Ahh, fall: Leaf peeping, cozy sweaters, hot apple cider, election-triggered gastroesophageal reflux disease, and prostitution whores. The Garden State has opened her uncannily tan arms to us once more — and I, for one, have been waiting to curl up in her abundant extensions for months now.
Let’s start with Teresa, undisputed silverback of this troop. Tre may have temporarily lost her husband to the federal prison system (and, che tristezza, back to his native Italy after that) but she’s gained some, well, sweet, sweet gains. She’s been training for a bikini bodybuilding competition — something Joe has specifically told her he disapproves of, but which she has yet to tell him about — via the time-honored art of attaching her body to machines, flailing, and grunting. Teresa looks both amazing and like she could kill me with very little effort, which I should probably try to keep in mind as I write these recaps.
Margaret’s renovation remains unfinished; in fact, the ballroom is still decorated for her 50th birthday party. (There is a series of post-Halloween-party plastic skulls dangling on dental floss from my living room ceiling at this very moment, so I’m sympathetic.) But what her house lacks in, I don’t know, actual closets, it more than makes up for in very specific embroidery: Marge and Joe’s pillowcases read “The Mr” and “The Mrs,” their comforter reads “M&J,” his robe reads “Capri” (?), and her robe reads “Mrs. Fabulous.” Is there a single yard of unlabeled fabric anywhere on the property?
The eponymous M&J shower together, showing a lot of Sims-blurred flesh (I think Aunt Sassy said it best), then she tags along for her mother Marge Sr.’s vaginal rejuvenation. This is the second time I have witnessed this procedure performed on Bravo in the last month. Only one more punch on my loyalty card and I’ll be medically licensed to rejuvenate vaginas myself!
My dearest, Dolores (with a comma after “dearest”), is unhappily empty-nesting. She calls up Frankie at college and tells him she’s started going to the field where he used to play football, picking out the skinniest boy, and pretending it’s her much-missed son, an innovative Jedi-level guilt trip I’m honestly impressed by. (Then again, you can’t knock this Gorga classic: Of his son Joe, who hasn’t called for two weeks, Giacinto predicts in Italian, “When I die, he will cry.”)
Dolores and Frank are still technically co-habitating (and she’s technically still dating David — whatever, David, you’re not my real dad), and they’ve even started flipping houses together. But there’s been a hiccup in the long-con rom-com (long-com-ron-con?) that is their co-parenting relationship. Frank was disbarred for misappropriating client funds (cool, chill, relatable) — an inconvenient fact he didn’t see fit to mention to his platonic-ish life partner in time for her to know better than to deny it at last season’s RHONJ reunion. Keeping this secret has eroded both her trust in him and her confidence in their financial future.
Melissa’s planning a big birthday party to commemorate the “last year of my threes.” At first I assume this means she’s turning 40, which, sure, is commonly understood to be an occasion for a more-major-than-usual celebration. But no, she’s turning 39. You can’t have a meltdown until you are actually turning the age people conventionally have meltdowns about, not the year before it, too, or else every birthday will become an unnecessarily big deal and — oh, maybe that’s the idea.
Melissa and her contractor husband Joe go over to Margaret and her contractor husband Joe’s house for dinner. There they discuss Margaret’s recent launch party for her new pajama line, an event that we do not attend in real time, but which is nevertheless referenced repeatedly — and shown in brief flashback sequences — throughout this, honestly, pretty dull episode. What’s the deal? Did someone get killed on camera at the pajama party and the editors had to destroy the evidence?
Something tells me our hot friend Joe Gorga is not going to get the very kindliest of edits this season. “I tell you, what a good piece of pussy does,” Joe observes of Danielle’s hold on her fiancé Marty (spoiler alert). “This is so funny,” Melissa says, but does not laugh.
Dolores and Teresa meet for lunch, even if Teresa’s restrictive diet (Keto Guido!) means she can only order a salad, pick out the carrots on the grounds that they’re too sugary, and supplement the greens with some shredded chicken she smuggled inside in her bag. “I know exactly what Teresa’s going through because — ” Dolores begins to say, and I assume that she’s going to go off in a direction about fad diets, or maybe even some kind of chronic digestive problem. I am wrong. Her sentence ends like this: “Frank was Mr. New Jersey 1986 and Mr. Garden State 2005,” with the very bronzed photos to prove it. That is the greatest twist ending of 2018. She says he would “pump iron” “like Jersey Shore.” I am ready for my RHONJ prequel, please.
As part of her training regimen, Teresa has cut out alcohol. By the way, Teresa artfully segues, she is looking forward to doing some drinking at Danielle’s upcoming Bahamas wedding, and also, by the way, Danielle has been telling everyone about Frank getting disbarred, just so you know. Dolores responds exactly as you’d expect she would, down to the word: “Tell fuckface to fucking shut her mouth.” Teresa laughs pleasantly at this, just as we’d all hope our matrons of honor would.
Mellisa’s party is held, where else, at the Rails Steakhouse, the only non-diner restaurant in the entire state of New Jersey (Google it). There we meet our two new cast members, Jackie Goldschneider and Jennifer Aydin. According to the Real Housewives Institute’s Eileen Davidson Accord, we must wait five episodes before passing judgment on Andy Cohen’s sorority pledges, but I will share this one interesting detail: Jennifer, who is Turkish, turned down the suitor her traditional parents had arranged in order to marry her now-husband instead.
Dolores has spent much of the episode talking a big game about how she might not be able to bring herself to ignore her nemesis Danielle, then does a great job of ignoring Danielle when she finally does arrive. It’s amazing how many of life’s problems disappear once you stop spending time with people you find to be actively terrible. (N.B. It is considerably more difficult to pull this off when you are contractually obligated to be “friends” with said people.)
In Siggy’s absence, I’m happy to report Dolores and Margaret have given their relationship a fresh start. Dolores even invites her along to a girls’ outing to a hatchet-throwing bar. (RHONY threw hatchets, like, four years ago, you guys. Is the Hudson River really that wide a cultural gulf?)
The birthday girl is very happily drunk, affectionately groping her sister-in-law, communicating through seal noises, and informing her husband that, contrary to what he once told her, it is he who brings the crumbs, and she who makes “the motherfucking cake.”
This particular motherfucking cake — Siggy, wherever you are, avert your eyes — is encased in silver fondant and studded with jewels. With Melissa’s blessing, Danielle smashes the top tier into Joe’s face.
I tell you, what a good piece of cake does.