The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Benvenuto to RHONJ’s long-awaited Milan episode! Long awaited by me, anyway, if not by the residents of Milan. As is tradition, we enjoy a montage of the Housewives packing while recapping recent drama to their male loved ones, who express their amazement that they’d even want to go on a trip with all those crazy women. Once they land, Melissa fantasizes about hot Italian men jamming prosciutto and mozzarella in her mouth on the street; Danielle, who more than anyone else on this show understands her role here, alley-oops the inevitable oral-sex joke. Eat your heart out on a plate of linguini, Master of None season two.
The women split up into pairs that afternoon. Dolores and Siggy go shopping. Teresa and Danielle have a drink near the Duomo di Milano. It’s an emotional sight: Last time Teresa was in Italy, she was pregnant with Milania (is that why she’s named Milania and not Montville Township-ia?) and had the whole family in tow, including her late mother. Melissa and Margaret, wearing pants with what I can only describe as a psychedelic-single-celled-organism print, head to a showroom to load up on sweaters with fringe and sweater dresses with fringe to stock the shelves at Envy. But make no mistake: The Posche fashion-show drama has not yet been exorcised. After all the day’s gossip, the various strains of resentment have mutated into new and exciting antibiotic-resistant superbugs by the time dinner comes around. Say, why didn’t Siggy stand up for her friends in front of Kim D.? And why hasn’t Dolores apologized at all? And has Siggy mentioned that she is still very upset that Margaret made an analogy about Hitler?
Before the antipasti arrive, Teresa has already poured hot candle wax all over her hand like it’s Elmer’s glue and she’s a third-grader counting down the minutes till recess. Danielle, meanwhile, mimes a sex act she calls a “rainbow,” in which the performer artfully arrays different shades of lipstick onto a penis. In comparison to what’s about to happen, I give everyone an A-plus for restaurant manners up to this point. Once the Kim D. (the D stands for “detritus”) controversy claws its way out from the grave, the line in the polenta is firmly drawn, with Siggy and Dolores versus everyone else. But relatively little is said about the fashion show before complimentary popcorn and white-cherry Icees are distributed for a surprise screening of The Grudge 4: Soggy’s Revenge. Before long, Siggy declares that Margaret is anti-Semitic, inspiring a collective shriek of disbelief from the entire group. Margaret, whose children are Jewish, is upset to the point of physically shaking. Danielle, defending Margaret, tells Siggy to back off, which aggravates the Sig. “You don’t matter,” she says to Danielle. “You’re disgusting.” A hypnotic paroxysm of fury washes over Danielle. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like the white flames in her eyes, and I am professional observer of angry women behaving badly on television. Danielle smashes glasses off the table and Teresa hustles her out of the restaurant before, I can only imagine, she can burn the entire establishment to the ground with her mind powers.
Danielle may have gotten them all kicked out of the joint, but it’s Siggy and her unmatched capacity for taking offense who comes off the worst here. “Go to jail, you loser,” Siggy shouts after Danielle — I’m curious to know what Siggy’s dear, dear friend Teresa makes of that choice of insult — and Melissa covers her mouth with a hand to shut her up. Outside, Danielle tries to remember how to say what is presumably the bleeped C-word in Italian. “Fucking puta,” she says. Pretty close, but I think you were going for puttana. Travel trip: Write the translations of your go-to insults on handy flashcards before going abroad!
The next morning, Melissa has booked the group a canal tour. Danielle and Siggy (independently) choose to stay behind, but Dolores comes along. She apologizes to Melissa for the way she talked to her at the fashion show, though she still doesn’t regret walking in it. Their tour guide Emanuele — in an obligatory fedora and jaunty scarf, because Europe — is perfectly nice, but I am not sure if he is a trained tour guide or a random, thirsty local who saw the cameras and seized his moment. Nevertheless, it’s a pleasant experience. Melissa seems to spend most of it screaming “Buongiorno!” at strangers with not quite as good an accent as Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds. Teresa runs her fingers through Emanuele’s hair like she’s a TSA agent operating on a hunch.
Back at the hotel, Danielle and Siggy enter tentative peace talks, which go a lot better than I would have expected. Siggy apologizes for the way she spoke to her. Danielle saw red, she says, and “I don’t ever want to see that color again.” How about nice lime green, or a soft mauve?
Over lunch, Dolores concedes that she doesn’t believe Margaret is anti-Semitic, just “anti-Siggy.” Margaret responds, reasonably, that after last night’s blow-up, she isn’t exactly pro-Siggy herself. Dolores insists that Margaret’s Hitler analogy was in “poor taste,” and she would have responded just as Siggy had, “probably worse.” I genuinely love Dolores. I understand and appreciate how highly she values loyalty. But where’s the polenta line between loyalty and blind, stubborn, alternative-facts-peddling allegiance? Could Dolores become Siggy’s Kellyanne Conway?
Siggy — succeeding in winning back my affections by lounging around in the fluffy hotel bathrobe, the most compelling reason to go on any vacation at all — calls up Michael Campanella, who advises her to take her own advice and “walk away from a toxic situation.” She agrees to come home early. But will she really?