"So after the reunion, I was super duper in my feelings," MJ recalls to ET. "I woke up really early in the morning the day that I called him and he answered, and it was, like, an inappropriate time to call somebody that you haven't talked to in such a long time."
"I knew he would be awake," she adds, "and we both were just like, we're just going to meet up in a park, and all these amazing feelings [came up] about my friend and I'm really, really, really excited."
"I definitely wouldn't want to end [the show] on a low note like last year, because I think that we're continuing to bring so much," MJ says, "and I would never want to stop sharing my story with people, because there's so many important messages, especially with motherhood, and marriage, and life, and all the ups and downs."
That off-camera chat made the season 9 premiere feel a little confusing, though, seeing as the duo's biggest step toward reconciliation happened without the audience present. MJ admits she wasn't even thinking about Shahs when she called up Reza. "There was nothing that would've kept me from reaching out to him that day," she says. "And, yeah, I don't know whether cameras are good, bad or relevant to those things. You know what I mean?"
"Because there was a pandemic, and there was silence, and there was restraining orders, and there was court cases… and there was all these times where I was like, what would have been different if I would have reached out to him, even though there was all that stuff?" MJ ponders. "And life is so, so incredibly precious that it's really worth it to rip off a Band-aid. If I'm afraid -- which of course I am, I'm nervous to reconnect. I've got conflicting feelings -- but ... when I did, it felt so important and so good."
There's still much work to be done (or, at least, seen on TV if already completed) for MJ and Reza to get back to the place they once were (something MJ's adamant will happen). Reza and his husband, Adam Neeley, took out that restraining order against Tommy amid Reza and MJ’s feud. The couple made the choice after Tommy destroyed some of their property, smashing planters in their yard ("I broke a plant. I wanted to break his legs," Tommy explained) in retaliation for Reza exposing MJ’s personal medical history, including undergoing an emergency hysterectomy due to birth complications. Whether Reza and Adam finally dropped the order remains to be seen, with MJ teasing that fans will find everything out as season 9 continues to air.
"I think that Tommy... so Tommy watched Reza on Watch What Happens Live," MJ reveals, "and for him to enjoy watching Reza on Watch What Happens Live, and liking what Reza said to Andy [Cohen] showed me -- in volumes ... that he's receiving. Since they're not communicating and they're not seeing each other, obviously, he is still getting a taste of where Reza's head is at. And I think Tommy appreciates that there's now peace, because they were both in such an unhappy place, all of us, in an unhappy, dark place before. So now it's like turning the page, you know?"
As far as viewers know, Tommy has stayed committed to his ask that MJ not let Reza meet their son. The season 9 trailer teases a tearful Reza asking if he can ever meet Shams, but when pressed on whether that moment has happened yet, MJ says she can’t spoil it.
"I just think that every day, it's better than the day before," she offers of her relationship with Reza, noting she had just gotten home from his house before her video call with ET. "Even when you watch, you're going to see, one step forward, one step back."
"It tugs at my heart," she says of the journey viewers will soon see. "It nudges at my ego. It's like, ‘What have you been doing for all the last time that we've had by staying apart?’ It sucks. It's not fun. So much better [together]. And it is really worth it. It's worth the work."
MJ says becoming a mom changed her entire outlook on life, making her take stock of the people in it and how she treats them.
"It's really because I didn't have the most nurturing mom growing up," she shares, referencing her tough-as-nails mother, Vida, who has admittedly softened since becoming a grandmother to Shams.
"I feel like I missed out on learning how to be affectionate, and particularly nurturing and affectionate and taking care of another person," MJ says, adding that she’s especially focused on her female friendships. Reza previously criticized MJ for how she treated previous Shahs cast members, including Lilly Ghalichi, Asa Soltan Rahmati and Asifa Mirza, who all exited the series after butting heads with MJ, who is quick to note that Reza "is just as equally at fault about that aspect of us having a hard time keeping our relationships clean because we're both messy."
"Becoming a mother has taught me that the same compassion and nurturing characters that you give to your child, you can give to your friends," she muses. "And I want to learn from motherhood and adopt that in my friendships."
"Hopefully you shed some of your ego as you grow up and hopefully you start to learn from those mistakes," MJ says. "Until you talk and see each other face to face, you just harbor all this unnecessary resentment."
MJ notes that motherhood has also changed her relationship with Tommy, for the better.
"We love each other more because of what we created," she gushes. "And he's the light of our life every moment of the day. So you look at your partner and you say, without words, a million times a day, 'Look what we made. Look what we did. We did that.'"
"Now that our priority has shifted from when we met, it was so romantic and sexy, and now it's not," she adds, "and it's completely this beautiful thing called parenthood that neither of us knew we were going to have the privilege to experience."
That pivot from sexy to more wholesome recently got a shock, when MJ admitted on an episode of Shahs of Sunset that her sexual fantasy is a "gang bang." Tommy had no idea she’d made such a personal confession on camera.
"He was so pissed," MJ confesses. "The episode hadn't even aired yet [on the West Coast], and people on the other timeline were tweeting and DM-ing him and Instagram comments. He's looking into his phone typing furiously, and I'm completely oblivious. And he goes, 'Oh, that's good. Your fantasy's a gang bang?' And I go, 'How do you know?' I was like, 'How did you know that?' And he was like, 'It's on Instagram!' And I was like, 'Yeah. I mean, what? What? What?' Yes, that is why it's called a fantasy. It's not ever going to happen, and we're allowed to think about whatever we want."
"Tommy was very displeased and extremely shows how old-school he is," she says. "And there's not a lot he can do about it. And I definitely don't want to hear what his fantasies are, although his will be, like, really boring."
"Once I decide that we can handle another baby, I'm going to find a person that I'm going to force to hold the embryo," she says. "So if it's somebody that I know personally that's willing to carry it -- because I have a lot of younger cousins -- then I'm just going to make them be my surrogate. And then, until that time, we have our hands full with a 2-year-old."
That 2-year-old has also made MJ dive deeper into her Persian heritage. The 48-year-old recently updated all of her social media to reflect her given name, Mercedeh, and not the anglicized Mercedes (though she’s comfortable going by both).
"You've been [saying] it wrong this whole time," she jokes. "The reason I want to lean [into] my natural given name, Mercedeh, is because of the identity crisis that I grew up having with culture, because it's really hard to stop and explain Mercedeh, and so, it turns into Mercedes and then MJ, because of business. And then, here we are."
"And now that I have a son, I wanted to preserve culture," MJ adds. "He's been given a Persian name, and I want to, like... I'm suddenly inspired to make sure that I'm keeping my Iranian culture more pure and intact, because now he's half-Persian and … I feel like when you have a child, and you start thinking about somebody else instead of yourself, you think about the meaning behind everything. Like, it's more important to me now to stick to what was given to me than to modify it, to adhere to what's easier for other people."
Being true to oneself is a bit of a theme on this season of Shahs. Case in point, Mike Shouhed's latest cheating scandal. Mike owned up to (virtually) cheating on his girlfriend, Paulina Ben-Cohen, after denying that some steamy texts she found on his phone were from him. MJ called it growth, as Mike came clean so quickly, compared to the last time, when he denied cheating on his then-wife, Jessica Parido, for more than a year before copping to his infidelity.
"Mike stood up, took the bull by the horns with his woman standing right next to him as soon as the stuff got out, and wanted to say it was wrong," MJ notes, "and in the past, he denied it for four years."
MJ says seeing Paulina stand by Mike through this latest rough patch makes her believe that the couple is in it for the long run, even if she and Tommy keep referring to Paulina as Jessica. In the season 9 premiere, Tommy actually called Paulina "Jessica" to her face.
"I honestly think we were so tipsy from the champagne and the [tequila] that nobody noticed," MJ says of the moment. "I mean, until we saw the [episode] and we were cracking up because it was such an honest mistake. And what's funniest to me of all is that Tommy's never met Jessica! He's never met Jessica. And the fact that he's still saying Mike and Jessica means that it's ingrained in all of us."
"Paulina probably had so much else going on that moment in her body that she didn't hear," she adds. "She was having an out-of-body experience.”
In the same speech where he admitted to cheating, Mike alleged that there was a "snake" in the friend group, heavily hinting that the snake was two-headed, aka GG and Reza.
"I don't believe that anyone on my show is being a snake," MJ offers in response. "It's not what you expect. It's so layered. There's so much more to that that’s going to unfold in the next episode. And it's wild. There's so much. There's so many different turns and facts and people who own their part in things. And so it's crazy."
"Wait until you see the Thanksgiving episodes," she teases. "Holy ish. Oh my god. I finally snap out and I think I… there's some stuff that comes up that is going to be really hard. And then I lean into a bottle of champagne -- spoiler alert! No, I'm kidding. I don't know what happens, but it happens and it's really fun and I'm going to be laughing at myself."