The #Scandoval continues.
Wednesday night, longtime fans and casual viewers alike tuned into Part 1 of the “Vanderpump Rules” Season 10 reunion. It was the first time co-stars and former couple Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix were on TV together to address the cheating scandal that has been dominating entertainment headlines since early March, when news first broke that Sandoval had cheated on Madix, his girlfriend of nine years, with their cast mate Raquel Leviss.
Given the vitriol that Sandoval has faced both on social media and in real life for the past few months, it is no surprise that reality TV fans were watching closely to see how he would handle the situation.
“I just want to say that I appreciate everybody for being there for Ariana,” Sandoval said at the beginning of the episode before getting cut off by co-star James Kennedy, who then accused him of putting on an act.
“No matter what was going on in our relationship, she didn’t deserve it,” Sandoval continued. “Nobody deserves to have that happen.”
Were Sandoval’s apologies at the Bravo series’ reunion a reaction to the criticism aimed against him and his desire to escape the hate, or was he truly sorry for what he did? Even more specifically, was he sincere while crying on-air, or, as Kennedy shouted on stage, did we witness crocodile tears? (Fun fact: The expression derives from crocodiles’ tendency to actually shed tears after eating their victims.)
Certainly many fans on Twitter were skeptical...
... so we asked body language experts for their take.
Here’s what two experts thought about his tears – and how you can spot fake crying.
“You can typically distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ tears by actual tear production,” explained body language expert and speaker Blanca Cobb. “Tom’s tears were wet and his eyes were red, both physiological signs of real tears.”
However, Cobb noted that the production of real tears doesn’t say much about what actually caused them.
“The issue is that we don’t know the reason for the tears,” Cobb noted. “I believe that Tom was an emotional stress ball of anxiety [for] having to face his cast mates’ anger about his betrayal. Crying was a way for his body to release the anxiety.”
But as Cobb suggested, authentic tears don’t necessarily prove Sandoval is repentant. It’s possible, for example, that Sandoval’s tears-of-anxiety were a way for his psyche to try to entice the public to think of him as a better person than the character that was recently revealed to the public ― a notion that’s in line with overall human tendencies chronicled by a variety of studies.
A 2020 research article published in the journal Frontiers suggests that “emotional tears are uniquely human and play an essential role in the communication of distress in adults.” Moreover, the authors posited that “individuals are more willing to offer emotional support and help a person in tears.”
It’s possible, then, that whether consciously or not, Sandoval was hoping to gain favor with viewers through his very real tears. But no matter his motive, Cobb doesn’t think they were fake.
“I don’t think that he was faking his tears because he wiped them when his cast mates called him out,” Cobb said. “The tears stopped but his body language imploded, which indicates that he wasn’t feeling good or confident. I believe that the tears were a way for his body to relieve the initial, intense stress he was feeling. The short burst of tears was enough for him to calm down a bit.”
It has happened to all of us, after all: When caught in extremely stressful situations, our bodies may react to the intense emotions by crying or vomiting, for example.
But Janine Driver, a former agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and an expert on body language, thought Sandoval’s behavior was actually a “fake cry, likely in an attempt to manipulate all of us.”
When dealing with “authentic sadness, the eyebrows are pulled together and up, however, Tom may have had Botox, which might limit some of this movement here but not all of it — and we see zero movement of his eyebrows,” she explained.
“Also, with real sadness, the corners of the mouth pull down, and we don’t see that happening either.”
It’s not all about the tears, though.
Both specialists agreed that other aspects of Sandoval’s behavior and physical movements should be considered when evaluating the veracity of his tears and words.
“Tom projected an image of a beaten man with his slumped shoulders, hands in his lap and looking down,” Cobb noted before mentioning the reality TV star’s “head scratch, lip licks and tongue juts” when reunion host Andy Cohen asked Sandoval why he encouraged his best friend, Tom Schwartz, to get intimate with Leviss after having had sex with her himself.
Those actions “revealed his nervousness and dislike of the question,” said Cobb, pointing to a potential source of stress that might have indirectly contributed to Sandoval’s crying.
But there’s more.
“When Lisa [Vanderpump, the show’s creator and star] said that it was perverse to ask someone to make out with someone you’ve had sex with, Tom shrugged his right shoulder while pushing it back slightly,” noticed Cobb. “This was a weak attempt to physically justify his position of ‘I don’t think so.’ His response reveals that he’s not sure that it wasn’t a perverse thing to do.”
Driver focused on Sandoval’s tone and pitch of voice, which seemed to crack when he was put under pressure.
“When called out, we hear Tom’s dramatically lower normal voice,” she said before diving into evaluating his overall on-camera disposition.
“Tom’s body language is imploded like a ‘Far Side’ cartoon, where a bear slouches down and points to the other bear with a bull’s-eye on his belly for the hunter to shoot him instead,” she said. “We become a smaller target when we feel vulnerable and don’t want to be seen. We also see this hiding behavior with Tom’s eye blocking, where he has his head facing down and not looking at everyone while speaking. Eye blocking is like the screen saver on your cellphone, it hides secret information that we don’t want other people to see.”
Whether truly sorry for his actions or not, Sandoval’s temperament and physical expressions and actions throughout the reunion might have indicated more about his mental state than his actual words did.