The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City finale recap: The Jen Shah apology tour
Jen arrives back in Salt Lake City still pretty sure that she hasn't done anything wrong, but willing to doll out some apologies so everyone will stop being mad at her.
If there's any one anecdote that could succinctly explain this debut season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, I think it might be the reveal at the end of this week's episode that we're about to get a three-part reunion for a 13-episode season. Well, either that or when Jen Shah says: "I love you, I have your back, I'm your friend, f--- you." That could also sum things up around here.
Something about this RHOSLC season has felt so isolated — it was filmed so long ago, and at times, seemingly filmed twice, and then sort of spliced together — that I hadn't even considered that a reunion would be coming our way. But boy, do we need one. This episode opens with a full recap of the highs and lows this season, and it's wild to imagine that just 13 episodes ago, we didn't even know who any of these women were, let alone that they would be arguing over who smells like hospital, who's f---ing their grandpa, and who needs to take ownership over chucking a glass tumbler into the Top Golf night sky.
But here we are, watching our six best new frenemies in the RHOSLC season 1 finale. Everyone is recovering from Jen going absolutely nuclear over [unintelligible] in Las Vegas last week, which is portrayed during an amazing segment that shows each Housewife going about her normal Salt Lake City day, only to suddenly flashback into the Vegas warfare. Whitney is meditating on a sheepskin rug, and then, boom — an echoing black and white flashback to Jen screaming at her to shut the f--- up. Heather is working at her office until suddenly she's remembering Jen saying she doesn't trust her. And Mary is in her kitchen, taking the plastic wrap off yet another bowl when her black-and-white flashback reveals — I kid you not — a FaceTime she conducted in her closet where Lisa told her about what happened in Vegas.
Because, as you may recall, Mary has been trapped in her own home for the last six episodes, suspiciously unable to fraternize with the rest of the group. But no more! We may have had to wait until the very last episode of the season for Mary to get back to bossing around her church patrons, and to see the title card "ROSEMARY COSBY AND JESUS" — which indeed was an artistic rendering of Mary's oft-mentioned grandmother, and the Bible's oft-mentioned Jesus — but it was worth the wait. I mean, it's weird and uncomfortable to see Mary tell a man who is just trying to sing a hymn that he needs to lose weight in order to praise the lord… but it is what we were promised when we first heard that Mary was an evangelical heiress who married her step-grandfather.
The other women also bebop around Salt Lake City: Jen takes a salsa dancing lesson with Sharrieff, Whitney sits in as a model for her dad who's auditioning for a teaching position at a hair school, and Lisa forces her marketing coordinator to listen to a pitch from her children about the male grooming line she's definitely not forcing them to create.
But the meat of this finale is all about how Jen is going to reintegrate herself into this group while still trying her very hardest not to take any accountability for constantly screaming at people, occasionally pushing them, and often getting caught spreading rumors about them.
Lisa is the only person who's been in touch with Jen at all because she says they ran into each other in the Vegas hotel elevators and felt bad because she could tell that Jen had been weeping. So back in Salt Lake, Lisa invites Jen to meet up and tell her side of the story, which is once again, that everyone just doesn't understand her. Now, there is certainly some merit to Jen coming from a different cultural background, and that growing up surrounded by white people in Utah meant that she always had to be on the defensive and prepared to fight. But just because you understand why someone mistreats you doesn't mean that you have to allow that mistreatment, which seems to be what Jen expects from her friends.
It's not unreasonable for Jen to be a defensive person, but it is unreasonable for her to think that she can just scream at her friends all the time and not need to make some changes to that behavior, or at the very least, apologize for it.
Because, excluding Lisa (who seems to be especially thick-skinned), everyone else is all the way over Jen's bulls--- leading into the season's final event: Heather's grand opening of the new Beauty Lab location. Meredith seems ready to walk off the show if Brooks would allow her to, and Heather says that not being appreciated is a huge trigger for her given the way she was always expected to "put up and shut up" with her ex-husband. But Heather says she's not willing to do that anymore, so she needs a clear apology from Jen for not being a good friend in order to move forward.
At Heather's grand opening, everything is pink, including the pink champagne being poured over pink cotton candy, which seems like an express ticket to the worst hangover of anyone's life. But no one has to worry about that until tomorrow, so tonight, they are donning their finest duds to party in a botox clinic. For Meredith, that means a bedazzled mask that covers her entire face, almost one calendar year before COVID arrived on our doorsteps, to which I say: What did Meredith know, and when did she know it? (Whitney layering two surgical masks on her face and husking, "This is high fashion, you wouldn't understand," is one of the funniest things that's happened all season — she really does her best work in testimonials.)
Lisa kindly asks Meredith to lower her mask so that she can actually see her eyes when she confesses that she had drinks with Jen. Meredith's eyes (also bedazzled) reveal that she is surprised by this news, considering that they recently found out Jen has been spreading gossip about her marriage, but she tells Lisa that she's not going to ever try and dictate who she can be friends with. Which is a nice sentiment, but it's also like — Meredith, do you know how storylines work?
And just maybe she does, because when Jen arrives at the party and happens to approach Meredith at the exact moment she's talking about people who give off bad vibes, Meredith gives Jen a shoulder that's just cold enough to carry into season 2, I think. But she does agree to talk with Jen, who immediately apologizes, saying that "getting in between someone's marriage and family is not acceptable," and that she "should have just not even entertained the discussion … because it's not anybody's business."
"No, it is not," Meredith grits out before telling Jen she'll needs to see actions to believe that her words are true.
Jen seems to really care about Meredith hearing and accepting her apology in a way that she super did not when Whitney approached her as soon as she entered the party and told her that her behavior was toxic in Vegas, to which Jen tossed Whitney a little "sorry 'bout screaming at you" and a pat on the head, and moved along. She cares even less about Mary, who she just rolls right past without acknowledging, as Mary rolls her giant eyes. But with Meredith, Jen actually seems to recognize that she's done something wrong, and yet she's still framing it to deflect most of the blame. She tells Meredith that she shouldn't have "entertained the discussion," but we've seen with our own eyes that each time Meredith's marriage has come up, it's a discussion that Jen has started.
So, Jen's little apology tour goes pretty well in the finale, but the reunion is where she'll face her real test. And, of course, she still hasn't spoken to Heather, who is most desiring of an apology from Jen, and whom Jen seems least willing to give one because she's pretty sure that screaming at Heather whenever she wants to is fine because they're friends and that's what friends do.
Heather approaches Jen and informs her that is not how it works, and that Jen has been a bad friend to her and she wants her to own it. Jen finally starts getting flustered because she says she doesn't understand what she's supposed to be owning, and also because Heather, Lisa, and Meredith all come over to allegedly keep the peace, but mostly to stare at Jen and Heather's confrontation like a spectator sport. Heather says she wants Jen to say, "You know what, girl, I took you for granted — you have been there for me, you have loved to be, you have been a friend to me, and I will SHOW YOU that I am a friend to you."
Jen sobs that she thinks she's done that! Doesn't Heather remember the shopping spree she planned for her (and then screamed at her throughout)?! Doesn't Heather remember the times that Jen tolerated Whitney because she's Heather's friend (and then screamed at Heather about having to tolerate Whitney and threatened to drown her in a pond)!? Good and loyal friends scream about what good and loyal friends they are, and that's how you know that they're GOOD AND LOYAL!!!
Now…to be fair…at this particular moment, Heather is kind of the one screaming at Jen about what a good and loyal friend she's been. But given that Heather is doing it at her own party, I think it's pretty clear that she's been pushed to her limit. And Jen must see it too, because she finally just caves and gasps, "I haven't shown up for you! I haven't, and I'm wrong." Jen goes around the table, apologizing to Heather, then Meredith, then Whitney, then Lisa, and says she knows she has a lot of things to change, and she's going to work on it. When pushed a little further, Jen says she hasn't been a good friend to Heather, but she will be a better friend in the future.
Of course, I don't think Jen really believes the things she's apologizing for, but I think the apologies could buy her enough time to possibly make some real changes to the way she handles conflict — or, even better, to get a second season as a Housewife. I guess we'll find out at the first-ever RHOSLC reunion, which for everyone's sake, I'm glad will be socially distanced. See you there!