‘Real Housewives’ Recap: ‘Chilly Reception’

In just 13 episodes, The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City has proven, for better or worse, that Utah can produce crazy reality TV stars with the best of them. Whether this proves our state’s relevance or just embarrasses us is up for debate, but I’ll admit that I’m sad to disengage from this show. After spending almost a full year inside, my brain has fully rotted and I can only digest the reliable structures of reality TV, so I’m taking this loss hard. At least this season of The Real Housewives ends with a super-sized finale that gives each cast member a very on-brand (and temporary) goodbye.

Let’s talk about the technical craft that goes into this ridiculous television show. This season’s score has really leaned into the Casio Keyboard choir setting (I guess to imitate MoTab?) and it feels even more unhinged than usual this episode. The finale also opens with some inspired editing choices—as the Housewives settle back into Utah life, we see looping flashbacks to the Las Vegas drama with some sort of 2013 Instagram filter and heavy echoes. It’s giving me made-for-TV Christmas Story, and if Bohemian Rhapsody can get an Oscar for editing, awarding the evil geniuses at Bravo should definitely be on the table.

As these flashbacks not-so-subtly remind us, the fissions in the group are deeper than ever after Whitney’s ill-advised girls’ weekend in Las Vegas. The trip is a sore spot for pretty much everyone not named Mary Cosby, but Heather has bigger things to worry about—her grand opening! Beauty Lab and Laser has a new location, and Heather will be inviting everyone she knows to celebrate in just a few days. After lightly sexually harassing one of the construction workers, Heather realizes she has a lot to do before the store is ready. The clouds need to be pinker! The angel wings need to be ready for selfies! She needs to figure out what a stanchion is! (I’ll admit that I didn’t know this word either.) With all of this on her plate, Heather almost has no time to remember how upset she is with Jen. Almost.

In a surprising reversal, Lisa is feeling more ready to forgive. Just last episode, Heather was staying loyal even when Lisa wanted to cut ties with Jen, but now, Lisa is ready to hear Jen out over drinks. Their conversation is more of the same stuff we’ve heard for weeks now: Jen defends her defensiveness, Lisa suggests that Jen’s temper undermines her point and Jen says she felt alienated while growing up as a minority in Utah. Lisa, to her credit, doesn’t hold a grudge, but it’s clear none of the other women want to see Jen at Heather’s party.

Back at the old Beauty Lab, Meredith comes in to catch up with Heather. “I got permission to go on a small break,” Heather announces to nobody in particular before whispering, “I just say that so they think I’m one of them. I really don’t need permission.” Heather Gay’s Tips on Business Management is coming soon to a bookstore near you! Over champagne, the two talk about—who else—Jen. Meredith says she feels compassionate toward Jen: “It makes me sad to see someone who is suffering so much in their own space that they’re behaving this way.” (Most of Meredith’s dialogue this episode sounds like someone put a Brene Brown book in a Vitamix.) Heather wants a clear apology, and she tearfully says that if her own daughters had a friend like Jen, she would tell them to “kick her to the curb and move on.”

With the Barlow family, we have another scene that begs the question: “Is this family bonding time or a late capitalist horror show?” Lisa meets with Sydney, her marketing coordinator, but she’s not here to talk about Vida Tequila—she wants to discuss Fresh Wolf, her boys’ line of men’s grooming products. (Well, this is their line of products in the same way it was my volcano at the second grade science fair.) John comes in with an armful of soda and the two kids. Lisa says that she and John invested a “significant amount of money” in Fresh Wolf and she is beaming with pride at her “mini-moguls.” Throughout this business meeting/reality TV show branding opportunity/FHE turducken, Henry runs around hyperactively, because he’s 9, and Jack is nervous to give a business pitch, because he’s 15. Jack suggests that John should use products with turmeric because it stimulates hair growth, and John remembers the potential downsides to letting your teenage son go unscripted in front of prying reality TV cameras. The show has not always been flattering to Lisa’s family relationships, but this scene lets Lisa have the last word. She says she’s proud of her boys and knows that she’s a good mother.

It has been a long time since we’ve had a scene with Mary at her fullest, craziest potential, and luckily this episode more than makes up for it. Mary is back at the Faith Temple for choir practice, and things are off to an incredible start when the camera pans to a picture of Rosemary, Mary’s grandma, hanging out with Jesus. (The editors helpfully label this as “Rosemary Cosby & Jesus.”) The choir cheers when Mary walks in with a sweater that spells out “amen,” and Mary says church is a place “where love should always flow.” Immediately after, Mary asks a band member why he’s gaining weight and berates the choir for not sounding good enough. “Yes, ma’am,” they all respond in unison. Truly everything Mary says in this scene is incredible, and we all deserve a spinoff about Mary’s life as a pastor. The congregation, meanwhile, deserves a different church. Literally any other church will do!

In less interesting news, Coach Shah continues to prove himself as the best RHOSLC husband by taking Jen salsa dancing. Despite their sometimes rocky relationship, the couple seems to be in a good place, at least until Season 2 dredges up more conflict. 

Now, we get to the real meat of the episode: Beauty Lab + Laser’s grand opening. Heather has successfully created the girly, pink injection clinic of her dreams. She says the night is going well because “Mormons really know how to pull off a party,” to which I say … really? Maybe if a party is sitting on a basketball court and watching a Nativity scene. Billy comes with their daughters, and he is very cordial and very uncomfortable. Heather gets to have her full-circle moment and proves that she doesn’t need him to be successful.

After too many absences from group outings, Mary luckily doesn’t skip this party. She arrives in her trademark questionable couture, gamely tries flavored oxygen with Whitney and asks Heather if “AF” means after the fact. At this point, I am at least 75% confident that Mary is messing with us. I’m pretty sure I saw a wink after she pretends to not understand AF, and this leads me to believe Mary is doing high-caliber performance art at all times. 

We must now discuss the single best part of the episode: Meredith’s fashion choices. While prepping for the party, Meredith takes pants off on camera, to Brooks’ great disgust. She decided to take her pants off because for her party ensemble, she’s wearing a suit jacket as a dress with … a full, bedazzled face mask. And when I say full face mask, I do mean that her entire face is covered. Meredith has made some moderately bold fashion choices earlier this season, but I could not have predicted the incredible camp bestowed upon us. The other women are baffled but trying to be polite, and Meredith quickly earns comparisons to a recent burn victim and Marquis de Sade. In a remarkable feat of physical comedy, Meredith continues to wear the mask in her confessional while making straight-faced observations about the party. At this point of the episode, my soul has fully left my body and I am convening with both Rosemary Cosby and Jesus Christ. I love everything about this, from Meredith sipping a cocktail through her mask to the fact that she somehow predicted what we would be forced to wear for the next year of the pandemic. That’s next-level trendsetting.

Everyone’s good time is quickly soured when Jen shows up unexpectedly. Jen was technically invited, but everyone assumed that she would stay away considering most of the cast is not on speaking terms with her. Heather wonders if Jen is trying to be supportive or sabotage the night. Mary unleashes an epic eye roll. And Jen is determined to “Michelle Obama” her way through the night, staying calm throughout her apology tour. Whitney, who is still learning party etiquette, asks her about Las Vegas, and Jen explains herself. She tries to make things right with Meredith, who says she is “protecting her positive space” and is not ready to forgive. (Okay, Jen does call Meredith “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” in the confessional, but she keeps it together at the party.) Finally, Heather takes time away from her hostess duties to confront Jen. Heather has always been an especially supportive friend to Jen, so she felt the most hurt by Jen’s behavior on the trip. Or, as Heather puts it, “I’m the pathetic fool that worships you and does everything it takes to keep your friendship and you shit all over it.” Lisa, Meredith and Whitney are watching this unfold and nervously titter around, trying to avoid another Top Golf-level blowup. Jen apologizes several times, but when she tries to explain, it’s clear she doesn’t even know what she’s apologizing for. Heather mostly wants Jen to admit that she hasn’t been a good friend, which Jen tearfully does. The tension isn’t totally gone, but Heather and Jen aren’t at odds any more either. (They playfully fight over Jen’s lip gloss, which may be the highest form of intimacy.) With this massive fight out of the way, many of the season’s biggest conflicts are temporarily resolved, giving the Housewives some closure while still leaving more for the already-confirmed Season 2.

Random observations:

  • Meredith and Seth’s flirting is truly upsetting to me. But, as this finale shows us, their marriage is alive and well. 
  • I’m still not over Mary saying, “We don’t need practice. We have angels,” and then immediately telling her choir that they sound terrible. 
  • The episode’s final scene is a “where are they now” montage. I haven’t watched other Real Housewives seasons, so I don’t know if this is typical, but I enjoyed this stupidity very much. The gay junior producer in charge of this had a lot of fun and you know what? I’m happy for him. My personal favorite: “When the topic of moving to Canton, Ohio is raised, Meredith disengages.”

Catch up with all of our Real Housewives recaps here.

Josh Petersen
Josh Petersenhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Josh Petersen is the former Digital Editor of Salt Lake magazine, where he covered local art, food, culture and, most importantly, the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. He previously worked at Utah Style & Design and is a graduate of the University of Utah.

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