The obvious takeaway from this episode is to get excited about the fight that Teresa and Margaret are about to have at some ropes course in the woods, which gave me a poison-ivy rash just watching it. It is the first “To Be Continued” in a long time that is worth it. However, I want to focus on Melissa talking about her daughter, Antonia. Haha. Just kidding. (Melissa says, “Antonia doesn’t want to listen to anything I say.” Yeah, sister. Welcome to parenting a teenage girl.) What I’m really going to remember from this scene is Jen and Margaret’s meeting at the very beginning.
After their series of blowups over the first seven episodes, the two of them sit down at a bakery to hash it out. This is the perfect setting for such a discussion. I know if I were meeting my mortal enemy, I would want to make sure that there are pastries around. I don’t drink coffee, but Margaret orders a black coffee and proceeds to drown it in Snickers-bar-flavored Coffee-Mate. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I was unaware that this was a possibility. Now that the high priestess of healthy dining has educated me, I think I might have to start getting my caffeine and sugar fixes from the same place, and that is fake-flavored fake milk going into my real-ass mouth.
Their discussion consists of two top-tier Housewives operating at peak capacity. As Jen explains herself, she tells Margaret, “You said you didn’t hurt me. I’m hurt. I’m devastated.” Finally, the soft and vulnerable Jennifer that we see with her family shows her face to the group, and she’s actually winning allies. Of course, this all stems from Margaret bringing up Bill’s affair at the first gathering, and after seeing how hurt Jennifer is, Margaret says that she wouldn’t have brought it up. Margaret tells her she thought that everyone knew and that Jennifer would brush this off like she has brushed off so much other criticism about herself and her marriage. Margaret was wrong and regrets her choice.
Then, instead of being her antagonist, Margaret starts acting as her therapist, drawing Jennifer out and instigating why she is so hurt by Bill’s affair. What comes out is that Jen never really dealt with these feelings, but now she feels bad bringing it up because she was cool about it for ten years. She says she needs to know that Bill is with her. She wants him to make her feel secure and tell her and the public that he loves her and is not going to leave her, and she has not been getting that.
The scariest thing to me, something that Bill echoed the last episode, is what if they go to therapy and realize that their relationship isn’t worth saving. Um, that, right there, is the reason to get yourself either to a therapist or at least on Dr. Phil at the first possible opportunity. If your relationship is like a sandcastle, ready to topple at the slightest rustle in the wind, then you might not have something worth saving. That’s the thing about sandcastles: The tide is always going to come in, and from the looks of it, Jen is up to her Capri pants in saltwater.
This is echoed later, when she is talking to Bill about their relationship and she literally tells him what she wants from him: to say to her that they’re good, that he loves her and will stand by her. Even when she gives him a script, he can’t play his role. I can’t tell if Bill doesn’t care about Jennifer’s feelings, if she has inured him to her well-being by decades of being the good and amenable wife, or if he’s just so embarrassed that he doesn’t want to keep doing this in public. She wants him to fight for her with the group; his solution is to never see them again. That would work if it wasn’t threatening Jennifer’s livelihood and, I would guess, the thing in this world that is most dear to her, second only to her children. If this marriage is going to come between Jen and the show, then Bill should start looking at affordable townhomes down the street from Dolores right now.
What was great about Margaret’s performance is she doesn’t go in on Jen, she doesn’t try to rehash their battle. Instead, she works on comforting her. She tells Jen that her marriage was already broken when she cheated on her husband. She tells Jen that if the two of them want to, they can fight for their marriage and get past this. She says that she feels horrible for what she did. And I believe all of that.
I have a bit harder of a time believing Jen when she says that she isn’t going to be so mean in her comebacks anymore, that she doesn’t want to hurt people. I want to think that this arc is about karma, about Jen learning what it felt like for all of those years when she terrorized the other women. I’m hopeful but skeptical that this will really take. I do believe she meant it at the moment, but real substantive change is hard, especially with her job on the line.
The other big thing to come out of this meeting, other than the introduction of candy-bar-flavored dairy-replacement technology, is that Jennifer insinuates that when she was digging for information about Jackie’s husband, Evan, she was doing that at Teresa’s behest. She doesn’t come right out and say it. It’s like when you’re in grade school, and you say, “Sally told me I can’t say who she likes, but if you guess, then I won’t say no.” It’s shockingly subtle for Jen, something that her plastic surgeries could never say.
Before we can deal with the ramifications of what Jen says, let us explore some of the other story lines in this episode, because it is packed. Dolores’s mother is still in the hospital, and her ex, David, who is a doctor, is going to visit her every day. He even stops by Frank’s office to chat to him, but he’s not talking to Dolores. She finally talks to him, and she says it went badly. I don’t get why a guy who so clearly wants her back can’t say that he’s finally going to change and give her the kind of relationship she wants. I think she would go for it, but he’s playing these crazy games instead. Even though we just hear about it and don’t have to see it, I have a serious case of the heebers-bajeebers.
Jackie hears from the eating-disorder clinic, and they want her to go inpatient. Sister, if the experts tell you to check into that hospital, pack your sweats in your suitcase and call an Uber. She says no to that, so they say she should do three nights a week for three hours a night. Yes, it’s intensive, but if you’ve been suffering from this condition for 20 years, it’s not going to go away because you see a therapist on your own timeline. Jen says, “I know what I need.” Um, no, you don’t. If you did, you would have done it already. But you don’t. Listen to the experts. Eating disorders are so often about control, and here she is trying to control the whole situation.
Her husband, Evan, proving once again why he is a gay crush object, handles the situation perfectly, telling her that her health is the most important thing and that the family will find a way to function while she gets better. Still, she’s not taking it. I know Jackie is on a hard journey, and I am impressed that she has the bravery to share that with the public. But, girl, I have never wanted to pack a Housewife in a car and send her off to rehab as badly as I want to with Jackie at this moment.
Ugh, now we must move on to the part of the recap where I just hate on Teresa for several hundred words while all of Twitter praises and extols her like she’s St. Patrick and she just banished all the drunk ex–frat boys from Murray Hill. Traci invites everyone for an afternoon at a ropes course, which makes sense because what are these women if not co-workers who are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time together working for a corporate overlord who earns way more than them and spends all his money on yacht trips with twinks. Before they even get there, Teresa is mad because she heard that Margaret was asking questions about Luis and that Tiki brought him at boys’ night because he said his wife has questions.
Here’s what I hate about Teresa. She says, “True friends, they don’t question anyone.” No. That is not how that works. Blind loyalty is not how a friend should operate. Yes, you want your friends to have your back, but sometimes that means telling you that you are making a mistake or asking you questions to make sure you’re doing the right thing. She also says that Luis doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone. He doesn’t have to prove himself to the public or the audience, but he has to prove himself to her friends and brother. That’s what all of our partners have to do at the beginning of a relationship, prove that they are good enough. Luis, apparently, has yet to meet that threshold, and demanding nothing but blind loyalty from people is what makes you end up on the next season of Dirty John.
Dolores warns everyone at the ropes course that Teresa is coming in hot, and she shows up already making passive-aggressive swipes at people. Jackie might get upset that people say it’s Teresa’s show, but, let’s face it, it is at this point. She has been enabled to think that by the producers, the suits at Bravo, and her co-stars, who kowtow to her every idiotic whim and need. So when she shows up and just decides she’s not doing the group activity, no one can even tell her she’s wrong. No one can make her do anything because they all know there will be absolutely no ramifications.
This is what is ultimately making her boring to watch. Nothing will stick. Nothing anyone can do will get through to her, and her justifications for why she doesn’t have to behave like the other women are flimsier than the walls in one of Joe Giudice’s flip houses. Margaret tells all the women what Jen insinuated about Teresa digging for dirt on Evan, and she says that she called Serena from Tenafly, apparently, and she said that Jen said that it was Teresa who wanted to know. If you are confused by that sentence, you should be because there is no reason we have not seen Serena from Tenafly (who sounds like a person who asks annoying questions at the reunion). We have seen more of the Cookie Lady than we did of Serena, and she is integral to this season’s plot.
Margaret is mad not just that Teresa did the digging but that she left Jennifer out to dry when all the women came for her for doing Teresa’s bidding. Jennifer says, “Maybe Teresa doesn’t go to bat for me like I go to bat for her, but I like her company … There is a certain comfort that comes with being around her.” Know what the comfort is? Job security! And until they take that away from Teresa and her flunkies, this show has lost all of its danger.
The fight starts when Teresa finds Dolores and Jackie talking about Jennifer, and she starts going in hard on Margaret and Traci. She says of Traci, “I don’t even know you. Why are you antagonizing my boyfriend?” It’s official. “Antagonizing” is the most complicated word that Teresa knows. She and Margaret start going hard for each other, and this is a fight in public around well-meaning men used to doing professional-development days for middle-school teachers, and, yes, as good as this episode is, I think the next one is going to be even better.