The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Has Never Been Better

A lot has transpired in Utah since The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City first hit the slopes in November of 2020. Insults pertaining to who did or did not “smell like hospital” were hurled; marriages to step-grandfathers were dissected; and the series’ central figure, Jen Shah, was arrested by the FBI for allegedly running a national telemarketing scheme that specifically targeted the elderly. On Sunday, our beloved ladies of the Salt Lake returned for their second season, hoping to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump that can befall a Housewife in her sophomore year. Luckily for them, the season kicked off with arguably the most thrilling opening sequence in Housewives history.

We begin in media res, on—where else?—a party bus after a day of hitting the slopes.“You bringing the shot ski?” shouts Heather Gay, last season’s unofficial fan favorite, who is perhaps most poised for a fall from grace this year. The baby-voiced Whitney Rose confirms that yes, she is in fact bringing the shot ski, and the ladies file onto the bus. Shah, sporting culturally questionable box braids, steps onto the bus in thigh high cheetah print boots, blissfully unaware of the call she’s about to receive. And then her phone rings.

The footage is spotty, probably intended for B-roll or background, but it’s enough to capture the moment we’ve heard tell of since March: Jen Shah’s imminent arrest.

“Can we turn this off” Shah says as she (smartly) removes her mic pack. Shah, who made a name for herself in season one for her histrionic outbursts, remains incredibly cool and calm even after, presumably, learning that she is literally wanted by the FBI. It prompts the question of whether Shah’s season 1 outbursts—the glass throwing, the finger pointing— were, dare I say, performative?

But this is not about the past; this is about the present. And in the present, Jen Shah needs to get the hell off that bus. Shah quietly exits the vehicle and rolls away in someone’s grey pickup truck. Not ten, not fifteen, but exactly twelve minutes later, the NYPD arrives, complete with a full-on The Undoing chopper looking for Shah. “What the fuck is going on?” asks Sundance Film Festival Empress and tequila maven Lisa Barlow as the area is flooded with police. Heather, expertly stirring the pot like the reality star she was born to be, asks a prescient question: “What if she’s on the run?” The shot ski remains untouched.

We then cut to footage of even more police rolling up to Shah’s Salt Lake City Shah-let with a search warrant, but Shah is nowhere to be found. As the Shah-less bus pulls away, Detective Lisa Barlow and her middle part ask the question that will guide this entire season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City: How did the police know that Jen was on that bus? Someone must have told them. Somebody betrayed Jen Shah.

Next, the TMZ alert drops: Real Housewives star Jen Shah has been charged in a massive fraud and money laundering scheme. Lil’ Whit has the chills. Detective Barlow repeats the word “no” ad nauseum. A new housewife we haven’t even been introduced to yet looks confused and a little panicked. As the music builds, we cut between Shah walking into the Utah superior courthouse and footage of the ladies throughout the rest of the season, discussing whether Shah really committed the crimes she’s being accused of. “I don’t think she’s who we think she is,” shouts Detective Barlow. “She’s not,” says Meredith Marks, choosing to engage for, perhaps, the first time in her entire life.

Each lady sits in confessional as the producer asks the central question: “Do you know who tipped off the feds that day?” Cut to opening credits. And with that, the season has begun. There’s only one word to describe it: Shah-mazing.

The rest of the episode can’t live up to the absolute magic and madness of its first two minutes—honestly, what could?—but it does set us up for a season that seems poised to deliver on all fronts. Let’s go women-by-women and catch up with how each has been faring since the last season.

Jen: Even without getting arrested by the feds, Jen has been keeping busy in the off-season. She’s moved into a new house—Shahlet 2.0—which isn’t suspicious at all. She and her husband, Coach Shah (bless his heart), have been having marital problems and, according to Jen, almost got divorced. Given Shah’s recent legal issues, one has to wonder if they may have played a part in their marital woes. This season, the producers also give chyrons to members of Jen’s team, allowing us to wonder which one of them was the alleged FBI informant lurking in the shadows of her Shah Squad. The number one suspect right now? Murilo, Jen’s second assistant.

After alienating almost every other housewife last season, Jen’s only ally at this point is Detective Barlow. It’s clear when she talks to Lisa that she’s read the comments taken time to reflect, and is ready to mend fences with the other ladies. While she chats with Lisa, the camera spends a little more time capturing the excesses of Jen’s wealth—the floor-to-window ceilings, the massive chandelier, the exercise room turned thigh-high boots closet— Erika Jayne-style. “When [the movers] showed up, they had never, ever seen so many clothes, shoes, purses in their entire life.” Oh, Jen. You’re in for the ride of your life, and you don’t even know it yet.

Lisa: Detective Lisa Barlow, who earned her spot back on season two with a truly top-notch reunion performance, fancies herself peace maker this season caught in between Jen Shah and her tether Meredith Marks. She’s also been tasked with introducing the new housewife, Jennie Nguyen, because “their sons are best friends,” even though the boys barely look at each other in their obligatory scene together. Sadly for all of us, there’s still no word on when her son’s body wash, Fresh Wolf, will hit the shelves.

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