There's messy and then there's James Kennedy.

Full disclosure: I've seen maybe one or two episodes of Vanderpump Rules. I've had friends who've sworn by it, stuck by it for years — this show's been on for a whole decade — but it was never my cup of tea.

I was more a Real Housewives fan. Dubiously wealthy older women throwing shade and drinks at each other in the tackiest homes you've ever seen. Sign me up. The Pump Rules cast were younger, broke, and from my slight foray into their shallow waters, not too bright. We weren't gonna get a "Who gon' check me, boo?" or a "Close your legs to married men, trashbox" from these kids.

I haven't seen a single Vanderpump episode of this season — the closest I've been to the Vanderverse is going to Tom Tom in L.A. and that wasn't even my decision — and yet I'm fully abreast of Tom Sandvoval cheating on Ariana Madix with her bestie Raquel/Rachel Leviss. Names that mean literally nothing to me. But after watching part one of the reunion, I may be a fan.

Vanderpump Rules reunion
'Vanderpump Rules' reunion
| Credit: Nicole Weingart/Bravo

This is what Roman emperors must have felt like watching gladiators kill for their amusement. Am I not entertained? You betcha.

Now, I've seen my fair share of Bravo reunions. They're usually my least favorite part of the season because there's no plot, just people angry at one another and saying the worst things you can say to another human being without getting clocked. However, not being invested in the cast, I just got to sit back and guiltlessly watch them tear each other apart.

Master of Ceremonies Andrew Cohen makes an unprecedented (as a very ominous title card tells us) move and sits down "separately with the principals of the scandal to hear their sides of the story."

And those principals are, starring in order of importance, Ariana Madix as the wronged woman turned sister doing it for herself. Tom Sandoval as sad mustachioed man in unflattering cardigan. And Raquel (née Rachel?) Leviss as not allowed on the reunion set because of a restraining order from Scheana Shay.

A dead-eyed Sandoval responds to a cheerier-than-usual Cohen that he's "okay" when asked how he's doing. Ariana admits she and Sandoval are still living in the same dwelling, though he's in the guest room and they have people "running interference" so they don't run into one another.

One would think a hotel, perhaps an Airbnb would be easier, but Cohen just brushes past that like it's normal — assuming he has to pick his battles — and maybe we'll dive into it deeper during parts two or three.

Then the real work begins. Cohen asks Sandoval when he and Raquel/Rachel first hooked up. It was five days after the cast filmed at the Mondrian Hotel in August 2022. Cohen then asks him the most useless question you can ask a cheating man: Why?

Vanderpump Rules reunion
'Vanderpump Rules' reunion part 1
| Credit: Nicole Weingart/Bravo

This is where Sandoval shows his cards. Dialogue cards, because his response is clearly scripted. He claims his and Ariana's relationship wasn't what it seemed, that he felt more like her "gay BFF," and that they were putting up a "front" for the cameras.

Wait, you mean to tell me this all isn't 100 percent on the level? That reality TV isn't... reality? How will I trust again?

Sandoval continues that he didn't think it was "fair" to the rest of the cast that he and Ariana were hiding their problems. Sure, Jandoval.

In her separate interview, Ariana says she always felt like she was showing everything and called out Tom for being desperate, then accuses him of coaching Raquel as he used to "coach" her. Okay, between the lifeless stare, the creepy stache, the cardigan, and now the coaching thing, Sandoval is giving head of a multilevel marketing scheme cult vibes.

And that's even before we get to the main stage. Everyone shows up looking snatched, especially Ariana who gets the Princess Diana revenge dress comparison from Cohen, thus completing his requisite homosexual duties for the night.

"Well, he looks like s---," Ariana says about Tom. And, to be fair, he does.

Sandoval is really out here on a limb with only his fellow Tom, Schwartz, and Lisa Vanderpump offering anything in the way of support. As soon as Sandoval starts fake-crying, he gets yelled down by the majority of the cast. Meanwhile, Raquel, as per the restraining order she has against Scheana, is watching from a trailer, face beat, spirit defeated.

Though Ariana was the one cheated on by her partner, with her best friend no less, the person who seems most injured here is James Kennedy. He's a live one. Not 20 minutes into the reunion and Andy has to physically restrain James from going after Tom.

Vanderpump Rules reunion
'Vanderpump Rules' reunion, Part 1
| Credit: Nicole Weingart/Bravo

"Look at me, bro," Kennedy shouts from across the room as he's being held back by an already weary producer, "I am way more ripped than you! I will f--- you up!"

Poor Andy just wants James to stay in his seat, but the dimpled deejay is ready to fight, or at least to start a fight and then be gingerly carried away. James is just hurt, though. He says he and Tom were like brothers — a claim at which Sandoval openly balks. They were never like brothers, he says, though Lala Kent reminds Tom that he paid for half of James' engagement to Raquel/Rachel.

The Bravo producers then pull the receipts, showing Tom writing check after check on behalf of his good friend/annoying stranger James Kennedy. Also, what? James and Raquel were engaged? This just keeps getting messier and messier. And I kept getting more and more invested.

The Sandoval really starts to hit the fan when Schwartz drops the ball and says Tom told him about hooking up with Raquel in late August. Cut to Tom's earlier solo interview with Cohen when Tom says he told Schwartz in mid-to-late January.

"Did you guys not put your timelines together to match?" Lala taunts from the sidelines.

Schwartz is adamant he's not a "f---ing idiot," but underrated comedian Lisa Vanderpump makes a gesture that says, "Aren't you, though?"

Cohen then makes a play for reason (good luck!) and calls out everyone for being a "group of cheaters," noting that "you're all prepared to come after Sandoval and Raquel. How is that not hypocritical?"

But Lala had her Wheaties this morning and succinctly answers, "None of us were f---ing our best friend's man."

Soon all chaos breaks loose as Sandoval tries to describe some skiing trip, James and Ariana actually boo him, while Lala and Katie Maloney do the shame nun thing from Game of Thrones — which I have also never seen. Eventually, drama itself, James Kennedy, walks off the set because Lisa Vanderpump is defending Tom too much, ending part one of this orchestrated insanity.

But before we close out this chapter, Andy asks Katie and Ariana how much money they made selling merchandise for their upcoming sandwich shop, Something About Her. Something about $200,000.

Ariana's jilted all the way to the bank.

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletterto get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Related content:

Episode Recaps

Vanderpump Rules
  • TV Show
  • 7