“I'd rather stand here and face it," the 'Vanderpump Rules' star said after being harangued by the crowd for cheating on Ariana Madix, his costar and now-ex-girlfriend of nine years
Sandoval reunited with his ex, Ariana Madix, as well as his Vanderpump Rules costars Ally Lewber, James Kennedy, Lala Kent, Katie Maloney, Lisa Vanderpump, Tom Schwartz, Scheana Shay and Brock Davies for the show's BravoCon panel on Friday in Las Vegas.
The reunion comes eight months after Madix, 38, and Sandoval, 41, split after nine years of dating following the news of the TomTom co-owner’s months-long affair with their friend and VPR costar Rachel “Raquel” Leviss (who was not in attendance for Friday's panel).
Right off the bat, tensions ran high as Sandoval was booed by the crowd and could barely get a word in when attempting to speak. "It feels good to be here in Vegas. It's BravoCon," he said as the crowd erupted into boos.
Vanderpump, 63, quickly chimed in to do crowd control and said of the scandal that rocked the show: "I love them all individually, dearly. They have all screwed up at some point — maybe not to this extent. I’ve seen them grow up, and I think the magic of this show is they’ve had these intense relationships with each since way before the show started — and also with me. So I can’t judge them on one episode."
"This season was extraordinarily difficult for Tom and Ariana … but for me as a maternal figure and a matriarch and a mentor to them … [I] try to facilitate some cohesion," she added. "This is Vanderpump Rules. It’s not Little House on the Prairie."
When asked what filming season 11 was like, Madix offered her perspective, telling moderator Karamo Brown: "It was weird, it was difficult, and I’m glad it’s behind me."
"I knew it was gonna be difficult, I knew it was gonna be weird," she later added. "I knew I was gonna have some very strong and ultimately negative feelings but I think if anything, the last year has shown me I can do hard things and it was hard but we did it."
Kennedy, 31, then joked, "Honestly, going into this season, I was thinking the whole time, 'If Ariana can do it, I can do it too,'" to which Madix responded, "That's how I feel about Britney. If Britney Spears can do it, I can too."
At one point, Brown asked Sandoval about his relationship with Schwartz, 41. Over the booing of the crowd, Sandoval said, "It's obviously gotten better. He went through some tough times because of me, and he dealt with a lot of residual negativity. And I really appreciate you sticking by, man."
"For better or for worse, 'til death do us part," Schwartz responded, later noting that their restaurant TomTom is "thriving."
Kennedy also had a memorable experience on the panel — at one point, challenging Sandoval to a push-up contest (Kennedy won) and later running off stage mid-conversation to use the restroom. When asked about his experience filming season 11, Kennedy called it "one of the hardest years."
"There were moments I just wanted to turn around and say something I'd probably regret," he explained, claiming that he's taking a "more mature route" this season, which he promised would be "one of the craziest yet."
"I say when James Kennedy is the voice of reason on the show..." Vanderpump joked afterward.
This prompted Sandoval to agree with Kennedy's comments, noting that his hardships on season 11 made him start to "appreciate" when his fellow castmates were previously been "on the outskirts."
"This season, for the first time, I got to see what other people had to deal with," he said. "You start to recognize the small things, someone saying hi, smiling at you on the street ... recognizing your humanity."
Later during the panel, Brown couldn't resist asking the other stars about the Scandoval drama. In particular, Lewber was asked about when she sensed something was off last season after seeing Leviss and Sandoval at The Abbey together.
"I thought it was odd the night at The Abbey because Ariana was saying, 'I want to spend more time with Tom, he's out all the time,'" Lewber recalled. "So that was the moment I was like, 'Ding, ding, ding!' He was actively choosing not to be with Ariana."
Vanderpump also briefly revisited season 10, saying of the explosive reunion: "It was a s---show. It was a mess, and I was in some way, in the middle of it. They were all dumping their emotions on me and it was a lot."
During the fan Q&A, Sandoval was asked if he has any regrets about the way things unfolded with Madix. He owned his missteps, saying, "Yes, of course, I would have done things differently. I can't change what happened."
Madix was also asked if she ever received a genuine apology from her ex, to which she claimed, "No, any apology was rescinded after what was said, so no."
Sandoval continued to get booed by the crowd, which prompted Davies to stand up for him at one point and insist they are "friends." Kent also stood up for him, explaining, "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. If I were in his position, I’d tell y'all to go f--- off."
When asked why he chose to appear at BravoCon and take the heat instead of skipping out, Sandoval insisted: "I’d rather stand here and face it. I don't know what you do."
Friday's panel also featured a new brand teaser for VPR season 11, which returns in January. After the clip premiered, Vanderpump told the crowd, "This season really puts the real in reality." Several of the cast members also described the upcoming season as "sad."
For more of PEOPLE's BravoCon coverage, click here.
In one of the final moments of the panel, Vanderpump praised Madix for the way she handled the fallout of the scandal. "I'm so proud of Ariana for turning it around and living her best f---ing life."
"I have nothing to say to either of them," Madix said of Sandoval and Leviss, 29. "Our show is very real and follows a real group of friends, and neither of them are in the group of friends, so, good luck."
As for Sandoval, he opened up to PEOPLE in September about how long he thinks the public will hate him for his tryst with Leviss.
“I would say that it's probably going to get worse before it gets better and don’t think for a second, ‘Oh, give it a week, give it a couple weeks, whatever,’” Sandoval said at the time. “No, this stuff stays with you for a while. I'm in this for the long haul. I know it.”
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Vanderpump Rules can be streamed on Peacock.
BravoCon 2023 is continuing through Sunday, Nov. 5 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas.
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