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Reunited and it feels so... well, it's unclear. After nearly two years of low blows, personal attacks and a virtual reunion that seemed to cement the fate of their friendship for good, Shahs of Sunset stars Reza Farahan and Mercedes "MJ" Javid found their way back to each other. When season 8 finished airing last July, tensions between the one-time besties was at an all-time high, as they relived their falling out from months prior, rehashing the devastating things they said and did to one another -- especially Reza, who outed MJ's personal medical history to millions of viewers.
"Obviously, [I have] nothing but regret," Reza tells ET of the comments he made, including claims that MJ underwent multiple abortions in the years leading up to her finally becoming a mother to her son, Shams, in 2019. He also exposed text messages between himself and MJ's husband, Tommy Feight, in which Tommy confided in Reza the difficulties of Shams' birth, which resulted in MJ undergoing a hysterectomy. All this, and Reza's unapologetic approach at the time, led MJ to declare their their friendship of 30 years was over for good at the emotional reunion.
"I don't know if God was -- or whatever higher power you believe in -- was looking down thinking, 'OK, I need to change the way the world works right now so Reza and MJ can find a way back to one another to make sense out of it,' because the pandemic changed everything for me, really," Reza admits. "And I'm so grateful because I was able to see her value and not see what had happened and really, for me, forgive and want better."
Reza says MJ made the first move to move things forward, inviting him over to her house for a one-on-one, camera-free chat after they taped the reunion.
"We sat in the grass in her neighborhood and we just reconnected," he recalls. "There was so much pain from the things that I did ... and I wanted to clean up as much of it as I could. And the pandemic allowed me the silence to get to a place where I could just talk about me and not really point fingers about the things that I felt provoked me or whatever that was focused on me."
In the moment, Reza says he was just reacting and not thinking about why he was reacting.
"I never blamed anything on cameras," he notes, "but when we are in the mode where there is a camera in our vicinity, let's just say, there's another layer of pressure, right? And it's not anything that you're aware of. It's just something you feel. And I don't want to blame anyone other than myself. The pandemic allowed me the silence to be able to look at my life."
Reza says after that meeting in MJ's yard, the pair started taking baby steps to get back to a place of respect. The 47-year-old says he took much of the last year at home for self-reflection, thanks in part to a book deal he landed to write a memoir.
"I'm writing a book, it's called Memoirs of a Gay Shah," he shares. "So here I am, writing down all this stuff about my life. And I'm finding that MJ was a part of so much of it. And to be able to honor the good things, you have to somehow reconcile the devastation."
"When I wrote down all the things that MJ was a part of in my life, I realized the tapestry was really big and vivid and beautiful," he continues, "and, yeah, there were a few things on it, but you don't throw this mother-f**king antique-a**, 30-year-old tapestry out because this one corner survived a fire. You f**king fold the b***h over and do a little hem and you call it, like, oblong. Whatever. You work it out."
Reza admits "writing down the good, the bad and the ugly" of his life really put things in perspective for him, almost like a call to action to stop playing games with those who matter in his life.
Reza and MJ's issues began, in a way, when he did not visit her in the hospital when she gave birth to Shams. It's complicated by the fact that, at the time, MJ was seemingly toying with the idea of walking away from Shahs, and wasn't actively filming with the rest of the group. With production underway, Reza's focus was on the show and not his friend, priorities he says he's since reversed. On top of that, Reza was under the impression at the time that MJ was behind an on-camera plot to tear down Reza's marriage, with her acquaintance, Ali Ashouri, claiming that Reza's husband, Adam Neely, was cyber-cheating on him. Then, when MJ made her surprise appearance at that fateful pool party, Reza went ballistic, with cameras following him as he grabbed production paperwork out of a van and scattered it on the street upon his exit, moments after making his claims about MJ's medical history.
"It wasn't just one apology, because it's a lot of pain," Reza says of the work he and MJ have put into each other in the year plus since their altercation. "It was [a lot of] apologizing over time, letting time pass ... and it was a lot of establishing boundaries and more trust and more goodwill."
"It's been slow," he says. "It's not anywhere like it was before, and it's not perfect. I'm not sitting here trying to tell you that, oh, MJ and I are, like, going to The Abbey, doing Sunday fun day. But I have to tell you, from where we were to where we are now, oh my god, I have so much gratitude."
While Reza and MJ's initial makeup happened away from reality TV cameras, he promises much will still play out as season 9 airs. The duo made it a priority to set the tone for the season, he says, aiming to bring everyone in their fractured friend group back together, or at the very least, closer together. In the premiere, MJ and Reza meet up to discuss the best path forward for everyone.
"We are a family," Reza says of his castmates. "We might have issues from time to time, but look at where [Golnesa "GG" Gharachedaghi] and I were to where we are now, you know? And if you've watched the first episode, it's like, who would have thunk it, right?"
There are some relationships that remain a question mark headed into season 9, though, namely MJ and Reza's spouses. Both Tommy, MJ's husband, and Adam, Reza's husband, have strong feelings about the dynamic between their mates. When Tommy retaliated against Reza's pool party comments by destroying Reza and Adam's yard, the couple got a restraining order against Tommy. At season 8's end, Adam was adamant that he wanted that order in place for the indefinite future.
"I don't want to give the season away, [but] you're going to see a lot of talk about it, unfortunately," Reza teases. "Your boy has bad, bad habits and forgets that his friend of 30 years is not the person you talk to first now. You go to your husband, right? And I opened a whole Pandora's box again. And, yes, the whole thing happens. And the one thing I can say is I'm about being accountable. Like, meet me where I'm at today. Whatever apologies do you need from me, whatever I need to clear up, whatever I need to explain to you, so you can see where I was at, why I was hurt and confused and why I wasn't able to get out of my own way. If we can talk from there, I can give you whatever you need, but I need that person to also be there for me."
Reza says the silver lining of his break from MJ was that he confided in Adam much more than before, but once MJ reentered their lives, Reza says Adam grew concerned about his place in his husband's life.
"Our relationship just got bigger, it became bigger and he loved it," Reza reflects. "He really was loving where our new relationship was and how much communication we were having, because he became that person. Instead of calling MJ at 7:00 in the morning, I was like, 'Hey...' and telling Adam everything and bouncing it off of Adam instead of MJ. And so for him, it created a lot of turmoil. The more MJ and I made progress, it seemed like it almost... the same thing that was happening in her house was happening in my house. My husband just doesn't say those kinds of things."
Reza is referencing Tommy's colorful vocabulary when it comes to him. In previews for the season, Tommy has called Reza a "low-life animal" and a "malignant tumor of a human."
"When I hear it, it makes me think he's still angry," Reza says in response to Tommy's digs. "That means there's pain still, and he has different priorities. He has a child, right? I don't have that. He has a priority of a beautiful son, and I have the luxury of time to focus on writing a book ... doing multiple Zoom therapy sessions per week, if I wanted to, and I have that luxury. So I don't want to say that, 'Oh, he should be where I'm at.' No, I can't assume to know what is going on in his world. I bless their home. And I hope that the temperature today or tomorrow is cooler than what we saw on the show. I really hope. It seemed a little too warm for my taste, but I prayed that time has brought it down since then."
"I have to be smart enough to hope, because you and I both are smart enough to know what you and I have seen in episode one was shot a minute ago," Reza notes. "I'm not going to give away the exact date, but it wasn't today or yesterday."
The restraining order and Tommy's still-heated feelings toward Reza and Adam kept the couple from meeting Shams, leading to an emotional moment teased in the trailer where Reza confesses to feeling hurt that everyone else on the show has met his lifelong best friend's baby except for him.
"I don't want to give the delicious scoops that you guys are going to get to see during the season away, but I have to tell you, he's fantastically gorgeous," Reza gushes. "He looks like a ray of sunshine. ... He's so delicious. He looks like a mini MJ."
"It is a breath of fresh air," Reza says of GG, the mom. "To see Golnesa go from [throwing] knives to baby Elijah, and have growth? To get to enjoy watching her through the stages of motherhood? It's beautiful. It's also, at times, very sad for me, because I get to do those things with Golnesa, but I don't get to do them with MJ. And so, it's bittersweet. But as far as Golnesa and where she's at, I would be horrified if she were talking about knives right now, after all this time and the same stuff as back then, like, come on now."
Reza says GG and Destiney Rose really stepped up and stepped into the place that MJ used to occupy, and also integral in Reza and MJ's re-bonding. As teased in the trailer, GG encourages MJ to reach out to Reza in a mysterious time of need.
"There were a lot of things that were going on for some of my friends that were triggering very deep, past trauma for me," Reza explains, "and so, Golnesa is very close with me now. She has really, between Golnesa and Destiney, I get the best of... I don't want to say any human being will ever, or can, take MJ's place, but to have two sisters, friends, like the two of them, step up and be there for me that way, [GG] just was really, she knew that I needed a little MJ loving, and she was being a very considerate friend."
Seeing two of his close friends become moms also put Reza's thoughts about parenthood into perspective. Reza says he and Adam are now longer considering having children of their own.
"Watching my friends and family with kids at home, and Zoom school, and hair loss and weight gain, and crow's feet and teeth grinding and nail biting, and just how much it affected my friends and family? I have to tell you, you just asking the question, made my stomach feel like I had a visceral reaction to it," he confesses. "So with all due respect, I want to be the best uncle, guncle, munty/auntie, whatever [The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Marlo Hampton] said."
"Kids, we have enough in the group," he declares. "Finally, I got skinny, girl! Once the world opens up, what if the b***h wants to go out on the town with the husband? I fit in designer now!" Reza's been on a #fitnessjourney during the pandemic, shedding more pounds on top of his already impressive 40-pound weight loss of the last couple of years.
"My weight has fluctuated in my life, I had been this weight, but I am a different human being in my head and in my heart now," Reza reflects. "And one of the things that I detest is looking at old photos and thinking that I didn't enjoy that."
That head/heart space is still open to some mess, though, as viewers will see Reza and co. try to navigate a new cheating scandal in season 9, involving Mike Shouhed and an allegedly hacked iCloud.
"Literally, I wish I was doing a watch with the cast with Judge Judy watching the [premiere] episode with me, because she'd be like, 'Honey, if it walks like a duck...' or she'd be like, 'Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining,'" Reza quips, hinting at what's revealed in episode 1. "I was like, 'Thank you! Thank you! Thank you that we're on a show. Thank you!' Thank you, that you guys get to see what happens ... I laughed so much, so much, so much."
In the trailer, Mike declares that there is a "snake" in the friend group as the "did he or did he not?" questioning about his alleged infidelity ramps up.
"I mean, bless his heart," Reza musters, implying there's some bad blood between him and his "brother" Mike. "[It's] brilliant. It's my favorite season so far. It's lit."