The tone of the second part of the reunion is established the moment it begins, on the tail end of last week's fight between Teresa and Caroline. “You should follow your own advice,” says Teresa. “I know, my own advice was to stay away from you,” shoots back Caroline. And then Andy’s all, “Okay, ladies, let’s take it down a notch. Melissa, Joe’s pretty horny, huh?” As if that cliff-hanger was necessary because it was just impossible to have lopped off that first part and to have started the episode off fresh with a nice, benign question about intimate sexual details followed a montage of how “you do it” Jersey style. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Andy edited this episode himself in between hosting on-air cocktail parties and running the network and drugging Jacqueline so that he could take his place as the fifth Housewife!)
Andy asks Melissa about a rumor he heard that she once had a girlfriend. Melissa admits to having a girlfriend but not in that way. It’s just a bunch of rumors! Then Andy asks Teresa about rumors he’d read in the tabloids about Juicy having affairs and Teresa tries to mimic Melissa’s casual shrugging off of such gossip, but she does it in a way where it’s clear that the rumors must be 100 percent true. Caroline’s mouth forms a perfect line of disapproval and I’m getting the feeling that we’re zoning in on some touchy next-season territory here.
Andy asks Caroline if she feels guilty about the nine-pound sausage in a five-pound bag line she said to her daughter. She says no, that’s her job as a mother. Then he asks about how Albie Sr. was fired as commissioner by the governor of New Jersey and she’s all, “Well that’s easy enough to explain. We have a secret TV-watching love den that we forgot to get a permit for.” Whenever anyone on this show starts talking about “real estate,” you know that there’s something else going on, but Andy allows it to drop. Caroline isn’t whom he’s after, anyway. She’s just the pawn in his little game. It may look like he’s going after her the same way he does with Teresa, but to anyone who has ever had a mean best friend, it is clear what is happening: He is setting it up so it looks like Teresa starts all the fights. When he reads the viewer comment about how “Caroline Manzo needs to sit down and shut up and drop the superior-than-thou attitude,” he has a look on his face like, Oh, I’m sorry, was that upsetting? And then he sits back and lets Teresa take it from there. It’s masterful, really, how he maneuvers it so that it is Teresa who first brings up estranged sister Dina, not him. Caroline, of course, blames Teresa, which feels unfair. Caroline points out that she is in touch with eight of ten siblings, and as anyone who comes from a big family or has ever watched a big family on television knows, some collateral damage is going to be accrued.
But the housewives love to blame this stuff on Teresa. She’s like a car ashtray, the repository of all the grimy ChapSticks and pennies and rubber bands that one accumulates over the course of a year. Later on in the episode, Melissa tries to pin Joe’s two prior failed engagements on Teresa, which is hilarious because then we’re getting into some Dangerous Liaisons–meets–Flowers in the Attic–style masterminding, the kind of scheming that spans generations and requires infinite patience, and there is no way Teresa is capable of such a far-reaching game plan. She can barely wait to get home to trash her castmates on her blog after she has sworn loyalty to one of them onscreen. No, there is only one chess player in this group and he is already gearing up for his next move.
It comes after Teresa interjects herself into a discussion of Victoria’s brain tumor. “That’s why I have such a positive attitude,” she tells Andy. “Oh really,” says Andy. “Are you saying that you don’t sweat the small stuff?” Teresa nods, glad to finally be understood. “Actually,” continues Andy, “It seems that you’ve often gotten derailed by the small stuff. In a way that seems quite petty.” “If someone is going after you, you go after them.” says Teresa to the person she doesn’t realize is her greatest enemy. “If they jab at you, you jab back.” She attempts to illustrate her point by bringing up Richie (or Mr. Dickface, as the vacationing Andrea Seigel dubbed him), but she encounters a road block in the form of an eight-letter word she can't quite pronounce. "Are you trying to say the word 'distance'?” asks Andy snidely.
It’s at this point in the episode where you have to wonder what exactly Andy is so worked up about? I don’t remember him actually being on the show this season and it’s not like this is the first time he’s encountered these women before. He’s actually made a career on the off-the-shoulder, sequined dress backs of these women and so really, his attitude is feeling pretty egregious. Until we arrive at the moment when Teresa is asked what she most regrets saying during the season and, in a twist on the Annie Hall Marshall McCluhan movie theater line scene, Melissa produces her cell phone from under the couch cushions (where she was surely sending crotch shots to Joe Gorga throughout the episode) and reads off a handy list of offensive Teresa lines. Andy brings up the fact that Juicy stores Joe Gorga in his phone under the name "faggot," and then he looks soberly at Teresa. “I gotta ask you a question,” he begins. “Teresa, you know it’s not right. You know at this point that you can’t speak like this.”
Teresa rushes to Joe’s defense, as do the other women. It’s still not sitting right with Andy, though. He looks legitimately pained as he says, “The reason I hammer it home is lot of people are watching this show. There’s bad stuff happening in schools all over the place. Even for your daughters to hear it, what if Gia were to say it on the playground. It’s something for you to think about.” It’s a moment of uncharacteristic reality and I wonder if it was in part prompted by Russell’s suicide over in Beverly Hills and a newfound sense of responsibility about these shows. In any case, it seems to go a long way toward explaining Andy’s behavior. They jab at you and then you jab back.
On the Watch What Happens following the reunion, Andy says that he received an onslaught of tweets saying he was too hard on Teresa. He looks sweetly at the camera and says that he takes our feedback seriously. He announces that this will be the subject of tonight’s poll. If he was overstepping his bounds, he wants us to let him know. And then he somehow rigs half of America’s cell phones because the numbers come back in at 39 percent yes to 61 percent no. Andy says that he’s disappointed it wasn’t a landslide, but then that would just have looked too suspicious, no?