There has been a lot to keep track of in the last few episodes of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. We have Jennie and Duy’s conflict over having more children, which could be the saddest plotline of the series so far. We have a new almost-cast-member who caused such a stir that unsuspecting caterers were forced to post text message screenshots in self-defense. We have so many references to fast food that I’m praying for Lisa to eat a single vegetable. But this week, RHOSLC has gotten so complex that fans are left to consult secondary sources to fully understand all of the action. Now, even more volatile turmoil is brewing. A powerful church is getting into big trouble. (No, not the powerful church.) Meredith is either the most naive or most deviously brilliant person in the whole cast. And, as we’ve known from the first moments of the season premiere, Jen Shah has dug her own grave.
All season, Jen has tried to go from “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss” to “restore, repair, reclaim the narrative.” After (unsuccessfully) trying to reconnect with her son a couple of episodes ago, she tries to be the fun quasi-auntie to Jack and Henry by showing up to their photoshoot in a lifelike timberwolf head. (Jen and Lisa purchased two of these a month before, where Lisa helpfully observed, “Ooh they have little claws. Rewr.”) But when Lisa and Jen sit down one-on-one, Jen is caught off-guard when Lisa brings up [redacted.] No literally—names have been bleeped out to protect the innocent. [Redacted] was a dress designer who used to work for Jen, and in audio that leaked earlier this year, she viciously berates and threatens him for allegedly missing deadlines and lying about it. All of the other Housewives have heard the six minute rant, and everyone but Lisa a) knows this looks bad for Jen and b) doesn’t seem to feel sorry for her. Lisa and Jen, meanwhile, frame this as an issue of loyalty and trust (as in Jen feels betrayed by this designer,) rather than, you know, a boss horribly mistreating an employee. Lisa may appear like she’s there to support Jen, but she also just happens to bring up damaging info about one of her freminies—she saw on Instagram that Whitney gave [Redacted] free Iris & Beau products. The enemy of my enemy who is willing to plug my recently rebranded skin care line is my friend, or something. Jen, as usual, gets frantic and defensive, and Lisa foolishly agrees to defend Jen more to the friend group.
I have to imagine that the Lisa drama in recent episodes will feel inconsequential with an arrest and cult allegations on the horizon, but she really has been down bad the past several weeks. Even in a cast with no shortage of, um, abrasive personalities, she has managed to irk pretty much every other Housewife. A quick roundup: she was accused of sabotaging a charity event for Angie, one of her closest friends. Heather and Whitney have never liked her, and despite a multi-episode campaign from Lisa to change that, the cousins are still wary. She and Mary got in a fight last episode after Lisa suggested Mary might be wrong to say that sparkling water freezes your ovaries. Even Meredith seems on edge after Lisa tried to force a truce between her and Jen. It’s rough out here!
This week, Lisa takes a break from pissing everyone off to focus on her business partners/children. Lisa’s sons started a men’s hair product company called Fresh Wolf, and she insists repeatedly that this was all their idea, not hers. (You know, because it’s every 9-year-old’s dream to make it big in the men’s beauty industry.) Too much of the episode is spent exploring a week in the life of these young He-E-Os. They model and direct the aforementioned photo shoot and host a branded charity event for Utah Foster Care. The party has a limited guest list that Lisa, once again, claims was entirely their idea. That means the Marks family is included and so is Whitney, because I guess we’re supposed to believe Jack and Henry have a deeply meaningful relationship with Justin Rose offscreen? The other cast members, though, are not invited. I’m sure everyone will handle this possible slight with grace and maturity!
Everyone is invited, though, to an event that we already know will be a disaster before it even begins. During a girls’ lunch with their daughters, Meredith just happens to mention to Heather that she rented a huge ski house in Vail but has nobody to go with. She decides to invite all of her Bravo sisters—even Jen. Where have we heard of this trip before? Oh yeah, this is the one that kicked off the series weeks ago when federal agents come looking for Jen in a limo as other cast members watch in horror. Is Meredith a master schemer, or is the timing just a coincidence that would make any reality TV producer shed tears of gratitude? Whatever the truth is, Jen is blissfully unaware, and this episode milks the edge-of-your-seat tension for all it’s worth. She and Stuart make money from an “infomercial lead” that definitely doesn’t sound suspicious while she feeds him a banana. (It doesn’t make any more sense in context.) Heather then officially invites Jen to Vail while the two play ring toss with dildo headbands. (Again, I’m at a loss.) Cool high school English teachers should use this episode in their lesson plans about dramatic irony. That flop Shakespeare never exposed his characters’ hubris while they dressed for the world’s saddest bachelorette party!
Both on and offscreen, there have been plenty of punchlines about Mary marrying her step-grandpa, but this season has shown just how dark and upsetting the situation actually is. A couple episodes ago, Mary all but told Meredith that she barely tolerates her marriage to Robert Sr. This week, Mary tells Heather and Whitney that her marriage wrecked her relationship with her mom. Mary says her mom wanted to inherit her grandma’s church and business empire, and she disapproved when Mary married Robert Sr. and took over. (Maybe, just maybe, Mary’s mom also was weirded out when Mary said God told her to marry her step-grandpa.) The two haven’t spoken in 25 years. Mary then connects this somehow to her fight with Lisa over carbonation and ovaries, which, sure.
Just as Mary shares how Faith Temple divided her family, Meredith and Lisa discover the church’s damage reaches much farther. At the Utah Foster Care fundraiser, Meredith meets Lisa’s friend Cameron, who tells Meredith that he was a former preacher at Mary’s church. Heavy emphasis on the former here—without getting into specifics to a woman he’s barely met, Cameron warns Meredith that Mary and Robert Sr. have “done some things that have been very harmful.” Meredith is shaken by the conversation, and Lisa says she knows that Mary and Cameron had a falling out and that Cameron “experienced real trauma,” but she won’t share any details she knows with Meredith (at least while the cameras are rolling.)
This all feels…fishy. It’s been an open secret for a while that Mary’s church is bad news. There were rumors before the show even started that Faith Temple was essentially a cult, and a September article in The Daily Beast put explosive allegations on the record, including verbal abuse, financial manipulation and brainwashing. I’m surprised—and more than a little skeptical—that the other cast members had no inkling that Mary’s church had a dark side. I also wonder why Lisa has had nothing to say about Mary’s behavior, which she clearly knew at least something about, for a season and a half. Is she protecting Cameron’s privacy? Protecting Mary’s? Protecting herself? As even more big secrets are about to be revealed, the collateral damage could expand far beyond Jen and Mary. As a wise woman once said, “How did the feds know you were at Beauty Lab?”
- Sadly, Jennie is barely in the episode this week. We do get another small segment of Karlin’s “science Saturdays.” Some streaming service should buy a science-themed educational children’s show starring Karlin. I’d watch it. (Well, I’d show it to my kids if I had kids.)
- After rollerblading in matching T-shirts, Whitney and her brother Will have a raw conversation that feels uncomfortable to eavesdrop on. Months ago, Whitney suspected her dad Steve was not sober while babysitting her children, and she asked him to leave. Steve has not spoken to her since, even though he is keeping contact with Will.
- Heather reveals that when she was at BYU, she was a travel companion for a little person flying to Cancún over spring break. Never a dull moment!
- Unfortunately, I must go back to the penis ring toss. It’s called Dick Head Hoopla, and when Jen says tell Heather her headband is crooked, Heather replies, “It works the same in the end.” I admire the comic timing; I hate that this game exists; I’m concerned about what Jen buys when she goes to Zurcher’s.
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