The Real Housewives of New York
Hey there. Remember me? I’m Chris Murphy, the
wayward gay guy stepping in for Brian Moylan this week while he’s off on vacation in France, which is something he’s actually allowed to do because he famously resides across the pond. On the (much sadder) side of the Atlantic, I miraculously wasn’t fired for calling Teddi Mellenkamp’s nursery a “toddler prison,” and I’m back to recap RHONY. This is a mammoth undertaking as it’s common knowledge that RHONY holds a special spot in the HCU (Housewives Cinematic Universe). Many believe it to be the gold standard, the holy grail, the [big Luann Speaking Overwrought French energy] creme de la creme of the franchise. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all my gorgeous daughters equally, but if I had to pick one, at the end of the day it’s a toss up between Atlanta and New York for me. RHOA is currently off-air, and as such she is disqualified and disowned (look, I never said I was a good mother), so RHONY is the franchise to beat (but young, upstart Potomac might be coming for her crown, real talk).
But let’s be honest, this season has been… a transition. With the sudden and unexpected loss of Bethenny Frankel (I’m still in mourning, tbh), we began the season on shaky footing, finding our bearings in this strange new world, without a Skinny Girl margarita in sight. Now that we’re nineteen (19!) episodes into season 12, I must say I feel more at home with these aging cuckoo birds than Tom feels at The Regency. (Too soon?) Yes, we’ve lost 1.5 Housewives — we salute you, Tinsley Mortimer and Elyse [Insert Last Name Here]’s Bangs — but we know the score and we’re ready to play ball. (Yeah, I’m masc, so what?) We’re ready to shake things the fuck up. And who else better to shake things up than patient zero for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Miss Ramona Singer.
We begin the episode in Mexico, watching Ramona and Sonja laid up in bed like two nursing home patients, as Ramona absentmindedly scrolls through her phone, probably deciding which of her 50 friends to replace with a blow-up doll with a blonde wig at her next birthday party (let’s be honest, no one would know the difference). Ramona is upset, you see, because Dorinda has been very mean (!) to Ramona (!) all season (!) and Ramona has no idea why!!! Perhaps it’s her recent break up with Jon, or the flooding at Blue Stone Manor, or — I don’t know, just spitballing here — the all-consuming rage she feels day in and day out regarding the unfairness of the untimely death of her first husband. But Ramons just can’t seem to figure out what’s up with Dorinda, so she makes the well-intentioned and mature decision to literally Google “What causes anger?” and passive-aggressively send an article (that I am almost positive was not peer reviewed!) about anger management to a group text consisting of Dorinda, Luann, and Sonja. This is sure to fix everything, right?
Wrong. The thing is, Ramona is correct that Dorinda has been acting psychotically, comically, and downright cartoonishly mean this entire season. I just Googled “Top 10 Meanest People of All Time” and while I wouldn’t say she’s quite Hitler level yet, I’d absolutely slot her somewhere between Idi Amin and Genghis Khan based on her behavior this season. Even so, Ramona had no business sending that text message. It’s not that Dorinda, aka The Monster That Sleeps Under Your Bed At Night, hasn’t been an absolute pill to deal with, it’s just that Ramona doesn’t really care to find out why Dorinda, aka That Little Popcorn Kernel That Sometimes Gets Stuck Between Your Back Molars, has been acting so evil — she’s just annoyed that she’s become one of her main punching bags. Ramona Singer is narcissism incarnate, with all of its (inner) ugliness and (outer) beauty, and as such she can’t be bothered to figure out what’s going on with her friend, who seems to be in a lot of pain. Imagine my surprise when Luann, patient one for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, calls this out by asking Ramona point-blank why on earth she would send Dorinda, aka Mary Louise From Big Little Lies season two, a passive-aggressive text that she knew would upset her?
Obviously, Ramona doesn’t have an answer to Lu’s very fair question because that would involve Ramona thinking about someone other than herself. With that one little text Ramona ticks off Dorinda, aka The Pastor From Footloose Who Tried To Ban Dancing, and begins the biggest fight of the episode. Dorinda, aka A Beehive Full of Murder Hornets, decides to retaliate by sending Ramona every terrible thing that’s ever been written about her in the press, which is so petty that I low-key respect it. Eventually, Ramona and Dorinda, aka Plankton Trying To Steal The Krabby Patty Secret Formula, go toe-to-toe as Sonja and Luann try to mediate the situation.
Dorinda, aka Simon Cowell On American Idol And The X Factor But Not America’s Got Talent, absolutely steamrolls over Ramona during the argument. Anger is what fuels her. It’s what keeps her motor running, what gets her out of the bed every morning. I mean, what genuinely happy person has the phrase “Rats only come out at night” on hand and ready to go? The peace that falls over Dorinda, aka Ursula The Sea Witch’s, entire being when she gets to be mean is more powerful than the Calm app and Headspace combined. Who needs yoga when you can center yourself by being a massive bitch? A cold chill ran down my spine when Dorinda, aka My Dad When I Told Him I Wanted To Quit Baseball And Take Tap Dancing Lessons Instead, winked and said, “I double dare you” to Ramona while walking out the door. There is no bottom to the well of Dorinda’s anger and I would not like to be baby Jessica any longer and would very much like to get out of that well.
During the argument, Ramona pulls out her usual tricks — the crocodile tears and references to her troubled past — but she clearly is no match for the wrath of Ms. Medley. “Your diflecting!” (pronounced DIE-flecting) Ramona shouts, incoherently. “No, it’s deflecting,” says Sonja, a gentleman and a scholar, correcting her friend. Ramona halfheartedly attempts to make a joke that “diflecting” is in Ramona’s Dictionary. What do you think is in Ramona’s Dictionary? I think it’s about eight pages longs, and is mostly just glamour shots of Ramona next to words like “reknewal” and “pashun” spelled incorrectly. In any case, Betsy Devos would like to order 100,000 copies of it to be distributed to our nation’s most underfunded public schools.
After the showdown, Ramona is clearly all over the place, pacing around the room, listing all the ways in which her life is better than Dorinda’s, aka The Physical Manifestation Of That Feeling You Get When You Realize You Just Stepped in Dog Shit. “I have a lot of friends. I’m invited to a lot of places. She stays home all the time.” The lady doth protest too much. It’s honestly the saddest thing I’ve seen all week, and the other day while I was picking up my antidepressants I saw a baby bird fly headfirst into the CVS window and break its neck. Sonja, in her best “half-listening therapist” drag, provides emotional support for Ramona, while scrolling through her iPad until she notices that there is poop on the floor. “I actually pooped in my robe,” says Ramona, with a sheepish grin on her face.
Why does poop follow these women wherever they go? In the same way that NYC is the fifth gal on Sex and the City, human feces is the sixth housewife this season of RHONY. As a vers bottom (hold your applause), I want to have compassion for these ladies and their sphincter muscles, but enough is enough. Something is deeply wrong with the fact that Ramona shat herself while wearing a white robe, and Sonja casually grazed it with her foot, as though she were dipping her toe in a pool to check the temperature before diving in. Ramona’s bowels confirm my theory that Ramona’s outside has stayed so young and beautiful because her insides are literally rotten to the core. It’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, and Ramona’s asshole is the picture. Can Ashley’s butt doctor from RHOP hop on the Acela and inject all of these women’s butts with botox? I smell a crossover episode! RHONY x RHOP: The Butthole Diaries.
Anyway, it’s time for dinner and Sensible Lu in a gorgeous slip has decided she’s going to confront Dorinda, aka Beelzebub, about their tiff like an adult, woman to woman. However, Lu didn’t realize that our little Dodo bird is completely unwilling to take any responsibility for her actions or receive any help, but, hey can’t blame a
girl middle-aged woman for trying. Also, raise your hand if you believe Dorinda has ever watched CNN? Bueller… Bueller… Cool, me neither, glad we cleared that up.
At dinner we finally touch down with Leah, who’s rocking a ’70s-inspired look that’s very Free to Be… You and Me. Leah is an incredible addition to this series — the sassy nurse who genuinely likes the old broads in the nursing home that she’s paid to take care of — and I don’t know what we’d do without her. Leah did not didn’t appreciate being left out of the group text, nor did she seem to appreciate Dorinda grilling her about her business. Dorinda, honey, just check her LinkedIn, take some screenshots, and call it a day.
Dorinda, aka Ellen Degeneres, and Ramona begin to rehash their fight at dinner and it’s at once exhausting and dumb. Real talk, I’m gonna need all these women — specifically Dorinda — to take an acting class. Dorinda’s tactic in a fight is almost always to patronize and it’s wearing thin. Let’s get some new objectives in there: “to burn” “to cut” “to decimate” even! Someone enroll these girls in Stella Adler at NYU!
Luann goes on to call Ramona out for being the big phony that she’s always been, demanding that she “be real” for once in her life. Asking Ramona to be real is like asking a stegosaurus to do a pirouette and then recite the pledge of allegiance — it’s just not possible. In a confessional, Sonja notes how terribly Ramona treats service staff, exemplified by the “room temperature wine” of it all at dinner. This, in many ways, is the season of Tall Women, as Lu and Sonja have really been wonderful. I don’t know if the air is just… better up there, but they have both emerged as voices of reason, while still being fun, flirty, and entertaining. Would love to see a revival of Three Tall Women at MTC starring Lu, Sonja, and Kelly Killoren Bensimon when theater returns (god willing) in the year of our lord 2029.
Sadly, all somewhat okay things must come to an end and Dorinda’s Mexican vacation that the producers paid for and organized comes to a close. We spend the second half of the episode touching down with the women in New York. Ramona attends a therapy session, but before you get too excited about her growth as a human it must be said that her therapist is hot and she spends 90 percent of the session flirting with him. We do learn that there is at least one more word in Ramona’s dictionary, and that word is “coquettish.”
We catch up with Leah twice, the first time in the WeWork where she runs her business Married to the Mob. When Leah said “cool doesn’t always pay the bills” I felt that, and I plan on purchasing the neon yellow beanie. The second and more eventful run-in is Leah’s conversation with her mother Bunny, a woman who has stolen my heart. It comes to light in a flashback that Bunny didn’t say that she disliked Leah, she said she disliked both of her daughters, which completely changes the story. “On a day I might like you. On another I might not like your sister.” You can’t dislike only one of your kids, but it’s totally fine to dislike all of your kids. She’s a teetotaler and she has no issue chowing down while delivering cold hard truths completely unemotionally. Clearly, Leah’s mommy issues are a her problem and not a Bunny problem. When Leah says she needs her mom to tell her she loves her more, Bunny says, “I guess I don’t think I have to say that as much as you want to hear it.” Absolutely savage. We stan.
We also get a scene with Luann and Sonja about Lu’s cabaret “Marry Fuck Kill” that was triggering to me, as someone who is always running 10 minutes late to a rehearsal. Okay full disclosure, I “auditioned” to be the “warm-up comic” for Lu’s “cabaret” this year and was actually on the show this season. I had a wonderful time, both women were more gorgeous in person, and I think Sonja likes me better than Lu did because I made a joke that my RHONY astrological chart is as follows Sun Sign: Sonja (drunk and fun), Moon Sign: Bethenny (lonely and neurotic), Rising Sign: Tinsley (small and annoying). Anyway, I wish Lu’s “Marry Fuck Kill” the best and I hope Lu’s gay music director had a grand time at his Fire Island wintertime reunion orgy.
Finally, we get to the main event of the episode: the unveiling of Sonja’s collection at Century 21. Not gonna lie, this whole section made me legitimately emotional. The collaboration between Sonja and Century 21, a store for discount fashions, feels right. It’s like peanut butter and jelly or [checks notes] coke and rose, it just makes sense. And it’s honestly an achievement, especially when we look back at Sonja’s sordid history with starting companies (RIP Tipsy Girl Toaster Ovens). This is a huge moment for the girls who got a B- in Algebra 2 for their class participation. Our favorite floozy,Sonja Tremont Morgan did it. She by Sheree could never.
All the ladies show up to support Sonja, and Ramona and Leah even wear Sonja dresses and it’s genuinely touching to behold, until Ramona’s phone goes off in the middle of Sonja’s speech because duh. This should come as no surprise because moments before we see Ramona is, say it with me, selfish when she forces a poor server to hold her drink as she pulls a plastic straw from her purse. I’m calling Greta Thunberg on her ass. Sonja handles the phone call with aplomb, delivering an impromptu tight five that, while a little niche, would leave any Brooklyn alt comedian shaking. If this is the version of Sonja we get when she’s not taking water pills, then count me in. I’m never drinking water again (as if I ever did before). I’m also going to head down to that discount store run by that mafia boss and buy me a Sonja Morgan dress and wear it to my Fire Island wintertime reunion orgy. I think it will look splendid with Leah’s neon beanie.