Rachel Leviss is really going rogue on her podcast, Rachel Goes Rogue. In the second episode of the iHeartRadio show, she spoke about Tom Schwartz’s knowledge about her affair with Tom Sandoval from the beginning, the role producers and Sandoval played in staging moments on the show, and just how much say fans have in storylines that we see unfold on the show.
During the episode, Rachel revealed that Tom Schwartz’s apartment became a sort of safe space for her and Sandoval as they carried out their affair, saying:
“I got a phone call from Tom the next morning after we hooked up for the first time, and my mind was racing. I was feeling so much guilt and shame about it. And I finally got a phone call from Sandoval and he was at Schwartz's apartment when he called me, and that was like a safe space for him.”
Essentially what she’s saying here is that Schwartz knew about the affair since their very first hookup. And despite that being a complete contradiction to Schwartz’s claim that he hadn’t known about the affair until January 2023, which was just two months before the rest of the world found out, it’s completely believable for two reasons.
The first is because, well, bro code. We’ve seen them honour it time and time again. All those trips they took, the alleged hookups that happened while they were there, the guys on this show have always covered for each other. After all of that covering up, you might think that morality automatically kicks in, especially considering the fact that Ariana Madix was one of Schwartz’s grooms(wo)men at his wedding to Katie Maloney, but it doesn’t. And the second reason is because Tom Sandoval has always been very manipulative, while Tom Schwartz has always seemed very easy to manipulate – that’s why their friendship works so well, they balance each other out in a lowkey twisted way.
Rachel went on to say that Schwartz’s apartment became a place where she and Sandoval would often meet for hookups and to hang out away from the cast and producers. That also makes sense, considering Schwartz was already separated from Katie and was living alone, making it a safe ground zero for them to carry out their affair.
In speaking about her kiss with Schwartz, which, once the news of the affair broke, many assumed was a sort of coverup, Rachel revealed that both producers and Tom played a major hand in staging it, ensuring it happened on camera. Fans had been convinced that the pair had kissed at Coachella, and once those rumours started swirling, she says a “seed” was planted.
“A little seed was planted in my head that, oh, like, that could be a fun storyline for season 10 and because we're both single, and so when I made that move, he turned it down, and I was like, ‘Okay, that's that.’ Like, I'm not going to try again because it was stupid to begin with it and he clearly wasn’t into it.”
Later on, Schwartz’s ex-wife Katie said that if he and Rachel hooked up, her and Rachel’s friendship could no longer be. When Rachel told other castmates and producers she would respect that boundary and not pursue him in any way, she says producers pulled her aside to remind her that they were making a reality show, encouraging her and Schwartz to make a move on each other, just as Tom had been encouraging them, too.
“I have a feeling that either producers got into Schwartz's ear saying, ‘Oh, you should make out with Raquel.’ He got some pressure somewhere to make out with me and put a move on me,” she said.
That explains, at least in part, their on-screen kiss, which Rachel says was “definitely staged and produced” and took place despite “both knowing” about her fling with Sandoval. Their kiss was celebrated with two things. The first was a couple of beers, hand-delivered by Tom Sandoval, who did an army crawl over to them for their masterful execution. The second was by producers giving her more airtime, suggesting they celebrate her birthday with a group glamping trip, which included Ariana and Tom together.
Another revelation Rachel made on her podcast was about just how much fan input has on the show. She revealed that during an Instagram live in which she was arranging flowers, her castmate Peter commented some niceties to her, to which fans responded they wanted to see her go on a date with him. She revealed she had actually gone on a date with him off-camera, and it went horribly wrong (like, there was crying and barfing taking place on this date). And when producers got wind of this, they pushed them to redo the date on-screen. She objected, but finally gave in. And even their on-screen date went horribly and included her crying, but thankfully the barfing was not involved this time.
She explained that producers are constantly on the prowl to give fans what they want, which makes so much sense when you consider the success of this particular show. I’ve written about certain Bravo shows that are losing viewership because the fans are not getting what they want in terms of casting or storylines. But what Rachel is explaining seems to be a sort of “choose your own adventure” interactive reality TV show game, almost, when there are, in fact, people’s lives unfolding, albeit a bit staged and produced, in front of us.
To be clear, none of her revelations change the fact that she willingly participated in an affair with her best friend’s man. And no matter how staged or produced certain elements of how that affair unfolded on TV might have been, she is still a grown woman who can, and did, make her own decisions. It does make you wonder whether she is simply reflecting on her experience, trying to shift the blame, or perhaps, suggest that she was coerced throughout the process of the affair, be it by Sandoval or producers. But given that she’s taken ownership and accountability for her role, I really think she’s just letting it all out for healing purposes.
I think that’s why her message is being so well-received by more and more show fans, some of whom, last year around March, were openly telling her to commit suicide in comments on her Instagram posts. It got so bad that she had to check in to a psychiatric treatment facility for help and support. Now, though, particularly as she is beginning to reveal more of her side of the story, people are in agreement that Tom Sandoval is gross and really manipulated her. It's an indication that there’s a wider sense of growing consciousness about how easily men get off in affairs.
Part of the problem is that reality TV thrives off drama. And would there have been any of that if Rachel and Ariana teamed up, pushed Sandoval to the margins of society, high-fived and girl powered their way through this? Absolutely not. Would there be as much anticipation for the January 30th season premiere if we knew we weren’t walking into yet another season of watching this all unfold, despite Rachel’s absence from the show? Hell no.
Going into this new season, it's both empowering and dangerous for fans to know that they have a say in what unfolds on the show, especially considering how cruel people were to Rachel when the news of this affair broke. It feels like we’re living out a twisted episode of Black Mirror. So my personal hope is that we can all take our rightful place as observers and leave the producers to do their jobs – and the cast to live their life, with only the organic kind of drama unfolding for us to see.