The Great Vanderpump Rules Podcast Boom

Discussing Scandoval has become big business for the Bravolebs. What’s going to happen when the season ends?

Video: dearmediastudio, scheananigans, viallfiles
Video: dearmediastudio, scheananigans, viallfiles

On March 3, TMZ blindsided Vanderpump Rules fans with the biggest Bravo scandal in recent memory: Tom Sandoval cheated on Ariana Madix with Raquel Leviss. It was a full-blown affair. Cameras were rolling again. In the weeks that followed, Bravo fans talked of almost nothing else — How did this happen? Is Ariana okay? When did Tom Schwartz find out? Raquel’s real name is RACHEL? As the tabloids and amateur Instagram sleuths filled in the details around this shocking revelation, the story earned its own nickname: Scandoval.

The show itself, however, has yet to catch up with the drama happening in real time. Up until this week, the network has aired footage that was shot before the affair became public, leaving fans even more desperate for clues about when, exactly, Sandoval and Leviss’s whole thing started. On tonight’s season finale, viewers will finally get some official, Bravo-produced answers as the network airs its footage from the days following Madix’s discovery of the affair. But will we learn anything new?

In the last several weeks, there has been another version of Scandoval playing out separately from the show, and it’s all happening … on podcasts. Almost every Vanderpump Rules cast member has a podcast now, and they have not hesitated to dissect every aspect of the drama — what they suspected, when they found out, the clues they’ve uncovered in watching the current season along with the rest of us — on episode after episode. Even Bravo boss Andy Cohen has his Sirius XM radio channel, Radio Andy, where he and his co-hosts regularly break down Pump Rules episodes and comment on new details from the scandal in real time. It used to be that Bravo encouraged stars to keep major story lines under wraps until they aired on TV, but Scandoval seems too big to contain.

Take Scheana Shay. The longtime Vanderpump Rules star (fans will remember her as the central figure in the original affair that launched the show) has discussed Scandoval on every single episode of her podcast, Scheananigans With Scheana Shay, since the news broke in March. She has not hesitated to drop behind-the-scenes details from filming that in turn have spawned their own tabloid news cycles, from talking about secret dates Sandoval and Leviss went on off-camera to explaining the mysterious, offscreen character of “Jo.” (This person was allegedly hooking up with Tom Schwartz, all while Schwartz was making out with Leviss on camera allegedly in a bid to distract the audience from Leviss’s real affair with Sandoval.) Shay’s revelations must be helping to grow her audience if the fact that a PR company for her podcast network regularly pitches them out to journalists is any indication.

Then there’s LaLa Kent, who devoted the latest episode of her podcast (Give Them Lala) to revealing exactly how the last two episodes of Pump Rules were re-edited in the wake of the scandal. She even added in extra details about Leviss and Sandoval’s affair, like a claim that Leviss started drinking Coors Light because Sandoval liked it (okay?) and that Lisa Vanderpump was the first person in the cast to suspect that Sandoval and Leviss were sneaking around. Pump Rules fan accounts have obsessively tracked and reposted these accusations, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. For hard-core fans, tracking these details has become a necessary part of watching the show — weekly viewings are now all about sniffing out Sandoval and Leviss’s lies and inconsistencies.

It’s safe to assume Shay and Kent’s Scandoval revelations have ushered in new listeners: Kent’s podcast is currently the No. 1 TV & Film podcast on Apple Podcasts, while Shay’s is in the top ten in the Society & Culture category.

And Shay and Kent are far from the only cast members to devote most of their podcast energy to Scandoval. Several other stars and former stars host podcasts now: Katie Maloney has You’re Gonna Love Me, Stassi Schroeder has Straight Up With Stassi, married couple Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright have When Reality Hits. Taylor and Cartwright, who left the show in 2020, used Scandoval pretty directly to drum up interest in their podcast. They launched it at the end of March, the same week they appeared on the Bravo late-night show Watch What Happens Live! with Andy Cohen to discuss the scandal. Since then, the pair has landed a show on Peacock where they watch and react to — what else — new episodes of Pump Rules.

Kristen Doute, another former cast member who left the show in 2020, parlayed her thoughts about Scandoval into an actual comeback: She will appear on tonight’s finale episode to comfort Madix in the wake of the affair. (A refresher: Doute was Sandoval’s original girlfriend on the show, and he cheated on her with Madix as they were breaking up. In an appearance on Watch What Happens Live! last week, Doute said that despite her personal history, she is firmly Team Ariana.)

Doute also spent the latest episode of her podcast (Sex, Love, and What Else Matters With Kristen Doute) talking to a friend who appeared in the background of Maloney and Madix’s party at SUR to celebrate their forthcoming sandwich shop, Something About Her. (Yes, while this affair was bubbling under the surface, Madix was hard at work launching a sandwich shop.) The party was featured on last week’s episode of Pump Rules, and Doute grilled the guest for any information that didn’t make the edit. The friend revealed that Sandoval yelled a lot at Maloney’s mom, an accusation that sent Pump Rules fan accounts reeling once again.

Those are just the podcasts owned and operated by cast members. Dozens more are covering the scandal, like former Bachelor star Nick Viall’s The Viall Files and former Call Her Daddy co-host Sofia Franklyn’s Sofia With an F. Both shows have welcomed stars like Doute and Kent and (successfully, easily) urged them to spill behind-the-scenes details.

The question remains: Does Bravo care about any or all of this leaking? Before Scandoval, stars would typically stay mum about drama until it played out on the show in order to give fans incentive to, you know, watch. But this time, it seems, there is no limit to what Pump Rules players can disclose. Perhaps cast members are just following Cohen’s lead: In addition to commenting on the scandal on his radio show, he has welcomed cast members and other stars to discuss Scandoval every week on Watch What Happens Live!. Schwartz made a memorable, possibly pretty drunken, appearance last month during which he revealed that Sandoval told him about the affair all the way back in August, a revelation that was immediately picked up and reposted across the Pump Rules social-media ecosystem.

Perhaps, though, all this talk is helping — the more there is to comment on and decipher, the more audiences want to watch and rewatch the episodes. The show’s ratings are way up: Weekly viewership has more than doubled since the beginning of March.

The only misstep so far seems to be on Sandoval’s part, fittingly enough. He appeared on Howie Mandel’s podcast last month — yes, it’s random; Mandel has nothing to do with the show and didn’t seem to know who Sandoval was — and offered a litany of excuses for his bad behavior. Cohen then shared his feelings about the interview on his radio show, calling it a bust. “I was annoyed on my behalf, on Bravo’s behalf, on the viewer’s behalf,” he said.

The only cast members who haven’t spoken out on a podcast yet? That would be Leviss and Madix. Hopefully that means there will still be some ground left to cover on tonight’s finale and the upcoming reunion. Their co-stars with podcasts need some new details to comment on.

The Great Vanderpump Rules Podcast Boom