Milan was (sort of) fun and all, but back in Jersey, Joe Gorga is annoyed Melissa left the country the week before the grand opening of his — I mean, their — new restaurant. He’s right: Shame on her for lacking a passion to wait tables at a restaurant she did not have any say in buying, alongside her husband and sister-in-law, both of whom have been prickly to her throughout this process! The Joe who carped endlessly about having to spend more time with his children when his wife was opening her boutique has apparently been replaced by a pod person with the exact opposite beliefs and values. “That’s not fair,” he whines in a talking-head interview. “We’re a team. If I need your help, we focus together.” I have reached the inevitable conclusion that this story line was scripted to give me, personally, an aneurysm.
At a photo shoot for the cover of her new book, Teresa does yoga poses in a black glitter halter-neck backless jumpsuit amid spaghetti and meatballs, kids’ drawings, and scattered shoes. Glamorous and relatable. She’ll soon pay a visit to Joe in prison for the first time since her mom passed away. Then there’s the fact that he still hasn’t apologized or taken responsibility for the whole, you know, them both being incarcerated thing, a lapse in marital decorum that’s really starting to bother her. Siggy stops by (she did not get the backless-jumpsuit-dress-code memo, sadly) to announce that she is once again ready to let bygones be bygones with Margaret, a woman she is severely emotionally allergic to. “Life is short!” she says, which is funny, because life with Siggy and Margaret feels awfully long.
Meanwhile, Frank and Dolores take Frank Jr. to tour Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Frankie is looking for an “aggressive finance program,” which sounds to me like he should consider the Patrick Bateman School of Business. They’re even escorted to an impeccably vacuumed “male room” in the dorms, which I guarantee that no living college student has ever actually entered, given the pairs of shoes arrayed hilariously neatly by the door and a distinct lack of forgotten, months-old pizza crusts anywhere in sight. Frankie loves the school, and to Dolores’s great pleasure, it’s only a 90-minute drive away from home.
Dolores is fretting over her soon-to-be-empty nest, but at least she has her ex-husband to share it with. Where does platonic co-parenting stop and romantic cohabitation begin? Dolores continues to date Dr. David, but he’s never not on call, a source of tension between them. “Do you think David appreciates you?” Frank — who, by the way, is still on a break from his girlfriend — asks her. “Because I made the mistake of not appreciating you and I regret it.” No one deserves to live this particular best-of-both-worlds Nancy Meyers fantasy more than my girl Dolores. Speaking of exes, Margaret’s first husband, Jan, comes to see her, with bagels. (I like him already.) She invited him over so they could talk about his kids, the ones she raised as a young stepmom, but who have kept her at a chilly distance ever since she left their father. Margaret wants to know if he thinks they’ll ever speak to her again. He isn’t so sure, but she’s resolved never to give up.
Teresa follows through on a promise she made to Danielle at Siggy’s retreat, after she revealed how hurt her now-young-adult daughters were by what they witnessed Teresa say to their mom years ago. (“Prostitution whore.” She called her a prostitution whore.) She drives to Danielle’s house to apologize to 19-year-old Jillian in person. Christine, now 23, wants no part of this. That’s more than fair, Christine. Over tea, Jillian and Danielle describe the harassment and bullying their family has withstood since that confrontation. Teresa begins to cry imagining her daughters in the same situation. “I don’t know why things happen in life,” she says, which is such a bad apology it doesn’t even qualify as a non-apology, before offering a more meaningful sorry later. Jillian accepts, and is altogether too good for this television program.
Siggy fills in her father, Mordecai (a Holocaust survivor and scholar), about her ongoing tension with Margaret, including Marge’s Kim D.–Hitler analogy, which has so far caused drama on two continents and counting. Witnessing how kookoo-bananas Margaret drives his daughter, Mordecai offers Siggy the sanest advice possible: Avoid her. This also happens to be the only advice Siggy can’t actionably take, given that both of these women are on this damn show. We are all suffering together.
Joe may be freaking out over the restaurant opening, but he nevertheless managed to set up a step-and-repeat backdrop in their extremely glamorous strip-mall-parking-lot environs, so I’d consider this a success. “I designed this cheeseburger pizza,” Joe says, proudly, and I feel a wave of affection for him, like he’s the obvious underdog contestant on an episode of Chopped Junior. (But hot.) Teresa and Joe continue to harass Melissa about the degree to which they can guilt her into being involved with this business, but when she watches Joe emotionally pay tribute to his late mom in a toast, all is forgiven. Melissa’s heart is as warm, if not quite as greasy, as her husband’s cheeseburger pizza.
A no-doubt fire-code-violating number of guests crowd into the restaurant by the time Siggy arrives with Jennifer, perhaps the 19th person that Siggy has identified as her best friend in the last 24 hours. (Don’t worry: Dolores is still her best friend, too.) Though Margaret has lulled herself into thinking things are, at last, “copacetic” between herself and the Sig, she is wrong. Obviously. Horror movies must end with a final scare. Siggy conspicuously snubs Margaret and Marge Sr. throughout the event, which is quite an achievement in quarters as tight as these. Even Dolores admits that Siggy’s misbehavior is unnecessarily rude to Margaret’s mother. (I’m so proud of you, Dolores!) Eventually, Danielle gamely volunteers to fetch Siggy to introduce her to Marge Sr. She outrights refuses, then flees. Really? Come on. If Margaret didn’t acknowledge Siggy’s own beloved mother — or worse, if one of Joshua’s frenemies didn’t acknowledge her — Siggy would in that very moment develop rage-fueled pyrokinetic abilities and burn the whole place to the ground.