Brigid: Review of the Vow Episode 1: Mark Vicente’s Pain and Keith and Nancy’s Mendacity

By Brigid

I got an HBO subscription on Amazon just to watch “The Vow”, the 9-episode series on Nxivm.

It appears to be well done with high production values, but having only seen the first installment I feel like it is premature to comment on it as a reviewer might.

In the first episode [The Science of Joy], the audience is introduced to the main characters, getting some background on them, getting a feel for the official version Nxivm as they presented to the public.

There is much much more to come.

Seeing and hearing Nancy Salzman was the biggest shock so far, for me.

Nancy Salzman [HBO]
Her shtick in action in the clips from ESP training videos is accurately described by Sarah Edmondson as being very 80s, in a dated un-hip power-suited kind of low budget customer service training video way.

Her brief ESP segments immediately made me think of the equally goofy Consumers’ Buyline advertising.

Not different at all in fact.

Both Nancy and Raniere are so insincere, so artificial and cornball, they barely conceal their base-grasping vulgar natures with overacted faux enthusiasm and the phony spirituality pretense.

Mark Vincente is an odd bird. He is not unlikeable – in fact, he seems quite genuine – but there is something broken about him. Now maybe it was his formative years in South Africa, can’t imagine anyone with a little extra sensitivity walking away from that without some degree of trauma.

But he is also an affable rube who lives up to his first name. In another time and place, he easily would have been a wandering hippie seeker rather than the yuppie creative that he is today.

But even in a different decade, he surely would have wound up in the same place: in a cult.

Nancy and Keith must’ve been slobbering over him when he entered the picture. He was successful, handsome, talented, tall, all the things Keith is not.

He did gloss over Ramtha, which he didn’t need to go into in-depth but it might have added additional context to him as a person and explained a bit about how he managed to spend 12 prime years of his life dedicated to a hard control system.

I’m going to guess that he scared the isht out of Nancy and Keith when he finally blew a gasket and lashed out at them, angrily and loudly jumping ship surely sent them into a panic.

Can’t wait for that part of the story, it will be glorious.

Sarah Edmondson

Sarah Edmondson’s story – thus far – is neatly stitched up, but one big missing detail when describing Nxivm expansion was that they were bringing in money, her in particular, in a pyramid structure no less.

Seems from what we know from this blog, if there was doubt in her mind or times when Nxivm dogma wore transparently thin, the money, attention, status, and purpose (of making more money) kept her blinded to the evil nature of what she was involved with and committed to doing.

Keith Raniere, leader of Nxivm, now incarcerated.


The glory days: Nxians gather at the YMCA campus on the shores of Lake George for Vanguard Week. Each of  these folks paid $2,000 or more to spend 10 days celebrating Vanguard’s birthday.

Finally, the group photos and clips of them with smiles plastered on their faces, their antic jumping and dancing around, the hugging and the image of always having a good time, was nauseating.

There is definitely a personality type that is drawn to and feels comfortable in joining a group, in subsuming one’s own identity to a group in order to fit in and feel a part of something. To see people like Emiliano Salinas and glimpses of some others that we got in Episode 1 makes that color coded t-shirt sorority summer camp crap even more preposterous.

Emiliano Salinas and his sister, Cecilia [green], with other coaches and proctors of Nxivm. The t-shirts denote their Nxivm rank.
So far, we have yet to get a whiff of sulfur, of the mendacity and depravity and brutality that we know is coming. Mark’s personal pain and shame is the only indication so far of what is to come.

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  • Vicente doesn’t mention Ramtha at all, which further shows his unwillingness to be open and honest about his involvement with dangerous cult leaders and his over 15-year mission to promote them to the world.

    There is no blow-up on Vicente’s part. He finally has the guts to ask Raniere if he is controlling this women’s group and quickly realizes with one question how much of a liar Raniere is. Yep, one question and the guts to ask it.

    Let’s be honest- if any of these people had opened their eyes, they could have easily seen Raniere was a liar and obviously NOT enlightened. For all the people who joined, many did NOT. Yet the whole HBO series is trying to convince you that Raniere would have conned the viewer just as easily as Vicente. How many of you would have sat there listening to Raniere talk about how it was okay to rape children and never once thought differently about it? Oxenberg’s mother knew after one class.

  • In the early days of CBI, Keith showed three videos to motivate and inspire. An animated short I don’t remember, the 1988 ice dancing Olympic winners skating to Bolero (to show excellence in achievement), and another animated short called “The Man Who Planted Trees” which was a true story. And the staff thought it was great. As the company grew, Keith would continue to show these videos. Over and over and over again. At the fifth viewing, we were groaning. By the 8th viewing, we realized that he kept showing them because he had nothing else to share. He was limited. An empty suit. Actually empty sweatpants. I imagine that’s part of the reason why his inner core cult members limited his access to people. To keep up the mystique and keep the con going. Years after CBI collapsed (because of Keith’s arrogance, not because of the attorney general – another story), I found a small book at a little bookstore. It was a published version of The Man Who Planted Trees. The forward explained that there was a true story contest in France, and the story was submitted and I think even won the contest. But it was found to be fiction. A made-up story. Just like Keith.

  • I was struck by how full of themselves all of these people seem. As a life long Capital Region resident, I think this area has tons of stuck up people like this and they don’t need colored sashes to be conveniently identified. Yet in looking back on this story, the neatest thing was the picture of the billionaire Bronfman heiress walking barefoot in downtown Albany going to meet the Dalai Lama who she just paid $1 million to. Because however commonplace stuck up people in this area are, barefoot heiresses are still a historically rare sighting.

    • Why were you so struck by how full of themselves all these people seem when you also said the area has tons of similar stuck up people? LOL

  • I thought Sarah Edmonson came off very hard and very bitter, especially when she talked about how her acting career wasn’t going the way she hoped but according to the snippet we saw, I think we can all see why–she’s simply not that talented. I also appreciate that Kristin Kreuk and Grace Park were shown to be members–I know both women try to downplay their involvement so I like that this show isn’t pretending they weren’t as deeply involved in the cult as they were.

  • The first episode of the Vow does an excellent job of explaining how NXIVM roped people in.

    I had wondered how Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman were able to recruit so many people; I have my answer.

    One question I have after watching the Vow is……How did Sarah Bronfman gain such a worldly British infused accent?

  • The possibly former Nxivm people yipping and yapping on HBO, are they in denial about how this was never a movement for any personal growth, except for the growth of their leader, Flabturd’s penis?

    And Nancy’s bank accounts, of course. “Wet kisses” never sounded nauseating at all, before learning that this was Nancy’s endearment term for her head pimp. You know, the guru monstrosity to whom Nancy Salzman handed over her daughters, for him to have and to hold.

    Anything can be made into a philosophy for the gullible. Enough prancing and tiptoeing around the damn rhinoceres splayed out mastubating in the center of the room.

    • Adam,

      You are writing a critical review of the review? How terse, trite, and trivial your review is. I finding it completely lacking in originality and humor.

  • I thought it was awesome. I would never have joined such a thing but I have a better understanding of why people would.

  • –Seems from what we know from this blog, if there was doubt in her mind or times when Nxivm dogma wore transparently thin, the money, attention, status, and purpose (of making more money) kept her blinded to the evil nature of what she was involved with and committed to doing.

    If people are “blinded” by money, fame, etc., they can rationalize away much in their mistreatment of others. True ethical people keep their promises and they don’t rationalize away misdoings for money or fame, like some of the people and the small-time celebrities in this cult, or even the so-called religious televangelists who rationalize the need for and cost of their private jets paid for by their followers. Their intentions are sincere, they make decisions based on what is right, and because of this, they cannot mistreat others.

  • Great review, Brigid. Your initial impressions of this cast of characters and of the documentary itself echo my own.

    I was interested to finally see some more raw NXIVM footage besides the stuff that’s been available on YouTube. Now that the organization itself is dissolved (in a legal sense anyway), I can’t figure out why more of this footage hasn’t leaked out to the public. Keith’s supposedly brilliant “modules” and the more esoteric NXIVM teachings still seem to be hard to come by also. I’ve long been interested in seeing what specifically was so brilliant about his hypnotic jive talk and his baffling “modules.”

    • —I’ve long been interested in seeing what specifically was so brilliant about his hypnotic jive talk and his baffling modules

      I’ve been interested in the same. What was so captivating?

      • Raniere is quite untalented, it’s the b!tches around him building him to others that did the trick. LOL

        It’s Amway/MLM scam 101, the proper label is edification. LOL

    • Good comments, Captain. I think a lot of people are drawn to seemingly energetic groups full of “tips” for living a better life – especially in a “cheerful” environment. I know in the CBI days, KAR had many awed (snowed) by his ability to present himself as a genius, including my old boss at Purchase Power. I had an innate dislike of MLMs, but he had even ME thinking for a bit – briefly – …that maybe he’s on to something! Very persuasive.

      It ought to be clear by now that his goal was always money, adulation, unlimited sex and control.

  • Those Nexian Fools dancing and prancing around are as stupid as the many Americans who believe that a face mask and Bill Gates’ vaccine will save them from a virus as deadly as the annual seasonal flu.

  • “Seems from what we know from this blog, if there was doubt in her mind or times when Nxivm dogma wore transparently thin, the money, attention, status, and purpose (of making more money) kept her blinded to the evil nature of what she was involved with and committed to doing”.

    Sarah Edmondson knew what she was a part of. She should be aggressively interviewed and made to ‘fess up’. She has been allowed to portray herself as naive and innocent and a heroine. On that podcast, the presenter said people who knew Edmondson were not convinced of her innocence.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

IMDb — Frank Parlato,_Jr.

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083