It’s the eve of Jen Shan’s arrest in the Oct. 31 episode of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” and a former pastor at Mary Cosby’s church warns Meredith Marks not to trust her.
Prelude to the arrests
Here it comes …
The episode opens with a scene that appears pretty innocuous. Jen’s assistant, Stuart Smith, is working on a laptop while Jen feeds him a banana. “This account is going good,” Stuart says. “The infomercial lead is doing really, really well. It’s just doing more than we thought.”
“While you make me money, I feed you,” Jen says, shoving a (peeled) banana in his mouth.
“We’re adding more people, and I just had to get a second pass out,” Stuart says. “It’s good. It’s a good day.”
None of this actually means anything to viewers. Except … Jen and Stuart are about to be arrested on federal fraud charges, which — it would seem — might be related to what Stuart is talking about in this brief scene. And in the coming-next-week preview, we see Jen getting off a shuttle bus when she gets a call telling her the authorities are looking for her.
Don’t be surprised if that’s the final scene of next week’s episode, but the series is about to get into the arrests.
Lisa Barlow and her family — husband John and sons Jack, 16, and Henry, 9 — throw a promotional event/fundraiser related to a company the boys started (with their parents) in Season 1. Fresh Wolf sells men’s grooming products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair wax, pomade), and, for every bottle sold, the company donates a bottle to foster children.
The event raises money for Utah Foster Care. Jack says he’s inspired by his father, who was in foster care before he was adopted by the family who raised him, and by classmates he knows who are in foster care. Lisa wants it to be “intimate, so we’re keeping [the guest list] around 30.”
It’s a lovely thing … and, this being “Real Housewives,” it becomes the center of a whole lot of controversy.
“Be careful” befriending Mary
At the fundraiser, Lisa introduces Meredith Marks to her “very good” friend, Cameron Williams. Lisa met Mary through Cameron. But when Lisa tells Cameron that Meredith and Mary Cosby are “very close,” Cameron flinches a bit and his face registers … surprise? Concern?
Meredith asks Cameron how he met Mary, and he says he “used to” attend her church. “Thankfully, I’m now out of that situation.” And when Meredith asks what happened, Cameron replies, “Mary, her husband, like, they’ve done some things that have been very harmful.”
“I don’t like hearing this, because I really love Mary,” Meredith says.
“I did too, at one point,” Cameron says. “Mary and I were extremely close at one point. Just be careful.”
When Meredith says her visit to Mary’s church last year was a “feel good experience” for her, Cameron points out that it was her first visit. “Stick around. You’ll find out. It changes.” He says he was there for almost seven years. “But the truth was revealed. The truth came out. And I knew that I couldn’t stay with that truth, and I had to walk away.”
Meredith asks him to elaborate, but he declines. “That’s Mary’s story to tell.”
(Williams, who had a long history of service as a civic leader, died on June 3 — about 2½ months after the episode was filmed — at the age of 33. His cause of death was not announced.)
Meredith immediately goes to Lisa and says she’s “freaked out” and “shaken.” And she’s surprised when Lisa tells her Cameron used to be a pastor at Mary’s church.
“When you say to someone, ‘I love her. She’s my good friend, you know, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences,’ and their answer is, ‘Be careful’ — that’s kind of a scary response,” Meredith says.
Lisa tells her that she intentionally did not invite Mary to the fundraiser because Cameron was going to be there. “I believe he’s experienced real trauma,” she adds. “There’s some personal things that he’s told me, but I’m not comfortable talking about it tonight.”
Mary’s bitter break with her mother
Mary has lunch with Heather Gay and Whitney Rose at La Trattoria. Heather and Whitney take the opportunity to backstab Lisa, quickly bringing up the argument that Mary and Lisa got into in the previous episode. And argument that was caused by Mary totally overreacting to an innocuous comment Lisa made.
Whitney accuses Lisa of intentionally pushing people’s buttons to make them angry. “For her to snap at you, Mary, it actually makes me feel like Lisa must be going through a lot or something,” Whitney says, completely misrepresenting what happened.
“I snapped at her first,” Mary admits. Although she still doesn’t realize she took a perfectly innocent comment out of context.
Heather accuses Lisa of making “passive-aggressive little jokes.”
When Whitney asks Mary why Lisa triggers her, Mary launches into an explanation that reveals more about her. When Mary’s grandmother died, she made it clear she wanted Mary to marry her husband, Robert Sr., and left the two her church (the Faith Temple Church in Salt Lake City) her businesses and a lot of money. Mary’s mother wasn’t happy because, according to Mary, she thought she was next in line. And Mary was triggered by Lisa because (a) her mother questioned what she said, and (b) Mary thinks Lisa was also questioning her unfairly.
Again, that’s Mary’s seemingly inaccurate interpretation.
Anyway, Mary says she “lost my mom because I knew I was right and I wasn’t backing down. She cut me off” over her marriage to Robert Sr. “I haven’t spoke to her in 25 years … because she didn’t believe what I said. So when people question me, like Lisa... then it takes me back to that wound.”
Mary says that her mother wants nothing to do with her, and there’s nothing that could get them back together, “but it’s fine.”
And then Heather and Whitney backstab Lisa some more. “I think that Lisa’s friendship with you is probably contingent on how much she thinks you’re on Team Lisa,” Heather says.
“It’s going to be a matter of if you fall back into line,” Whitney says.
Whitney is estranged from her father again
We haven’t seen Whitney’s father, Steve Lesh, since Season 1. In the Oct. 31 episode, we learn he’s still struggling with addiction and that Whitney hasn’t heard from him in six months. And she’s not happy when she learns her brother, Will, is still in frequent contact with him.
“So when my dad was battling addiction, I was the only one there for him — emotionally, physically, financially,” she says. “And I really facilitated the reconciliation between” her father and her brother. Learning that they’re still “hanging out … is like a dagger. It’s, like, what about me? I’m the one who did everything for you.”
And, she says, the last time she saw her father he chased and berated a food-delivery guy who was bringing food for her kids.
“He was upset, angry, mean,” Whitney says. “He may have not been sober that day, but he was trying so hard to hide it from me.” She asked him to leave, the “first time I’ve stood up to him.” In a confessional, she says, “It breaks my heart.”
Whitney asks Will if it’s OK to be “done” with their father. “Just because they’re blood doesn’t mean they’re family,” he replies. “And if this blood portion of your life is causing so much pain and trouble, yeah, cut that [expletive] off.”
Lisa tells Jen about Whitney
More backstabbing: Lisa tells Jen she’s worried about her “dysfunctional relationship” with Heather. And she brings up a sensitive subject with Jen — the “leaked” audio of her berating a man who designed many of her gowns in Season 1, which made headlines a few months ago. (The show bleeps his name out, but Koa Johnson has gone public that it was him Jen was yelling and cursing at.)
Jen being Jen, she freaks out and yells and cries about it.
“I know that Jen cared about him a lot and thought about him like family,” Lisa says in a confessional, “and she trusted him with making a dress for her for a very important event. And he didn’t deliver on time.”
In a separate confessional, Whitney says, “It was Jen that didn’t follow through and get him the dress details in time.” And Johnson “clearly states that he did not leak the audio and has no idea who did,” adds Whitney, who clearly believes him.
Johnson has said that he was verbally assaulted and not paid for his work. Jen’s story is different: “He took my kindness and repaid me by making it look like I mistreated him, which was not the case at all.”
But that’s not the point of this exchange. Lisa is gunning for Whitney.
“I see him getting gifts from Whitney on social media,” she tells Jen. “What’s bothering me [is] that, like, other people that are in our friend group are supporting him and sending him gifts.”
In a confessional, Lisa says, “I would want to know if someone did that to me.” After some back and forth, Jen says, referring to Whitney, “Why are you doing this? We’re supposed to be a group of friends. If you’re our friend, be our [expletive] friend. If not, then get the [expletive] out.”
“I agree,” Lisa says.
Viewers of “RHOSLC” have long since abandoned the idea that this is a group of friends. Many of these women loathe each other and, if not for the show, would clearly never see each other again.
Heather tells Jen about Lisa
Later in the episode, Heather questions why Lisa told Jen about Whitney. And then Heather tells Jen that Lisa invited Whitney and Meredith to her fundraiser — and neither Jen nor Heather was invited. (Whitney wasn’t feeling well, so she didn’t go.)
“Why would she make that move and not invite you?” Heather asks, calling it “suspicious.” And Jen agrees, “because if you’re so concerned about Whitney doing something to hurt me, why are you inviting her to your son’s event?”
“This is what she does,” Heather does. “She goes around and collects what she believes is mud and slings it in the face of the friends to dismantle relationships, to undermine affection and loyalty, and to try to, like, somehow win at some imaginary game that she’s playing.”
Heather has apparently forgotten that she and Whitney did exactly that when they had lunch with Mary — slinging mud to undermine the relationship between Mary and Lisa.
To invite or not to invite Jen
Meredith has rented a seven-bedroom house in Vail, Colorado, intending to go on a family vacation. But, she says, her husband, Seth, can’t go because of his job in Mississippi, so she’s going to invite the Housewives.
Heather asks if Jen will be invited, and Meredith rolls her eyes.
“I’m very apprehensive about, really, any relationship with her at any level after everything that has transpired,” Meredith says. She gives Jen props for apologizing to her and to her son for perceived slights and insults. “We have been hurt over a year, so it’s going to take three, four, five times as long as that went on for it to be repaired.”
But she says she’s going to invite Jen, although she estimates there’s a 45% chance they’ll have a good time.
Jen brings sex toys
Jen drops by Heather’s house, and she comes bearing gifts — a bag full of sex toys. “What is up with the dating life?” Jen asks. “Nothing,” Heather replies. And one guy she mentioned to Jen turned out to be married.
“I need to educate Heather in the area of sex toys,” Jen says. “Look, she’s been a pioneer, blazing her own trail. Well, guess what? Not all pioneers know about sex toys.”
Jen does admit that she’s unlikely to use these things herself. “I mean, if I walked in with some of these, like, things, Coach Shah [her husband] would be, like, ‘What’s going on? What’s wrong with you?’” she said.
Heather invites Jen to Meredith’s gathering in Vail, and Jen says yes. With some reservations. “I think it’s weird that Heather’s inviting me because Meredith is hosting this,” Jen says. “I thought we were good. But you know what? Whatever. Get me in the [expletive] house in Vail with Meredith so I can find out what the hell is going on.”
Dress for success • When Heather meets Mary and Whitney for lunch, she says, “This is, like, a dress I’d wear to church.” Whitney replies, “I don’t even know if I own anything that could get me into church.”
Resurrected fish? • At the same lunch, Mary quickly rejects the ceviche salmon. “I don’t want a raw fish on my plate,’’ she says. “I have this weird thing in my head that I feel like … if I eat it raw, it’s going to come back alive in my stomach and then start, like, building a family.”
Travel companion • “I wasn’t a good-time girl” when she went to BYU, Heather says. “But I did go as a travel companion to Cancun with a little person,” Heather says.
“Wait, what?” Meredith asks, speaking for viewers everywhere.
“Travel is really difficult if you’re a little person,” Heather says. “I had to, like, assist them.” (She did not specify the gender of the little person.)
They went on “booze cruise, but I was sober,” she says. She entered a singing contest and won — the prize was a fifth of vodka. “I thought I was sowing my wild oats before I committed to a life of marriage and motherhood.”