“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is the most ethnically diverse series in the franchise. And the subject of race comes up — again — in the second episode of Season 2.
The question — is Jen Shah taking more than her share of hits because of her race, or is she trying to escape responsibility for her actions by claiming discrimination?
Heather vs. Jen
Although it appeared that longtime friends Jen Shah and Heather Gay mended fences at the end of Season 1, they haven’t spoken in months. And Heather is surprised when Jen calls and wants to meet her.
They agree to meet at the Ice Castles in Midway the following day. Jen gets there first, and wanders around with her assistant, Stuart Smith — who, like Jen, is now facing federal fraud charges. But at this point, the charges are a couple of months in the future. (Stuart slips and falls on the ice. Bad omen?)
Jen and Heather’s reunion is awkward and uncomfortable. Jen tells Heather she’s missed her. Heather questions why Jen has been mean-tweeting about her — posting, liking or retweeting things comparing her to manatees and Honey Boo Boo, and calling her a manipulator, liar and racist.
“You have hurt my feelings, too,” Jen says, pointing back to the Season 1 reunion, when Heather was very harsh.
Heather pulls up screenshots of Jen’s posts, from an account with a blue check, meaning they’re verified as coming from Jen’s account. Jen denies it was her, and Heather doesn’t believe her.
“I can’t believe she tried to turn the tables on me right now,” Heather says. “Like, she should be begging forgiveness and asking to make amends. … These are horrible things that she has said about me that I have concrete proof of.”
Jen gets very emotional and says she’s tired “of being held to a different standard … only because I’m brown. … This is exactly how I felt growing up. I don’t belong here.”
Heather tells Jen this “breaks my heart.” Later, in a confessional, Heather makes it clear she’s not buying Jen’s theory that she’s treated worse because of her race.
“I think Jen is treated differently because of her temper, not because of the color of her skin,” Heather says. “And, in fact, I think she’s treated better because of her temper. I think we all walk on eggshells because of her temper.”
Meredith vs. Jen
Meredith Marks is super mad that Jen “is still going after” her son, Brooks, “on social media.” And Brooks, 21, is super mad that Jen is retweeting or liking tweets about him being gay.
“She’s spoken on my behalf about things that I haven’t even spoken to you about, or our entire family,” he tells his mother. “And she wants to take control of my life and tell me what I am and when I’m going to be it.”
Neither mother nor son is happy that Jen liked a tweet that suggested she “turn around and slap Brooks and call him a sissy b----.” And Meredith is still mad about Jen liking tweets she considers “homophobic commentary.”
“She knows nothing about his sexuality. He has not labeled himself as gay and she’s busy labeling him that way,” Meredith says. “All we want from Brooks is to identify as our son. No more, no less. He can go down whatever path or journey he wants. And none of this is any of Jen’s business. So perhaps it’s best that she keep her mouth shut.”
Meredith’s husband, Seth, tries to calm her down, saying, “Maybe there’s a misunderstanding.” But Meredith just gets more agitated.
“You know me. I’m the calmest human being,” she says, her voice and her temper rising. “But she’s pushing me and pushing me and pushing me to a limit where I will unleash on her. You want to keep coming up to my family? It’s going to end ugly for her.”
Well, it’s no doubt going to end ugly.
Lisa tries to play peacemaker
Lisa Barlow tells Jen that Meredith “still has some hurt feelings that I think we can resolve.”
Jen says she doesn’t understand that, given that she’s “sincerely apologized multiple times.” She says she understands that Meredith is protective of her son. “But there would have been no other issue if he hadn’t said anything derogatory about my vagina.”
(In Season 1, Brooks expressed disgust that he saw more of Jen than she intended when she was doing high kicks while going commando.)
Jen also contends that she “never put anything out about Brooks … personally. Did I like and repost stuff that was funny? Yeah! Nothing mean. … My vagina is apparently funny to you. So why is it a problem if I decide to like a post that’s funny?”
They’re both adults, but Jen is 47 and Brooks is 21. And some of what Jen thinks is funny other people — not just members of the Marks family — would definitely call mean.
Lisa says she loves both Jen and Meredith and she feels “like you guys can have healing.” Jen isn’t having it — she says she’s tired of all the apologizing. “All I have been doing is apologizing to everybody. Why is it now all on me?”
Mary wants to redecorate
Mary Cosby thinks her house needs redecorating, and she couldn’t be more right. She hires her cousin, Big Joe, as her contractor, then berates him for being late. She says he’s “the worst contractor you ever want to see in your life,” he “takes forever,” and he’s “unprofessional.”
(BTW, Mary thinks there is “crown molding” on her fireplace. She clearly doesn’t know what crown molding is.)
Mary has lived here for more than 18 years, and she feels “trapped” in the house. It’s “like a marriage,” she says, and “everything’s stale.”
When she bought the indescribably ugly lights in one of her bathrooms, she explains, “I was in a dark place. I was having menstrual cramps.”
Jennie meets Jen
Lisa takes Jennie Nguyen to the Shah Chalet to meet Jen. “You and her remind me a lot of each other because you’re both, like, super animated, big personalities, huge hearts,” Lisa tells Jenny. “I think you’re going to hit it off.”
And they seem to do just that. Because Jennie picks a piece of fuzz off Jen’s pants.
“If you touch my butt right when we meet, girl, we’re going to be friends,” Jen says.
Jennie vs. Duy
Jennie says she opened her first medical clinic when her oldest child, 15-year-old Atlas, was young. And that she opened four more clinics — and had two more children — before realizing “that it doesn’t matter how much money I have, I could never buy the time to be with them.” So she sold the clinics and became a stay-at-home mom.
Her husband, Duy, was all in favor of that. But, Jennie says, she feels like she “became his housekeeper.”
Duy wants to have more children. Jennie does not: “Nope. No more babies. Next topic. Moving on.”
Whitney vs. Justin
Whitney wants help with stuff around the house so she can focus on her skin care line. She wants to build a billion-dollar business; her husband, Justin, is worried about the family.
Whitney tells Justin they need to have more sex. “I need it as much as you do.” And, she says in a confessional, “That’s been the hardest part about being busy and owning my own business is my sex life is changing. … We used to have sex like almost every single day and now we’re, like, pushing two to three times a week.”
She says she “can’t believe I’m admitting that.” In the confessional, Whitney adds that sex has become “a chore” and she doesn’t want to have “robotic sex.” And then she mimes having robotic sex, and non-robotic sex, for the cameras.
The producers have to love this. Whitney seems oblivious to how she’s going to come across on national TV.
Heather vs. Jen, Part 2
Heather and Jen air out their feelings in the Ice Castle, and manage to come to some sort of detente. But Heather has conditions.
“I want to look past all of this petty bull----,” Heather says. “But it matters that we see it and stop doing it. We have to change because this is just too embarrassing.”
Well, that’s 100% true.
Jen tells Heather she needs “to feel like you trust me.” Heather replies, “That’s going to be hard for a while, and that’s OK ... I love you and want to be a friend to you.”
But she doesn’t want to see any more mean tweets from Jen, and she won’t believe Jen’s excuses that it isn’t really her tweeting from her account. “That is too much of a leap for me,” Heather says. “But I don’t care, if you can just promise to stop doing it.”
Jen apologizes for reposting a tweet that called Heather a racist, and says (in a confessional) that she believes she and Heather are back to being friends.
• Meredith is super glad she didn’t agree to her husband, Seth’s “pestering” her move to Ohio, where he was working in Season 1. “Thankfully, I did not, because now he’s in Mississippi. And I cannot move every Tuesday and Thursday. That’s crazy,” she says. But Seth is “spending more time in Utah and really making an effort to spend time with me.”
• It’s not even close to the craziest thing we’ve seen on the show, but Lisa brings sewing machines to the Shah Chalet so that she, Jen and Jennie “can make matching pants and wear them to lunch.” Jen is taken aback. “We don’t even cook, girl, how we gonna make some pants?” she asks.
• Fun fact: Jennie used to be a wedding singer.
• Heather meets Whitney at Name Droppers, an “upscale resale boutique” — a consignment shop with high-end clothes and accessories. At one point, Heather tells Whitney, “Put the $21,000 purse down.”