'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' recap: Real men don't send texts
If you are a great fan of "The Sopranos," you will of course remember the deeply strange stretch in the last season when Tony, in a coma, wandered the world in a ghostly state. Increasingly bizarre tableaux from the past unfolded before him episode after episode, while viewers waited desperately for him to wake up so what we formally recognized as the "show" could begin again.
I mention this because a similar narrative scat is playing out right now in the real-life Great Rooms of New Jersey's glitziest and furriest, as the build-up to the extended famiglia's big trip to Punta Cana begins, and we are forced to watch an assortment of vignettes no less colorful, variegated and entirely unrelated than Kathy Wakile's pastry displays.
This episode began, as it now often does, with Teresa attempting to wake husband Joe up. (He's checked out! He's checked out! WE GET IT.) Everyone, for reasons unknown, has decided at Kathy's urging to assemble for a 5K run for either people or children with disabilities. (Even Kathy's hazy on whether children are people.) The question is whether or not Joe and Joe can exit their text war long enough to help them, either way, but it turns out to be moot: Juicy Joe, who's brought along wine for fortitude, chugs in last and late. This is notable only in that his busted visage gives us the greatest line of the season: roommate Greg's whisper, "He's like Rocky, only more Italian."
Speaking of which, next we move to a date with Lauren Manzo and her beloved, who fills the Manzo's undermount stainless steel sink with raw cheese and water and hands his bride-to-be a wooden panel. This, they stir to the strains of R&B. Happily, this "Feel Like Makin' Mozz" vignette doesn't last long, and we move to the only slightly less awkward scene in the apartment of siblings Albie and Chris, where Melissa plays them her new single, "On Display." They invite her to perform at their Blackwater launch party in "Joe-boken," which indicates either their distinct faith in the brand or complete indifference to its success.
Next we move to Milania's birthday party, which takes place not on a cruise ship or limo, as in years past, but in the slightly less august digs of "Daddy's pizza shop." There, Joe Guidice grumpily throws up some balloons and puts on an apron, trying to convince either viewers or himself he actually works there.
But, cruise ship be damned, this is no ordinary party. Gia, after singing a birthday song for Milania, states she has her own song to perform. She begins a jazzy half-rap to the effect of how terrible her mother and uncle's fight is making her feel, which brings Melissa and Caroline to tears. (Viewer -- here, reality T.V. finally fails one of its songstresses. Though the producers insert a gentle post-production piano accompaniment, unfortunately for Gia, you cannot retroactively use Auto-Tune.)
Both mother and uncle are touched, though distracted, as they immediately get into a fight over who thoughtful Gia takes after and ignore her entirely, leaving the poor viewer indifferent to everyone in the scene except the cupcake Gia is holding, which looks delicious, and I wouldn't mind knowing where it was made.
Anyway...listen. Bravo. We understand you're reeling -- literally -- from the tragic suicide of RHOBH's Russell Armstrong. We also understand that, for whatever reason, the NJ cast has not found itself able to provide the requisite drama to keep viewers happy this season, if only because we've seen everything on this show -- including pointless jogs, unlistenable singles and product launches -- on every housewife show before it. (Well, we've never seen Joe Guidice do a split. But that just scared us.)
My point is, Punta Cana better be the big fish you're making it out to be. Otherwise, it'll be us, not Joe Guidice, you'll be shaking to wake up.
-- Lizzie Skurnick
Photo: From left to right, Jacqueline Laurita, Teresa Giudice, Caroline Manzo, Kathy Wakile and Melissa Gorga. Credith: Tommy Garcia / Bravo