The finale trilogy of Vanderpump Rules has become the most anticipated and contentious in the show’s decade-long history. While the series has had its fair share of firsts this year, including restraining orders and intense fights, one of the most unusual moments occurred between Tom “Scandoval” Sandoval and producer Patrick McDonald.
Vanderpump Rules has always operated in its own universe, carefully concealing the presence of cameras, producers, and writers surrounding the cast. With the exception of Lisa Vanderpump, producers rarely intervene, even in situations of violence. However, there have been rare instances when concern for cast members’ safety prompted some producer involvement. In a past season, a chyron revealed the producers’ worry for Brittany’s safety after a heated fight with Jax, offering her protection for the evening due to fears of potential harm.
But Sandoval’s desire to have an off-camera conversation with Raquel Leviss at the reunion triggered a different response. When he entered Leviss’ trailer, he requested a “for-real break” without being filmed. Surprisingly, producer Patrick McDonald, making his on-camera debut, informed them that they must be filmed if they are together. This revelation, never before spoken on screen, outlined the rules of production. McDonald explained that the cameras are always rolling when the cast members are together, but they can have time to themselves if needed, such as during lunch breaks.
Sandoval, however, couldn’t contain his anger and frustration, insisting that he didn’t want to be filmed and that he needed a break. He felt that the constant presence of cameras inhibited their ability to relax and communicate freely, given their delicate position.
Sandoval’s outburst highlights the fine line he has been walking throughout the season. As the backlash from his affair continues, even Andy Cohen, the Bravo host who has profited from the show’s juicy storyline, has called for fans to give Sandoval some space and remember that he is a human being. Yet, this outburst also exposes the illusion of reality television. While viewers understand that reality shows are not entirely real, Vanderpump Rules’ aspirational atmosphere allows viewers to connect with the characters on a personal level. The show creates a fantasy where viewers can imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes, weaving together their own experiences with the stars’ lives.
By acknowledging the presence of the camera and the behind-the-scenes production, Vanderpump Rules breaks that fantasy and forces viewers to recognize that the characters are not just archetypes but real people on a television show. Sandoval’s actions disrupt the reality carefully constructed by the show in its previous nine seasons, making viewers aware of the world outside the show’s narrative. While professional wrestling uses euphemistic language to discuss its staged fights and maintain the illusion of entertainment, Vanderpump Rules acknowledges that there is more to reality than meets the eye by turning a producer into a character.