The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City recap: Empress Jen's new clothes
Imagine for a moment, if an alien being — or, say, a first-year Housewife with no "Jen chucked a glass at a Top Golf last season" context to pull from — was dropped into tonight's conversation between Jen and Lisa, and had to attempt to understand how they went from enjoying charcuterie and Diet Cokes with 12 lime wedges, to Jen suddenly yelling at an absent 21-year-old, "You decided to go after my vagina because my vagina is apparently funny to you, so why is it a problem if I decide to like a post that's funny?"
This is the level that The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City operates on. Attempting to understand the goings-on — what is and is not offensive; what is and is not acceptable behavior; when it is or is not good to try and be perfect; what is or is not a normal size for a dining room chair — is like adapting to a whole different universe. That the women occasionally have these arguments in towering castles made of ice only adds to the otherworldly effect, like if Ana and Elsa argued about calling each other manatees instead of building snowmen.
And the fact of the matter is, while the women RHOSLC have the power to suck us into these bizarre back-and-forths about hospital smells and Twitter likes… in a few short episodes/weeks, none of it is going to matter. Because it's hard to keep worrying about vagina talk and Instagram stories when there's a federal indictment at play. So, for now, we simply have to take it one episode at a time, and that can only mean one thing: it's time for the traditional second-episode ranking of new season Housewives taglines. All completely objective, of course:
JEN: "The only thing I'm guilty of… is being Shah-mazinggggg." Shah-mazing didn't work when we just thought Jen had a temper problem, and it definitely doesn't work now that we know she has a… telemarketing-fraud-that-targets-elderly-people problem. And certainly not in reference to said problem.
HEATHER: "I was raised a Mormon, but now — I'm raising a glass of champagne." What is this knockoff nonsense?! Not only does this wording not hold water to the wit and wordsmithery that we've come to expect from Heather, but it is audibly stitched together from two different sound bites. Not to mention: everyone knows raising a glass of Maryland's finest bubbly is RHOP's territory.
WHITNEY: "In a town of beauties and beasts… there's only one wild rose." Whitney wants to make her surname a thing so badly that I lean toward wanting it for her too. Unfortunately, Whitney refers to "wild roses" as though that's something that people talk about commonly when that's not even a flower that people talk abut commonly. Also, calling the people in your town "beasts" is a bold move!
MEREDITH: "I may be known for my ice, but I always bring the heat." I like the duality of the ice pun here, but the second part is not even a little bit true. Meredith has never — not once! — brought the heat. Most often, she just exits the kitchen. Perhaps she can re-use this tagline in season 3 once she's willed into existence in season 2.
JENNIE: "I have plenty of everything — including opinions!" For a first-time tagline, this is well delivered, vague enough to not be confusing, and tells us that Jennie is rich. It's not very interesting, but it's also not…
MARY: "If you come for me, I will send Jesus after you." Mary's is definitely the wildest (wildest rose?) tagline, implying that Mary believes Jesus Christ works for her and not the other way around. Which is so typical of Mary's whole deal that you simply have to embrace it.
LISA: "You don't have to like me. I love myself enough for both of us." In a heap of duds, Lisa's tagline is just so quintessentially Lisa. In fact, it's so on brand and rolls off Lisa's tongue so casually that I'm 99 percent sure they pulled the audio from a scene last season when Lisa was rolling through a Taco Bell drive-through. If you listen carefully, you can just barely hear her starting her Cheesy Gordita Crunch order at the end.
All in all, these taglines are rough, folks! So, let's hope the editors were simply rushed to get them finished because they were too busy piecing together a mountain of season 2 footage for us to enjoy. And speaking of those editors: they treat us to a weird little motherhood montage right at the top of this episode: Lisa is finding reasons to fuss at her boys, who are simply trying to live their Fresh Wolf lives; Mary is scolding her son for the contents of the full-size SMEG refrigerator in the middle of his bedroom; Whitney is telling her truly tiny son that he's going to need to walk to school tomorrow because mommy has to work on rebranding her skincare line… RHOSLC, more than any other franchise, focuses quite a bit on its cast as individuals with home lives, as opposed to women who have a lot of group dinners and trips together. Is that because Meredith refuses to spend time with Jen, or because Mary's house door only seems to allow people to enter but never leave? I don't know.
But I enjoy the time we spend at home with these women because each one is so truly weird that I find the idiosyncrasies of their family lives a fascinating watch. Seth immediately pouring three inches of bourbon when he arrives home to Meredith sorting through a pile of jewels? I love it. (But please let the record show: I do not love his soul patch.) Jennie's precocious children helping her put together a dinner of what I can tell is Trader Joe's ravioli from the distinct color pattern? Pleasant as can be! Jen's nephew Dwayne balancing on a hoverboard in her cavernous closet, telling her that she needs to donate half of her clothes for Ramadan? Give me more, plus one single pair of Louboutins, please! Whitney complaining to her husband about how horny she is all the time…
Okay, that scene was about three minutes too long. However, I still marveled at Whitney shamefully admitting that she and her husband are only having sex three to four times a week in her testimonial, followed by graphic examples of the difference in quality, which involved a surprising amount of chair work.
But most of all, I consider it an actual Bravo blessing that we got to watch Mary walk a contractor — who is also her cousin, so you better believe she treats him like garbage — around her house, so we could finally get a slow-motion look at this whole… situation. There is a specific shade of green carpeting in Mary's living room that I have truly only ever seen in a church fellowship hall. And though I'll be sad to see it go, I trust that Cousin Joe's contractor speed will give us a few more good years with it. And I'm sure we could all relate to Mary looking around her house during those long lockdown months and deciding that she needed to change everything. But I can't personally relate to choosing technicolored dining room chairs the size of a doorway as the very first change.
Also, Mary can blame her past décor choices on outdated marble styles and being on her period (???), but I dare her to explain the roll of paper towels and Costco-sized hand sanitizer currently occupying her guest bathroom. Those are the kinds of choices that Big Joe simply does not have enough samples or swatches to help.
Eventually, a few Housewives join forces when Lisa takes Jennie over to Jen's house to introduce them. Lisa is one of those people who assume that her friends with "big personalities" will get along, which has almost never been true on Housewives. Things start off well when Jennie removes a piece of lint from Jen's butt, but the conversation soon moves to Meredith and what Lisa spoke with her about in the last episode. She tells Jen that Meredith's feelings are hurt, which Jen doesn't understand because she's apologized to Meredith so many times. And do you know what? The editors roll a montage, and Jen actually has apologized to Meredith a bunch of times. But that was mostly for spreading rumors about Meredith's marriage, not for what Meredith is upset about now: the way Jen has treated Brooks.
I completely understand Meredith's point of view on not wanting Jen to pigeonhole Brooks into any sexuality labels that he's not talking about himself. But I also wish, given Meredith's extreme ire, that we had one more shred of evidence of Jen doing that other than the same two tweets the editors keep showing: Jen saying "100 to everything you just said," in response to someone's comment that included calling Brooks a "privileged twink"… the former half of which surely even Brooks would say is true, and the latter half of which Meredith finds inappropriate for Jen to talk about. Mostly, until we hear Meredith and Jen hash this out between themselves, it's hard to get too invested in either side.
But one place I'm always willing to raise my hackles over is the ever-changing dynamic of Heather and Jen's friendship. Or perhaps I should say the never-changing dynamic. As Whitney says in her testimonial once she hears that Heather has agreed to meet up with Jen: "You know when your mom told you don't touch the curling iron because the curling iron is hot… so you go and grab the curling iron? That's Heather and Jen's relationship: you know that bitch be hot, but you keep grabbing it!" So, perhaps it was for Heather's benefit that Jen chose to invite her to an actual ice castle in the middle of nowhere to grab the metaphorical curling iron once more…
It does not go well! Heather pretty much says that she's going to forgive Jen no matter what; she just wants her to own up to all the negative comments she's made about her ("like comparing me to sea mammals, Honey Booboo, a manipulator, a liar, a racist"), and promise to stop making them. So, naturally, Jen turns the conversation around, saying that Heather has hurt her too, and the main problem is that everyone always believes the worst in her, and no one ever believes the good.
"You're looking at the girl who believes all the good stuff; that's why she's still here!" Heather hollers back at Jen. "I want to look past all of this petty bulls---, but it still matters that we see it and stop doing it, and we have to change because this is just so embarrassing."
Jen also tells Heather that she feels like she's held to a different standard in the group because she's brown, and it reminds her of when she was younger in Utah, feeling like she could never fit in because of her skin color. And I understand why Jen would equate those two feelings from then and now. But that feeling also ignores a lot of the reality, which is that Jen has screamed at, threatened, and berated pretty much every other woman on this cast. "I am coming from a f---ing place of love; why is that so hard for everybody to believe?!" Jen weeps.
In the end, it seems like the Jen that swears in her testimonials that she's been looking inward and wants to take accountability for the changes she needs to make… is having a hard time bringing that spirit of reflection out of the testimonial chair and into the conversations where she's given the opportunity to prove her desire to change. Heather tells Jen that she wants to be her friend and wants Jen to be able to count on her, but she can't just pretend that the screenshots people send her of Jen talking trash aren't real, and she can't move on without Jen promising she'll stop doing it.
So, Jen apologizes for reposting the comment calling Heather a racist, and says she doesn't believe that. "I know I need to make changes in the way I communicate," Jen says, "and I'm sorry for not being there for you because I wasn't." And with that, they toast their fire-roasted churros and look toward a future that is almost guaranteed to be more of the exact same thing. See you back here next week — churro cheers!