The Real Housewives of New York Season Premiere Recap: Bethenny Who?

The Real Housewives of New York City

Back in the NY Groove
Season 12 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

The Real Housewives of New York City

Back in the NY Groove
Season 12 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Bravo

Of course this season, the first since season seven not to feature Bethenny Frankel, has to start off with a not-so-subtle middle finger to America’s once and future neurotic reality-TV queen. We see all the women getting the news that Bethenny is leaving on their devices. Apparently no one, including the team at Bravo and her co-stars, had any idea that she was departing until she announced it on her Instagram days after filming this season already started.

Sonja Tremont Morgan of the HumpAway Dog Libido Killer Morgans says she feels abandoned by Bethenny, and Dorinda says she feels like she’s going to cry. Ramona, of course, says, “I don’t want to even acknowledge it, it’s so stupid.” She then adds she thinks everyone will be freer of spirit because they didn’t know how to act around Bethenny — “Sometimes she’d purr at you, and sometimes she’d scratch your eyes out.” That is true. I’m interested to see how these other huge personalities fill the vacuum now that the obvious alpha (not to mix animal metaphors like Sonja mixes animal prints) has skedaddled.

Luann, of course, has a very different opinion. The editors treat us to a lovely montage of Bethenny screaming at her over the years, calling her a whore who fucks everyone, a liar, a horrible person, the cause of climate change, the reason there can’t be peace in the Middle East, and patient zero for the coronavirus pandemic. Luann then says, “Like they say on Broadway, the show must go on … without you.” This seems to be the television equivalent of a “Don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you,” and I hope this can be the last that we have to talk about Bethenny for the rest of the season.

The good news is — and I think all the fans were worried about this — we still seem to have a season in us with the current ladies. For me, there was one scene to prove it. Sonja joins Luann at 100 Centre Street, the main Manhattan courtroom building that any New Yorker who has served jury duty knows well. Luann’s probation after her arrest is finally over. She celebrates with one final coffee from the vendor outside who knows her well, and she and Sonja sit on a park bench while Sonja tells Luann just how awful she was to all of her case mates the past two years. Luann reacts to the criticism that she made it all about her by telling Sonja … that the other women had no idea what she, Countess Luann Valerie Nadeau de Lesseps D’Agostino de Lesseps, had been through. When they make up and hug, we cut to a shot of Sonja, her head resting on Luann’s shoulder, taking a huge bite out of a mystery street-vendor pastry still mostly enclosed in its paper bag. This is the gold we need. This will get us through whatever tough times lie ahead. No one does it like the New York ladies, and I think they proved it throughout the episode.

We were gifted another treat right after that. Tinsley goes to meet Leah, the newest Housewife, at her boxing gym for a workout with her trainer Martin, the kind of scary New York lump with tattoos on his neck who was definitely hanging out in Tompkins Square Park in the ’90s. Martin tells Tinsley before she boxes she has to take her hoop earrings out. Tinsley tells him that they are her identity and she is losing a little part of herself when she takes them off. “Aaaannnndddd … nobody gives a fuck,” he tells her. Then she says she is losing part of herself when she takes her lashes off, too. “Aaaannnndddd … nobody gives a fuck,” he repeats. That is what we need right now. Martin is the solution. Pierce all the bubbles, puncture all the balloons, boycott all the rents, seize the means of production, kidnap both Strawberry and Shortcake and hold Tinsley’s new poodles hostage until she returns to reality. The class revolution starts now.

We go around the horn and check in on all of the other ladies. Dorinda broke a rib while dancing with Carson Kressley on a terrace and … well, that really says it all, right? Sonja is sad that her daughter has been shipped off to UPenn (good school!), and she’s afraid she’s never going to come back to her tiny new apartment on Columbus Circle, which will soon be featured on a new A&E show called Before They Were Hoarders about people who are definitely on the verge of starting to save every single newspaper that ever crosses their threshold.

No one is sadder than Ramona, however. She has drinks with her friends on the UES and talks about how sad and lonely it makes her feel that she doesn’t wake up to a man every day. One of her friends does the good, feminist thing, trying to convince Ramona that she’s enough without a man. I wish Ramona would stop talking long enough to listen to someone else and take this message in, but that will not happen. Ramona’s talking is like a shark swimming, she needs to keep doing it, perpetually and forever, if she wants to keep breathing. Instead she tears up about how lonely and sad she is because no one is there to hold her, complete with a self-soothing hug. I really hope this leads to a reconciliation with Mario. I think that Ramona and Mario are endgame, and I will ship for them until a deadly virus wipes us all off the face of the Earth, which means I will ship for them until about late June.

While Ramona is out to drinks, we meet Elyse, a brunette who is the new “friend of” this season. She pops up again at Dorinda’s “Carole’s Last Good Summer Is Over” party later in the episode, so her presence might arouse some suspicion. For those asking, the Eileen Davidson Accord does not cover “friends of,” only full-time cast members, but so far, Elyse hasn’t done enough to really require passing judgment on her, other than the fact that she has definitely had an affair with Steven Tyler because, seriously, look at her. Leah is the new Housewife this season, and we go through the motions of meeting her daughter and hearing about her fashion line and her arrest. You know, all the prerequisites for being cast on the show.

Leah acquits herself nicely at Dorinda’s party, her first official event as a Real Housewife. I particularly enjoyed when she is being the wingman to Sonja as she is flirting with William, the certifiably hot piece that Ramona used to sleep with. Ramona is complaining about being alone and she’s turning away hot slabs of manflesh like this guy? That’s sort of like showing up at a Sizzler (remember restaurants, guys?) and talking about how there is absolutely nothing to eat. It’s like turning on Netflix and not being able to find anything to watch after scrolling past Tiger King, Cheer, and The Circle!

Anyway, Sonja heard this guy has a “pair of jeans full of magic,” which means that when he pulls down his Calvin Kleins, a plastic bouquet pops out where his genitals should be. It’s a trick you need to see to believe. Sonja is trying to score with him because Ramona is always stealing her men. My favorite floozie seems to be about 20 years too young for William, anyway. She is undeterred and says that someone needs to wake up and smell the Sonja. What exactly does Sonja smell like? I would venture to guess it’s a combination of Frederick Mallé’s Carnal Flower, Woolite, and a bidet clogged with 17 Blackberries. Sonja should bottle this scent and call it Rarely Used French Chateau.

The real drama at the party, however, is between Dorinda and Tinsley, and it is a fight I don’t entirely understand. Dorinda is mad that Tinsley doesn’t share with the group. She says that she doesn’t know who Tinsley is, that she’s withholding, and she finds out things about Tinsley’s life from sources other than Tinsley. This seems kind of like a fight about the show. Dorinda is mad that Tinsley isn’t saying things on-camera that are then coming out in the press. It’s as if she feels like Tinsley is guarding too much of her life from the camera.

I’m not sure exactly what Dorinda wants from Tinsley. We all negotiate the relationships in our lives and how much information we’re sharing with those around us. Tinsley is on-camera in a circus outfit sobbing about how miserable she is. She’s sharing her makeups and breakups with Skott the Koupon King. What, exactly, is Dorinda looking to get out of her?

At the party, Tinsley pulls Dorinda aside and says, “Let’s have lunch and talk about this” and Dorinda, instead, just starts laying into Tinsley and what she thinks is wrong with her. Dorinda says that Tinsley doesn’t tell the truth and Tinsley, quite correctly, says she does — it’s just that Dorinda won’t accept what she’s telling her as the truth.

They both go off in a huff, and Dorinda, dressed like a White Walker in her white- and blue-sequined blazer, tells the rest of the group that Tinsley came in hot with her. Um, Tinsley tried to push this off to a much more sober lunch and she is the one who insisted on doing the damn thing right then and there. The spat continues, and Dorinda gets up and starts mocking Tinsley. This is the Dorinda I like the least, the one who has been drinking a bit and just gets mean. “You’re going to miss the bus,” she starts yelling at Tinsley in a joke that only she seems to get. “Kindergarten is starting. You’re going to miss the bus.” Apparently this was a joke about Tinsley wearing pigtails, which, yeah, I guess, but she wasn’t even wearing pigtails at the event, so everyone is just shrugging and wondering when William is going to come over and pull a rabbit out of his asshole or something.

Tinsley eventually left the party, walking down the midtown sidewalk as an indeterminate rustle came from a pile of garbage lying on the curb. As she approached a corner, a black Suburban pulled up alongside her and the window rolled down. “Hey, Beautiful,” Tinsley heard in a familiar voice. She turned toward it and shrieked, half-scared and half-excited to see Skott sitting in the car. He opened the door and gave her a big hug, lifting her just high enough off the ground that her heels scraped the pavement as he swung her in a half-circle.

He closed the door, and Tinsley noticed that there was another figure in the window, a redhead. “I just want both of you to remember, in these coming weeks, what I did for you right now,” she said. They both stared, more than slightly befuddled, as the window rolled up on Jill Zarin and the Suburban lurched forward, trying to find some rainwater-filled potholes it could splash into.

Real Housewives of New York Premiere Recap: Bethenny Who?