There is no better Real Housewives than “final act of a Tennessee Williams play” Real Housewives, and, boy, is that what we get in this episode. A calm dinner ruined by a delusional narcissist who eggs on a grieving woman leading her to a hysterical spiral that lays all of their secrets bare. The only thing left to do is judge them, or let the moon judge them, gazing down with its cockeyed grin and its chin pinched between its thumb and forefinger as if it can’t decide to spit on this scene or order another skinny margarita.
Of course we’re talking about Bethenny’s flare-up, which was pretty much the clicking of a pilot light right before it hits the gas and explodes onto the bottom of your teakettle. When Luann winds her up, what comes out is a story that I don’t quite understand in every detail, but has an impressionist nature akin to the nightmare you have after a Twin Peaks marathon. It sounds like Bethenny is saying that after Luann’s intervention, she was running around a forest drunk in her négligée and that Bethenny and Barbara had to save her somehow, but also they had to keep the media from photographing it so that Luann wouldn’t be arrested.
If something like this really happened (and while the details are fuzzy, I don’t doubt that it did), it means that Bethenny not only got Luann free rehab and lawyers to come to her house on a Sunday, she also somehow kept an especially juicy story about Luann’s relapse off “Page Six,” which must have taken some Herculean luck or Bethenny spilling some very major tea in exchange for killing the story. Whatever went down, Bethenny paid dearly for that and the Countess responded by charging her for tickets to her cabaret, which she left the free rehab two weeks early to perform. This is spectacular, one of the greatest scenes to unfold in front of us since Kim and Kyle Richards accused each other of stealing houses in the back of the limo.
Making it that much better, it happens at the Miami branch of Barton G, which the Orange County harridans visited for Eddie’s birthday two years ago. You remember this Chuck E. Cheese for adults. It’s the place where they have, like, samurai blades in the ahi tuna and all of the drinks look like they’re served by Igor right out of Frankenstein’s laboratory. So as Bethenny is going full Catherine Holly from Suddenly Last Summer, someone shows up with a giant pink toaster full of two Lobster Pop-Tarts to plunk right down in the middle of the table.
To get to this place, though, takes both Barbara and Sonja having little breakdowns of their own. Honestly, I’ve been trying to ignore Barbara like I ignore a little burning sensation when I pee, hoping that it sorts itself out, goes away, and I never have to think about it again. This episode I could not. It’s so sad when she’s out there all alone with Derek, the Barry’s Bootcamp trainer, who brought along steps and Barry’s branded water for all of the ladies and they just want to sit around mourning their hangovers and Barbara is the only one who wants to go out to the pool and sweat. Barbara later tells Bethenny that she really feels left out in the group because no one asks what’s going on with her. Bethenny’s answer is perfect: “Go to the pool, put on a bathing suit, and get yourself into the game.” Barbara is too much of a regular person for this show. She doesn’t realize that if she doesn’t make it about herself, no one is going to make it about her. She is among a coterie that can only see as far as their own sculpted noses, so of course she feels isolated.
Bethenny also makes this about Luann, saying that she should be paying more attention to Barbara and making her feel more welcome. While that is true, it is a little bit of brainwashing on Bethenny’s part, trying to add to the (absolutely correct) narrative that Luann is obsessed only with herself. That can be true and the other women could be ignoring her, which is the part Bethenny glides over.
Bethenny and the other women seemed more worried about Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Truffle Fries Do Not Travel Never Order Them to Go Morgans. Bethenny says that Sonja’s drinking has gotten out of hand for the second night in a row and that she was putting her shoe on the table and breaking things. Bethenny’s right to tell Sonja that she needs to rein it in when she parties. If she’s annoying the other women, that’s a problem. But I think there’s a far cry between being an annoying drunk and having to go to AA. No one told Luann to go to a meeting when she fell in the bushes. No one even told Kelly Bensimon to go to a meeting after scary island. Sonja is not an alcoholic, she’s just a (wonderfully) annoying drunk.
Sonja agrees to go only to get Luann and Bethenny off her back, but both of these women — especially Luann — should know that Sonja needs to want to go for the meeting to work. If they’re just dragging her along, it’s like taking a vegan to Sizzler’s all-you-can-eat night. Sonja says of AA meetings, “I don’t think I particularly benefit from them.” That means, wait for it, that Sonja has been to AA meetings before and they haven’t really worked. Is that sad? Is that amazing? Is it both? Who can say? Only the pitiless glare of the almighty.
After the meeting, Sonja arrives at the hotel pool and immediately finds it not to her liking because there is water and sand in the cabana or something. I don’t know. I don’t understand what happened. I think it has something to do with not wanting to be at the meeting and then it being filled with homeless people and sad, desperate men, and it made Sonja feel better about her life but also awful that there were people out there suffering. I don’t know. Maybe a little bit of it is her thinking that she’s no better than the man who had to go from city to city reinventing his life. I don’t know. Sonja has never really reinvented her life, so maybe it’s not that. Maybe she just really doesn’t like a soggy, gritty cabana. I don’t know. All I know was that it’s fascinating and marvelous to watch, and all of the women rally around her, get their crab cakes to go, and pile into the cars to head back to their villa.
Except Luann. While this is all going on, she’s trying to convince everyone to go swimming with her because she wants to go swimming. Her friend, for whatever reason, is fluttering about like a caftan in the wind and Luann can only think about taking a dip. I appreciate what she says about Sonja being negative about something that is a positive in her life right now, but Luann should know how hard it is to go to a meeting. If she wanted Sonja to go, she should be there for the aftermath, no matter how horrible or incomprehensible.
The whole group is bent out of shape that Luann went swimming and then by a theater to take her picture in front of her poster on the marquee. That wouldn’t have annoyed me. It’s a group vacation, and, while you should be there for your sister, everyone can do what she wants. What would have pissed me off to the degree of Bethenny’s stuttering rage at Barton G is what happens with the massage therapists.
Luann takes off and goes to swim and to take her picture, but then when she gets home, she’s pissed she’s last in line for a massage and to get her hair done. Life is full of choices and sacrifices, and Luann doesn’t think she should have to make either. Last episode, Ramona ducked out of the women’s art excursion and did a little fake cry that she didn’t get the free art that all of the other women got. I don’t know this for sure (and I know you will correct me if I’m wrong), but I bet Luann was like, “Tough, that’s what she gets for not coming.” The same goes for her. She shouldn’t get a massage and her hair done because she was basking in the glory of her cabaret.
When the women bring this up at dinner, Luann could have said, “Yeah, I needed to post that picture on Instagram because we’re still selling tickets and I have to promote it.” Bethenny would have understood the hustle. But Luann could never admit that her show wasn’t sold out or that it might not be the galactic success that she always makes it out to be. She turns it, once again, into the women being ungrateful and not concerned about her well-being.
Bethenny’s eruption comes at the perfect time, when all of the women are fed up with Luann’s single-minded pursuit of being swallowed whole by her own asshole and calling it a cabaret act. As Bethenny told us, life is not a cabaret. Nine times out of ten, I’m going to believe Liza Minnelli over Bethenny Frankel, but maybe this one time she was right? Probably not.
Luann doesn’t have any empathy for anyone at all. Barbara tries to express to her how she is feeling like Luann hasn’t been a good friend to her after Barbara put her life on hold to get Luann into rehab. Luann brushes it off. When Bethenny tries the same tack with her ex-fiancé Dennis, Luann waves that off too. Tinsley is at the end of the table half-drunk and still with the smell of topsiders all over her dress from rubbing up against that yuppie she went on a date with, and Luann doesn’t just wave her off, she makes fun of her. It’s all just gunpowder sprinkled all over the table like it’s part of Barton G’s Scorching Hot Nachos presentation.
I think I’m still drunk on this scene. Everything was just perfect: Dorinda’s over-teased hair, Ramona wondering why all the men aren’t paying attention to her, Tinsley reeking of her favorite perfume Frozen Eggs by Desperation. All of it. Oh, and did you hear that Bethenny ordered ahead! Because she couldn’t be the first one there to order for everyone, she literally called up the restaurant and ordered ahead. Dear all of my friends and acquaintances, if any of you ever do that to me at dinner, I will go into your phone, find the nude pictures, and email them to your moms. Just try it. Just fucking try it.
What really makes it amazing, though, is that it’s a spectator sport. These women are getting up and down from the table and swarming around it like a wasp’s nest that just realized Anthony Scaramucci is nearby. (If you were a stinging insect, wouldn’t you go out of your way to bite the Mooch right on his grundle?) There are people at other tables trying to enjoy a ludicrously themed meal and just eyeing them. They do not seem to be enjoying the cameras. Bravo should really sell tickets to these dinners. I would pay hundreds of dollars for one of those tables to watch this fight unfold in real life and have my mouth agape on three seconds of a reality-television program.
Instead, they have these scowling Muggles who sit there wondering what is happening. Why are they being so loud?, they wonder, as the waves hum against the sand just a few blocks away. They stare up into the starless sky and hope that the expanse will swallow these women whole. They hope that the darkness from whence they came will embrace them once again and deliver us all into the light. They feel the cool breeze against their arms and the hot, scorching inconvenience in the back of their throats, and just as they’re all about to get up and tell one of the women that they’re ruining everyone else’s meal, a Lobster Pop-Tart arrives and somehow puts everything into radical perspective.