The Real Housewives of New York City
I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I HATE IT. But, guys, Bershan isn’t wrong.
You can’t tell, but I just ducked the invisible slings and arrows that you all sent my way for agreeing with someone who is as chaotic as a Rutabaga and Cadbury Crème Egg Blizzard. But it had to be said and, cue the Camille Grammer GIF, now we said it. Maybe all of the ladies are boring and Sonja does always want to be a little bit of a clown. I don’t see any lies there, honestly. Maybe Bershan shouldn’t have been saying things like that about a group (and by “group,” we always mean “cast”) that she just met, but maybe those things needed to be said. She also provided the most exciting moment in this Rip Van Winkle of a season, so at least there’s that.
The episode starts off at the dinner at the world’s creepiest tattoo parlor, as we wrap up the fight that ended last episode. Ramona has facetiously apologized for her whiteness like Rush Limbaugh’s grave apologizes for its shallowness (#TooSoon?), and storms off. Eboni makes a great point and says that she just wants to be able to have a conversation with Ramona about these topics, but she always shuts them down. Even when Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Goodwife Smith’s Goody Bonnets Morgans chases after her to try to talk about it, Ramona keeps saying, “Tell me about the matchmaker,” to try to get Sonja off topic. Luann also shows up and wants to hear about the matchmaker, but as Sonja so adroitly points out, Luann is just asking because she wants to know if the matchmaker has a guy for her. Talking to Leah, Eboni says she doesn’t want to change Ramona, just be able to engage in a dialogue, and maybe the reason she comes off as preachy is because a one-sided argument is always going to sound like a sermon.
Eboni has something else to talk about at dinner, but before she can even open up about it, Leah and her amazing hoop earrings that look like strands of anal beads trying to eat their own tails start sobbing at the table. It was almost painful to watch, not only because Leah’s sadness was stealing Eboni’s moment, but also the strain on Leah’s face as she tried to sob through the Botox was all I could think about. I swear this is what causes hemorrhoids.
Eboni tells the women that her grandmother passed away that morning and she didn’t want to tell anyone because she didn’t want to bring the vibe down. Eboni, obviously, is quite sad, but she’s not performative in her grief like all the others around the table. She would rather deal with her shit internally. I think that makes her an excellent person, but I’m not sure that makes her a great practitioner of the reality television arts and sciences. Leah was freaking out and throwing roses at Heather Thompson when her grandmother was just ill, and here is Eboni, stoic and collected, not even letting on that her grandmother — one of only two family members she has — died.
She does make the brave step of deciding to get a tattoo along with Leah. They each get their dead grandmother’s name tattooed near their hands, done by artists Ryan and Matthew, the not at all scary but kind of dreamy twins that were trying to scare Sonja and failed miserably. Are you kidding? The only things that scare Sonja are spiders, drowning while on someone else’s yacht, and the truth.
At that dinner, Bershan already got a heaping dollop of Sonja T. Morgan, who was slurring her words and rambling on about whether she judged tattoos and how her daughter would never get one and if she did she would hate it but maybe she would love it. Her whole speech was more confused than a cuttlefish trying to play parcheesi. Bershan gets another earful from Sonja the next day when the women go to tour the 1692 Salem Witch Museum, or as I like to call it, Handmaid’s Tale: The Prequel. She’s telling Bershan that she doesn’t have an alcohol problem, it’s her water pills, and her ex husband, and the lawsuits, and the bankruptcy, and partying with JonJon, and the updos and Gstaad and the Nigerian soccer team. Eboni and Leah look on and wonder what is wrong with Sonja. They love her, but ask why she is always launching into the same narrative, and they realize that Lu and Ramona have been listening to this same player piano for the better part of a decade and to them the tune sounds like “Baby Shark” sung by Gilbert Gottfried.
They’re right. We have all heard this before, and there is something appealing about the image of Sonja as a dark dramatic heroine trapped in the past. But it is also exhausting. We don’t necessarily want our reality stars to change, but we need them to evolve. We need Sonja to move past some of these particular problems and onto new problems. Yes, she will always mourn her time as Mrs. Morgan, but can she somehow do it differently? Or maybe just be a little bit more quiet about it?
Just as I’m getting tired of Sonja and realizing how exhausting it must be to be her friend, she shows up to Ramona’s hotel room before dinner and finds another poop smear on the bathroom floor. This is the third season in a row that Ramona has been on a trip and shit has appeared on the floor. As you learn in journalism school, once is news, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend. Like Betty White’s name on Twitter on her birthday, Ramona’s shit on the floor is trending, and it’s making me fear that the worst has happened. Sonja of course thinks this is the most hilarious thing in the world and pees her pants laughing that she got Ramona’s turd on her boot. Ramona says that she spilled her makeup, but what kind of makeup looks like re-digested baby food? If my makeup looked like literal shit, I certainly wouldn’t put it on my face.
At dinner, the women are eating in a totally empty restaurant and Bershan tells the ladies that they’re grandmas and she was expecting more fun on a girls trip. Luann is wearing the CHA and NEL earrings that, like Andy Cohen’s Hanukkah Card, are given out to every Housewife, but she has them on backwards so they spell NEL CHA. She tells Bershan that if she’s bored she should just leave. At their end of the table, Sonja is trying to engage with Bershan but she doesn’t want any part of it, trying to turn the conversation back to the group. Bershan is getting annoyed, and I would be too. She’s been listening to Sonja blab all day, now she has to listen to her slur.
Let’s just put a big old SMIFFEE (which means Sonja Moran Is My Favorite Floozy for Ever and Ever) over the rest of this column, because I still love her, but Sonja is making for an increasingly tedious dinner guest and an increasingly tedious television character. Much like Dorinda’s martini rages last season, Sonja’s drunken rambles are becoming too predictable and too excruciating to watch. Bershan wasn’t exactly right when she said Sonja always wants to be the clown — she just wants to talk at you and not listen, working through her strange accusations and personal foibles at the cost of everyone’s sanity. The only reason that Bershan minds it more than the other women is that they are all inoculated to it at this point.
I did like that the women came to Sonja’s defense when Bershan started name-calling, but I think they were really coming to each other’s defense. Then Bershan tries to tell Leah that people were talking shit about her, and they all saw that she was just in there trying to stir shit. I don’t believe that the producers would insert someone like that mid-season with instructions to stir up drama at any cost, but, damn, if there was ever a season that needed a good goosing, it sure is this one.
Bershan fails at it, though, by being a blunt object rather than a surgical strike. All of the women leave but Ramona and Sonja, and I’m sure at this point Bershan is thinking, “Oh no. Do not leave me with this drunk.” At least Sonja gets in one major serve when she tells Bershan, “You’re rude, you’re not a listener, and you’re not intuitive. I don’t know how you’re a life coach.” But then she decides to drink her glass of Rihanna wine (which is when you leave a restaurant with your tumbler in tow) through her face mask. I don’t know whether to be disgusted by the lack of hygiene or impressed with her dedication to her craft.
Back at the hotel, the women congregate in some sort of private library for one more drink for those who are drinking, and it is not a good idea for anyone. Sonja continues to pester Bershan, getting way too into her personal space, even if there weren’t a pandemic on. Eventually they’re just making faces and gestures at each other, their words completely failing them. Bershan shouts at Sonja, “Where are your words, bitch? Where are your words?” I don’t agree with how all of this is going down, but, also, Bershan has a point. Sonja, where are your brains? Where are your words? You haven’t been using them all season, and just because those around you are as used to it as a coal miner is to the darkness doesn’t mean that you don’t have a problem. Sometimes it takes an outsider to really shake up the dynamics of the group and Bershan, for all of her messy and ill-timed delivery, did just that.
Outside of the Hawthorne Hotel, almost no one could see the Suburban idling at the curb, belching its steaming exhaust into the smothering Massachusetts cold. It was the weather the Pilgrims once fought, the nip that they fended off with woolen capes, bricks left in the fire, and dogs that slept in their beds. In the car, a redhead observed the events of the night on the video monitor she held in her lap, watching Ramona and Leah trying to bridge their divide with the wobbliest of rope bridges, Luann trying to hold onto her sobriety like the last remaining turret of a sandcastle, Sonja and Bershan colliding like two buildings imploding on top of each other. “Clearly my new operative has failed,” Jill Zarin said to her driver, as she reached from the back seat to the dash and turned up the heat in the car with the deft press of a button.