Jen and Sharrieff Shah were not present for the Season 3 reunion of “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” but their presence hung over the program and dominated much of the discussion.
There’s much speculation about why Jen suddenly pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges against her, including conjecture that she did it to protect her husband, an assistant football coach at the University of Utah.
Among the other revelations in the Season 3 finale: One of the Housewives “friends” contributed to Jen’s defense fund, and Jen expressed no remorse for swindling old people.
Jen’s guilty plea
Andy asks if any of the women thinks “shooting the show while dealing with the trial changed [Jen’s] mindset? Did the reality of it kick in for her?”
Heather Gay theorizes that because Jen “got arrested on camera, … it was hard for her to realize that these charges were not just part of the show. … Reality kicks in when the cameras go away and you’re left with your life and it’s in shambles.”
Whitney Rose interjects, “In some way, she almost became, like, idolized because of it.”
Lisa Barlow adds, “It fed her ego a little bit. Not a little bit, a lot.”
Does anyone think Jen truly believed in her own innocence? • Heather says she does. Whitney says, “I don’t know why you would sign up to be a Housewife if you were running a telemarketing scheme.”
And the investigation had been underway for years before “RHOSLC” even began casting. According to Meredith Marks, the sealed indictment that included Jen was issued the day Andy announced “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” at BravoCon in 2019.
Has Jen showed any remorse or sympathy for her victims? • All four Housewives say no. “Well, I was quoted in an article,” Lisa says, “and she wrote me and said, ‘Tell me who my victims are, bitch.’” (The text is displayed on screen, and it does not include the word “bitch.”)
Will Heather visit Jen in jail? • “I mean, it depends on where she goes,” Heather says. (Jen has asked to be sent to a minimum security prison in Texas.) “I mean, I will write her if she wants that. And I will look in on [Jen’s 17-year-old son] Omar and Coach.”
Andy asks Heather why she continues to support Jen. “Because she’s said she committed fraud, and she’s going to prison. And she’s making $15 million restitution,” Heather says. “And I think me being mean to her ... is just a virtue signal to the world. It doesn’t do anyone any good. And, like, I’m this far down the road with her. I’m not going to drop her now.”
(Jen was sentenced to 6½ years in prison, ordered to forfeit $6.5 million, make restitution of $6.64 million, and surrender 30 luxury items and 78 counterfeit luxury items.)
Lisa gets emotional about Jen • ”There’s a part of me,” she says, “that, like, loved her so much. … She sucked me in. And there’s the good times, and then Jen would cut me, criticize how I treated my wound, and then told me it was my fault. That’s the relationship I was in. And so I’m sad about the nice times or when she was cute with my kids. But I’m not sad about the horrible times. I don’t miss that part.”
Casting shade on Sharrieff
Without citing any source, Andy says, “There was speculation that [Jen] pled guilty to keep Coach from being implicated in any way. Is that anything that any of you thought?”
Whitney says she “thought about that. Like, if that was true, it makes sense. Sharrieff is a lovely person. And he’s always, like, so on, right? But sometimes” he strikes her as “too good to be true.” She tells Andy that she thinks Sharrieff “possibly” knew about Jen’s crimes.
Lisa interjects, “It’s possible that he had knowledge. I mean, they have to file taxes together.”
Heather hesitates to answer, she says, because, “I don’t know the first thing about their relationship.” But, she says, “I don’t think he could be so supportive if he knew she was implicated.”
Pressed by Lisa, Heather says she thinks Jen’s decision to change her plea to guilty was “financial. And they saw something that was like, ‘Listen, it’s not worth rolling the dice because it’s going to be so expensive. And if it’s not a clear win, we can’t risk it.’”
According to Heather, Jen told her that her legal costs were “astronomical” and “overwhelming. And they solicited friends for money. And a lot of our friends gave them money.” Heather said she didn’t contribute, but Angie Harrington — with whom Jen fought repeatedly during Season 3 — did. Meredith, Whitney and Lisa each say they did not.
“I didn’t because our counsel said we probably shouldn’t,” Lisa says. “Otherwise I would have. I was ready to.”
Andy goes after Meredith
He wants to know how she could have been so against Jen in Season 2, only to become her biggest supporter in Season 3.
“Guilty, innocent, in between, she is still a human being. I will always root for the underdog,” Meredith says. She does not explain how Jen, who swindled old and vulnerable people out of millions, is the underdog.
She refuses to express an opinion about Jen “because she hasn’t been sentenced.” (The reunion was taped several weeks before the sentencing.)
That makes no sense, but viewers get somewhat of an explanation when Whitney presses Meredith: “Months before any of you had this information, I was informed by a very reliable source that Jen had made an attempt on her life,” Meredith says. “And with what I went through, I wasn’t playing with that.” (In previous episodes, Meredith has talked about how she and her family struggled after her nephew tried to take his own life.)
Andy points out that Meredith “had a lot to say about it when she was arrested. ... It’s just weird to me that she pled guilty and now you have nothing to say about it. … Are you scared of her? Are you scared of her coming after you?”
“No,” Meredith says, “because if I were afraid of that, why would I bother confronting her last year? Obviously, I’m not afraid of her. In my view, I am not the judge. I am not the jury.”
Barbie scissor kicks
The episode opens with Andy Cohen calling out Housewives “friend” Angie Katsanevas, questioning where she came up with the theory that Heather got a black eye doing “Barbie scissor kicks” during a lesbian encounter with Jen Shah.
“Well, I was talking to some people,” Angie K. replies, “and they said, ‘Have you ever heard of any sexual relations between Heather and Jen?” So … this came from “some people.”
Heather says it’s baloney. Lisa interjects, telling Heather, “You have to understand what people were thinking watching you on top of Jen.” And there’s a clip of what looks like Heather simulating sex with Jen on a bed during the group trip to San Diego.
“It wasn’t a sex injury,” Heather says. “And if it was, I don’t remember. And I’ve never been attracted to Jen like that.”
Andy asks Heather if she didn’t want to find the person who gave her the black eye. Heather hesitates and says, “I kind of felt like because I’d been drinking, whatever happened to me, I deserved it. And I just felt embarrassed and ashamed.”
Andy says he’s glad that Heather is safe, adding, “I hope you’ll give yourself a break, because it’s certainly not worth the shame spiral that you’re putting yourself through.”
There’s a break in the filming, as the three “friends” — Angie H., Angie K. and Danna — are dismissed and stand up to exit the studio. And there’s a clear division in the group.
Whitney, Danna, Angie K. and Lisa on one side; Heather, Angie H. and Meredith on the other.
Whitney’s childhood trauma
Andy asks Whitney how she “unlocked” her memories of childhood trauma, and Whitney replies that in the “last couple of years, I started having physical manifestations. Meaning, like, I was having all these health problems. And that’s where I started doing memory recall work.”
She goes on to say that when “it started coming back,” she “never imagined that I’d be questioned about it. That I’d get hate for it” from both fellow cast members and viewers.
It’s worth remembering that, while there may be perfectly legitimate (legal?) reasons for this, Whitney has still offered nothing but vague statements that she suffered unspecified childhood trauma.
Heather quickly acknowledges she wasn’t supportive of Whitney, “because we didn’t ever discuss it if we weren’t on camera.” Whitney questions why she would talk to Heather after Heather accused her of making the first night of the group trip to San Diego — which was supposed to be about Jen — all about herself. Whitney does not acknowledge that that’s exactly what she did. (It was caught on camera.)
Heather says she “did not realize that that’s what we were talking about. And I’m horrified that you would think that I would ever dismiss your feelings like that.” Asked if that statement changes how she feels about Heather, Whitney says, “Not yet.”
A question from a viewer asks if Whitney has “spoken to your [unidentified] abuser since these memories resurface?” Whitney says she has not.
“Sorry you had to go through that,” Andy says.
Rehashing Heather and Whitney’s falling out
For the umpteenth time, viewers are forced to relive the breaking point for Heather and Whitney — a dispute over who said what to whom about rumors that Lisa was having affairs and who heard those rumors. Heather says the current state of her friendship with Whitney is “not good.”
A viewer wants to know if Whitney “told the story [of the argument] again, sober. do you think you’d have the same outcome?” Whitney replies, “It would be the same conversations — why are you lying about this?” And she goes on to say, “Being drunk, it makes it so messy because I get confused with my words. And when you’re going up against someone [Heather] who’s, like, a master debater. It’s hard.”
Whitney does not acknowledge that perhaps being drunk affected her perception of what actually happened.
Asked if she holds Whitney to a different standard than she holds Jen — who she forgave over and over again — Heather says, without hesitation, “Definitely. I hold her to an absolutely different standard.” A “much higher” standard.
Whitney clearly doesn’t understand the conversation. “Your actions don’t convey that,” she tells Heather. “Jen can do anything to you, and you’ll go running right back.”
Heather interjects, “Yeah, because I hold her to a lower standard.” Whitney still doesn’t get it and continues to argue.
• Heather acknowledges that Whitney’s growing friendship with Lisa clouded her judgment of Whitney: “It felt like such a quick pivot, such a 180, that it made me question everything.”
• Heather says that when Whitney ignored her advice and discussed nasty rumors about Lisa with Lisa herself, it was “a giant step backward” for her friendship with Whitney, her friendship with Lisa and Whitney and Lisa’s friendship with each other. Lisa and Whitney say their friendship is fine. “I love Whitney,” Lisa says. Whitney adds that they are “very close.”
• Lisa says that Jen talked and texted about how she hates Heather. And the producers share some of those texts onscreen. “I was really upset,” Heather says. “But Whitney was talking bad about me, too.” Whitney and Lisa both deny that, but there are clips of Whitney talking about having to take a “friendship break” with Heather, which are quite negative.
• Whitney puts the blame for that on Heather: “How long can I keep myself open to repairing something that you don’t want to repair?”
• There’s a clip from BravoCon in October 2022. Heather says to Whitney, “You decided that you just were going to dump me as a friend. Not tell me.” That’s followed by a clip of Whitney saying, on a podcast, that Heather “needs to go look in the mirror and tell herself her own lies until she realizes she’s lying to herself. And that’s what happens when people don’t live in their own truth. They don’t know what the truth is. So they hide behind a disguise of manipulation and gaslighting.”
It seems unlikely there’s going to be any quick resolution to this.
Has Heather changed?
A viewer wants to know if there’s “something going on in [Heather’s] life off camera that’s making you act differently this year” because “the way you handled a lot of conflicts, especially with Whitney, seemed out of character.”
Heather replies that, in Season 3, the Housewives were dealing with “really heavy, heavy topics” like “childhood trauma, felony charges, prison, adultery,” and that was “uncomfortable for me.” And, at the same time, she was writing her autobiography, “Bad Mormon,” which “made me especially vulnerable. I had to revisit my entire childhood, a lot of really cathartic things in the book that made my emotions come to the surface and made me less stable and less amenable to being a good person.”
As the cast takes a lunch break, Whitney and Lisa backbite against Heather.
“She’s playing the victim card,” Whitney says. “She knows that she [expletived] up. She knows that she looks bad. She knows that she has flip-flopped. She knows that she’s talked [expletive] about Jen. She knows that she doesn’t want to be my friend. So what she’s doing is she’s coming in with her tail between her legs, and acting like everything that we have done is to her so that no one can argue it.”
“This is hard,” Lisa says, “because she’s so subdued. I’m, like, ‘Who is this person?’”
And now, the husbands
John Barlow, Seth Marks and Justin Rose join their wives on the couch.
• Justin, who lost his job as chief sales and marketing officer of LifeVantage, a Utah-based multilevel marketing company that sells dietary supplements, said he’s “doing great.” He clarified that “nothing specific was ever said” by his former bosses about the Season 2 scene in which he and Whitney stripped down, painted each other and rolled around on a canvas as Justin slapped her nearly bare bottom, but he was fired “right after” that episode aired.
• Andy forces Meredith, Seth and viewers to relive Season 3′s tackiest, most crass moment: The couple were in the bathtub together when Seth said, “Please do not put your foot near my taint while you’re talking about our children.”
Meredith clarifies, “My foot was under his butt cheek so I wouldn’t slip. That’s all it was.”
• John says it was “hurtful” when he learned that Meredith was spreading rumors that Lisa had been unfaithful to him. “I just took it for what it was — just a crusade to retaliate towards Lisa.”
• Andy asks Seth and John if they can be friends if their wives are not. “I have a lot of friends that Meredith is not friends with their wife. And so I would say, yeah,” Seth says.
John tells Seth, “The hard part I have is watching you make fun of Lisa. ... Our understanding was to not get involved or talk about our wives. I’ve never said anything derogatory about Meredith. And so that kind of hurt.”
Meredith apologizes, sort of, but insists that she and Seth were just joking. Lisa thanks her, but adds, “What was hard for me, Seth, is you didn’t stop Meredith when she was [talking about] affair rumors and things like that in your kitchen. During that conversation. John would have been, like, ‘You need to stop.’”
• Andy asks Seth and John if they think Meredith and Lisa can be friends again. “Can there be peace in the Middle East?” Seth asks. Andy replies, “Yes.”
“Then yes,” Seth says. And John adds, “I think they can be.”
Justin says he can negotiate peace between Seth and John. And then he adds, “I can bring Meredith and Lisa back together, too.”
Seth says this will be a “new career” for Justin. Miracle worker, apparently.
Heather says her biggest regret of Season 3 “is not going to bed immediately when we came home from the club” during the trip to San Diego. If she had — no black eye.
Whitney says, “I wish I would have waited until I was sober to have the conversation surrounding rumors.” And she takes another shot at Heather: “I was kind of hoping that you would say that one of your regrets is not mending our friendship. I know that I gave it a valiant effort and tried.”
Meredith says her “biggest regret is not being more clear and careful with my words.”
Lisa says she does not “want to call it a regret. But I wish I had more boundaries with Jen.”
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