There are two things that I need to talk about in this episode, one that came at the beginning and one that came at the end. Let’s start at the very beginning, as a Nazi-hating former nun with a lesbian haircut once said. We first see Margaret interrupt Joe B. while he’s in the middle of his breakfast, which appears to be a cannoli bowl. I do not mean a bowl full of the Italian pastries; I mean it is a plastic container with three sections, two for chips made from the same dough as the cannoli shell and one container that is just full of the ricotta filling. Apparently, a cannoli bowl is like chips that you dip in the filling and eat, like those little packets of pretzels and hummus you can buy at the gas station when you’re trying to trick yourself into thinking you’re healthy because you didn’t buy a king-size sleeve of Peanut Butter Twix.
I did not know that such a thing even existed. Is this just a New Jersey thing? Can it be found elsewhere? All I know is I want to live there. No, not in the place where you can buy this — in the actual bowl itself. I just want to be bobbing on a sea of sugary cheese on a crispy, deep-fried dough raft for the rest of my life. At the very least, Marge and Joe B. should market Cannoli Bowl as a breakfast cereal. I mean, you can already buy boxes full of Hershey Kisses, Peeps, and whatever it is they call Cookie Crisp. Why not Cannoli Bowl?
The thing at the end of the episode that needs attention is the “To Be Continued …” that burps up onto the screen when Teresa leaves Jennifer’s Turkish tea party and Take Your Mother to Work Day celebration because she feels bad that her mother is dead. What, exactly, needs to be continued? There weren’t any fights started at the tea. It seemed mostly like a fun and civil gathering of the women at Jen’s house. The house, by the way, is not “the Taj Mahal, if it had a huge mortgage and no furniture,” as Jackie says, or a mall like Dolores’s mother, Valerie, thought it was. No, it is a business-class lounge in a Third World country that got big enough to become a whole house. One day it and Villa Rosa will have children and they will all be Duty Free stores.
Usually when we get a TBC, we know that we’re seeing the second part of a tussle or some climactic event is just around the corner. What else could possibly happen at this party? Teresa’s gone, so the likelihood that there will be an explosive event without her is as slim as a camel’s knee. Is this a trick to get us to tune in next week because they really have nothing else going on this season?
The episode overall is a little bit of a snooze. We got more teases about Teresa’s relationship with this guy who she doesn’t want to tell the women about yet. I mean, yawn. Anyone with an internet browser and a search history has read all about the guy already. How much Melissa knew about him and when she told people are the least of our worries.
The biggest event is that the women go to Norwalk, Connecticut (not a short drive from northern Jersey), to visit the yacht of fellow Real Housewives ghostwriter and my archnemesis Emily Leibert. Guys, we freakin’ hate Emily. Okay? She has ghostwritten memoirs for Real Housewives and owns a yacht in my home state of Connecticut. I have ghostwritten memoirs for Real Housewives and I am a 42-year-old homosexual who still has student debt and, according to one random Reddit user, was run out of New York City. What am I doing wrong wrong? Wait. Do I hate Emily, or do I hate myself for not being Emily?
Margaret has invited all of the women — and her assistant Lexi, the sound the googly-eyed emoji would make if you gave it a voice — to hear an excerpt from her upcoming memoir. But, come on, this is really just an excuse to get the women on a yacht, since Teresa has turned down Emily’s numerous invitations. Margaret reads the part about how she went home with her boss when she was in her early 20s and was pressured into sleeping with him, something she told the women about once at dinner and which Jennifer has been subsequently flippant about.
What happens afterward is sort of ridiculous. Jennifer’s ready to apologize for making light of her interpretation of the events, but Margaret won’t even let her. As soon as Jennifer starts to talk to her, Margaret says she has a problem interpreting things and brings up her Instagram Live post about how she can’t find a good cleaner in the middle of a pandemic. Jennifer then says that if Margaret “doesn’t like the music, change the channel.”
God, it really pains me to say this, but Jennifer is totally right here. She isn’t beholden to Margaret or anyone in how she presents herself on social media. If she struck a wrong chord (and I think she did), her fans and the rest of the internet will let her know. Does Margaret not understand how Twitter mobs work? It’s not like Margaret is saying “Oh, by the way, this might be a little tone deaf” to help Jennifer out; she’s trying to make herself look morally superior and social-media savvier than Jennifer. Jennifer is being real and Margaret, she’s just chasing clout.
More importantly, as Jennifer quickly points out, she was actually trying to apologize to Margaret before she cut her off. Margaret just assumed that Jennifer would say something awful again (which, not the worst assumption), but she was saying exactly what Margaret wanted, that hearing the passage in the book really made her change her mind about what happened in Margaret’s past and how women can be abused in the workplace. If Margaret only had the patience to let her say that, it would have been a lot smoother sailing. (That totally obvious yacht pun is why stupid Emily makes $10 trillion and I’m eating 75-cent packets of couscous for dinner.)
This is mostly an episode about mothers and daughters, though. We see Teresa talk to Gia and Melania about her and her father dating. We see Margaret and Marge Sr. talk mostly about Marge Sr.’s failures as a parent, which is heartbreaking but honest. We see Jennifer talk to Gabriella about the fight that her parents got into and how her mother wasn’t able to choose her own life. We see Dolores talk to her daughter Frankie … oh. Wait a minute.
The best mother-daughter talk, though, is between Melissa and Antonia. After crowing about it all season, Melissa finally has a the-birds-and-the-bees conversation with her 15-year-old daughter after letting her raid her store for back-to-school clothes. This goes about as well as anyone who has ever tried to have a conversation with someone of the TikTok generation thought it would.
“Are you still with your boyfriend?” Melissa asks as a way of an opening salvo.
“I am not talking to you about that,” Antonia responds, cowering into one of the racks of dresses, hoping it will open up and swallow her into an alternate universe where she never has to talk to a grown-up again.
“Have you had sex yet?”
“I already knew that because your cousins told me.”
“Why are you asking my cousins about me?”
Yes, this is going delightfully off the rails. Melissa tells her daughter, through a swarm of resistance, that she has to know she can get pregnant and that she always has to use protection because she can get STDs. Antonia keeps shouting some iteration of “Stop!” not only because her mother is trying to talk to her about sex but also because she’s trying to talk to her about sex on-camera. Finally, Antonia goes into the bathroom and says, “I’m going to go pee for about 50 minutes now.” It’s the most hilariously obvious, cringingly accurate depiction of what these interactions must be like.
Melissa’s mistake, though, was to try to have a conversation when she should have been delivering a monologue. I am no parenting expert, but I think she should have framed it like her mother never talked to her about sex and she had to figure it out on her own and she always regretted that. She should have shared the things she wished she had known when she was Antonia’s age and imparted that wisdom and then trust her daughter to be smart and strong enough to use that information to do the right thing. I mean, it was always going to make her toes curl, but the less she has to say and the more she can just pretend to listen, I think, the better everyone would have been at the end of the day.
While Melissa tidied up the store and got ready to close it up for the night, Antonia sat on the toilet in the break room, waiting for the embarrassed flush to cool on her face. She opened TikTok and made a little video of herself sitting there in the near darkness of the toilet. “When my mom tried to talk to me about sex on-camera,” she wrote in text over the video. But what song would she use as the soundtrack? What could possibly encompass something that one day she will rue looking back on. Oh. She knew just the thing. “Wakin’ up in the morning, thinking about oh so many things …”