Kristen Doute’s ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Shock Return Is a Full-Circle Moment

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Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen - Season 20 - Credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo via Getty Images
Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen - Season 20 - Credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo via Getty Images

“When I think of your ex-boyfriend, I need a drink,” Kristen Doute says to Ariana Madix in the highly anticipated Vanderpump Rules Season 10 finale. Doute hasn’t appeared on the Bravo series in nearly two seasons after getting fired in June 2020, but she made her grand return at a heightened time for the show: when the cast members address the fallout of Tom Sandoval’s cheating scandal with Raquel Leviss.

“You mean, also your ex-boyfriend,” Madix replies, hugging her friend. In the midst of mourning the loss of Madix’s nearly decade-long relationship, Doute visits her at home when cameras were rolling again in March after news of the cheating scandal broke: “Our ex-boyfriend.”

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When producers caught wind of what was going on between the Vanderpump cast members, they acted fast to film the aftermath, resulting in one more episode this season than they were originally planning on. Doute was one of Madix’s many friends who spent time with her in the immediate days after she discovered Sandoval was having a monthslong affair with Leviss, helping distract her, take care of her, and act as a supportive presence. One of the days when Doute was at Madix’s house, she stole her away for a moment and asked what she thought about the producers’ idea for them to film a scene together.

“I pulled her aside and said, ‘I’ll do this if you want me to do it. I have nothing to gain, and you may be very exhausted from having these conversations off-camera. I am very aware that I can look thirsty. I might look like an opportunist,’” Doute tells Rolling Stone she said to Madix. “‘Being on Vanderpump for this one scene does me no favors, but if you need me there and you want this, then we’ll do it.’ And she was like, ‘I really do. I really want you to do it.’ So I said yes.”

Over the years, Doute’s been called “crazy” by Sandoval, her VPR castmates, her own friends, fans of the show, and even Madix at some points. Doute is the first person to admit to her imperfections: She infamously had sex with Jax Taylor, Sandoval’s best pal and her best friend Stassi Schroeder’s ex-boyfriend who was trying to win her back after a messy breakup. Doute lied to Sandoval and all of her friends about the hookup (or rather, hookups) until she confessed in the Season Two finale.

“There was nothing cool about it. I was lying about it and being dishonest,” Doute says. “I am well aware of all the fingers that are going to be pointed back at me for things I’ve done in my past, but I acknowledge those things. I’ve apologized for them. My actions have spoken for them, and I’ve been forgiven by the people involved.”

Ariana Madix and Kristen Doute in the Season 10 finale of 'Vanderpump Rules.'
Ariana Madix and Kristen Doute in the Season 10 finale of ‘Vanderpump Rules.’

At the time, her mistakes overshadowed Sandoval’s indiscretions because, as she says, her choices “blew up the friend group.” But now that Sandoval’s behavior is under a microscope because it was revealed he cheated on Madix, his girlfriend of 10 years, with another friend and cast member, maybe Doute wasn’t so crazy after all.

“I feel like I do need a little bit of redemption. I just hate that my redemption is at the expense of Ariana [Madix],” Doute says. “I am a champion for a cause when I think that I am being misled, gaslit, or lied to.”

It’s been a quiet three years for Doute. After starring on Vanderpump Rules for eight seasons, she was fired from the series in June 2020 along with Stassi Schroeder. Their former cast member Faith Stowers revealed in an Instagram Live chat that Schroeder and Doute reported her to police in 2018 for crimes another Black woman allegedly committed. Stowers most prominently appeared in VPR Season Six, which aired from November 2017 until May 2018, when it was revealed that she and Jax Taylor hooked up (and she recorded him) while he was dating his now-wife, Brittany Cartwright. Most of the season revolved around the fallout of their cheating scandal. In December 2020, Bravo also confirmed that Taylor and Cartwright wouldn’t be returning to the series.

Both Schroeder and Doute apologized for the incident, which came to light at a time when there was a national reckoning around police brutality and systemic racism after George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota. Doute remembers the three years following her firing as “the darkest moment of my life by far.” She took a break from the spotlight, partially because she was forced to and also because she wanted to “be as respectful as possible.”

“There have been some hell-or-high-water moments through not only the last three years, but my entire time on Vanderpump Rules,” Doute says. “There were days I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t know if my voice ever wanted to be heard by anybody ever again; I didn’t know how to navigate it. I just listened to people that I really cared about who I knew respected and loved me. It was kind of time to zip my lips and wait it out.”

The situation surrounding Bravo firing Doute in 2020 made it difficult for her to decide whether or not she wanted to make a big return to the show when producers approached her about filming a scene with Madix in the Season 10 finale. She wasn’t necessarily eager to appear on camera again given everything she’d been through with production, the network, and the public. Her motivation, she says, was to be in service of Madix; as long as her friend wanted her to film, she would do it.

“I wanted to do it for her but I thought, why should I give them any piece of me?” Doute says. “I never asked for my job back. I never even asked for an apology. I just asked for an acknowledgement and I never got it, and I realized that I wasn’t going to get it.”

Despite wanting to be there for her friend, Doute was terrified to come back to Vanderpump Rules. The night before, she says she cried to her boyfriend because she was nervous about the uncertainty.

“I thought, I don’t know if I can put myself back in this position. I don’t know if this is healthy for me. I don’t know what this edit will look like. I don’t know if I’m setting myself up for failure,” she says. “I’ve said goodbye to this show, and now I’m doing something I swore I’d never do again. That was really terrifying.”

Ultimately, though, she found the strength to film with Madix because she wanted to be her sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and wanted to help “get her out of the hole she was in.” It’s a full-circle moment for the women and for longtime VPR fans who are familiar with their history: When the show premiered, Doute and Sandoval had already been dating for about five years. Then in Season Two, Doute accused Sandoval of cheating on her with Madix. Sandoval and Madix both denied the allegations on a number of occasions. Eventually, Sandoval confessed that he and Madix “made out one time” in Las Vegas. After Sandoval and Doute broke up for good, he confirmed her worst fears by dating Madix, which elevated the beef between the two women. It wasn’t until Season Six when viewers witnessed Doute and Madix become friends, something that seemed like an impossibility for years.

Now that Sandoval is their mutual ex-boyfriend, perpetuating the same pattern of cheating with a “friend,” the evolution of Doute and Madix’s friendship is nearly complete. If anyone had a semblance of an idea of how Madix was feeling in that moment, it was Doute.

“I just wanted to be able to talk her out of all those negative feelings as best I could and let her know, this is going to suck, it’s going to be really fucking hard and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re full of it,” Doute says. “But you will come out of this on the other side, and you are going to blossom and be better than ever. You no longer have all this extra baggage. You don’t have this dead weight. You no longer have to wonder who he’s texting or when he’s coming home.”

Madix and Doute have a pivotal conversation on camera for viewers who have been paying attention to their storylines for the past 10 seasons. Referring to her relationship with Sandoval while he was still dating Doute, Madix says, “Yes, me and Tom kissed and you think it’s an isolated thing … and it’s really shitty that it took nine years to fucking figure that [out], nine years I could’ve spent not defending at him at your sake.”

Doute takes the high road. “Pish posh on me. If anything, I’m sorry to you that you had to do me the favor of taking him away,” she says. “Wanna burn some shit?”

It’s understandable how some viewers might be confused by the jump in Doute and Madix’s friendship storyline. Doute says she wishes the show gave them more opportunities to depict the growth of their friendship onscreen and tell the story about how they were able to squash their beef. How did Doute and Madix manage to build a strong, meaningful friendship after their years of mutual hatred? When Doute started dating Brian Carter, who appeared on the show in seasons Five to Eight, she says her group of friends really liked him and were able to see that she had moved on from giving all of her energy to getting in the middle of Sandoval and Madix’s romance.

“It was no longer my agenda to ruin their lives, and I really took a step back,” Doute says. “It was just my actions speaking louder than words over time, so then she gave me a chance. Time heals all wounds. Then when she and I developed our own friendship, we realized how much we actually had in common.”

Doute says so much time had passed from her breakup with Sandoval and she and Madix became so close that eventually, she started to view Sandoval as just Ariana’s boyfriend instead of her own ex-boyfriend (or even friend). Once Doute became closer to Madix, she says her relationship with Sandoval also improved, although she was never interested in having a real friendship with him beyond something on a surface level since they were in the same friend group.

Some fans and critics have observed how Madix’s relationship with Sandoval ended similarly to his relationship with Doute, with some fan video edits showing side-by-side comparisons in which Sandoval uses the same language verbatim when speaking about his situations with both women. But Doute says she doesn’t subscribe to the adage “how you get him is how you lose him” when it comes to Madix and Sandoval, and she certainly isn’t happy to see a sliver of redemption at the cost of her friend’s happiness.

“I feel like I’m the only one that gets to make the claim whether or not this was deserved on her behalf or not, and it just wasn’t,” Doute says. “But maybe on his, so maybe this is karma coming to bite him in the ass for being such a liar for so long.”

Doute and her current boyfriend, Luke Broderick, were with Madix the night she found out about Sandoval and Leviss’ monthslong affair. They were having a fun, typical night out at TomTom in West Hollywood on Wednesday, March 1, watching Sandoval’s cover band perform when she says Madix disappeared. Doute says she also didn’t hear from Madix when she reached out the following day, but she didn’t think much of it at the time. Then, on March 3, Doute read the news in disbelief on TMZ. She’s familiar with Sandoval’s cheating capabilities — Doute even wrote about her experience dating Sandoval in veiled anecdotes in her book, He’s Making You Crazy: How to Get the Guy, Get Even, and Get Over It — but she was shocked he would do this to Madix with such a close friend.

“I really think Tom fooled everybody,” Doute says.

Ariana Madix in the Season 10 finale of 'Vanderpump Rules.'
Ariana Madix in the Season 10 finale of ‘Vanderpump Rules.’

When Doute saw Madix for the first time post-Scandoval, it was an emotional moment between the women who were officially on the same side of history. They hugged, cried, and found catharsis in one another in a way only the two of them could understand.

“We’re both crying and she said, ‘Thank you for being here. I’m so fucking sorry.’ I literally stopped her in her tracks and said, ‘Stop, you absolutely have nothing to apologize for,’” Doute says. “And whatever that ‘I’m sorry’ meant, whether it was, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you’ or ‘I’m sorry that I put you through pain in the past,’ or whatever that ‘I’m sorry’ was for, it absolutely doesn’t matter. We’re in different places in our lives and we’re completely different now than we were then. We’re evolved people, she and I, although I can’t say the same for him.”

Doute continues, “I’m just happy she found her strength. Ariana was going to find her strength no matter what, but I’m glad that she did it in a shorter period of time than it could have been.”

Not only was it a difficult decision for Doute to return for the Vanderpump Rules finale, but Doute was also hesitant when she was asked to return to Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen in New York City. She hadn’t seen Cohen since before the pandemic in early 2020 and she says she also hadn’t spoken to him since she got fired from VPR. It was nerve-wracking for Doute because Cohen has known her for a decade, and according to the reality star, “Andy knows he can throw anything my way and I’m not going to push back the way certain people do or not want to answer a question or get defensive.”

“If you ask me a question, I know how to answer it,” Doute says. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time.”

But Doute went into the taping hopeful that Cohen would approach her “with a lot of grace and understanding” and she ended up having a fun time on the show, which she filmed on May 3.

“The best part was feeling like Andy was on my side for once,” Doute says. “I feel like I’m normally in the hot seat because I put myself there, and this was the first time that I got to kind of eat the popcorn.”

She thinks Sandoval’s been able to successfully avoid answering for his faults up until this point by deflecting to other people’s issues, which is easy to do on a show like Vanderpump Rules where “there’s a million bombs dropped per season.”

“Tom Sandoval is the king of deflection. He doesn’t even really answer for himself, I’ve noticed over the years,” Doute says. “In the past it was always just diminished, like, it was just the Vegas bottle service girl and with Ariana [Madix] it was just a kiss. It was always made to be nothing.”

In the Season 10 finale, Sandoval finally admits to hooking up with Annemarie Maldonado, also known by cast members and fans as “Miami girl,” which was a major storyline in Season Three. Doute tried to get Sandoval to admit the truth about cheating on Madix with “Miami girl” and even brought the woman into Sur while he was bartending for a confrontation. Sandoval and Madix denied the allegation for years and on Wednesday night, Sandoval says, “Ariana knew about that the whole time.”

“He essentially cops to it but then also still diminishes it by basically saying, ‘Well, we both knew about this, it was the choice that we made [not to talk about it on camera] because we were early on in our relationship’ instead of him just owning his own action,” Doute says. “And I was pinpointed as being this crazy person.”

In light of Scandoval, Doute’s been watching new episodes this season and has a different perspective from other viewers since she’s still friends with most of the cast and is a former cast member herself.

“It’s wild to me, watching this specific season, how many times Tom Sandoval says the word ‘accountability’ to other people,” she says.

Doute is also curious where the show can go from here considering the group of friends doesn’t seem too keen on socially interacting with Sandoval or Leviss, let alone filming with them.

“How do you bring Raquel back? Do you bring Sandoval back?” she says. “I mean, you can’t fire people for having an affair, but what would filming look like in that capacity?”

If anyone is uniquely positioned to have an opinion on Leviss’ role in Scandoval, it’s Doute; they’ve both been at the center of major cheating scandals on Vanderpump Rules, and they’re both romantically linked to the same men, Sandoval and Kennedy. Years later, Doute was able to redeem herself from her own wrongdoings. After lying to her friends about hooking up with Taylor, Doute groveled for forgiveness and earned her place back in everyone’s good graces. She’s not as hopeful that redemption is possible for Leviss.

“I too dated Tom Sandoval, the narcissist, for a very long time. I too dated James Kennedy, who was very abusive, and I never used any of those things as an excuse. It’s called: Go to therapy. It’s called: Work on yourself, take a timeout, stop pointing your fingers, and do the self-work that you need to do. Stop making these choices,” Doute says. “I have all the empathy in the world for someone who dates a narcissist. It is really difficult to get out of a relationship like that. It’s really difficult to find your self-worth again, but she’s clearly not showing any sort of true apology or self-work.”

Doute isn’t on speaking terms with Sandoval. She says she tried to watch his Howie Mandel interview, but she couldn’t get through it because her “ears were bleeding.” In general, she’s disappointed by the way he’s handled this situation on a private and public level.

“I don’t understand why Tom can’t just say, ‘I’m sorry, I messed up’ and leave the ‘but’ out of it. He continues to gaslight Ariana the exact same way that he did to me,” Doute says. “I think he’s losing his damn mind. I mean, I really think Tom is losing his mind. I don’t know what’s happening. Nothing is making any sense.”

Doute thinks there’s been a continuous cycle of non-accountability from the men on the show because they had a number of secrets to protect in the first place. “It wasn’t just one secret. They all had secrets to protect,” she says. “The girls weren’t covering up for each other like, ‘If I spill your beans, you’re going to spill mine,’ because we don’t have those skeletons anymore. We’re not making those poor life decisions anymore. We’re growing up and evolving. But the guys in our group seem to countlessly have secrets and skeletons in their closet.”

Outside of Vanderpump Rules, there’s a lot on the horizon for Doute. She’s co-hosting her podcast Sex, Love, and What Else Matters with her boyfriend, Broderick. The couple is also about to embark on a new journey of renovating Volkswagen buses with the goal of renting them out on Airbnb. “I think that would be a really fun HGTV show eventually,” Doute says. She and Maloney also relaunched their Witches of WeHo wine brand.

Plus, Doute recently finished filming an upcoming reality-competition series The GOAT for Amazon Freevee alongside The Bachelor’s Tayshia Adams, Jill Zarin from The Real Housewives of New York City, and Joey Sasso, who starred on Netflix’s The Circle and Perfect Match. As far as appearing on future television shows, Doute says she’s open and interested in the possibility, but the door is closed for Doute when it comes to Vanderpump Rules. She doesn’t want to come back for any more seasons of the Bravo show in its current state, but says she would happily film another unscripted project.

“In 2020, before everything happened, we were talking about doing a separate show [from Vanderpump Rules]. They were essentially talking about breaking the shows into two, so if that were to ever become a possibility again, that is something that I would do,” Doute says. “If there was a world that looks like me filming with my friends again in the capacity of what Vanderpump used to look like, I would absolutely love to do that. Just not on that show. My time is over there.”

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