The Real Housewives of New York City
Hello, I am Brian Moylan, president and founder of the Real Housewives Institute. I would like to welcome you to our first fundraiser. We here at the RHI have set up a (fictional) GoFundMe page to raise money for the most noble cause of all: “for your consideration” ads for the editors of the Real Housewives of New York City. They deserve more than just a round of applause for putting together what might be the second best vacation fight of all time following the “satchels of gold” fight on Scary Island.
What is so brilliant about this scene, and why the editors of this reality-television program deserve to have Emmys thrown at them like the errant emissions in a bukkake video, is that it wasn’t just one fight. It was two fights. It was two fights on opposite ends of the table — one between Luann and Dorinda and one between Carole and Bethenny — that were happening simultaneously. We got to go back and forth, like we were watching the world’s most addle-brained tennis match, between the two, vacillating between the emotional trauma on one end to the drunken vitriol at the other without missing a beat. It was stunning. I feel like this is what people feel the first time they see the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, or Britney’s Vegas show.
Let’s start with Bethenny and Carole, because this ongoing feud took up a better part of this quite excellent episode. (And is overshadowed by today’s sad news that Carole is leaving the series after this season.) We rejoin Bethenny while she is in the throes of a panic attack and is soothing herself by sticking her head in a freezer whose only purpose seems to be storing incredibly large bags of ice and enough bottled water for an episode of Doomsday Preppers. Bethenny doesn’t feel welcome on this trip or with this group of women because, well, she’s kind of pissed them all off.
Dorinda is trying to help calm her down, but in her sit-down interview she says something very profound: “Bethenny is used to having an ally, but a lot of us have been in situations now with Bethenny where maybe she hasn’t been so kind, so we’re less tolerant to being kind.” That about sums it up.
Bethenny decides to go shopping with the rest of the girls and spend a whole lot of money on wide-brimmed hats that could serve as inspiration for the Broadway musical version of Overboard that should certainly be in production at this very moment if it isn’t already. The energy in that store is just really off though, and you can feel the bad vibrations through the television screen. Carole says, while Bethenny is in earshot, “I just can’t engage with someone who is crying every time we talk.” I am sympathetic to that and it seems like Bethenny, even while trying to not make this about herself, is making it even more about herself. It’s deflection aggression.
Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Kotex Panty Liner Morgans, sits down and tells Bethenny everything that Carole, Ramona, Dorinda, and the rest said about her friend. I can really see both sides of this. Carole and others are exasperated by Bethenny acting out but Sonja wants to believe the best in her (and maintain their allegiance, which is the only thing either has going for them) and tries to be sympathetic.
Sonja actually plays a really strange role as intermediary in this argument. Carole comes up to Sonja’s room to see her as Sonja is putting on a Nair-bottle-pink top and hot pants combination that looks like something right out of Laugh-In. She tells Carole that she has a problem with camel toe and queries about using either a panty liner or toilet paper to clear it up. How, after all of these years, does my favorite floozy not know a cure for camel toe? I feel like if Sonja Morgan, of all people, can’t figure out how to get rid of a case of VPL (that P does not stand for “panty”) then there is no help for the rest of us.
Anyway, Carole comes to Sonja so that she can ask if there’s anything she’s missing about this fight with Bethenny. Sonja doesn’t really have any answers, but she does start to talk to Bethenny about this visit at dinner and tells Bethenny that Carole came to her in the hopes to end whatever weirdness is going on between them. “I don’t care,” Bethenny replies, cutting Sonja off. “I wish I did, but I don’t care.” That’s the problem right there. Sonja is trying to get Bethenny to be vulnerable and think about making amends with Carole and Bethenny just stops it in its tracks with a wave of the hand.
Eventually Carole, wearing Cher’s “Half Breed” costume, sits down with Bethenny to address the “elephant in the room.” That is the first problem. Remember when they tried to talk about the elephant in the room on Real Housewives of Atlanta? Talking about the elephant in the room for the Real Housewives is always bad news. It’s like visiting a psychic, renewing their vows, or going on a boat trip.
I like how Bethenny said that their relationship has eroded. I think that’s probably right, but we don’t really find out what is the cause of that erosion. Is it because Carole wasn’t accessible to Bethenny this “summer and fall”? Is it because of that craziness that Bethenny was saying about Adam? Whatever it was, it seems like neither of them likes the other very much and each of them thinks that the other doesn’t like her. It’s like the opposite of a virtuous cycle. (A cynical flatness? A destructive plateau?)
I don’t quite know how to explain this. Carole seems sick of Bethenny being “volatile.” She’s not wrong. Even at this dinner, Bethenny was yelling at her about making things up and then blubbering about how she loves Carole and is sad. It’s very back and forth and I think would be infuriating. But for Bethenny, who doesn’t seem to have many strong bonds with anyone (other than her daughter), it must have been difficult to lose a close friend like Carole. Bethenny seems like someone who is always waiting to get abandoned and then, when she drives people away, it just reignites that fear she would be abandoned in the first place. There is something very deep-seated and pathological that is driving Bethenny in this fight and Carole is annoyed by that pathology treating her like shit.
Now we have to switch to the other end of the table, which was much more explosive but a lot easier to explain. Dorinda was starting to get a little bit lippy and Luann said to her, “You’re about to turn.” I totally knew what she meant. It’s like someone fed Dorinda after midnight and she was about to turn into a gremlin. We’ve all see it before. We know all the signs: the aggression, the slurring, the “not well, bitch” hand that comes down like the clapper on a film director’s slate.
Dorinda responds to this by, well, turning and doing all of the things that Dorinda always does when she’s drunk, which is lashing out with the utmost cruelty. She called Luann a felon and tells her that she should drink some more and go get arrested again. Then, as a perfect punctuation, she knocks her glass on the floor and spills it all over Luann. Even Ramona, who never met a Turtle Time she doesn’t like, waved the waiter away and told him to cut Dorinda off.
Luann leaves but Dorinda sticks around, turning her venom on Ramona and anyone else who bothers to speak up to her. I find this to be a very unattractive aspect of Dorinda’s personality. Luann says, “I see how you really feel now,” but I don’t think that’s really it. I think Dorinda is just trying to inflict pain and she knows exactly what buttons to press.
Dorinda gets irate that the countess, the woman who last season drunkenly fell into a bush but has now been sober for the length of one song at a Phish concert, is telling her to watch her drinking. I don’t think that Luann was commenting on her drinking as much as on her turning into a gargoyle on the Notre Dame that fell off the tower and crushed a family of Dutch tourists after three margaritas. It wasn’t about the booze, it was about the behavior. I think Luann’s warning had much to do with sparing the group the behavior as it was not wanting Dorinda to make an ass of herself on television.
Back at the house, Bethenny and Luann talk about Dorinda’s drinking and Bethenny diagnoses her with a drinking problem. I think that she has a drinking problem in that it’s a problem when she acts like a total asshole to people. Is she an alcoholic? I don’t know, but she has certainly always been a bad drunk and the pattern is exactly the same every single time. That should alert her to something.
But it doesn’t. Instead Dorinda is downstairs straining hard to open her purse to get out her phone while drinking wine with burgundy lipstick smeared across her face like an accusation. She then spills her cigarettes out of her purse and slurs some nonsense to Carole who just got out of the pool. It is the meanest thing that the editors of this show have ever done to any human being and it is just another reason why you should donate to their GoFundMe.
There was one other great moment I don’t want to skip past in this episode. It was when Bethenny was having her full meltdown and Carole, Tinsley, and Dorinda left her at lunch with Ramona, Luann, and Sonja. “This feels like old times,” Bethenny says to them. “This feels like the originals.” They clinked glasses and the sun-spot reflections in their rosé took them back to all of those trips before, bopping along in Morocco, sailing toward Scary Island, skinny-dipping in Mexico that they had taken together. All of those memories they shared not as friends, not as sisters, but as something else, a group of wounded soldiers all trying to heal in the same disease infested war. A group of old cronies changing the dressing on each other’s gangrene sores.
And as their glasses clanged together, the crystalline ding of the contact seemed to reverberate for ages, like it was going all the way out over the sea to New York and echoing back to them like a red-headed cackle that would one day end them all.