I should begin this week's RHONJ recap by addressing the 160-pound, four-eyed, gay, Jewish elephant in the room: Yes, that's me in the scenes at Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Teresa's audiobook.
Am I biased toward Teresa? Of course I am. But I've always been that way, long before I ever worked with her. I've always had my Housewives favorites — Bethenny and Luann and Kyle and Lisa and Nene and Dina and, yes, Teresa. Getting to know her (a tiny bit) has only increased my affection for her, but not for untoward reasons. (I've worked with several of the Housewives, and let's just say that the impression has not always been favorable.) I was charmed by Teresa's personality face-to-face, just as I've been charmed face-to-screen since season one. Also, in case you're wondering: I do not make any money off of Teresa's book sales. I'm a salaried employee of an enormous corporation, just a cog in the wheel. My only intention in these recaps is to preach my perspectives on the Housewives drama, much of which I've spent years formulating. Judge me if you wish, but know my integrity is pure.
Speaking of judging, I don't really get all the Teresa hate. If you don't like her, if she's not your "cuppa," so be it, but what inspires such intense criticism of her crimes? The woman served a year in prison; she has paid back enormous sums of money to the government and her creditors. Maybe that's not enough in some people's eyes, but it's a whole hell of a lot more restitution than most Wall Street criminals have made. Why focus on this Jersey housewife?
And so, on the way to record her audiobook, Teresa discusses her debts with her lawyer, Jim. I'm sure the producers told them to have that conversation on-camera specifically to address the above concerns. Teresa displays an upbeat outlook, speculating on the good things that might come out of her imprisonment and how it's affected her relationships. I remember how vulnerable she seemed that day — how much I wanted to help her and take care of her — even though lawyer Jim and I played a kind of mean joke by claiming she'd have to start each audio take from the very beginning of the book all over again. This momentarily freaked her out. Sorry, Tre.
Aside from that, tonight's episode keeps trying to manufacture a story line out of Melissa's boutique, and the conflict between her and Joe about her role in their household. I just don't buy it. The whole "Mr. Mom" sequence with Joe trying to work and take care of the kids seems so fake. Joe might be a natural, charismatic onscreen personality, but he cannot act and didn't convince me for one minute that he really objects to Melissa's business. He even admits he helped her build it! The one good thing about their fight is that it calls for all three Gorga children to misbehave — it's nice to see them do something other than look cute and well-dressed. (Especially Antonia, whose spunk I enjoyed.) I'm coming to realize, though, that I prefer Melissa when she just looks cute and well-dressed. Don't get me wrong, I'm into her song. She should do a whole album. But that's the Melissa I like: the show pony, the poodle, the babelicious Jersey girl enjoying the good life. I do not like her in any kind of clash with anyone — not Teresa, not Joe, not her pointless business partner Jackie. Also, I hate her sisters. Maybe they're great gals, but they've been portrayed poorly in past seasons, so it's hard to act like nothing happened when they show up this week.
The best part of tonight's episode (I mean, except for the moments when the camera caught my good side) is that we finally get to know new Housewife Siggy. As with Dolores last week, I'm really into the Sigster. We already learned in passing that Siggy is a "relationship expert," but we actually see a clip of her on a talk show this time. (Sorry, can't remember which, maybe Kathie Lee & Hoda? It was definitely some legit network. You go, Siggy!) She gets to plug her book and generally seem awesome, all while playing overbearing Jewish mama to her kids.
In a very sweet scene, Teresa, Siggy, and Dolores take their daughters (Gabriella, Sophie, and Gabby, respectively) rock climbing at one of those indoor rock-climbing gyms. Is it me or did Gabriella grow like ten years since last week's episode? She used to just be the middle daughter, the one between Gia and Milania, and she always seemed like the "normy" at the Guidice home, less of a crazy Jersey character than the rest of her family. This week takes that to a whole new level: In the little we see her, she comes across as a beautiful, gracious young woman, who clearly came into her own while her mother was away. Maybe I'm making too much of too little, but even when Gabriella introduced herself by shaking hands with Siggy, she seemed like a real mensch.
Siggy and Teresa seem to be on good footing as friends, with Teresa giving zero kickback to Siggy's frank questions about her whole situation. If Jacqueline asked that kind of stuff in years past, she would have freaked out on her, right? Maybe the problem was Jacqueline after all: She certainly seemed malicious at the reunion a couple of years back when she claimed Joe was cheating on Teresa. Nevertheless, Teresa bristled easily in those days. She's more relaxed and open now.
We also get a great scene with Dolores and her Gabby, in which they talk about college, and Gabby expresses gratitude that her parents will pay for her education. Dolores continues to demonstrate what a smart cookie she is, taking pains to make Gabby understand that she doesn't blame her father for not supporting her own advanced education. Again, not a huge moment, but just some nice little nuance to paint these people as more complex and compelling than you'd generally expect.
Look at me loving up on all the ladies! I'm just Mr. Nice Guy. I want to slow down on the Jacqueline hate, so let's try to focus on good things about her this week. Hmm … well … I love Jacqueline's kitchen! I really do. Of all the Jersey Housewives, her kitchen is the nicest. Um … oh, got it! I like her marriage, too. I've always enjoyed Chris Laurita. He seems like a stand-up, straight-shooting guy. My favorite Jacqueline is definitely Jacqueline when she's with Chris. Despite all their drama, they seem really happy together. I will say, though, I do not understand Chris's career at all. He was in the black water with the Manzo boys and now it's … what? Popcorn for special-needs kids? I don't mean to be insensitive, but is that a thing?
The episode culminates in the grand opening of Melissa's boutique, where all the couples come together, except Joe Giudice, who goes to his grandmother's birthday instead. Teresa brings Gia (who looks like a million bucks, although I have to keep reminding myself she's 14 and not 20) as her date. They even have some adult conversation on the way to the party, like girlfriends, but not in creepy Danielle-Staub-and-her-daughters way. Chris has a nice moment with Teresa about how much he misses them all, so they make plans to get together with Jacqueline and Joe. When that happens, I'm thinking we'll finally start to see some sparks fly. I mean, I know we will — they previewed it on the clips from next week's episode. Here we go!