At the beginning of episode eight of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, the women use a group therapy retreat to come to a place of mutual peace and healing. Twenty on-screen minutes later, Teresa Giudice throws a wineglass across a restaurant. Those Jersey therapy sessions remain as effective as ever.
It wasn’t just the failed therapy efforts, though; I felt like this week’s excellent episode evoked a wonderful sense of place. The fun of imbibing in multiple Housewives franchises is the different regional flavours, and episode eight in particular felt very Jersey — from the weird moaning noises and grunted asides the girls made at the dog party, to the flamboyant sartorial choices:
That is a chunky turtleneck crop top over a black tank and snakeskin camo leggings, in case you were wondering. Margaret, perhaps feeling left out as the only cast member who doesn’t have that blonde balayage that apparently just made it to Franklin Lakes this year, has upped her fashion game.
In other news: call the paramedics, my friends, because we truly got Staubed this week. Part of the joy of season eight is that it has been, effectively, a do-over for Danielle Staub. We’re getting to see what seasons one and two might have been like had she not exploded seconds after lift-off. The result is a beguiling swirl of shit-stirring, self-victimization and martyrdom. Episode eight was a gorgeous illustration of why Danielle 2.0 is doomed to failure, especially in her relationship with Teresa. I don’t think it will happen this season. I fully expect Danielle to glide through the reunion (filming today!) with a minimum of fuss, and if I may be so bold, to be back full-time next year.
But Danielle will always be hamstrung by two problems: she cannot let go of old wounds, and she needs to be surrounded by a vortex of drama. When she dug up Prostitution Whore, the moment that defined RHONJ almost a decade ago, to reassert her pain over it, it was a warning shot, however unintentional. To her credit, we got a great moment: Teresa apologizing to Danielle for the table flip is huge, narratively speaking. But this is a fundamentally Danielle move, to whimper to Tre that “you hurt my children” even during peacetime. Danielle’s need to be the victim of something, even when no one is coming for her, is what will destroy her again in the long run. That, and her need to stir the pot. We saw her put a bug in Margaret’s ear that Siggy’s moves toward reconciliation might not be sincere. She’s gotten away with scams like that so far, but I’ve gotta think these chicks are watching and taking notes.
Danielle isn’t our only piece of non-cast business this week. At long last, we uncorked Kim D., a fine vintage who only appreciates with time. I was watching this week with my boyfriend, and when Siggy and Dolores first appeared at Posche, I turned to Adam and said, “get ready, because there is going to be some unspeakable piece of slander unleashed in this scene.” True to form, Kim D. did not disappoint, “letting slip” that Teresa is cheating on her husband, and if she is, good for her!, she’s earned it!, but yeah definitely cheating on Joe. The horrified reactions from Siggy and Dolores were so pure I almost believed them… almost. They may not have known Kim D. was going to pull that specifically, but they knew Kim D. was going to pull something. We all know what the Gutter Queen of Allendale is like by now.
¿Y las otras?
5. Dolores: Starting to sound like a Kendrick Lamar song with her prattling on about loyalty. The problem with Dolores’ interpretation of loyalty is that it’s so vague as to be meaningless. I thought, at first, that it meant she would belligerently back up Siggy at all costs. Not an advisable strategy, but at least a strong stance. But now she’s extended it to people like Teresa and Kim D., and I’ve realized it’s just a blanket statement she uses to absolve her from taking sides in disputes between people she’s known a long time. Never a good Housewives move to hang your entire strategy on an equivocation. We’re getting into Karen Collins territory now. Besides that, Dolores’s main function this week was to serve as the Cassandra about Danielle Staub’s bad vibes (but that bomb won’t go off until next year).
4. Melissa: Kinda cracked me up this week, between her uncanny impression of Siggy and her crash course on bat mitzvahs courtesy of Teresa. Is it possible Melissa Gorga is an unrealized comic genius? A gifted comedian and a musical prodigy; truly one woman can have it all.
3. Siggy: I know I was giving Danielle shit above, but I actually totally agree that Siggy’s forgiveness of the other women was put on. We have not heard the last of that cake. This:
is not the face of a woman who is over it. I also think it’s a mistake for anyone claiming the moral high ground to get in bed with Kim D., the Friend of the Housewives who most resembles Faust’s vision of the Devil.
2. Margaret: Margaret is a fascinating woman, and I look forward to scratching away the surface during her inevitable second season. So far, Marge has been able to sustain her good PR — the novelty of a vibrant new Housewife with a brassy personality and quick wit has shellacked over some of her missteps (though the Hitler analogy was poorly judged and phrased even worse, and Siggy will make her pay for it in blood).
But you know how above, I listed some of the traits that will eventually catch up with Danielle Staub? The quality that will eventually sewer Margaret Josephs is that she gets off on making people feel beneath her. She loves finding people who don’t like her, and whom she doesn’t like, and antagonizing them until they crack. Not on a Jody Claman level — I don’t think she’s a monster, and she has various redeeming qualities. But she knows she’s the quickest person in this group, and she loves to show it off. It’s not a problem so far because she’s restrained it to Siggy, whom no one likes, but her gut need to shade the people around her will cause her problems down the line. You heard it here first.
1. Teresa: Teresa’s placement atop this ranking might have been a flourish of formality — anyone who smashes glassware should be the de facto Queen of the Episode — but it’s also an acknowledgment that the narrative has moved to centre her. Kim D.’s infidelity jabs will widen the rift between Teresa and Siggy/Dolores. They’ll also add a wonderful undercurrent of violent anticipation to next week’s Posche fashion show (eeee!). If the producers were smart, they just called the cops in advance.
Next week on The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Danielle superglues her weave to her head in anticipation.