The Real Housewives of New York City
We are in a bit of a conundrum here, people, because due to the strict edict of the Eileen Davidson Accord, we cannot judge Leah until episode five. However, she showed up this week wearing that hat. That HAT! Oh my god, that hat: a sheer, black bucket hat on which the label is clearly visible. It isn’t so much an actual chapeau as it is a pair of Agent Provocateur panties that disguised itself as a hat so that it could escape the store and go live its life out in the open. It isn’t so much a hat as it’s the ghost of a ’90s candy raver going on to spread its PLUR to another generation while still smelling of Vicks Vap-O-Rub and the Twilo bathroom. Of all the things in the ’90s to come back, the bucket hat should be the last of them all. It did not look good on Brittany Spears in Crossroads so how could anyone, including Leah, think it would look good now, especially when it is made out of the same material as the window screens on a double wide?
It is also hard not to judge Leah because she’s essentially the main driver of the plot in this here episode, which sees all of the women descending on Boniva Cliffs, Ramona Singer’s Hamptons Manse. The fight revolves around Leah’s tattoos, which we’re introduced to earlier in the episode when Tinsley and Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Frozé Machine Morgans meet Leah at a riverside bar full of hot guys that Sonja, completely out of character, has decided to ignore.
Leah shows the girls her menagerie of tattoos and tells them that she is about to have one removed, a lower-back tattoo that spells her name that she got when she was in her teens. I mean, listen, we all make mistakes. I have the entire lyrics to a Toad the Wet Sprocket song tattooed on my left inner thigh. Shit happened in the ’90s. Just ask the haunted bucket hat. Sonja doesn’t understand why someone would deface their body with tattoos, or as she explains it, why they would “self-defecate.” She realizes this means shit on oneself but decides her malapropism is too uncanny to actually correct. She is correct.
Sonja tells all the women about the “tramp stamp” because she thinks it’s funny and wants to shock them. The way that these old-fashioned Upper East Side biddies react to tattoos is absolutely insane. Ramona and Sonja both say if their daughters got them they’d be grief-stricken. Really? They’re just tattoos. As Leah points out, hers are small and tasteful. It’s not like she’s a cast member of Vanderpump Rules with idiotic things all over her forearms so that anyone giving them a job interview can see that they make bad choices. In the year of our Lord 2020 we’re still judging people for having tattoos? What’s next? Are they going to come for gender neutral bathrooms? (You know Ramona always uses the gender-neutral bathroom because it’s like a little suite she can have all to herself.)
At lunch in the Hamptons, everyone is talking about Leah’s tattoos and also marveling in the fact that Ramona has bothered to learn her name. Dorinda says, “Well, if she forgets you can always bend over and show her,” in a snide way, but one that is obviously meant as a joke. It must be hard for Leah being in that crockpot of tattoo hatred, but even she admits that it’s a bad tattoo — let Dorinda have her joke. But I think what really upsets her is not the joke about her tattoo, but that Dorinda, someone she barely knows, makes this joke when Leah had yet to tell her about the tramp stamp. She’s actually mad that Sonja was blasting her business to everyone.
Upstairs Leah tells Tinz and Sonja that she’s a little miffed at Dorinda’s comments and Sonja, like the Typhoid Mary of gossip, spreads the information around the house. That is her job. Sonja is doing her duty. Everyone gets mad at her for stirring the pot, but without her all of the pasta would burn onto the bottom of the pan!
What I really don’t get is how upset Dorinda is when she is confronted by the information. When all of the women converge in Ramona’s foyer (pronounced foy-A) to go to dinner, Dorinda immediately brings up that she meant it as a joke. The problem is not with the content of what Dorinda had to say, but with the tone. The animosity she strikes with Leah is blinding. It wasn’t a, “Sorry, I meant it as a joke. I know we don’t know each other well, but I meant it to be funny and I’m sorry if you didn’t.” It was a, “I meant it as a joke and if you didn’t get it, then fuck you.”
When Leah brings up the hostility, Dorinda snaps. Tinsley rushes in to defend her friend Leah and Dorinda just gets madder, telling Tinsley she doesn’t even need to talk. Then she snarls at Leah, “I couldn’t even pick you out of a lineup.” Dorinda has that Vicki Gunvalson stance of, “Jesus, I have to learn to like another new girl,” but it wasn’t that long ago that Dorinda was the new girl. She should have some more sympathy.
Sonja keeps dismissing what Dorinda says as, “She’s having a tough time right now.” First of all, that’s no excuse to be rude. And secondly, what exactly is Dorinda’s hard time? Is it that her Berkshires house is falling apart, and she needed to have the heating and ventilation systems redone? Is her hard time just home renovation? Or is it something deeper? She’s worrying about putting another $15K into the house. Are there money problems or maybe liquidity issues? It doesn’t seem like Dorinda’s hard time is that much harder than anyone else’s time, unless there is something we’re missing.
I think Dorinda’s other problem is that she has been rewarded by the fans for her not-nice behavior. We have made, “Clip! Clip!” and “I’ll tell you how I’m doing… not well, bitch,” into catchphrases. However, these were both instances where she was acting shamefully towards someone who didn’t really deserve it. Dorinda’s crueler streak is being rewarded so she has no reason to default to kindness anymore. I think, at her heart, Dorinda is a good person who always means well, but, boy, she has a mean streak wider than the big screen tube television that Ramona keeps in her basement — I’m sorry, her “lower level.”
That brings me to my ultimate point about this episode. The drama is a little bit sub-par, but I don’t think we watch this show entirely for the drama anymore. We watch it for the character work. For instance, the entire scene where Ramona takes Luann down to her room in the basement. At dinner the night before, Ramona built it up as, “I’m giving you the nicest room with your own entrance and you can have your privacy.” Then she brings Luann down to the “lower level” and puts her in a room with no windows and a cramped bathroom. There are two televisions, neither of which seem to work, and a living room where Avery and her friends used to drink wine coolers when her mother wasn’t watching and it has not been used since.
No one wants to be in the “lower level” no matter how vast or private it is, especially when Luann has her own house just about 20 minutes down the road. But the ferocity with which Luann is offended is not just *chef’s kiss* it is one better than that. It is *chef’s kiss* with tongue. Luann is wandering around her room rubbing her arms dramatically because it’s so cold, and when she asks Ramona how to adjust the temperature downstairs Ramona says, “You can’t,” the last kick in the shins in a litany of them.
That’s not Ramona’s only genius moment. After an afternoon of drinking rosé and Badoit on the lanai, all of the ladies retire except for Tinsley and Leah. Ramona says, “All of my other friends, even my daughter’s friends, they clean up after themselves. These ladies, they just leave everything.” Then Tinz and Leah, ever dutiful, start cleaning up and Ramona says, “I’m just going to sit here while you do it. These girls don’t know how to do anything. They don’t know how to entertain.” Tinsley, like a trainee waitress, totters to the kitchen with an arm full of dishes and empty bottles and drops a fork. “Oh, you dropped a fork,” Ramona says. “Well, you can pick it up later.” Then she fills her wine glass up with more vodka and just shrugs, completely unaware that she just bullied two people into being her servants. Larry David could not write a Curb Your Enthusiasm scene as good as that.
And finally, we have our Sonja. Oh, my favorite floozy, who not only yelled about wine being poison before asking for a glass of rosé, but talked about Ramona working the restaurant in the Hamptons. “Ramona’s not a socialite. She’s a social heavy,” which makes little sense until she explains that Ramona is just heavy-handedly trying to interact with every single person in the restaurant rather than being there with her friends. At one point she decides to take a lap around a seated restaurant to see if she can meet any more people, and just saunters, like the disembodied spirit of Lizzie Grubman. That is when we realize that Sonja Morgan, in her little bob with a barrette looking like one of Daria’s mary janes, is a genius.
Meanwhile, back at Boniva Cliffs, a dark figure lurked in the hydrangeas in the backyard. She looked over the dark house and saw the light still on in the kitchen and the doggie door completely unattended. She took a bag of treats out of the pocket of her trench coat and rattled them by the door. “Coco,” she cooed. “Coco.” Not working. “COCO!” she finally screamed, and the dog came leaping out of the door waiting at her feet for a treat. The woman gave her one, and as the dog was eating it, she put something that looked like a small gun next to the dog’s ear, and it went off with a little click. Coco let out a small yelp, but the woman offered her another treat and Coco was passive again, completely unaware of the microchip that was just implanted in her floppy little appendage. The woman scattered a few more treats on the patio bricks and then walked away. On her way out, Jill Zarin admired the new slates that Ramona had installed around her pool and thinks that she would do something similar at her own house, if it weren’t a rental.