Even from behind prison walls, former Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah is making waves. This week, she responded to the season finale, calling Andy Cohen out after Heather Gay finally revealed that it was in fact Jen that gave her that notorious – and mysterious – black eye last season.
I can’t say there’s a huge surprise factor that Jen was revealed to be the culprit. I mean, of all the people it could have been, are we surprised that it happens to be the woman who has repeatedly had violent fits of rage on national television? The seemingly ethically-deprived woman who has been convicted for orchestrating a fraud scheme that scammed innocent victims out of millions? Any element of surprise had more to do with the fact that Heather actually revealed who it was after so long, which likely had to do with how betrayed she felt for remaining by Jen’s side under the presumption she was innocent when it was later revealed that she wasn’t.
After Heather made the revelation, Jen’s response appeared in an Instagram story on her account, which read:
“BRAVO, if I punched Heather in her eye, you guys would have footage to prove it. It’s clear the show can’t live without me since I was brought up at the beginning, middle and end of season 4. Andy is still butt hurt that I turned down his 1:1 interview. Why would you sit down with someone who 'gave' another cast member a black eye? Next story.”
Andy responded to this on a recent episode of Radio Andy, admitting that while he was pursuing a one-on-one with her, but denies being “butt hurt” over her refusal, before saying:
“Her stipulations were insane. She wanted, in exchange for this, I'm trying to remember the specifics. I know she wanted us to do a docuseries of her days leading up to jail. She wanted a lot of money and she was still professing her innocence, so it would've been another interview of her sitting across from me lying to my face, which we got at two reunions from her, so that's that. That's my response to that.”
Jen asks a fair question about why he would want to sit down with someone who physically assaulted another castmate, but the answer is obvious: ratings. It makes sense that fans would be interested in hearing what she had to say. We haven’t seen this much criminal drama on Real Housewives since Theresa Giudice was sentenced back in 2014. Also, this storyline has dominated the show since the moment Homeland Security surrounded the women’s sprinter van a few seasons ago demanding to know where Jen was, long before Messy Monica Garcia came into the fold – and has somehow impressively managed to maintain the same level of drama on the show despite Jen’s absence.
In addition to that, one-on-one requests when there’s this much drama are not uncommon. He summoned Robyn Dixon for a one-on-one when Juan’s cheating fiasco was brought to light, and even scolded her for withholding the information from producers, offering it up on her Patreon, where she would be paid for the information instead, despite her contract for this kind of material with the show. He also had one-on-ones with Tom Sandoval, Ariana Madix and Raquel Leviss a few months after Scandoval broke. He knows a good ratings opportunity when he sees one.
Andy also responded to Jen’s claim that Bravo would have the footage, saying:
“I don't want to be captain obvious here, but if we had footage, don't you think we would've aired it? Do you think we wouldn't have said, ‘Heather.’ Heather's saying, ‘I don't know how I got the black eye,’ and then don't you think we would've cut to the footage with a chyron that said, ‘Four hours earlier.’ Pop.”
As much as I haven’t been in agreement with Andy as of late, he’s absolutely right. If there’s one thing that franchise knows how to do it’s use whatever footage they have to make the housewives look…well, you know, not the best. Like Lisa Barlow’s infamous hot mic rampage where she accused Meredith of sleeping with “half of New York” despite her desperate plea to producers for them to not air it. The legally binding documents these housewives sign off on give Bravo the power to air whatever footage they acquire – and they do.
Given Andy and Jen’s ongoing tiff, the question now is whether she’ll be making her triumphant return to the franchise when her sentence is over? Or whether his personal relationship with her is so tarnished that he will refuse to give her the opportunity to be on the show again.
We saw this with Theresa’s long-awaited return to Real Housewives of New Jersey after her prison sentence, and getting her back on the show really paid off. Fans were fascinated to see how much prison had changed her. And it was especially interesting to watch the changing dynamic with her and her husband, Joe, who also served a prison sentence. Her personal storyline of blaming Joe for the time she lost with her mother before her death offered such a humanistic element to the show that went far beyond the typical drunken arguments.
Whatever direction he goes in is going to be an indication of his tolerance, or lack thereof, which is something that I recently questioned when Tamra Judge verbally assaulted him on the reunion of Real Housewives of Orange County. He seems to be able to put up with a lack of workplace boundaries and respect when it’s coming from a housewife who he has a close personal relationship with – so it’ll be interesting to see what he’ll choose to do with Jen, because though their personal relationship is at an all-time low, he’s aware that the show would greatly benefit from the ratings her return would bring.
But perhaps that’s where Messy Monica Garcia comes in. Since her arrival on the show, there have been tons of headlines essentially claiming that Jen Shah is unnecessary now, because there are other women who can bring the drama. We also saw this with Vanderpump Rules, where after the departure of cast mates like Jax Taylor, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, people were doubtful it would ever be as action-packed. But then Scandoval happened.
All of this gives Andy even more power to orchestrate Jen’s future, whether it’s on or off the show. If he brings her back, he knows he’ll get good ratings. But if he decides to explore other opportunities, that could also work in his favour. Perhaps this is the problem when there is one sole person at the helm of most of the decision-making, because it’s not nearly as impartial as it should be. But impartial or not, it sure keeps viewers coming back for more.
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