[This story contains spoilers from the Vanderpump Rules Part 3 reunion.]
Vanderpump Rules executive producer Alex Baskin had promised that a big twist would cap what has become a viral sensation of a season for the Bravo reality series. And in the last few minutes of the three-part reunion of season 10, which aired on June 7, that moment came in the form of Raquel Leviss offering up a one-on-one interview that would reframe everything viewers had just watched between the cast over the last three weeks.
Leviss is one-half of Scandoval, the term that has come to describe her months-long affair with castmate Tom Sandoval going public. News of the affair rocked the cast and has captivated the growing audience tuning into Vanderpump Rules since the May 17 finale, when production fired their cameras up after filming had wrapped to capture the fallout. As Baskin explained earlier this week in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, production learned about the affair on March 2, one day after Sandoval’s partner of nine years and Leviss’ close friend and castmate Ariana Madix found out. Cameras were rolling March 3 for the bonus finale episode, and then the reunion was filmed weeks later on March 23.
That timeline is clear. But in the third and final reunion episode, the timeline for Sandoval’s affair with Leviss was murky, as the pair claimed they had only been physical once during filming. Not until Leviss’ post-reunion sit-down with showrunner/EP Jeremiah Smith did more of the story come into focus. Leviss confirmed several rumors that had swirled about the pair as she described her relationship with Sandoval as being “a regular thing” throughout filming on season 10 and that they slept together “multiple times,” including when the group traveled to Mexico for Scheana Shay’s wedding to Brock Davies (which is when Leviss and castmate Tom Schwartz kissed) and when Madix traveled out of town for her grandmother’s funeral. She also claimed that she asked about a throuple with Sandoval and Madix, but that Sandoval shot it down. “It didn’t seem that far-fetched, but it was not something in question,” she said, then adding, “God, he’s gonna kill me. I just hate lying so much.”
Below, Baskin reveals to THR how the interview came about, what it says about Leviss and Sandoval and their relationship, and why he is confident the entire cast will return when production fires back up this summer on season 11: “There are a lot of pieces to pick up from here.”
I just watched the conclusion to the Vanderpump Rules reunion. I’ve had only minutes to digest it, but you’ve watched it 1,000 times so let’s dig in… In Part 3 especially, it seemed like the cast wasn’t getting the whole story from Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss. The final minutes reveal why, when Raquel sits down six days after the reunion was filmed for an interview and comes clean about the Scandoval timeline. How did this interview happen?
The interview with Raquel was scheduled because we were asking her about a few of the later episodes that didn’t have her interview bites in them. She had gone dark on production in the end when we picked cameras back up to cover the story breaking [for the season finale]; we didn’t have her sit down in the interview chair then because she wasn’t shooting with us. And then she started talking to the interviewer, our showrunner Jeremiah Smith, and clearly, this was weighing really heavily on her. This was something that she wanted to get off her chest. Something she had to purge. That’s how it all naturally happened, and you see their conversation play out. Obviously, we had certain things that we wanted to reconcile; questions we had about the timeline. So we were ready to ask her questions, but really this was her wanting to talk about this and needing to talk about it, even.
Do you think she planned to come clean about the timeline going into the interview or that it happened as they were talking?
I think it happened at the moment. If at any point she wanted to talk to us about it, she could have, and we would have heard it. I think she was really wrestling with this, and I think when she was in front of production, she was compelled to talk about it. And then I think the extent of which she talked about it was a function of her comfort with production and production being so versed in the set of events that happened that they continued to ask her pointed questions that caused her to just completely reveal everything she had been living with.
Are you holding anything back from the interview, or did you air everything you got?
We aired it all. There are no plans for any additional episodes or a release of anything. There is no “Vanderpump Rules: The Raquel Tapes.” And that’s because this is really what she had to say. More questions will of course arise from this. To me, it’s a fitting end to the season in the way I sort of teased, which led conspiracy theories to go ablaze; a twist on top of a twist on top of a turn, right? And that’s where that ends and kind of where we pick up for next season.
After Raquel’s interview was done, how was she reacting to what she just did, after seeming fearful of betraying Tom Sandoval by being honest? Did she express what her hopes were with their relationship from there?
I don’t think she knew where that was headed. I think she did this for herself and felt like she had to do it. And it’s kind of heartbreaking. She says she knew that, obviously, he was going to be really upset, and she said he is kind of all that she had at that point. But I don’t think she felt she had a choice, so her feeling was that she had to get it off her chest, and if that ended up costing her what was going on between them, this was still something she had to do. She just had to unburden herself.
You said you haven’t spoken to her directly since filming and have communicated through her representatives. After this interview, is that when she checked herself into a facility for her mental health?
Yeah. And that had been her plan anyway, so I don’t think this triggered that. But maybe because she was already going to do that, then that triggered her coming clean about all of this. Because she was planning on going away, and her feeling was that she wanted a clean slate when she did that. Look, I think that was a really difficult thing to do. In a lot of ways, a brave thing to do. I know some people wouldn’t assign that term to doing this. She very well could have kept quiet, but you could see the struggle in her face. It was a struggle to do it, but it was clearly a struggle to keep that in. She found the voice to be able to say all of that, and to me, it’s kind of harrowing.
Based on what she broke down about the Scandoval timeline, what do you now understand about their relationship that you didn’t before?
Distilling what she came clean about, I would say that this was an ongoing relationship and wasn’t just a one-time act of passion that they then kept under wraps. I think it was a surreptitious relationship over a period of time that really only ended once they were caught. And then there was a story that then was presented to the group that turned out not to be true. It also calls into question what was presented [at the reunion]. For example, with [Tom] Schwartz. In my view from watching that, clearly he didn’t know the full scope of this. That’s obviously something that will unfold. But bottom line is very clearly that Tom [Sandoval] and Raquel were engaged in a relationship that was over a period of many months that they went to great lengths to keep under wraps that they then didn’t want to fully come clean about when they were caught, and Raquel then purged all of it in this final interview that wasn’t even designated for a discussion on this.
So much came out on social media after Scandoval broke and some information that Raquel revealed had been floating around. During the reunion, when Sandoval and Raquel insisted they slept together only once, do you think the cast knew they weren’t being honest, or do you think a lot of this came out after and this now confirms it?
I think a little bit of both. I thought the same thing in rewatching the episode. You can see Tom [Sandoval] really pressing that point, which after the fact seems really suspect. But the cast’s point is, who cares? Who gives a shit if it was one time? It was about the betrayal. To your point that there were so many rumors flying around and they hadn’t reconciled all of them, their point was: We’re not going to let you get off the hook. It’s not like you showed great discretion that it only happened once, it doesn’t count. I think they thought that was a technicality that certainly didn’t exculpate them. I would imagine they suspected it was more than that. On some level, probably there was a sense of the implausibility that it was a one-time thing that they went to these pangs to cover up. But the feeling was: Let’s stick to the fundamental issues here and not get bogged down in that.
Based on how Raquel describes Sandoval, did you take any of this directly to him to get comment or respond to?
We didn’t. If we were still continuing the season, then perhaps we would have. But really this was her one-on-one interview that she directed after we were supposed to be done. He had his chance to tell his side of the story at the reunion, and he said what he said. After that, she had more to say and that became kind of the final word. And by the way, if he had come to us and said, “There’s more that I want to say,” I don’t know what we would have done. But, he didn’t do that. Otherwise, it could sort of continue on forever, but we let her have the final say on the matter because she sort of demanded it and took it.
Do you think this final interview will have viewers looking at Raquel’s behavior during the reunion differently or change viewers’ perceptions?
I think this might change viewers’ perceptions. I don’t think that it changes what she did, but I do think it might change perceptions about her accountability and about her emotional connection to what she did. There has been a sense among some viewers that she seemed disconnected. This might cause people to reevaluate that because you can see she is really struggling with this; she’s sort of crumbling under the weight of this. That’s why I say there is something brave about coming clean for something that she had already taken a lot of heat for and could have just left there. But you could tell that she wanted to tell the truth. In so doing, she unburdened herself a little bit; I think it might be something the viewers give her credit for. But I also think there is a lot they hold her accountable for and people would say, “Well, you’re in this position in the first place because of what you did.”
Do you think it will change how the cast views her?
I think that the cast will acknowledge that she told the truth, and I think they will see how emotionally racked she is by this. But I think there are some really hard feelings right now. And I think this might be a small first step, but I think there’s a long way to go for the cast to reconcile with her.
How would you grade Sandoval on accountability and remorse at the reunion?
I think that Sandoval was more defiant than remorseful. On the one hand, I can’t imagine how tough a day that would have been — regardless of what he did to put himself in that hot seat, he still had to go through it there. But I think you can see that, clearly, part of the reason he was struggling is that I don’t know that he has fully come to terms with the entire situation. Clearly, Raquel felt she hadn’t been completely accountable and then felt this really compelling need to try to mend that. It doesn’t seem as though he’s there, at least in the eyes of the viewers and in the eyes of his group of friends who obviously have really strong feelings that he let them down and that he hasn’t been accountable for that.
You can see a difference in Sandoval when he was backstage with Raquel compared to when he was out onstage for the cameras. As part of the production team, was that as surprising to see?
Yeah. Those in-between moments are always kind of revealing. Again, it’s a really tough day. We don’t give anyone any out-of-field zone that we don’t cover [with the cameras]. But all of it is really tough and that’s why we include it; it gives a full 360-degree perspective. The reunion is this extreme, hard-fought space anyway. And then outside of it, you can see that he was having a really hard time. And he sort of knew that he was struggling, based on what he told Raquel. So there was some awareness of that. But I think all of it was revealing and gives you the full picture.
Sandoval and Raquel said they were in love during the reunion. Do you think that was true, and do you think they still are?
I think that, clearly, they have really strong feelings for each other and through which they’ve risked a lot. I think they were struggling with how to address that question in that moment because I think there are the conversations they have with each other and then there is the amplification of it in the reunion setting. You can see the very strong reaction to them acknowledging that they have those feelings. So that’s what I think. I think there’s something about a clandestine affair that is forbidden and that drew them closer to each other, and then there is the extreme reaction that they have faced from the group of friends and from the audience. So I think they’re trying to come to terms with all of that and figure out what all of that means and how they move forward individually and potentially together.
Viewers have rallied around Ariana Madix through all of this. What can you say about her bravery in the reunion?
Ariana was ride-or-die for Tom, so the audience was invested in their relationship and personally knew how devastating this situation would be for her before they even heard from her. And this made her ability to pick herself up off the floor and find personal power even more meaningful and impressive to them.
You’ve known this twist was coming. When this interview lands and it reframes the entire reunion (after Scandoval already reframed the entire season), how did you react as a producer?
After the reunion, all of us from production were exhausted. We sort of thought that was it. It was a satisfying but also really tense end to the season, and we were trying to take a few days where we weren’t even thinking about what would happen when we brought the show back up again. And then this happened. We obviously knew that we had to include it because it’s a really important development and we wouldn’t have told the full story without it. But we also knew that it was a thunderclap. And that it would change certainly the audience’s viewing of the reunion itself but then also the path that the show went on going forward.
We knew coming out of the reunion that, because the group was in a really fractured place, we weren’t going to just rush right back into production. But this also solidified that we did not want to be back in production while the reunion was airing because it would have frankly stopped us in our tracks. If we were shooting right now, all the group would be talking about would be the reunion. And that wouldn’t have done us any good and that’s why we wanted to take a breath.
Your showrunner when interviewing Raquel said he knew she maintained some “untruths” at the reunion. What’s the most challenging thing for you as producers when you know they are sitting on some things that haven’t yet come to light?
The most challenging thing about being a producer is that in that moment, we want to run onto the stage and be a part of the proceedings. Or sometimes it will happen in other instances, where we will talk to the cast before the reunion, and there will be things they will want to say, and then they will hold back. That’s really frustrating, too. But ultimately, as much as we’re always accused of being the puppet masters, the truth is, it isn’t about us. All we can do is create the conditions through which everyone speaks their piece and is hopefully honest. We can be in Andy [Cohen]’s ear and have conversations during the breaks, but ultimately the show is about the group of people who are really friends who are going through this experience together, and we’re kind of left watching the same as everyone else.
There are now new questions you are hoping to get answered next season; the cast hadn’t seen the episode ahead of time, so your phone is about to ring. How are you going to handle those conversations and do you think Sandoval will sign on to answer the questions Raquel left on the table?
I anticipate that the group is going to return next season because I don’t think that anyone wants to end here. There are a lot of difficult questions raised. We certainly don’t know what the trajectory is, but I think this group has been through a lot, and I don’t think now is the time for anyone, including and especially Sandoval, to duck out. I would maintain that to the extent that he didn’t fully come clean at the reunion, that he is in this situation because he told a partial truth. I don’t think there’s any hiding from that, and I think that accountability is the only way out of this. That means continuing on and answering the tough questions and trying to mend relationships if that’s possible.
What pressure do you feel now to deliver in the post-Scandoval world of Vanderpump Rules? And how many seasons do you envision this going?
I personally feel a ton of pressure. I always feel more pressure when a show is in a spot like this, when there’s a ton of attention on it, and it’s performing really well. Because it’s really hard to maintain, and clearly the show is at a fever pitch. But I don’t think the answer is to try to replicate what we just did, and I don’t think that we could. This show has always succeeded because it’s been a real show about a real group of people who go through life together and hold each other relentlessly accountable, and that’s what it will continue to be about.
It’s had different eras of its lifespan, and I can only hope that we have many more years. Look, after the previous season of the show, a lot of people questioned if there was life left in this. And clearly, we answered that in the affirmative. So I have to imagine there are twists and turns we have yet to experience that will keep us going for the foreseeable future. And so, as long as this group continues to be in each other’s lives and we continue to document their experiences with each other, then I think we’ll be as amazed as the audience is, and we’ll continue on entertaining and surprising into the future. We’re on this ride certainly for more time yet.
Interview edited for length and clarity. Part 3 of the Vanderpump Rules reunion aired Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Bravo and streams Thursday at 3 a.m. on Peacock.