Before we delve into this week's mess, it's worth taking a moment to remember there are real problems in the world. At the end of the day, The Real Housewives of New Jersey is here to entertain us, but these women must also deal with life's misfortunes.
Late in the hour, recurring cousin Kathy references her daughter Victoria's recent brain tumor relapse and fainting spells. We've seen a little bit of Kathy over the last few weeks, but this is the first we're hearing about Victoria's health issues. Having watched the kid grow up for several years, I think I speak for all of us when I say this is a chilling turn of events. On behalf of everyone at the Housewives Institute, I wish Victoria Wakile a complete recovery.
Another serious issue, although thankfully not life-threatening: This episode touches on Jacqueline's son Nicholas's autism. Teresa brings her daughters over to play with Nick for the first time since reconciling with Jax, and the play date goes well. (Milania was especially good with him.) Jacqueline shows immense gratitude for the day, revealing in a roundabout way just how much concern she feels about her son's future. Even the littlest interactions mean the world to her.
All of Teresa's daughters have grown up considerably over the last year, perhaps more than she even realized. Over a Thai yoga massage, Joe explains what we've all been thinking whenever Tre referenced her time away as research for a book: The girls have computers; they know the truth. The new namaste Teresa takes it in stride. There is no screeching or defensiveness, just quiet acceptance — "health, health, health" as Edina Monsoon would say on Absolutely Fabulous. (Is Teresa the Eddy of RHONJ? Who's the Patsy? Is it Jacqueline? It's probably Jacqueline.)
Sidebar: Let's quickly memorialize one of the all-time great Real Housewives malapropisms: Joe calls Brussels sprouts "muscle sprouts." I mean, so perfect, right? Kind of like "Old Timers' Disease" or "all intensive purposes."
During a sit-down over green tea, Lawyer Jim focuses on Joe's impending departure and the importance of him staying out of trouble in prison. Clearly, no one's worked up over whatever Joe drunkenly said to Teresa last week. On the cusp of his incarceration, their relationship seems about as solid as can be. Not for nothing, though, everybody agrees that time away will be good for Joe's liver.
Meanwhile, Siggy sends her daughter Sophie off to a Jewish Federation weekend, where she'll learn about tradition and remember that her grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Sophela didn't seem too excited, but I could've relieved her of any trepidation. I used to go on those things (Havurat Noar and Dor Hadash — or Baruch Habarbecue as my mother called it) and I'm here to tell you it was a weed-fueled sex party for Jewish teens from neighboring school districts. Of course, I mostly stayed in my bunk listening to the Israeli cast recording of Evita starring Riki Gal, but I heard the cool kids got into some hot-and-heavy stuff. This getaway allows Siggy, her ex, and his new wife, Thuy (along with their toddler, Liam), to focus on their son Joshie. He just passed his driving test and they celebrated with a dinner at Delmonico's, where they present him with a shiny new SUV with black-rim tires. I've never heard of that kinda thing, but it seems really cool.
The next day at wine o'clock, Siggy pops by Melissa's place to offer a little relationship expertise, mostly in the form of "You and Joe have a good marriage." I guess Siggy is unfooled by the endless dog-and-pony show of Joe and Melissa pretending to fight over who wears the pants and who takes them off. Although it doesn't mean I support this stupid subplot, I will say that this week's installation of Joe versus Mel is a little less boring. I mean, she lands some pretty good zingers: "Welcome to the New Millennium" and something about him not picking her up on 42nd Street, which is funny for a few reasons. I mean, 42nd Street probably is where he would pick her up nowadays, after she takes the kids to see Aladdin on Broadway and eat dinner at Red Lobster or Chevy's Fresh Mex. And also, just like, you know, reasons. A stripper says what?
In an even less interesting battle of the gender roles, albeit one between two divorced hotties who still have chemistry, Frankie and Dolores might as well be married. I'd say the conflict is more between Dolores and her business partner. Or maybe it's between Dolores and her objectively attractive son? (I'm just saying.) Or Dolores and her farting dog? Or, I don't know, Dolores and some tertiary character we haven't noticed who will be back to cause trouble next season? Who in their right mind could fight with Dolores? She's so pretty and cool and she could definitely kick your ass.
Dolores even gets along with personas non grata Kathy and Rosie (and ugh, Richie). They get together to foreshadow Kathy and Rosie's big confrontation at Teresa's book signing, which we've all been waiting for. This preamble is where Kathy drops the bomb about Victoria. It starts with questions about Teresa's namaste-ness. How can you really be at peace when you're holding a grudge against your own family? After that, I was ready to judge Kathy because I've always felt she was way out of line on the whole Teresa thing. Yes, Teresa was pretty rude to her, but she really didn't give a pasta e fagioli and Kathy kept crying out for relevance by weighing in unnecessarily.
But then Kathy mentioned her daughter. I can't explain how deeply this affected me. I knew about Victoria's history because it was part of the exposition when Kathy first joined the show, but I just took it for granted she was out of the woods. I thought I lived in a universe where Victoria getting sick again was impossible.
In terms of sympathy, though, it certainly helps Kathy's case after she and Rosie use Teresa's book signing to surprise her with a lunch invitation. ("On me," Rosie proffers, ever the gentleman.) Unsurprisingly, Teresa is cordial, superficial, and just this side of cold. Undeterred, Rosie and Kathy push on. And here's where Teresa's strategic prowess really shines through: She still dodges the invitation. I'm spending time with my husband before he leaves, she says. Every moment with my kids is precious, she says. "Just one hour, Teresa!" The Skinny Italian wouldn't give an inch!
You know when people push you for plans and you're running out of excuses, but you just don't want to see them? How many times have you gotten stuck with an undesirable dinner date when all you wanted was down time and me time? It's happened to me more than I care to remember. That's why Teresa is my inspiration. It's a simple "No, thank you!" and roll credits. What's gonna happen next? Will they keep pushing? Will Tre have to come right out and say she doesn't want to go? Will anybody mention Victoria? I can't imagine that wouldn't shake things up. Que será será, what will Tre, will Tre.