Between the schoolyard fights, ripped-down lighting fixtures, upright blackouts, naked art openings, and sexy salad photo shoots, this episode has more to talk about than usual. However, I would like to focus my efforts on one single thing: the return of Jill Zarin, that ziggurat of remorse. Fans have been clamoring for her to return the past several seasons and, as you might have imagined, Jill Zarin does not disappoint.
The occasion is a dinner that Luann and Tom throw for mysterious purposes, seemingly for people from New York who are attending their Palm Beach wedding. Speaking of Palm Beach, it seems that Jill Zarin, a noted Mar-A-Lago enthusiast and amateur spy, used the lax security around national secrets to finally achieve her ultimate end — blackmailing someone to get her back on The Real Trump Supporters of Self-Made Millionaire Alley. So that’s really what we’re doing at this little dinner party, which reminds me exactly of the dinner party in Beetlejuice, except everyone around the table is a demon possessed by the spirit of a human rather than the other way around.
Let me just start by saying that Jill looks amazing, as well preserved and shiny as a colonial armoire in a Williamsburg, Virginia, theme park. Not so much for Bobby, her constant companion and soulmate, but he continues to exude the low-key charm that has always been his winning formula, like Droopy the Dog with a pair of yellow-tinted glasses. Naturally, Jill and this other mystery couple in attendance arrive early to allow a suitable entrance for Dorinda (sans John, but with a seat saved for him or Elijah), the Countess, and Tom, a bowling ball that can’t stop going to frat parties.
My favorite bit of the whole encounter is when Luann shows up in a red dress with a crisscross front and a boob window and Jill shouts, “Wow! A movie star just walked into the room!” with exuberance that plays to the cheap seats but all sincerity evaporated by the heat of her thirst. Oh, Jill is thirsty all right, both literally and figuratively. She sucks her Diet Coke through a straw, but still her throat is like sandpaper, the depths of the desert, or one of those moldable green Styrofoam lumps you find in the middle of cheap flower arrangements. She is unslakable.
But at least Jill’s thirst is transparent. “I miss it, I’m not going to lie,” she says at one point. “I miss the gossip.” That is such an understatement that it is under all of us. It is south of the land down under. It is under the Earth, floating around in space. Jill wastes no time getting right back into her old tricks, talking about Ramona and discussing how miserable she is and how she wants to make everyone else just as miserable. That doesn’t seem to be Ramona’s problem, at least to me, but Jill knows that these platitudes will make for good TV. You can say a lot about Jill — and boy will I — but you can’t say that she’s bad at her job.
The other great part is when Jill accuses Ramona of being a bad friend and is miffed that she didn’t get invited to her “big party.” Then she tells us, “I couldn’t go. I was in Hawaii. But still!” The hilarious thing is that is exactly the same thing that Ramona said to Luann when she tried to get an invitation to her wedding. Jill may hate her, but these two are cut from the same Zarin Fabric.
Jill wants to be invited. She wants to be invited back to everything. She wants to be invited back to this show and I’m sure this little visit won’t stop her, even though the producers did her no favors. Not only do we get treated to a montage of her most ignominious moments — getting kicked out of Scary Island, feuding with Ramona in Morocco, everything but falling over in her skating gear in Bryant Park — but we also get treated to Dorinda talking about how Jill invited her to a benefit to stop bullying as a way to bully Ramona. But still, Jill walks right into that one. She couldn’t not mention that way back in 2011, she was the first one to have Dorinda on the show. She needs everyone to know that this is her baby and she still controls everything, even if those revelations spin around like a possessed Tasmanian devil and bite her right in the Skweez Couture.
We need to back up a bit from Jill to talk about the fight that Ramona and Bethenny have in the Berkshires because, well, it is truly one of the most idiotic fights I have ever seen but also one of the deepest. These two aren’t fighting about some petty slight or some feigned apology. As Bethenny points out, these two are fighting about more than a decade of treating each other like crap. It’s clear that Ramona is seething that Bethenny is doing better than she is. At the Carole Is Naked on the Wall party, Ramona also admits to Dorinda that she’s tired of having to suck up to Bethenny to “stay in the group.”
Bethenny, on the other hand, is still smarting about Ramona dressing her down on the Brooklyn Bridge during the Mesozoic era, stealing dresses from her talk show back during the first Roosevelt administration, and bringing up her Skinemax lesbian waterbed affair movie. (The only thing embarrassing about that is admitting that she had sex on a waterbed.) But look at the way Bethenny treats her assistant, shouting from on high about her moth problem and starting a sentence with, “I don’t know how far you went in school …” First of all, an employer should get to know an assistant well enough to know exactly how far she went in school. Secondly, there is no way to start out that sentence like that and not sound like a complete asshole.
What I’m trying to say is that this fight is a long time coming. It is like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, except they’re both exactly the same. It’s more like two women going too hard at Barry’s Bootcamp and barfing in the same corner. It’s not a conflict so much as it is a convergence, two awful people tired of the algebraic compounding of being treated like crap for ten years.
The damage of this lifestyle has clearly led Bethenny to believe that the wearing of overly furry coats is a wise idea. When she storms out of the Berkshires, it looks like she is wearing a swan. I don’t mean that it was swanlike. I mean it looked like she found a swan, cut off its neck, splattered its guts on the wall of Dorinda’s house, cut some arm holes where the wings used to be, and put it on still a bit grimy and musty from bobbing in a body of water for most of the day.
Ramona should not escape unscathed, either. Why does she keep repeating the same things in different orders and intonations? “Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?” she asks repeatedly. It gets even worse. “Bethenny is a witch. She is a bitch. That’s what you are, a bitchy witch. Bethenny the witchy bitch. Which bitch is witch, Bethenny? Which Bethenny bitch witch which.”
After Bethenny goes upstairs and packs, Ramona is still all up in her jock, as Bethenny would say. I was shocked at how calm Bethenny remained during this whole thing, as opposed to the “You sleep with everyone” hysteria of the year before. Ramona says, “We had an altercation. You can’t have an altercation?” What Ramona finds difficult is that Bethenny is changing the rules and she doesn’t like it. Bethenny is trying to get out of there. She is tired of the altercations. She is tired of the fights. She’s tired of having to forgive a monster like Ramona time and again for her indisputably bad behavior.
That’s why Bethenny isn’t at dinner. Oh, yes. That empty seat at Luann’s pre-wedding dinner wasn’t for John or Elijah — it was for Bethenny and the producers didn’t tell anyone. They were ready for a fight. Sadly, she had a moth-based emergency at her $15 million apartment and was late. By the time she got uptown, she was rushing down the sidewalk, her heels clacking on the concrete as she could feel the downy surface of her coat shuffle up and down to the beat of her walking. She was almost at the restaurant, putting her cell phone into her packed clutch and struggling with the clasp.
She looked up from her fight and saw a woman walking toward her, with her husband on her arm, that red-headed woman she hadn’t locked eyes with since they sat on couches across from each other so many seasons ago. “Oh. Hi,” Bethenny said, in a soft and understated way, as if she could handle what was happening, as if a fireball of dread wasn’t kindling in her gut, sending steamy tingles out to her extremities.
“Bethenny!” the woman shouted. “What are you … we were just at …”
“Good to see you,” her husband said, giving Bethenny an awkward handshake. “We were just at dinner with Dorinda and Luann.”
“Oh, that’s great. I was supposed to be there, too, but I’m late. Did I miss it? I missed it,” Bethenny stumbled, fumbling with her too-full bag as a nervous tic.
“It was a great time,” the redhead said. “Just talking about old times and gossiping. I heard you were in a fight with Ramona. I got your back. I promise this time …”
“What time?” Bethenny interrupted.
“It went so well they’re sure to have me back,” she said, getting closer to Bethenny like a farmer approaches the fireplace after a long day in the barn. “We can make up. People will love it. They’ll be crazy for us again.”
“No,” Bethenny said, tossing a bucket of water on her fire, the embers hissing at the women standing here on the December sidewalk. “You don’t want this. I don’t want this anymore. I mean, you can come back, but I’m out. I’m done. I can’t anymore. I don’t want it. This thing, these fights, this bargain. All of it. I want something else.”
“Me too,” she replied. “I want something else too. I want something more.”
“No, you want it back and it’s not coming back,” Bethenny said. “Jill, it’s not. It’s never. I gotta. Bobby, it was good to see you. It was good to see you both.” Bethenny stormed off, her coat leaving something like a trail behind her as she tucked her purse under her arm to try to keep it together. She didn’t look back, she didn’t slow as her heels slowly got sucked up into the ambient noise of the city. Jill Zarin stood there on the sidewalk, her brief victory slipping from her fingers like that green seaweed in the Hamptons that’s always getting sucked back into the tide.