Season 3 of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is just plain weird. We know that Jen Shah is guilty of defrauding older people out of their life savings — she changed her plea to guilty in July. We know she’s almost certainly going to prison when she’s sentenced on Nov. 28.
And yet most of this season was filmed before the guilty plea, and listening to Jen lie about her innocence — including to her own mother — doesn’t look good. And you’ve got to wonder if any of this is going to affect her sentencing next month.
Jen lies to her mother
Early in this 75-minute episode, Jen’s mother, Charlene, visits. Jen tells her that, the previous day, she was part of a “mock trial” for the upcoming real trial. “It was rough because you have to sit there and not say anything” while listening to accusations that are “not true.” But, Jen adds, “I only stormed out, like, twice.”
Charlene asks how her grandsons are doing. “It’s been hard,” Jen says. Her husband, University of Utah assistant football coach Sharrieff Shah, “told me the other day that he walked into Omar’s room and Omar was crying.” The 16-year-old “said, ‘I just don’t want to be without my mom.’”
This is emotional manipulation of viewers and potential jurors. Even if this story is true — and it might just be another lie — Jen is using her children. And, just in case Charlene hasn’t suffered enough, Jen tells her she’s contemplated ending her own life. She says that if not for her “great loving husband” and sons, “I could not get up every day and listen to all of the negative [expletive] that is thrown at me. ... People that don’t know me — they want to just tear you down until you don’t want to live anymore. … I get bullied every single day.”
To listen to her, she is the victim.
“It’s Sharrieff’s job to come out and try to lift me up … so that I don’t want to kill myself and just not be here,” Jen added, exploiting her husband.
What do you say to that? “I don’t have answers for you,” Charlene says, “other than — I need you here. We’ll get through all of this together.”
And then Jen lies some more. “That’s what makes me mad. … I haven’t done anything,” she says. “And my family doesn’t deserve this.”
It is true that her family doesn’t deserve what they’re going through because of Jen’s crimes.
Meredith visits Whitney
Meredith drives to Whitney’s home in South Jordan, where they eat, drink and gossip. In a confessional, Whitney says, “In all the years that I’ve known Meredith, she’s never shown any interest in coming over to my house and spending time with me. But since her recent falling out with Lisa, it seems she has time for me.”
Meredith — who’s still livid about a rant that Lisa went on about her in Season 2 — calls her former friend “hypocritical,” adding that Lisa has “badmouthed every single one of us.” That’s true, but that hardly makes Lisa unique. Each of the Housewives — including Meredith — has said negative things about each of the other Housewives .
Meredith, nonetheless, questions why Lisa is “so busy trying to put everyone else down in this way when there were all these rumors flying about you.” She says “Jen made reference” to Lisa having affairs. (Just like Jen told people Meredith was having affairs.) And, Meredith adds, “I just heard that she was doing favors to help get places to pick up Vida Tequla. I have no idea if it’s true or false. It sounds absurd to me.” And yet she repeated these unfounded rumors while the cameras were rolling.
(Lisa and her husband, John, own Vida Tequila.)
Whitney chimes in, “I know that sounds absurd, but it’s really not. I’ve actually heard the same thing.” She says she has a friend who’s “very wealthy and very well known in Utah. And I’ve heard that she slept with him to sway him to invest in her business.”
“The last thing I want to do is talk about Lisa behind her back,” Meredith says, not looking in the least bit troubled.
Whitney dredges up “lost” memories
A visibly distraught Whitney tells her husband, Justin, about a phone call with her half brother, Will. She told him about all the “therapy and healing work” she’s been doing. And Will told her that he’s been doing “EDMR” — she clearly means EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a psychotherapy treatment intended to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.
And, through EMDR, Will says he recalled that Whitney was “abused and I just don’t remember it.”
“All those memories that I have suppressed are all flowing through me now,” Whitney says in a confessional, “and there is so much pain.” Whitney adds that when her therapist came to their home and they “saged the house,” the therapist said, “There’s so many demons in your bathrooms. I don’t know what it is … with you and bathrooms.”
And she adds, “There is a trauma hidden deep, deep inside of me.”
Despite her trauma, Whitney proceeds with plans for the five women to spend a few days together in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A producer points out that Heather doesn’t “seem that enthusiastic about the trip,” and Heather agrees because Arizona is “the redheaded stepchild of Utah. It’s just Utah warmer, and with more white people. If that’s even humanly possible.”
Meredith is similarly unenthusiastic. “I wouldn’t mind St. Tropez or Bali or the Maldives” she says. But there’s a reason they’re going to Arizona and not one of those locations. “Well, I don’t think Jen can leave the country,” Whitney correctly points out. (As a condition of her pre-trial release, that is.)
Whitney invites Lisa to fly to Arizona with her, earlier than the other three Housewives “because the thought of the five of us flying together right now, I think I’d have a full on panic attack” worry that Lisa a Meredith would fight.
The house where the Housewives are staying is enormous and sort of tacky. “Is this one of Mary’s houses?” Whitney jokes. And, in a confessional, she says, “Walking into this house, I feel like we’ve stepped foot into Mary Cosby’s grand foyer. It’s almost like Mary is still with us. … This makes me kind of miss Mary.”
(As seen in Season 2, Cosby lives in a large, tacky house. And she’s no longer a cast member, having been fired after Season 2 for failing to show up for the reunion episodes, as contractually obligated.)
Whitney smartly assigns rooms for the five Housewives, putting Lisa and Meredith as far apart as possible. Jen gets the enormous master bedroom. “Ever since the arrest,” she says, “all I know is I keep getting the master bedroom. I mean, maybe this is one area it’s working out for me.”
The drama resumes
While waiting for the other women to arrive, Whitney tells Lisa she has blocked out memories of her childhood from ages 8 to 17. “My trauma is pretty intense for me right now,” Whitney says.
Lisa tells Whitney that she was “definitely more invested” in her friendship with Meredith “and it wasn’t what I thought it was.” In a confessional, Lisa says, “I was a great friend of Meredith for 10 years.” And her “one mistake” made Meredith think she’s “a horrible person” … That is bulls---.”
Lisa goes on to say, “I’ve forgiven myself, and I can’t control if [Meredith] forgives me. ... But I can’t wallow in self-hatred, and I’m not going to slit my wrists for anybody at this stage in my life. Like, I said sorry four times. If they can’t forgive me, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Jen, Heather and Meredith arrive, and Meredith completely ignores Lisa. “It’s definitely very awkward between Lisa and Meredith,” Whitney says. “I didn’t expect them to have, like, a warm welcome with each other, but I expect something, like, at least a hello.”
Heather delights in Lisa’s troubles
When Heather learns that Lisa wasn’t nervous about seeing Meredith, she’s put out. “She should be nervous. Why is she not nervous?”
Whitney defends Lisa, but tells Heather that Meredith has been sharing rumors about her.
“I’m trying not to smile,” Heather says, covering her mouth with her hand as she laughs. And she laughs again when Whitney tells her about the rumors that Lisa has “performed sexual favors or the advancement of” her tequila brand.
“Who was she servicing?” Heather asks. “Vendors? Bartenders? Bar owners? State liquor store officials?” She clearly thinks it’s a joke.
Whitney says she feels bad because she’s heard the same rumors. And she wonders if she should give Lisa a head’s up. Heather’s response — “Hell, no.”
The Housewives meet a shaman
Whitney arranges for the Housewives to meet with a shaman “to release this pain and this heaviness. And who better to do it with than this group of girls who are equally as [expletived] up?”
As usual, Meredith is late. Whitney decides to go ahead without her. “There’s a saying among healers in the universe — those who need the most healing avoid healing,” Whitney says.
Meredith is in the house, getting her makeup done and talking on the phone with her husband. In a confessional, she blames her “current dynamic with Lisa” for her “hesitation to run outside.”
Each of the women is asked what they will be releasing during the session with the shaman, and what they want to call in. Whitney is “letting go of past trauma, past hurt” and calling in “oneness.” Heather is “releasing shame of not making my family proud” and calling in “love and understanding.”
Jen is releasing “the fear of going to trial in 30 days” and calling in her “innocence.” (The trial was postponed before it was canceled because she pleaded guilty five months later.) And Lisa is releasing “hurt and sadness” and calling in “love, support and kindness.”
Meredith shows up late, and the only place for her to sit is next to Lisa. Neither of them look pleased. And, Meredith says, she’s “not ready to share right now.”
Meredith later says that during the session, she was brought back to a year ago when she was dealing with the death of her father and the struggles of “a nephew with mental health issues” and “the treatment I received over it from the pain.”
It’s an emotional experience for all of them. “I did not pack [a] Costco-size box of Kleenex because I did not anticipate this many tears,” Heather says.
Meredith apologizes for being late, explaining that she felt “some anxiety” over the session. “To be quite honest, it stemmed from me not feeling very safe. …I’m very much triggered by our last trip and having my father’s death weaponized against me.”
(It was on their last trip that Lisa went on her rant about Meredith. And, no, it’s still not true that anyone “weaponized” the death of Meredith’s father against her. It all stemmed from a misunderstanding. One would think that, having watched Season 2, Meredith would realize that.)
Lisa quietly says, “Well, I used to feel like I was a safe space for you, and I’m sorry.” Meredith rather harshly replies, “You are not a safe space.” Lisa starts to explain that she said “used to,” but thinks better of it. She gets up and goes into the house.
Heather follows and brings Lisa back to eat dinner with the other women. During dinner, Whitney shares her news about recovering memories of past trauma.
“My childhood is blocked from, like 9 to 17,” she says. “And as I’m doing all this work, like, memories are coming up and it’s been really hard.” She says she was in “a very abusive situation” but she “stuffed” those memories “so deep that I blocked all memory of it.”
Heather is clearly surprised by this. “You?” she asks skeptically.
Jack Barlow and college
John and Lisa are concerned that their teenage son, Jack, doesn’t want to go to college. Jack says he “probably would end up richer” if he doesn’t. “I already own a company,” so going to college would be “minus a step. … If I just kill it with that, then I can start other companies and become successful.”
Jack and his younger brother, Henry, own Fresh Wolf, a men’s skincare company that was financed by their parents.
“Fudge college,” Jack says. “Honestly, there’s no need for it. … College is where they go to build machines, not humans.”
Lisa points out that Jack isn’t yet independent. “When you can get to a point where you’re funding your own business all by yourself and I don’t have to invest any money and your dad doesn’t have to invest any money, then you can be. like, ‘I got this. I’m amazing.’ You can’t do that now,” she says. “This is how it works, Jack.”
The next episode of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” airs Wednesday, Oct. 12, on Bravo — 7 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 9 p.m. on Comcast.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.