This week on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, ye-olde-baby-benefit scene continues to get milked like a corn-fed Holstein, with Caroline gratuitously bringing it up at the Housewives' first Dina-less lunch at yet another local strip-mall spaghetti joint. The point of the lunch is to gather the ladies for a stilted recap of their own, so that producers may haul out the footage of Danny Provenzano swaggering around the Brownstone again, swearing at the top of his lungs because nobody at the fund-raiser had the telepathic wherewithal to set up a table for him and his "entourage." We get the urge to slow down in front of the wreck, but circling the block indefinitely is another story.
Everyone on RHONJ is doing the same thing over and over again while pretending to expect different results for the cameras, as presumably somebody (Andy Cohen, maybe?) told them to do — but we're starting to think that Caroline's obsession with Danielle involves more than just hamming it up for the never-ending ham game that is RHONJ. She's constantly telling people to stop talking about Danielle, and yet she can't stop talking about her. We fear she may be in the grips of a psychosexual obsession as potentially tragic as it is currently tedious.
Which brings us to the first theme of the week: repetition compulsion. This week's episode is an object lesson in quitting while you're ahead, or getting it together before it's too late, or just saying, the hell with it, what's another $100K when you're already $11 million in debt? After four breast augmentations, one of Danielle's digitally blurred Frankenboobs has crapped out or revolted, and now it is "depressed," "reddened," and "deformed." (We know how it feels.) Or at least so say her surgeons, as they gingerly poke at the dejected bosom in the bowels of their dubious strip-mall clinic, which looks a little like a convenience store near our house that we're always a little afraid to enter. Not that this is what they've told Danielle; they've told her she's going to be very happy, and she believes them, even though half the letters on their illuminated sign are burned out and the parking lot is desolate.
Caroline, meanwhile, experiences some of the emotional peaks and valleys of parenthood. As Lauren soars with eagles at her cosmetology school, where on "avant-garde day" she wows 'em by punching herself in one eye and bisecting her face with black eyeliner, Albie gets himself thrown out of law school for academic underperformance. Something tells us that Albie's poor grades might have had at least a little something to with the fact that he's on a TV show where he's considered to be "the handsome one." But wait, he has a learning disability! His failure should be interpreted as success! Apparently, the school disagrees. Albie is told that if he can't actually read, then maybe he should think about a career outside the field of law. This is too much for Caroline, who breaks down and then rises up again and delivers a rousing speech. "They told you you weren't good enough — over my dead body you're not good enough." For a second, we feel sorry for them. Then we remember Albie's GPA and figure the prisons are crowded enough.
Which brings us to the second theme of the week: kids. Not the little ones, but the grown-up kids on the brink of adulthood. Kids who are no longer cuddly balls of your projected fantasies and unrealistic expectations, but flawed, disappointing offspring, just starting down the road on what will surely be a lifelong journey of bad choices and regrets; in other words, children that remind you of you. Ashley tries to figure out how to move back into her parents' house while continuing to be able to party, and succeeds in wheedling a late curfew from Jacqueline and Chris. Lauren is celebrated for finally mustering the energy to spend wads of money learning to be a birthday-party face-painter. Chris is told yet again that his nice personality makes up for his lack of intellect, drive, etc. None of them is ever asked to deal with the consequences of anything. The future of America looks bright indeed. Then, as we're reflecting on what all of this means, we happen to catch a glimpse of a Watch What Happens! With Andy Cohen promo. Andy Cohen is Bravo's head of creative programming, who, for reasons unknown, has created a show for himself in which he can get wasted on live TV. So maybe there is a future for Albie and Ashley and Lauren after all — a bright and lucrative future that involves no reading and encourages substance abuse and the exploitation of children!
RHONJ is predicated on the idea that it's fun to watch people who have never heard of the word "consequence" live stupid lives. But it's boring. For a moment at the start of last night's episode, as the remaining Housewives gathered around the lunch table, we thought we detected in Teresa's eyes a hollowed-out, dead-inside look. But apparently she just needed a nap. She spends the episode organizing a housewarming party with a planner named Elvira, who puts her down for not having a pool or household help and encourages her to rent lots of gold furniture and turn her party into a Russian disco. Teresa hates Elvira from the start, but that doesn't stop her from paying her and her "entourage" — elsewhere known as employees — to throw an over-the-top party for a few hundred of her closest frenemies and casual acquaintances. Both Kims, the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Danielle's Claudius, are in attendance of course, dutifully sucking up and gathering intel for what we hope will be a final, fatal confrontation between Danielle and Caroline. Meanwhile, a drugged and dazed Danielle, her nuggets reconstituted yet again, is escorted home where her beautiful daughters (alas) await her, and she climbs into her coffin to sleep until nightfall.