Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City Recap: Under The Mormon Thumb

Welcome back to the inaugural Park City Fashion Week — bringing high fashion for the very first time to Utah! After seeing the set-up in last week’s episode, I’m starting to wonder if this fashion show was specifically put on for The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. I mean, Whitney Rose is walking in the show. Meredith Marks is showcasing her jewelry line. And the runway is so short that the front row is essentially just Heather Gay, Jen Shah, Mary Cosby and a few other people. Not to mention the entire thing seems to culminate in Brooks Marks debuting his eponymous “fashion line” of name-branded athleisure wear. (And after seeing the show, I’m using that term loosely.)

The best part of the fashion show is that many elements are giving me vintage RHONY vibes. Watching Jen‘s icy stare as Mary tries to small talk her way through being seated directly next to her nemesis is the purest recreation of Bethenny Frankel and Kelly Bensimon doing the exact same thing more than a decade ago at New York Fashion Week. (And if you don’t know who’s who in this comparison, go back and watch Season 3 in the Big Apple STAT.)

I was also LIVING for Jen‘s effortless shade at seeing Brooks‘ collection walk down the runway. ” She’s not wrong folks. All I have to say is a bunch of black tracksuits with your name taped on them is not a collection make. Maybe Brooks should pull a Lauren Conrad and go to actual fashion school. Though I’m considerably more interested in finding out the identity of the long-haired blonde model who walked behind him than in how he came up with those tracksuits.

 

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Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Meredith Marks Brooks Marks

After the show, Meredith and Brooks find a random hallway to FaceTime Seth Marks from. Because while I’m dubious about the veracity of Brooks’ fashion sense, his dad really should’ve been there to support him on his big day. But instead of, you know, asking how it went, Seth makes jokey digs at how strange his wife and son look in their hair and makeup.

And when Brooks bluntly expresses how hurt he is, Seth pretends the connection is bad. He literally asks his son to send a handwritten note instead of responding with empathy or an apology. Yikes. Meredith laments how the separation is impacting her kids. But there’s no way around it, Seth should’ve been there. Separation or not. And that’s ultimately on Seth.

A few days later, Whitney and Heather meet up at Beauty Lab + Laser for some cousin bonding time and light skin treatments. The conversation turns to Heather’s status in the Mormon Church and how they both feel like outsiders within Utah culture. Whitney describes it as “living under the thumb of Mormonism.”

 

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As a former Mormon myself, that’s as apt an expression as I’ve ever heard. As Heather explains, there’s very little middle ground within the culture of the Church. It’s incredibly high demand — you’re either all the way in or you’re out. And when you’re out, you’re constantly judged and made to feel less than and not good enough.

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Jen Shah

Over at the Shah ski chalet, Jen gets vulnerable about another stigma: mental illness and medication. Via confessional, the Polynesian ‘Wife opens up about her struggles with anxiety and depression. She admits to lashing out at people as a result, and says it affected her marriage so badly she thought Sharrieff Shah would leave her. However, Coach Shah’s solution was to “pray it away and get your head right.”

 

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But as anyone who’s ever struggled with any kind of mental illness knows, it’s not that simple. (It’s also a largely unspoken problem in Utah, which in various years has regularly led the nation in antidepressant use. In a 2017 study, it also held the distinction as the state with the highest rate of depression per 100,000 residents in the country.) So I say bravo to Jen for being open and honest, and using her platform to break down part of the stigma in Utah.

Done with Sundance, Lisa Barlow is busy helping her kids set goals for family night. Just like their mom, the boys’ goals are sky-high. (Think “meeting Post Malone” for just one example.) But after they go to bed, John Barlow brings up the idea of slowing down and not working quite so much. This is exactly the opposite of what the Queen of Sundance wants to hear. In fact, her goal is to turn Vida Tequila into a billion-dollar within the next five years. (Which, given the history of certain other Housewives, could be a real possibility if she continues to leverage the platform wisely.) So the last thing Lisa wants to be told is when to say no.

 

RELATED: Katie Maloney Says Lisa Barlow Is Not “The Sundance Queen” Despite Her Claims On Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City 

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Jen Shah Meredith Marks

Meanwhile, Meredith, Jen and Heather meet up for dinner at downtown hotspot Cucina Toscana. Over meatballs and cocktails, the girl talk turns to Meredith’s separation. The other ‘Wives want the tea, but Meredith is reticent to spill. The way she sees it, the fewer details she shares, the less her friends have to gossip about. Which would maybe make sense in the real world, but not on a reality show. Dear Mer, your castmates are going to find ways to talk about you no matter how much you share or keep to yourself. In fact, this very approach comes back to bite her by episode’s end but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Meredith intimates that the biggest issue in her marriage is how she and Seth communicate with each other. But Jen’s not buying the story, and hints that behind the scenes, Meredith has told her more.

The most moving scene of the week goes to Heather. Spurred by her earlier conversation with Whitney, the single mom sits her three daughters down for an important heart-to-heart. Tearfully, she comes clean to them about the pressure — and shame — she has felt since her divorce. And also about the ways she really wants to live her life — like drinking and dating non-Mormons. In any other place, these kinds of decisions would be personal and fairly trivial. But in Utah, everything you do is viewed through the lens of Mormonism and judged as falling away from the straight and narrow path of perfection.

 

RELATED: Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City Star Whitney Rose Says She Wasn’t Technically Excommunicated From The Mormon Church

 

Like I texted a friend as I watched the scene, it’s something anyone who didn’t grow up in the Church can’t possibly understand. But for those of us watching who did, the conversation cuts to the core. And on a side note, I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever known of a first-season Housewife who has been as universally beloved right off the bat as Heather. Isn’t she just incredible? This conversation with her girls was so brave, so important and so vulnerable. I just adore her.

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Whitney Rose

Now for the big drama of the week. Whitney invites Jen over for a lesson on the stripper pole. And after messing around for a bit, Whitney asks what’s going on with Meredith and Seth. Inexplicably, Jen throws out the idea that if Mer isn’t getting it from home, she’s probably getting it from somewhere else. Whitney’s visibly taken aback by this bold assertion, and asks Jen point blank if she knows something about the Marks’ marriage. Is she intimating that Meredith is having an affair?

 

RELATED: Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City Star Meredith Marks Admits That She & Her Husband Have Dated Other People For Years; Says “Our Own Children Didn’t Know We Were Separated”

 

Then, in her confessional, Jen doubles down on the accusation. She claims she was recently in New York with Meredith (off-camera, conveniently). During one night of the trip, she met a man who seems to be very important in Meredith’s life. The kind of man who was saying he would marry her one day and helped her up to her room at the end of the night. Basically, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…Yes, Jen’s saying exactly what it sounds like she’s saying. Oh boy, this isn’t going to go over well with Meredith, is it?

TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF BROOKS’ FASHION LINE? HOW INCREDIBLE WAS HEATHER’S TALK WITH HER KIDS? DO YOU THINK JEN IS TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT MEREDITH HAVING AN AFFAIR?

[Photo Credit: Bravo]