The Bravo star talks to PEOPLE about going right from filming 'Special Forces' to filming a tense season of 'Vanderpump Rules'
Tom Sandoval’s life looks drastically different than it did this time last year, and he’s taking his time to adjust to his new reality.
Following the end of his time on Special Forces: The World's Toughest Test, the 41-year-old reality star spoke to PEOPLE about how things have changed for him since he filmed the challenging survival series in the spring.
The Bravo star says that immediately after his elimination from the Fox show on Monday night’s finale, “I had to go right into filming season 11 of Vanderpump Rules. So it was no downtime.”
Being back on camera following the so-called "Scandoval" sparked by his affair with costar Rachel "Raquel" Leviss — which took place in the final months of his nine-year relationship with Ariana Madix — was an entirely new experience for Sandoval, who has been one of the show's core stars since its debut in 2013.
"I've never really been an outsider with everyone like I was,” he says. “So that's going to be, I think, interesting for people to see.”
Sandoval admits that it was “definitely one of my probably hardest seasons to film, ever.”
Despite a swift alienation from his castmates that lasted for months, the TomTom bar co-owner tells PEOPLE he's been reconnecting with some familiar faces both on and off screen since the scandal broke in early March.
“I’m just taking my time,” he says of how he’s currently navigating friendships. “You'll see [on] this coming season of Vanderpump Rules how a lot of that stuff sort of plays out.”
Earlier this month, some of Sandoval's costars' softening hearts were quietly on display at the Vanderpump Rules panel at BravoCon in Las Vegas — which was marked by roaring boos any time Sandoval attempted to speak.
“In a weird, weird way, I don't know if it's respect, but with everyone really hating on Tom, he still went out, he still performed shows, he's sitting in front of y'all getting booed,” she told the crowd. “If I were in his position, I’d tell y'all to go f--- off."
Kent’s defense of Sandoval came after she’d previously made multiple comments about how season 11 was “the strangest” the cast has “ever filmed” and told PEOPLE last month that she was “so happy” filming had ended.
“It was a very, very difficult season,” said Kent, 33. “We've never had a divide like this in the group that you literally cannot repair.”
Scheana Shay, who was seen sobbing in a finale confrontation with Sandoval just months ago, has also shown up for her former friend in recent weeks after admitting she'd had a hard time cutting ties with him after he betrayed her closer friend Madix, 38.
When asked about attending an impromptu gathering in Sandoval's room, the 38-year-old Scheanigans host told a fan at BravoCon: “I don’t say no to an after party.”
Two months earlier, she admitted on her podcast that she "never thought he was a bad guy. I have personally really struggled with all this because I’m like, ‘Yes, you did a really bad thing. But you weren’t a bad friend to me. But then what you have done has affected me, so it’s just changed the entire dynamic of our group.”
During his stint on Special Forces, Sandoval was open with his castmates — including Nick Viall, Jojo Siwa and Tyler Cameron — about the scandal, which had broken just weeks before he joined the show, as he called it “a pretty juicy f---ing scandal."
“I had an affair, and it just blew up,” he said in an October episode. “People were messaging me paragraphs of just like vicious, like, so visceral, like, hatred.”
In a confessional, Sandoval added, “Before this whole scandal, I would meet people who had probably seen me on Vanderpump Rules, and they’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s so cool.’ And then now, people think I’m a complete narcissist, creeper vibes.”
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Special Forces: World's Toughest Test can be streamed in full on Hulu, and Vanderpump Rules is available in full on Peacock.
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