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The Real Housewives of New Jersey Season-Premiere Recap: Mean Girls, Jersey Style

“I enjoy Jacqueline so much more now that we’re drama-free,” says Caroline unconvincingly at the start of season two of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey, immediately following Jacqueline’s blessed fertility-assisted event. “Over the past few months the happenings around us took a toll on us. But when it comes to my family, there’s a connection and a bond there that can’t be broken by anybody.”

We think somebody should tell Caroline to cut out the Marlon Brando routine or make good on a veiled threat already, because the act is starting to get moldy.

The “happenings” to which she refers, of course, are the tensions with Danielle that escalated in Teresa’s rather unconvincing temple-cleansing table flip in last season’s finale. (“Prostitution whoo-ah!”) This moment is the most interesting thing that’s happened on the show so far, and it also clearly establishes Caroline as an enthusiastic and unabashed lover of the dramatic arts. (“I have a nervous laugh,” she says, by way of explaining why she was cracking up.) And yet, so far at least, the search for narrative momentum and a dramatic arc is palpable, and in their absence producers are frantically tossing around distracting allusions as if they were trying to make another Shrek sequel.

First, there’s Dina’s bizarre Ernst Blofeld/Dr. Evil moment in the company of her perversely unattractive cats, Grandma Wrinkles and Ladybug. What, pray, are we to make of Dina’s love for these freaks of the feline freak kingdom? That she’s a criminal mastermind hell-bent on global domination? (Because we would encourage this plot development if producers were casting around for ideas. Just saying.) Later in the show, we will also enjoy a contemporary reimagining of the iconic moment from The Women, the scene with the manicurist with the big mouth. You know the one. "Jungle red." You’ve seen it a million times. Debi Mazar played the girl in the horrible Diane English remake. Anyway. The point is, this clique-ish ostracism of Danielle from the in crowd seems to have mushroomed into a full-on Mean Girl terror campaign, and it’s getting ugly. We fear it could end in tragedy. You gu-uys, come on, okay? It’s not funny anymore, okay? It’s sad, okay? Okay?

Knowing what a devout Catholic — and presumably also how lonely and desperate — Danielle is, “a friend” has put her in touch with a kindly cleric named Father Richard, so she may seek spiritual counsel. One wonders two things: Is this “friend” aware of the Catholic Church’s already considerable current troubles, and has Father Richard been apprised of the nature of the show? In any event, Danielle lays out the situation for Father Richard; Father Richard tries to get a word in edgewise; Father Richard is met with a double-finger point to the face; Father Richard tells her to move on. We think he might mean it literally — as in out of his office.

At this point, the howling, wrenching pit of pain that is Danielle is juxtaposed — rather cruelly, we thought — against sunny scenes of pastoral splendor and frolicsome filial devotion. Teresa’s extended family is making spaghetti sauce alfresco in the driveway, enough to last them the whole winter. It’s like they’re squirrels. Italian-American squirrels. Vaguely anti-Semitic Italian-American squirrels whose attitudes about menstruation have been apparently cribbed from Clan of the Cave Bear. Okay, forget the metaphor; the point is they’re happy and close and they’re going to eat spaghetti all winter long, tra la la, and Danielle is not, because she's a prostitution whoo-ah!

Caroline takes her newly thin husband shopping at Barneys. “I’m very excited to go up to Barneys for a private shopping experience up in their penthouse suite,” she says, which makes what turns out to be a very expensive excursion sound deliciously cheap. This reminds us that we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Housewives of all metro areas for exposing contemporary brand-based “luxury” for the existentially depressing kitsch it really is. Thank you, Housewives! Keep up the brand-demolishing work!

Anyway, Danielle. As we said, the ganging up and piling on is starting to get to us, especially as it really seems to be affecting Danielle’s kids, who are lovely and serious and concerned and worried about their mom’s dignity and sanity and self-esteem and connection to reality, and who happen to look like just Mariel and Margeaux Hemingway for reasons unknown, which only adds to their lovely, tragic air.

But it's open season on Danielle. While Jacqueline’s husband will tolerate his infant son wrapped in a leopard blanket, he will not approve of any further contact between Danielle and his wife. Ditto for the drunk asshole who escorts Kim to the sheriff’s fund-raising event at Caroline’s house. Who is Kim? She is the owner of a shop — shoppe? — called Posche, where Danielle put $400 worth of clothes for her kids on her "tab." She is also a back-stabbing, duck-billed bitch.

Danielle finds out about the party when Rosa, her manicurist, remarks on all the people that have come into the salon to prepare for Caroline’s big party.

“There’s still some apologies due before we could ever move on,” says Danielle to the manicurist filing her toe nails.

Scritch scritch.

“But to be called garbage by people. I don’t deserve to be called garbage.”

Scratchedy-scritch.

“Dina doesn’t seem to have a problem with me.”

Buff, buff, buff.

“I think Dina realizes that I was in a difference place then.”

Wipe. Wipe.

“Otherwise, why would she be texting with me and us being nice to each other both publicly and privately?”

… and so on. Finally, Rosa wordlessly slips a sandal on Danielle’s foot. Danielle is still talking. Here’s your shoe, what’s your hurry?

Of course, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean people aren't out to get you. And as Danielle barrels toward the party at nightfall in search of answers, and the Housewives at the party crowd lean in to hear what Kim has to say about her and cackle, Danielle's kids try to talk her down from the ledge.

"Mom, you're messing yourself up right now!"

"We're not gonna let you make a jerk out of yourself!"

"Is that what I'm doing?"

"Yup!"

"Yup!"

And so forth.

Meanwhile, back in the tented garden, Caroline thoroughly enjoys the happenings.

Photo: Bravo