It all started just after 3 p.m. ET on Friday, March 3 when TMZ dropped a report that OG Vanderpump Rules star Tom Sandoval had been cheating on his girlfriend of nine years, Ariana Madix, with one of Ariana’s best friends, Raquel Leviss. While that sentence might not mean much to the uninitiated, the allegations immediately sent shock waves through the reality show’s fandom and beyond. Posts about the drama came to dominate social media, and as more details emerged and the involved parties began releasing statements, even people who had never watched an episode of VPR in their lives started to wonder what the fuss was all about.
If you’re one of those people, worry not. TIME is here to give you the download on everything you need to know to get up to speed on what’s happening with Vanderpump Rules.
What is this show about?
Vanderpump Rules started in 2013 as a spinoff of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills centered on the young, wannabe-rich-and-famous employees of longtime housewife Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant SUR (Sexy Unique Restaurant). The original main cast consisted of Vanderpump, SUR queen bee Stassi Schroeder, Schroeder’s two best friends, Katie Maloney and Kristen Doute, Schroeder’s boyfriend Jax Taylor, Doute’s boyfriend Tom Sandoval, and new SUR server Scheana Shay. Maloney’s boyfriend, Tom Schwartz, was listed as a recurring cast member in the first two seasons before becoming a series regular in season 3 alongside Ariana Madix, a recurring season 2 cast member.
Over the course of 10 seasons, VPR has followed the romances, friendships, and feuds playing out between these original cast members as well as a number of others who joined along the way, with significant additions including Lala Kent, James Kennedy, Taylor’s now-wife Brittany Cartwright, Schroeder’s now-husband Beau Clark, and, of course, Raquel Leviss.
What’s happening with the show now?
Prior to season 10 beginning to film, there had increasingly been talk that Vanderpump Rules, once considered the crown jewel of the younger Bravoverse shows (VPR, Summer House, Southern Charm, and the like), was dead. Hardly any of the cast members still worked at SUR, almost all were paired off in longterm relationships, and the drama between these now 30-something adults comfortably living in Valley Village had grown tired. Then, just as fans were swearing off the show, two major developments came to light: not only were Maloney and Schwartz, who got married in 2016, getting a divorce, but Hollywood producer Randall Emmett, Kent’s ex-fiancé and the father of her daughter, was facing allegations of civil fraud, sexual misconduct, and other abuse.
Just like that, Vanderpump Rules was back. Season 10, which filmed in summer 2022, premiered on Feb. 10, with a new episode currently airing each week on Wednesday night. The season’s main cast consists of Vanderpump, Sandoval, Madix, Schwartz, Maloney, Shay, Kent, Kennedy, and Leviss.
So far, the season’s drama has revolved around Leviss, encouraged by Shay, making a play for Schwartz despite Schwartz and Maloney’s post-divorce pact that they wouldn’t hook up with anyone in the friend group. Leviss recently ended her own engagement with Kennedy, who wasted no time getting together with his current girlfriend, Ally Lewber.
Why did I hear so much about it this week?
Just as the drama over Leviss and Schwartz’s flirtation was starting to heat up on the show, in our current timeline, the bombshell of all bombshells was about to be dropped. On March 3, the news broke that Leviss allegedly had been having a nearly seven-month-long affair with Sandoval, who had been dating Madix since 2014. Madix and Leviss had formed a close friendship since Leviss joined the show in season 5 while dating Kennedy, and Leviss was frequently seen hanging out with the couple, who own a house together.
Madix apparently learned of the infidelity on March 1 when she picked up Sandoval’s phone after it fell out of his pocket while he was performing with his band, Tom Sandoval & The Most Extras, and found an inappropriate video of Leviss on it. That same night, Leviss and Shay appeared together on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen to discuss the latest VPR episode. Shay, Madix’s longtime best friend, was apparently made aware of the betrayal shortly after WWHL wrapped and is rumored to have punched Leviss in the face.
Leviss has since filed a request for a temporary restraining order against Shay, claiming that Shay pushed her against a brick wall “causing injury” to the back of her head and punched her in the face “causing injury” to her left eye. The filing included photos of Leviss’ alleged bruised eye and cut face.
Shay’s attorney, Neama Rahmani, shared a statement with TIME denying Leviss’ accusations. “This case is a fabrication by a known liar and a cheat who has betrayed everyone close to her. Scheana never punched [Raquel], period,” he said. “The supposed dark markings around her left eye have been there for months. Neither Scheana nor other cast members want anything to do with [Raquel] going forward. The judge has only heard a one-sided account of what happened, and we look forward to presenting the full and true story at the March 29 hearing.”
Increasingly nefarious claims about the affair poured out in the days following the initial report, including allegations that Sandoval and Leviss wore matching lightning bolt necklaces to secretly declare their love for one another and repeatedly slept together in Sandoval and Madix’s shared home while Madix was asleep in another room. Questions have also been raised about whether Shwartz knew about the affair and was covering for Sandoval by acting as a decoy.
On March 4, Sandoval seemingly confirmed the affair in a statement to fans he posted on Instagram. “Hey, I fully understand and deserve ur anger & disappointment towards me, but please leave Schwartz my friends and family out of this situation,” he wrote. “Schwartz specifically only found out about this situation very recently and definitely did not condone my actions…I need some time to address everything else. Sorry for everything.”
He released an additional Instagram statement on March 8 apologizing to Madix. “I want to first and foremost apologize to everyone I’ve hurt through this process,” he wrote. “Most of all, I want to apologize to Ariana. I made mistakes, I was selfish, and made reckless decisions that hurt somebody I love. No one deserves to feel that pain so traumatically and publicly. I can only imagine how devastating this has been for Ariana and everyone around us. I feel really horrible about that. My biggest regret is that I dishonored Ariana. I never meant to disappoint so many people, including our loving families and friends.”
Leviss has also put out multiple statements, starting on March 8 with an apology she released through Entertainment Tonight.
“I want to apologize for my actions and my choices foremost to Ariana, and to my friends and the fans so invested in our relationships. There is no excuse, I am not a victim and I must own my actions and I deeply regret hurting Ariana,” she said. “I am reflecting on my choices, speaking to a counselor and I am learning things about myself such as my patterns of codependency and addiction to being and feeling loved. I have sought emotional validation through intimate connections that are not healthy without regard for my own well-being, sometimes negatively affecting others and often prioritizing the intimate connection over my friendships. I am taking steps to understand my behavior and make healthier choices.”
She then shared another statement on Instagram on March 9 regarding the status of her and Sandoval’s relationship. “Besides the indefensible circumstances surrounding our relationship, my feelings for Tom have always been sincere and born out of a loving friendship,” she wrote. “Knowing how many people were hurt, I need to understand my choices and learn to make better ones. I need to take care of my health, work on self growth and take time to be ok with being alone. I care for Tom and don’t want to label anything or predict what lies ahead. Right now I need to heal.”
Meanwhile, current and former cast members, including Shay, Maloney, Kent, Kennedy, and Doute, rallied in support of Madix alongside the large majority of Bravo fans. Bravo has also resumed filming to document the fallout from the situation. Cameras are apparently set to roll for the next two weeks and the footage is expected to be incorporated into the current season. The season 10 reunion has been scheduled to film two weeks from now.
So you’re telling me there are two Toms.
The close relationship between Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz has been a main pillar of Vanderpump Rules from the get-go and has resulted in some of the show’s most iconic moments. However, some fans have long asserted that their likability as best friends has worked to overshadow their gross and sometimes misogynistic mistreatment of the women on the show.
Following Schwartz and Maloney’s wedding in season 5, it was revealed that Vanderpump and her husband, Ken Todd, were interested in starting a new restaurant called Tom Tom in which Sandoval and Schwartz would each own a 5% stake. After much chaos and controversy, Tom Tom opened in West Hollywood in August 2018. Once Tom Tom was up and running, the pair began working toward opening another restaurant, the questionably named Schwartz & Sandy’s, with new partners. The Toms’ struggles with launching Schwartz & Sandy’s are part of their season 10 storyline.
What do I need to know to start watching?
It would be impossible to summarize the insane amount of drama that has gone down on Vanderpump Rules over the past 10 seasons—including a number of other cheating scandals. But in recent years, there have been some major switch-ups that changed the show’s trajectory. In June 2020, it was announced that Schroeder and Doute had been fired for racial misconduct following accusations by former recurring cast member Faith Stowers that the pair had filed a false police report against her for a crime she did not commit after Taylor was caught cheating on Cartwright with Stowers. Taylor and Cartwright were also fired in December 2020.
This was followed by Kent’s split with Emmett in October 2021, Schwartz and Maloney announcing their divorce in March 2022, and the allegations against Emmett coming out in June 2022. Going into this season, Sandoval and Madix were the show’s longest-standing couple, with all signs pointing to Leviss taking on the role of No. 1 pot-stirrer by getting involved with Schwartz. Leviss had fanned the flames of this controversy by wearing a Tom Tom sweatshirt to BravoCon, an annual Bravo superfan event, in October. It’s now come to light that Leviss’ affair with Sandoval was allegedly already in full swing by that point.
Which episodes should I start with?
While we strongly recommend starting from the very beginning of Vanderpump Rules if you want to experience one of the best and most authentically chaotic reality TV journeys of your life, we recognize not everyone has time to watch nearly 200 episodes of television. So for those who want to skip to the current drama, season 8 is a good place to begin.
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Write to Megan McCluskey at firstname.lastname@example.org