Here at the Real Housewives Institute, this is our least favorite episode of any Real Housewives franchise: the before-the-trip episode. Mostly it just consists of packing, planning, and another P word to be named later (no, Carole, not that). There is no worse activity in all of humankind than helping Sonja Tremont Morgan of the $20 Suitcase Store on Seventh Avenue Morgans pack. There should be an episode of Scared Straight where a bunch of inner-city, at-risk youth are taken to Sonja’s house and made to fold her bikinis and caftans and night dresses and various assorted underthings into packages the size of postage stamps. “If you fail History, this is what you will spend the rest of your life doing: helping a rich lady organize her suitcases while two dogs soil the carpet next to you.” The only thing possibly worse than helping Sonja pack is giving Ramona a pedicure.
Speaking of Sonja, she is in charge of all the trips this year, which is sort of like letting your semi-senile nana pick the place for dinner. You’re as likely to end up having sundaes for brunch as you are just stumbling onto some stranger’s yacht and just pretending like you belong there until you’re thrown out. But I tease. Sonja, my favorite floozy, knows how to have a good time. However, she might be having too much of a good time. When Bethenny takes the crew out for old-school Italian dinner in Queens, her drunken antics are the topic of much discussion. They all seem to think that Sonja has an alcohol problem and needs to do something about it. Their solution: “Well, let’s take her to Turks and Caicos and see how she does.” Yes, nothing puts someone’s potential alcohol problem in perspective like taking her on a vacation where the major activity will be trying to find a margarita glass that Ramona can fit her entire head into. Good plan.
The craziest thing about this whole discussion is it seems that Sonja, Dorinda, Countess Crackerjacks, and Ramona all went to Beautique, New York’s premier cougar establishment, and drank their faces off, and there was no camera crew in tow. Sonja was throwing herself on every man with a heartbeat and a functioning watch, and none of the producers even knew about it. Someone at Bravo just got fired.
Speaking of parties, Bethenny threw a cupcake-making party for Dorinda, Sonja, and Ramona, and not one single cupcake was eaten because carbohydrates combine with a strange secretion in the Housewives' fingertips that creates a noxious chemical much like pepper spray. That is why not one cupcake was eaten during this whole party, and they were all wearing protective gloves to keep their hands from touching the goodies. Ramona also showed up with a bottle of Ramona Pinot in her bag and two wineglasses. I have a feeling that Ramona’s purse is sort of like Scooby’s magic lunch bag, like she could reach in and pull out all sorts of things: a hotel minibar, an Hervé Léger bandage dress, a jewelry line sold on an obscure website, one of Gretchen Rossi’s clip-in hair extensions, a blue-cheese-stuffed olive, a step-and-repeat slathered in the logos for whichever company she is promoting at the time, a 5-Hour Energy she took from a bodega without remembering to pay for it. But of course Ramona brought her glasses. She knew her only other choice would be Skinny Girl–branded martini glasses, and no one wants those.
Anyway, Sonja told the girls about the trip at the party, and immediately Bethenny had scheduling conflicts, and she has to leave the trip early so she can go to her daughter’s dance recital. Kristen brought it up at the photo shoot for Crackerjacks’ clothing line (which looks exactly like the Spiegel catalogue from 2007, or all of Caitlyn Jenner’s next favorite outfits). Bethenny walked into the room and Kristen brought up the scheduling conflict, and immediately Bethenny burst into tears because she didn’t want to be away from her daughter. This reaction, while understandable, seems a little extreme. I don’t blame Kristen for bringing it up. After all, if they’re all in the same room, it’s going to be a lot easier to have a discussion about scheduling than playing telephone with each other and having it turn into a whole ordeal.
I think that the Countess really nailed it earlier when talking to Kristen. She said, “Bethenny doesn’t feel like she’s part of the group.” That is precisely the problem. I interpreted it as, “Bethenny thinks she’s better than all of us.” And if not that, she could mean, “Bethenny doesn’t have to play by the same rules we play by.” I think that’s exactly the problem. Bethenny sees herself as a veteran and that this is her show. She also probably has all sorts of special considerations in her contract that Andy Cohen threw in to ensure that she would sign on and save the show. Because of that, she feels like she doesn’t have to hang out with these women if she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to spend the full time on the trip, and she refuses, absolutely refuses, to use any flatware whatsoever that is not emblazoned with a Skinny Girl logo.
If that is the case, I just don’t understand why Bethenny is here. She seems so above it, but being better than this thing that we all love (or love to hate) makes us feel like she’s above us, which makes the audience not like her. That’s the problem here. Bethenny says that she doesn’t want any special attention, but at the same time, she is going to leave the trip early. Does she think that no one is going to notice that? Isn’t behaving differently from everyone in the group inherently going to get her some attention?
She has also put Heather and Kristen in a very difficult position. They are expected to interact with her, but they are only allowed to do so by her rules — rules that are always changing. And when they do try to engage her, she has an outsize emotional reaction that doesn’t at all seem fitting for the situation. It’s as if a friend told me they were going to be 15 minutes late for dinner because the subway is all messed up and I had a panic attack and had to take a Klonopin (as opposed to the usual reason why I take a Klonopin, which is because it is Thursday night and treat yo’self).
My favorite scene of the night was when Bethenny and Carole had dinner together. That was the old Bethenny I remember — loose, funny, interested in other people, but still entirely herself. That is who they wanted back on the show, not the ball of nerves that clucks sharper and more shrill than a Simon game gone berserk. Carole even had a sex dream that she interpreted as her wanting to help Bethenny relax.
This is why it makes sense that Carole and Bethenny are friends. Carole is cool. I don’t mean that she shops at Forever 21 (which is really only okay to do if you’re on your way to a college class or a theme party where you need a disposable outfit that involves glitter), I mean that she is chill. The way Carole gets Bethenny to relax is that she invites her out to dinner in a relaxing environment and just has a normal conversation with her. Heather is trying to smother her and fix all her problems, and Kristen is coming at her with ridiculous nonsense about her nail-polish line. Carole just created a safe space so that Bethenny could unclench for an hour. That’s what she really needs. She doesn’t need help, she just needs a room with enough air in it so that she take a deep breath and stop doing Kegels for about 22 seconds.
Ramona manages to do the same thing when she takes Bethenny to get a pedicure. It’s just two old broads going through some shit trying to get some vajazzles on their pinky toes before a trip. Nothing to see here, folks. Oh! The sign of the shop. That is something to see. Ramona takes B to a shop called Bed of Nails, which, in and of itself, sounds like a torture device. Then the A in Nails is actually upside down, and the V shape of the inverted letter is turned into a martini glass with three olives in it. Would you dare let the people there touch you with their instruments? I mean, is this some kind of resto-lounge like Beautique, or what?
Then Bethenny tried to make a “toes before hoes” joke, which was very funny, but she had to explain “bros before hoes” to Ramona, which was sort of like trying to explain Coca-Cola to a blind, deaf aboriginal or teaching a silicon-based life form without any limbs how to win at mini-golf.
I guess we have to briefly discuss Crackerjacks’ clothing-launch party. Kristen fleeked into the party wearing a fleeking two-piece furry grey sweater-dress and giant door-knocker earrings, and she was the fleekest fleek to fleek to the present-day from 199-fleek and sit down on a couch. She looked like Lady Miss Kier. Dorinda, on the other hand, looked like a portrait of Lady Bird Johnson on a five-cent stamp, with her blue lace dress with full sleeves. I also think Ramona was out of line yelling at Kristen for doing to Bethenny exactly what Ramona was doing to Kristen. Also, Kristen has managed to do absolutely zero things this entire season, how is she the one everyone is mad at? It’s sort of like cursing out your Roomba because your toilet is overflowing. I love that Kristen stormed off and tried to be all dramatic and rammed right into the butler or the party planner or whoever the hell it was standing by the front door. Hashtag sorry to ruin your big moment.
Then it was time for the real party, and LuAnn asked all her guests to pick up a mannequin and carry it downstairs. Um, there’s not another set of mannequins downstairs so that no one has to carry these plastic dummies through a fancy hotel? Luckily, as soon as everyone left the room, Kim Cattrall came to life and walked herself down into the lobby.
Carson Kressley, a pile of fairy dust, mesh underwear, and a Cosmopolitan mixed together in a highlighter cap and poured into an empty pair of ripped jeans, was there trying to help out his dear friend LuAnn and reminding us that someone really needs to open a retirement home for aging reality stars. Bobby Trendy could surely use something to do about now. Carson was trying to carry a reclining mannequin out into the hall when all of its limbs fell off into a giant pile. He gathered them all up into a service elevator and took it down to the ground floor.
When the door to the elevator opened, there was a long, beige hallway with tan linoleum floor tiles glinting off fluorescent light in obscene streaks. Everything seemed oddly quiet as Carson gathered up his armful of mannequin appendages and walked down the hallway, his Gucci loafers making a slight clomp on the harsh flooring, echoing in the expanse. As he was halfway down the hallway, his phone rang. He placed the mannequin pile on the ground and pulled out his iPhone. Jai Rodriguez, it said on the screen. “Hey, girl, hey!” he said into the phone.
“Carson, I’m so sorry, I had to tell her. She has pictures from that weekend we spent in Cabo. You know, the one with the NBC pages. She was going to send them to the police if I didn’t help. I’m so sorry. Just … just get out of there now.”
“Girl, what are you even talking about?” Carson asked as he turned around, and a woman in a trench coat was standing between him and the elevator. He pulled the phone away from his face as a stunned look tried to spread its way across his Botoxed face. “Run!” he could hear Jai yelling from the phone, but he just stood there.
“Remember me?” the woman asked, taking one step closer to Carson so that she was so close he could feel her cold breath on his face. He finally did what Jai told him, turning around and leaping over the mannequin and scurrying down the hallway. She knew that the door at the end was locked. She had him trapped in a dead end. She watched him try the handle a million times, frantically, like suddenly it would just snap open and he would find his way to freedom. She just stood there. “Help!” he screamed and started pounding on the door, turning around to look at her with fright in his eyes and try the handle once again.
She squatted down and pulled the dress off the mannequin and held it up to her body. It looked like it would fit. She balled it up and stuffed it into one of the pockets of her trench. Then she started walking towards him. “No. You don’t have to do this. It doesn’t have to end like this,” Carson said, still trying the handle, still hoping for something to save him. But nothing would. The last thing he would hear was Jill Zarin’s heels on the linoleum as she walked towards him down that long hallway.