The Real Housewives of New York City
I think we need to start off this episode’s recap with a little RIP to Dorinda Mary-Margaret Medley (I made up her middle name), who will be leaving the franchise after six catchphrase-spouting seasons. But how will they go to the Berkshires now? And who is going to take a nap under an all-pink Christmas tree or wear a pair of glittery afghan pants and then turn those pants into a glittery afghan coat for her daughter to wear? I have much love for Dorinda, who in her first several seasons was a hilarious voice of reason, but things just took a turn.
It seems clear that the franchise really needs a bit of a change, and nothing made that more apparent than the 15th anniversary party for Leah’s clothing line Married to the Mob. Let’s just take a minute to appreciate that this girl — no, woman! — started a clothing line when she was 22. What was I doing when I was 22? I don’t know, meeting guys from Manhunt and working a string of shitty jobs so that I could support my nightclub habit. (I was also woefully in love with a Blockbuster employee named Jason who used to give me free DVDs, and a person born when I was 22 will not understand one single word of that sentence.)
Leah has this big party at a cool venue in the Meatpacking District, which is actually affiliated with a hip sneaker store upstairs. It all makes sense considering she has a streetwear company and probably knows the boys and girls who own it. The party is filled with hip downtown people who, Dorinda says, look like they need to get out of their loungewear and into their real clothes. Um, I’ve seen into everyone’s future and now all we ever do is wear loungewear and not go to parties, so Leah and her friends are way ahead of the curve. Dorinda, she says, looks like Karen from Human Resources, and she’s not wrong.
None of the women really come dressed for a cool downtown party. Luann is in a spotted fur and a white fringey top, which looks amazing but decidedly north of 42nd Street. Ramona has an all champagne-and-peach ensemble with a white fur. Sonja is wearing God knows what, some sort of black blur of see-through material that, like all of Sonja’s outfits, looks like a pair of knickers that she left in the bidet and they sprouted into a full-fledged dress. All of the women look out of place with Leah’s real friends, and they don’t at all want to mix or mingle.
Everyone except our favorite floozy, Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Poodle Piddle Doggie Pee Pad Table Morgans. This is why Sonja will always be great television. She can just sit at home and talk about how an arrangement of dead flowers look alive if you squint at them from across the room, which is why I love her so much. She walks into Leah’s party and says to a group of young Black men, “Hi, guys!” and starts hugging all of them so hard that it looks like their Supreme beanies are going to pop right off their heads. There is no way that Sonja knows these guys (unless they are somehow affiliated with her Nigerian soccer team), but she is just down to make friends and have a good time.
While sitting with her new clique and flirting heavily with one of them, she says, “You just look at me and see, like … a grandma.” He nods and she is, well, cool with it. God bless her. One of them also tells her, “I was drinking Captain Morgan last night.” “Well you’re partying with Lady Morgan now,” is her prompt retort. See, even in unfamiliar surrounds, Sonja is willing to blend.
However, just look at the faces of all the other women when they find out that there is no coat check. Someone tells Luann to just throw her coat on the back of a couch. Can you see her doing that? No way! That’s the thing: We’ve seen enough of the Upper East Side that these women have been bringing us for more than a decade, and it’s been fun. But we’re going through a pandemic and a cultural upheaval. Wouldn’t we much rather see the young, multicultural, exciting downtown scene that Leah embodies? Wouldn’t we like to see a bit more of a mix of New York City life instead of just one filigreed chunk of it? I sure would, and Dorinda (and Ramona, certainly) don’t seem capable of blending, or even wanting to.
The one thing that happens at the party is that Leah, who seems to really have a relationship with Elyse, invited this strange translucent ghost in red fur to her party. Ramona tried to tell Leah that she wasn’t “allowed” to, but Leah did what she wanted anyway. So, Elyse walks over to Leah, Leah’s mom, Bunny, and Ramona while they’re all talking. As she sidles up, Ramona kisses Bunny on the cheek and tries to get away. “You’re not even going to talk to me?” her ex-friend Elyse asks as Ramona walks away. Elyse tries to grab Ramona’s wrist, but she wrenches her arm free and says she doesn’t want to talk to her.
Elyse stands there befuddled, wondering if the spell that let her out of her bottle is going to expire at any moment. Leah just looks at her and shouts, “Go! Go!” pushing her in the direction of Ramona. This, right here, is why Leah is a great addition to the cast. She knows what makes a moment, and she is not one to shirk from confrontation, even if it means her sweatpants party is going to be ruined.
Because she always does what she’s told, Elyse goes over to Ramona and tells her that she is an awful duplicitous person and blah blah blah. Ramona does what she always does when she’s confronted by someone: She just ignores it until it doesn’t exist anymore. Ramona mumbles that Elyse is “evil” and then walks right out onto the sidewalk and asks a random person to get her a car and he’s like, “Lady, I don’t work here. I’m just enjoying a sneaker party.”
The funny thing about Ramona is that she can just ignore things or people until they go away. We call this the Barbara K. Effect. If a “friend of” falls in the forest and Ramona doesn’t like it, then not only does it not make a sound; it is sucked into a black hole never to return. She next sets her sights on John, Dorinda’s ex, at Dorinda’s birthday party. She takes over the Russian Samovar and invites everyone, including lovelorn John, but Ramona thinks that means she’s giving him mixed signals.
The party goes off mostly without a hitch except Dorinda gets mad at Luann when Luann tells her not to look at her phone at the table, a behavior that Dorinda was upset about just days before in Mexico. Dorinda never met a hypocrisy or a chunky highlight she didn’t like. But before anyone could say, “She’s startin’,” things move on.
I think now might be the time to mention that Luann has started drinking again. Maybe she hoped that, this far into the season, we wouldn’t have noticed. However, one moment she’s at a table crying to her ghostwriter (which isn’t me, which means my agent will be getting a call!!) about how alcohol almost ruined her father’s life. The next minute she’s trying out the flight of flavored vodkas at Russian Samovar. The whole last five minutes of the episode is dedicated to Luann giving a rambling and incoherent speech before slurring “Happy Birthday” like she’s the brunette reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe’s understudy.
What no one points out in this is that Luann is clearly drunk. Luann was never sloppy. Even when the rest of the women were really tying it on, she could always keep it together, apart from falling in a bush and, you know, drunkenly telling a cop that she was going to kill him, which landed her in jail and on probation. But now here she is, eliding her words like someone coated her tongue in Astroglide. Isn’t this troubling to anyone, namely, I don’t know, Luann?
This party went down right before Christmas, which means we all know what is on the horizon. It’s all about to end. There will be more birthdays, but there will be no more parties. There will be sweatpants and sneakers, but there will no longer be launch events. There will be exes, but there will no longer be cuddles with them in public, at least without masks on. We’re peering into the before times like looking into a magic mirror. Somewhere, in a café on the sweltering sidewalk of the Upper East Side, a redhead wonders if the eggs in her brunch will literally be fried on the sidewalk. She dabs her brow and pulls up her mask to whisk the beads of sweat off of her upper lip. The fall can’t get here soon enough, when dining will be more tolerable. But what if they’re back inside? What if the virus gets worse? And what about the election? And the protests? What about? What about? What about? Jill Zarin thinks as she fidgets waiting for her meal, wishing that she could be whisked back before it all ended or lurched forward to where it all starts anew.