Raniere, who is currently awaiting sentencing on multiple federal charges, spoke via phone in the HBO docuseries.
Not since The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst has an HBO docuseries ended with such an unexpected twist. During Sunday night’s finale of The Vow, the nine-part documentary about NXIVM, a self-help organization exposed as a pyramid scheme and cult that subjected female recruits to sexual slavery, convicted founder Keith Raniere spoke via phone from Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center.
“There are many ways of presenting a documentary. Your side is only the very top layer. And depending on what you’re willing to present as the truth, it can go very deep. So, talk to me,” Raniere said in the final moments of the episode, marking his first public comments since being found guilty on seven counts, including sex trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy charges in 2019. According to the series, the phone conversation took place in September 2020, a month ahead of his sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 27.
Hearing Raniere’s voice wasn’t the only shocking moment of the finale. Just before getting to his phone call, the episode showed footage of convicted NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, a mysterious figure in the organization who has a history of hypnotherapy and was the face of its wellness programs, seemingly in her home, where she’s shown wearing an ankle monitor and folding up her gold sash.
“Loyalty is good in certain contexts and very bad in other contexts,” her voice is heard saying as the camera pans up, stopping before revealing her face or to show if she was speaking to the cameras. “Talk about getting lost in a movie, we’re kind of lost in the role of our life. What you have to do is stop believing that’s who you are. Then you can change your role.”
The cliffhanger teases a second season of The Vow, which was formally announced by HBO on Friday. The news was expected since the docuseries didn’t show Raniere’s conviction or the fallout after his arrest in Mexico in the final episodes of season 1. And in a recent interview with Variety, directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer said that “we are continuing to film” well into September and it was reported that Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman’s recent sentencing in October was recorded as part of a new season.
According to The Frank Report, which is a site dedicated to taking down NXIVM, former member “Susan Dones was walking towards the Federal Courthouse, being filmed as she walked by a crew from HBO’s The Vow, [presumably for season #2] when she spotted Clare getting out of an SUV. She told the crew to film Clare instead of her. And they did.”
The new season, which will debut in 2021, “will offer an exclusive view into Raniere's innermost circle. It delves into the stories of NXIVM’s top leadership in the U.S. and Mexico, and into powerful, intimate stories of DOS members.” HBO adds that the new episodes will follow the “legal and emotional journeys of the group’s founders, supporters and defectors as new evidence and stunning revelations come to light while federal prosecutors and defense attorneys battle for opposing views of justice in a case caught in the national spotlight.”
Meanwhile, the finale of The Vow also coincided with the premiere of the Starz four-part docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, starring India Oxenberg. After escaping NXIVM in 2018, the 29-year-old survivor and daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg told ET why she was finally ready to tell her story.
“I needed time and I needed space to just take care of myself and process what I had just gone through in the past seven years of my life,” India said, revealing why she did not appear in the HBO series despite it documenting her mother's attempts to get her out of NXIVM. “I didn’t want to with The Vow and I did with Starz, and my mother was fine with that,” she shared, adding that she hasn’t watched any of The Vow. “She just knew how important it was for me to reclaim my voice and to tell my truth.”
The Vow season 1 is now streaming on HBO Max.