The strangest thing that happens during this episode happens at the very end, when we see the “for the rest of this season” trailer, which usually airs after the season’s halfway point. But we’re only eight episodes in. That suggests we’re only going to have 16 episodes (and probably a 27-part reunion). Most seasons are somewhere between 19 and 20 episodes. The last time there was a season with only 16 episodes was season four, the season that was so bad Andy Cohen fired half of the cast and totally rejiggered the show. (I still blame Cindy Barshop.)
It feels like this season, in terms of overarching structure and drama, is searching for something and it has nothing. The only moments to really look forward to for the rest of the season are Tinsley saying she’s miserable while dressed like a circus nutcracker, Sonja Tremont Morgan (of the UNTUCKit Shirt Morgans) falling through a glass table, and Bethenny having another one of her hyperventilating verbal attacks on Luann. (Sonja has a nice callback to the previous one in this episode when she calmly says, “Luann fucks everyone.”)
That said, I could spend hours of delighted time watching these women, overarching structure or no. Is this a classic season like the last one or season three (a.k.a. the one with Scary Island)? No, it is not. But how much fun is it to watch Luann, Sonja, and Ramona go to T Bar, the hottest hangout for middle-aged Upper East Siders in all of Manhattan? It was like Donna Martin, Kelly Taylor, and Brenda Walsh walking into the Peach Pit After Dark but, you know, in 2019 when all of their kids are in college, they’re divorced, and they’re looking for another man. As Sonja says, she gets so sloppy at T Bar that she gets thrown out the moment she walks in the door.
Because of that scene we get to hear Sonja give one of the best speeches I think I’ve ever heard her give. They run into their friend Michael, a handsome white-haired Italian gentleman who is 70 if he is a day, who knows all three of them, some more intimately than others, it appears. “Those old guys, you don’t have sex with them. You marry them,” Sonja says. “But don’t worry Luann. I’m sure he was good in bed. He’s Italian.” The casual gold digging, the ethnic stereotypes, the unforgiving sexual verve: It’s classic Sonja Morgan and I could eat it up with the tiny little spoon that they give you when you order gelato.
The real star of this bar party, however, is Mario Singer, Ramona’s ex-husband who still looks as good a corndog fresh out of the Fry-O-Lator. Mario continues to be one of the sexiest Househusbands, even sexier because you know he and Ramona fuck. When Ramona talks about smearing her cream all over Mario’s face, she knows what she is talking about, because that is something that has for sure happened.
Even better is that he shows up with some blasts from the past: some True Religion crystal-encrusted T-shirts circa 2009 (we are all so incredibly old), and a few Turtle Time wine glass beads so you know which wine glass is yours when you’re hanging out with your wasted friends at T Bar. This whole thing isn’t a walk down memory lane; it’s a jog down the middle of Fifth Avenue of Real Housewives history. It’s like coming upon an old yearbook and realizing that life has changed for the better and you wish you had your old skin but are so glad you’ve gotten a new hairstyle and a lot more money to buy clothes with. It’s an echo from the distant past, a different timeline that is parallel to this one but marked by making all the right choices. It’s cleaning up the litter of the bad decisions that got you right here, to this moment, wishing that Ramona and Mario would get back together.
Wouldn’t that just be the best? Wouldn’t that be fitting? Mario is the only man that is going to both satisfy Ramona and put up with all of her insanity, and that the two of them should be drawn back together like the only two magnets that exist in the world is the kind of romance I want to see on my reality television programs. And just as I’m pining away for a redemptive love arc to make my life that much better, Michael leans over to Sonja and says, “I think I’m the only man who slept in your townhouse that you didn’t fuck,” and I’m right back in the comfortable gutter that I really don’t ever want to leave.
While Sonja, Luann, and Ramona are on the UES, Tinsley and Dorinda are at the Big Apple Circus, where Tinsley is getting ready to be the guest ringmaster. Their visit to the big top (which, contrary to her current tagline, is not Sonja Morgan) is mostly marked by Dorinda trying to Eve Harrington her way into Tinsley’s gig. I love Dorinda’s confidence that she would be great at the circus. I love this alternate universe that Dorinda created for herself and I am fully here to support it.
Then they let Tinsley and Dorinda take a few swings on the trapeze coached by Ammed, the hunky trapeze artist, and as Tinsley gets up on the raised platform she starts to cry. She thinks of all the times she was at the circus with her drunk father, sitting below and looking up at the blinding lights of the tent, her joy masking over all the adult problems she didn’t know were bubbling up all around her. Now she’s here, at the top of the circus, alive, triumphant, and haunted.
Dorinda invites all the women for a spa day, but I was incredibly confused by this. Is this a spa day in a spa, or is this a spa day in a hotel room? I think it’s a spa day in a hotel room. Why not have a spa day in a, you know, spa? Why bring the nail gels and massage tables to some random Fifth Avenue hotel when you could just, you know, go to a spa?
Anyway, Tinsley tells all the women she broke up with Scott because the game of Truth or Dare last episode where she didn’t want to call him on the phone in front of her friends made her realize that he was never going to come to New York and rescue her. So she ended it. All of the women say, “Yeah, that’s great. This wasn’t the right relationship for you,” but I would soft-pedal that reaction. Tins and Scott, the Koupon King, have broken up and gotten back together enough times that I wouldn’t go on record talking shit about him until this is done done, for real for real.
At the same spa day, we find out that Dorinda is mad because at the “Angel Ball” (they keep talking about it like this is something we should know about) Ramona left her to sit at a better table after inviting her. Ramona insists that she got assigned table number 61, but from the footage we see she was really given table number 62, which was Dorinda’s table, but sat in someone else’s seat because she thought the crowd at table number 61 was better. This is just Ramona. She wants the best room, she wants the best table, she wants it just the way she wants it. If she has to lie or be willfully ignorant to get it, she’s going to get it. I don’t know why Dorinda is even bothering to fight this. Ramona, like the red-hot manholes of New York City and the dusty crags of the Grand Canyon, will never change.
The same is true of Bethenny, who is still yelling, “Hey hooker” out of her car window to Sonja, who doesn’t even notice because not a day goes by that someone doesn’t yell, “Hey hooker” at her while she’s walking down the street. Sonja takes Bethenny to Hunt Slonem’s studio because Bethenny wants to start collecting art but has the interior design aesthetic of a “boutique” hotel in a tertiary market. Hunt Slonem is a real actual artist. He was friends with Andy Warhol. He’s been kicking around for decades. All of those rabbit paintings you see thousands of in his studio? He sells them for $5,000 apiece.
It’s clear as they walk around his studio that Bethenny’s rise in New York has been completely outside of polite society, completely devoid of culture. She’s been working so hard living the reality life that she was never photographed at a ball by Bill Cunningham. She was not bidding on these paintings at silent auctions. She was not getting her picture taken, like Sonja, alongside an artist with pieces in the permanent collection of the Met. Sonja and Hunt are looking at all of the pictures he has crammed on his flat surfaces, and Bethenny says for the first time she saw Mrs. Morgan, that long-elusive figure that Sonja has been mourning for the better part of a decade.
As they reminisce, Bethenny is pulled in another direction, to a wing of the studio where at least 50 birds are housed in cages. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Bethenny says of the idiosyncratic decor. “I must take a picture.”
“Don’t get them too riled up,” Hunt drones without looking up from his pictures, the words barely pouring from his mouth like dripping molasses. But it’s too late. Bethenny is walking among the cages, snapping pictures. The parrots and mynahs are whistling at her, like construction workers on the loud Manhattan avenues. “Hey hooker,” they shout, one and all, each of them twisting their mango-colored necks in grotesque configurations. Bethenny no longer knows where she is, no longer knows which direction she is walking in. “Yoo hoo,” each bird yells in succession. “Over here,” they shout as she spins and spins, these magnificent creatures taunting her, twisting her attention until she has something like vertigo, something close to horror, and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to leave this place again.