NXIVM cult show The Vow got renewed for a second season by HBO

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Season one of HBO’s The Vow is ending this week. The Vow is a docuseries about NXIVM, a self-help group turn sex-cult that was under investigation for sex trafficking and racketeering. NXIVM was run by Keith Raniere who was supposedly one of the smartest men in the world. The Vow also delved into NXIVM’s slave-master sorority called DOS that was led by Smallville actress Alison Mack. They branded members, groomed them to be sex partners for Keith Raniere, forced members to give collateral for blackmail if they decided to leave and made them take a vow of servitude to the ‘masters’ for life.

Clare Bronfman, a Seagram liquor heiress who was a coach and financial backer of NXIVM, has been charged with several counts associated with the cult and was sentenced to 81 months in prison. We now await the trial and sentencing for Keith Raniere and Alison Mack.

Season one of The Vow followed ex-members of NXIVM and actress Catherine Oxenberg. She was trying to free her daughter from the cult and worked with prosecutors to build a case against the organization. On Friday, HBO announced that they had greenlit a season two of the show. Below is more of the story from People:

Season 2 will follow the federal trial of the United States against Keith Raniere, co-founder of the controversial New York-based self-improvement group Nxivm, which fell apart amidst criminal charges of sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy. According to the network, the new episodes will offer an exclusive look at Raniere’s closest confidantes and dive into the stories of Nxivm’s top leadership in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as members of the DOS, the secret “master-slave” sorority within Nxivm.

The next season will track the group’s founders, supporters and defectors as new evidence and revelations come to light, while federal prosecutors and defense attorneys battle for opposing views of justice.

The Vow’s season 1 finale airs Sunday, coinciding with the premiere of Starz’s four-part documentary series, Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult. Seduced will tell the story of actress India Oxenberg’s journey through the world of the self-help-group-turned-sex-slave-cult.

[From People]

I am totally fascinated with con artists and cults. I used to be obsessed with Elizabeth Holmes and have moved on to NXIVM. I know it is easy to fall into cults because they sort of sneak up on you. You think you are doing a good thing and then BAM! you are in a cult. More fascinating about the NXIVM story is the fact that the Bronfman sisters are financially backing it and the Dalai Lama legitimized it with a very publicized visit. STARZ also released its documentary Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult on Sunday which will follow India Oxenberg’s journey.

Once I am done working at the polls for early voting, I am definitely gonna check out the STARZ series and wait for Season 2 of HBO’s The Vow.
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56 Responses to “NXIVM cult show The Vow got renewed for a second season by HBO”

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  1. Snazzy says:

    Wait the Dalai Lama legitimised it? WHY?

    • lola says:

      I reread that sentence three times and I still don’t understand it. How did that happen?!

    • scollins says:

      Bronfrom money?

      • scollins says:

        Thanks, pottymouth, but it still smells a bit, imo. The Dali Lama endorsement, how hard is it to get, I’d like to know.

    • Ariel says:

      The Seagrams money- those girls were born in a pile of money, and have given a lot to humanitarian causes, and the Dalai Lama appreciates that, and they have his ear. They probably (just guessing) donated to him or a specific cause and paid for his trip.

    • Surreuzly? says:

      I’m obsessed w undue influence as well. I am SOOOOO easily duped & am non-religious, but considered myself “spiritual” once upon a time. I’ve been in several cults- but just enough to do yoga & find a “spiritual” bf for the stay. I’ve ALWAYS left when it got weird and or pricey. I live to educate my kids because we’re not in a set religion & all are super vulnerable, open minded etc. Anyway– So onto NXIVM–If the group wasn’t under any indictment & paid negotiated the fees, it’s no wonder the Dalai Lama showed up. Can’t see how he “legitimized”. Tibetan culture deserves preservation- the Seagram heiress prolly paid Giant Bank. Hey—who gets the $$ for these documentaries? Serious question

  2. Eenie Googles says:

    This is a hard one to watch because the former cult members ARENT EASY TO ROOT FOR. The lady from Vancouver seems to actually LOVE the attention. They ALL seem to be telling half truths that make themselves look better. That group is made up of a bunch of performers and it shows.

    • Arpeggi says:

      I understand why they all are trying to defend their foolishness, they’re also trying to explain it to themselves. Honestly, the only one I have a bit if a hard time with is Mark. I guess that’s it’s because he’s a dude and was heavily profiting from that system while his wife was told to lick puddles in the street and his bff was branded? Like dude! You’re not the main victim here and the story shouldn’t be how all those atrocities those women have suffered make you feel

      • Ariel says:

        The episode where Catherine O remembered seeing the dog bed at Mark and Bonnie’s house, and noted they didn’t have a dog and she and Bonnie laughed at how Bonnie had slept in the dog bed as self imposed punishment for “speaking out against Mark”. And Mark was angry.
        He wasn’t ready to laugh.
        This all seems to, rightly, weigh heavily on him.

      • Arpeggi says:

        Of course Mark is angry and he should be! But he wasn’t the one who had to sleep in that dog bed. He can be humiliated and angered by his past actions and how he enabled KR but it’s still nothing compared to what his wife and friends had to endure. That Bonnie uses laughter to process her trauma and the violence that she experienced is also normal

      • Scotchydeez says:

        @Arpeggi I totally totally agree, Mark is kinda the worst. He is just one giant victim and he seems to languish in it and has obviously leveraged it into a career. It never felt like he was genuinely remorseful. Sarah well she is ever the actress, but it her redemption arc felt a little more genuine. The person who seemed the most balance, most remorseful and the most effective at making amends was Nippy,. I started out thinking he was tool and ended thinking he was the most level headed one of the bunch.
        Honestly though, this docu-series was kinda disappointing by the end. I mean they were obviously dragging it out for another season but I got tired of the Mark show and wanted more background on Keith etc. I mean I will of course keep watching because this is all kinds of fascinating but I also know of some friends of my in Vancouver( where I am from) that were involved in this but only on a very surface level. It’s soo crazy.

    • Chris says:

      Yeah, I definitely have empathy for these people, but it seems like they haven’t fully admitted how much they were responsible for the damage that this cult caused. To my surprise Sarah’s husband (cannot remember his name) seems the most aware. I was pretty appalled when we found out bonnie had to sleep in a dog bed on the floor for speaking against mark at one point. They were largely hiding the significant emotional abuse that the husbands actively participated in. How can a relationship survive that? They also participated in the campaigns against former members who left the cult.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        Nippy is Sarah’s husband and, yeah, it seems as though as soon as he had a real inkling what was going on and his wife wanted out, he was right there with her

        I really don’t know what to make of Mark TBH

    • cassandra says:

      I was a little skeptical until the 7th episode. No matter what, they’re definitely trying to get ahead of the story and paint themselves in a better light.

      But that 7th episode where Raniere spouts all this mysogynistic as fxxx bullshxt and they all ate it up no problem…..you have to be in a cult to not question that crap. I could barely listen to it, his rhetoric was so gross.

      • Chris says:

        Yeah after that episode (7th episode) on Rainier’s mysoginy I thought the show really buried the lede there.

    • Maida says:

      What makes “The Vow” uncomfortable, for me at least, is that it portrays the reality that intelligent, well-meaning people absolutely can end up in a cult. That doesn’t mean they bear no responsibility for their actions, but it does mean that looking at them as fundamentally different from other people is false.

      Like Scientology or other “high demand” organizations, it’s pretty clear that people weren’t exposed to the more extreme practices right away. Leaders like Raniere are experts at getting people in up to their necks before pushing for more conformity.

      It’s got to be embarrassing to come out and admit publicly that you were not only caught up in a con, but also helped to con others. I find the defensiveness pretty understandable.

      • Chris says:

        Oh for sure, he was convinced that what he was doing at the time was the right thing and he’s by no means a bad person. However, he did do bad things that hurt other people, he emotionally abused his wife. He helped silence defectors. He ran those mysoginistic seminars. It’s difficult because he was definitely emotionally manipulated if not abused as well by raniere. There’s a level of culpability there by Mark. I’m sure he’s aware of that, but is having a hard time reckoning that. He just seems to be hardcore beating the drum that Keith is solely responsible though his realization of his own guilt seems to evolve. I’m not by any means saying he’s irredeemable. That’s the interesting part, cults get good people to do bad things. He’s a fascinating case study.

      • Eenie Googles says:

        Understandable or not, they are NOT trustworthy narrators of these events…

    • Eugh says:

      You can tell Sarah and her husband made a tonne of money doing this too, look at their huge apartment in Vancouver

      • Chris says:

        That’s a really good point. I’m now curious of the members who were not wealthy or famous going into or coming out of this cult. What were their experiences?

    • Surreuzly? says:

      Ask me ANYTHING. I’ve been involved in dozens of cults. Just long enough to get the good stuff, tho moderately burned.

      • Scotchydeez says:

        Ohh I have so so many questions. First off, how did they entice you??? Was it mostly yoga based/spirituality based cults or did any of these self improvement excellency folk get to you?
        Also thank you for being willing to share your experiences.

  3. scollins says:

    I have mixed feelings about this after watching it. Cults have interested me since theWay cult bought an abandoned small college campus in our community when I was a kid. I need more info on the members, what would cause them to need that kind of attention, what needs were they trying to fulfill? Harder for me to get unlike Scientology or other cults. Seems like at first they wanted to be better than everyone else that turned into liking to be orderd exactly how to live their lives. That guy is about as sexy as a rock.

  4. Esmom says:

    I don’t have HBO anymore but between this and a few other shows that are coming or coming back, I think I need to sign back up.

    I always found cults fascinating, too. And I know for some reason my mom was terrified that I would be sucked into one in college. I’m not sure what she was imagining but no cults were recruiting anywhere that I ever saw on my Big 10 campus. Unless you count the Greek system, lol.

    • SamC says:

      When I lived in Austin and worked at UTexas Scientology rented a big space right next to the UT bookstore on the main drag. They were always out recruiting, papering cars, etc.

      • Esmom says:

        Oh yikes. No Scientologists on campus that I ever saw. My first exposure to them was after college. They had a storefront in Chicago in an up and coming neighborhood full of young people. We used to joke about it at work, with all Dianetics books in the window it seemed creepy and sad. I believe it’s still there almost 30 years later, even as the ‘hood has been gentrified beyond any average person’s ability to afford.

    • Ariel says:

      I signed back up for HBO this summer specifically to watch the Michelle Macnamara I’ll be Gone in the Dark serial killer documentary- which was amazing, and brutal to watch.
      And this was the series that followed it, so, i still have HBO.
      This cult series i think was pretty good.
      Though as the episodes wear on, you get over hearing the cult speak that they recorded to consistently- we already know it is bullshit.

      When you go back and watch the first episodes with the old footage and realize he has total control over all of those seemingly smart, capable women- it is horrifying.

  5. elisabeth says:

    I had a hard time sticking with this. I can’t believe it got renewed for a second season. I found it boring

  6. pooks says:

    If you are interested in Nxivm I would highly suggest the CBC podcast “uncover” season 1. The Vow has so much footage but has done a poor job of showing the motivation of the followers or the long term impact in my opinion. It makes it confusing and hard to understand what is going on and why it was so illegal.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks, I’ll try it out! It’s a little murky what exactly they were doing that’s considered illegal. It’s obvious how unethical it all is, but illegal, I’m not entirely clear on. I’m assuming sex trafficking and tax fraud?

    • Doodle says:

      I agree. I loved this show but I think it’s because I’ve been following the cult takedown since 2015 and this podcast really went down the rabbit hole more than the show did. I wish the show had gone into the fear experiments. As far as Mark goes, I actually enjoyed seeing how he felt. He felt so guilty for being complicit without realizing it at the time and I thought it was a side we often don’t get to see – how do people feel after the fact? The “side victims” so to speak, the emotional victims.

      • Chris says:

        Oh yeah definitely, seeing a person who was a perpetrator in the cult, but also a victim process what they were a part of is interesting. I think he’s going to need years of therapy. I don’t think he’s entirely accepted his level of blame in the whole scenario. I’m sure he’ll get there, he doesn’t seem like a bad person by any means. He rarely talks about how he did harm, to former cult members, to his wife who he emotionally abused. All of it was at the behest of the cult but he was one of the top members. I think Sarah hasn’t accepted her level of blame either. Or at least neither are open about it in the documentary.

        I’d also like some insight into why this cult and a lot of other cults seem to attract white people with wealthy backgrounds. It also seems to big bigger out west. I’m sure there’s evidence to the contrary, but that’s what I’ve seen in the media.

      • kacy says:

        @Chris, agreed. I give props to Nippy who did seem to recognize the gravity of what he’d done.

      • Arpeggi says:

        @kacy, I think seeing some other man’s initial branded next to your wife’s vulva sort of give you the shock you need to GTFO

      • kacy says:

        Yes, but he owned his part and the damage that he caused. It would have been just as easy for him to point the finger, but he takes ownership.

    • Ariel says:

      The thing i wish they had talked about is how the main defectors of the series, Mark and Sarah, had not only gotten into this, but made their living with it.
      They weren’t following the teachings of Raniere, they were selling those teachings to others as a high price. They made tons of money.

      And they are part of the machinery that made it work.
      A little bit like the real victims of scientology are the biggest zealots- the sea org.
      (except the money thing is the polar opposite between Mark/Sarah and sea org people.

    • kacy says:

      They went over the concept of how the collateral collected was blackmail quite clearly. You gave them nudes or other very compromising info and if you left or or disobeyed, they threatened to release it. The fact that they then requested people sleep with Raniere after collecting collateral is what equated it to sexual trafficking.

    • Arpeggi says:

      Yes, the Uncover podcast goes much deeper on how the system worked, there’s more investigation work done there.

    • Sunnydaze says:

      “NXVIUM on Trial” podcast by the Times Union in Albany is amazing. They were doing a ton of expose work going back years and deserve so much more credit. The crux of the podcast is going inside the trial and some of the stuff that is revealed. …no words. The Vow doesn’t even begin to cover how horrific some of his actions were.

  7. Karen says:

    My hot take: I’ve watched all but the last episode of The Vow and watched the first episode of Seduced. I appreciate the insider perspective on The Vow and have been riveted. Seduced did an excellent job of illustrating cult tactics and how they are designed to break people down.

  8. pottymouth pup says:

    delete (posted in the wrong place)

  9. SamC says:

    Raniere’s trial has already been held but for some reason his sentencing has been delayed over a year..he was convicted in June, 2019. Alison Mack took a plea deal but also hasn’t been sentenced yet.

  10. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    I plan on checking out The Vow soon. Cults are so fascinating to me – NXIVM, Scientology, Jim Jones, Cult 45, etc.

    Side note: @Kaiser made me laugh with her Kirstie Alley tweet over the weekend! https://twitter.com/kaiseratcb/status/1317788635035586562?s=21

    • MerlinsMom1018 says:

      @ LaUnicaAngelina: Kaiser won the internet for the rest of the YEAR with that quote
      I spit my coffee out when I read it

  11. Ana Maria says:

    from watching The Vow, my take on the Dalai Lama “approval” of NXIVM is that he received payment for it, or a donation; their meeting was very awkward

  12. BearcatLawyer says:

    One of my high school friends is featured in The Vow. It is very hard for me to watch him and hear him try to explain how he ended up in a cult. But it shows how easy it is for otherwise normal, functional adults to fall prey to deviant manipulation.

  13. Emily says:

    Oh yay we’re finally talking about this here! I’ve watched the first couple of episodes and what really astonishes me about it is just how much footage/phone calls were recorded! Even BEFORE things came to light about DOS and when things started to fall apart. I know some people are bugged by Mark having such a prominent role in the series as a guy but he was the one recording a lot of that footage and recording his phone calls with Keith, his wife, etc. His dream was to be a filmmaker and change the world and he thought NXVM could get him there, he’s a really ambitious guy. He was recording EVERYTHING, it’s unbelievable. So to me it makes sense he is so heavily featured, because it’s HIS footage HBO is using, especially for the beginning when they are setting up and explaining what NXVM is.

    I think the series is fascinating, but confusing and a bit disorganized. It’s also not another Wild, Wild Country. Keith is not Anan Sheela (or whatever that woman’s name is) and the story is not told in a super compelling way. But one thing that it did do is make me understand to a degree why so many people fell under Keith Raniere’s spell. He really does come across as this unassuming, modest guy who just wants to engage anyone around him into intellectual conversations. He really does seem smart, self-possessed, and charismatic and that’s the scary thing. I could see how some women could become so brainwashed, that they willingly joined DOS to “serve” him. NXVM was originally one of those “executive success” self-improvement type programs and DOS was presented in a similar fashion in a gradual way. Often times the women were so far gone in wanting to self-improve, they didn’t realize how twisted DOS was until they had gone through with the branding and were in the master-slave relationship. Info about DOS was given to them like bread crumbs and women were truly lured into it bit by bit. I’m not done with it yet, but I definitely plan on continuing.

  14. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Why? This docuseries was dumb. Dateline did a one hour special on the cult over a year ago and did a better job with it. The docuseries dragged out info that didn’t need to be dragged out, and then completely ignored HUGE chunks of other info.

    I say to anyone wanting to know about it just look up the Dateline episode on YouTube.

  15. Case says:

    I was almost recruited into this cult. I applied for an up-and-coming news website called The Knife of Aristotle, which claimed to be neutral in their reporting due to special training they gave their writers to craft articles without slant. In order to acquire this training, I’d have to spend a couple weeks in upstate New York where I’d be trained by NXIVM. I’d never heard of them. When I had the phone interview, the guy who interviewed me literally said “People sometimes claim NXIVM are like a cult or something, but that’s bullshit. They’re just here for personal and professional improvement. You’re cool with that, right?”

    When we hung up I emailed the guy and told him I was no longer interested.

    • Esmom says:

      Oh yikes. Talk about a major bullet dodged. Good for you for listening to your gut. Not everyone would considering a job was on the line, and I’m sure that’s what they were counting on.

  16. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    In my day it was The Moonies and the Hare Krishna. I remember being approached by Rev. Moon’s followers on the sidewalk in downtown San Antonio one night as I was waiting for my friends. They tried to come across as super friendly and intelligent, but as soon as I said, sorry I practice witchcraft they were outta there. A cult is a cult is a cult, no matter the name, the times, or the recruitment practices.

  17. Chimes@Midnight says:

    Does the series discuss Nicki Clyne at all? I was such a fan of her character on BSG and was gob smacked when it came out she was a part of this cult and had “married” Allison Mack for legal reasons.

    • Mindy_Dopple says:

      Wait a minute! They got married for legal reasons? Like spouses can’t testify against each other? That is so interesting!!

      • Chimes@Midnight says:

        It is alleged that they got married so one of them could stay in the country (cant remember which), you can’t cult from Canada, I guess, but they don’t have an actual, romantic relationship.