After 11 long months — exactly the length of time Teresa served in federal prison! — we’re finally back in the Garden State. Close your eyes and you can almost smell the Turnpike oil refineries from here. (I’m from New Jersey, so I can make that joke. You, legally, cannot.)
The entire Giudice-Gorga family has been devastated by the death of Teresa and Joe’s mother. I’m not exactly the chapter president of my local Teresa Giudice Fan Club, but losing your mom and parenting four kids while your husband is in prison is an undeniably shitty place to be. It’s decided that Teresa’s still very much grieving dad, Giacinto, will come stay with her and the girls. Sympathy flowers arrive at Teresa’s house courtesy of Danielle Staub, living Housewives history that she is. Giacinto can’t remember who that is. “Remember, when mommy flipped the table?” one of the girls says. “Mmm,” Giacinto nods, as casually as if his granddaughter just said, “Remember, my Girl Scout leader?” The bad blood between Danielle and Teresa simmered for the better part of a decade and gave humankind the gift of the insult “prostitution whore.” But now, post-incarceration, this green-tea-drinking, enlightened Teresa thinks Danielle never had a “fair chance.” In fact, they’ve even gotten together for yoga a few times.
Dolores’s ex-husband slash father of her children slash soul mate is moving back in! But they’re not back together?! Excuse me, what kind of letter-writing campaign does a gal have to launch to make love happen around here? In a confessional, Dolores explains that Frank and his girlfriend (i.e., that woman who is not her) are in a rut, stuck having “an argument that just doesn’t get better.” Is the argument about how he’s very, very unusually close to his ex-wife? Because, I could see it. Dolores is dating someone else too: He’s a nice doctor who is apparently totally fine with Frank moving back in. For now.
Envy by Melissa Gorga is, improbably, still open for business. But Melissa has parted ways with her former partner Jackie, whose primary personality trait is wearing tutus and whose last name, it turns out, is Robinson. (Really!) Melissa says Jackie ransacked the store’s entire inventory and, worst of all, gave the clothes to another boutique owner you might know: Kim D., Melissa’s “archnemesis” dating all the way back to the Old Testament days of Strippergate.
Meanwhile, Siggy has embarked on a tour of speaking engagements in support of her book. Tonight she’s come to lecture at a local spa, where the owner looks just enough like Eileen Davidson that I thought for a moment we might be in for an extremely unexpected crossover episode. Watching people listen with rapt attention is “orgasmic,” Siggy says, so one can only imagine what’s going on in the pants of her audience members. As she tells Not Eileen Davidson, “The advice that comes out of my mouth and what I speak about is, soup to nuts, the best thing that you will ever hear.”
As guests mingle after her talk, Siggy introduces Dolores to Margaret Josephs, a friend of a friend and a self-described “powerhouse in pigtails.” (To be clear, Margaret is an adult, not a child.) Our newest Housewife introduces herself as a fashion designer and founder of a “multi-million-dollar business,” the Macbeth Collection by Margaret Josephs. “My aesthetic really is like Lilly Pulitzer on crack,” she explains, though it mostly consists of colorful clutches inscribed with words like sparkling and classy, the two adjectives that always come to mind immediately when I think of Macbeth. We learn that she and her husband, Joe, were married to other people when they met. She’d hired him as her contractor. For that fact alone: Welcome, Margaret! I am already enjoying you.
Siggy suggests the whole gang take a trip to her beloved Boca, where she lived for ten years, as a pick-me-up for Teresa and a celebration of Melissa’s upcoming birthday. There, they all dine together at Siggy’s favorite restaurant. How do I know it’s Siggy’s favorite restaurant? Upon arriving, she screams, “HI, EVERYBODY! MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD! MY BEST FRIEND, AMY!” What are the odds that Siggy does this upon entering any restaurant and/or seeing any woman who looks like she could conceivably be an Amy? “She’s gotta take it down a notch,” observes Margaret, who at that moment is wearing two long pigtails, a fur stole, and a pair of very sparkly earrings, each the size of your average pear. So, grain of salt.
Siggy tells her friends that she and Michael have been arguing over her schedule. He thinks she’s doing too many speaking engagements, but she loves everything about them. Then, surprisingly, Teresa speaks to some marital discord of her own, for the first time in recent memory. “Because of the situation that [Joe] put me in” — that “situation” being pleading guilty to 41 counts of fraud — she lost out on precious time with her mom.
The next day is Melissa’s birthday. Who but Danielle Staub herself should roll up for breakfast? “That’s right, bitches! I’m back!” she tells the camera, channeling a newly resurrected Madison Montgomery. No, this isn’t Jill crashing Scary Island: Danielle was officially invited and her presence was expected. In fact, she and Teresa (and Melissa!) are getting along just great. If anyone at the table is causing tension, it’s Siggy, who stands up for her otherwise universally reviled friend Kim D. “If you keep kissing her ass the way you do, she’s still going to backstab you,” Melissa warns her. Siggy does not appreciate the suggestion that she kisses anyone’s ass, thank you.
Over dinner, Melissa tells the group, with zero context, that she and her husband use the “pop puss,” a vaginal spray that enhances orgasms. (Please, listen to me and do not Google “pop puss,” unless you’re interested in seeing upsetting images of people popping pus-filled pimples, in which case, godspeed.) “Squirt, squirt, marinate 20 minutes like a chicken,” Margaret says, a description that raises far more questions than it answers.
Siggy’s fight with Michael over her speaking engagements comes back up. “I think God gave me a gift,” she explains. “I think I’m the most talented human being on the face of the Earth.” Um, not to be rude, but Melissa can name three more talented people off the top of her head: Michael Jackson, Madonna, and “the guy who invented the light bulb.” When the other women try to give the professional matchmaker in their midst some advice for a change, Siggy pours her glass of wine out on the table, shouting, “I can’t talk about it anymore!”
Fortunately, Melissa’s birthday cake soon arrives, and what a cake it is! Siggy commissioned a pastry chef to personalize its decorations not just with Melissa’s name, but a rendering of the wallpaper from her boutique. Teresa raises a toast to the birthday girl, which ends with her lightheartedly smushing her slice of cake into her sister-in-law’s face. In response, Drunk Melissa — the very best of Melissas — picks up the top layer of the cake and throws it at Teresa. Oh, no. I know this game; the only winning move is not to play. Teresa grabs the rest of the cake, tray and all, and throws it after a fleeing Melissa, who shrieks with delight, “It’s my birthday, you bitch!” Any birthday on which you don’t shriek, “It’s my birthday, you bitch!” is a birthday wasted.
Those two might be enjoying their food fight, but Siggy is furious. “We’re gonna have to explain to the restaurant that we’re from Jersey,” she snaps. I mean … I get it, I do. That was a little inconsiderate. But it’s Melissa’s night, not yours. The birthday girl is tipsy and having fun, and more pragmatically, everyone already had a piece. I love you, Siggy, but you’ll live. (This is beside the point, but in my medical opinion, a thick casing of fondant extends the five-second rule to five minutes.) That said, as I find myself thinking all too often while watching any episode of any franchise of Real Housewives, I hope they tripled whatever they were planning on tipping. If I were a Bravo producer, I would carry around an envelope stuffed with cash, just in case.
Margaret tells Siggy, once again, to “take it fucking down a notch.” Siggy tells Margaret to go fuck herself. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.