While Labor Day typically signals the end of summer and the (unofficial) start of fall, Bravo is fast-forwarding viewers straight to winter with the return of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.
“I literally think this is our best season ever,” Lisa Barlow promises ET, speaking just hours before the show’s season 4 premiere. “It’s refreshing. It’s actually really nice.”
Lisa returns for her fourth season alongside fellow original ‘Wives Meredith Marks, Heather Gay and Whitney Rose. Joining the full-time line-up is season 3 “friend of” Angie Katsanevas, who secured her very own snowflake, and newcomer Monica Garcia, while Mary Cosby is back after a season away, but now in a recurring role. Season 4 is the first year without OG Jen Shah, the series’ breakout star, who found herself facing trouble with the federal government in season 2. Season 3 traced her journey to court, and after nearly two years of professing her innocence, Jen pleaded guilty to the charges brought against her, all stemming from an alleged money laundering scheme. She is now serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence in prison.
“I don’t stay in contact with her,” Lisa shares. “From what I understand, I don’t think anyone is in contact with Jen.”
The now-imprisoned star skipped out on the season 3 reunion, leaving many questions lingering about her reality. Even so, Lisa says she feels “closure” with her former castmate, and suggests her absence freed up some of the women to lean into the group a little more.
“I feel like Heather, we get to really experience Heather,” she muses. “I don’t feel like she felt like she had to acquiesce to anybody, or she had to be this super loyal, like, guard dog for Jen. So I feel like it’s an amazing opportunity for Heather to just be free, in my opinion, so I think it was really good for Heather.”
Prior to this season, Lisa admits she and Heather were “in a rut” they couldn’t seem to dig themselves out of, after years of bickering. The bickering remains in season 4, but Lisa says something feels different this time around.
Fred Hayes / Bravo
“The one thing I love about Heather is that she can dish, but she can also take,” she notes. “You’ll see me and Heather on a totally different trajectory than I could have ever fathomed, or probably even Heather could have ever fathomed, but it’s not a bad one. It’s actually a good one, and we find different things going on in each other’s lives that I think we understand more than we’ve ever understood before, and I think that’s there’s a mutual respect there. So there’s actually some growth, which is actually, like, really nice.”
That said, the shadow of Jen still looms a bit over the ladies of SLC, as it’s revealed Monica is Jen’s one-time assistant, who parted ways with the embattled businesswoman after she says she got a tip from a friend in the Secret Service that Jen was headed for time behind bars.
“I didn’t really know Monica,” Lisa confesses. “I had talked to Monica briefly on the phone … but other than that, I didn’t really know Monica, so I came in open-minded and hoping that it was going to be a positive experience and that Jen was not her muse.”
However, Lisa says “Jen was definitely someone that Monica admired and took a lot of notes from,” coming in “super hot this season” with claims of having dirt on the other women that Jen gave her over the years. That includes suggesting Lisa is covering up some to-be-revealed marital troubles with her husband of 20 years, John Barlow.
“I don’t know what she’s referring to, but I’m like, there aren’t any deep, dark secrets,” Lisa hits back. “I think we’ve all like all gone through this already.”
“I thought we talked about this season 1, 2, 3,” she rattles off. “Retread material.”
Fred Hayes / Bravo
Lisa wonders whether Monica is projecting her own home issues onto the women, as she navigates a divorce. “Maybe Monica’s triggered by her circumstances,” she offers. “I don’t think I project a perfect life. I get excited about the good things in my life, but nothing is perfect.”
The season trailer suggests Meredith knows something about Lisa’s husband, as well, but Lisa hints that’s clever editing.
“John is, like, perfect,” she gushes. “There’s nothing on John, but I think that Meredith was going through a super emotional time, and you’ll have to see what she’s referring to, but I can just tell you, John’s, like, a Boy Scout. It’s not about John.”
Lisa and Meredith are in a rebuilding phase, still piecing back together their broken friendship after Lisa’s hot mic moment on season 2, in which she ranted about Meredith being a “garbage whore,” among other insults. She says it’s “not possible” for them to return to the relationship they once had, and she’s made peace with that.
“Meredith and I, at one point, had an amazing friendship,” she notes. “We were super close, our families were super close, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t have anything. I just think, moving forward, it’s a whole new friendship. I think there’s new boundaries, new expectations — or no expectations — but I actually think its good that we’re actually moving forward.”
Meredith doesn’t appear to be moving forward with Whitney, though. The two kick off season 4 at odds over comments Whitney made about Meredith’s love of bathtubs, including how Whitney was “creeped out” by Meredith bathing with her husband, Seth. Meredith took Whitney’s comments as a jab at her cleanliness; Whitney says she was just joking. Either way, Lisa’s not sure they were ever really fighting over bathroom habits.
Meredith Andrews / Bravo
“That feud seems like something that’s been building and, maybe not bacteria, but, like, something that’s building,” she laughs. “Meredith was upset that the ketamine comment was out there.”
The “ketamine comment” came out at the season 3 reunion, with speculation that the night Heather suffered a still-unexplained black eye on the cast trip to San Diego was the result of some of the women mixing the horse tranquilizer with magic mushrooms. The ladies accused of imbibing in the illicit substances denied the accusation.
“I think she felt like it came from Whitney, and that coupled with a snarky comment about bathtubs turned into something funny,” Lisa continues. “I thought it was so funny. I’m like, this is like the funniest argument I’ve ever witnessed.”
As for Lisa’s relationship with Whitney, she shuts down rumors that they had some sort of friendship-ending falling out over the course of filming.
“Whitney and I formed a real friendship,” Lisa says. “You’re going to disagree or agree on some things, but I don’t think there’s anything so big that it can’t be worked out.”
The two famously did not get along in seasons 1 and 2, but found their way to one another in season 3, as Whitney pulled away from Heather, who stood by Jen. It’s a bond that Heather and Meredith both noted as “odd.”
“I think that you’ll see a lot of growth in all of my relationships with the girls,” she teases. “Like, my relationship with each one of them is so different, and I think I’m leaning on different people for different things, and you’ll be able to see that happening and unfolding.”
Meredith Andrews / Bravo
As for the remaining snowflake holder, Angie, Lisa says she “100 percent” earned her opening title status. Her main adversary appears to be a very engaged Meredith.
“From what I understand, Angie made a comment that she would never be friends with Meredith, and Meredith took that super seriously,” Lisa shares. “I think it started when we were in San Diego last year, and it just kept going, and I think Angie made a little comment about ‘Meredith should work in a cubicle,’ and I just don’t think they’ve moved on from that and they’re very, very different people — very, very different friends — and I just don’t think they’re seeing quite eye to eye yet, and maybe not ever.”
Then there’s Mary, who returns to the fold after skipping out on the season 2 reunion, effectively quitting the show amid tensions with Jen and then-castmember Jennie Nguyen.
“Mary missed everybody and missed being a part of the group, and it was nice to see her back,” Lisa says. “Mary is always funny, you don’t know if you’re getting jabs or or if she’s being funny.”
Those jabs include a series of text messages Lisa shares with the audience during the premiere, in which Mary laid into her, calling her a witch and alleging her “nasty tequila” had killed people.
“I’m like, kill people? With my award-winning, beautiful, 100 percent agave tequila? Like, that didn’t happen, but it was just funny,” Lisa quips. “I think she was upset with the way things happened the last time we were all together, and just put every thought that was coming to her mind into writing and, like, it was the funniest thing I’d ever probably read, and I didn’t know what to expect when I was seeing Mary, but she was, like, fine.”
Presley Ann / Bravo
“You’ll have to wait and see if she loves being around us,” she then teases. “It’s, like, an hour-by-hour thing!”
As for Lisa’s personal story this year, much of that centers on her son Jack’s decision to forego college and instead pursue a Mormon mission. It was a choice, Lisa says, Jack kept secret from her and her husband for a year.
“It made me feel so many different emotions,” she reflects. “Like, Jack’s making an amazing decision, it’s a hard one. I mean … we wont get to see him for two years, but it also gives him a chance to serve others and grow as a human being and figure out what’s good for Jack.”
“The fact that you can’t see your child for two years is probably the hardest feeling I’ve ever had in my life, like, since I’ve become a mom,” she continues. “You get to see where Jack gets called, and it’s crazy. It, like, blew our minds.”
Lisa identifying as a “modern Mormon” has always caused a bit of controversy within the circle, as both Heather and Whitney grew up in the Church and view its doctrine differently than the Barlows. That resurfaces when Heather catches wind of Jack’s mission.
“It did catch me off guard, because one thing we’ve never commented on is each other’s kids, or what each other’s kids are doing,” Lisa admits. “But you know, especially with Heather, I understand that Heather’s on a journey to exit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So, for me, it was like, do I share this with Heather? Do I not share this with Heather? Because, I don’t want to be insensitive to her journey or, like, what her life decisions are, but I definitely didn’t expect her to have an opinion on Jack.”
Lisa’s not necessarily looking forward to reliving that part of her journey this year, nor a self-described “meltdown” she had over access to glam on one of their girls’ trips. She is, however, looking forward to the cast’s main trip. It’s the first time the group’s gone out of the country, as they couldn’t vacation abroad due to Jen’s indictment.
Meredith Andrews / Bravo
“Our trip to Bermuda was amazing,” she declares. “I think that was, like, one of the craziest, the best things, about the season. It was so good.”
Fans got a first look at some of that craziness in the just-released cold open for the premiere, which finds Heather hiding from production on a mysterious phone call, telling the person on the other end of the line, “Are you kidding me right now? Shut the f**k up. I’m trembling, like trembling. I cannot believe it’s her. How could she do this to us? I’m freaking the f**k out. I’m freaking the f**k out.”
“What happens while we’re gone, I don’t think anyone could have expected it,” Lisa reveals. “Like, I was physically shaking, Heather was physically shaking. … When you think things are one way, and they’re a completely different way, it threw all of us off.”
“It’s intense, like, very, very intense,” she adds.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake Cityairs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.