The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City
The producers of Salt Lake City have managed to do something groundbreaking. Someone get out the history books and prepare for a new entry posthaste because Bravo has somehow blown an astronomical budget shooting what amounts to a bad bottle episode. Before anyone whips out their M.F.A., yes, I have seen “The Chinese Restaurant” and yes, I know RHOSLC S1E12 is technically not a bottle episode. There are multiple sets and a few extra characters (hypnotist Kimberly makes a solid case for her own Bravo contract), but the feeling is there. We spend the entire hour trapped in the truly claustrophobic cycle of Jen Shah’s logic. To think the gals went all the way to Vegas just to go from room to room to room to have the same conversation 26 times? A tragic waste of Meredith’s blazer wardrobe. And the episode started so strong, with the fun little tease that “we’re going to the motherfucking strip club!!” Y’all, we do not get to go to the motherfucking strip club.
Instead, the gang starts gathering for dinner in a private room. Ice Queen Meredith and School-Zone Barlow sit down, still basking in the high of Whitney giving them the exact apology they were looking for. Jen saunters in looking like Jennifer Lopez at the 2000 Grammys if the 2000 Grammys took place in Boca Raton and Jennifer Lopez were also a used car salesman. She tells Lisa how great she smells and before we get to find out and maybe have any conversation of intrigue (what does she smell like? I’m imagining stale Red Bull and Balenciaga Florabotanica, but I’d love some insider intel here), shit quickly falls apart. A quick side note: This entire episode is just the same circular argument rehashed ad nauseam in various locations, so rather than getting into the minutiae — I have 12-plus pages of transcribed yelling — we’re keeping it high level for everyone’s sanity. Mostly mine.
In short, Jen finds out that Lisa and Meredith accepted Whitney’s apology and absolutely combusts. She sees it as so much more than just accepting an apology, that there was lying done and loyalty ruined and sides to be taken, as she starts screaming at Lisa and Meredith. Right on schedule, Meredith disengages and leaves the room. Whitney and Heather come in. Jen storms out, hitting Heather on the way. Lisa begs her to come back so she can put more fingers in peoples’ faces and eventually Jen’s bodyguard comes in and sends Jen to her room so she can call Sharrieff and tell him that she’s being held to a double standard and nobody sticks up for her.
It’s worth taking a second here to acknowledge that women of color, typically Black women, are often called aggressive in wildly disproportionate numbers compared to their white counterparts engaging in the same behavior. Is that what’s happening here? Considering in one season alone Jen has thrown glasses, pushed people, hurled water on crew members/equipment, and threatened to slaughter/eat/drown people in both bathtubs and man-made lakes among other things, I’d say aggressive is a fairly apt descriptor. Especially when the other women, aside from mayyyyybe Whitney (whose preferred form of confrontation seems to be drunkenly reporting the truth that’ll eventually be shown in the footage anyway), are pretty damn conflict averse. The contrast is stark.
Anyway, the ladies get together for a Jen-free debrief. Everyone is confused and perplexed. After Whitney says that Jen kept trying to drop bombs in her lap to bait her into saying bad things about Meredith’s marriage, Ms. Marks sets the record straight. She and Seth were separated on and off for a long time and occasionally saw other people, but they’re done with that and are now really happy to just engage in weird banter and the occasional goggle play. Case closed. Lisa brings up how interesting it is that Jen’s obsessed with loyalty when she’s not exactly loyal. Heather comes riding in on a cloud of true loyalty and purports that Jen has redeeming qualities. We need details, Heather! Does Jen secretly make incredible pancakes? Maybe she always comes through with a killer book reco at just the right moment? Or perhaps she’s actually just a normal, kind, multidimensional person when she’s not emboldened by the reality-TV-industrial complex but to acknowledge that would shatter the entire illusion? Either way, Heather continues to firmly cement that SLC MVP status by pointing out the latent toxicity in all of us and avowing to give people the latitude to preserve friendships upon making things right.
The next morning, in Salt Lake City, Mary’s out of her closet and in the hallway about to finally get her story line off the ground. Nope, never mind. She’s back in the closet where her cousin-housekeeper Charlinda is setting up a bench so Mary can more easily step onto her bed. The phone rings and it doesn’t even matter who it is because we all know it’s gonna be Lisa rehashing the drama so Mary can gloat that everyone should have listened to her, and then go on about how she’s actually glad to have the time alone to regroup. (Girl, you’ve been regrouping all season. What is left to group?) Alas, the real news here is that Mary’s notification settings are out of control. If Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing is on one end of a proverbial spectrum, Mary’s ringing-vibrating-camera-flash–flashing situation is firmly planted on the other. I have a very high tolerance for excessive digital stimuli these days, and it left me reaching for my migraine meds and wondering where the seizure warning was. Truly unhinged.
Back in Vegas, the gals gather their extensions and put on their best boho blouses to go on a surprise excursion sans Jen, who reportedly left for the airport hours ago. Heather runs over to Jen’s room to grab her shopping day haul and SURPRISE Jen’s still here getting her face lacquered on by the Shah Squad. Jen starts going off again about how someone is lying and she’s gotta go Olivia Benson on these ladies to figure out who her real friends are. Heather repeatedly shuts it down, before basically telling Jen that maybe if there are constant problems with you and your so-called friends, the problem is you. She’s not wrong.
Naturally, the next step is to throw Jen in a jumpsuit and send her with Heather on over to the house of culturally appropriative horrors so hypnotist Kimberly can ommm away everyone’s beefs. They sit at a big table and do some exercises with imaginary light and airy balls before going into another room to sit on the largest couch on planet Earth. Kimberly is “feeling a lot of damage” and oh boy here it comes again. Jen’s hurt and mad about lying and says she’s the most loyal, then lies to everyone’s faces, claiming she never said anything about Meredith’s marriage. This is a reality-TV show! We have the footage! Jen eventually gives a half-assed apology and Kimberly cuts her off at least a dozen times and makes her redo it without adding any ifs, ands, or buts. It’s kind of glorious.
Then it’s time for a savage little game called “Trust, Not Trust” where the sentient prayer bead makes everyone raise their hands if they don’t trust someone and wow, huge surprise — no one trusts Jen. Jen says she doesn’t trust Heather, which is staggering. Heather’s the only one who even remotely likes her! I’m just so confused by Jen’s endgame here. Anyway, Jen does the cry thing where she brings it back to her family and loyalty, and Kimberly is like, “This is good. This is very good.” Is it, Kim? I do not think so. I think perhaps we have very different working definitions of “good,” but my chakras aren’t exactly aligned, so who’s to say?
Anyway, see ya next week for the season finale, which, fingers crossed, is just a backdoor pilot for Heather’s spinoff show, Lab, Laser + Love!