This episode of The Real Housewives of New York City really swings from one extreme to the other very quickly. It’s like the episode is a comedy and drama mask tattoo on a former theater kid’s abdomen as their shirt keeps riding up and down, up and down, drama-comedy, smiles-frowns, Othello–A Winter’s Tale, Tennessee Williams–Neil Simon, Donald Trump–Donald Trump.
The tragedies start when Ramona takes all of the women, minus Luann, to the Wolffer Estate, a gorgeous winery known for its rosé. Luann left Ramona’s House, Boniva Cliffs, early in the morning to go to the chiropractor because apparently sleeping in Ramona’s basement with the spiders did a lulu on her neck. Leah points out it might have been because someone just off court-mandated sobriety maybe doesn’t want to hang out all day drinking cranberry and sodas while the rest of the women get wasted. Fair point.
At the winery, Ramona says, “Okay, let’s all share a story that makes us vulnerable.” This is the worst party game I have seen since the Christmas when my sister-in-law Kate thought it would be a good idea to go around the table and air grievances about our respective partners. Also, what an open-ended question? Anything could make you vulnerable, and where do you even start taking stock of your life to find the one story that you want to share, not only with a group of friends but with all the wine-swilling Bravo fans at home?
Ramona starts and tells everyone about when she was 16 and living in Pennsylvania and little Ramona Mazur would listen to music to drown out the disruption of her fighting parents and would stare into the clouds wondering what would become of her life. Half a century later, when driving home from the Hamptons one night, she saw the same clouds in the same sky and, as Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” came on the SiriusXM Coffeehouse station, Ramona had the same thought: “What is going to become of my life now?” She just started crying for her dead mother, pleading up to the peaks of heaven poking through the clouds, “Mommy, help me. Mommy, help me.” But her mother couldn’t protect her then and she can’t protect her now. Deep sigh. OKAY, WHO’S NEXT!
Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Nads Bikini Wax Morgans has the best reaction to this story: “I didn’t know you were so self-realized,” she says. “I thought you were avoiding all that.”
Tinsley tells her story about dating a man named Bruce, which is a tragedy all its own. That is all you need to know about this story. On to Leah, who tells the group about getting out of rehab when she was 18. Her mother came to the facility, which I assume was in Connecticut, where she was living at the time, and told her that she couldn’t return to the family home because she was too disruptive to their lives. “However, I found a convent in upstate New York where you can live,” her mother told her. Leah was then literally shipped off to a nunnery to learn some life lessons. She remembers standing there, in upstate New York, with her few tattered duffel bags and what was surely a questionable haircut, and watching her mother drive away, the dust kicking up and settling around her as she contemplated the long, arduous boredom of eternity stretched before her. OKAY, WHO WANTS TO GO NOW!!!???
See, isn’t this a fun game?
Dorinda’s turn! (This would make a great title for a Sondheim song.) She doesn’t have a story so much as a confession that she is scared every day. She almost immediately breaks into tears, telling the women how everyone sees her as being strong and dependable, like she is the anchor to everyone’s boat, but not she’s the boat, knocking around in a summer storm, hitting against the dock and rocks and maybe a few other small crafts and without an anchor of her own. I don’t mean this as a diss, but it sounds like Dorinda needs medication. She is really deep down into something and sometimes some adjusted brain chemistry is just the way.
Finally, it’s Sonja’s turn, and you know you are in for a treat. Sonja’s speech starts with, “I’m one foot in the nursing home,” ends with, “In conclusion: Where am I going?” and has “And we all die while catching some dick on the way” in between, and it is absolutely perfect. It is an M.C. Escher painting of a ramble. It is the sort of free association that Freud could spend a whole case study picking apart, and I am here for every second of it. As I always say, it’s not that Sonja is dumb; it’s that she is a bad communicator.
However, that’s not her problem when they go to Joe Farrell’s house for a cocktail party that Ramona arranged for her guests that evening (after she sent them all back to her house to go on a date because Ramona is AARP The Magazine’s 2020 Queen of Tinder). Joe Farrell is a rich Hamptons developer with a $30 million house — oh, excuse me, a $39.9 million house — but is also so lame that the house is unimaginatively called the Sand Castle. When Ramona is explaining him to the girls, minus Tinsley, who has already been on an awful date with the guy, the savage editors of this show decide to throw up a New York Post article about him. It could have been any article about him in any trade journal. But no. They chose an article about the fundraiser he threw for Donald Trump that netted him $12 million for his campaign. That is a savage read, both of Farrell and Ramona, who we all knew was a Trump voter, but she should be shamed for it at every turn. It’s like the producers are saying, “Get ready for this asshole,” and they do not disappoint.
Joe Farrell is the kind of toxic bachelor that Candace Bushnell wrote about in her original Sex and the City column, but now he’s just 30 years older and still has a house with a bowling alley, a half-pipe, a DJ booth, and a blue felt pool table in the basement — I’m sorry, lower level. This might be all to entertain his kids or something, but you just know he invites women over to take them to the bowling alley and then tries to diddle them in his enormous living room that looks like the lobby of a boutique hotel in a second-tier city. He has undoubtedly referred to this cavernous room as a “panty-dropper.” There is literally an ATM in the basement that says “Welcome to the Pleasure Palace” on the screen. He thinks that’s baller. I think it’s, well, like a septuagenarian’s balls.
The party is populated, as Sonja says, with the same stiff people who are at all of Ramona’s parties. Looking at Ramona among all those huge earrings and face-lift scars is a reminder of both how old Ramona actually is and just how good she looks for her age. She fits in with Tinsley and Leah, but this party reminds us that she’s at least 20 years older than the rest of the cast. Sonja’s only recourse at this boring party is to get wasted, and get wasted she does.
I love drunk Sonja. I would not want to be at any party that she ever attended, but I will watch her on TV for hours on end just shout and slur and stalk around a party like an addled sloth on stilts. Her main altercation comes with new “friend of” Elyse, a lingering smell in a very well-appointed restroom. Elyse says that Sonja was her ex-husband’s “accessory.” “No!” Sonja shouts and then proceeds to talk like Daffy Duck with a mouth full of peanut butter. “I was his partner. Why would you say that? I am a boss bitch.”
As Sonja carries on, Elyse says, “You are doing this,” and opens her hands to show a flapping mouth, “and you should be doing this,” and shows a closed hand. Sonja replies, “You should be doing clip, clip, clip,” mimicking Dorinda’s famous rejoinder used against Sonja herself. That is why Sonja is a reality-television professional and Elyse fades into the background like bad wallpaper. Then Sonja says, “I’m not arm candy. I don’t shave my pussy. I don’t shave my legs,” as if those are the only two qualifications to be arm candy. Also, Sonja does not need to shave anything below her waist because she had it all lasered off 15 years ago.
The women move her upstairs, and Sonja manages to find the one man under 40 at the whole party who is not a member of the staff. He’s wearing the unofficial preppy uniform of a magenta polo shirt over ill-fitting khakis. She’s not flirting with this dude (who is quite attractive); she is propositioning him. “I just need to see your driver’s license and we’re good to go,” she says, worried, as always, about statutory rape. “Men love my vagina. I have a great vagina.”
Then Ramona has to corral Sonja and all of her other drunk friends out of the door in a clattering of heels, as a number of hedge-fund millionaires let out a sigh and a cackle and wonder how it ever got to this but are very glad that it did.
The next morning, Dorinda wakes up and tells Ramona that there is a problem. Luann skulked off in the middle of the night and sent a searing text. I think we need to review it in its entirety to revel in the pettiness of this missive:
“Thank you for your hospitality Ramona. This is not the fish room part two. I live in the town you drive to every day because it’s the best and I have a beautiful home. I come to your home and it’s share the bathroom with someone I don’t know or stay in the basement with the spiders and the smell of dog piss. I’m shocked I’m always the lowest on the totem pole. GOOD NIGHT from the LOWER LEVEL.”
All caps are mine, but you know if they weren’t actually there, she really meant them to be. I also feel like this text was even longer and meaner, but it somehow got edited down.
I mean, there is nothing to really say about this other than of course this happened, of course she left in the middle of the night like a scared child at a sleepover, of course she freaked out about not having a great room, of course this is one of the best things to ever happen on-camera, of course I finished a whole bag of PopCorners in honor of this happening. This is why the New York ladies are always at the top of their game and why I would never quit them.
The next morning at Joe Farrell’s house was a lot more calm than things were at Boniva Cliffs. That is, until there was a knock on the door. He answered it and saw a woman in a navy-blue boiler suit with her red hair tucked into a matching baseball hat and a large messenger bag slung over one shoulder and poised just above her buttocks. “I’m here to service the ATM,” she said, looking down at her clipboard and then back up at him. He welcomed her in and pointed her down the stairs. She sat down on the bowling-alley floor right in front of the ATM and took a laptop out from the bag. After unscrewing a panel on the side of the ATM, she plugged a USB cord into it and the other end into the laptop. She clicked a few keys and watched as a progress bar appeared on the screen. Three minutes, it said, marching slowly along, getting her everything she’d need. She took those three minutes to look around, taking in all of the finery of Joe Farrell’s basement. “How tacky,” Jill Zarin thought, as the computer finished, she zipped it back into her bag, and plodded up the carpeted stairs into the fresh autumn air.