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Everyone Wants a Piece of Scheana Shay

It’s finally happened. For the first time in network history, Bravo has aired a roaring ’20s party.

Okay, obviously that’s a joke. Tonight’s episode may be the first foray into the Gatsby era for Vanderpump Rules, but unfortunately for us viewers, it’s the 27th time we’ve run through this concept. It’s done. It’s tired. It needs to stop. If anyone would like to file a class action lawsuit, please do. I will sign on.

Now what actually is revolutionary is that Scheana Shay, for the first time in the show’s history, is the group’s hottest commodity. As both Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix fight to maintain their grip on the group, our formerly ostracized princess is in her most prevalent status position yet, and everyone wants a piece.

It’s become abundantly clear that neither Sandoval nor Ariana are the protagonists of this aftermath season. It’s Scheana, whose murky layers and often insulted vulnerability has sprung her to the core of the show’s focus after seasons on the periphery.

The episode opens on Ariana and Katie, whose sandwich shop is still in struggle city. The two girl bosses have recruited Sandoval’s former assistant Ann onto their sinking ship, which is kind of anti-woman when you think about it. Give Ann a real job, ladies, because I highly doubt it’s lucrative to be a fake employee of a sandwich shop that has—in real time—still not opened. Yeah, yeah, I get it that criticizing this means you don’t support female-owned businesses or whatever Ariana’s fans are claiming, but I’d argue it’s simply impossible to support a business that does not exist.

Allegedly, Something About Her will open in May, and we’re all waiting with bated breath. Until then, though, I’m erring on the side of cynicism. With all the fantastic business opportunities Ariana has accumulated in the past year, there’s really no good reason she should tie herself to the anchor that is this sandwich shop.

Next, Scheana meets with Kyle Chan, who has somehow crawled his way into the main group, to discuss her set-list for her San Francisco performance. She has two songs, so she’s going to sing both, shocking as that may be. Sandoval meets the two at the shop for a much calmer conversation than his screaming match with Scheana in last week’s episode.

Perhaps realizing Scheana is better as a friend than an enemy, Sandoval apologizes for hitting her where it hurts, and tries to salvage their fraught friendship. That would imply Sandoval is savvy, something this season has proven he’s not. After all, he’s the man who doesn’t understand why people are mad he cheated on Ariana with her co-star for months. He clearly doesn’t have his finger on the pulse.

The two commiserate over their lost friendship and make amends just in time for the group trip. That news doesn’t sit well with Ariana, though. At Lala’s big thirty-third birthday celebration, Scheana explains that she’s ready to move on with Sandoval, and Ariana thinks that’s just pathetic. She swears it has nothing to do with what Sandoval did to her, though! It’s purely about his own actions toward Scheana.

Ariana doesn’t need to pretend. She has ample reason to want her friends to hate Sandoval. But she might want to stop and ask herself when the last time she was a good friend to Scheana was, too. Unfortunately for Scheana, neither Sandoval nor Ariana seem to have much interest in true friendship with her, seeing her more as a helpful pawn on the road to maintaining power in the group. The exes are disingenuous in many of the same ways—it’s probably how they lasted together for a decade.

Speaking of disingenuous, we follow this with our first in-person scene with Dan, Ariana’s new boyfriend. Unfortunately, the scene is a death knell for the relationship. There’s no real chemistry and no real explanation of why they’re together. And when Dan blows off moving to L.A. and says the two will just fly to Europe when it gets cold, well, he’s not beating the grifter allegations. This isn’t even exciting grifting, which is a real bummer.

It’s a big episode for cringe, as we follow this awkward date with the most chilling scene in Bravo history. There’s something so harrowing about watching Sandoval’s mother adoringly watch him perform in his mid-life crisis band. Sometimes, so much can be said without a single word.

Tom Sandoval and Scheana Shay.

Tom Sandoval and Scheana Shay.

Bravo

To top it all off, we get our first Schwartz/Jo interaction since their pseudo-breakup. Unfortunately for Jo, this carousel never stops turning, and she’s nowhere near escaping situationship purgatory. She opened the exit, ran outside, and walked for miles, but she’s right where she started. Please lift Jo in prayer, she needs it. She’s going through the nine circles of Hell and meanwhile, Schwartz is filming an ABC Family drama with Katie. Will these exes find love with the bisexual nanny with pink streaks? Or will their kooky frenemyship bring them right back to where they started? Find out Tuesdays at 8/7C.

Finally, the group heads to San Francisco, and their day doing a whole lot of nothing. That’s what happens when queen princess Jo can’t make it the first day, and we’re forced to spend time with the entire cast of series regulars instead. Thankfully, Scheana and Brock clock in for their respective shifts, each taking on one of the exes.

While Brock is a certified idiot with a laundry list of flaws, he’s also very astute in his read of Ariana, and it’s revealing to hear Ariana’s own interpretation of her actions this season. To hear her talk about her display of “female rage” and how uncomfortable that makes people, as well as the fact she’s “grey rocking” Sandoval and going no contact, is yet another reminder that the cast of Vanderpump Rules radiate on a realm far removed from reality.

Ariana sounds like she’s reading from a Wiki-How article on how to girlboss your breakup, rather than just being raw with her true feelings. For starters, she’s definitely not “grey rocking” her ex, nor is she going no contact, considering they continue to live in the same household and film the same TV show. Now, that’s a product of the false reality created by this show, but nonetheless, it’s the truth.

And while Ariana seems to think her “rage” is off-putting, she’s largely been stoic all season, and the few moments she has released her anger have been met with praise. Ariana’s an interesting reality star because she’s very closed-off and private, despite having been on our screens for 10 years, and she’s never developed a trust with the cameras.

That’s in many ways a smart thing, but it’s where the disconnect lies. Placed in the hot seat, she ends up going through the motions of what she thinks her role should be, rather than just acting authentically. And in some ways, that is the authentic Ariana. When you contrast that with Scheana, who lacks any and all self-awareness necessary to produce herself, it’s night and day.

And that’s why Scheana has been placed in this leading narrative role as the season goes on. Whether you see her as a producer’s puppet or a star, she wears her heart on her sleeve, and has no issue airing out her dirty laundry.

The episode closes on yet another conversation between Scheana and Sandoval, where Scheana attempts to make major strides in moving the group forward. Looking to hold Sandoval accountable, she calls back to the Season 10 finale, where Sandoval told Scheana that Ariana threatened to kill herself if he left her.

“I’m trying to get Sandoval to understand that exposing private details about her mental health makes things so much worse,” she shares in a confessional. “If he could genuinely apologize, maybe, there’s some hope in this group of moving forward one day.”

The scene is surprisingly deep, and a moment of true maturity from Scheana. Saying the things Ariana is too proud to, Scheana reasons with Sandoval on a human level. While Scheana has her moments of being a horrible friend, and often suffers from foot-in-mouth syndrome, the conversation is a genuinely strong moment for her, and shows her care for both Sandoval and Ariana.

Of course, when you fly too close to the sun, you always get burnt. There’s no way Scheana will come out of this tug-of-war intact, as rumors of her fallout with Ariana have already hit the surface, while a rekindled friendship with Sandoval would be fraught at best. But risking her own social capital for the sake of the show is what makes Scheana a star.

Who else could claw their way to the center of the show’s narrative 11 seasons in, and not a moment sooner? It’s the Scheana show now. All hail our most powerful leader.

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