You thought Hanukkah was long? Christmas has been going on in Franklin Lakes for weeks. The mansions twinkle with disconcertingly tasteful lights; the plastic Baby Jeeeeesus rests in his manger, no gold-plated crib for a bed.
We pick back up again at Teresa’s on Christmas Eve, with Teresa trying to passive-aggressively goad Joe Gorga into ditching Kathy and staying for dinner. She shows her brother his place setting at the table, and you can see on his face that yeah, he kind of wishes he could stay a while, drunkenly snap, and get that fine china jumping with his fists. But no, Lebanese Jon Lovitz and Lebanese Jon Lovitz Jr. (Jr. is the sea bass) are waiting over at Kathy’s, and so the Gorgas pack up their little ones to leave before the kids have even gotten a chance to take off their newsboy caps and berets! But before they’re out the door, Joe’s dad beret-s Melissa for not having been home the three times he dropped by without calling, like all of a sudden he thinks he’s the Italian Kris Kardashian.
I have to say, I used to dread it when the show cut over to Kathy’s house, but now that I know Rosie might be waiting there, my feelings are conflicted. There’s my girl, throwing back drinks in a white shirt that’s a little bit chef, a little bit Rosie O’Donnell. I could stay on her for the whole hour, no problem, but the producers leave her for the horrific sea bass and the even more horrific male cleavage on its human doppelgänger. And once the Gorgas come in, Kathy is doing her usual mouth breathing as she listens to their account of what’s happening over at Teresa’s, looking only slightly more lively than the fish.
At Caroline’s house, she’s been so busy stirring the traditional olive sauce that the only fancying up she had time to do was put on a bra. Keeping another tradition alive, Christopher Manzo has sneaked outside to ring jingle bells in an attempt to fool little C.J., but this kid’s as sharp as Melania Giudice and he’s not falling for that Santa bullshit either. Christopher attributes this to C.J. being “too freakin’ smart,” but it’s more that the kid has “two freakin’ eyes” and that Christopher’s hiding job by the deck is “too freakin’ boneheaded.” The big news of the night is that Caroline wants to invite the Gorgas to the Brownstone New Year’s party because she just can’t get enough of Joe — he reminds her of Christopher, “so full of life and happiness” and doubtless full of some “poison” too. But she’s still on the fence about Kathy and LJL, who, according to Albie, is more of a LJG (Lebonese Jeff Goldblum). While she mulls this weighty decision, she and Albert give the kids their diamond family bracelets, the fire of the stones so intense that they sear the name MANZO into the bottommost layer of flesh. The boys get a panicky look because the bracelets clash with their prayer beads, but they know better than to refuse.
And then finally, finally, it is Christmas morning, a.k.a. Jeeeesus’s birthday, and time for everyone to open their presents. The Gorga living room is the spitting image of what it would look like if the mall could take a dump. Who cares what the kids got, because Melissa was gifted some sexy rhinestone heels, Louis Vuitton luggage, a gold Rolex, and a private recording studio! I mean, little baby Joey looks like he’s gumming a piece of Styrofoam, but all that matters is that Melissa’s going to be able to make terrible music inside of the house, instead of outside of it. When she complains to Joe that she wanted a blinged-out microphone, he distracts her by saying, “Look at you — you’re on display!” This seems to make her super happy, which is perplexing because she rages so fervently against any kind of exposure in her penetrating dance single. And even though her husband has made her so happy, he’s not getting any sex because it turns out that “it’s Jeeeesus’s birthday” is the newest, hottest take on “I have a headache.”
We pop over to Kathy’s house, where Joseph is pretending to be happy about his sleeveless puffy vest, when you know all he wants is a new set of recreational knives. But I do have to say that he and his sister Victoria put “Shittiest Daughter of 2011” title holder Ashley to shame when they start reading their mom heartfelt letters and announce that they pooled their allowances to buy Kathy a brand-new laptop. It’s all very sweet, even if I have the sinking feeling that the computer represents maaaaaybe two weeks of unloading the dishwasher. Still, that’s better than the zero weeks of allowance Ashley put into buying her mom nothing for Christmas after sending her a bouquet of nothing for Mother’s Day (before you judge too harshly, you have to understand that Ashley “spent a lot of money” on her Jeep that was bought and insured for her). When we go over to Jacqueline’s, the show cuts to the family’s home video, and you’ll be happy to know that Ashley is just as sour and worthless when shot in low-def.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Teresa’s house feels pretty depressing on Christmas morn'. This is mostly thanks to Joe’s hollow stare, the bags under his eyes looking as if they’ve been stuffed with all his debt notices and pending lawsuits. He lies in bed shirtless, reluctant to get up even as his girls beg him because they’re not allowed to open presents until he has spilled himself across the downstairs settee. Even after he’s mobile, he can’t find the energy to put on a shirt, and I try to figure out who he reminds me of until I realize the answer: myself, the last time I went through a breakup.
Teresa seems to think that this year they’re not going “big” and that this is an opportunity to teach the girls about how the holiday isn’t “just about material things,” but I do feel like that message gets lost somewhere among the bedazzled Uggs, the smartphones, the drum kit, and the miniature Mercedes. Teresa receives some gloves, which she reacts to as if they’re doggy poop bags, as well as a garment that is either a velvet robe or a velvet coat. “So, no diamonds this year, huh?” she sensitively asks Joe, who looks as if he’s about to kill himself until Gia starts puking in the bathroom. At that, he gets the tiniest smile upon his face. Flirting with a slightly better mood, Joe slides in a dig at Melissa the “witch” and listens to a little of Teresa’s complaining about Kathy not being a “real cousin,” which I guess is similar to how Pinocchio wasn’t a “real boy.” But no, then his depression has returned with even greater force, and he tells his nobly sacrificing family that he’s going back to bed.
This is the first time that the Manzo boys aren’t home for Christmas morning, and Lauren is off with Vito (I imagine that he wraps all his gifts to her in the most delicate slices of beef, and you can’t do anything to convince me otherwise). So Albert takes Caroline on a drive back to the place where he proposed; he gets down on one knee to ask again since he was too nervous to step out of the car all those years ago. The new ring is the size of a gnocchi, and Caroline’s touched to see her stone again because she put on too many love pounds to wear the old band. It’s weird to discover that a woman who gets paid to dispense her wisdom has never heard of ring resizing, but I guess she’s strictly a relationship savant.
Then the Manzo clan joins up later that evening to attend the dinner hall concert of Billy Joel progeny Alexa Ray. Earlier, at the bachelor pad, Albie was worrying about Christopher embarrassing him with his “Cajun” voice, but Albie does a spectacular job of pussy fumbling on his own when he tries out the surefire pickup line, “You want a milk, since you’re the old lady, you know.” Even though Alexa has just been joking about ending up an old maid, she gazes right through Albie’s head, discovering she has better chemistry with the wall behind him. However, failure is not an option. Caroline is alarmingly determined to make this match happen because Caroline is to Billy Joel as Kathy Wakile is to Caroline. That is, Caroline is already having fantasies of Billy playing “She’s Always a Woman to Me” at the Lauren-Vito nuptials; she can already see herself making an “Uptown Girl” shopping trip with Christie Brinkley. So as golden son Albie falters, Caroline attempts to hold it together, selling her baby hard to this girl that she calls an “angel on earth,” an angel with a very angelic nose job.
Alexa Ray takes to the stage to sing an original number that sounds like a B-side from Wicked, and Albie is loving it, just loving it. He blushes. He smiles like a schoolgirl. He fingers the side of his face. In short, this is probably the most embarrassing footage of him that’s been taken since he learned how to use a toilet. I don’t have particularly high hopes for these two, but maybe the producers are just setting us up for an Albie season of The Bachelor, since they love to repurpose the rejected and downtrodden. And with that, I offer The Real Housewives of New Jersey a rose, so that we might explore our feelings in greater depth next week.