The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City premiere recap: Homeland Security is the new Housewife
The trailer for season 2 of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City was a wild ride from the moment it hit the internet, but nothing — and I mean nothing — could have prepared us for the first two minutes of this premiere.
It's become commonplace for Real Housewives premieres to open with a flashforward to the season's most dramatic moment. It's even become a little commonplace these days for our Housewives to get caught up in federal investigations that may result in jail time. But to have the cameras rolling when the law comes calling? Well, baby, that's cinema. Or a blessing directly from one of the many religious gods discussed in this episode, if not Andy Cohen himself.
Of course, referring to a flashforward that saw Homeland Security roll up to a party bus idling in the Beauty Lab & Laser 15-minute Botox Parking, announcing that they were looking for Jen Shah — mere meters from a shotski, and mere moments after Jen had ripped out of the same parking lot in a pickup truck driven by her second assistant, Murillo, because her husband Sharrieff had tipped her off — as simply "dramatic" would be a bit of an undersell.
Every second of this two-minute flash-forward to the moment Jen found out she was going to be charged with a massive fraud and money laundering scheme felt like history. From Lisa's droll, "She's so cute," when Jen enters the bus in her now-notorious box braids, to Jen's, "We're at Beauty Lab & Laser in the parking lot — wait," when Sharrieff calls to tell her that the feds are storming their house. Of course, then we actually see the feds at Jen's house, because the Bravo cameras are there, capturing the moment when they say they have a warrant. And we watch as the rest of the Housewives find themselves descended upon by unmarked SUVs and helicopters… except for Mary and Meredith, who it's highly implied may have tipped off the feds.
It is chaos. It is camp. It is Salt Lake City.
And after that epic flashforward finished, when the "TWO MONTHS EARLIER" title card rolled, I thought there was no way I could simply get back on track for a regular premiere episode. But I was wrong. RHOSLC is so sparkly, so dynamic in its themes, so altogether compelling, that I quickly found myself thrown back into the story as we left it at the reunion, with only a tickle of the franchise-altering moment that lays in the future still floating around in the back of my mind.
Just as in season 1, we're introduced to this new season with Jen Shah, the axis around which the RHOSLC machine turns — love it or hate it. But for those who hate it: what if I told you that before Jen is charged with fraud and money laundering, she was actually working on a redemption narrative? I guess that wouldn't be much of a surprise given the fan response to her inability to get through a single episode without screaming in someone's face or nearly destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment with hot tub water last season. But as Jen tells Lisa at the Shah Chalet 2.0, she's been through hell and back during quarantine, and she has no desire to go back again.
Six months ago, Sharrieff was ready to get a divorce. As Jen spins it, "Sharrieff felt like he wasn't being a positive influence on my life anymore, like he couldn't help me." And Sharrieff has always seemed to see the best in Jen, so that's probably true…
But my suspicion is that Sharrieff was also at his wit's end of not even being able to accompany his wife to a Top Golf without her finding a reason to send the glassware flying. Jen says she thought it was just like the arguments they've had before, but the next day, a divorce attorney called her and she knew she was really about to lose Sharrieff. "His final breaking point was — well, it was the same stuff I've been doing," Jen admits honestly in her testimonial. This gives the editors a great opportunity to roll a montage of all of Jen's outbursts last season — in the bathroom after Mary said she smelled like hospital, at the flapper party after everyone wouldn't simply agree with her that Mary was a "grandpa f---er," storming out of Mary's luncheon, ruining Sharrieff's birthday party because drunk Whitney mentioned people had been gossiping about her — appropriately clipped together like a horror film.
Jen says that she's been getting angry and lashing out at the people closest to her for attention for far too long, and she had to figure out how to stop hurting people and ask for help. Ultimately, she tells Lisa that she and Sharrieff are in couple's counseling now, which is definitely a good step but also feels a little like trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt-tip Dasani. Whatever she's doing, Jen is much happier in her marriage and personal life now, and she's determined to get to the same place with their friend group. As you'll recall, Jen departed the last reunion with Lisa as her only defender, and Meredith as her sworn enemy. Which is pretty awkward since Meredith and Lisa are actual best friends, not just Housewives allies.
That's the topic on the table when Heather, Whitney, Mary, and Meredith gather for lunch in a COVID-era igloo. Heather orders for the table because, "these skinny bitches don't know how to order," and you better believe our girl got the risotto balls. Heather says she hasn't spoken to Jen or Lisa since "the last time we all got together," which is a rather hilarious way of referring to a 12-hour reunion special hosted by Andy Cohen. Either way, no one is surprised to hear she hasn't spoken to Lisa, who hates her, and who Heather says she's ready and willing to apologize to. But Jen is more of a shock: the two were besties last season, and Heather says they left one another in good spirits "the last time we were all together."
But since then, Jen hasn't contacted her and has been reposting Instagram stories of people calling Heather racist. In fact, most of Jen's current messes seem to start on social media. Meredith is currently furious with her because she continues to like and repost "negative, homophobic comments" about her son, Brooks.
Now, I find the Brooks stuff tricky. Meredith will proceed to compare Jen coming for Brooks to Jen hypothetically coming for Lisa's son, Jack, and how Lisa might react to such a situation. But the difference, of course, is that Jack is 15 and Brooks is 21. And to the best of my knowledge, Jack has never willingly involved himself in adult women's business with his mom's obvious approval, as proven by last seasons' Housewives-official testimonials, wherein he snarked about seeing Jen's vagina. I do understand Meredith's reaction to Jen liking tweets calling Brooks "an entitled twink," especially when Meredith says Brooks has never talked to Jen about his sexuality, he's barely even talked to her about it…
I just think it's a touch more nuanced than the typical unspoken agreement between Housewives that "children" are off-limits. Either way, it's obvious from this premiere that Meredith is at least engaging this season, and we'll be all the better for it. I both highly anticipate, and greatly dread her first in-person encounter with Jen.
But for now, we're mostly being reintroduced to each of our Salt Lake City Housewives individually. There's Jen and Sharrieff welcoming Jen's large family into their home for dinner, including her infamous aunt who had both legs amputated, and is looking fabulous in her new prosthetics. There's Whitney, hosting Justin's many, many sons, all of whom are within spitting distance of her age, as the editors helpfully display onscreen while the boys take a shot from a ski with their stepmom. And Whitney's just proud that, with her newly relaunched (surprise!!!) skincare line, she can show her stepsons that it's possible to work hard and play hard….
For her, playing hard involves taking a bunch of Patrón shots, and dropping the same birthday cake on the ground three different times over a 10-foot radius. And for Mary, working hard involves spinning her new habit of talking to herself while she bumbles around her empty house, talking her mannequin heads into the bold idea that she should "get a podcast."
Yes, you read that right: Mary Cosby, the woman who is incapable of finishing a sentence before starting the next one, is going to document all of her thoughts to audio because that way she "can outlet real people." What does that mean? I don't know — maybe she'll explain it in her podcast! Mary sits down with two lovely men named Sean and Lenny to record their first episode, and opens it thusly: "Hello… everyone? Talking to everyone out there! This is…Mary's podcast., 'Talking Facts with Mary Cosby.' So, let's pray!"
Michael Barbaro she is not. But she is very Simon-Cowell-eque when she stops Sean mid-prayer to tell him he's bringing too much energy and then does the prayer herself. (Mary clearly hates Sean, and I'm wondering if he's the same parishioner she advised to lose weight while he was innocently playing the keyboard last season.) But what Mary lacks in gravitas or skill for stringing words together, she more than makes up for with her complete disregard for adhering to any sort of outline or natural segue structure. She doesn't even feel the need for topics or themes! In her first podcast, Mary floats from praying to asking her cohosts which specific drugs they've done in the past, to saying that people have never liked her and that's why she's so close with God.
It is wildly unnerving and awe-inspiring, just like everything Mary does.
Speaking of awe-inspiring, we're introduced to season 2's new Housewife, Jennie, who opens up right away about her harrowing journey (which includes being captured by pirates) from Vietnam to the United States as a child refugee. "See, you guys don't even know what poor is — that's poor," she exclaims at her son Atlas and Lisa's son Jack, who have been best friends since elementary school. That's where Lisa and Jennie met when they literally bumped into one another's pregnant bellies at a PTA meeting, and the rest is Salt Lake City history.
Finally, it's time for Lisa to break bread with Meredith, her other longtime friend turned co-worker. Literally, they're breaking challah bread, homemade by Brooks, because Meredith is hosting Shabbat in honor of her father and wanted to invite Lisa, who, as she reminds us, is "Jewish by heritage, Mormon by choice." Sadly, Meredith's father passed away very recently, and though he'd been suffering from dementia for a long time, she didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to lose him physically. Luckily, things seem a lot less Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf between Meredith and Seth this season, so he's been there to support her.
Lisa has also been there for Meredith, and at first, things seem perfectly friendly between them. These two are actually longtime friends, and there's a notable difference between the way Meredith and Lisa speak with one another, and the way they speak in scenes with their newer allies, Heather and Jen, respectively.
But soon, the conversation turns to Jen and Lisa's budding friendship, which just so happens to coincide with Meredith feeling mistreated by Jen. The Brooks stuff may be a little complicated, but there's no question that Jen was spreading mad rumors about Meredith and Seth last year, and the fact that Lisa has up and decided to become besties with her is mad shady. Meredith says a number of times that Lisa is allowed to be friends with whoever she wants, but when it comes to Lisa trying to defend Jen to Meredith, in her home, on this, the day of her Shabat… Meredith ain't having it. For her part, Lisa says she's just trying to broker peace and wants to know if Meredith would be open to an apology from Jen. Meredith says she's open to an apology, and an apology only — no defensiveness, no debating, no outbursts: "Jen needs to learn how to treat people the same way she demands people treat her."
Yeah, that will probably happen! Cue Chloe — the only Marks who seems to remember her Hebrew — praying us into the season 2 trailer, which promises little resolution, and much suggestion that Meredith tipped off the feds about Jen's alleged fraudulent activities. Let's go girls.