Real Housewives of New Jersey has taught me more about the nature of a vacuum in space than any of the demonstrations in my high school AP physics textbook. Witnessing a feather and marble drop at precisely the same rate in an empty bell jar had and has little resonance to me. But here's what will stick with me forever: Teresa’s gold-sequined baby-doll cover-up. Melissa’s Gucci stilettos on chicken-bloodied pavement. Joe Gorga blaming any and all of his shortcomings on ejaculate building inside him. Basically, this never-ending season of the show, which has erased all weight and mass and meaning so that every depicted event now drops with the same thud, and now traps us inside a recurrent dream where we can no longer breathe.
You might feel as if you’ve been trapped in the Punta Cana part of this dream for two weeks, and yes, those two weeks might bear on you as if they’re actually two years, but then this episode opens with Teresa and Juicy still waddling across the beach toward the cabanas as if no more time has passed than a blink. You were a young person the last time you saw these people, but now you’ve grown a beard that trails down past your toes. Welcome to vacation part deuxdy.
Mr. Dickface ducks into the dressing room to talk to Giudice about the newest development in the “I Love My Children” Wars of 2010–11, but Juicy isn’t even going to bother defending his wife because he already knows that women “are fucking retarded.” And, hey, isn’t that touching to hear from the father of four daughters? (Well, three daughters and whatever Jodie Foster’s character from Nell technically was.) Meanwhile, the Manzo boys and Greg are tiptoeing around outside like the nosy neighbor from Bewitched, and when Giudice catches them, he doesn’t seem to realize that they were just looking for more material to use to make fun of him. Instead, he thinks they were trying to catch a peek at Teresa naked even though they’ve already seen that camel toe accentuated by every synthetic fabric known to gymnasts. So Giudice, on a real gentlemanly kick, decides to open the porthole for them and yell to his wife, “We see you poopin’!” like the prince that he is. You didn't see it in the movie, but Cinderella’s husband did the same thing to her after their big wedding day.
One thing Teresa does poop out is a new gold swimsuit, this one a metallic spandex monokini, and she spins around the bar like one of the shiny, cheap dreidels they used to hand out come Hanukkah time at my old reform temple. Jacqueline decides to come talk to Teresa only because she’s tired of getting her breasts honked by her husband. Now, remember, this is a dream and in a dream there is no place for logic — so instead of Teresa going back out to Kathy and saying, “I just realized that I can stop being shitty and constantly assuming everyone else is being shitty at any time! I can just stop — can you believe it?!” she instead returns to the beach and pretends as if Kathy’s not even there, pretends that those glowing eyeballs are just extra bright stars in the Dominican night. Nothing can stop her enjoyment of the traditional meal that Mr. Dickface, the Goldilocks of Punta Cana, calls “porridge.” Over to the side, Melissa and Joe Gorga are determined not to get involved in the Tre-Kath drama because they’ve got a bigger priority, and that is pirate cosplay. Joe’s got on his laced-up shirt, Melissa’s tied a scarf over her head, and before the end of the night he’s going to make her get the poison out of the plank.
Once Kathy goes to bed, it’s another story. Then the Gorgas and Giudices are ready to mingle, and Juicy really gets the party started by asking Gorga, “What’s the capital of Thailand?” and yelling “Bangkok!” as he bangs on Gorga’s cock with his fist. And you just know that if every nation’s capital could be made into a violent penis pun, then Juicy would have been a real contender on Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Teresa is made so sentimental by her husband pawing at her brother’s genitals that she starts to point out the likenesses between them, getting as far as, “You guys are both stocky. And short.” Joe Gorga runs with this game, wanting to pull out their penises and compare (my guess is that we’d have yet another set of “stocky and short” twins here), and there’s a cut to Greg, whose open mouth says "I'm shocked" but the vein pounding in his temple says “yesyesyesyes.” It all ends with Joe making a drunken speech about how at the end of the day, they’re all family, and the thing is, I’ve started to feel like these people are my family, too, in the sense that I would be totally fine with only seeing them a couple of times a year.
The next day the men are going golfing, while the women (and Greg) are taking a trip to a market so that Teresa can do “research” for an Italian-Latin fusion cookbook. I’m envisioning the cover in my head already, and boy does Gia look extra-pissed to have to be wearing a guayabera as she stirs the bowl! Over on the golf course, Gorga shows his bare ass, triggering PTSD for the Manzo boys, who are still coping with having seen full-frontal that morning as a naked Gorga tried to annoy Melissa into a quickie. As to be expected, Juicy golfs in a wife beater and hits a ball like he’s taking out someone’s knees.
Across town, the ladies’ vans pull up to a street with some decapitated animals on display and Caroline, finally out of bed, spots a still-living rooster and suddenly grasps that they’re not going shopping at Gelson’s. Teresa has brought them to a local outdoor market because she wants to screech about poorer people’s livelihoods while wearing a long, silk dress that shows off implants as browned, glazed, and hardened as Honeybaked Hams. And I’m pretty sure that if you look up the definition of Ugly American in any Dominican dictionary, you will now find a group picture from the day that these women came to visit in their designer dresses, runway heels, diamond hoops, and bedazzled sunglasses. Hoooooooly shit, do they come off like assholes, shrieking about the things that the people around them are buying to eat and jokingly slinging around raw chicken torsos, and regarding the men staring at them as if they’re the ones with the problem. When Teresa goes into a shop and asks the guy at the counter, “Did you guys ever hear of my cookbook Skinny Italian?” I found myself wishing he’d pulled out a hardcover copy from behind the counter and knocked her out with it.
There’s only one more big scene to put up with before we can leave Punta Cana, and I sure do wish it had been the reported champagne fight the Giudices got in with a vacationing Chicago cop and his family. Instead, it’s just a dull final dinner at Benihanas-clone Zen, and the Manzo boys and Greg can’t even spice it up with their “Punta Princess” contest. This scene, maybe more than another other, exposes how this season has curled in upon itself like all those buttered shrimp upon the grill, its characters coiling into bite-size personalities, behaving exactly as you’d expect them to behave. Anyone surprised that Teresa takes the competition seriously, her eyes darting and her mouth hanging open, ready to protest against any judgment for Melissa? Anyone surprised that she thinks “Clinton’s wife” is America’s vice-president? Anyone surprised that it takes Melissa five minutes to arrive at Biden, and that she, too, obviously wants to win this bullshit, nonexistent title? No? Okay, then there’s the trip’s finale for you, and let’s get back to Jersey and Melissa’s pop star debut, because her single is just sliiiightly less repetitive than these people’s interactions.
Back home, Mel meets with the Manzo boys to check out the club she’ll be performing at, wanting to make sure there’s room for tigers. That’s what she needs to really drive home the anti-attention message of the song: live tigers. The woman who manages the venue stares at Melissa like Caroline stares at Teresa, but I guess Joe’s tiger contact falls through because the cats never appear. Melissa just has to make do with the choreographic stylings of Bijan and two backup dancers who got passed over for Ke$ha’s world tour.
The day of the launch party, the Soul Diggaz are there to rehearse with Melissa, and they have a good laugh over “blk,” because, you know, they’re black and it’s black water. Albie’s getting real nervous as he watches Melissa warm up, because he thinks there are some kind of huge stakes here, like the people coming to the party are expecting to see the next Barbra Streisand and not the next vocal step up from Countess Luann. The event starts, and the producers treat us to a quick check-in on Ashley, who’s doing the exact same thing with her life she was doing the last time we saw her on-camera, which is “nothing” if you don’t count trying to obtain alcohol while underage. Backstage Melissa is a bundle of nerves, falling to her knees, making the sign of the cross, and praying heavenward. You can tell she’s genuinely a mess because when she thanks Jesus, she only puts one e in his name.
Then it’s the moment that nobody’s been waiting for. Mel comes out in her leatherish pants and her beaded belly-vest thing, and I don’t know whether or not she sang live in person, but Bravo definitely has her lip-synching for the show. And hey, maybe that’s the channel’s gift to us after making us sit through a season that has felt twenty times as long as All My Children’s entire run. So Mel gives a little J. Lo sexyface. She dances passably. She makes Teresa look unhappy. She gets Greg lip-synching in tandem. And after it’s all over, she even spurs Joe Giudice to make a sudden, unexpected, shitfaced speech in her honor about how she has guts for getting up there and putting herself on display. And it seems that even Teresa has taken Melissa’s incredible bravery to heart because she makes the bold move of going up to Kathy and asking her if they can talk outside. They kiss and make up for the time being, but the real joy in this scene is that the producers repeatedly cut back to cousin Rosie, who stands ominously in a nearby window moonlighting as Kathy’s muscle. Our Rosie’s got a scarf tied over her head, but on her it’s got less of a pirate feel and more of an “I just finished my ride with the Hell’s Angels” vibe. But if only for tonight, there are no asses to kick. The denizens of Franklin Lakes are at peace, united by a songbird, and so Rosie stays put, waiting for the moment when she will be needed. And the rest of us stare through the glass of our television sets, waiting for next week when this fucking season will finally, finally be over.