It’s frustrating when, on a particularly baroque piece of jewelry, you find merely a setting in its center. The missing gem in the case of this broken bauble—episode two of season five of The Real Housewives of New York City—is the phone call we are told existed between Ramona and Luann, which was placed annoyingly far away from any video equipment. And it’s tough to weigh in on this very call without the original footage, especially when the parties in question are such terrible communicators when they’re heated. But what we know is this. Last season, Ramona called Luann a lousy mother, the proof of which was in the pudding better known as the exploits of her sexually intriguing in a Kristen Stewart sort of way, artistically inclined daughter, Victoria. Luann, in turn, confronted Ramona at Sonja’s party and asked for an apology, and got precisely nothing, besides the stink eye—or two of them, adorned with lavender eye shadow up to the brow.
This week, we picked up where we left off with the series’ two returning warrior titans (I will not abandon the distinction between old and new cast members until I care to!) battling out in the open, like heroin-addicted Tompkins Square Park squirrels, or gladiators from olden times. Ramona met Luann in Central Park and the two women sat on benches wearing slim jeans and flattering boots, and they spoke—vaguely but with passion — about a phone call none of us witnessed. We’d heard about this phone call from Luann, when she dropped by Orsay to give the new cast members a drive-by version of her one-woman vengeance theater. She said Ramona tried to blackmail her and drag her family down into the gutter, where rats live, and all the new girls—Carole, Aviva, and Heather—said “Oh!” And “Yikes” as they stirred their waters, and then the Countess was gone in a puff of turquoise. Well, this week we got some more tiles to add to the mosaic.
We know that Ramona called Luann and that the definition of threaten is up for debate. We know that Ramona likely said something about how Luann’s son, Noel — who is LOUSY AT FRENCH — hosted a Weird Science–Risky Business–sounding party that ended up with a girl passed out on the lawn. We know that, in terms of their communication styles, Ramona will get prickly and defensive at the slightest suggestion of anything critical, while Luann’s tendency is to be naturally condescending and act appalled at anything perceptible as an attack on her character. Ramona’s point is well taken when she said, on that bench, to Luann: “Everybody knows who you are.” The truth is indeed out there when it comes to Luann’s family, as Ramona Singer-Scully pointed out. Nothing about her kids’ follies is secret; she is a public figure. But then, Ramona went on. “Everybody knows you’re never home with your children,” Singer sang. “You fall off tables.” And that gave Luann enough rope to make a leash. “How dare you,” the Countess intoned, huskily. And Luann, despite her haughty outrage, was, by then, actually basking in her sweet success of getting Ramona to reprise some of the specifics that had gotten her into trouble previously.
What these two will never get past is that their personalities drive each other insane. Ramona is a whirling dervish of eyes, hair, and things said bluntly, at face value, and Luann has the decorum of a true secret-keeper. I have no doubt that Ramona said she’d bring up the Hamptons incident on that call, and that she cannot identify that statement as a threat. And as for their fragile agreement about burying the matter and calling a shaky truce, that’s about as silly of a foreshadow as a character in a movie who is having a bad day saying, “Gee, at least it’s not raining!” or the three new women at Orsay agreeing they’d never be mean girls.
And speaking of the new girls, we must not ignore them! Let us now address what we learned in the first scene of this week’s episode, during which Aviva and Heather — who, my friend Nate brilliantly pointed out, looks like Drew Droege in character as Chloë Sevigny — dined with their husbands and got along famously. In this scene, the following lessons were imparted:
• Heather was not born Jewish but identifies as “Jewish by Injection,” a distinction I’m sure her husband’s father, a “famous rabbi,” recognizes from the Talmud.
• Harry, Aviva’s ex-husband, has slept with both Luann and Sonja. Does anybody else have a thing where, upon hearing that phrase, your mind just goes right to a splashy image of the Countess faking a very grandiose orgasm on her back? Or do I need to invest in some costly short-term shock therapy?
• Heather has a place in the Berkshires, which she mentions so often you’d think “Berkshires” was the word on the Watch What Happens Live Drinking Game. Are the Berkshires the new Quogue?
There was also some talk of Heather’s children during the dinner, and how she enjoys overindulging, or “spoiling” her son Jax since the poor boy was born needing a liver transplant, and with the name Jax. After she gave “The Super Batman monologue,” in which Heather explained how she likes to give her son three toys a week — using Super Batman as an example, because that movie is coming to theaters this summer, directed by Super Christopher Nolan — Aviva calmly responded with a personal example of how that’s not the thing to do. She told Heather that she was spoiled as a little girl after she lost her leg, and it was the worst thing her parents could have done. Then, Heather’s husband replied, “That’s good advice,” and both he and Heather promptly ignored what Aviva had said. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you react to values you don’t agree with. Say “sure,” move on! Do these ladies not know they’re on a TV show? Isn’t the music supposed to change when somebody weighs in on child-rearing or other private matters over dinner? Not this time.
This cool-as-a-cat approach was further explored in the next scene, when Aviva and Carole went shopping and Aviva said the world cool so many times that it not only lost its meaning, it became synonymous for something that is the complete opposite of cool. First, we learned that Carole has a self-proclaimed “cool, casual” relationship with Russ from Aerosmith. Everybody knows about Russ from Aerosmith, right? He’s Russ! From Aerosmith! Come on! Right? You were growing up, people would be like, “Who’s your favorite member of Aerosmith?” or “When will someone invent the fax machine?” and you’d say Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, or Russ. From Aerosmith. Remember? Anyway, Carole’s boning him. And others! But it don’t mean a thing to Carole, nor to Russ. They are adults in a long-distance, “cool, casual” (which I guess just means open) long-distance relationship, and that fact percolates Aviva’s French Roast to no end! “That’s so cool! You’re so cool!” Aviva nodded with self-titillation. “Very cool. Cool Carole.” It was a verbal tic at this point, and I salute the salesman present this whole time for not committing suicide with a chainsaw.
Then Carole mentioned to Aviva that she doesn’t put out because of “Rule 27,” and hit on a browsing hottie by mentioning “her girlfriend” in a “pantsuit” and wearing a silly fur hat. Which rules are those, Carole? The two ladies also discussed Luann versus Ramona and how little they want to do with any drama, and that also made me concerned that nobody had fully explained to them that they were signing on to be on this show and not, say, Just the Ten of Us. Come on, ladies! Dig in with those horse teeth! You ain’t the Lubbock Babes and I’m not getting any thinner. On with the flesh-eating! You could both use the calories.
After the shopping play-let, we were treated to a whimsical seduction farce, wherein Sonja flirted adorably with a man hired to fix the water damage inflicted on her brownstone caused by Hurricane Irene. She stretched out on a divan, talked about breasts and how much her ex-husband stinks, and gave the body language of a French prostitute who knows a whole joke book by heart. Sonja is, so far, having a great season, and if she keeps up this blousy, lighthearted, flirty neutrality, she’ll win season five by a real leg.
And speaking of flirting, we got to see Carole’s steez in action with a real rock star she lets hump her. That’s right, Bravo got Russ from Aerosmith on the show! He was in town to drive Carole around in a convertible that only played songs he wrote. Russ is very cute and his songs sound like Joe Cocker sound-alike music beds and I couldn’t tell you how old he was for all the microphone scarves in Steven Tyler’s closet. Seriously — how old is he? 30? 60? What if he’s a ghost? Whatever Russ is, he speaks the language of “Cool Carole,” something I’m convinced is conspiring to permanently change the meaning of that very word. “I just went through a red light,” he said at one point. “How cool is that?” And Carole asked about groupies and Russ didn’t have the heart to tell her that all of Aerosmith’s groupies have been long dead.
Then we journeyed from Russ’s blues cruise around Times Square to the Berkshires, where Drew Droege as Chloë Sevigny decided to throw a rager of a party in order to celebrate the fact that her father had passed away very recently. But I’m not going to judge Heather for doing what some might consider distasteful at the most or nontraditional at the least. If her father was the kind of character she described, one who hated funerals and would have loved a celebration over a sob fest to memorialize his spirit, then Godspeed, Yummy Tummy clan. Clink those beers and read those poems, and give me the phone number of this one guy in a denim shirt and sort of longish hair from the party who was standing in the kitchen, because he seems like he might be Cool for Carole (me).
And usually I don’t like to spend time talking about those little interstitial bits Bravo runs in between the long commercial breaks, but I do have to mention my body’s visceral reaction to Heather saying “Oy Vey Smear” in her Protestant Minstrel Lilt. Not a cute look, Heather, particularly while you’re indulging and therefore condoning your kid’s terrible table manners. You may need to up your Jewish injections until you have an authentic Balaboosta’s command over your family.
While Luann is no Jewish Mother — although I’m sure she has a few dozen mercy copies of Jill Zarin’s book rattling around in that Hamptons home — she can certainly knit her brows in convincing, on-camera consternation at her skateboard-designer son for failing French. And while Luann prattled on at Noel, aghast at the irony that he’d fail French of all things, since she speaks it and fucks a French guy, Ramona somewhere shook her head in phantom satisfaction that boy, was she right. And under the din, in the de Lesseps’ breakfast nook, Jacques did his best Roberto Benigni, joking affably and constantly, trying to smooth over whatever on-camera tension he could with his goofy foreign handsomeness. And Luann, resplendent in a Waterford China Blue cardi, cooked her breakfast specialty for her two favorite guys — water cooler water, served cold.
Back in Manhattan, Ramona donned her prettiest workout clothes to meet Aviva for a white wine lunch. And when Aviva asked how “that whole hullaballoo with Luann” was going, Ramona put a napkin in front of her face. And sometimes I worry about people who learn English or American customs from this show, and that very interaction is an example of why. How’s that hullaballoo? Napkin in front of the face. These are not normal things that people do, and they wouldn’t even make sense in cartoon form.
Aviva told Ramona that Luann disclosed her version of the blackmail phone call story to her, and her alone. She was lying, or “fibbing” — a phrase that always makes me hungry for Fig Newtons — because, in fact, Luann actually told Aviva, Heather, and Carole about Ramona’s phone threat, and Ramona nodded at first after learning that information, then, as it settled in, she got angrier and angrier at the Countess. “She needs to get a job,” Ramona told Aviva, and “This is so high school,” and she wasn’t wrong on either count.
I feel for Ramona right now. I know her manner, however bipolar, manic, tactless, or peripatetic, can often cloud the reality that she, in fact, is often completely right. And she’s a good example of what happens when you don’t have the distance from Luann to laugh at her pretentiousness, her obsession with all things European, and her hilarious music videos. I imagine that, if Countess Luann weren’t a character on a TV show, she could drive you insane — especially when she won’t let something go. So hang in there, Ramona. Just … maybe get a massage or some Klonopin injections directly into your neck in the meantime? Sorry if these are bad examples: I’m not sure what women do to calm down these days. I feel like transcendental meditation would have the same effect on Ramona as a band-aid would for that lady whose face got ripped off by a chimp; it just wouldn’t stick. But I’m concerned for her, as she sort of started the season looking undone (Un-renewed! De-newed?), and things are only getting worse.
Finally, Sonja, who was presenting at a GLAAD awards event, repeatedly expressed her desire to dance with drag queens as though it were a vacation activity, like swimming with the dolphins. And Heather came to see her, as did Carole, who looked appropriately like Chad Michaels in the bar lighting, and Ramona, who could have used a proper hair blowout, but I’m sure, as in the case of her shellacked nails, she didn’t have the time.
Ramona was manic and frazzled, but came to support her “best friend, Sonja” and there was some comedy around her asking Carole if she had been a spokesperson for ABC News instead of a producer, and Carole gave her lizard eyes, as though she didn’t know what Ramona had meant. She knew what Ramona meant! Ramona meant “on-air presenter.” “Correspondent.” “Anchor.” “Weather Slut.” So ease up on the uppity, Radziwill, and don’t sniff when Ramona says “famous” about Diane Sawyer or Peter Jennings when you think a better adjective would be distinguished or important, because you’re wrong. In this world, those are synonyms for well-known, and you’re too smart not to know that, too — you just didn’t want to acknowledge it to somebody who admitted freely she had no idea what LGBT stood for.
Sonja missed her cue, but then she came out and looked incredible, and all was well for a hot minute in this universe, with Luann far away, lurking, and danger brewing in the dark corners of the drama to come.
Here are some other things from this week’s episode, on which I encourage you to comment. And please add your own favorite moments that I missed!
-Luann pronounces “Week-END” the way Carole pronounces “Tri-ANGLE.”
-Carole pitching “To Carole With Love” as a title to her Aero-buddy could not have been sincere, right? Why not “Play It As Carole Lays”? Who doesn’t love a Joan Didion reference in a rock album title?
-Aviva telling us how much she loves her husband. Congratulations?
-I like Heather’s sister — and that Heather has a sister. It makes her more sympathetic, y/n? At least she knows how to exist around women from an early age, in theory at least.
-Aviva’s husband calling out the Liam Neeson in the room and asking Heather’s husband if he was related to Schindler’s List Schindler! Answer: No, because Oskar Schindler wasn’t Jewish. Remember? Oh, movies.
-The phrase “Vintage Addict” makes me want to become a “Bath Salts Addict.”