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Vanderpump Rules Should Have Ended With Scandoval Because S11 Is Missing 3 Crucial Things

I don't remember the exact circumstances under which I first pressed play on "Vanderpump Rules," but my life was — and this is not an exaggeration — never the same afterward. Ever since I metaphorically walked through the doors of Lisa Vanderpump's West Hollywood oasis SUR Restaurant & Lounge, new pop culture references have become lodged firmly in my frontal lobe: Kristen Doute's cleavage-baring green dress, Scheana Shay's crop-top wedding gown, Tom Sandoval's trumpet, Jax Taylor stealing sunglasses in Hawaii and subsequently going to jail, "Rot in hell," Tom Schwartz's lizard Daug (who lived from 2019 to 2019), Laura-Leigh, Vail Bloom, and Pirate Peter — the list goes on. If you haven't yet experienced the joy of this "Real Housewives" spin-off, I'm jealous of you. Would that I could "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" myself and re-live Stassi Schroeder backhanding Doute all over again.

All of this is to say that I'm that person at the bar or party who wouldn't shut up about the scandal known as Scandoval in early 2023. But now that the golden age of "Vanderpump Rules" has truly ended, it's time to play "Closing Time" by Semisonic and shut the front doors of SUR, Tom Tom, and Schwartz & Sandy's. Send the cast members off to a farm or something to live out the rest of their weird, weird lives. Season 11, which is currently airing, needed three things to succeed; so far, it has none of them.

Whether her name is Rachel or Raquel, Vanderpump Rules needs Ms. Leviss

As a brief refresher, Scandoval centered around three people. First there's Tom Sandoval, the eponymous "worm with a mustache" who cheated on his live-in girlfriend of nine years. That girlfriend, Ariana Madix, found out about his affair thanks to an incriminating cell phone video (which fell out of Sandoval's pocket while he was performing with his vanity project cover band, no less). The third person? Rachel "Raquel" Leviss, Sandoval's affair partner, close friend of Madix, and former main cast member on "Vanderpump Rules."

Leviss left the show after Season 10 — which makes sense considering that she spent all of her time at that season's reunion being torn to shreds by Madix and any cast members who aren't named Tom. Not only did Leviss exit, but she also checked herself into an inpatient facility for mental health treatment for 90 days. From a completely sensible perspective, Leviss' absence is perfectly understandable. It's also glaring in Season 11.

Without Leviss on hand during the nuclear fallout of Scandoval — where everyone has turned against Sandoval, more or less — it leaves the villain of the story completely alone half of the time, which makes for frankly terrible television. I am sympathetic to Leviss' plight. Frankly, I'm glad she did what she felt she needed to do. But strictly from a narrative and storytelling perspective, a post-scandal "Vanderpump Rules" without one of the scandal's major players feels off.

Vanderpump Rules was once based on real friendships — but not after Scandoval

Tom Sandoval's complete isolation from the rest of the group presents yet another enormous issue for Season 11 of "Vanderpump Rules." Something I've always loved about this series is how organic the friendships were. Rather than a group of wealthy women thrust together like the casts of the "Real Housewives" franchise, "Vanderpump Rules" came into existence because executive producer Alex Baskin noticed that Beverly Hills housewife Lisa Vanderpump presided over a group of sexy unique restaurant workers. With cast member Scheana Shay's affair with Eddie Cibrian (former husband of Vanderpump's fellow "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" castmember Brandi Glanville) SUR-ving as a conduit for a backdoor pilot, "Vanderpump Rules" was born.

People like Shay and Sandoval, in particular, once worked together at Vanderpump's now-shuttered Hollywood restaurant Villa Blanca, and have been friends for years. This made the scene between them in Season 10 — where Shay confronts Sandoval about his massive betrayal — all the more touching, but it also makes the divide in Season 11 that much more stark. Nobody is willing to hang out with Sandoval anymore ... least of all Madix, which is completely understandable. However, as with Rachel Leviss' absence, this does not make for great TV. Cast trips — which are, as fans know, mandated by Bravo — are now a painful proposition; gone are the days of joint bachelorette parties in New Orleans and constant indiscretions in Las Vegas. The glory days of "Vanderpump Rules" are in the past, and a total lack of cohesiveness within the cast — again, for completely understandable reasons! — is a big part of that.

In a post-Scandoval world, the stakes on Vanderpump Rules are lower than ever

When Season 10 started airing in early 2023, fans were growing tired of "Vanderpump Rules" — particularly after the 8th and 9th seasons, which were dull slogs. Sure, Katie Maloney and Tom Schwartz's divorce — as well as Lala Kent's high-profile split from her disgraced ex-fiancé Randall Emmett — presented enough drama to shake things up somewhat before the premiere, but both of those plotlines were basically thrown to the sidelines for Scandoval.

Season 10 presented a situation completely unique to reality television as we knew it. The season continued airing as usual after March 3 broke the Bravoverse, but fans knew about Tom Sandoval and Rachel Leviss' affair ... and it gave all of us the opportunity to search for clues and indications in the ensuing episodes. (Sandoval literally smacks Leviss' butt on camera in one episode. We didn't have to look hard.) Production then made the unprecedented move of picking cameras back up for a follow-up episode titled "#Scandoval," and it was one of the best hours of reality TV to date. 

Now? Season 11 drags on as Sandoval, Ariana Madix, and their cohorts muddle through the aftermath of Scandoval, but that aftermath is ... really underwhelming. There are zero stakes. Sandoval is, as DJ James Kennedy dubbed him in song, "a liar," and everyone knows it — there's nothing left to solve or uncover. Schwartz dying his hair blonde isn't exactly going to match the heights of Season 10, when Leviss bought a lightning bolt necklace that secretly matched Sandoval's own jewelry while on camera

I don't want to say this. In a just world, "Vanderpump Rules" would win an Emmy every year and outlast us all. The fun is over, though; the party's done. We can lower our glasses now. These are no longer the best days of our lives.