If love is like a battlefield, then friendship is like a runway walk-off — at least that's how it appears on The Real Housewives of New York City. From afar, women can look elegant, pretty, funny, and refined. But once you get to know them and try to forge friendships, you discover that one has crazy, frightening eyes and might want to kill you, another has the shoulders of a linebacker and will defend herself at all costs, and at least one will be cackling in the front row, shredding everyone that walks by. This week's episode of What Did the Harpies Do This Time? was straightforward and even like a catwalk — Bethenny and Jill had a stalemate, Kelly stayed above the fray, Alex proved that she knows how to work hard and get things done, and Ramona was as predictable as a wild animal trapped in a small room could be: Not knowing who was a friend and who was an enemy, she just attacked everybody. And then she asked her husband to renew his vows, which basically makes everyone think one of them is cheating.
But like a flashy pirouette at the end of the runway, a new character entered the scene: Sonja Morgan. Will she be able to relieve the incredibly exhausting tension between the current cast members? Or will this show continue to subtly darken our clothes one stain at a time, like cigarette ash on a shag carpet? And more important, who won this episode? Here goes ...
Well, well. If it isn't new cast member, Sonja Morgan, with the French-speaking maid (how excited was LuAnn when she made that discovery?) and her closets in Miami, Colorado, and Palm Beach. "She loves men, she loves parties, She's vivacious She's a little crazy," says LuAnn. "And that's what I love about her." Clearly producers are predicting that's what we'll love about her, too, with more of an emphasis on the "crazy" and less on the "vivacious." Sonja tries a little too hard in this episode, with her Scorsese name-dropping and her defense of plastic surgery and the claim that she's "still the straw that stirs the drink." (And the sex! So much sexy talk! Luckily, we've been able to avoid the implication that any of these characters actually have sex so far in this series, and then we get a pregnant lady and a swinger in one episode?) But the bravado is understandable — she wants to stay on the show, after all, and maybe win a Nymag.com episode competition or two. We'll give her a pass until she really gets in the shit, and Jill pulls the rug out from under her while a Ramona grenade blows up right in her pretty face.
Ramona started off the episode strong. She looked cute and appropriately nervous (and appropriately low-breasted) for when Mario came home to find her, slinkily dressed and surrounded by candles and booze. For a couple of horny drinkers who make religious artifacts, that's like a hat trick! "We're still attracted to each other," Ramona emphasizes, almost fearfully, and we're pretty sure Mario had just the tiniest eye roll at that moment. But it may have been because he knew this renewal of vows (and hair, and life) is all about Ramona. Unfortunately, when she picked up her wine glasses and went to Brooklyn, the episode went downhill from there for Ramona. Jill was right: When Ramona walked out, it's true, it looked like an alien took over her body.
Kudos to LuAnn for consistently demonstrating that she has outside friends. Granted, they're the type who would agree to be on this show, but still, it proves that she's a real person, and more important, that she's not depending only on Jill the Dementor to get her through her divorce. Yes, LuAnn speaks French to maids and accepts rickshaw rides in Central Park, but when it comes down to actual common sense (Okay, so sitting in a rickshaw displays no common sense. Do you know what's been there before you?), LuAnn seems to make the right decisions. Like, for example, backing away from the Bethenny-Jill battle and suggesting that Jill forgive Bethenny for Yom Kippur. And knowing better than to participate in "Brooklyn Fashion Weekend," even though she's always on about how she used to be a model. She's even learned how to handle Ramona when she explodes, which is by laughing. It really undoes the girl, because if she's not the only person maniacally howling at the end of an episode, how will she know she won? Still, by awkwardly bringing up Max, the man both Sonja and Kelly "dated," LuAnn made a key misstep and lost herself the episode.
Even though it was her big (let's just admit it: sad-making) Brooklyn Fashion Weekend, Alex didn't have much of a presence on this episode. She seemed to work very hard and very competently to make the event go smoothly, yet still had time to show up to support Bethenny and offer what seemed like genuine compassion for what happened with her dad. And she looked good. If she'd been on camera more, she might have won.
Okay, Bethenny. We were sad about your dad, and you've been totally trampled by Jill, so we're happy that some good news came along. But if you think for one second that we believe you discovered you were pregnant on camera (literally — did we need to see the side of your ass on the can?), you've got another thing coming. No way does Bethenny just have a pregnancy test lying around if this isn't something she's expecting (or, as we suspect, something she paid a lot of money and some scientists to make sure happened). "Holy shitballs!" she shrieked. "I am pregnant!" Yeah, it was cute, but it came across as super fake, from the "Am I supposed to get fat now?" line to the obvious lie: "We didn't even plan this, we just like, did that, and it just happened." HA! She loses for that whopper.
Kelly was strong this time around. From her linebacker shoulders to her immediate confrontation of Jill for sending her a bitchy e-mail, she came across looking tough. "I don't want you sending e-mails like that," she said right away, and Jill appeared to take her seriously for a moment, before deflecting responsibility as usual. "Remember when I told you PR 101? There's also PR 102," she tells Jill, who is clearly still on "Remedial Press Whoring" down the hall with Devorah Rose. "PR 101: Any press is good press. PR 102: Get over it, move on to something else." If only the women on this show would take that very solid advice. Kelly herself appears to be doing so: She's made a real recovery from last season's disastrous performance. When she had a cute shopping spree with Simon, we almost believed the two of them could actually have a real relationship off camera. Or at least beyond the 60-second vignettes Bravo hides in the commercials so that you have to stop and watch a portion more of their paid ads. Kelly wins this episode, for being the first person we can recall to seize one of the thousands of teachable moments on this godforsaken show.
We were surprised: Jill had some bright points this episode. She was cute with her hubby, she went to a normal, down-to-earth pizza place, she looked generally pretty the whole episode (though, who walks around Central Park in hooker boots like that, other than hookers?), and she was perfectly within her rights to be furious with Ramona's behavior at the Kodak event. But that didn't mean there weren't enough plot points for us to play our favorite game, Reasons Why Jill Zarin Is a Disgusting Person! Here we go:
She has no sense of scale: After Bobby says that the letter Bethenny wrote to him was nice, and tries to tell Jill that as far as he's concerned, Bethenny's made amends, Jill says: "She didn't write me a letter." That's right, she didn't. She showed up in person and made a tearful appeal to be Jill's friend. But Jill's right, a note probably would have been better. Then she could have spent some time thinking about how to tear it apart before she actually had to go on camera. And probably, Bethenny can't spell.
She outright revises history to better fit her role as the victim: "When I think about the things she did to me, it's hard to forget," Jill says. "It's hard to go back." Except that even Jill claims that she's more mad at Bethenny for what she didn't do (reach out enough to Bobby) than for what she did do. In fact, Bethenny didn't actually do anything.
She thinks she can dress like a girl half her age: This isn't so much disgusting as, well, sad. Like a clown wearing a bridal gown.
She starts from a place of cruelty: "When I arrived at fashion week, in Brooklyn, I was so horrified," she said. "It was so low-rent. The step-and-repeat was next to a giant heap of trash. I'm speechless." What about trying to come from a place of fun and humor? Didn't all the boys in high school tell you that you were "the funny one"?
She keeps score: Honestly, thank God she doesn't really work, because there's no way she could keep balance sheets in her head and factoids like who "twittered" who about how it was nice to see her. "That was like, so pissed me off," Jill said to Kelly. "You're such a hypocrite." Why? Why? What does that have to do with Jill? (We know, we know. It's her hobby!)
She's not even good at being two-faced: When she said to Ramona, "Where is Mario? He didn't want to see his hot, sexy wife walk down the runway?" she couldn't leave it at that. She had to make a nasty face to the camera. Being clever doesn't involve mugging — look at Jerry Seinfeld, he could barely change his facial expression. Eventually the Botox should take care of that for Jill.
She pretends to help when she's really trying to undercut: She tells Ramona that her bright-blue gemstone clashes with her black dress, even though it's not navy or anything even close to the color of the dress. And then, she gleefully says to Kelly, "She doesn't know I know it's her jewelry!"
She gives nobody nothing: Alex looked fine walking down the runway. Even when Jill tried to compliment her — "She has the body of a runway model, maybe not the face" — she failed. Though to be fair, we're pretty sure she wasn't trying very hard.
She goes through the motions of politeness, but doesn't have any awareness of what's behind them: She should have stayed to say congratulations to the girls, who were clearly antsy and nervous.
She is a blame boomerang-er: After getting confronted for sending Kelly a bitchy e-mail that said, "I thought you really cared," Jill says she wasn't being threatening."You're paranoid," she says, like Kelly made up the whole thing. "What did you think I was mad at?" Um, what she said she was mad at in the e-mail?
Max, Sonja's assistant: We expect great things from him, and from her cute white dog.
Bobby: "Friends you should cherish," he tells Jill, making a sweet but futile effort to curb her raging cruelty.
John Varvatos: Catering to Simon van Kempens across the world.
Bethenny's friend Stephanie: Who, upon being asked what Bethenny should do now that she is pregnant, says, "You're supposed to go on with your life."
Jason: He's always a winner, but here particularly, because he clearly did not agree to re-create the pregnancy scene with Bethenny.
The John Varvatos salesman: That guy looked eerily like a poor man's member of the Intel extended family. Give him a little more hair and a broader neck, and you've almost got Intel Chris's boyfriend!
The paparazzi hired to shoot the Pepperidge Farm cart: Sad for them.