Following the Great Diner Summit of 2017, Siggy is optimistic about moving forward in her friendship with Margaret. I hate to spoil it for you, but she even makes it through this entire episode without threatening any form of pigtail-related violence. But that doesn’t mean Dolores and Margaret are on great terms. Siggy can’t help but mention that Margaret called her BFF a “yes person,” a characterization that the whole group supposedly agrees on. It’s that last detail that really rankles Dolores, given that she’s vouched for Teresa for decades.
Meanwhile, Siggy is still annoyed at Melissa for failing to apologize, Melissa is still annoyed at Siggy for failing to apologize, and I am still annoyed that every single human being who works on The Real Housewives of New Jersey has not personally apologized to me for dragging out this Cakegate story line for so long. But for the time being, Melissa has something else to worry about: Not only did Joe go ahead and buy a restaurant without her knowledge, but he also told Teresa, who’s already agreed to go into business with him. Is Melissa the last person on the Eastern Seaboard to hear about her husband’s expensive new hobby? This is so crazy-making it is making me feel crazy, and even crazier still because no one is acting like anything crazy is happening at all.
Over lunch with Melissa and Teresa, Danielle pulls the pin from a grenade, but doesn’t throw it yet. “So here’s the thing,” she says, which means you can already tell this is going to be enjoyable. “I never want to be the person to go and say something to somebody [hmmm, not sure about that], like creating drama [okay, definitely no], but Dolores said something to me that might have been a little compromising.” If Dolores doesn’t confess her sins, she’ll do it for her. Damn, that was some masterful shit-stirring! It’s good to have you back, Danielle.
When Teresa mentions she’s taking her girls on a trip to Puerto Rico, Melissa suggests she’s being too soft on them. She needs to put her foot down. Big mistake, Melissa. Huge. On a scale of one to flipping tables, having her parenting skills criticized puts single-mom-by-circumstance Teresa at a solid four. This does not bode well. “I bought a preexisting restaurant because I’m smart,” Joe says in a confessional, although “smart” would not be my own first choice of adjective. Anyway, he wants to get the joint up and running as soon as possible, so he’s summoned his wife and his sister for a meeting on the premises. There, Melissa and Teresa’s friction gets much worse, before either of them has the chance to apply a soothing blob of Vaseline to cut down on the chafing. Melissa arrives 45 minutes late after getting stuck at Envy — you know, her actual job, the one that was not foisted upon her as a surprise, but that she chose to have, with her spouse’s full awareness and blessing. Teresa is immediately testy with Melissa, needling her about her tardiness. Teresa volunteers to work in the kitchen; Melissa wants to be a hostess. “Really, bitch?” Teresa asks. “Would you be a waitress, if you had to?” They continue to snipe at each other until I’m left wondering if this is actually an intentional part of the restaurant experience, like dysfunctional family dinner theater. Last season was a remarkably peaceful one for the Gorga-Giudice women. I’d hate to think the days of a Melissa-Teresa détente could soon be behind us.
Siggy is hosting an annual cocktail party at which her friends sell “affordable” jewelry and handbags. This is a perfectly acceptable theme for a civilian gathering, but for a Real Housewives one? I don’t think so. (Give me an ’80s Bunco party! Give me a Petrossian caviar tasting where a poor woman is forced to wear a Sexy Elsa costume!) Teresa rides over with Danielle, who gives up on waiting to spill and just tells her what Dolores allegedly said: “Teresa’s many things, but she is not concerned about anything or anyone except for money. Be careful.” Teresa, unsurprisingly, is pissed. The fuse may have already been lit, but this revelation conveniently speeds up the inevitable Teresa-Dolores fight by about three episodes. Again, really excellent work here, Danielle.
Melissa arrives at the party alone, her second hugest mistake of the week. She and Siggy spend a few awkward minutes circling each other until it finally becomes clear that neither woman’s expected apology is forthcoming. Then they get into it. “In a million years, I would never pick up a beautiful cake like that and throw it across the floor,” fumes Siggy, a celebrated advocate for pastry rights. Melissa sarcastically offers to buy her a cake; Siggy tells her to buy one for a pastry chef instead, a suggestion that reminds me of when Buster Bluth thought the vacuum was the housekeeper’s favorite toy. Then Siggy, ever the perfect hostess, shouts at her guests to shut their cake holes and asks for a show of hands: “If I have a cake made for you for your birthday and it’s three tiers and it’s beautiful, if it’s being thrown across the restaurant, how many people think that that is rude?” The consensus is yes, if only because everyone is plainly terrified that Siggy will continue to yell at them if they say anything else. Siggy lies on the floor like an indoor snow angel in triumph.
Teresa isn’t in the huggiest place with Melissa herself, but she’s not thrilled to see her sister-in-law needlessly humiliated at a party full of strangers and affordable jewelry. All the women (minus Margaret, who’s in Vegas) convene away from the crowd of purse-browsing randos. Somehow, it’s decided that this whole conflict is also Dolores’s fault because she didn’t calm Siggy down. Danielle sees an opportunity. And like public intellectual Joe Gorga, she is smart, so she seizes it, bringing up the money comment. Dolores leaps to her feet with an athleticism I’m genuinely impressed by. What’s your workout routine like, Dolores? She gets in Danielle’s face, pointing to punctuate every syllable of her furious denial: “You mother-fucking liar … welcome back, scumbag.” My heart is crying out for the Welcome Back, Kotter theme remix it never knew it needed.
Dolores warns Teresa — who doesn’t know exactly whom to believe, but leaves with a crying Danielle — that Danielle has ulterior motives. “Sleep with one eye open because she’s up to no good,” she says. Is Dolores lashing out to protect herself, or could she truly be onto something? After all these years, it’s still surreal to see Teresa and Danielle as allies. What if Danielle is playing three-dimensional chess, with her return to RHONJ the culmination of a long-con revenge plot? Is she Keyser Söze?