The Real Housewives of New Jersey
As I write this, our beloved New Jersey is, like more and more of the world with each passing day, wracked with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. I am two rivers east of the Garden State, self-isolating in my apartment in Queens, but you better believe I am missing my parents, my mall, my other mall, my diner, my other diner, Texas wieners all the way at Johnny and Hanges, and each and every bagel in all 21 of our counties, the beautiful and individual snowflake that she is.
At least we have the RHONJ reunion — all three parts of it! — to help us remember the good times. Remember: Social distancing means not standing close enough to pull your frenemy’s hair, but 6 feet apart is just the right distance for a spirited round of the ham game. Stay home, stay healthy, and let’s review some reunion highlights.
• Everyone looks beautiful, but there are a few outfits in particular I feel compelled to to discuss. Teresa looks like an ostrich who really went all out for a Great Gatsby party — like, now she’s worrying if she overdid it, and what if all the other exotic-animal guests just threw on a long strand of plastic pearls and called it a day? Jennifer’s dress is what would happen if somebody took a BeDazzler to a set of blueprints. And then there’s Danielle. Imagine discovering a mini chocolate egg, wrapped in purple foil, at the bottom of your drawer. Then you remember that Easter was, like, 11 months ago. And wait — hasn’t it been, like, six Easters since you last bought these things?
• Jennifer! Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jen-knee-fur. My god. What a revelation. Throughout the reunion, our girl — who, despite the fact that I often believe she is unequivocally wrong, I cannot help but enjoy — delivers an eye-rolling, mock-gagging, smirking, masterful heel turn rarely seen outside the world of professional wrestling. Jackie may be “boring as shit,” and she cannot physically help but scream back and forth with Margaret every 90 seconds, but Jennifer’s main target is “self-absorbed” Melissa and her “fake-ass” storyline about wanting another baby. And by the way, she did not throw that knife “at” Melissa, she threw it “towards” her: “Gosh, I really just wanted to get your attention, you know?” This is cartoon villain energy and it is simply delicious. Thank you for all that you do for this franchise, Mrs. Aydin.
• Margaret believes that her long-estranged father is dead because a psychic told her so. Now that I have gone to the trouble of typing this sentence I almost regret it, because this is not even the strangest thing a psychic has ever told a member of this cast.
• Dolores is still dating Dr. Boyfriend, but she is not moving in with him, no thank you. She’s finally grown to resent his fear of commitment: “You know what, I’m pissed off, because I’m a fucking good catch.” Where’s the lie?
• Jackie, who is getting along great with everyone, for once (I’m genuinely glad to hear it! Jackie has had a rough time), dismisses the allegations of anti-semitism against the other women following the weird-ass way they’ve talked about her being “stingy” and so on. I’m not sure I’m so ready to let them off the hook myself, but whatever.
• Teresa and Caroline may have taped that Super Bowl commercial together, but no amount of hummu$ will heal their friendship. Tre maintains that the woman whose womb gave us Albie Manzo (and for that reason alone can do no wrong in my eyes) is a “fucking shitty person” even if, fine, she probably did not personally rat the Giudices out to the feds.
• The only times Joe ever spoke “badly” to Teresa, according to Teresa, was what we saw on the show. Melissa says this is not true. I, having never met Teresa or Joe any of their family members in real life, am also prepared to say this is not true. Tre also maintains that they had a “great,” “good” marriage and she never knew that he cheated. Everyone encourages her to make the divorce official ASAP, before he starts angling for spousal support. Joe Gorga even suggests that, thanks to the stress she experienced when Teresa was in prison, his brother-in-law “1000 percent” played a part in his mother’s death.
• Tre did not have sex with Joe in Italy, obviously, and insists she has yet to date anyone post-Joe (not even, alas, the pool guy), but she has every intention of marrying a Jewish man. May their first child be a masculine child, she hopes.
• You know I love the Jersey husbands. The men carry Bill on stage, which is a good bit — I am also just happy to see that he continues to be alive. Some marital odds and ends: Frank is dating someone, but she doesn’t spend the night at the house he still shares with Dolores and David. Tre definitely has a crush on Evan. Melissa says she and Joe have sex three to four nights a week; Joe says it’s more like five to six. All the women, except Margaret and Melissa, say they could take or leave oral sex. (Long live Dunkin’ Donuts, then!) Margaret, however, expresses a firm stance against having sex after dinner and I agree, thank you, no one should be touched and ideally not even looked at after they are full of food.
• Backstage, Danielle arrives with two of her pets in tow: a furry pink jacket-wearing chihuahua named Fendi, who rides in a stroller and requires medication administered via oral syringe, and Marty. She throws an absolute fit in her dressing room and demands she be seated next to Andy, or else she will walk. Danielle’s last stand gets off to a delightfully anticlimactic start when Andy (who has already been violently shoved at one Jersey reunion) refuses to budge—he’ll be sure to speak up loud enough so she can hear him from across the room. You will not be shocked to hear that Danielle, for all her blustering, nevertheless decides she’ll take the camera time after all, thank you very much, and we’re treated to the sight of her lingering awkwardly just off-set like that absolutely fucking bonkers introduction to that 2016 GOP debate.
• Danielle expresses zero remorse for the Great Ponytail Pull of 2019 and continues to insist that Margaret is responsible for her divorce. Margaret clarifies that not only did she and Joe not reach out to Marty, he reached out to them, but by the time the three of them filmed together, Danielle had already divorced him and moved on with her 21st ex-fiancé, Oliver the duke. They say the 22nd time’s the charm.
She and Marty are living together (but not, supposedly, sleeping together) until she pays him in full for the house. As for his alleged abuse of her and her children: “I think we both said things publicly that we shouldn’t have… that is something that I’m not really willing to talk about, because ‘abuse’ is a very broad word.”
• And now, a one-act play:
DANIELLE: I didn’t say I was “quitting.” I said I’m resigning.
ANDY COHEN: Okay.
MARGARET: What are you resigning from? You don’t even have a job.
DANIELLE: Twelve years of this—
MARGARET: Twelve years?! What show were you on for 12 years?
DANIELLE: You’ll never be an OG. Never.
MARGARET: I don’t need to be an Original Granny like you.
• Does Tre regret defending Danielle all season? “ Ye—I mean, I mean—uh,” she says, emitting and then swallowing every possible vaguely affirmative sound in the English language before setting on what my ears detect as a yes. Now, though Danielle would prefer otherwise, their friendship is over—they haven’t spoken since that Jersey Shore phone call. Tre offers Margaret a hug and an apology for her “bad judgment call.” She explains that she didn’t see the “horrifying” hair pull until it appeared on TV, because she had her back turned, and that she wouldn’t have stood up for Danielle if she did. And yet a flashback to the atrocity committed on the premises of Steven Two First Names Dann, complete with a sports replay-style highlight and zoom onto Teresa’s open-mouthed stare, sure makes it seem like she did see it, unless Tre happened to have been wearing a mask of her own face on the wrong side of her head. Memo to RHONJ’s producers: Once this whole global pandemic thing blows over, I would like to consensually smooch each and every one of you.
• A crystal-encrusted time capsule is wheeled out, to be opened on RHONJ’s 20th anniversary, by which time I fully expect Gia Giudice-Catania to have been sworn in as the congresswoman representing New Jersey’s 11th. Each ‘wife offers as a sacrifice to their god and ours, Andy Cohen, an object that represents Jersey: A romance novel with Dolores and Frank on the cover (a fake romance novel, to be clear, or else I would have bought each and every one of you a copy—though we should probably form a self-isolation Her Protector book club, no?), Jennifer’s “sorry not sorry” shirt (sorry not sorry, but a decade will be too soon to revisit this storyline), a pigtail wig, a Giudice family portrait, an only semi-consumed box of Doughnut Plant donuts (their coffee cake donut, not for nothing, is an all-timer for me) care of Jackie, and some Jersey slang vocabulary flashcards that Melissa has procured for some reason.
We live in scary times. It is a strange comfort to me that this franchise, like the gorgeous, glittering cock-a-roach it is, has persisted for 10 years, and, who knows, could very well make it another 10. Jersey endures. So we will we. Please know that you are all the sprinkle cookies in the garbage can of my heart. Take care — until next season, when I look forward to throwing red wine in your face in Cabo.