Last night, as we exposed our fragile psyches to the last installment of the social experiment that is the Real Housewives of New York City, we found ourselves pondering some serious questions. Namely: What is this show, and what, if anything, can it teach us about life, and ourselves? Watching it was not unlike, we found ourselves thinking, watching monkeys at the zoo.
To be sure, the women onstage looked like a different species from us. But they had some characteristics that reminded us of ourselves. Like, you know, thumbs. If we and our friends were subjected to the same conditions, we found ourselves wondering— starved for months, trussed up in Spanx, injected with chemicals, plied with Pinot Grigio, and forced to give “confessionals” about one another that we would later view along with a national audience, what would happen to us? Would we act the same way? We couldn’t quite come up with an answer. But we like to think we would conduct ourselves like the one person who managed to maintain their (relative) dignity during this portion of the reunion, the person we will hold up as the winner of this episode at the end of this recap — provided Intel Jessica can relive the experience of watching this show without committing hara-kiri with the leaking ballpoint pen on her desk.
The way we feel about Bethenny’s dress really reflects how we’ve felt about all of these reunion episodes. At first it was sort of pretty and interesting, and then it became a little bit scary when we realized how snug it was (especially twelve days after she gave birth). And finally, by the end, it just looked like a weird, Jessica McClintock prom dress that should have never been seen under bright lights. It made us sad. It also, in the end, dwarfed Bethenny’s reactions and expressions, except the most severe, like when Kelly talked about PETA, or when Jill went over to hug her and she didn’t even get up. It was like it exhausted her.
Sonja continued to impress us with her talent for being able to talk without sending the other cast members into spasms, which indicates how much this show has eroded our standards for human behavior. Even when she called Kelly a crazy person to her face, over and over, Kelly still somehow felt like Sonja was “the only one” who was nice to her. And she made some good points, like: “It didn’t ring true to me that she thought she could make up with Bethenny, when Bethenny lives a block away,” undermining the one argument Jill thought she had in her favor for turning up on Poison Island, and Jill just nodded. Of course, she didn’t always make sense (“I find it inappropriate when people show up without calling. This isn’t a 6-year-old’s birthday party. I’m over the mumps, hello, here I am”), and we’re pretty sure we caught her giving a “Blue Steel” look to the camera a couple of times, both of which reminded us that it’s not that Sonja is any more sane than the other housewives, she’s just been on the show, and whatever psychotropic drug Bravo is delivering to the cast, for less time. Give her a couple more seasons, and she’ll probably be wild-eyed and railing about Ramona transforming into a gargoyle.
She had to do some strange physical maneuvering to get them out, but for once, Ramona found her words. She managed to express to Jill exactly what she felt she should have done on Poison Island, and the clarity of her speech, along with the accompanying rain dance, even managed to shut Jill up for a moment. “Jill acts a certain way when she’s with me, and then when she’s behind my back she’s really hurtful and spiteful,” she said later, explaining her sudden rage. When Jill argues that “that’s the show, let’s call it what it is, gimme a break,” Ramona very rightly points out that at least she says things to people’s faces. Can’t argue with that.
Let’s be honest, Alex didn’t do anything in this episode except make a face of total bewilderment and frustration, and also tell this lie to Jill: “If you had come in with an ounce of humility, it would have been water under the bridge.” Blah.
For the first time in ages, we didn’t mind Jill so much. She got in some of her great trademark eye rolls, like when recalling Alex’s over-the-top hyperventilating on Poison Island, and how Ramona managed to get up from her pedicure to greet her, and when she couldn’t stop herself from cackling while watching footage of LuAnn singing, well, we couldn’t blame her. We had trouble feeling sad for her when she described her visit to the island as “the most painful thing” she’s ever experienced in her life. But we did appreciate the effort she made with Bethenny in the end, and the fact that she even tried to save Kelly from herself by quietly shushing her throughout the entire episode.
For Kelly, this episode was like Intervention, Bravo-style. First, Andy Cohen let her stay off-camera for awhile so that the other women could explain how it really was on Poison Island. Then, they aired a reel of her craziest, most contradictory moments. We got Kelly saying: “Do I dress sexy ever?” followed by a series of shots of her in the shortest dresses known to woman; “I don’t like being mean” followed by a dozen clips of her saying nasty things; “I don’t eat processed foods” followed by her declaration of love for Gummy Bears; “I wear fur, but it doesn’t mean I support the abuse of animals,” etc., etc. Afterward, Andy Cohen and the girls looked at her expectantly. But it’s unclear what they hoped would happen: an actual “a-ha” moment? Another breakdown? Instead, they got the same thing they always get: Kelly, smiling at how adorable she is. Does she react this way because she’s insane? We don’t think so, actually. Probably, it’s more that somewhere along the line somebody (okay, look at her, probably lots of people, all men) taught Kelly that what she says doesn’t matter. That she will be praised no matter what. This has warped her personality in two ways: It has made her a total egomaniac and encouraged her to think not at all. She is ruled entirely by emotions, which is why, when threatened, she reacts like Ramona said, like an “animal.” Like when Sonja attempts to disagree with her and Kelly immediately shoots back that she “drank a lot” that night. Ditto Ramona, whom she quips has a “Blood Type” of Pinot Grigio. It’s a good line, as Jill observes, and like us, she can tell there’s no way Kelly thought of it herself. She just doesn’t have the mental capability to do that sort of thing. In the end, Kelly says she isn’t accustomed to being around “assertive” women, in a tone that suggests that she hopes she never will have to be again. But we hope when she looks back on this show, she’ll realize that being assertive isn’t always a bad thing, that sometimes people listen to her while she talks, and that that comes with responsibility. Her “a-ha” moment didn’t come for Andy Cohen, but hopefully it will happen before her daughters get to high school.
We have to hand it to LuAnn: For all of the times she drove us crazy by talking about her manners and reserve, then turned around and immediately acted like a bitchy sorority sister during pledge week, she made up for it in this episode by acting, well, classy. She only spoke when spoken to, and never leapt to take a side during the hysterical, shrieking harpy moments. She was funny about her dating situation, humorously observing about Corte, “I wasn’t really into kissing him on the TV,” and she was just open and honest enough about her husband’s affair and the effect it had on her that when she did deflect a question about it, she became the first person in the history of reality television to not sound ridiculous saying, “I don’t like to talk about my personal life,” on a show about people’s personal lives. Best of all, she wouldn’t be shamed about “Money Can’t Buy You Class.” “I took a chance with the song and I really loved it, and did it anyway,” she said, when Andy baited her about her critics. “I’m no Mariah Carey, but I can carry a tune.” You can carry yourself right into the next season, lady!