Charli Burnett has been asked to return to her role on Vanderpump Rules for the series’ upcoming 11th season. But because of the ongoing fallout of Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss‘ affair, she’s not yet sold on the idea.
As she looked back on the red flags she missed, shared details about Raquel’s “weird” behavior during their season 10 premiere party, and compared Sandoval’s antics to that of a “cult leader,” Charli, who joined the show for its eighth season, admitted she had no idea what she was in for when she agreed to appear on the Bravo reality series.
After first being told she was in the running for a show that “followed women and men around L.A. who were trying to break out in the acting industry and show their hustle behind scenes” in 2019, Charli learned she was being cast for Pump Rules.
“I had to now meet an entire cast of people who have been together for years who were like, ‘Who is this new girl?’” Charli told Rolling Stone in a June 14 interview. “And then, since I really worked at the restaurant, I also had to deal with all the SUR employees, who have also been there for a while and some of them also auditioned or wanted to be on the show.”
While Charli didn’t tune into the show before joining, she said that in hindsight, it would’ve been a good idea.
“I thought by not watching, I would take everyone how they were and just see who they are without having preconceived notions about them,” Charli explained. “But I definitely should have watched, because then I would understand more of the history.”
Fast forward to years later, and Charli found herself in the midst of one of the most controversial scandals of reality television after acting as an unsuspecting accomplice to Sandoval and Raquel, who were secretly sleeping together throughout season 10 behind the back of Sandoval’s longtime girlfriend and Raquel’s longtime best friend Ariana Madix.
As Pump Rules fans will recall, Charli not only came to Raquel’s defense against Lala Kent and Katie Maloney in Lake Havasu, but she was also with her when she purchased her symbolic lightning bolt necklace (an item also worn by Sandoval amid their affair). She was also there when Raquel attended guys’ night (after which her romance with Sandoval was believed to have begun).
“It makes me question who I was with last summer,” Charli said. “Watching those scenes back, anyone can be like, ‘I wish I saw or I wish I knew.’ I said to myself, ‘How could you not put two and two together?’ I was so blind to things … But now it kind of feels like we were all pawns in Tom and Raquel’s little game.”
“Honestly, watching back I’m like, ‘Is Tom a f-cking cult leader? What is he saying to people and convincing them of?’” she added.
After the news of Sandoval and Raquel’s affair ultimately broke in March, Charli received a late-night text message from Ariana. And although she initially suspected it was a prank, she later agreed to film additional scenes for Pump Rules season 10 out of support for Ariana.
“When they asked me to be there I said 100%, I would come and film and do whatever I needed to do to be there for Ariana. That’s all I really cared about,” she noted.
“That was actually one of the most refreshing scenes I filmed on Vanderpump because I felt like everyone had their guards and walls down. Everyone was really nice because everyone was just kind of sad,” Charli shared. “It was kind of like a death in the family. When bad things happen, you put everything to the side.”
Like many, Charli hasn’t spoken to Raquel, who is believed to be getting mental health treatment in Arizona, in months. She hasn’t seen her since the season 10 premiere party, where she noticed some odd behavior from her castmate, who chose to hang with her and her boyfriend, Corey Loftus, rather than Ariana and Scheana.
“We haven’t spoken in like, four or five months, and you’re trying to be my friend in front of these people. Why is that? That’s so weird,” Charli remembered thinking. “Then weeks later, the news broke. I’m starting to realize they had a plan to slowly pull away. Now looking back, even that night seems calculated.”
Although Charli hasn’t watched the entire reunion quite yet, she did see Raquel’s bombshell confession about the timeline of her and Sandoval’s romance — and her comments about a potential throuple with Ariana.
“When she made the throuple comment I was like, Tom has to have these cult leader vibes, where he convinces people what they’re doing is OK,” Charli stated. “I think it’s a very dark, twisted, mind-control game and I honestly hope she gets out of it. To be honest, the best way that I would think she would be out of it is her not returning to the show and completely removing herself from the situation.”
As Raquel’s season 11 role remains up in the air, Charli says that while Raquel seemed to be under Sandoval’s control amid their affair, she needs to be held accountable for her betrayal of Ariana.
“To me, she seems like she’s in this vulnerable, needy stage because what was her thought process when she was doing this? I believe Tom had to be feeding her stuff and it had to be a whole mind game because she felt OK doing the bad things,” Charli noted. “At the end of the day, we have to be accountable for our actions and maybe it’d be different if Raquel and Ariana weren’t such good friends. I think it’d be different if Ariana wasn’t helping Raquel in the summer when she had nowhere to live. So it was like, I gave you a place to live and you f-ck my boyfriend?”
As for Sandoval, Charli said his post-affair behavior has been “straight-up embarrassing,” and she claimed he seems to be going through a “textbook mid-life crisis.”
“This is not the Tom I knew,” Charli explained. “It feels like everyone had this mask on last year and now the masks are off and everyone is showing their true colors. It almost makes me think about how even when I joined my first season, was this whole thing a façade?”
As season 11 looms, Charli confirmed she’s been asked to return as a full-time cast member, but she confessed that she’s currently undecided as she looked ahead to filming potential scenes with Raquel.
“That’s uncomfortable for me because I love Ariana. I am Ariana’s friend and I’m very upset with everything that’s going on,” Charli shared. “So I feel like filming next season would be very, very weird and really stressful … How is everyone not going to fight the entire time?”
“Old cast members are rumored to come back. I don’t know how that will look but I imagine they’re probably going to come back with a force because they want to keep that spot again. They don’t want to lose that paycheck,” she suspected. “If they did bring Jax [Taylor] back, Tom Sandoval is probably going to be so f-cking pissed.”
Overall, Charli posed that the “chaotic environment” of the show may not be the best place for her.
“I also think that with this group, a lot of people flip-flop. I’m actually curious to see if everyone still stays friends like they are right now,” she said. “Everyone has a really core strength because we all hate Tom and Raquel, but we also know how that goes. I’m very curious to see how it unfolds and I think it probably will unfold very messily.”