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Reality TV Is Having a Hot Scandoval Fall

In the aftermath of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules scandal, at least four shows airing this autumn are trying to cash in on the controversy, from Special Forces to Dancing With the Stars.
Reality TV Is Having a Hot Scandoval Fall
Courtesy of Fox/Bravo

Bravo struck reality-TV gold earlier this year, thanks to the illicit affair between Vanderpump Rules castmates Tom Sandoval and Rachel Leviss that is now known as Scandoval. Months after TMZ’s reveal and a 10th season of VPR that earned series-high ratings, other shows are mining the depths of the controversy this fall.

Sandoval, perhaps eager to rehabilitate his image following a clumsy initial response to the backlash, says he wants to “get punished” on season two of Fox’s Special Forces, which premiered on Monday. The reality-competition series tasks celebrities with performing military-based challenges in brutal terrain (this season, it’s winter warfare in New Zealand). There are no eliminations, the contestants are warned—you’ll either VW (voluntarily withdraw) from the competition or “leave in a wooden box.”

In the season’s first episode, Sandoval starts to frame his redemption arc. “These past few months have been the darkest months of my entire life,” he says. “Sandoval has become Scandoval. Yeah, the whole country’s pissed off at me.” There are also other juicy curiosities to be found in this season of Special Forces—where else can you watch Tara Reid stash three packs of cigarettes in a pair of cargo pants, or Jack Osbourne reveal that his goal of joining the Army after 9/11 was derailed by filming for MTV’s The Osbournes? For Vanderpump fans, it’ll be an opportunity to see Sandoval grasp some semblance of accountability for his actions.

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But that may not be the only reality show Sandoval is infiltrating. There are rampant rumors that Fox is keeping Sandoval on the payroll with a featured slot on The Masked Singer, which premieres a new season on Wednesday. Signs point to him being the Diver, who said in a promo for the series, “Usually, I’m pretty pumped, but lately I’ve been lost in the abyss,” adding, “I might be the most hated creature in the ocean right now.” The creature’s first clue was a cardinal, which some have assumed represents Sandoval’s hometown of St. Louis.

Sandwiched between Sandoval’s actual and presumed gigs is his now ex-girlfriend Ariana Madix’s Tuesday debut on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars—one of several perks to come with public betrayal, it seems. Madix’s narrative on the show will no doubt hinge on the recent breakup and her ability to bounce back, despite the fact that the exes are inexplicably still living together. Next month, following a mid-scandal Stars on Mars stint, another Vanderpump cast member, Tom Schwartz, will undoubtedly face Scandoval-related queries on Bravo’s Winter House, a project Sandoval was rumored to be dropped from at the height of his social media scrutiny.

Leviss, the third person in this twisted love triangle, has taken the road less filmed by seemingly severing ties with Bravo and quitting the next season of Vanderpump Rules. But the fascination around this scandal persists—it’s even upped the stakes for other Bravo shows like Southern Charm and Summer House, whose current storylines are being breathlessly compared to Vanderpump’s. The show’s heyday has coincided with an influx of reality TV on the network schedule this fall, brought about by the WGA strike prior to the tentative deal. It’s even wormed its way into scripted series too; in last week’s premiere of American Horror Story: Delicate, Emma Roberts’s character joked about both killing and sleeping with Sandoval while appearing on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.?

And just when the dust settles on Scandoval fall, Vanderpump Rules itself will return for its 11th season likely in early 2024. Will the current frenzy have given way to fatigue by the time of the premiere? Only time will tell.?