It's Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons, the end of the summer season and the beginning of the third season of the Real Housewives of New York. A year has passed. We open with the main characters on a yacht Ramona has borrowed from a friend. Well, most of our main characters: Bethenny is not invited, Ramona says, because she and Jill were having problems, and Ramona "didn't want to have drama." Of course, as we already know, when a Real Housewife says she doesn't want drama, it only serves to invoke drama. Almost immediately, the air is thick with tension and swirling with questions. Will there be food and will it be good enough for Jill? Does Ramona have ulterior motives in showing off her jewelry line to the group? What did Ramona do to piss off her friend Joni? Meanwhile, the boat is plunging dramatically through waters that seem unusually rough, giving us even more of a sense that something big is going to happen. Will the ladies have a Perfect Storm moment? Will a sudden and terrible storm divert their ship to a desert island, where they will have to fend for themselves, like Tom Hanks in that movie where he makes friends with the soccer ball?
Of course not; there's just a giant fight. Ramona's husband, Mario, referred to recently divorced Countess LuAnn as "Countless," and instead of thinking that is hilarious, LuAnn is deeply and hugely offended. Ramona can't take it — criticism of Mario is criticism of her! — her eyes pop out of her head, and her head spins off of her neck and into the ocean.
Not really, but she throws a doozy of a fit, the first of what promise to be many on this season. While we've been away, the ladies have done some scheming. The hive mind has clearly decided that Bethenny needs to be cast off like a pasty whose adhesive has dried up in the summer sun. LuAnn picked a fight with her, the other girls heap abuse on her behind her back, and in a dramatic turn that was actually sort of genuinely upsetting, she and Jill had a dramatic off-screen falling out. Since Bethenny is, traditionally, our favorite character, this makes us a little wary about the season to come. As much as we like her new boyfriend and her adorable dog (which clearly has some sort of problem with the boyfriend), watching the three of them alone together for an entire season will not good television make, and her personal happiness does not bode well for her chances of winning episodes, which is, in our opinion, what Real Housewives is all about. Life, on this show, is a competition.
So who won last night's episode?Bethenny did surprisingly well, even though all the girls were determined to stomp her out of favor with the audience. It helped that she kicked off the show by saying the word "twat," which we for sure thought wasn't allowed on television. She looked pretty great during her nude photo shoot, and was full of solid one-liners. ("You can give them to Kelly when she runs down Fifth Avenue," she said, handling the nude panties she was about to put on. "She can wear my vadge shorts.") Yes, her Skinny Girl car was ridiculous, and yes, when she felt the need to tell her boyfriend, "You look very very handsome and very masculine," it raised all sorts of new questions for us. But after her fight with LuAnn, when she vowed not to talk trash about her behind her back and then immediately called her a "dumb drag queen" to the cameras, we had to give her high marks. Still, she did not win the episode.
It is far too early in the season for us to even consider Kelly in the running for episode champion, even though she delivered a series of awesome Kellyisms, like "I want to be Robin to somebody's Batman," and "That's not a friend, that's called a foe." We were a bit confused about how she was cleared of any wrongdoing in the alleged assault against her ex-boyfriend and yet was still forced to do community service. And we couldn't quite decide whether she was admitting that her "relationship" with "Max" last season was utterly fake. But in the end, she wasn't really a presence on this episode, and as a result, we'll withhold judgment until the next one.
Likewise, Alex wasn't really a presence on this episode, causing us to further wonder if she is actually a whole person without Simon. She sort of sat to the side, the only one of the housewives on the boat young and thin enough to actually pull off a bikini, enjoying her rosé while she could. She knows this reprieve isn't going to last, but for now she's ready to just let things slide — even Ramona shrieking into her face from six inches away.
"Don't I look like an older Cameron Diaz?" Ramona asks all of the girls as they pile onto her borrowed yacht, causing Jill to channel the ghost of Bethenny for a moment and stick her finger down her throat. ("No, you look like a Fry Guy" would have gotten the point across a little more gracefully, we think.) Blissfully unaware of the ladies' eye rolls, Ramona went on to immediately declare she hadn't had any plastic surgery since last season, which probably made Jill regret she'd wasted the finger move only moments before. At first we wondered why Ramona didn't invite Kelly, and then quickly realized she wanted to feel like the smoothest speckled jelly bean in the bag. She helped herself get there by ensuring she was nice and tipsy when everyone arrived, and by the time producers set up the inevitable fight with Ramona, she was actually wobbling in her espadrilles. There is a debate between Intel's Chris and Jessica over whether, when discussing hubby Mario's rude comment to LuAnn, she said "I think you're making a mountain out of a holemill," or " ... a mountain out of a homo," but either way we missed Bethenny's presence, because whatever the Freudian slip actually was, the Skinny Bitch would have made hay with it. In the end, even though we loved it when the drunk, double-tequila-shot-chugging Ramona declared "I don't get drunk," we still couldn't give her the win.
Jill gave us a sense of how she was going to play this season, griping about pretty much everyone before she even shared camera time with them. We don't understand this fight with Bethenny, which seems manufactured for the show's sake, and appears to center around the fact that they both think Jill needs a hobby. (Word of advice: Don't pick interior decorating.) "I had to cut her out like cancer," Jill remarked about Bethenny, which would be odd if it was anybody but Jill, because part of the whole reason she's "mad" at Bethenny was Bethenny's perceived insensitivity to Bobby Zarin's cancer. But we feel like it's Jill, and she was probably all excited that she could start throwing the word "cancer" around because suddenly it was in her house, like that dentist from Seinfeld who started making jokes about Jews. Jill's money moment, by far, was when LuAnn and Ramona appeared to be having a private fight, and suddenly the camera pulled back, and ta-da! Jill had been there the whole time, ready to chime in with overwrought insults and eye shadow.This episode wouldn't have been able to glide from explosion to explosion nearly as well as it did had LuAnn not clearly followed so closely the instructions of producers. At first she didn't want to fight with Ramona until after the nice boat ride, but then, mysteriously, she changed her mind. Likewise, she was clearly ready for a fight with Bethenny the minute the gal popped out of her Skinny Girl clown car and walked into the restaurant. She even managed to control the conversation with Bethenny, which is a near impossibility, leaving the health-food chef sputtering and talking shit to the cameras after the fact. But it was this line, the most underhanded compliment of the episode, that nailed LuAnn the win: "I always say Ramona is the most fun because she'll be the first one naked in your swimming pool," she said to Ramona's face. "There's a lot of boring, horrible people, and you're not one of them." Aw. Bethenny, take note!
Jason Hoppy: For generally looking normal on camera, and for getting to have sex with Bethenny's body.
Ramona's friend Joni: For somehow managing to find an incredibly skanky bathing suit that actually covered her belly. No easy task!
Everybody's dermatologist: Seriously, everybody's looking smoother than ever. We'd wonder if there were hideous aging portraits of these women hidden away in a closet in their apartments somewhere, but we know they're probably out in the living room over the fake fireplace.