Do you hear that, the low howling of the wind on a dark New York night? Out in the dim barn, the eaves are creaking and the conveyor belt starts with a lurching metallic chortle. Yes, this is the barn of Aviva Drescher’s doom, and it is coming alive to get us all, to eat our limbs and spit us back into the world as scared, twitching messes. How will we ever confront our fears, and how will we survive afterwards? Those are some questions for the next episode of Dark Shadows or, you know, later in this episode of the Real Hay Bailers of Anne Arundel County.
Yes, this week, Aviva goes back to the site of the accident that stripped her of one foot and gave her at least a little bit of interesting cocktail conversation for the rest of her life. But before we get to that, we have to finish the fight that was well underway at Countess Crackerjack’s barbecue. It was ostensibly a continuation of Hashtag Bookgate between Carole and Aviva, but while they were sitting on a couch on the sun porch saying the same things to each other on a loop, the larger skirmish was brewing around them.
Heather Thompson (Thomas? Thompson? Thomas?) got up and went after Amanda Sanders, Image Consultant after she threatened to deck Heather. What was so brilliant about Heather’s behavior during this entire fight was how she stayed calm and rational, brave and intelligent. Someone like Brandi Glanville gets her adrenaline up when there is conflict, and the she gets flustered and starts dropping F-bombs like she’s Bill Buckner in the World Series (zero people reading this recap just got that finely crafted Red Sox joke). But not Heather. She is even and measured, though more aggressive than the crowds that wait in line out front of a Circuit City on Black Friday. She gets right up in Amanda’s face and tells her to deck her, which Amanda won’t do. Then Heather just tells her that everyone thinks she is awful and should just go away. The whole scene was awesome and insane. If it were a play, it would look like this:
Heather: So, you’re going to deck me, then? You are rude and awful and if you want to start some ish, then start some ish.
Amanda Sanders, Image Consultant: Why are you being such an asshole right now.
Crackerjacks: Ladies, will you knock it off? You should be eating dessert.
Heather: Someone needs to tell this lady to leave. Does anyone even know who she is?
Crackerjackers: Sonja, did you get any cake?
Sonja: I think I’m going to pee my panties, but I’m not wearing any.
Amanda Sanders, Image Consultant: Excuse me, Carole, I need to interject.
Heather: Seriously, LuAnn? Get this bitch out of here.
Crackerjacks: Mindy, why don’t you come have some cake? I think there’s fruit tart.
Aviva: Thanks for being a well-wisher, Carole. Thanks for being a well-wisher. Thanks for being a well-wisher. Thanks for being a well-wisher.
Carole: Will you shut up about that, Aviva?
Aviva: Thanks for being a well-wisher.
Crackeracks: Okay, everyone, time to go. I saved you all some cake!
This was absolutely bonkers. And this doesn’t even take into account when Heather went to go talk to Aviva and Reid and, once again, tried to apply logic and rational thinking to improve the situation. Oh, Heather. Don’t you know that you have wandered through the Black Hole that is The Real Housewives and that normal physics doesn’t work here? There is no reasoning here. In this universe, light bends backwards over a chair and shakes its ass and waves its boa like Sonja Tremont Morgan doing a caburlesque performance. Don’t try to use real-world thinking here, it is not going to help.
So it’s no wonder that Heather gets incensed and shouts at Aviva, “Don’t you tell me anything, motherfucker.” As soon as she uttered Prince’s favorite word, all the ladies in the Hamptons clutched their QVC pearls and screwed up their noses like a gurgling fart had just erupted from the punch bowl. Now, I can understand having an outsize reaction to aggression, but what is up with them pretending like they never heard the M-er F-er before? It’s like these women have never had rat shit on their Cronuts before. Jesus. Finally, after that, the Countess kicks everyone out into the humid summer evening letting them negotiate their silver BMWs back to their summer cottages, each with a fresh plate of cake (or fruit tart or pie or whatever it was).
The next day, all the ladies (minus Carole and Heather) reconvene for lunch at Sonja’s Borrowed House. Now, we all know that Sonja borrows her house. It’s one of the charming, down-to-earth things about Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Wilkes-Barre Morgans. But pointing it out is a little bit cruel. Just like we all know that Tom Cruise is short, but no magazine captions a photo “Notorious midget Tom Cruise …” No, because that is mean and also unnecessary, like calling them “assless chaps” when all chaps are built with no ass, so you don’t have to say that they’re assless because, duh, they’re assless. That’s like saying Sonja borrowed a house. It’s a cruel redundancy.
The only interesting thing that happened at brunch is that Sonja lost her front tooth again. Oh, what a scamp! Oh, what a floozy! I believe it might have fallen out because she was talking to Aviva, who said, “I spend so much time uplifting people that it’s just second nature.” Yes, she actually said that, and I think the shock might have rattled Sonja’s head just a little too much, and the tooth shook loose and fell off of its post.
Luckily for Sonja, every party in the Hamptons is required by local charter to feature at least one woman over the age of 65 in plastic shades and a sunhat wearing one (1) item of gaudy floral print and one (1) pair of Capri pants. Sonja went up to Beatrice, whom she has been using to fulfill her legal obligations at her parties for the better part of a decade, and Beatrice was like, “You need some Fixodent. No, not Polident. I still won’t use any product associated with Martha Raye, so you need to get some Fixodent and put it back in.”
Poor Pickles was the intern on duty when this all went down, so she had to get the Fixodent and help Sonja apply it to her tooth and get that thing back in place. Thank God Pickles was there to help with the Fixodent, and she will never forget it.
Back in the city, Ramona and Aviva go to the dermatologist’s office together to get their dead skin scalded off with lasers. Of course Sonja thinks the instrument looks like a vibrator, but, then again, Sonja sort of thinks everything looks like vibrators: mop handles, toilet brushes, taxi cabs, St. Patrick’s cathedral, Miss Piggy’s ear.
What I really didn’t like was that Sonja, who is my favorite, was getting so buddy-buddy with Aviva. Don’t go over to the dark side, Sonja! But what I love about Sonja is that she just doesn’t care. Sonja does not give one single shit about anything in the world, and she doesn’t like to fight. Sure, she’ll stick up for herself, but she’s just around to have a good time and make sure she gets along with everyone. It’s not that she’s choosing Aviva’s side over Carole’s, she’s on everyone’s side at the same time. Actually she’s on no one’s side. If she had to pick a side, it would be the side of vodka soda, which she would stand there drinking out of a little swizzle-stirrer while her eyes dart back and forth watching the fight like it’s the finals of the U.S. Open.
The problem with that, though, is that she won’t challenge people on anything. When Aviva says that Heather and Carole “verbally raped her,” Sonja won’t go, “What the hell kind of jive are you talking, sister?” She just sort of nods her head and wonders where, exactly, in the world it has just become noon. Aviva is slick. She’s slick like a Republican, where she just spouts things that aren’t true and does it repeatedly enough that people might actually start to believe them. She repeats the “verbal rape” phrase in next week’s fight with Heather. And we all know this is complete bull pucky. This is a woman who is going around slandering Carole’s professional reputation and she says that she was “verbally raped?” Do you think Carole might feel a bit violated by her? Aviva’s great talent is that she is a martyr who will take no blame for herself. Everything has happened to her and it is not because of her own actions, it is because the world is unfair and people are out to get her.
To add insult to corneal injury, she says these things while she and Sonja are wearing some sort of flimsy masks that look like they were made out of bad tortillas of moo shu pancakes or something. They look like a nightmare creature out of Jim Henson’s studio, sitting there having a normal conversation while it looks like their epidermis has come completely dislodged from their skulls.
Back at her house, Sonja has a friend who is a costume designer come over to help her fabricate a costume for the Mermaid Parade (well, first she has to hide all the dildos, and then the costume designer can come over). She decides that she wants to wear an auburn wig and go as Red Sonja, a woman who is showing far too much skin and whose outfit is held together with tape and good intentions. Basically it is just Sonja. It is Blonde Sonja in a wig.
She’s going to the Mermaid Parade to support Carole, who has been named queen of the Mermaid Parade, one of New York’s most fun annual events where all sorts of people storm Coney Island and are second-rate drag queens and burlesque performers for a day. Wait, why wasn’t Sonja named queen of this? Sonja joins up with Countess Crackerjack, looking like a skinny Ursula the Sea Witch dressed up for Carnivale, and Kristen, a dog-eared copy of The DaVinci Code left behind in someone else’s beach house. They’re supposed to be on a float with a bunch of cheerleaders, but instead they hop on the float for Lucky Cheng’s, a New York institution that has all drag-queen servers. They fit right in. Sonja, who is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for drag queens, knows everyone on the float.
In a mean prank, Kristen, a scratched DVD copy of Matlock season one that just won’t play, says that everyone must think they’re drag queens. Sonja says not to worry, that people know she’s a real woman, just as the camera cuts to LuAnn, who, we are to take it, is supposed to be some sort of drag queen. Please. Like a drag queen would wear those glasses out in public. Cake, anyone?
After the parade, Carole gathers everyone, including Heather, who runs up at the last minute, and they put on their Crayola-colored wigs and sit in the shape of a pentagram on the beach and each light a candle. They’re going to do some Mermaid magic. Carole passes out an incantation and they all read it together. It’s like a protection spell, with some mumbo-jumbo about friendship that reads like a tweet one of Yoko Ono’s social media interns wrote for her. The spell is supposed to ward off Aviva and keep her ill-mannered pain away from everyone else for the rest of the season. It will not work.
But no, Aviva was not there. She was upstate meeting an old friend. After 35 years, Becky Morgan – a woman whose name couldn’t be more innocuous if it was Sally Ofnoconsequence – sent Aviva an email saying that she wanted to see her so that they could have closure with the accident that caused Aviva to lose her foot. The run-up to this whole thing made me freaking crazy. “Anytime I’m afraid of things, I face them head on,” she says. What? Remember last season when they had to drug her up and give her a special soundtrack of Gloria Estefan (or something) just to get her on a plane? And remember when she had a panic attack because they were going to ride in an elevator? Please. The defining characteristic of Aviva Drescher is fear. Okay, fear and disingenuousness.
Then she keeps talking about how badly Becky needs this. Yes, Becky really needs to be on a reality show talking about her past. Yes, Becky has been thinking about this every day of her life and if Aviva shows up and shows her how beautiful and successful and rich she is, Becky will not need to worry anymore. It just seemed so fake. They arrive and embrace and Reid, Aviva’s always-present husband, was like, “If you two want to go catch up, I’ll just go do some work so I won’t bother you. You got some Wi-Fi I could borrow?”
Anyway, when the two sit down to chat, they have a real moment. It seems like Becky might actually be traumatized by that day. They both were. They can’t talk about the details of it, the blood and the fear and the consequences. Sure, they discuss the logistics, who ran where and who called whom, but dealing with the actual viscera of it is still too close, still too ripe a vision.
Then Aviva goes out to the barn to see the actual mechanism that injured her. Becky seems more scared of it than Aviva, or more scared that Aviva is going to launch into some PTSD loop and go shoot up the town square or something. She does not. They watch the machine jolt into action, shimmying rods and chains around its circular track. Aviva stands there with her arms folded over, embracing herself or maybe just bracing herself as some of those snapshots from that day play out – the confusion, the rush to the hospital, waking up and feeling like she had forever changed. She thinks about the dark cavern of that barn that she saw so many nights lying awake in her bed, longing for what she lost and thinking about all the other awful things that will happen to her one day.
Becky finally flipped the switch, and the barn cleaner chugged to a halt. They could smell the hay and manure sitting on the floor. They could smell that pungent, fleshy smell that all livestock lets off. They could feel the heat in the air, baking traces of animal emissions and plant secretions into a soggy stew. Everything was just normal. It was just a farm. Aviva says, “In my mind it was a terrifying thing, but in reality it was just a barn.”
They stood there in the shade and the heat, every bit of natural life in the country condensing around them. Reid walked over to put a hand on Aviva’s shoulder and she jostled a little, startled but not scared. “Everything okay?” Reid asked, forever concerned. Aviva just nodded, her arms still folded, and she hugged them a little tighter. She looked at Becky and they both smiled. They had done what they needed to this day. The ghost was exorcised and the past was erased – no, it will never be erased. The past was put to rest, like a little girl who needs her mother in the middle of the night and is placed back into bed, her blonde hair smoothed over and over until she finally finds rest. “Yeah, everything’s fine,” Aviva says. “I think I’m ready to go home.”