I came to tonight's episode with an open mind and a clear head. After two weeks' respite from recounting my love for Teresa, I was ready to focus on other Housewives and resume my role as an outside observer. But no matter how hard I tried to find another angle, I kept butting up against the fact that RHONJ is still all about Teresa. Yes, she's table-flipping good television, AND the producers have clearly chosen to center this season around her return, AND the other ladies know they have to interact with her to be on camera. Right now, recapping RHONJ without talking about Tre would be like writing a book report on Les Miserablés that leaves out Jean Valjean — if you don't mind equating a loaf of bread in 19th-century France with a McMansion.
That said, we did get a chance to know Siggy and Dolores a little better. The Dolores story is starting to annoy me. It's probably not her fault; I just can't with the whole "it's not just a hobby" thing the producers always jam down our throats. With Dolores's gym, it's like the lady doth protest too much — whoever said it was just a hobby? You tell me you're a Jersey gym impresario and I'll believe you. But if it's not just a hobby, then why does your partner need to remind you to come into work? The portrayal strikes me as a bit misogynist, and I've come to expect more from Big D, although it feels churlish to complain about an episode where her son rolls up his shirt to reveal the jailbait-iest abs since Zac Efron came of legal age.
Siggy, on the other hand, comes on as strong as a Mack truck playing Yenta in a major revival of Fiddler on the Roof. There's that whole drama about her daughter, Sophie, using her cell phone too much, which leads to phone privileges being revoked. But before we side with Siggy against her kids, the three of them go for a typical Jersey diner lunch (chopped salad for the girls, French fries for the boy — no, cheese fries — no, curly — no, regular — MOM!), and it becomes clear that Siggy is the problem. She can't shut up for five minutes, literally. Her kids timed her ability to listen quietly and she couldn't make it past a minute and 48 seconds, and even that was with some smaller interruptions. Of course, Siggy's kids being so articulate and able to express themselves so lovingly reflects well on her parenting. For all her "gashrying," there's something very real (as opposed to "Real") about her tears when she finally hears what her children are saying. When she committed to being a better listener, I gotta say, I believed her.
The only other non-Teresa scenes are about Joe and Melissa's kids in New York Fashion Week, although even that gets hijacked when Tre comes along. It's still a compelling family reunion, complete with little Joey offering a Dickensian "I love everybody at this table" as the Gorga-Giudice crew dig into their kale salads (for the girls) and macaroni (for the boys and Milania) at Chelsea's sibilant answer to a diner, Cafeteria on Seventh Avenue. The scene is almost too sweet: I'm worried it's a setup for an enormous blowout between Teresa and Melissa later this season. Knock on wood.
The week's big showdown and the climax of the season so far is Teresa and Joe's dinner at Jacqueline's — sorry, Chris and Jacqueline's, although the husbands are just pawns. Joe, Chris, and the other husbands have repeatedly said that everything falls apart when the couples break off into groups of boys and girls, and it's true. It's no accident, either. You can almost hear the producer's voice when Joe tells Chris, "We have to go to the bar." (Followed hilariously by "bring the wine," because what else do you bring to a bar?) So, the menfolk skedaddle, leaving Teresa and Jacqueline to have it out.
Jax dips her toes in conflictual water by (sort of) joking about how she kept waiting for something to snap at Melissa's boutique event. Similarly, Teresa pushes the envelope by adding that they're not in high school and she just wants them all to be friends. Is she implying Jacqueline is in high school? Not really, but neither of them is going out of their way to AVOID a confrontation.
Just then, the producers scramble our brains by cutting away to Joe and Chris talking about some stupid thing. Long story short: Joe orders an Uber. He knocks on the window of a car and says, "Are you my Uber?" and the driver says, "No." Mind-meld complete.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Teresa says it feels like Jacqueline, Melissa, and Caroline are all ganging up on her. Did we miss something? Or did Tre just go there? It seems like she means no harm, but it certainly plays into the whole "Teresa thinks she's a victim" thing.
Jacqueline then ups the ante with that bitchiest of exclamations: "Wow." In this context, "wow" always means "I am appalled by what you just said." It seems antagonistic, but let's give Jax the benefit of the doubt. She's just saying wow. She's genuinely surprised to hear Teresa feels that way. Are you surprised? Neither am I.
Jacqueline keeps pushing and tells Teresa, "You did that." This is not the right choice when you're ostensibly trying to reconcile with someone — and it's certainly not the right choice if you're trying to make up with Teresa. (Earlier in the episode, Melissa wisely notes that she'll be in a really good place with Tre once she can get away with disagreeing with her.)
Unsurprisingly, Teresa turns the beat around, claiming, "You attacked me on your porch," but then quickly qualifies that she had "felt ambushed." This is healthy. Start our statements with I. I feel [blank] when you [blank]. It's not about accusations. Just express our own experiences to find common ground.
We flash back to the fight on the porch and it's very telling. Yes, Teresa was closed off in her old-school style of not telling anybody her business. She just wanted to laugh and have nice coffee talk about their dogs and daughters. Jacqueline kept pushing for details on her troubles, and it's hard not to find fault in that. "Are you going to jail, are you not going to jail?" is a callous question at best. Particularly in the context of what we know about Teresa, it's a shit-starter.
Still, I didn't really feel protective of Teresa until Caroline stalked onto the scene. It occurred to me how much these women are like wild dogs and cats. It's all about who's the alpha. Jacqueline is like a hyena getting all up in Teresa the Tiger's face, but she's essentially harmless until big mountain-lion Caroline comes over and raises the stakes. (To complete the safari analogy: Melissa would be a jaguar, Siggy a leopard, and Dolores a cougar. Or maybe Melissa's a puma, Dina's a jaguar, and Siggy's a cheetah. Or they're all really leopards in Jersey; although, I suppose Danielle just has to be a cougar, right? Maybe Dolores can be a lynx. Is that a thing?)
Anyway, power is the reason for everything. Teresa is telling the truth when she says she would never ask Jacqueline about her business. She wouldn't. She doesn't give a crap. Teresa has always had her own plotline. Same with Caroline. Jacqueline was never much more than a sidekick, though. A sidekick depends on others for screen time. When Teresa shut Jacqueline out of her personal drama, it was nothing personal, but it hurt Jacqueline's role on the show. So now she's stuck in a corner; her only relevance to Teresa is adversarial. You can't miss the nastiness of Jacqueline relishing those ugly moments: "You did go to jail," and "I'm not the one who filed fraudulent bankruptcy."
It's so dark that I keep wondering if she was prodded by the producers. It's like poking a beast. You don't say that stuff to Teresa unless you're trying to piss her off. Even if you think Tre's a total jerkface and Jax is the second coming, it's hard to see her intentions as anything but confrontational.
I mean, Jacqueline could have said, "I asked about your situation because I love you and I wanted to know if you were okay." Instead, she makes snarky remarks and gets defensive when Teresa says she never asked Jacqueline about her legal troubles. Jackie draws a big distinction between her financial woes and Tre's criminal charges. Does that really make a difference? Teresa's criminal stuff was about money, so it's sort of related.
Truthfully, I think it was weird for Teresa to be so closed off when all that shit went down, but that's her prerogative. She's an oddball. Why harp on her personal problems except to cause trouble?
That certainly seems like Jax's intention. As the fight escalates, she fires off stinging quips for the camera's benefit right to the end, dryly remarking of Teresa's early departure, "She had a curfew anyway." So that's how it's gonna be. The questions loom: Who will be on whose side? When they go on the trips, will everyone join? Will Teresa and Jacqueline have a momentary rapprochement, or will this war rage on uninterrupted? I only wish we didn't have to wait ’til next week to find out.