The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City recap: The Sundance Queen never disappoints
If there’s one thing I’m learning about The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, it’s that even when an episode doesn’t feature a huge fight over smelling like hospital or grandfather-related accusations, it will still come correct. Jen Shah is still going to throw an $80,000 party at the drop of a hat. Meredith’s son Brooks is still going to put on his most glamorous gloss and glowing face to sound like he’s complaining about everything. If there is a pole available, Whitney is still going to mount it. If there is a chair, or an outfit, or a completely empty room to comment upon, Lisa is still going to say she loves it. No matter what, RHOSLC is going to take us for a ride.
But the show is still new, so we’re learning new things each week about its fascinating cast. For example, did you know that every single Salt Lake City Housewife owns a marketing business, whether it be operational, or mostly a medium for hula hooping and gabbing with her extremely normcore assistant? Or, how about the fact these women are apparently close personal friends with all the Utah-native castmembers of Vanderpump Rules? Did you know that if you order a vodka-and-water at a Salt Lake City bar (although, truly, why would you), it will mostly be a water-and-water?
And, of course, there’s the best new discovery of the episode: did you know that Heather Gay got game?
Listen, it’s not my game, and it’s certainly not the “play hard to get” game that movies have been schilling to us for decades. But why play hard to get when you’re just looking to get got, y’know? Heather started this episode wanting a man that would see her, and by the end of the episode, a man named Curtis saw her — he saw her straight out the door of Jen’s party, into his truck, and back to his hotel. So, Salt Lake City, I see you, and I stand in awe of you.
At the end of last week, I didn’t know how we’d ever bounce back from RHOSLC’s two greatest opposing forces being at odds. It felt like far too early in the franchise to have come to such an insurmountable place between Jen Shah and Mary Cosby; far too early to have upset Valter so tremendously. But I should have realized that the most wonderful time of the year was only just around the corner…
The Sundance Film Festival, of course. And not even Jen and Mary can stay mad at each other during Sundance. Or rather, Jen can claim she was so drunk she doesn’t remember screaming that Mary was a grandpa-f---er loud enough for an entire bar to hear, and Mary can claim that’s fine, call Jen a liar in her testimonial, and move on.
This fight will rise again, mark my words. But for now, the city of Salt Lake is at peace.
Mostly because no one is actually in Salt Lake — they’re all in Park City for the week, where Sundance takes place. We’ve been told throughout the series that Lisa is the Queen of Sundance, and now we understand why: this woman runs her tiny, fur-covered ass all over town hosting events through her marketing company. Like, big events. The main one we see is a premiere for the HBO series McMillions, where she’s decorated all of the walls with giant peel-off Monopoly stickers like Mcdonald's used in the early aughts, which I actually found to be a really fun idea.
Deep down, I don’t want Lisa to be good at her job because Lisa clearly thinks she’s so good at her job… but Lisa might be really good at her job. (Lisa also has, like, 20 unknowable jobs, so we’ll have to keep our eye on that.)
Back in Park City, Whitney is also on top of her job: being really hot! Her husband Justin is turning 52 and Whitney says she always goes all out for his birthday because he’s sacrificed so many things to be with her, like his standing in the church and strained relationships with his family: “So this is the opportunity for me to show him how grateful I am, and he deserves it.”
And nothing says “grateful” like a party bus full of what appears to be entirely women. Whitney is grinding on Justin, and Jen is somehow grinding on Whitney’s shoulders, and Heather is somewhere in the mix, although there’s not much more room to grind. Mary, thank goodness, is nowhere near the grinding. She’s at home getting ready with her housekeeper Charlinda, who Mary explains in her testimonial is her grandmother’s brother’s daughter.
I automatically shudder at any mention of Mary’s family dynamics, only to realize that description simply means that Charlinda is Mary’s second cousin — and a second cousin is a totally normal family connection to have. But never one to let us rest, Mary then wraps up her Charlinda explainer by saying this about the woman she’s employed for 20 years: “We’re not close at all. Like, I don’t know her life, and what she does outside of what she helps me with — but, at the end of the day, we’re family.” That is… not what “family” means! Or what “at the end of the day” means. So, I’m back to being nervous about the relationship between Mary and her grandmother’s brother’s daughter, Charlinda.
But nowhere near as nervous as Mary when she arrives at Justin’s raucous birthday party inside the mountain mansion of Whitney’s friend Kathryn, who has “Friend of the Housewives” and/or “season 2” written all over her. Mary awkwardly doddles around in her signature Chanel motorcycle gloves (that I’m starting to think keeps her fingers attached to her hands like that urban legend about the girl who wears the choker), and Jen does her very best to pretend like Mary is invisible. Until finally, Mary marches up to Jen, taps her on the shoulder, and says, “What’s up? You look cute.”
Which, for all of Mary’s constant weirdness, is a pretty good line to just power through any awkwardness.
Jen tells Mary that she was offended when Mary cut her off at her luncheon, and Mary says that wasn’t her intention, but her feelings were hurt from the time that Jen screamed about her f---ing her grandfather at Whitney’s last party. “I never said anything like that!” Jen exclaims. “Flashback!” the editors presumably exclaim inside the editing room where they make magic every single day. They roll the clip of Jen crying, “You’re gonna go with Mary, who f---ed her grandfather,” then cut to Jen once again swearing to Mary that she didn’t say anything like that. But in her testimonial, Jen says that she was really drunk that night, so she simply doesn’t remember everything she said: “But I do know I didn’t say that to Mary’s face because I didn’t even talk to Mary that night. Now if I said something to someone else… that’s possible.”
As you’ll recall, Mary also said that Jen smelled like hospital to someone else… so I’d call this particular fight even, and over with. Though I don’t imagine Jen and Mary will stop finding things to fight about anytime soon — but hey, at the end of the day, they’re family. (Am I doing it right??)
One other thing I learned about Salt Lake City tonight is that most of the big parties take place at people’s homes because the liquor rules are very strict inside actual establishments that don’t require moving out all the couches and TVs every time they want to invite people inside. Or at least, that’s what Heather intimates when she meets up with Whitney for drinks and disappointedly sips at her weak Titos and water. But despite the lack of liquid courage, Heather is an open book about her current dating life, which she tells Whitney is non-existent because she simply cannot find a man in Utah. She wants something like Whitney has where her husband appreciates all of her eccentricities and “embraces you exactly where you’re at.”
In her testimonial, Heather says that she chose faith and lifestyle over love when she married her ex-husband, and while that gave her the children that make her life worth living, she still wishes she could have gotten the whole package. Whitney insists she still can, but Heather has her doubts: “I’ve known exactly who I am for a long time, but as soon as I show it, I just get my hand slapped … I think the man that’s gonna see me and love me, he’s in a big city somewhere far away from here.”
It’s rare to hear a Housewife talk about how imperfect her circumstances are; it all feels so specific, and yet relatable in a way that this franchise that so often aims to be aspirational rarely is. I loved the vulnerability…
And I loved even more that this scene was immediately followed by Heather marching herself right into the giant party hosted by Jen, getting introduced to a very hot man named Curtis, and locking him down immediately. Curtis seems a little overwhelmed by Heather at first, just like Heather says her dates in Utah normally are — but unlike those dates, Curtis likes being overwhelmed by Heather. He tells her he’s not drinking for his New Year’s resolution, and she says that’s just fine: “I can do this completely sober if you want, not a problem. I’ll just take you stone-cold, baby.”
They have been talking for five minutes. I stand in awe of Heather Gay. “I can feel the vibe with Curtis, I know what’s happening,” she says to the camera as she grabs Curtis's hand and begins her march toward the exit. “I’m not gonna linger and let him find some other cougar that’s more impressive and aggressive than me — got it, leaving, mission accomplished.”
Stand! In! Awe! Of! Heather! Gay!
Now, perhaps the opposite of awe… Brooks. I want to love Brooks. And in many ways, I do love Brooks. But he makes it so hard when he acts completely exhausted by getting to debut his fashion line at the first-ever Park City Fashion Week (which is interchangeably just one fashion show with multiple designers??) at the age of 21, and then it’s revealed that his fashion line is just tracksuits with his name written all over them. And Meredith really doesn’t help his case when she coos that “Brooks has always loved fashion,” followed by a bunch of childhood photos of him wearing t-shirts with jackets.
Listen, I know that we come to these shows specifically for the privilege — but I’m finding the big focus on this second generation of privilege a little hard to swallow. Believe me, I didn’t see this reaction coming either. Brooks does at least stop himself mid-testimonial from saying that he has no idea how he got such an amazing opportunity, laughing, “I mean, I do — it’s because of my mom, obviously.” So, I’ll give his lil sweatpants a chance next week at the first inaugural Park City Fashion Week and/or Show. Be there with Brooks on!