The Real Housewives of New York City
I think this episode is a perfect opportunity to talk about my Unified Theory of Late-Stage Housewifery. Here at the Housewives Institute (which now has its own newsletter), we have been doing intense scientific research that shows how in the latter years of the franchise, all the fights on the show are about the show itself. There were (at least) two prime examples in this here episode, the biggest one being the absolute ambush of Heather “Holla!” Thomson just minutes after she emerged from her cocoon on the infamous lower level.
But let’s start with another example, because it comes at the top of the episode, when Sonja Tremont Morgan of No Thanx Planx Workout for Lazies Morgans is still having a bellowing meltdown about Wells Fargo. She continues shouting at Ramona about how she has nothing except “fake-ass friends.” Sonja then slurs, “I have a family, I have friends, and I have a solid financial future,” spraying more water with each word than one of those magical Japanese toilet seats that is also a bidet (which means Sonja will use it to wash her underthings).
We all know these things Sonja says aren’t true, and when the ladies finally drag her home, she has to wake up in the morning to confront the carnage of her existence. She and Ramona lie crusty-eyed in bed and talk about why Sonja was so activated, particularly about Luann’s relationship with Garth, a Disney prince who decided to become a personal trainer after Cinderella divorced him. Ramona sees that Sonja is alone — without her daughter, without her family, without a man — and more isolated than before because of COVID.
This is when it gets into territory about the show. Sonja says she hates to feel like chopped liver, and she doesn’t want things to just be about her; her dog, Marley; and “you and Lu” — and by that, she means the show. Sonja wants more than this box she’s put in, this place where she has to perform as the worst part of herself just to be able to keep the townhouse running. She wants a real relationship with a man, and she is afraid that she’s never going to find it, stuck on the same Grey Gardens treadmill of reality television. At the end of this conversation, Ramona can see Sonja is acting out because she’s hurting, and there is actually a genuinely touching moment in which she hugs her and wishes all the pain would go away. Maybe instead of a hug, she could cover some therapy bills?
After a session with Garth in the backyard, all of the women go on a trip to shuck oysters, and Sonja and Luann get into it on the bus. Sonja rolls her eyes at Luann’s infatuation with Garth and once again brings up Tom and Harry Dubin and how she slept with them before Luann did. Leah and Eboni think Luann is being way too hard on Sonja when she freaks out and says that she can’t get it through her “little mind” that she only fucked Tom once and that he actually married Luann. I get where they’re coming from, but I’m sorry — I agree with Luann. These women haven’t been on the show while Sonja has been dredging up these tired old arguments year after year. Sonja is still harping on how Luann “stole” Tom, when Luann’s relationship with Tom was much deeper and more dangerous than his with Sonja. She’s once again marinating in the same beef on the show.
But I also agree with Eboni, who speaks the truth right to Luann’s face about how she was arguing with Sonja, talking about her “little mind,” and how men only see her as friends with benefits, and intimating that Sonja is a slutty woman whom no one will ever take seriously. Those are some low blows, even if I feel them coming more from Lu’s frustration that Sonja is still bringing up old shit when Luann is trying to move past it. Eboni says, “This woman had a breakdown last night, and we can tell she doesn’t see herself as high worth. And then you tell her she has a little brain, and you’re a one-night stand, and you’re a trash woman that men won’t take seriously.” Thank you. Yes. Exactly that. Eboni standing up for someone she thought was being treated unfairly is excellent behavior, and I think it bodes well for our official assessment of Eboni next week, after her fifth episode has aired. Also, how has Eboni figured out Sonja in ten minutes when it has taken these other women ten years to totally misinterpret her?
The real fight about the show, though, is what is going on with Leah and Heather. Leah has been upset for days that Heather has been invited to the house after she talked shit about Luann, Sonja, and Ramona on her podcast and in the press (and also about Bravo, like this “Page Six” story) and thinks she might now trash-talk her and Eboni, just because she’s going to be around. Leah brings this up at the oyster-shucking demonstration, which seems to be the only time in modern memory when there were handsome, working-class dudes in front of the women and not one of them even tried to get their phone numbers. I mean, the pandemic really has thrown everyone off. (As soon as Sonja starts flipping her hair and asking inappropriate questions of a hot young boat captain, though, you know that Hashtag Nature Is Healing.)
By the time Heather arrives at Ramona’s house with her Breakfast at Tiffany’s costume and hat in hand, she’s already been shunted off to the basement and is on the outs with everyone. Leah doesn’t have a problem with Heather personally — as she will attest, she doesn’t even know her — she just doesn’t like how she behaves in a reality-television context. So as soon as podcasting comes up, Leah and the rest of the girls find a way to bring it around to what Heather has said on her podcast.
Leah, however, is acting as judge and jury of the situation. She even pulls up articles that quote just what Heather was saying on her show when she interviewed fellow former cast member Carole Radziwill, whom Luann immediately dismisses as “that bitch.” Luann then says, “I’m sorry I’m being thrown under the bus to gain popularity because I’m relevant.” Heather says that’s not what is going on here, but it is. That is, in fact, what is happening. Heather is mad she’s not on the show; she’s on her podcast talking about the women still on the show so that the press will pick up her comments and then people might listen to the podcast. (A “holla!” to Heather for at least admitting that no one listens to her podcast.)
Luann then seems to forgive Heather, who owns her comment that Luann wasn’t genuinely a friend to her. Ramona and Sonja seem not to care nearly as much as Leah does. As Eboni saw on the bus with Luann and Sonja, these seasoned Housewives know the name of the game is conflict and conflict resolution. Because of that, they make up quickly. Leah, apparently, thinks this is wrong and doesn’t want to do this “fake shit.” But Leah can’t be taking up other people’s banners with Heather. Or maybe she should give Heather a little bit of slack and learn more about her motivations and what she actually said before judging her.
While I still love Leah and the chaotic energy she brings, I don’t know that I love the way she’s fighting in this episode. Earlier in the day, back at the house, Leah walks into Ramona’s dining room while she’s talking to Luann about her tit-a-tit (that’s what you call a tête-à-tête when both women have implants) with Sonja. When Leah enters, she doesn’t even acknowledge her and tells her to come back in five minutes when she’s done with her conversation. That is obviously rude, and Ramona, as the host, should have changed topics, talked to Leah, then gone back to her conversation with Luann.
Ramona, however, is incapable of that. As Leah says, she is rude and stuck-up and treats people like crap. Yes, but Leah should have stood her ground and said, “Don’t dismiss me. I just want to talk about something quickly.” Instead she parades around the house, snarking about what a bitch Ramona is to Michelle, a.k.a. Diane, the “hospitality coordinator” whose name Ramona can’t keep straight. “I don’t know how you work for Ramona,” Leah says. “She’s such a fucking bitch.” Michelle responds, “I really like you, Leah,” which is a read that is so ice-cold that Greta Thunberg had it shipped up to the North Pole to fix the glaciers that are falling apart.
When Leah comes back into the room and Ramona is talking to Eboni, Leah explodes on her and says that she is being treated like a “second-class citizen” and calls Ramona a bitch right to her face, which, show me the lie there, but also what are they even fighting about? Why is everything so charged? Yes, I know this is a Housewives program, but something seems off.
As the women left for oyster-shucking and the house stood silent, a slatted accordion door on Ramona’s “lower level” slid open. Behind it was the washer-dryer, the circuit breaker, all of the guts that keep this manse fully functional. There was also a newfangled device, connected to the electricity of the house but otherwise undetectable. It had been tested for years in Cuba, and the device was finally live, scrambling brains, sending tensions skyrocketing, and creating the sort of unpredictable chaos that would let a new regime take over. First Heather and then … well, maybe not the world, but at least Cindy and Aviva and Alex and Simon and, yes, even her, our redheaded heroine, who closed the door gingerly behind her and then slowly crept up the stairs. When she got to the top, Michelle was standing right there. “You didn’t see a thing,” Jill Zarin said to her, and underneath her mask, Michelle smiled a smile that wordlessly said, “She gets everything she deserves.”