It was the hot mic moment heard 'round the world.
In a scene that will go down in Housewives history, Salt Lake City star Lisa Barlow snuck away to a private room and launched into a tirade against her longtime best friend, Meredith Marks. “That f**king piece of garbage whore!” she said, clearly unaware that her microphone was still on. “I f**king hate her. She’s a whore. She’s f**ked half of New York!”
Though it was discussed at length during the RHOSLC Season 2 reunion, those six words — “She’s f**cked half of New York” — continue to echo through Season 3. Production began just a few weeks after the reunion taped, and the wounds are still fresh for all involved. Meredith quickly reveals that she’s yet to hear from Lisa, who had clearly hoped her profuse apologies under Andy Cohen’s watchful gaze would be enough to mend their fractured relationship. But in what’s become a reliable Housewives plotline, Meredith interprets Lisa’s silence as a snub, and she turns to an unlikely ally for support: Jen Shah.
Until Lisa’s “blind rage” diatribe, it was Meredith’s conflict with Jen, a feud that included everything from insensitive Instagram comments to allegations that Meredith was involved in Jen’s arrest, that formed the backbone of Season 2. Their renewed friendship is the first indication that the group’s social order has been flipped on its head.
As Meredith leans on Jen, Lisa strikes up a shocking alliance of her own. After two seasons of tension between Lisa and “good time girl” Heather Gay, the Vida Tequila owner comes crawling to Heather for advice about how to navigate the shifting landscape and get back into Meredith’s good graces. For the most part, Heather has managed to remain friendly with everyone (save for Lisa, of course) because she (a) uses her sense of humor to diffuse drama and (b) keeps her nose out of other people’s business. These aren’t things that come naturally to Lisa, but she seems willing to try out Heather’s tactics... until she’s confronted with the harm her words caused and reverts to her old, victim-playing ways.
The Meredith-Lisa standoff seems poised to dominate the first half of the season, but there’s an even bigger battle ahead for Jen, whose federal fraud trial looms. The premiere sees Jen settle into her new, smaller home (her family downsized to save money for her legal defense), and she’s mostly upbeat about her situation, save for a few comments about how she wishes she could throw Sharrieff’s birthday party herself, instead of relying on new friend-of-the-group Angie Katsanevas. But Bravo can’t avoid the elephant in the room: in July, Jen pleaded guilty to fraud charges in connection with an alleged telemarketing scam. She now faces up to 14 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines and restitution. The trailer suggests Jen’s guilty plea will be included, but after last season’s near-arrest in the Beauty Lab parking lot, the bar is quite high for on-screen legal drama.
As for Whitney Rose, the premiere finds her in a new phase of her spiritual journey. Whitney’s Season 3 storylines, which include her cutting ties with the Mormon Church and reflecting on her abusive upbringing, continue to feel siloed from the rest of the group, but a super-tease indicates she’ll soon be drawn into the fray. As the social dynamic continues to evolve, cracks emerge in the foundation of her friendship with Heather, her cousin-many-times-removed. Whitney and Heather are RHOSLC’s most reliable source of comic relief, so a potential rift has disastrous implications for the meme-ability of each episode. If they do come to blows, then we’ll have to rely on Meredith for levity, and while she seems to be getting the last laugh with an endless assortment of “I Heart NY” apparel, she may be too busy engaging in psychological warfare to play class clown.
And then there’s Mary Cosby. After declining to attend the reunion, Mary was swiftly booted from the show (though allegations that her church is a cult certainly didn’t help her case). Season 2 cast member Jennie Nguyen was also fired after offensive Facebook posts about George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement surfaced online. There’s no mention of Mary or Jennie in the premiere, a decision that’s probably best for Bravo, the cast, and viewers alike. Replacing them are three new friends of the group: Jen’s friend Angie K.; Angie Harrington, who found herself in the middle of Whitney and Lisa’s beef last season; and Danna Bui-Negrete, a local real estate agent who goes way back with Heather.
Whether any of these women can generate enough drama to earn a promotion remains to be seen, but with just five Housewives to contend with, there’s plenty of opportunity to make a lasting impression. Still, it’s worth taking a lesson from Mary, who sealed her fate with a comment about Jen’s “hospital smell:” this group is a minefield, and a single misstep can instantly cause trouble. Tread lightly, ladies — especially when you’ve got that mic pack on.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 3 premieres Wednesday, September 28 at 9:00 PM ET on Bravo.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.