After giving viewers a glimpse of things to come later in the season — Jen Shah being arrested on federal fraud charges — “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” kicks off Season 2 with a revelation about Jen and Sharrieff Shah’s marriage and a breakdown in the relationship between BFFs Lisa Barlow and Meredith Marks.
Season 2 opens with a flash-forward, of sorts, to police showing up to arrest Jen on federal fraud charges. What’s really interesting are some quick clips from later in the season, when new cast member Jennie Nguyen asks Lisa if she had business with Jen; Heather Gay expresses fear that she might be indicted; Whitney Rose says, “If we do not share what we know, we’re in danger”; and producers ask Whitney, Lisa and Heather what they know that they’re not saying.
When Mary Cosby is asked if she knows who tipped off the feds, she smiles and smirks, an instant reminder of why it was so hard to like her in Season 1.
When we see in clips from later in the season, Meredith is the prime suspect. “It looks like you may have had something to do with the fact that Jen was indicted,” Whitney says. And Meredith makes it clear she doesn’t believe Jen is innocent until proven guilty: “Can we talk about the hundreds of lives she has ruined?”
Season 2 begins
Lisa shows up at the new Shah Chalet — the lease on the old one ran out. But Shah Chalet 2.0 (also leased) is gorgeous. And Jen drops a bombshell.
“Six months ago, Sharrieff and I almost got a divorce,” she says, (This conversation occurred early in 2021, so she was likely describing the summer of 2020, long before her arrest.)
Sharrieff, an assistant coach with the University of Utah football team, had left the house after what Jen thought it was “just an argument.” But the next day, she was contacted by a divorce attorney Sharrieff had hired.
Jen took most of the blame for the marital troubles, although she slopped some over onto the Pac-12. “Being a coach’s wife in a Power Five conference — people don’t understand. This is not Little League,” she says.
The update: The Shahs are in couples counseling and “nobody’s leaving nobody in this marriage.” And Jen is “so much more happier now.”
When Lisa asks Jen during the visit “not to kill the person in the middle” between her and Meredith, Jen replies, “Girl, you know I’ll go to jail for you. I haven’t gone to jail yet.”
You know the producers loved editing that into the episode.
Lisa vs. Meredith
Longtime BFFs Lisa and Meredith are at odds because of Lisa’s friendship with Jen. Lisa wants to broker peace between Meredith and Jen; Meredith is not interested. Meredith says that “of course” Lisa’s friendship with Jen “irritates me. But do I think that Lisa shouldn’t be friends with Jen? Honestly, Jen probably needs a friend right now. And it’s not going to be me.”
Despite her words, Meredith clearly does not want the Lisa-Jen friendship to continue.
When Lisa and Meredith get together, voices are raised and tension rises. They can’t even agree on who’s been hurt more — Meredith by Jen, or Lisa by Whitney and Heather. (Heather claimed that Lisa failed to acknowledge she was friends with Lisa when they were both at Brigham Young University — something Heather now admits isn’t true — prompting Heather to regularly disparage Lisa.)
Meredith says she needs Jen to apologize to her family for the “terrible, despicable, repugnant things” she’s done to them. (More on that in the next item.) And, she adds, “I fully respect somebody’s feelings, but you can’t use it as an excuse to mistreat other people — which is what she has done for a year!”
That is 100% true.
When Lisa suggests that she’ll talk to Heather, so Meredith should talk to Jen, Meredith replies, condescendingly, “Not quite the same.”
“To me, it is,” Lisa replies. And later, in a confessional clip, Lisa adds, “To me, what Jen did to Meredith was not much different from what Heather and Whitney did to me. They perpetuated and created lies about me and my character.”
Meredith insinuates that Lisa is a hypocrite, and, in.a confessional, Lisa states flat out that Meredith is a hypocrite.
It’s worth pointing out that the friendship between Meredith and Jen ruptured in Season 1 because Jen was talking about Meredith’s marriage behind her back. And now Meredith is buddy-buddy with Whitney and Heather, who also talked about her marriage behind her back — as viewers (and Meredith) saw in Season 1.
Wait … what?
Meredith says “the real problem for me” is that Jen has made “all these homophobic references” on social media, “some in regards to [her 21-year-old son] Brooks, who has never spoken one way or the other what his sexual preference is.”
What? We didn’t see him talk about it in Season 1, but he was referred to as “openly gay” in umpteen stories about the show, and there’s no evidence Meredith objected to any of them.
“Brooks has never spoken to [Jen] about his sexuality,” Meredith says. “He’s barely even talked to me about it. He’s figuring things out. Leave him alone.”
Not that homophobia is OK. And, according to Meredith, “Jen has been liking and reposting negative homophobic comments about Brooks on social media.” She points to one such posting that reads: “Frankly, I don’t understand the praise and hype [for Brooks] because I see nothing more than a privileged twink.” Meredith is really put out by the use of the word “twink.”
OK, a couple of things here. First, a lot of gay guys — a lot of guys — don’t talk to their moms about their sexuality.
And, second, maybe Jen retweeted some awful things, but calling Brooks a twink isn’t one of them. It’s a reference to his age and youthful appearance. Yes, it carries a certain connotation of gay man who is vapid. But if “twink” is the worst thing anybody calls Brooks, he’s a lucky man.
Meredith’s new start
It’s a little weird that Heather and Whitney — who rarely seemed particularly chummy with Meredith in Season 1 — show up at the new Marks home like they’re her BFFs. (The house, by the way, looks great. Much less cold than the old one. Better views. If only Meredith didn’t force a really ugly sweater on her dog, Teddy.)
Meredith and her husband, Seth, moved to get a fresh start after their reconciliation in Season 1. And things are going pretty well between them.
“It still can be rocky at times,” Meredith says, “but the rocky times are getting less and less and the good times are getting more and more.”
Heather is anti-BYU
Heather’s oldest daughter, Ashley, wants to go to college in California, and Heather couldn’t be more pleased.
“In my family, BYU was the only option. … Send your son or daughter off to BYU, have them meet their eternal companion and live happily ever after,” Heather says. “I want her to go away to school and have all the adventures that I never got to have.”
Whitney and her adult stepchildren
Whitney and her husband, Justin, host a birthday party for Justin’s son from his first marriage, 26-year-old McCade. Austin, 29, and Trey, 23, are also there. Whitney is 34. (She’s since turned 35.)
“It’s an interesting dynamic having stepsons that are closer to my age than I am with my husband,” Whitney says. “It is weird.” (Hard to disagree with that.)
Whitney also proves once again she’s the least classy of the Housewives, simulating oral sex with a water bottle during a confessional.
And as viewers hear Whitney say she thinks she’s a “role model” for her stepsons, we see her getting drunk doing shots with them. We then see her drop McCade’s birthday cake on the floor not once, not twice, not three times, but four times.
Either she’s totally wasted, or she’s acting for the cameras.
Mary goes to (an empty) church
The pandemic forces Mary’s Faith Temple Pentecostal Church to close its doors to services. And her husband, James Sr., has been “stuck” in Florida for months “because he’s too afraid to fly home.”
So Mary starts talking to herself. Really.
And she starts a religious podcast. But when her friend, Sean, tries to open the podcast with a prayer, Mary stops him and tells him he’s praying wrong. Really.
Mary admits she smoked marijuana when she was younger. She also says, “I don’t feel like I’m part of this world. I don’t feel like I fit. I was never liked. … I was born for God.”
Meeting Jennie Nguyen
Lisa and her son, Jack, visit her longtime friend/new cast member Jennie Nguyen, her husband, Duy, and their three children.
Karlyn, 8, confirms to Lisa that she gets straight A’s in school: “That’s why we’re Asians, not B-sians.”
Jennie tells Jack about how, when she was a child, she and her family escaped from Vietnam on a boat. They were captured by Thai pirates and put in a Thai refugee camp for three years before being allowed to immigrate to America.
“You guys don’t know what poor is. That’s poor!” Jennie says.
Jennie says she was introduced to Duy by her friend/his sister. “When I first met my husband, I was like, ‘Damn! You have a nice body from the neck down.’ From the neck up … it was OK,” she says.
Jennie is funny, and she seems like fun.
We meet Jen’s mother, Charlene, and her Aunt Nani — who enters the Shah Chalet on prosthetic legs. This is the aunt who inadvertently set Odor-gate in motion last season — when Mary claimed she was nauseated by the “hospital smell” on Jen after Jen supposedly visited Aunt Nani after her legs were amputated.
Jen later said she hadn’t even been to the hospital that day.
(On Sunday, Jen tweeted that her aunt died on June 25, several months after the episode was filmed.)
Despite the fact that he had been contemplating divorce, Sharrieff, Jen, their two sons and visiting family members all look like one big, happy family. Jen does have to pull out her phone and “do the math real quick” to confirm that Sharrieff Jr. is turning 27.
Viewers also meet, for the first time, Meredith’s 19-year-old daughter, Chloe. And Chloe’s boyfriend, James, who’s on screen for a few seconds.
Laughs and tears
Mary, Heather, Whitney and Meredith meet for lunch in an outdoor, glass igloo at Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive in Park City. Mary talks to herself until the other women start to arrive, and then they all talk about Jen and Lisa.
Heather takes over ordering food, “because these skinny b----es don’t know how to order. If I wait on these ladies to choose, I’m going to be splitting a side salad with Mary.”
Things turn somber when Meredith shares the news that her father just died.
Heather says she has talked to neither Lisa (to whom she says she must apologize) nor Jen since the Season 1 reunion. Not talking to Jen comes as a bit of a surprise, given that they seemed to have made up. But Jen reposted a tweet from someone who called Heather a racist … so things are not good between them.
Mary says “she got it first” when Jen accused her of racist behavior in Season 1. Mary does not say that she admitted to that racist behavior — an admission that was caught on camera.
The next episode of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” airs Sunday, Sept. 19, on Bravo — 7 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV and 10 p.m. on Comcast.