It’s here! It’s here! Drape your dress off one shoulder because season four of The Real Housewives of New Jersey is here and it starts... by going back in time. Just like that, we’re back in Red Bank, New Jersey, September of 2011, in a little place called the “The Real Housewives of New Jersey Season Three Reunion.” There, Andy notices that Jacqueline isn’t on the stage. After much side-eye tag, it turns out Jacqueline has stayed home because she is pissed at Teresa. How pissed would a housewife have to be to skip a reunion?
Spin, spin, spin! To four months earlier, a festive backyard barbeque at Kath’s, complete with racks of ribs and hookah-smoking. Rich brings up Teresa’s new cookbook. Kathy rolls her eyes and Melissa admits that she heard she’s mentioned in it. Kathy rolls her eyes some more. A random brother-in-law no one’s ever heard of reads from it. It is damning. In it, Teresa claims not only that she sees her brother and his wife several times a week, but that her sister-in-law has been known to copy her taste in shoes and chairs for the front porch. Everyone is outraged. Kath’s husband Richie declares, “I think we should burn the bitch on the stake.” Kraken Rosie, who has refused to read aloud from the book because, “I’m not a good reader, I’m like a little stupid,” gets so angry because now she might go into self-proclaimed attack mode, a place where, “I will rip your heart out and eat it!” Pretty Melissa demures with a “Rosie!” But Rosie tells her to “Shut up before I push you in the pool” and then pushes Melissa off. Everyone laughs, including Melissa, as she goes flying across the deck.
But they aren’t the only people to be touched by the book. Caroline has been described as being only as “Italian as the Olive Garden.” Caroline’s son Chris’s stripper car wash idea is demeaned. Jacqueline is ignored, which gives her more time to focus on her anger with Ashlee. Everyone is touched.
The days of Caroline telling Danielle, “Lemme tell you something about my family, we are as thick as thieves” are gone. That only worked when the family was fending off attacks from half-porpoise, half-stripper types who refuse to acknowledge they’ve been engaged eighteen times. Now the family (and I’m talking about the metaphorical family that is all of the show’s characters) is about as thick as a Sunday gravy that’s been left to bubble on the stove until it’s nothing but a solid mass of burnt tomato. The only thing uniting them, it seems, is their hatred of Teresa. And a little bit Ashlee, but more on her later.
Regarding Teresa, I think some of the hatred stems from the fact that for the first season or so, Teresa was the charm that held the show together. Whether flipping tables or making anti-Semitic remarks, Teresa always managed to be engaging. She seemed more concerned with having fresh furniture and flowered headbands for her daughters than with any drama at the Brownstone. Her seeming naïveté and complete lack of grammar skills were so winning, it made us want more. Unfortunately, the deeper we went, the more bikini contests we witnessed, the more neck flinging fight precursors we admired, the more cracks formed. And spread.
The other characters realized they would never be as charming. Teresa realized that a few layers in, she could never be as charming. Her relationships started to get uglier than Joe Gorga’s usage of the term Gorgasm.
And Teresa’s life isn’t easy. We get an idea of how complicated it is when she questions Papa Pitbull about the fact that he may be going to jail for ten years. “This is the life you chose,” he tells her. What does that mean? That when he made her his wife, he also made her a “made” wife? When Teresa tries to unwind with a cowboy hat and a strawberry margarita at the beach, her brother has to make it an opportunity to talk to her about what’s out there. Not "out there out there" as in "what’s it all about, where you see skin, I see a cage for my soul" out there. Rather what’s out there in In Touch. “I read In Touch magazine. I’m not being negative, your husband said some things about me.” Teresa can’t argue, she can’t even head him off at the pass. She tries everything, including going into another language. “Spaghetti, spaghetti, bolognese,” she pleads. Joe persists. “Lasagna, lasagna, pomodoro.” But Joe must have his say. He needs her to know that if you’re going to say something you don’t mean, you can’t put it in the pages of a paper of record like In Touch, between the articles on how Jessica Simpson will regain her flat stomach and how happy Jen Aniston is, because everyone will believe it. Joe needs to reassure Theresa that he’s her brother. “I’m looking at you right now.” He says. Then, realizing how foolish the statement is because he’s wearing sunglasses, he takes his shades off to reiterate, “I’m looking at you right now.” Now she understands that this is important.
The only person whom Teresa has not betrayed and who seems not to have a problem with her is Rosie. My favorite part of the whole show was when Rosie pointed out, “I always got along because I’m not a threat to her. I’m chubby, she’s skinny. She’s got beautiful long hair, I got short hair. She got a big, fucking glamorous house, I live wit my mother. I’m not a threat to her. It’s all true and youse all know it.” Everyone dissolves into a pile of relieved giggles because Rosie’s finally pointed out that she knows what she looks like and how she lives. Everyone laughs with the relief of people who thought, perhaps, that Rosie had not been in on the joke that is her life. I wish I could say that in the future, whenever I say something like, “Unleash the Rosie,” I would be saying it with the intent that we all acknowledge our own objectivity and ability to see things for what they are. But, really, I’ll still mean it in the best and original sense: Someone please unleash the Rosie to come in and devour everyone and everything.
Oh, and regarding our other villainess, Ashlee, our attention on her seems as short-lived as her ill-fated attempt at becoming a blonde. The roots become such a problem by the end of the episode that I can’t imagine what it would be like to keep it going as an actual hair-color option. Jacqueline has no choice but to kick her out of the house. The good thing is that we won’t have to worry about what Jacqueline will have to talk about for the rest of the season. The old question of, “Where you at with Ashlee?” and her answer of “At the end of my rope” will be replaced with “Where you at with Teresa?” and “Not on the reunion.”