Welcome back, scumbags.
Before we dive into the rankings, some optimism: I’ve enjoyed this season so far! We’ve barely started, so it’s not an unconditional endorsement (some non-cake conflict will need to emerge at some point, for example), but it’s easily better than anything Jersey has done for the past, God, six seasons? The cast chemistry is good and even inert humans like Melissa and Dolores are finding their place in the drama. Worth tuning in if you’re not watching already.
Next, as always, The Staub Report. This is a special Staub Report because it’s the first time I really get to sink my teeth into our new and improved Danielle. She came in hot in the premiere talking a lot of big bollocks about bringing down Kim D. (where the fuck is Kim D., by the way? The people grow restless!) but since then, she’s cruised, happy to find acceptance from the group at large. Episode four saw her long-awaited first strike: snitching on Dolores for saying Teresa only cares about money.
I think she played it well. She dropped it on Teresa in the limo to the party, made it public when Dolores was in the middle of fluffing herself up for her loyalty and straightforwardness, and turned on the waterworks to make Dolores, already in the middle of a run of bad PR, look even worse. I don’t know how long Danielle can keep the crowd because she will always be too abrasive and intense, but it’s fascinating seeing her in a position to make some moves. Danielle was such a pariah so early on in her first run that huge parts of the Housewives playbook were never even available to her. This is the first time I’ve seen her with allies even (well, Jacqueline, but that and two bucks gives you bus fare). I’m interested to see how she plays her hand out going forward.
(Since I always weigh in on these she said/she said off-camera situations: I think Danielle is basically telling the truth about Dolores shitting on Tre, although it wouldn’t surprise me if Danielle twisted it in the retelling to make it sound worse than it was.)
And the rest?
5. Margaret: A bit of a cool-off episode for Marge, who wasn’t even in attendance for this week’s big argument. Instead, we shaded in her family: her sex-crazed mother, and the affair that started her second marriage (which is just what this show needed, by the way, another fucking husband named Joe).
4. Teresa: Tre has to be loving her part in this season. Not the part where she’s grieving her mother, which remains affecting, but she’s in the fantastic position of being central to the drama while still avoiding its worst outcomes. There’s a constant gunfight around Teresa and everyone is getting riddled with bullets but she’s coming out unscathed. Which I’m totally fine with; let’s give the woman a season off. She’s put in her goddamn time.
3. Dolores: Dolores managed to glide through her first season without ever really asserting herself as a character. Now she has to define her mission statement, and she’s not doing a very good job. Loyalty is not, in and of itself, a commendable quality. Dictators, for example, have many loyal subjects. Dolores isn’t a bad person, but she’s not great at the Housewife game. I do think her warning about Danielle will prove prescient, but like, duh.
2. Melissa: This episode was called “The Public Shaming of Melissa,” which is a fantastic alternative title for an ancient drama, and it lived up to its name. I’ll put aside the mediocre restaurant storyline (it seems like I’ll have plenty of space to talk about it next week) and jump right into the centrepiece of the hour: Siggy literally stopping her party to humiliate Melissa in front of all the guests. I feel bad that Melissa is the last person left whom Siggy has no compunction abusing, but it makes sense. Melissa has always been kind of an afterthought on this show and in her own life. Siggy probably just forgot to mend fences. You know how on Recess, only three of the Ashleys ever got to talk and the fourth Ashley was just sort of there? Melissa is the fourth Ashley. But I liked her talking heads and that moment at the party was genuinely one of the most surreal and horrifying things I’ve ever seen on TV, so I’ll give her a pass.
1. Siggy: It’s weird with Siggy because by any conventional measure the cake thing is past tired, please stop talking about the cake, I would give my life to a grateful nation if you never said the word “cake” again, but she keeps finding implausible ways to one-up her own psychosis such that it still kind of works for me? Very little surprises me on these shows anymore but when Siggy called her party to a halt to publicly poll the entire guest list on whether Melissa’s cake conduct was appropriate, then lay supine on the floor like Jesus screaming incoherently:
I can honestly say my jaw was hanging slack. Between this and the fuckery with her son, Siggy is on her way to one of the most intensely negative villain edits since, you know, Danielle Staub and I did not see it coming at all. Was she always this insane? Is it like a Jill Zarin situation where we wanted to see the best in her so we were like, “aw, what a Charmingly Overbearing Jewish Mom Archetype” but then her flimsy human disguise could no longer contain the deranged monster within? I don’t know when it started, but I’ll damn well be watching when it ends.
Next time on The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Danielle Staub gets her shoes polished.