(So Bravo moved The Real Housewives of New Jersey to Sunday nights, which I view as the network’s Golden Globes challenge to HBO’s Oscars.)
I know that people are going to make fun of Melissa Gorga for believing that the line in Amazing Grace is “how sweet the sound that saved a wench like me,” but she does wear a lot of off-the-shoulder wench outfits and hoops, and she’s really into treasure. So maybe this was just a moment of self-awareness. Regardless, when Joe hears her singing from the walk-in closet, he shushes the children and makes a face as if an angel is singing from behind heavenly curtains of faux fur and pleather. “You sound like it’s comin’ outta a radio!” he exclaims, and she makes an “aw shucks” face that manages to read more like a nod of agreement and a tacit “so true.” We’re treated to American Idol–type footage of child-Melissa singing in her home, but that show has trained me not to be impressed unless she’s legally blind or has overcome Tourette’s. Melissa’s dad, deceased, was her biggest supporter, and now Joe says he wants to be her father, which seems perfectly healthy. Moving on!
Bolstered by Joe’s willingness to let her do something other than be pregnant, cook, and bathe him, Melissa’s starting to take steps toward becoming the star she knows she is. First item of business: buying another fur coat. She needs something heavy because she’s going to be singing in ultra-shitty clubs that scrimp on the heating bill. Second item of business is buying a glittering dress that’s the golden cousin of what Teresa wore to Thanksgiving dinner. When Melissa decides the dress would be “good for a holiday,” it just confirms that those two are basically the same person. The fighting between them is like shadowboxing, except with shadows that are very, very sparkly.
The third item of business is texting “a million” song lyric ideas to her new songwriter, Antony. I hope at least one of these texts says, “What rhymes with ‘thank you Jeeeeeeeeesus’?” He shows up in hipster plaid and a retro dapper hairstyle and proceeds to debut Melissa’s new song at a piano that Joe recently bought for her, and you know he’s only doing this because he had his eye on the VIP package to Bonnaroo. The song sounds like something that Mary J. Blige dropped … in the toilet twenty years ago. The first verse references “the weight of the world pushing down” on Melissa and the trauma of having to be “on display every day.” I would have gone with, “My husband likes to pop inside me like a zit / If you come to our Christening you might get hit,” but I guess that’s why I’m not the artist.
You know who’s also an artist? Jacqueline’s daughter Ashley. A CON ARTIST. I don’t know how she did it — maybe she keeps zombie drug scopolamine under her beanie, and she tosses the powder in her stepdad Christopher’s face whenever they get near a car dealership — but she’s gotten him to buy her a Jeep. And she wears the most shit-eating grin as Jacqueline hears the news that she’ll be co-signing on the deal. Thus continues the Jersey version of Mildred Pierce. This shiftless kid is running all over her parents, and I just keep waiting for them to grow a backbone in the dealership when Ashley pouts that she won’t take the car if she has to give up a set of keys. It’s worse than watching a nubile blonde in a bra go down into a basement in a slasher movie because you’re just shouting at Christopher and Jacqueline, “GET UP FROM THE DESK! GET UP FROM THE DESK AND LET HER DRIVE HOME IN A CAR MADE OF HER TEARS!” But Jacqueline leans forward to sign on the line, hoping that Ashley will “do the right thing.” (Spike Lee snickers while watching at home.)
If only Caroline had been at that dealership, I hold out hope that she would have yanked Ashley’s BlackBerry from her hands and smacked her upside the head with it. But she’s busy watching Albert play “the stupidest game in the world,” a.k.a. golf, as she tries to find a hobby that isn’t getting Albie into law school. What should she do with her time now that she’s only got one fully grown child left in the house? She decides that she wants to go out for a radio show so that she can mother all of greater New Jersey. When the station manager presses her on qualifications, she admits that while she doesn’t have radio experience, she has “experience in life.” You know who else has that same experience? Everyone who isn’t dead yet. She fields a practice question about whether couples should be threatened by communication with exes on Facebook, saying that there’s nothing to worry about unless the relationship already has deeper problems. Anthony Weiner, watching at home, wonders out loud, “But what about sending low-angled pics of my balls to strangers? That’s cool, right?”
Kathy’s kids have also been busy on the computer, typing up their yearly drug and alcohol contracts for their parents. Because if you’ve been through the D.A.R.E. program, you know how religiously kids adhere to those kinds of contracts! And because none of the kids who signed that contract in my sixth-grade class are now “glass blowers in Oregon.” Victoria toes the line, saying that she’s going to keep it clean (she chooses to get high posing for Glamour Shots while wearing rodeo gear). Joseph is significantly cagier about whether he’s willing to refrain from getting shitfaced. With the casualness of an old man who has hit up his favorite bar at the end of every workweek for the past three decades, he says, “When I’m a senior, and possibly when I’m a junior, you know that I’m probably going to have a drink on a Friday night or a Saturday night.” His father, the Lebanese Jon Lovitz, appreciates his son’s honesty and tells Joey that if he wants to drink, he should just do it around ol’ dad. Because you know how well things turn out when parents befriend their kids and let them party at the house! And because none of those parents in my neighborhood who let their kids drink in the house “ended up with pregnant teenagers.”
If there’s one guy on the show who should be smoking some weed, it’s definitely Joe Giudice. We first see him juicy and shirtless in bed, his veins already pumping as Teresa plays a voice mail from her brother: Gorga wants to come see Gia perform at her gymnastics competition. Teresa seems pretty optimistic about this development, sitting at her Louis XIV vanity and applying a frosty cornflower shadow up to the brow. Nothin’ but powder blue skies up ahead. And Gia is absolutely ecstatic because lunatic relatives are a lot more fun when you’re young and their actions don’t weigh heavily upon you. But Joe Giudice — well, later he tries to hide those veins with a mustard mock-mock turtleneck to no avail. The blood goes straight to his face and as he watches Gia on the balance beam, you can see a mantra beating beneath his forehead skin. That mantra is, “I am not going to punch Joe Gorga.”
The thing is, the Gorgas arrive after the competition is over, which means that you can actually watch as Joe Giudice transitions from wanting to punch Joe Gorga for more general reasons to wanting to punch Joe Gorga for messing with Gia’s head. Giudice’s hatred for Gorga is so intense that he apparently even hates Gorga’s 5-year-old daughter, Antonia, and not because she’s wearing a sequined beret. Giudice bristles at the fact that she never says hello to him, retaliating by being the one to withhold a greeting this time, and I’m positive she went home and really took that snub to heart while she was playing Parisian tea party with her stuffed animals.
Melissa stays low-key in her rhinestone beret while at the gymnasium. But once she and Joe are back home, she breaks down and cries because she feels excluded and blamed by Joe’s extended family. Why isn’t she texting this lyrical gold to Antony? Maybe something like, “Don’t they see I’m your No.1? / And you’d never give me a house that’s redone.” Just spitballing. Anyway, the result of this heart-to-heart is that Joe declares Teresa is going to have to apologize to his wife. And if next week’s preview is any indication, that’s going to go about as well as Gia’s fucked-up vault.