The Bravo Clubhouse was a whole lot more crowded than usual on Wednesday night when Andy Cohen hosted a "Watch What Happens Live All-Star Party," a veritable orgy of the network's demi-celebrities.
Everyone was there, including marquee names like Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, breakout star Bethenny Frankel, and Bravo B-listers like what's-her-name from "Flipping Out" who looks like Julia Louis-Dreyfus. As Kathy Griffin aptly described the event, "This is like the most messed-up Golden Globes I've ever seen."
Of course, no Bravo gathering would be complete without plenty of housewives. The "All-Star Party" featured trainwreck musical performances by LuAnn "The Countess" de Lessepsand Melissa Gorga, but the official lowlight was almost certainly the "Real Housewives Battle Royale." For the quiz game, 18 different housewives were divided into two teams --East Coast versus West Coast -- and asked questions on "their favorite two subjects -- themselves, and each other," as Cohen put it. Not surprisingly, the contest quickly descended into a Babel-esque cacophony of shrill screams, like a "Housewives" reunion show condensed into four brief but blood-curdling minutes. It was so harrowing that even the usually indefatigable Cohen appeared to lose his patience.
You can watch the "Battle Royale" above, but be warned: You may want to be sure all your crystal is tucked away in a safe place before you press play.
Forget those mommy-and-me classes and all those pricey subscriptions to parenting magazines. For mothers looking for ways to bond with and/or raise their child, one need look no further than the sages of the "Real Housewives" franchise.
When they're not hurling expletives at each other while belly dancing or trying to write another cookbook we don't really need, some of them are mom's unknowingly serving as reference guides on how to rear children. Here are our favorite gems from 2011.
Let them into your drama so they can write sad songs: The last season of "Real Housewives of New Jersey" mostly centered on the family feud between Teresa and her little Hulk of a brother Joe. Christenings turned into UFC matches and holiday dinners were full of passive-aggressive insults. It all took a toll on Teresa's daughter Gia, who penned an agonizing musical plea for her mother and uncle to make amends. The song was about how she wakes up in the morning and goes to school and worries so much and puts makeup on, yeah, yeah, yeah. Do as Teresa does when the singing is over, clap and say, "Yay!"
Let it out: "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" newbie Brandi Glanville is a self-proclaimed hippie who likes to let it all hang out -- her often braless outfits suggest as much. So it's no surprise that when it comes to matters of the toilet she's just as free-spirited. If that means her little boy has to wee-wee on Adrienne Maloof's lawn during a barbecue, so be it. And he did -- we're sure he did it so his mother wouldn't have to endure the shame of hobbling to the bathroom on her crutches.
Instill the importance of appearance: First impressions are everything. And when Kim Zolciak's baby boy popped out, she wanted to ensure she greeted him with her best wig ensemble. Kim transported three wigs propped on mannequin heads to the hospital in the backseat of a vehicle -- with the seat belts locked to make sure they stayed in place. Nothing says "Happy Birth Day" like an extra-virgin olive oiled head of hair that isn't your own.
Encourage bilingualism: Dana Wilkey ("Real Housewives of Beverly Hills") has a thing for Cavalli shorts, $25,000 sunglasses and incredibly sad-looking theme parties. She also likes to yammer on about how her 2-year-old can not only speak -- but also read -- Thai. Yeah, right! Well, she called our bluff, posting this video. Though, not being Thai-speakers ourselves, we can't really confirm what he's saying. But if he's anything like his mother it's probably something to the effect of, "This shirt cost $14,600."
Give them only the best for their birthday -- an "American Idol" reject: We're pretty sure Taylor Armstrong's 5-year-old daughter has no idea who Ace Young is -- how do we know? Because we barely remember him! So we weren't quite sure why he was enlisted to perform at the young girl's birthday party. Yes, we know it was a gift from Dana (which automatically renders it headscratching), but still. She's FIVE. Could Dana really not find a $5,000 coloring book?
What are your favorite 'Housewife' parenting scenes?
"Poll Question: Was Andy too hard on Teresa at the reunion?"
Now, I know I’ve now been an LRHR -- Licensed Real Housewife Recapper -- for a few months over here, so it’s not like I just fell off the Blahnik truck. Still, receiving a text from one of the heads of the Bravo network while he was still on TV right in front of me in a big chair asking for me to vote if he was being too harsh on the person I was watching him talk to right there on the TV in his big chair about the show I write about may have brought things to a meta-level way above my pay grade.
Still -- I'm going to do my best. Was Andy Cohen too harsh on Teresa at the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" reunion was the question of the evening, though I guess it depends on your meaning of harsh. If relaying viewer questions about whether husband Joe has a drinking problem, prodding Teresa about holding Melissa and Joe to a higher standard than her own husband, or correcting her pronunciation with menacing sibilance (“Distan.” “Are you trying to say ‘distanced’?” “Yeah, distan.” “DISTANCCCCCCCCCCED!”) is too harsh, then he was too harsh.
But if telling her it was unacceptable that husband Joe still drops the F-word (“Tons of our friends are gay!”), gently explaining that “you find it hard to hear people though things have been explained to you several times,” or simply making sure she didn’t accidentally unseat Kathy from their shared couch with her volcanic displays of illogic was actually, as Andy himself might say, a mitzvah.
Despite Andy’s worries, it wasn’t the women ganging up on Teresa, or him being harsh. It was Teresa herself, eye-rolling, earsplitting, and, uh, distaning, that showed us what stuff she's made of.
And so did the show itself, which, by the miracle of montage, finally seemed to be able to stick the series into coherent narratives. There was the montage about how randy they all are in Jersey, of course, then the montage about Jacqueline and her trials with Ashley, a montage about Teresa’s competitiveness with Melissa, even a montage about Kathy’s culinary creations, which allowed me to see that she had, in fact, gathered her army of cannoli under ONE GRAND CANNOLI SHELL, something I’d missed on the first go-round. (No pun intended.)
And it’s a good thing, because much else in the show was the kind of rhetoric generally heard on the playground. “It’s none of your business!” “You shut up.” “You shut up!” “Be quiet!” “You’re evil.” “You’re a bad cousin.” “Oh, I’m bad. We’re bad. Everybody’s bad!” Then, finally, the words NONE of us want to hear at the sleepover -- Caroline Manzo’s repeated plea: “I would like to leave.”
Still, @BravoAndy’s ruthless digging did uncover the secret we’ve waited to hear the entire season -- what actually broke the Joes up, thus inciting a split between the Gorga and Giudice clans.
No, it wasn’t the best bikinis, the most money, or the shooting-est Catskill retreat. Apparently, Joe Giudice, formerly Joe Gorga’s mentor, came to his first construction project and repeatedly mocked him in front of friends and family for how poorly it was built, then continued to deride his charge as he rose, then surpassed him, in success. Yes -- that kind of behavior’s not going to get you put in a freezer, permanently. But in Jersey, it’s good for a few years of the cold shoulder.
Oh, and that poll? For those who missed “Watch What Happens Live” -- and thus missed the genius of Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos acting out scenes from the season, to be watched IMMEDIATELY -- for the record, it was 39% yes, 61% no.
It was a sparse, self-conscious scattering of Housewives in the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, N.J., last night for the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s live reunion—more like guests at a party huddling around the dregs of a bowl of Cheetos than the pride of female lionesses we’ve become accustomed to seeing, all doing their best to scratch each other's eyes out while @BravoAndy whips through his damning set of index cards.
So, let’s start with the dresses. Teresa, who would face the most blows over the course of the evening, came appropriately attired in a slit-to-here gown with a silver breastplate, her hair pressed into battle wings. Caroline, who had told @BravoAndy that she was going to come in pajamas, settled on a demure black one-shoulder, while Kathy went for a demi-diva look in Kelly green satin. But it was Melissa who ruled the stage, rocking a demure coral belted number, slicked-back hair and spike heels, a sparkly Betty Draper by way of the Garden State Parkway.
But despite the Housewives' bling, it was conspicuous absence, not their presence, that ruled. All the Housewives shows are subject to cast fluctuations (New York just gutted its current troupe to make room for three new Housewives), but New Jersey has always been prone to the most defections, beginning with Caroline’s sister Dina, then the reviled Danielle Staub, finally culminating in Jacqueline. She hasn’t left the fourth season, but didn’t attend the evening’s festivities because she was too upset, Caroline told us, by Teresa’s recent “betrayal.” What betrayal, you ask? They couldn't tell, as Teresa smirked, reminding Caroline they were still filming the fourth season. “Remember?”
Now we do! Yes, smirked Caroline, her former friend and defender! If only at the behest of their publicists, most Housewives make an effort to make amends with their frenemies in the months between the show wrapping and the reunion show airing. But Teresa had apparently only increased the rift she’d caused with the publication of her “joke”-filled cookbook. Now, alienated from her former friends Caroline and Jacqueline (“They jumped ship!”), and equally on the outs with Kathy and Melissa, she was suddenly open to digs from all quarters, Kathy and Melissa stoically deflecting Teresa’s stream of insults while Caroline revealed the ones she’d been dropping about them the whole time.
Bravo did introduce some levity, creating my favorite montage ever, which isolated each instance of “youse” over the course of this season, then expanded it to all manner of gaffes, misnomers and linguistic invention, ranging from Caroline’s mispronunciation of “envelope” to Melissa’s switchout of “wench” for “wretch” in “Amazing Grace,” to Teresa’s inquiry about her book’s “ingredientses.” (We former English majors have to take our pleasures where we can.)
But Teresa's crimes ruled, because they were LEGION. Forget calling Caroline 1/16th Italian, or telling Melissa not to join the show because everyone would make fun of her forehead. (“No! I was sayin’ everyone makes fun of MY forehead!”) Teresa had apparently told Caroline that she didn’t want to make up with her brother (“You’re a LIAR!” “I’m not a liar, Teresa.”), as well as bragged that every husband got into house-flipping because of Joe. (If they did, they certainly managed it better.)
And it didn't stop there. Right on screen, she told @BravoAndy that she and husband Joe hadn't dropped their bankruptcy plea because otherwise they would have been convicted of fraud. "No, that's not true," she smiled. “Well, it’s all in the public record,” Melissa remarked, which Teresa seemed to take, unwisely, as a defense. Unfortunately, there was no faux-help to be found on the “My Jewish friends” incident, in which Teresa intimated that Jewish wives cared more about money -- thus cementing the Jersey Housewives as the only cast to insult @BravoAndy about being Jewish AND gay.
But unlike vilified Housewives in other reunion shows, it was hard to feel sorry for Teresa, who seems to address everyone else’s emotions with the delicacy with which she shoved Andy down into his chair at the previous year’s reunion. “I’m always saying Jewish men make the best husbands!” she told @BravoAndy, refusing to apologize for the "My Jewish friends" comment. “You do say that,” he allowed, much the way you might tell someone who’d recently gained 60 pounds that her shoes looked OK.
Still: commentators everywhere (*cough* in my living room *cough*) seem to agree that this season has been particularly limp but that it was hard to pinpoint the cause. Was it the faux careers? The forced getaways? The interminable staged sit-downs? Either way, viewers (*cough* me *cough*) were left feeling that the true show was happening behind the scenes, while we watched a clumsy form of Garden State kabuki, plastered make-up, punitive footwear and all.
We won’t know what Teresa’s grand betrayal was until the fourth season airs. And on the fried meatball battle with Caroline, we can’t tell whether she’ll emerge victim or victor. (Fashion victim, certainly.) But, as Melissa would say, Praise Jesus! Viewers, we can rejoice. Whatever was happening backstage, all those shows? It's finally (oh, c'mon, I have to say it!) On Display.
Not to get all Susan Sontag on you, but, as we give a slow clap to the last episode of the New Jersey Housewives' third season, I wonder how the show itself will fit in everyone's family album.
Most of us over 30 reading this post have a few dried-out snapshots from birthday parties and VHS tapes of piano recitals left in our possession. (There's no cord in existence to connect my VCR to my TV, thank God.) But since this here Internet -- if only you could see me rocking in my chair with my corncob pipe! -- hit the scene, an ever-expanding parade of our selfhood marches through Facebook, Picasa and YouTube. For the first time, we've designed a system to save everything forever, for everyone, everywhere: the Web.
But having your entire family's life exposed to millions on TV adds a teeny twist. It's one thing to pose for a picture and stick it on Facebook -- and quite another to have Bravo choose the pictures it would like to show. So put your hat on, postmodern deconstructionists. This "RHONJ" sendoff was about the portraits the Gorgas, Giudices, Manzos, Wakiles and Lauritas would like to leave us with, and the ones they actually did.
And can we begin with anyone less than the ingenuous, delightful Kathy Wakile? From the beginning, Kathy has been the one to show up makeup-less while hanging around with the fam, as if to say, "I know I have to wear this one-armed sparkly thing for close-ups, but this is Christmas morning." She was happy enough to dabble in that catering plot line for an episode or two, but the only part that truly seemed to matter was to her was when her children bought her a computer to help it along.
And Sunday night’s episode drove me -- and, as I learned in my ritual viewing of "Watch What Happens Live" after the show, @Bravoandy -- to L'Oreal Lash Out mascara-smearing tears. It was Victoria's prom night, and Kathy couldn't keep herself away from her Canon, snapping pictures of Victoria getting ready, squealing when the date pulled up, and weeping as Victoria came down the stairs, "Clueless"-style, in a sparkly mini to which Rich Wakile immediately objected. (Side note: Thank GOD that blue monstrosity somehow got the boot.)
As Kathy clicked away, talking about wanting to preserve every moment, you wanted to remind her that, actually, you know, the whole deal, corsage to nuts, was being captured by Bravo's cameras. But it didn’t matter. As Victoria and Rico Suave headed off in their stretch limo to the dance, Kathy confided in Rich that her main goal, whether her kids needed her or not, was to be IRL present for every event. "Open a can of tuna!" she smiled to the camera, wiping away her tears. "I'll celebrate it!"
Quelle contrast to Teresa, who, as we all recall, once instructed Gia to smile for a snapshot post-hurling because, as Teresa put it, "You look pretty." Sunday night, she proved her deep connection to the family unit by hiring two photographers with tickle wands to scream like banshees in order to get a picture of the entire clan smiling on her couch. Papa Gorga, symbolically enough, had just had an operation, and kept telling the camera that he couldn’t see. No matter. After they finally got a shot of everyone, flanked by a sweetly smiling Melissa and Teresa, we got a close-up of Teresa post-session, her face as brown and set as an Anasazi ruin. "Melissa says she wants to get back to how the family was before." Tips head terrifyingly, narrows eyes. "I hope she means it."
But, in a wonderfully "Dangerous Liaisons"-esque twist, Teresa's much-ballyhooed cooking tome, "Fabulicious," hit the shelves, and that whole “means it” thing flipped right back at her like a vengeful crepe. Apparently, Teresa had larded the pages with far more than lardo, interspersing among her "ingredientses" digs at Caroline (deep-fried Twinkies, 1/16th Italian), Kathy (makes lame jokes), Melissa (baby sister-in-law copies everything she does), and even Christopher (stripper car washes are not family-oriented). No, I'm not sure how many teaspoons that last one contains either.
Basta! The Manzo family closed ranks, and Rich Wakile tossed the book in the garbage. Even the boundlessly loyal Jacqueline Laurita set some boundaries on her bestie. "It's a joke!" Teresa screeched. "You're all too sensitive!" Jacqueline brandished the book like a Playboy she'd pulled out from under a mattress. "You could have told Caroline about this -- you just saw her!" Teresa pointed: "But look at this great picture of me and Caroline together!" Sorry, Teresa. Apparently, a picture is only worth about 1/16th of a word.
Most cast members of the other Housewives franchises seem content to leave the show with a purse line, spandex bust shaper or a one-hit wonder. (Or, you know, a $120-million payout for watered-down tequila.) But the New Jersey housewives have always been, as Caroline Manzo put it, "thick as thieves." (I still think she meant blood is thicker than water, but that's OK.) They're family with a capital F, and the material they've got to peddle is themselves, as moms, sisters, sisters-in-laws -- and, of course, Housewives.
So who did worst "On Display"? We won't know until next week's reunion show. But I have a feeling it's not Joe Biden.
Danielle Staub is almost certainly laughing at all the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" drama circulating recently. In the ongoing "Who is leaving the show?" saga, reports have surfaced that Caroline Manzo is following Jacqueline Laurita and leaving the show.
According to the Huffington Post, Bravo is behind the departures, citing an insider who says Manzo and Laurita were told they've been sparse on the drama this season and thus were not asked back for Season 5.
A Bravo spokesperson had this to say: “Bravo is not firing anyone from ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey.’ This is completely inaccurate from sources who are unreliable and making up rumors. All five cast members will be featured on season four. No decisions have been made about season five at this time."
Production for Season 4 began while Season 3 began airing.
Rumors about Laurita's exit surfaced last week after the reality star tweeted a series of messages that hinted she was done with the show.
I can think of a lot of contexts in which that sentence would make sense. Obama psyching himself up for his big economy speech. A teeny Nadia Comaneci, preparing for her floor routine, representing Romania at the 1976 Olympics. Even, to be enormously generous, Dancing With the Stars’ Bristol Palin, each fateful night she hoped her fans would overcome her gams.
Where the sentence seems to be a bit of a misreading of the circumstances, however, is in speaker Melissa’s Gorga’s case. She, as it happens, was referring to her four-minute lip-synching performance of her (hit?) song, "On Display," at a launch party for the Manzo boys’ client BLK Water, which took place in a basement club with an audience mostly of family — not unlike, you will recall, her toddler daughter’s debut as a ballroom dancer, where the girl was briefly lifted by an adult classmate, then deposited back on the floor, to wild applause.
But last night’s "Real Housewives of New Jersey" was a veritable deluge of delusion, from Teresa’s pilgrimage to the meat-packing region of Punta Cana in search of "spices" for, we presume, the "ingredientses" of her sequel to Skinny Italian, to Caroline’s proud comment at the BLK Water party—"Tonight my sons take the world by storm!" — to the Manzo boys dubbing Melissa Gorga an "intellect" because she finally remembered Joe Biden was the vice-president of the United States. (To be fair, I briefly forgot about Stockholm the other day. Relevance? A toss-up.)
But let’s begin with Teresa’s visit to a local district of Punta Cana, where she revealed herself to be, unsurprisingly, far more comfortable with carnage than her fellow castmates. While they ran screaming in Gucci heels away from the fly-covered heads of cattle and moldering carcasses of chickens, Teresa lifted the latter up proudly and chased the girls, finally acknowledging that she knew raw chickens carried semolina. ("Salmonella!" Melissa laughed. Maybe she is the intellect.)
But Melissa also has a thing for animals — could the fur-clad sisters-in-law be any different? — declaring that at her debut she wanted to “wear the snake wrapped around me like Britney!” and inquiring if live tigers would be out of place at the club. "You know, Siegfried and Roy had tigers for ten years, and it didn’t work out for them," Chris Manzo cautioned her, sagely.
In fact, I am increasingly counting on the Manzos to bring a note of sanity to the show, even if young Albie and Chris’s debut in the working world is marketing water that looks like raw sewage. (Melissa’s African American music producer did note, with gracious enthusiasm, that Black Water "would do well in my community!")
But, as ever, it’s Albert Manzo -- who scrolled through his BlackBerry messages on the Punta Cana beach and reminded Joe Giudice that making payroll at his new venture was something to consider -- who remains my favorite avatar of Truth. "Being in Hell without you people would be a vacation," he quipped as they left their Punta Cana suites. Now that’s a statement the audience can understand.
Lots of divorces have shaken up the "Real Housewives" block on Bravo-- divorces between the stars and the network, that is. And it seems one more lady might be heading to splitsville with the reality show: "Real Housewives of New Jersey's" Jacqueline Laurita hinted via Twitter that her days on the show are over.
It all started with a series of Tweets earlier this week, Laurita aired her frustrations and said she did not want to appear on the show's Season 3 reunion, which taped on Wednesday.
"I feel nauseous and feverish," Laurita tweeted late Tuesday night, after attending the annual fashion show for the boutique Posche, a scene of past drama on the hit Bravo show. (Cameras, meanwhile, were there and already rolling on Season 4.) "No reunion for me. Sorry guys. XOXO!"
She later added: "Someone (not me) got set up tonight. There are some sneaky people trying to make someone look bad & then play innocent on camera. Sad."
On Wednesday, Laurita continued her unloading: "I can't be part of the Charade anymore. It's unsettling. It's disturbing & against what I stand for. I'm a REAL housewife."
And later, "I'd like to only focus on positive things now please. I threw the trash out. I'm cleaning now and reorganizing. Starting fresh and new."
Albert Manzo uses the word "exorcise" in ordinary conversation! Albert Manzo uses the word "exorcise" in ordinary conversation!
I repeat this not only because I am thrilled in this episode to see an ancillary member of the RHONJ cast show familiarity with what I knew as the English language before reality TV spit it, half-chewed, from its mighty maw, but because, since this is a family paper, I’m not sure I can mention anything else.
The Jersey Housewives' trip to their much-mentioned former idyll, the D.R.’s Punta Cana, was such a festival of things that should not be mentioned and men who should stop doing things, that I may be stuck here simply finding new and interesting ways to describe Teresa’s exact shade of tan (Teriyaki?) or Melissa’s favorite swimsuit (Toilet-Papered Tree or Macrame Plant Holder –- I haven’t decided yet). Relating the plot, which mercifully and mentionably ends with Teresa picking a big crazy fight yet again with Kathy Wakile over the Blowout at the Christening Corral, could make Mae West blanch.
The episode began, as all Housewives on Holiday episodes do, with the women overpacking and their children charmingly hiding in half of the suitcases, possibly shoved in hopefully by the vast army of nannies we rarely get to see. However, the men, usually excluded from such jaunts, also joined in, oversharing instead of overpacking. As the cars sped off, the team of husbands launched into their expectations for the trip, which unfortunately fall into the three categories I have related above.
Arriving on the island, the entire clan –- Gorgas, Giudices, Manzos, Lauritas –- set off, like Federales, in a menacing line of black SUVs for their sweeping, blindingly sunlit villas in the Hard Rock Hotel. As rooms were divvied up and villa inhabitants migrated, boundaries were quickly drawn: Albie and Chris were going to be sharing a room, Caroline Manzo was going to get a migraine, Teresa and Joe Giudice have none.
The ostensible purpose of the trip, of course, was for the clan to return to the golden days shown briefly to viewers in a photo that elicited this comment from my fellow viewer: "Good God! How can people change so much in this short a time!" (Answer: lipo, Juvederm, booze.) But the trip quickly developed into what Kathy chuckingly called the battle for Punta Cana Princess between Teresa and Melissa, one Melissa won handily. While Melissa’s Joe was (overly, overly) affectionate, Teresa’s Joe told her to shut up and muttered ironically that she was "hot, babe." Melissa’s white bi-one-piece-stringy-thing showed off her Chicken McNugget hue better than Teresa’s gold lame half-skirt complemented her shriveled apple. And ... well, so far, that’s all you really need to be the Princess of Punta Cana.
As the episode closed, Joe and Teresa were hiking away from the communal fire, where Kathy had, in Teresa’s view, not only rained on her parade by rolling her eyes at the restaurant Teresa's planning shortly to open with Juicy Joe, but also insulted her mothering skills, her business acumen and possibly her last fourteen generations of ancestors. (All I know is, everyone on the show showed great politeness and restraint by not immediately ripping Teresa's gold suit to shreds and hurling it in the fire in the name of Anna Wintour.)
Next week, we apparently get to see the continuation of this fight, but truly, Bravo, its vast, episode-spanning breadth is starting to stretch the boundaries of what the viewer can actually understand. In the series “Lost,” when the survivors wandered the island, picking fights with each other, brief snapshots of their past brought their present behavior into focus. But on RHONJ, that actual snapshot is shown only for a second, then withdrawn. (lots of Juvederm and lipo.) Why, truly, is Joe Giudice so violently furious at Joe Gorga? What made Teresa stop calling Melissa to chat? Who are those "Others" across the island? (Oh, wait.) Okay -- well, why did Jacqueline have so much surgery if she wasn't even going to put on a bikini?
Punta Cana, Punta Cana, release the dark secrets of the past! We Bravo viewers are far from home, with only Teresa’s gold swimsuit to light the way.
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.
And not a drop to ... . Yes, punsters among you, Hurricane Irene's mighty battering of the Franklin Lakes/Wayne area, known 'round here as Chez RHONJ, means not only that your faithful correspondent was ineluctably delayed by the loss of her literal, though, one hopes, not analytical, powers, but that you may freely joke that, as of Sunday, all those foreclosed RHONJ houses are LITERALLY underwater. Well, you can make the joke once. Now, let's move on to all the other liquid-based events of Sunday's episode, beginning with Joe Guidice literally going off the deep end.
We've known for a long time that the elder Joe G. is prone to violent eruptions, ranging from the famous Christening Clash to his "Bonanza" reenactment chez Catskills to the mighty kick he delivered to his punching bag right before he and wife Tre got in the SUV to head to his brother-in-law's for a holiday bash.
But Joe's frequent quaffing of the vino may have raised his slow boil to a mighty, noxious geyser. (Once you tap into all these water metaphors, it's hard to stop the flow!) In a tense conversation between Joe Gorga and wife Melissa, we learned the disturbing news that Giudice was deluging (see?) his brother-in-law with angry, abusive texts, the thrust of which was that he and his wife were fakes. (For joining Joe on a reality show? Nevah!)
Giudice's beef? (I tire of water.) Teresa, plugging her newest book at a local signing, finally offered her brother the invite to a book-signing he had been seeking, despite her assertions that no one is invited to a book signing. (Only bound and hauled in for support.) The gracious Wakiles made an early appearance, and then Gorga and wife Melissa, as if attending a cocktail party, swanned in two hours late. Nonetheless, Gorga bought 10 books in an aggressively brotherly manner ("Next time, I'll buy a whole boxful!") and asked for his own to be signed. Teresa complied, then promptly burst into tears, having written that her brother was the most important person to her in the entire world. Gorga responded by admonishing Teresa that she should tell Giudice to lay off, a request that immediately stopped the weepfest and brought Teresa back to hair-flipping defensiveness.
And this was the state in which she returned to husband Joe, whose drunken finger-pointing amidst a crowd of guests culminated in his demonstrating a round-off for the assemblage and chipping his tooth, which then drove daughter Gia to hysterical tears.
Jacqueline! Kathy! So far the New Jersey housewives, fisticuffs notwithstanding, win the award for most genuine waterworks in the franchise. On this episode, who's to blame? Is it Teresa, who's now set her actual preference for brother Joe over husband Joe in print? Is it Joe Giudice, whose violent antics are now scaring his actual family? Is it Joe Gorga, who keeps acting as if Teresa has any control over them? Or is it that boy at Teresa's signing who asked her to marry him, thus confusing the whole operation?
Hard to say. Oh, also: the Manzo boys have signed on to sell something called “Blackwater,” a refresher steeped with “fulvic acid,” the powers of which must primarily overcome being associated with a faceless military contractor. I recommend Joe switch his choice of beverage immediately, and that the soggy fans of Hoboken, Wayne and Franklin Lakes don't mistake it for the murky substance currently flooding their own backyards. That's a bridge too far.
From the infamous christening brawl that launched this "Real Housewives of New Jersey" season, I, and every recapper across the land, have made great sport of the Franklin Lakes denizens' propensity for violence—especially the molti bellicosi Giudices.
We need not revisit the lavender-shirt-clad breast-thumping of the first episode’s conflagration, where Joe and Joe grappled in the netherworld of a genteel sit-down affair; nor the shoot-’em-up Catskills vacay at padron Giudice’s home; nor even last season’s infamous table flip, which Teresa gamely reenacted for this season’s promos. I’m even going to set aside the recent extraordinarily nasty comments of Joe Giudice toward his sister-in-law — “Who’d want to be with that raccoon-face” — because, let’s face it, Joe’s own puffy eyes reflect either some hard drinkin’ or some lack of sleepin’, and he’s probably wishing he had access to her cosmetic implements himself.
Still, though in this episode, Teresa made sure to release her habitual blast of blockheaded, feral rage at Melissa — to say nothing of adding a big dose of anti-Semitism (multi-tasking gal!) to the mix — she was not the guiltiest party. The worst offenders were two families I heretofore felt wended toward peacemaker, not jawbreaker — and haven’t done anything worse than to suck up to Billy Joel’s daughter.
I am talking the Lauritas and the Manzos.
Needs to be slapped around. Snatch her by the neck and beat her. Pick her teeth up off the floor. Bring out the wooden spoon. Get a good slap. Hit rock bottom. Get a black eye. Get out. Call one of your friends and get out.
And who’s the recipient of these charming suggestions? Is it some drug addict lout who’s stolen all the family jewelry? A relative who shows up drunk to every party and starts a fight? (Wait, that’s any Joe G.) A sister-in-law who whispers, “I can’t believe you made me eat this” and spits out Kathy W.’s obviously delicious peasant salad like something with the manners of a… peasant?
No. It’s Ashley, eye-rolling Ashley, who as far as I can tell is mostly guilty of rolling her eyes.
Don’t get me wrong. Ashley must be exhibiting some deeply, deeply annoying behavior for a 20-year-old. I’m sure she is hanging out with her friends and sleeping in; whining and asking for money at the same time she asserts she wants to be independent; blaming others when she can’t hold a job; and basically not bearing children and hanging around the kitchen for a husband who bankrolls the operation. (Oh, wait! THAT'S GOOD.)
But at the same time, Ashley’s incredulous weeping at the assertions that the people around her are trying to help her hold a veritable Franklin Lake of water. Say what you will for the crucible of family—there is actually no way any group of adults who stand around talking about how they would be making you pick your teeth up off the floor care about your own good.
Also, between Ashley and her mom, Ashley is actually exhibiting the more mature behavior of the two. She’s said she wants to go to California and go to makeup school, work part-time, and go to community college. Why is that weird? She’s also said she and her mom need to change — true. If Chris Laurita has the dough to lease her a car, why can’t he lease her a future in cosmetics school — and why can’t her absentee dad, who abandoned her in the first place, give her some down-payment money for an apartment?
When I heard Jacqueline’s sobbing about her real worry — that when Ashley went away, she would actually do well, get a good life, succeed, then never involve her mom in it — I have to admit, I almost started to cry. We don’t always get to see the side where moms are afraid they’ll be abandoned too. Even Chris Laurita told her she should let Ashley hear it.
But the Laurita/Manzo clan reverted to the old black-eye treatment, and they got in the way. Instead of a heart-to-heart, Ashley got tossed out on her keister in the middle of one of the coldest winters we’ve had in Jersey in a long time. It wasn’t even by her mother. It was Chris Laurita who did the deed, while Jacqueline tried to gather herself enough to read to her two sons about the creation of magma while sitting by the fire.
Magma! It was the only moment of symbolism the producers and editors let themselves have -- zeroing in on that nasty buried stuff that creates volcanic explosions. It was nice and subtle. Because to tell you the truth, I think Bravo producers might be getting a little worried about catchin' a beating, too.