Explosive ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ Season 3 Cold Open Shows a Shrieking Jen Shah and Vicious Rifts Among Former Best Friends (EXCLUSIVE)

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, Season 3: Heather Gay, Jen Shah, Meredith Marks, Whitney Rose, Lisa Barlow
Courtesy of Bravo

The cold open of Wednesday’s Season 3 premiere of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” featured at the bottom of this post, harks back to a more innocent time for the Bravo cast members — before it then reveals how their lives and friendships have exploded during the show’s run.

The scene begins in December 2019 with the first confessionals the women filmed for the show’s freshman season, as they introduce themselves, and present their relationships to other cast members. Jen Shah — who in July of this year pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges, and will be sentenced (likely to prison) in November — attempts to explain her job, which she calls “direct response marketing.” As the audience now knows, Shah was in fact — as she’s now admitted — a high-up figure in a telemarketing scheme that defrauded tons of (often elderly) people. She was arrested during the filming of Season 2, practically on camera. And as Shah protested her innocence, the second season made much hay of her legal issues.

Season 3 finds Shah in the dark place that led up to her guilty plea, with her husband Coach Shah saying things like “our time is coming,” and her expressing suicidal thoughts to her mother. Gone is the 2019 Jen Shah, who said: “I make millions. Hey, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do for money. I’m like the Wizard of Oz.”

The unearthed 2019 confessional footage for the “before” part of the cold open also serves to underline the fractures in what was once a tight group, with genuine relationships among the women. Meredith Marks and Lisa Barlow were true pals until Season 2, but their fate was sealed when Barlow — having been pushed to some kind of brink — delivered an angry, obscene rant about Marks behind a closed door when she still had her microphone on.

In the present day of the show, it appears that Marks hasn’t been able to move past being called a “whore” and a “fucking piece of shit,” among other invectives delivered in that hot-mic moment. (For Barlow’s full monologue, please see this mug on Etsy.) “I was talking to myself — I was ranting, like normal people do!” Barlow will yell at some point in this upcoming season. Back in 2019, Marks said, “Lisa and I met the first Sundance that I lived in Utah. I know that she has my back. I know she wants what’s best for me. I know there’s no ulterior motive there” — but that was then, and this is now.

Sadder still is whatever has happened between Heather Gay and Whitney Rose, who were not only close friends, but are cousins. “Show up for your people,” Gay says to Rose over a dinner table, as Rose shoots her a glare in return that’s the real-life equivalent of the skull emoji.

The cast of the third season of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” will be slightly different, since Mary Cosby quit/was fired for not showing up to the Season 2 reunion in January. Meaning, there will no longer be extended scenes of Cosby — the leader of the Faith Temple Pentecostal Church, who was accused of having cult-leader-like control over her congregation — wandering around her closet. Nor is Jennie Nguyen on the show any longer: Early in filming the third season, she was fired for having posted racist memes on social media.

Yet the core cast of Barlow, Gay, Marks, Rose and Shah remain, along with three “friends” to accompany them: Danna Bui-Negrete, Angie Katsanevas and Angie Harrington (whom we saw a bit of in Season 2, stirring the pot with Barlow).

Whatever is happening in the third season of the Bravo series, we know one thing for sure: Marks patting Shah while both women are seemingly in lingerie (with Marks also donning an “I Love New York” baseball hat) as Shah screams, “Everything’s been taken away from me! Everything!” is going to be memed to death.