There are quiet lunatics and then there are bombastic lunatics. The bombastic lunatic side of the wall currently includes those who enjoy proselytizing into cameras about all sorts of things, including how much we desperately need a wall. I happen to be a Democrat, but I don’t think it’s some staunch affiliation to a particular party that caused me to stare in disbelief at my television screen last week as Chris Christie – lambasting everyone but the treasonous bigot he’s supporting – turned almost blue with fury. Rudy Giuliani appeared to master the art of turning himself into an animated cartoon villain before our very eyes, a Gargamel for conservative millennials. These men? They fall into the category of lunatics who actually look unhinged – unless, of course, you happen to agree with everything they say, in which case you probably just view them as incredibly passionate. But whatever it is you believe, nobody can deny this form of lunatic has all the physical signs of someone losing control. There’s the hyper-quick adrenaline rush that ends in a face so flushed the color can only be described as falling somewhere between crimson-shock and heart-attack-red. There’s the antagonistic pointing of fingers until they become full-fledged jabs to the blank air. There’s the perspiration that spreads like a fungus. It can be uncomfortable watching people behave this way. In public, I’d avert my eyes. However, I kept finding myself tuning into the Republican National Convention, if only to see who was presently yelling or to see if anyone actually saw fit to offer any clear strategy for achieving the many things they all just kept screaming about.
I’m not a strictly vote-the-ticket kind of Democrat. I once dated someone who told me that he wasn’t mentally tied to any party. “I vote Common Sense,” he’d say, and though I’d bet a good deal of someone else’s cash that he’s a registered Republican, I think I have spent my voting life pulling the common sense lever, too. I recognize that what’s common sense to me may not be to others. I accept that to some degree. But watching all of the unedited footage at the RNC that looked as close to teetering madness that I’ve ever seen left me feeling uncomfortable. (It’s possible I actually experienced a change in blood pressure over the last week.) You’d think, then, that staring for a while at one of those quiet lunatics would be effective in calming me down, but Luann – Countess, engaged woman, quiet lunatic extraordinaire – is also almost too much to take tonight. While she’s not screaming her message to the masses or turning alarming shades of red, she is just as insufferable as the man who was celebrated for no good reason in Cleveland and I’d bet my own money that the two are double-air-kiss friends.
It’s sort of impossible to be happy for Luann and her engagement and it’s because she’s both a quiet lunatic and a total asshole and she is each thing in equal measure. The asshole part reveals itself the second she opens her mouth. The lunatic part does also, but the biggest sign might be how completely unaware she is of how she comes across to most people on this show or to many of the people watching this show. She never (not ever) stops talking about herself, not even when the person in front of her is bleeding at the table. She creates words that include her name, like when she said “Lu-wagon” last week and didn’t immediately curl up in a fetal position due to shame. She will wholeheartedly dismiss anyone else’s emotion if that anger or sadness is inconvenient for her. She will cut your throat to get whatever you have that she thinks she deserves and then she will stare at you and huff when you confront her and eventually you will just stop talking, not only because you realize you will never get through to the woman, but because you’ve become blinded by whatever enormous stalagmite or stalactite is currently hanging from her neck. And then she will view your silence as a sign that she won and she will walk away feeling strong and she will whisper to herself that she will always be a Countess and anyone who says otherwise just hates her because they can’t be her.
She’s right, though – some of the other Housewives are not particularly happy for her. Sonja claims she is, even as she snipes that Luann’s hunk of a yellow diamond looks so cloudy that she’d hire herself a new intern just so the unpaid unfortunate could Windex the thing round the clock. Ramona is doing her best impersonation of a normal person by attempting to disregard the often-contentious past she and Luann have shared by toasting to her happiness, but she can’t fully contain the horror in her eyes that she used to date the groom and Sonja used to bang the groom and Luann has known the guy for about a minute and a half and now they’re engaged and none of this can possibly be real. Carole? She’s trying to be supportive. She smiled and kept her mouth clamped tightly shut when Luann rhapsodized about all the accouterments of her soulmate’s staggering wealth and then she gifted Luann with a crystal heart so as to prove that she is genuinely happy for her. That was a kind gesture. It was also probably just damage control wrapped in a silky bow that would hopefully make all the silliness that grew into total vitriol finally stop. As for Dorinda and Jules, they are both genuinely happy for Luann and it’s probably less that they’re just such selfless people and more that Luann has yet to giggle huskily in their faces when they’re trying to share their complicated feelings. Maybe they’ll one day get close enough to Luann that she’ll be able to betray them, too. Maybe they’ll be lucky and keep this friendship as superficial as is humanly possible. As for Bethenny, she missed Luann’s sad engagement luncheon, but I’m sure she’ll have plenty of things to say once she’s stuck in a room with the blushing bride. Obviously, not a single thing she says will actually penetrate Luann's lemon yellow bubble of bliss. Luann will just think Bethenny is envious of her, not that she could have possibly behaved so poorly in the past that a person’s reaction to hearing her spout some good news would be a sweeping roll of the eyes, which Bethenny Frankel can do better than maybe anyone.
It must be sort of pleasant to be that deficient in self-awareness. I’ll bet Luann sleeps really fucking well on the zillion-thread-count sheets in Tom’s Palm Beach mansion – but stop being silly; of course she’s marrying him because of who he is as a person!
Tonight’s episode begins with Sonja walking into a restaurant after apparently competing in the Iditarod (she was on the Gstaad team) to meet with Dorinda so they can discuss how much bigger Sonja’s tits look when her waist is smaller and her hat is bigger. Good tip, ladies! But they’re also there to discuss changing the Official Housewives Season Trip because going to Hawaii will not work anymore. Bethenny, it turns out, will be requiring surgery after all and hopping on a cross-country flight is not in her best interests right now. Still, focus groups have spoken and viewers apparently really enjoying watching New York Housewives fight in tropical locations, so there needs to be a Plan B. Miami is the natural choice. It’s a two-hour flight and Luann was recently made The Winter Queen of Palm Beach, at least in her own mind.
Joining the table to weigh in on the new plans are Luann and Ramona, but Ms. Singer’s not really feeling Miami. But this is New Ramona we’re dealing with and New Ramona does what Original Ramona never could: she keeps her mouth shut unless she’s giving an interview to the camera about how she really feels. I tell you, it’s been stunning to watch this woman’s personality transformation this season. Anyway, Luann is thrilled the women are coming to Florida because now they can watch her be feted on a yacht. She will not be staying with the ladies, though, and Sonja finds her inability to be away from Tom’s nether regions for one fucking night to be nothing short of total bullshit.
Also: Ramona definitely didn’t leave that lunch and go to the doctor. She either met up with a date, headed off to her standing afternoon appointment as a dominatrix, or went to Duane Reade to buy medication for a planter’s wart and I applaud her for choosing to keep whatever it was off-camera. If it’s really important, she’ll eventually write a book about it, right?
Since Jules is also heading to Miami, she needs some day shoes desperately. She arrives at Jeffrey where she manages to mention being Asian and Jewish within twelve seconds while simultaneously fondling Chanel flats. It’s almost impressive. (By the way, she didn’t expressly say anything about being Jewish, but she did mention Boca and that’s sufficient.) Ramona and Sonja soon arrive to shop too and this collection of browsing Housewives seems off to me. My guess is that the producers, hoping for misery in Miami, decided to shove the women together a bunch of times beforehand so they could pick at one another hard enough to create mini wounds that would eventually explode in a Tarantino-style bloodbath later under the Florida sun. Jules lets them know that she’ll meet them down in Miami because she’s going to stop by her parents first and then it’s Ramona’s turn to announce that she has a bone to pick with Luann. I’m pretty sure she’s got an entire cadaver to pick with Luann, but her gripe at the moment is the way Luann pretended that she wanted Tom’s history with all of her friends to be kept a secret and then mentioned it herself to a reporter. Not only that, but the friends-with-benefits label was incorrectly attributed to Ramona and that pisses her off something huge because if she’s going to walk around in 2016 and call a bra a brassiere and announce that Saturday night is Date Night and keep her grinding off-camera, how dare Luann make her look like a common harlot?
Also: Sonja’s rules for dating include waiting until the third date to have sex, but she tells us that you can knock two dates out in one day if you eat lunch and dinner together. My rule is that if the two of you also share a small bag of Combos, you can have sex before dinner is actually over. Feel free to follow whichever rule works best for you.
The next day, several of the women arrive at Bethenny’s to discuss the upcoming trip and to have some tea sandwiches that are surprisingly not stamped with the Skinnygirl logo. (I swear: I looked in the back of the frame to see if there were any Skinnygirl products shoved into the shot. I didn’t see one. And it seems I have just created a very pitiful version of Where’s Waldo.) Bethenny is thrilled to go to Miami, but she’s even more thrilled to hear about what happens on that yacht in Palm Beach when Luann has to pretend that seeing Tom with Ramona and Sonja doesn’t destroy her just a little bit. Bethenny could be there to see it all go down for herself, but she sent Luann a text saying that her “busted uterus” would make too much traveling difficult for her. I get her reasoning, but if I were Bethenny, I’d arrive on that boat with popcorn and settle in to watch the show.
Over at Carole’s apartment, she’s smooching her dog the way I do – which means that we’re both totally normal – when Dorinda calls to chat about Luann’s party. Carole is apprehensive about going anywhere Housewives-related without Bethenny, but she’s curious enough about the bald lothario she keeps hearing about to check the guy out with her own eyes that will probably be hidden behind one of the fabulous pairs of sunglasses she’s got strewn across her bed.
Let’s face it: at this point the only thing we all care about is watching Tom, Luann, Sonja, and Ramona on a boat while Carole takes it all in and then gets to say in interviews what a lot of us might also say, but first we have to go see the people who made Jules. Did you know one is Jewish and one is Asian?! Her parents have been married for a long time and they’re really cute and supportive of their daughter and they kvell over their grandchildren, but that’s when things get a bit icky. Jules’ son is crying over FaceTime because his dad is not home and knowing what we all know now about what happens in this marriage, it’s hard to believe the guy is out doing anything besides having sex with someone else while his kid cries and his wife is enjoying an evening with her sick father.
With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, it’s time to get to the main event, which Sonja arrives at wearing another enormous hat. As they stand on the curb of the airport and wait for their car, Sonja mimes that Dorinda stirs the shit (which Dorinda, with a wink, admits she does) and Ramona hits on the driver. They’re heading to the yacht, but Luann is already there. Yes, she’s clad in a white dress and she’s humming to herself and dancing across the room because she is in love with a man who thinks she’s better than Sonja and Ramona put together. “It doesn’t get better than this,” Luann purrs in between bursts of maniacal laughter. You’d think that would be the moment of the episode when Luann is the most insufferable, right? Well, you’d be wrong because that moment comes when she clenches her first and thrusts it and her yellow diamond into Jules’ face (poor thing – she was the first to arrive) and growls, “I still can’t believe this!” Meanwhile, back in the car that is bringing them directly to Luann, Ramona is still furious that her name was mentioned in the press by the Countess, who is probably a sex addict anyway.
But when Ramona walks onto the boat, she is all compliments and hugs. She’s obviously just pacing herself and trying to be a little bit polite, but I’m gonna go ahead and forgive her if she snaps really soon, especially after Luann can’t just find it in herself to say, “Thank you!” after being congratulated by a woman Tom dated but instead chooses to crow, “I can’t believe I’m engaged!” Then she rushes to hug Sonja and she pushes her cheek next to that of her rather destitute friend’s face and chortles, “Sonja, we got the yacht.” She’s a fucking nightmare.
There will be a party on that yacht later on, but the afternoon is just for the Housewives so they can make one another sufficiently miserable before the other guests arrive. Ramona is shown to her room where she sexually harasses one of the crew members on the boat and manages to claim that a prior wrist injury precludes her from personally unzipping her own luggage while upstairs Dorinda – who, self-effacing wink or not, is a serious shit-stirrer – tells Luann that Ramona will probably be airing some of her grievances towards her a little later on like it’s Festivus. This is rather unwelcome news, see, because while Luann was willing to embrace Ramona and allow Ramona to stare at her ring and her happiness, she doesn’t want to talk to her for fuck’s sake.
“She’s an idiot,” spits out Luann – and I wish she’d followed that with more of her maniacal cackling, but sometimes dreams just don’t come true. But then she says, “This night is going to go off without a hitch,” and right then I had to smile because not only will this night have a shit-ton of hitches, but it’s just such an All About Eve thing to say for someone who doesn’t seem to realize that she personally is made up of the very worst qualities of both Margo Channing and Poor Eve.
Carole arrives next and the crew literally lines up to greet her, but Ramona is more interested in hearing about the men who will be attending and whether or not they’re single. “Can we have the list?” Ramona demands, but Luann’s not having it. While Luann plots how to throw Ramona off the port side and make it look like a tragic accident occurred at sea, Bethenny meets up with her friend in Miami. She’s feeling better as she sips a drink and gazes out at the water, hoping to see the Ship of Fools as it sails by. Back on that ship, Luann tells the women who hate her that she and Tom have looked at venues for their wedding and giggles some more at her excellent fortune while systematically ignoring that nobody is giggling along with her.
It appears that Luann thinks Ramona is about to be the one who tries to destroy her happiness, but it’s actually Bethenny who’s got the goods that she claims could crush Luann and Tom’s relationship forever. Seems Bethenny received a litany of texts from someone who has no clear stake I any of this and these texts are incriminating and explosive and now Bethenny has to give Luann this information. Please lord, can she hire a skywriter to fly over that yacht? I’ll chip in.
We’ll have to wait until next week to hear about all the things Tom has allegedly done that Luann will studiously ignore while proclaiming that anything that happened “Before-Lu” simply doesn’t matter, but we do finally get to see the guy again. As the sun goes down and Luann changes into another white dress and greets her beloved with a kiss, the rest of the women sit in another room and laugh about how awkward it might be for Tom and Sonja to see one another since the last time she saw him she saw his balls, too. At first, Sonja laughs the entire dynamic off. She will be friendly and coquettish and she will only accidentally bend over in front of him in her fantastic dress once or twice. But as she remembers all of the years the two hopped in and out of one another’s bed and one another’s life, she begins to get a little bit emotional and it’s looking like next week’s episode will be a shit-storm that gusts into a tsunami and it’s probably because Mother Nature just wishes she could be Luann, too.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.