The Real Housewives of New Jersey
As Teresa Giudice readies her house by pouring a bunch of tortilla chips on the sort of marble slab usually reserved for virgin sacrifices, her daughter Gia sits at the onyx kitchen island as large as Vanuatu. She’s wearing a slouchy sorority hoodie and sporting a harried ponytail. That’s when the greatest mystery of this season rushes once again onscreen: Why is everyone so damn red? Every time Joe Gorga is onscreen, he has the flush of someone who just ran up ten flights of stairs in the blazing sun. Gia’s face looks like it’s been lit by Rudolph’s nose as it glows around the world on Christmas Day. What is up with all of these ruddy complexions? Is it the light they’re using? Is it a COVID thing? Are there molten-lava people living inside these flesh shells just burning (hehe) to get out?
We won’t get answers, only questions. Maybe the answer is somehow related to the number 172. Does that mean anything to you? Well, it should, because that is the exact weight of all of Teresa’s wigs piled up on one scale. Wow, I should be a psychic. Speaking of which, Teresa’s pouring cheese and chips on a platter for the women to come over and talk to Gina Marie (no relation to Scheana Marie), her new favorite psychic.
As the women assemble in Teresa’s echoing living room (it’s Jackie’s first visit to Teresa’s manse after three years on the show, which is hilarious) the psychic gives each of the women a reading. Margaret goes first. Gina talks to a man named Bernie, who was her father-in-law before he died and one of Marge’s favorite people in the world. He thanks her for stepping in to raise his grandkids and tells her to lay off the plastic surgery. Actually, he didn’t tell her that second part, but I did and I am also inhabited by the spirit of a man named Bernie who died in a poppers accident in a San Francisco bathhouse in 1978.
Next is Realtor Michelle, the world’s richest former Hooters waitress. The psychic tells her that she has a relative from Portugal and that she will someday be involved in a political scandal, which is when we find out that she was having an affair with a disgraced congressman who was also stealing money from widows and orphans. Actually, I don’t know. I tune out Realtor Michelle like she’s an ad for Cellino & Barnes.
Dolores is the next victim and Gina has done her homework on her. First, she tells her that her grandparents are telling her that the man she is with is not her soulmate and that there is another lover just waiting for her to break up with this guy. Everyone assumes that grandma means David, but what if grandma means Frank? What if she finally needs to dump Frank to be with David, her true soulmate? Ah, probably not. She probably means dump David. Next she tells Dolores to get ready for something physical, that she should get her health checked. But what really gets her is that she hears her dog Boo is also in heaven. I will never forgive everyone in that room for not making an All Dogs Go to Heaven joke.
How can you follow that up? Well, with Melissa, who isn’t sure she wants to be read. The psychic is like, “Is there a crack in your foundation?” “Um. No.” “What about the number five?” “Uhhhhh. I don’t thiiiiinnnnk so.” “Well, your father says don’t doubt yourself. That’s all I got. Okay NEXT!!!!!”
Then we come to Jackie, who talks to her grandmother Esther, who was her favorite grandparent. She soothes Jackie with vague platitudes: “You’re your own success, and it’s not about your struggles, it’s about how you pick yourself up.” In fairness, that is how most people talk, but it’s about as fully drawn a picture as a twice-shaken Etch A Sketch.
Teresa’s reading includes her father, who recently died, standing by her with a bottle of his favorite liquor (but not a squid in the pot) and telling her that he condones her most recent relationship, which clues all the women into what they already secretly know — that the ever-horny Teresa is getting it somewhere. This is the reading I found to ring the falsest, because if there is anything we learned about the men on this show it is that there is never a time that they will celebrate their daughters’ sexuality.
Jennifer’s reading, however, is the most insightful. We find out that she has lots of spirit guides because her great uncle was a martyr in the Armenian genocide and was made a saint by the Pope. Yeah, you and me both, sister. She asks Jennifer if her parents are stuck in two different places. When she reveals that she recently had her father move in with her because he can no longer get involved with her mother, Gina asks, “Does she perceive herself as an abused woman?” Jennifer says yes, and the psychic advises her to recognize her mother’s pain and tell her that she is on her side as well.
I am not the biggest Jennifer Aydin fan — I’m with Marge, ranting about how she doesn’t have a live-in housekeeper is not the look, not in this economy — but I love her when she is with her family and I am fascinated by the gulf between her parents. It’s something that could have been written by Arthur Miller if he cared at all about people of color. “I haven’t been happy since before I was married,” says her mother, who was 16 and 10 years her husband’s junior when they were wed in an arranged marriage. “He never made me happy, in 48 years. I never think, Oh, I was sick that day and he made me a cup of tea. Nothing!”
Her father protests by saying “You lie!” and saying that he never abused her, but she counters that some abuse isn’t physical, it’s emotional. Even Bill is wise enough to say that sometimes abuse is not taking someone’s feelings into account. He also says that she can’t compare her life back then to women’s lives now because they’re so different. But that doesn’t mean she can’t fix her life now, and it seems like Jennifer just acknowledging her mother’s pain and disappointment is a step in the right direction. As they sit out on the porch, drinking their tea and comforting each other, I just want to stay lingering in the air, like a bit of non-toxic pollen, ready to go up their noses and into their brains and steal all of their experiences for an award-winning drama of my own.
The psychic readings didn’t just have an impact there, they had an impact everywhere. Jackie talks about Esther at her family’s Rosh Hashanah dinner, where they eat matzo-ball soup and use face masks as yarmulkes. Dolores follows up about her mammogram, which found an abnormality, and talks about how she won’t tell anyone in her family until she has her results.
Melissa and Joe go to the famous Rails Steakhouse and eat in the basement “cave” with more than two dozen patrons who are not wearing masks and not an open window or any sense of ventilation to be seen anywhere. If only they could order two vaccines off the menu instead of spiked Arnold Palmers and truffle fries. (Free idea: a cocktail called The Vaccine that gets you so fucked up you actually want to leave your house during a pandemic.) Melissa tells Joe that she still loves him and that they are in a different phase of their marriage now that the kids are grown and she wants to be a bit more independent. Joe tells her he only gets mad because he loves her so much he never wants to lose her and never has possession and jealousy looked so romantic or so made me want to cry.
And, right then, somewhere across town, as families were mending, couples were re-coupling, and Teresa was rubbing a pineapple on her lady bits in order to make her juices taste good, all of the spirits of all the Housewives past visited Gina Marie and she woke up from a nap on her couch with a chill in her bones and money on her mind. She didn’t know if anything good would come of it, but she had seen into our futures and it was agony to behold.