It’s finally happened. After being teased endlessly in the trailer and the pilot episode, we have arrived (chronologically) to Jen fleeing from the cops as everyone prepares for a girls’ trip to Vail. I knew this would be compulsively watchable, car-wreck-you-can’t-look-away-from, horrifyingly compelling television, and yet this scene still exceeded my expectations. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City is now officially the greatest true-crime show, soap opera and Shakespearean drama on television.
Unsurprisingly, a raid featuring multiple federal agencies is the climax of this extra long episode, and I have to jump right into it. We already got a taste of this scene in a flash-forward that opened the Season 2 premiere, so some of the unbelievable details aren’t new—most importantly, that a large group of federal agents came looking for Jen IN THE BEAUTY LAB PARKING LOT, as Heather, Whitney, Lisa and Jennie, all genuinely shocked, watch from a parked limo. The full scene, though, presented in context, is even more incredible. One detail that we didn’t know is that when Jen got the call (from who? FROM WHO?) warning her that the cops were on their way, she told everyone that Sharrieff was in the hospital. With both disturbing and impressive ease, she finds a just convincing enough lie before calmly getting the hell away from Beauty Lab. While her friends debate the ethics of going to Vail while their friend’s husband is bleeding internally, girlie is on the run!
In all of the chaos, the editors leave plenty of reminders that we are watching a reality show. Jen asks Whitney to turn her microphone off, which is never supposed to happen when the cameras are rolling. Members of the camera crew are included in several shots (a reminder of how strange it must be to film scenes in a cramped limo.) Producers are seen talking to both the cast members and the police as the details of Jen’s arrest unfold in real time. Ironically, these rare peeks behind the curtain make this episode of reality TV feel more real than any event that’s happened in one and a half seasons. (cinema verite)
I could spend this entire recap picking apart the tiniest of details of this scene, which absolutely should win an Emmy, Oscar and maybe a Pulitzer Prize while we’re at it. What about the chilling little nod Whitney gives Lisa when they both realize, simultaneously, that Jen lied about Sharrieff? Or Heather, who is scared of the federal agents (who she won’t stop calling “the popo”) and inexplicably compelled to chat with them? I keep thinking about Heather asking if she should call Jen and Lisa, recognizing that this shit is serious, saying “I don’t think you should,” emphasizing every syllable.
Even before this explosive climax, there is plenty of strange, stupidly entertaining drama to enjoy as this season fully hits its stride. In a normal, non-supersized episode of The Real Housewives, a Mary Cosby party would provide plenty of material for the final act. She FaceTimes every other Housewife (besides Jennie, who she already hates,) and invites them to an Italian cooking class, complete with a dress code. There is so much to unpack every time Mary is in charge of an event that I’ll just list some of the wildest details, ranked roughly in order of craziness:
- Mary uses this class as an opportunity to practice her “Italian” “accent,” which makes Jared Leto in the House of Gucci trailer sound like the height of subtlety.
- As a gift, Mary gives every woman a personalized apron with their Italian name. (Whitney’s is Whitney. Perfect.) Each apron was packed in a Louis Vuitton gift bag, and the Housewives, understandably, assumed this meant the aprons were from the designer. Nope! “I’m not buying them a Louis Vuitton apron,” Mary says. “Like why would I do that when they don’t even know how to cook?” Fair enough!
- Mary unilaterally decided to make the theme “Italian street fashion,” and everyone had their own equally strange interpretation. However, as revenge for not answering her phone calls, Mary told Whitney to wear “mafia girls fashion,” with inspiration pics of sexy store-bought Halloween costumes. Whitney wisely does not take the bait.
- While making the pasta, Mary asks the (remarkably patient) instructor, “If you beat it fast does it make it tough?” Heather can’t resist replying with, “That’s a good question, Mary.”
As this season is beginning to reveal, Mary has in all likelihood done some truly heinous things to members of her congregation. However, she is so authentically strange, so untethered from any sort of reality, that it’s always fun to watch. What’s scary (and funny and sometimes almost poignant) about Mary is that she is truly unpredictable. For the other cast members, we have a general sense of who they are and why they do what they do. (Well, Lisa’s been all over the place this season, but she still has somewhat coherent motivations.) Even Jen is consistent—consistently volatile, sure, but still something you can generally depend on.
This week, with the flimsiest justification imaginable, Mary decides to fight Whitney. Everyone seems to agree this makes no sense. Besides the costume prank, Mary spends the entire party digging at Whitney until finally telling her, “You can go, little girl,” Whitney, in tears, obliges, and as Meredith comforts her, Meredith brings up her mysterious conversation with Cameron, a former member of Mary’s congregation. Whitney reveals that she also knows about the criticism of Mary’s church—she is friends with Mary’s cousin, who warned her to be careful and believe her to have the power of God. (Remember that unsettling painting of her grandma hanging out with white Mormon Jesus? Because I wish I could forget it.) It all makes Heather’s unflattering explanations of Mormon doctrine this episode look like child’s play.
The allegations against Mary are, over time, getting more specific. My question is: why does Whitney try to be Mary’s friend at all? She clearly knows something strange is happening at Faith Temple, and she even alludes to online rumors about the church that have swirled since the cast was announced. With all of this information Whitney decides to…publicly defend Mary, donate to Faith Temple and maintain their friendship even as Mary basically calls her ugly over text. Why? Yes, these women are contractually obligated to have some sort of relationship with each other, but Whitney decides to go above-and-beyond for Mary for no discernable reason. While I don’t understand their history, it’s more clear what the future will look like. Mary straight up says she doesn’t consider Whitney a friend, and Whitney tells her “the gloves are off.” This is a deeply stupid move on Mary’s part. Even Lisa can’t deny that Whitney has been a good friend to Mary, and the last thing that Mary needs is an enemy searching for skeletons in her closet. Homeland Security isn’t involved (yet,) but this subplot may be just as dramatic and divisive.
So where are we now? Jen is literally on the run. Mary seems to have no idea that the other Housewives are questioning her church. And whether they want to be or not, the other Housewives are already wrapped up in a much bigger scandal than who didn’t answer whose FaceTime.
- This week in RHOSLC Sunday School: Heather explains that according to Mormon doctrine, she will go to Outer Darkness, the lowest form of Hell, for leaving the Church, while people like Jeffrey Dahmer could go to a different version of Heaven. This is oversimplified, but basically accurate—Outer Darkness is reserved for people who “denied the truth.”
- Jennie visits Meredith’s house while Meredith is in the middle of a private mani-pedi. Later, she FaceTimes Mary from bed even though it appears to be near dinner time. This woman really knows how to live.
- For our weekly dose of tragic foreshadowing, Stuart and Jen go snowshoeing together, and Jen says, “I appreciate you sticking with me through the bad times, the good times.” Are you sure you want to stick with her through these bad times Stu?