"Cut the cancer out." These four pungent words have been recycled and repeated in endless previews leading up to this week's episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Unlike so many promos of this kind, we've all known exactly what Teresa meant — that is, who Teresa meant — by "the cancer." Sure, Bravo stirs up intrigue by misdirecting us with Easter eggs that ultimately prove hollow, but it's no surprise this one turned out as rotten as suspected. The cancer is Kathy and Rosie (and especially Richie). No offense, Teresa wishes you the best, but she doesn't want to film with you anymore — er, I mean spend time with you anymore.
In the long-established Real Housewives tradition, before we can get to the climactic confrontation, we have to endure endless debate prep. It's scene after scene of various parties convincing, assuring, and reassuring both sides they should meet up and hash it out — but without ever uttering the words "good television." It's kind of like Password without the celebrities or Celebrity without the torn-up pieces of paper or charades without the good acting. It's an awful lot of "her and I … "
Speaking of, here's a drinking game: Take a shot every time one of the Housewives misuses the object pronoun.
To break up the monotony of people reassuring Kathy and Rosie they should meet with Teresa (which was their idea), the producers really stepped outside the box, pairing up eclectic combos for scene work. Siggy with Kathy and Ro? There's the obligatory still image of Siggy Photoshopped into a Wakile family photo to prove this meeting isn't as random as it feels. All right, maybe it's a real pic, but either way, methinks the lady doth protest too much. I'll admit it's good dramatic writing, though. Connecting Kathy & Co. to other characters beyond the Gorga-Giudice clan makes them seem more important and raises the stakes for the main event.
Of course, Teresa is the one who needs convincing, and that happens in perhaps the most unconvincing moment of the whole episode: when Siggy and Jacqueline urge her to have lunch with her cousins. Actually, Tre's performance in the scene seems quite authentic — I think we all believe she really doesn't want to see Kathy. What's harder to buy is her being swayed. If they were allowed to say "It'll be good television" (or possibly even "Look, it's in your contract"), it would make sense, but instead we're asked to trust Siggy's prowess as a relationship counselor. She's certainly formidable, but she's no match for Teresa's stubbornness.
Not for nothing, the most interesting part is Teresa getting pissy with Jackie, a little taste of the old times (and that infamous scene on the deck). But Jax seems to take it in stride, and the new namaste Teresa even apologizes. How do you like them apples?! Comic relief comes in the form of Teresa's initial reaction to the idea of meeting Kathy: She sings, "La, la, la" over the others talking, Pee-wee Herman–style! And she makes further progress in her exploration of different ways to mispronounce Siggy ("Ziggy? Tziggy? Text-es?). She really wants this to be I Love Lucy, but they keep making it Melrose Place.
There's some filler, too — literally. Melissa and Joe take a much-needed break from pretending to fight about their marriage to get some Botox for Joe. Oh, this he'll do? Burning some chicken fingers for the kids is too womanly, but he'll lie down like a Maloof for the wrinkle needle. There's a less-than-half-assed attempt to rationalize this with Joe's migraines — is that actually a thing? — but we all know he's just keeping it tight in case Joe Giudice really does return from prison with a six-pack. There's only room for one pint-size pinup in this supporting-husband cast, and it's long been claimed.
Also, Pete pops the question to Ashlee! He seems nice enough, and she's on her best behavior, so it's almost hard to hate her this week. I just can't get over the way she acted about Teresa. But don't jump down my throat for being a Tre-hugger — I've always been icked out by Ash, even back when she was baiting Danielle. Stupid old Danielle! See? It's not about who Ashlee's up against, she just rubs me wrong. Full disclosure: I think she hits close to home for me. I feel her pain, and it makes me uncomfortable. As an adopted stepchild myself, I cringe watching her interact with Chris, especially when she calls him Dad. I can feel her years of pretending they have the perfect family for her mother's sake, but secretly feeling out of place. Am I projecting? At least I'm sympathizing. And the proposal was cute! It was a good week for Ashlee in my book, relatively speaking.
Oh! And we get to see Dolores at work at the gym. It's a short scene, but I'll take what I can get. She looks hot in her gear and seems comfortable around the equipment, unsurprisingly, given her fierce fitness. She even demonstrated a machine I've never seen before, a kind of knee-chest bend, possibly for core strengthening. It looked fun! I actually sat there with my mint chip and thought, I want to go the gym!
And then we finally reach the lunch we've all been waiting for, although things get off to a rocky start, and Teresa immediately informs the waiter, "We're not eating." Despite Rosie's explosion at one of the pregames, she keeps it in check when Teresa, sticking to her guns of not wanting to hang, utters the immortal "I wanna cut out the cancer." It's particularly poignant for Kathy, given her daughter's brain tumor, and Kathy's never been more likable than when she calmly tells Teresa, "We're not cancer. I can tell you that." Yeah, she can. God bless Kathy. Her perspective has shifted, and I really do feel for her, but why does she want Teresa back in her life so badly? Rosie's passion is convincing, but in Kathy's case, I don't get it. Teresa insinuates it's just to be on TV, which is somehow the ugliest accusation in the world, although that's easy to say for an O.G. Housewife. Is Kathy that shallow? Oh God, does Kathy need to get back on the show to pay for her daughter's treatment? That would melt my heart. Would Teresa be so cruel as to deny her that? Oy, oy, oy. This is all very upsetting.
So, there we have it. The season is finally gearing up for the big climax, and the big trip approaches. I guess they're going to Vermont, or as Siggy calls it, "Ver-mah-ont." It's always hilarious the way they have to invite each other on these trips, as if it weren't a given from the get-go that they'd all go. Or almost all of them … hmmm, wait. Are Kathy and Rosie going to be invited? They've gotten a lot of screen time for their story to just be dropped now. Teresa seems so adamant, though. Will she be won over? I don't have a clue how this will shake down. Fine! I'll say it: This is good TV.