Vanderpump Rules boss Alex Baskin set social media on fire when he teased the third and final round of the Bravo reunion.
Like a game of telephone, his quotes about new revelations that are set to be revealed turned into viewers anticipating a “bombshell” new piece of information, something that the cast apparently doesn’t know about that is so big, they should wait to see it before determining if they even want to return for the already renewed 11th season of the mega-popular reality series.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Baskin wants to clarify — and also expand, and titillate, on that tease.
“There are revelations and developments that left even our heads spinning,” says the executive producer, who has been with the show for all 10 seasons, of what he refers to as the Part 3 post-reunion twist. “We wind down the day of [filming the reunion] and then a few days later, there’s yet another development. It isn’t something the group witnessed at the time. So I think they’re going to have to respond to it when they see it.”
Baskin confirms that the “twist” indeed applies to Scandoval, the term used for the news breaking that castmates Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss had a months-long affair. The Bravo series famously captured the fallout, particularly for Sandoval’s partner of nine years and Leviss’ friend, star Adriana Madix, since the news broke after the season wrapped filming. The first opportunity the cast had to confront Sandoval and Leviss was at the reunion, which was filmed in March. Below, Baskin goes behind the scenes of the reunion that has captivated the country and confirms that viewers will indeed be shocked along with the cast, who have not yet seen Part 3, come Wednesday night: “The timeline evolves.”
Part 3 of the Vanderpump Rules Reunion is the part that focuses on Raquel Leviss. What can we expect to learn?
You can expect to learn a lot. What made this reunion different than any other was that we, as a production, had no idea what was going to happen. Usually we have some sense. There’s great anticipation for Raquel to come out [in Part 3]. I will say that whatever anyone thinks of what she did this past season, it was brave of her to face the music, knowing everyone is at full tilt.
And there is, as we’ve been teasing, a twist at the end of the reunion. So I think it’s the perfect capper to a season unlike any other. We wind down the day of [filming the reunion] and then a few days later, there’s yet another development. I’ll just say this isn’t a garden-variety getting-the-group-together-to-recap show or, in this case, just Raquel speaking her piece of apologies to Ariana. There are revelations and developments that left even our heads spinning.
I’m going to circle back on that in a minute. First, was there ever a moment where it looked like Raquel might not participate?
We didn’t know until probably about a week before that she was actually going to do the reunion, and then we still had contingency plans in case. The final episode, the one we got up and running once the whole Scandoval situation broke out, she filmed with Tom [Sandoval]. After they shot together, I think there was real concern on her part about going forward. She wasn’t speaking to us at that point; we were talking to her representatives. But there was a point in time in which we didn’t have contact, so we didn’t know whether she would show to the reunion or not.
And then about a week before, we received firm assurances she would be there. But we still didn’t know. We were prepared for any and all eventualities. We shot the one-on-one interviews with the principals involved in the situation: Tom and Ariana and Raquel. We shot Tom’s and Ariana’s interviews the night before, and we held filming Raquel’s for the day of the reunion, in case there was any concern that Raquel might shoot the one-on-one and then not appear at the reunion. But by that point, she was pretty dead-set on going to the reunion and dealing with what she needed to; looking Ariana in the eyes and standing up and taking accountability for what she had done.
And clearing some things up?
Some. There were some questions that lingered. There was also a lot of emotion. One of the reasons we did the one-on-ones was because we knew the reunion itself would be so heavily charged, that we thought having the sit-down interviews with Andy [Cohen] might elicit different information and have a different tone. There is the reunion itself, and then the coda in which more is revealed.
Was there anything left on the cutting room floor from the one-on-ones that you wish you got in, or that will be included in the extended Peacock versions?
Not a ton. We had to balance the one-on-ones with the reunion itself, and so we had to really thread the needle of wanting them to yield information on their own, but also not wanting to preempt the reunion. Some information overlapped; frankly, it’s more interesting to see the group respond to the information. But there also might have been some discrepancies in the one-on-one compared to the group. So we play those out. And then there’s the final beat that I keep teasing, which reveals even more.
You were also dealing with a temporary restraining order that Raquel filed against Scheana Shay, which she dropped after filming. If you could have had them onstage together, is there anything you wished could have played out differently, or are you satisfied with what you got?
Both. The way that it played out was really dramatic; we learned how to count to 100 yards. We always cover reality and the reality was there was a restraining order between those two people. I do wish we could have gotten them together because they had a lot to say to each other. Raquel and Scheana had what they both thought was a real friendship; there was an intensity in feelings there. So I wish they could have hashed out their issues. Then the day of, Raquel wanted to drop the restraining order, so there was preliminary paperwork that was given to Andy that Andy then presented to Scheana [in Part 2 of the reunion]. I wish in some parallel universe that Raquel could have handed that to Scheana, because of the dramatic effect of that. But, we were not lacking for any conflict or any drama. Who knows; maybe that will happen next season on the show.
Attending the reunion is part of their contractual obligations, but Scandoval backlash, mental health issues and that TRO made for extenuating circumstances. If anyone on the cast said they weren’t going to participate, would you have allowed that? And are you shocked everyone did participate in the end?
Yes. As intense as the reunion is, for the production the hard work goes into getting there in the first place. And this was as difficult and as intense of a few weeks as you can imagine. If you look at the timeline: We learned about the affair on March 2; Ariana learned on March 1. We had cameras up on March 3. Then the reunion itself was on March 23. When you consider dealing with the fallout of all of that, then shooting the additional [finale] episode and getting the reunion ready, under all the variables that the reunion entailed, it was a lot.
Of course, our best-case scenario was that everyone would show so that we could tell the full story. But ultimately, there’s a contractual requirement and there’s a reality that you can’t make anyone do something that they are just intent on not doing. We were concerned about everyone’s well-being. And that’s why initially, when Raquel didn’t seem like she was going to go, or at least there was doubt and she wasn’t in communication with us at that point, it isn’t like we would have forced her to do so. Our feeling was that if she was going to go, it would be on her own accord and she would have to be OK with that situation. And if she wasn’t, we would have been disappointed from a storytelling standpoint, but we also would have understood. And that goes with anyone there. In covering peoples’ lives, we can’t force them to do anything that they don’t do of their own volition. Sometimes it means that they don’t want to be there, but that’s different from making the decision not to be there for whatever reason, especially for mental health.
Did Tom Sandoval try to get out of filming?
Sandoval never tried to get out of the reunion. I thought, “Would I have gone?” I don’t know! He was never in doubt. He obviously was dreading it, and that’s to be understood. But I think he always anticipated that he would go, and I think he was pleased to have the one-on-one interview as well so that he could speak his piece separate and apart from the crowd.
You have sent TikTok on fire with your comment that the cast will want to watch Part 3 before signing on for season 11. That seems to not be exactly what you said. Can you clarify?
It’s so funny because I’ve gotten all sorts of really aggressive messages from people, including that I will be “crucified” if there’s disappointment in what happened compared to what I built it up to be. What I would say is, by any reunion standpoint, it is a super-explosive event and it is a big twist. Raquel is not pregnant. There’s no story that involves aliens or dragons! But what I had said was that it’s a twist at the end of reunion that, if we were in production, the cast would have responded to. And it’s one of the many reasons that we wanted to take a moment between the reunion airing and going back into production.
I just think that it would have been very difficult for the group to then continue to move forward, because this development happened after the reunion was shot. We’re in a tenuous place at the end of the reunion. We did not know going into the day whether we would have a breakthrough or not, and I just will say that things are unsettled by the end. There’s no great spoiler in saying that. And then there’s a further development a few days after the reunion that we cover; it isn’t like it’s something the group witnessed at the time. So I think they’re going to have to respond to it when they see it, and I think it’s better they’re responding when we aren’t shooting so that we have space between this past season and their interactions with each other and the group dynamic going forward.
Is the twist specific to Scandoval?
The twist post-reunion does involve Scandoval. And it is a wrinkle to what was said at the reunion. So it is a coda, or in addition to what was said at the reunion.
Ariana Madix implied on What Watch Happens Live that she’s learned more since the reunion and wished she had been able to address it. Does she have an inkling about what’s going to be revealed; is it involving the timeline of the affair?
Well, what I will say is, I don’t know who knows what. I don’t know if this information has filtered in different ways because, look, everyone turned into a detective including the audience. So it’s hard to know, but I would say that there’s information that was not known at the reunion itself about the entire situation that then comes to light in the days following.
Here are the top TikTok theories for you to comment on: The timeline is off from when the affair began.
I would say that the timeline evolves. (Laughing.)
You already put to bed that Raquel is not pregnant. What can you say about the guess that Raquel and Tom Schwarz slept together?
The revelation is not that Raquel and Schwarz slept together.
And then there is the theory that boss Lisa Vanderpump plans to move the show’s setting to Schwarz & Sandy’s, since Pump is closing. That would impact a lot of the cast and it would center it around the Toms [Sandoval and Schwarz]. What can you say?
I love that theory. It’s really inventive and creative, and it’s not true. This morning I watched the reunion again; I’ve seen it a thousand times. And the end impacted me again, even knowing everything I do. I think everything is so sensationalized and so extreme at this point that the theories are really fun, but this is a twist. It’s a further development. And to me what it means is, this is hardly over. And that we’re discovering new information.
The group ended in one way, unsettled, but having hashed all this out. And then they will come to find out, or in some cases have already found out, that there’s even more to the story. It’s not some earth-shattering development about the direction of the show or someone else involved in this whole situation. It’s clarity and further diving in on what really happened versus what we thought happened, and centers around the things revealed in the reunion.
I imagine there is someone who knows this is about to come out. Has that person reached out with trepidations or begged you to not include it?
It’s a really good question. I think that because this whole situation has been so out of control, there have not been any requests that we not air what is about to be aired, or modify it in any way. At this point, it’s accepted that it’s a foregone conclusion this is all going to air. And everyone just wants the season to be over. So there’s more of a resignation to the fact that this is going to be as intense as it’s been. It’s really been at a fever pitch since the beginning of March, the minute the TMZ story dropped. And it hits its crescendo Wednesday night.
Is there any hesitation from you about not having cameras on the cast as they watch Part 3?
We have to cut off filming at some point. (Laughing.) I expect that we will hear from all of them, and I know they’re waiting with bated breath. They have not seen the episode. Usually we give it early to them. We’ve been waiting and holding it. So I know they are in as much anticipation as everyone else. They can debunk certain theories, but beyond that, they are waiting to see what it is. They want to first of all see the reunion; it’s one thing to go through it and it’s another to see it play out differently than you have in your mind. But then there’s that final beat that they are speculating about as well. And I know they are eager to see it and respond to it.
From a production standpoint, would you usually be talking contracts for the next season and readying to gear up the cameras at this point?
The truth is, we’re on our typical production timeline. We’re just not on an accelerated timeline. There was some thought that we would head right into the next season after the reunion, and then it became clear to us that we needed to slow down a minute. So that’s what we did. We’re making preparations for the next season, but we didn’t just go continuously from the reunion into the next season.
Given how tense things are among the group and especially with Sandoval, are you expecting to have conditional conversations about season 11? What happens if someone says, “I’m in, but only if this person is out or if I never have to film with them?”
The cast knows that those conditional demands never work. So I don’t think it’s a matter of that. It’s a matter of dialing in what is organic for the group to be together, what makes sense. And knowing we want to see where they go from here. It can’t be a show with separate islands. That doesn’t work and it’s not exciting if we have groups who agree with each other but never interact.
But the cast does have the full expectation that we intend to make another season of Vanderpump Rules. Not that we want to make a show that doesn’t resemble one we’ve made for all these years. It’s a show that has followed this group through everything they’ve been through to date, and we’ll see them as they continue to move forward. There still are a ton of ties between people who have incredibly strained relations right now; Tom and Ariana still live together. So even seeing how that resolves is of interest. It isn’t like all of a sudden they have gone to their respective ends of the universe and that’s it. So there’s a lot for us to cover and genuinely we have no idea how it’s going to play out, just like we wouldn’t have been able to predict any of this.
If you have your way, when will you have cameras up again?
Our hope and plan is in the not-too-distant future this summer. So, in the next few weeks.
Are you in any active talks with past castmembers?
It is a distinct possibility that some past castmembers might make appearances on this upcoming season.
Because Raquel stepped away for mental health issues, are there any conditions or support you would offer her if she did return? And, do you know how she’s doing now?
We have ongoing conversations with her team and we’re supposed to speak to her as well soon. And, we’re going to see. We want to make sure she is in a place where it makes sense for her to tell her story in a public setting. We think it’s interesting to see what is going on with her life right now and what she plans to do from here, but our first order of business is making sure that it makes sense for her to be on television.
Do you know what the status of her and Tom Sandoval’s relationship is right now?
I hear different things. That sounds evasive, but it really isn’t. I think part of it is that she has been taking care of herself and she’s somewhat isolated. But I don’t know what their exact status is.
In terms of the rollout of this three-part reunion, which has extended versions on Peacock, did you ever consider doing more?
We literally could have presented raw footage and shown an entire day. But I think it’s a perfect situation where there is added enjoyment from the Peacock versions. They’re longer; you see more. We have to cut short certain conversations for Bravo, because we have to make concessions for time. And we didn’t have language constraints on Peacock. I think to see this in its full glory, you have to see some of the language that is used. It’s spicy and it’s pretty colorful. So Peacock is more the unedited version. It’s the enhanced version of what you see on Bravo.
Will the twist be on the Bravo version?
Yes. The twist will be everywhere!
Interview edited for length and clarity. Part 3 of the Vanderpump Rules reunion airs Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Bravo and streams Thursday at 3 a.m. on Peacock.