In the latest episode of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” Jen Shah is arrested and arraigned on federal fraud and money laundering charges. The other Housewives are all shocked — except for one.
Not only does Meredith Marks say repeatedly that she’s not surprised, but she also seems downright amused by Jen’s arrest.
On the bus
The Nov. 14 episode of “RHOSLC” picks up right where the previous one left off. Lisa Barlow, Heather Gay, Jennie Nguyen and Whitney Rose are on a shuttle bus getting ready to travel to Vail to stay at a huge house Meredith has rented, and they’re struggling to comprehend what just happened — police officers came looking for Jen.
Heather believes, at first, what the cops told her — that they were just checking to make sure Jen is all right. “This has to be a huge mistake,” she says.
“That might be a tactic,” Whitney says. (Of course it is.)
Lisa questions how the authorities knew that Jen was supposed to meet them that day. “Other than our families, there were seven people that knew. ... I can’t imagine anyone here would turn Jen in, but this looks really sus,” she says.
Suspicions run rampant
“I think Meredith might know something,” Lisa says. Whitney points out that Lisa has been “the closest” to Jen in recent months, but Lisa says, “I don’t ever talk to her about business. She’s ambiguous about it.”
The only one who claims to know anything about Jen’s business is Whitney. “She buys people’s information. She sells that information,” she says. “It’s just lead nurturing, is what it is. She gives companies leads.”
In a confessional, Whitney says she’s suspected that something wasn’t right with Jen’s business for a long time. “I was always really curious because of the lifestyle she lives and the things she buys — doesn’t really add up to what I know that these marketers actually make.” On the bus, she points to the “$80,000 birthday party” Jen threw for Meredith and the $100 bills she threw around on the way to Justin’s birthday party, both in Season 1.
“I’m absolutely gut-punched that Jen may be involved in this,” Heather says. “Of course, I knew Jen’s business was a high-pressure, cutthroat-sales-at-all-costs business. But I didn’t know it was illegal. I just thought it was, like, unsavory.”
None of the other six Housewives has at this point — or in the eight-plus months since Jen was arrested — been in any way implicated in her alleged crimes. However … they’re suspicious of each other.
Whitney and Heather suspect Lisa • Lisa calls all six of her lawyers, and Whitney and Heather find that really suspicious. “Lisa’s acting guilty of something,” Whitney says. And Heather replies, “If she knows stuff, that means she’s implicated.”
“She keeps saying, ‘Someone tipped them off,’” Whitney says. “Do you think she tipped them off?” Heather asks.
Jennie suspects Whitney • “Whitney knows so much about Jen’s business, and it’s like — how did you get all this information? Are you studying this? I think that’s weird.”
Lisa suspects Whitney • “How does Whitney know so much about washing money and running a fraudulent business? It’s a little strange.”
Guys with guns
Jen doesn’t actually appear in the episode, except for previously seen news video of reporters asking her questions as she exits the federal courthouse and gets in a car. She does not say anything. (A later court filing gives her account of her arrest and interview with police.)
There’s video of officers at Jen’s rented home in Park City — they’re moving in with rifles to raid the place, and a couple of people are led out with their hands raised. An officer tells a member of the “Real Housewives” production crew, “We’re executing a search warrant on the residence,” and to contact Jen’s husband, Sharrieff, with any more questions.
Jen is not there. She is later arrested when the truck she’s riding in is stopped by police.
Still on the bus
Heather says she hopes Jen’s problems are just a “paperwork issue.” Those hopes are dashed when Whitney starts reading news stories on her phone — that both Jen and her assistant, Stuart Smith, have been arrested and face federal fraud and money-laundering charges.
They all seem genuinely surprised. Lisa bursts into tears. “I honestly feel so bad for them.” In a confessional, Heather says she’s “devastated. All I can think about are their families, and that this is going to, like, take off like wildfire.” On the bus, she cries, too.
Later, Whitney says, “Her life didn’t make sense to me — how much money she had and things she’d buy and things she said she would do. But I did not think it would be something like this. I thought she had a sugar daddy or something.”
And, in a confessional, Whitneys says, “I mean, I had a sugar daddy.” (She doesn’t specify who she’s talking about. Maybe her much-older husband?)
Still later on the bus
Heather is taken aback when she learns the circumstances of Jen’s arrest. “They arrested her on the side of the road?” she says. “I thought she left us and went to turn herself in.”
“No, she was running,” Whitney says. And Mary adds, “She definitely fleed (sic) the scene, for sure.” (FYI: We don’t know if that’s true.)
“How humiliating and degrading. What has she done?” Heather says. “What has she done that would make that necessary?”
Meredith: I told you so
Lisa calls Meredith to tell her what has happened, and Meredith replies, “Honestly, I’m not surprised by this. … Too many things didn’t add up, and I’ve suspected that something was going on for a while.” Meredith goes on to say that Jen’s arrest makes her feel “validated that I was right. I’m not crazy. That’s the bottom line.”
In a confessional, Meredith says that Jen’s arrest is “shocking” — and she laughs. She does not act in the least bit shocked.
“I feel like we don’t know her,” Lisa says. “Yeah,” Meredith says, “I feel like you guys really don’t. I feel like I kind of did. And not anyone really wanted to listen or believe me. But that’s OK,” she says, bursting into laughter.
It’s odd behavior, even to Lisa. “I’m surprised she’s completely almost unfazed by all of this. Even if you don’t really know Jen or don’t really like Jen, you would think there would be a bigger reaction to what just went down. And I’m shocked that Meredith’s not shocked.”
Meredith is REALLY not surprised
Mary tells Meredith she was “blown away” but the news of Jen’s arrest; Meredith says, again, she was “not surprised.”
“FBI doesn’t get involved unless there’s facts,” Mary says. “Unless there was, like, an insider who gave them the information,” Meredith says.
If that’s not intriguing enough, Meredith adds this: “I have been traumatized and terrorized — me, my family, my business — for almost two years by this woman. And I just waited quietly because I don’t point my fingers when I don’t have the facts. And you know what? This now suddenly adds up. Do I still say that she may be innocent? Sure, of course, it’s possible. Do I believe it?”
She shakes her head no and smiles.
Mary vs. Whitney/Mary vs. Jennie
Taking a break from the Jen drama, Whitney recounts her fight with Mary in the previous episode — when Mary got hugely bent out of shape when Whitney didn’t answer her Facetime calls while she was driving a kids carpool. “Is that how you treat a friend?” Whitney asks.
“Now you know why I have a conflict” with Mary, Jennie says. “I didn’t even know her, and she’s telling me what to do.” (She’s referring to the tubing outing in a previous episode.)
“With everything going on with Jen right now, the Mary situation is the last thing on my mind,” Jennie says, quite reasonably. Mary later says, “I forgot Jennie was going to even be here. And I just don’t want to be bothered with Whitney. I’m sorry, I don’t.”
But there’s clearly more Mary vs. Jennie and Mary vs. Whitney drama coming.
Mary’s reaction to Jen’s arrest
As usual, Mary is pretty much all over the place. She says her “heart’s broken” to learn that Jen has been arrested, and she’s “speechless.” She says in a confessional that, despite her differences with Jen, she is “filled with compassion.” Later, Mary says the news “traumatized” her.
Still later, she says, “Jen’s arrest makes me feel a lot of emotion. I feel bad. Like, I don’t celebrate people’s pain. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But sometimes you just have things coming.”
“I feel somewhat betrayed,” Mary says, despite the fact that she and Jen absolutely were not friends. And then she gets all judgmental: “I feel like she’s reaping. What I’m believing in — what a man soweth, that he shall also reap.”
And, for Mary, there’s no presumption of innocence. “She’s scammed old people and people that don’t have money. … I never saw nothing good in her. Never. And I was scared of her because I knew what she was capable of.”
Meredith, Jen and the missing clutch
Meredith tells the other Housewives that in late September, while she was in New York, Jen tried to get into her Park City store, which was closed at the time. The store manager let her in, and Jen bought a few hundred dollars worth of items.
According to Meredith, the manager called her and said that after Jen and her friends left the store, a green clutch was missing — and Jen’s friends had been holding it. Meredith advised the manager to text Jen and ask about it, “and within 30 seconds” one of Jen’s friends (his name is bleeped out) called the manager and said he’d return the bag the following day. And there’s video of the friend (face blurred) taking and returning the clutch.
“Jen did not walk out with a bag,” Meredith says in a confessional, “but what really didn’t sit well with me is she kept someone who she knew did take something out of my store in her employment. That’s not my friend.”
Lisa says in a confessional, “It’s not that I don’t believe Meredith, but I’m, like, could it have been an accident? Could there have been a misunderstanding?”
Meredith then says that she’s been told that Jen is “red-flagged” at Louis Vuitton “because she pays in cash. Now, I don’t know if it’s true or false. It’s gossip. … When you start putting all the puzzle pieces together, sometimes you have to believe things that you hear.”
Mary is overwhelmed by the Louis Vuitton rumor. So is Lisa, who says, “Being red-flagged at Louis Vuitton would be far worse than the feds knocking at my door.”
And then things get even weirder
Heather says that she recently “physically” put Jen in an Uber at her house at about 11:30 p.m. And when she checked on the Uber’s progress, she saw that Jen had “gotten out, like, a half mile away on an intersection.”
Lisa is very curious about when that happened. Pressed about why, she says, “I don’t know what happened that night, but I just wanted to check with somebody and see if they met up with her.”
“You think she’s meeting up with another guy?” Jennie asks. Lisa doesn’t answer.
Whitney gets super paranoid
Whitney puts her paranoia into overdrive. “None of us are safe unless they know the facts,” she says. “We have all been lied to. We’ve all been attacked. If we do not share what we know, we are in danger.”
In danger of what is unclear.
And in the next episode ...
According to a preview of the Nov. 14 episode, Jen will appear — talking to one of her lawyers, apparently. But the big shock comes from Meredith, who says, “I hired a private investigator.”
The implication is that she hired the detective to look into Jen’s life. Which could, perhaps, explain why she’s not surprised about the arrest.
In the tub • When Mary arrives at the vacation house in Vail, she walks in looking for Meredith. She finds her in the bathtub, and Mary is not pleased. “For me, proper etiquette to greet people — you need to be dressed with some food on the table.”
Too soon • When Heather, Whitney, Jennie and Lisa arrive at the Vail house and walk in, Heather says, loudly, “It’s the feds.”
“Too soon. Too soon,” Whitney says.
Still in the tub • When Heather, Whitney, Jennie and Lisa arrive at the Vail house, Meredith is still in the bathtub and still laughing. The other Housewives are taken aback by her behavior.
“Given the circumstances, I assumed Meredith would be on her phone or glued to the TV looking for any breaking news about Jen,” Heather says. “I did not expect to find her naked without a care in the world.”
Mary’s jumping • Mary, a 48-year-old woman, jumps up and down on her bed at the Vail house like she’s a child. “This is a brick!” she exclaims. It’s weird. But it’s Mary.
Heather is hungry • The staff at the Vail house lay out a big spread for dinner, and Heather is thrilled. “Today has been insane. So stressful, but it surprisingly hasn’t cut my appetite at all,” she says with a laugh.