By Jodi Walker
February 11, 2021 at 01:01 AM EST
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Is anyone else getting the feeling… that a lot of this season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City… happened outside of this season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City?

It was my impression that this entire freshman season was defined by the various times that Jen flew into a rage and whipped a chunk of glass, water, earth, air, fire, or any number of nature's elements at a cameraman, one of her friends, or into the far reaches of a Top Golf. But now, in the first installment of this three-part reunion, I'm suddenly finding out that Lisa is furious with Heather, Heather is traumatized by Lisa, Mary thinks Lisa is a snake, Jen is feuding with Brooks, and Meredith is secretly smoking cigarettes all over town.

There's always an element of the outside world that infiltrates a Housewives reunion in a way that doesn't present in the regular season because the women have now gotten real-time social media responses to their actions airing on national television. But I guess we just haven't gotten the thrill of a brand new group of women suddenly learning how the world perceives them in quite a while. And the degree to which the Salt Lake City women were openly talking about "America's perception" and the way they behaved "during filming," was not only fascinating from a meta-perspective but also when considering that, due to COVID, these women have been marinating on their beefs with one another for damn near a year before getting to duke it out in the now-iconic COVID Reunion Warehouse.

So, you better believe that when the time came, at least one of them was prepared to whip out Xeroxed copies of some text messages and offer to pass them around…

I mean, it was our girl Whitney, so she still couldn't quite stick the landing of making the copy actually, y'know, legible. Nevertheless, the women of Salt Lake City showed up to play, so let's kick this reunion off with some superlatives:

MOST SURPRISING ANTAGONIST

By far, the woman who seems to have had the hardest time dealing with her fan-reception is Lisa Barlow, who I hope at least had one Big Gulp of Diet Coke hiding under the many faux fur throws adorning the RHOSLC reunion set. Because she needed it.

Although Lisa has mostly been good for a testimonial zinger, a stylish cropped coat, and insisting that her children want to launch a male grooming product line throughout this season, somehow during part one of the reunion, she is the eye of the storm around which all of the chaos seems to revolve. The episode begins and ends with addressing whether Lisa thinks she's better than Heather and Whitney. Now, to be fair, this was a storyline in the first two episodes of the season, but after that, it seemed to be set aside in Mary's closet, where all other early-season storylines went to reside.

But since the season aired, this "Lisa is dismissive" narrative has ballooned into something new entirely. First, Lisa insists that Heather is the one who ignored her at the birthday party Jen threw for Meredith, barking out into the ether at someone to, "Roll the footage!" It's a novel concept to have Housewives actually relying on the filmed footage at a reunion, rather than pretending like it doesn't exist (here's looking at you, RHONY!), but Lisa's demanded clip doesn't prove much. So, Heather moves to accuse Lisa of being a liar when she says she tried to talk to Heather multiple times that night, and then Lisa accuses Heather of being a pathological liar because…

Well, I think because Heather called her dismissive?

Lisa seems to be the type of person who thinks that being called something is worse than actually being that something. She says that after Heather implied Lisa was purposefully pretending like she didn't know her to be mean, Lisa's DMs were flooded with messages calling her "a c---, and a bad mom, and a dismissive bitch." Heather says she never called Lisa any of those things, but Lisa says she was called those things because of "a reaction to how you portrayed to me."

To which Heather offers up the line to end all lines: "Oh, I didn't know I was portraying you on this show, I thought you were portraying yourself."

MOST SURPRISING PROTAGONIST

Okay, maybe protagonist is a bit of a stretch. But I was shocked by how… lucid Mary was throughout this installment. We've hardly seen her interact with a human in the last nine episodes, so now to see her calmly navigating five other screaming women, and one panting Andy is stunning.

In fact, Mary has very little need for Andy at all. I completely loved how she didn't bother to wait for our Bravo overlord to transition into a new subject with a little intro and a video package — no, Mary would just chime in her own narrative structure whenever she felt like it. In a section of the reunion that was mostly about the anger Jen harbors toward her husband, Mary decides to just take a random poll of the reunion attendees, and is like, "But I think we can all agree that I trigger the MOST anger in Jen, right?"

Whitney and Heather agree with Mary, but Lisa says that Jen seems to just get frustrated when Mary is brought up every time she gets angry about anything. To which Mary says, "Well hold on, Lisa … when I asked why Jen treats me the way she does, you said, 'I'm just confused why it's every single time,' those were your words, do you remember that?" It soon becomes clear that Mary seems to be angry at Lisa for not owning up to speaking to her about Jen (which Mary then told Whitey about, which Whitney then told Jen about, which Jen then... hurled a glass of tequila about).

Mary takes it upon herself to hop into the Lisa/Heather/Whitney debate and confirm that Lisa does come across as snobby, "like you have a stick up your butt." Which I think is genuinely the harshest attack Mary can lob — but hearing Mary actually string words together that make sense? Well by comparison to her previous performances, it all adds up to a pretty convincing argument. Let's hope she's saving her best stuff for explaining the hospital-tinged sniff that launches a thousand fights.

LEAST SURPRISING PERFORMANCE

I came to kind of appreciate Meredith's monotone level-headedness over the course of this season, but her main stance in this portion of the reunion is that Brooks shouldn't be picked on… which is simply not a stance I can get behind. Brooks is a 21-year-old young man who has decided to play around in women's business and has therefore been mentioned in women's tweet replies.

The topic at hand is the time that Brooks implied that Jen was a bad influence on Meredith and that Meredith shouldn't hang out with her because Jen kicked her legs up in the air while she was over at their house, allegedly exposing her vagina to Meredith's kids. This is when I wish Lisa would yell, "Roll the footage!" at no one in particular, because in a rare instance where I felt the need to stand up for Jen, I recall seeing Brooks scowling at Jen kicking her legs up, and noting that her skirt really didn't seem short enough to expose anything.

Jen says that she didn't realize that Brooks was uncomfortable at the time, otherwise she would have stopped. And even though Meredith repeatedly references Jen "attacking" Brooks on social media, the only evidence we see is Jen replying to a Bravo Instagram saying that she was never spread-eagle at their house, and it's crazy to believe "a white privileged family" over actually seeing something with your eyes. And I'm kind of with Jen on this one — if Brooks wants to make snide remarks about Jen in his confessionals, then Meredith has to understand that he'll have to be a little accountable for them. She can defend him, but she shouldn't pretend that he's your average off-limits Housewives kid.

But things really get interesting when Jen says that the only time she noted Brooks' discomfort during the night in question was when he came upstairs and saw Meredith smoking. There's then some argument over why Meredith would have invited Jen to spend the night if everyone was so uncomfortable, with Meredith insisting Jen passed out at her house uninvited, and Jen insisting that Meredith passed out.

So, it kinda sounds like these two went on a bender we weren't privy to, and maybe that's the reason Brooks thinks Jen isn't a good influence on his mom, which would be a lot easier to stomach than him pretending he saw her vagina on national television. Meredith then accuses Jen of recording her smoking without her consent, and even though Jen has never done anything with this alleged footage, Meredith seems absolutely livid about it. It's all very mysterious, and I would love to know what we're not seeing between these two.

MOST SURPRISING PERFORMANCE

Now, listen — I don't want to give Jen too much credit because there's still a lot of reunion to come. But grading on a curve, she does manage to stay fairly calm throughout most of this episode. She seemed to not even be able to comprehend it when Mary straight-up annihilated her after Jen suggested that Mary should take her own advice on friendship, to which Mary snapped back, "I don't waaaanna be friends with you — that's the difference!"

At one point, Andy asks Jen for a comment on a big conflict that hasn't come up yet, and she blinks at him like, Well, I thought we were going to talk about that later. Mostly, she seems to be reserving her energy, knowing that she's going to have a long road ahead, what with explaining why she screamed at Mary, then why she screamed at Whitney, then why she screamed at Meredith and Lisa, then why she screamed at Heather. We can only hope that when the time comes, all glasses, bodies of water, and itty bitty Christmas trees have been removed from arms' length. See you back here next week!

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