still surprising. I don’t buy it! Surely I’m not the only one who thinks something romantic happened between them long before the cameras started rolling?” [Season 4 Episode 9]