This week's Real Housewives of New Jersey is all about women's rights … and women's wrongs. We witness the battle of the sexes fought out by a transitional Sexual Revolution generation of couples, and we also see some ladies behave like assholes.
The first independent woman this week is Teresa. Joe's been gone for one day and she's already got her hands full with Milania. For all her wild behavior, Milania is a great help, doing many of the "man's" chores around the house in place of her father. And Gabriella leaves no doubt that she more than carries her weight. Gia is practically a grown woman, at least her in own eyes, so Teresa only has to fend with Audriana. And what does the girl want? Just some kisses and cuddles and bacon, hold the eggs. But it's not so easy as that may sound. Teresa's working hard to look out for her four daughters in this difficult time, despite the fact that they'd rather not process their feelings about their dad's imprisonment. On the bright side, Tio Joe brings over Chinese food! Somebody's got to get Milania off that freaking squad cycle. She respects her uncle; maybe she'll listen to him.
This doesn't stop Teresa from working hard to be there for her. She even tries to find out what Joe does for her that she can do while he's gone. Teresa is so totes Teresa. It's that Taurean, earthbound thinking: Tell me the things and I'll do them and then you'll have what you need. At least the girls know she cares. Also, shout-out to my favorite line of the season. When Teresa tells Milania to be careful what she touches, she says, "That's electrical wire." Milania snaps back, "You're electrical wire."
Milania may be unwilling to develop a secret handshake with Teresa, but Melissa would probably be game. Joe notices what we've been catching for weeks — that the sisters-in-law have taken to ending their conversations with "I love you." It's just like the brilliant Sarah Galli said when I guested on her hilarious Andy's Girls podcast, "Whether or not Melissa and Teresa's affections are sincere, it's in both of their interests to get along and they're clearly committed to it." It's not exactly sexist, but there's a whiff of condescension when Joe mentions the little "I love you" moment between the women.
That condescension is even more pronounced when Joe and Chris sit down to hash out what's happening between their wives. I suppose we can all be grateful it's Chris doing the talking at Dolores's and not Jacqueline (who says all she needs to say with a "Nama-Stay Away" T-shirt … classy!). She's got laryngitis or something, and I'm certainly not mad about it. But Chris and Joe's talk feels very staged. I just don't buy that Chris would organically thrust himself into the middle of all this drama. Also, I don't think of him as being stupid, but denying that Jacqueline went buckwild? It's obvious the producers agree with me, since they cut back to Jacqueline's tirade on Melissa. It's the kind of fact-checking you wish we had during the presidential debates.
That said, Chris raises a good point about Jacqueline coming to the table and being attacked. Teresa did kind of go looking for that fight. But Melissa didn't! So why is Chris blaming Melissa? It makes me wonder if there is something going on here, edit-wise. Maybe Chris is right, but we don't know because we haven't seen the part of the scene where Melissa rips Jacqueline a new one. It's possible. Either way, it's weird having the husbands discuss it for their wives.
The kitchen-warming is a good moment for Dolores, the first in what quickly becomes an episode full of good moments for her. She's coming into her own at 45 years old and it's awesome. I realized I've always judged these women when they talked about striking out on their own without their husbands, like I was looking down on them for finding the idea so novel. But something Dolores says about finding her confidence really struck a chord with me this week. When I was a weird, little gay kid in junior high, I didn't feel I could be myself, so I hid behind a shell. Now, at age 40, I'm getting in touch with that and learning to come out. I think the fact is that we live in a sexist society. Italian women of Dolores's generation, gay men of my generation — we've all been marginalized by gender norms and the patriarchy. This is a real thing. Politics are personal. Carry on, my sisters.
A real treat this week is the reappearance of Dolores's 102-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth, i.e. my favorite person on television, and she does not disappoint. The old pistol refuses to tell Siggy her secret to long life — "Then it won't be a secret no more" — and does nothing to hide her abject boredom as Sigsig and Dodo explain the whole Jacqueline-Melissa drama. At one point, she's lounging in an easy chair in the background, sipping a cocktail and upstaging everyone. All hail the queen.
Also a treat: Dolores's children. I'm happy to say I felt a little less creepy this week, but then Frankie showed up in a tight blue polo shirt. Madonna mia! And THEN he came to her gym event in a tank top. Let's just say I really appreciated the chyron reminder that he's 17 years old.
BUT WHY IS KIM D. THERE? Seriously, who invited her? This is not cool. Be gone, evil spirit, be gone. She's just awful. Look at her face when Melissa walks in, she can't wait for a confrontation. What kills me is that I know she thinks of herself as this fabulous TV villainess. Trust me, she ain't. I would know: I'm the target audience and I have low standards. For decades, I've cheered for every prime-time woman with a bad attitude. But Kim D. is unworthy. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Look at her fake offence when Melissa calls her a troublemaker. No, Kim D. The fabulous sassmaster you think you are would not be offended by such a comment. She would simply embrace her troublemaking pizzazz. Ugh, Kim D. Go away!
We do get to see Kathy and Rosie and Richie, which is nice. Rosie's still happy with her girlfriend. Richie's dumb stuff about wanting a fourgy with them and Kathy doesn't even bother me anymore. It's just a lame ploy for attention.
The main event takes place at Dolores's gym and it's a success. Protein-shake martinis for everybody! As Siggy would say, "I LOVE IT!" Teresa actually teaches a yoga class, which is pretty hilarious. That's got to be the Jersey-est yoga class there ever was, complete with Frank showing off through the window and Dolores screaming at him mid-warrior pose. Teresa brings Robyn, which is awkward for Dolores and Siggy, who are still loyal to Jacqueline. Until five minutes later (or maybe a week later) when they suddenly aren't. Dolores (looking fierce in hot-pink lipstick and a warm fur coat, by the way) tells Siggy that she tried to reach out and make sure Jacqueline felt wanted at the gym event, but Jacqueline accused of her trying to make her look bad. What the actual hell? This is what I'm talking about. Jackers is crackers. Dolores has clearly tried to be a friend. I guess that's over. Oh my goodness. This will not end well.