I haven’t liked Bethenny this much since before she got a new face, much better hair, and a whole lot more money to buy dresses with inexplicable cutouts on every unbroken plane. This week, she is winning, relatable, vulnerable, and quick. But she’s still never as funny as she thinks she is, especially when hauling out tired old saws like Ramona’s “flotation devices” or quipping about the “buttcrack of dawn” when Dorinda tries to do yoga on her own in a Mexican villa with a swarthy teacher and a bunch of hungover onlookers like it was a deleted scene from Rough Night.
What is clear is that Bethenny knows the score about her life and she desperately wants out. At dinner, as they’re having some ridiculous conversation about Tinsley’s Page Six item, Bethenny says, “We have conversations and they go nowhere.” Yes, that is exactly what happens on all of these shows. The women each have an immovable position on a certain situation and they yell at each other to defend those positions. No one gains or loses any ground and the whole room is just scattered with the corpses of sense and decency. Throw in some mustard gas and a poem by Siegfried Sassoon and this is just the trench warfare of World War I.
Then, Bethenny, in her classic mode of trying to crack jokes that don’t fit but also aren’t funny at all, calls the whole thing a “circle jerk.” This prompts Carole to explain what a circle jerk is, I believe to Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Fleshlight Morgans, but I don’t really believe for a second that Sonja doesn’t know what a circle jerk is.
Anyway, Bethenny is also very relatable in the opening of the episode when she points out to Ramona that she’s sick of her behavior. She says it isn’t one incident, but a decade of Ramona not liking Bethenny and being stuck with her. It’s clear that these two are in a No Exit of their own making — that being on the show has deprived them of almost all happiness and it lodges them together like Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman trying to prop up Bernie’s dead corpse in Weekend at Bernie’s.
Ramona’s response to Bethenny’s accusation is to say, “I don’t not not like you,” a sentiment that is so linguistically convoluted that not even a cherry stem tied by the tongue of a contortionist could decipher its construction. Basically what Ramona says — if you try to parse it — is that she doesn’t like Bethenny, but I don’t think she’s shrewd enough to say it in that way. I think she’s just still sozzeled on last night’s margaritas and can’t quite form a sentence yet.
However, Bethenny’s best scene is when she pleads with Ramona not to mess up her tequila trip by saying or doing anything that would embarrass her or somehow harm her business. Bethenny, always a clear-eyed judge of character, says that Ramona vacillates between being horrible and kissing ass and that she needs to work on the middle, which is where most sane people operate. (But not our Housewives. No siree, Harry Dubin.) She tells Ramona that she needs to start being a better person that people enjoy being around and not someone that they just tolerate.
This comes at the end of a day of Ramona buying her way onto Bethenny’s excursion to the tequila factory. Any regular visitor to the Real Housewives Institute knows exactly the pattern that Ramona planned to employ because she does it consistently: Whenever she’s excluded, she flatters and buys her way back into that person’s good graces, smothers them with affection during the occasion, and then goes back to being her usual horrendous self once the event is over. She’s like a putrid cloud of bad breath that’s momentarily plastered over with a Listerine Cool Mint Breath Strip. One of the reasons that I love both Dorinda and Carole is that they’re not above calling her out for it.
Sonja repeatedly calls out her ally Ramona’s unhappiness, saying that she used to get banged by her ex-husband Mario every night and his absence is the cause of her sadness. Sonja says Ramona putting on a front of success and normalcy is what is making her so unruly. That’s pretty astute for Sonja to notice. (For the record, if I were getting it from a grade-A hottie like Mario Singer every night, even if he was cheating on me, I would be a whole lot happier than I am now. He’s like the Lexapro of lovers.) However, it is not astute of Sonja to keep screaming about it until Ramona snaps that, “I am happy, bitch. I am happy.” When you have to scream it like that, it doesn’t really sound believable.
Sonja’s other big fight this episode is with Tinsley over an item Sonja placed in Page Six about how Tinsley is an ungrateful houseguest. This is the dumbest fight ever, and I don’t know why Tinsley thinks that Sonja can call up Page Six and refute the item, and that they’ll then retract it. Even if Sonja didn’t plant it, they’d just run it with her denials. This isn’t the New York Times, it’s a gossip column! While Sonja may not have actually planted it (but, come on), even by going around town telling everyone how awful Tinsley is, she sort of inadvertently planted it, right?
SMIFFEE (which stands for Sonja Morgan Is My Favorite Floozy for Ever and Ever) but this whole thing is really dumb and makes Sonja look bad. SMIFFEE but if she wants Tinsley out of the house, then just tell her kindly to find an apartment. SMIFFEE but I have no idea what Sonja is arguing about when she and Tinsley fight about this. Sonja has proven that when she’s sober she can still be fun, clear-headed, and somewhat observant. SMIFFEE, but her need for dominance over Tinsley looks worse on her than that neon bell-sleeved monstrosity that Ramona bought for Bethenny. Seriously, that thing looks like season-two Cersei Lannister dressed for Taco Tuesday at Señor Frogs.
Speaking of Tinsley, we need to pause and discuss how weird and creepy it is that the guy that Carole sets her up with (the one that she and Carole are now making branded Bravo content for) sends her a huge bouquet of flowers while she was on vacation. I mean, he could have just had them waiting for her when she got home, but no, he had to stalk her and get them to her in Mexico and then find a Mexican florist that could handle the job, and then have them delivered. This all probably took his assistant the better part of an entire day. I don’t know, but this seems like a move a certain pseudo-spy named Jill Zarin might attempt. I would check those bouquets for bugs (and I don’t mean fruit flies). Also, she is calling him her “new boyfriend,” even though they went on one five-day date. This all seems a little, well, rushed. Is he secretly Canadian and facing visa problems or something?
Then there is the trip to Tequila, the town that is the birthplace of tequila, where the women drink Skinny Girl margaritas from plastic coconut glasses, wear Skinny Girl branded hard hats, and wipe their drooling mouths with Skinny Girl cloth napkins. They fly in helicopters that, by some glaring oversight, are not emblazoned with the Skinny Girl logo on any of their burnished surfaces. And yes, they drink tequila, out of horns and champagne flutes, shot glasses and martini glasses, and Sonja probably did a body shot out of Carole’s bellybutton and I’m shocked that didn’t make the final cut. Luckily, the producers were kind enough to give us a tequila shot counter so we could keep track of their consumption.
The weirdest thing about the trip is how, for a pilgrimage to the birthplace of tequila, it seems more like a visit to Epcot. When they land, people are dressed in Day-Glo body paint and Mayan costumes doing ancient ceremonial dances in the middle of what is supposed to be a very authentic agave farm. Do they do this all the time? Is this what Mexico is really like? Is it not, as some presidents would lead us to believe, full of rapists trying to steal our jobs? Is this factory just another tourist trap in Mexico? Is this an actual factory and Skinny Girl is such a big client that they’ve pulled out all the stops for their guardian angel Bethenny R. Frankel? (I made that R up.)
It just all seems so weird and so phony, like the women are impressed by how realistic it was, but everything is so Technicolor and rehearsed that it doesn’t seem like it could be true at all. Then, just like at a bad Mexican restaurant in the Valley, there is a mariachi band at lunch, and little kids dressed up as cowboys handing out roses, and a horse that dances the Mexican hat dance and no one thinks it’s weird. There are even little kids riding ponies that Lisa Vanderpump wants to kidnap and throw in a pen and name Opulence or Hair Extensions. Do they think this is just an average day on the farm? It’s like if you showed up to a corn farm in Iowa and were treated to a skit from Hee-Haw.
When it was all over, the women were hustled back into their helicopters to face motion sickness with a stomach full of booze. As they were getting aboard in the agave fields, one of the women who was dancing for them earlier was still there in her pre-Columbian garb, a long woolen robe that was starting to make the grease paint on her forehead bleed with sweat. As the rotors fired up for the helicopter’s ascent, she put her hand on the back of her head to keep it from flying all over her face, but still a few wisps whipped at her eyes as she raised her head and watched them gain purchase in the air.
The wind was still strong and it yanked one of the long pheasant feathers placed in her hair for the occasion right out of her head. It tornadoed up in the air like a spirit that got lost on its way to heaven. As the helicopters and the loud women inside them disappeared, the feather started to tumble back down toward the ground in large, slow arcs, like it was making a hammock out of the sky. This woman, usually the secretary at the factory, turned away before it alit back to Earth. She just wanted tomorrow to be another boring day at the office. She thought ahead to the future when her life would return to normal and she would finally get to wash this shit off her face.