‘The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ Recap: ‘Cinco de Mayhem’

Is anyone actually going to be on this cursed TV show by the end of Season 3? This week, after Jennie Nguyen’s racist, far-right and anti-vaccination Facebook posts received widespread backlash, Bravo announced that Jennie has been fired from The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City in the middle of Season 3 filming. This was the right call, though it certainly calls into question Bravo’s vetting process. (These were public social media posts a random person uploaded on Reddit. It didn’t exactly take the FBI, or Meredith Mark’s PI, to find them.) Mary, who has her own controversies surrounding racist comments, ditched the Season 2 reunion and almost certainly is not coming back, and Jen could very well go to jail in the middle of filming. By this point next year, every episode might be Whitney trying to remember what her skin care company is called while Lisa takes a road trip to visit every Sonic in Utah. (Honestly, I wouldn’t complain.)

Who knows what the already controversial Season 3 will look like, but as Season 2 approaches its final episodes, the cast is gifting us with some god-tier reality TV. At the beginning of the series, you could still feel that (most of) the women were testing out their relationships and getting to know each other. Now, especially after the trauma bonding in Vail, the cast has a natural intimacy that raises the emotional stakes. Last week, that meant the Housewives actually enjoyed each other’s company for the first time in recent memory. This week, it means the gloves come off in some particularly personal confrontations.

At the beginning of this episode, the good vibes are (tentatively) still intact. The Housewives are hungover after their night at the club (read: blacking out in an Airbnb basement.) Meredith thinks she was “very level-headed and tame,” so of course the editors flash back to her kissing Whitney in the hot tub. In the light of day, there might not be any more friendly kisses, but everyone’s feeling pretty good about turning this almost disastrous girls’ trip around. In an act of hubris, the women divide up into unexpected groups for the afternoon. The first half of the episode felt like a sitcom in its fifth season trying out some subplots with characters who don’t normally talk to each other. (This is a compliment, by the way.) 

Perhaps the most unlikely duo is Heather and Lisa, who go horseback riding on their “first date.” This excursion seems to be a total success. They both get to live out their horse girl fantasies— before leaving, Heather demonstrates to Whitney the difference between a gallop and canter— and over a lunch of popsicles, they both seem to recognize that their early rivalry was petty even by Housewives standards. With her new bestie, Lisa discusses the long-simmering tension with her old bestie Meredith. Heather, who earnestly relates to TikToks about being an empath, tells Lisa that she feels for her and Lisa replies, “I feel for me too.” If you can’t feel bad for yourself, how the hell are you going to feel bad for someone else? Lisa’s mistrust of Meredith goes deeper than I realized, and Heather and Lisa discuss, yet again, the timing of Meredith’s dad’s memorial. They stumble on what they believe to be bombshell news—Heather and Lisa claim Meredith told them different days for the memorial. In my eyes, there are several plausible, non-nefarious explanations for this, but Heather is convinced she’s found more evidence that Meredith isn’t telling them the whole truth. 

As Heather and Lisa gallop off into the sunset, Whitney and Jen muscle through their hangovers to drive an ATV, led by a guide who’s wearing a T-shirt that reads “let’s do something dirty.” Whitney has decided to move forward with Jen since her indictment, but she hasn’t appeared to invest in the friendship as deeply as Heather or Lisa. (I am still haunted by the fact that Lisa and Jen used to talk for three hours a day. Three! Hours!) Still, these two usually have fun together, and after their ride they also gossip about the woman on everyone’s minds. Whitney is also suspicious of Meredith’s father’s memorial (sigh,) but her theory that Meredith’s hatred of Jen goes far deeper than some out-of-pocket Tweets is much more plausible. Jen, meanwhile, feels ganged up on, because of course she does. They are also frustrated that Meredith continues to defend Mary, who is arguably the most openly rude person in the group. At this point, the circle of finger pointing is pretty tiresome, because every single cast member either has major skeletons in their closet or is defending someone with major skeletons in their closet.

Meredith, Jennie and Mary, realizing that sharing a house with Jen is more than enough adventure for one trip, head to the spa. After their massages, they share a painfully awkward snack time as Meredith confronts Jennie about spilling information to Jen about the PI she hired. On the one hand, Jennie was wrong to go behind Meredith’s back. On the other hand, Meredith should know by now that anything she tells the group will leave the room faster than Lisa Barlow could down a 32 ounce Big Gulp. (Meredith doesn’t know that Heather was even more explicit to Jen about the PI.) After Jennie apologizes, the three try to shift to small talk about their husbands. We learn that Duy won’t go to therapy, because he’s the worst. When Jennie tries to ask Mary about Robert Sr., Mary cooly rebuffs her, even though she could have very easily given a generic answer and moved on. Knowing about Jennie’s previous anti-Black comments certainly places the dynamic between her and Mary in a different light. Still, you don’t have to defend Jennie to acknowledge Mary’s own rude (and racist!) behavior. At this point, I’m relieved both of them will be off the show.

Back at the villa, Jen is hoping to rekindle the magic of Club Zion with an elaborately themed Cinco de Mayo party. (She says the theme is in honor of Mary comparing her to a “Mexican thug.” I need to lie down.) Before the festivities even begin, Meredith provides a dose of reality by asking Whitney who exactly is paying for this ill-advised fiesta. She reminds Whitney that Jen has told federal authorities that she has zero assets, and Meredith worries about the ethical and legal ramifications if Jen paid this from her own pocketbook. Whitney believes that the husbands footed the bill, which means all Meredith has to worry about is watching a bunch of white women try to pull off Frida Kahlo flower crowns. 

As dinner begins and the mariachi band starts playing, everyone is trying (a bit desperately) to keep the fun going. After a cringeworthy attempt at a conga line and some high school Spanish vocab practice, Jen gives everyone the diamond snowflake necklaces she bought with Stu Chainz (!) all the way before Vail. (Apparently, Meredith has less moral qualms about accepting diamonds than quesadillas.) The spirit of giving quickly dissipates, though, when Mary continues to be an ass to Whitney unprompted. Everyone besides Meredith is tired of having Mary around, and everyone is familiar enough with each other to know exactly what buttons to push—all it takes is one margarita and a stray passive-aggressive comment. Mary sparks it all with a dumb dig about Heather not having a husband. Heather, who’s usually hard to piss off, responds with “Fuck you, Mary Cosby. Who’s your husband? It’s your step-granddaddy.” Lisa, who is still nursing resentment against Meredith, points out to her that Mary isn’t being kind, and Jen calls Lisa out for having a double standard or something, and I’m honestly exhausted on Lisa’s behalf. Lisa, too, says that she’s at her “breaking point” with both Meredith and Jen. When Mary denies Lisa’s claim that she’s friends with everyone, Lisa goes in. This inspires a truly iconic confrontation which includes Mary criticizing Lisa’s diet (Justice for my Taco Bell queen, though remember to eat local too,) Lisa saying that everything about Mary, including her church, is fake (I mean…) and Lisa saying “Lisa Barlow is an amazing human being.” (Again, I can’t fault the self-confidence.) 

After more back-and-forth about why Mary mistreats everyone in the group even though she leads a Christian church, Whitney backs up Lisa and asks Meredith why she defends Mary. As Meredith tries (and mostly fails) to explain herself, Lisa quietly walks away. At the table, Whitney again directly asks if Meredith’s father’s memorial actually happened. I don’t know if Whitney is savvily stirring the pot for screen time or if she genuinely believes she’s Nancy Drew (probably the former,) but it’s pretty galling for her to once again confront Meredith about this when the cast has barely reckoned with the serious, credible allegations of crime and abuse against Jen and Mary. Nobody learned their lesson from yesterday, and a once again scary mad Meredith storms off with Mary.

Meanwhile, Lisa is furious that Meredith doesn’t stand up for her. Behind closed doors, we get a genuinely explosive hot mic moment. (Who knows if Lisa knew that the cameras were picking up her statements or not.) She suggests that Meredith’s family is fake, says that Seth changes jobs so much that the family doesn’t own a house and calls Meredith a whore (more specifically, a “fucking piece of shit garbage whore” who has “fucked half of New York”) multiple times. After Lisa literally throws her microphone off, the rant is over, but it’s hard to see how these one-time best friends can come back from this.

Random observations:

  • Jen kicks off the Cinco de Mayo party by telling the private chef “don’t be scared.” Always a great sign for the night!
  • Before the party, Mary calls Robert Sr. and asks what she should wear. He is unhelpful and pees in the middle of the phone call. Heartwarming!
  • Besides her feud with Mary, most narrative threads involving Jennie have gone dormant, and it’s extra hard to care knowing that she won’t be back for next season.
  • Lisa yelling “I love Taco Bell!” as Mary rambles about nutrients is Exhibit A of why this delights me.
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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