For a very long time, I believed that nothing could possibly make me more furious than systematic racism or any other form of bigotry that was designed to marginalize an entire group of people simply because they were born a particular race or sex – but I was wrong. While I still concede that bigotry in any form is truly despicable, I have found that it’s maybe nothing when its compared to the even more horrific and terrorizing scenario of Ramona Singer attempting to talk another woman off of a ledge for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Allow me to walk you through it. We shall get to that metaphorical ledge shortly and then we can all hold hands and careen off the side of it together because, if this episode taught me anything besides the fact that Sonja Morgan has healing hands, it’s that tension and anxiety are pulsating through these women at the speed of sound, and we all know how well the Housewives handle tension and anxiety.
The entire episode takes place in the Hamptons, land of the forty-dollar Wedge Salad, sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, and simmering resentments between people who get paid to fight on television, but it all begins with a bit of misdirection. See, Carole and Heather are the first people we see, and these two genuinely adore one another and speak honestly and employ that pesky little quality of logic to the moments they partake in and for just a minute as I watched Carole snuggle with her pillow in the backseat of the car that whisked them away to a beachfront paradise, I believed things might remain calm.
I also used to believe that sprouts were candy, that Charlie Sheen was just a recreational drug user, and that politicians actually read entire Bills before they went ahead and voted. I’ve been wrong before is what I’m saying.
Out in the Hamptons, Luann is holding an estate sale at her former grand home that is being torn down to make way for an even grander home that strangers can live in. Rifling through her possessions are curious Housewives fans or neighbors who desperately need a set of used stemware, but my eye never wanders far from the leopard coat hanging up on one of her walls and I hope Luann didn’t sell that thing because she might be the only person in the entire world who could actually get away with wearing it besides Cruella DeVille.
Luann is moving to a smaller home in Sag Harbor and selling this place is tough for her, as is having strangers looting her dining room, but she is brought some comfort by the arrival of Carole and Heather because they are normal and finding pure normality in the universe of the Housewives is like a hunter finally locating that elusive talking yeti. Carole and Heather are complimentary about Luann’s new home, consolatory about the fact that selling her old home must be difficult, and perpetually in very good moods, which is only stunning to me because I am a walking amalgamation of starving misery when I’m not eating much and it’s starting to be pretty clear that Carole – despite her claims of getting so much sustenance lately from cucumbers and butter – has not ingested a bite of food since the mid-nineties. I’m pretty sure she once ate a soft pretzel at a Pearl Jam concert, but she has been on strike ever since.
Then there’s Ramona, an emotionally-paralyzed wound that is showing signs of starting to ooze. I give the woman credit, though; she’s trying. She arrives at her home with Dorinda, the new Housewife, and she pours two glasses of wine and she puts flowers into two small vases and she tries to gather all of it into her arms as she shows Dorinda to her room and she begins to worry that she will drop everything, but then she stops herself and all but chants that she should believe that she will not drop anything, she will not drop anything, she will not drop anything, and now it’s clear that Ramona is either stuffed full of Xanax, that she stayed up nights and spent the crawling and lonely hours reading books about positive affirmations on her Kindle, or that she recently joined a cult she will someday become the leader of because I have absolutely no doubt that the present cult leader will not be able to handle the currently-shrouded-but-simmering-core-of-crazy that is Ramona and that he will look around at the empire he has built – at all of his devoted followers – and finally just say “Fuck it,” and walk away from it all, leaving Ramona in charge.
Dorinda is one of those guests you wouldn’t mind having at your home for a weekend. She is peppy and effusive about how lovely the house is and she allows Ramona to delve into her destroyed feelings at her own pace and so far this episode, we have born witness to a bunch of compassionate women using their indoor voices and I had a moment where I sighed with a little bit of contentment that the days were finally getting longer and the sun was finally shining brightly in the baby-blue sky and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills had finally crashed to a nightmarish close and that maybe I would never have to gaze upon the inflated face of Brandi Glanville ever again and I even smiled at my television screen and removed an eyelash that had fluttered down my cheek and blew on it gently while hoping for peace for the gutted Ms. Singer.
Seems blowing on eyelashes for luck is a lot of horseshit because just as it drifted through the air, into Ramona’s house waltzed Sonja. She and Dorinda have never met but Sonja doesn’t introduce herself. She is Sonja Morgan! P. Diddy hangs out on her invisible yacht! She does not need to make the acquaintance of somebody who already knows exactly who she is. The funny thing is that Dorinda does know who Sonja is and she speaks about her as though she is an Upper East Side urban legend – which might explain why I always lived downtown because The Legend of Sonja terrifies me far more than simultaneously downing Pepsi and Pop Rocks – and, as she watches Sonja make herself right at home, she realizes that what she is staring at is a combination of Mary Poppins and Zsa Zsa Gabor. I’d toss into that metaphorical cocktail a dash of Amanda Bynes when she was at her very worst – and then I would spill that drink down the drain but quick because I’m pretty sure it’s been roofied.
Sonja is a joy to have around. She rhapsodizes about the healing energy that is coursing through her veins and how difficult it is to open a can and then she says Mario’s name so often that I would have kicked her out of my house and only deigned to allow her to squat on my front stoop because what kind of fucked up friend constantly brings up the name of the man who destroyed you publicly? Ramona looks like she is being pummeled in the stomach every time Sonja mentions Mario, but she somehow manages to stay calm, and the nicety of her composure is actually beginning to freak me out because it’s so alarmingly out of character for her but my concern was for naught because the insanity is still there and it will come seeping out of her pores later that night and it will smell like Ramona Pinot Grigio and Xanax mixed with the scent of sweat because she knows that people have finally seen through her.
Over at Luann’s cozy home, a very young and scruffy chef is preparing appetizers for the housewarming party and into the kitchen stumbles Carole, who does a literal double-take when she sees the handsome guy standing in front of the refrigerator. At first I thought that maybe she was just dumbfounded at the sight of a refrigerator actually filled with stuff like food, but no – it was the guy she was reacting to and it didn’t matter at all that he is about thirty years younger than she is or that he has made his life’s work about things she knows absolutely nothing about – you know, ingredients. None of it matters because that guy is there and he’s cute and now it’s on and Luann’s son ignores the sexual tension in the room and continues rolling meatballs while rocking the kind of mustache I haven’t seen since watching Boogie Nights.
But away from the laziness that comes with lounging at a beautiful house with a hot chef and gorgeous views is Bethenny, who is stuck in the back of her car, a loyal and hopefully well-compensated assistant at her side. Bethenny is grumpy and she’s frenetic and she wants to know why her driver is doing that weird thing where he stops at red lights. Now here’s the thing: I have always really liked Bethenny and I’m still in a place where I’m actually willing to admit that. I liked her snappy comebacks and the fact that she was a one-woman firing squad with an enormous arsenal of bullets always at the ready but something about her now feels off to me. The wittiness is still there, but it’s not the same. There is a palpable hardness to Bethenny now, and no amount of tearing up because she’s homeless is softening how she is coming across. Her patter is too quick. Her inflections are out of whack. Her jokes aren’t landing the same way they used to land and her jaw is so defined due to her unneeded weight loss that she comes off more marionette than human. The entire thing is disconcerting as hell, and as the car barrels towards Luann’s home in the Hamptons, I’m pretty sure that the studio scoring normally heard in a slasher film began to play through my mind.
The carnage is coming.
After whining that she was not being given her regular room in Ramona’s house because Dorinda was sleeping in it and making twelve more references to Ramona’s philandering husband, Sonja needs a meal, so the three women sit down at a lovely outdoor café where Sonja believes the waitress recognizes her from either her cabaret routine or her upcoming line of toasters or perhaps from when they sat across from one another in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood. She also announces that Ramona wears granny panties and comments on the unmistakable evidence that Dorinda is so very Italian (just like Mario!) and just before she can ask a passing barren woman if she is pregnant, Ramona’s sister arrives. I cannot possibly be the only person who stared at my screen when this woman appeared. I felt like I was watching antelopes prance around before mauling something on Animal Planet because it’s been a lot of seasons now and I do not ever remember Ramona mentioning that she had a sister and I could only stare at this person and think about what it must be like having Ramona as family and I began to feel cold inside. Ramona’s sister is five years younger than she is, but Ramona explains that her sister hates when she says that because they look like they’re the same age – a comment that makes about as much sense as when Aviva tried to claim last year that saying, “At least I’m not fifty!” to Carole was a compliment since she always thought that Carole was in her mid-seventies. But look, Ramona’s going through a tough time and if she has the need to feel youthful as her life comes crashing down around her, have at it.
Over lunch, the women bring up the fact that Bethenny is coming to Luann’s party and Dorinda asks when they have last seen her. Other than the fact that both were on Bethenny’s talk show – which might help explain why it was cancelled – they haven’t really seen her and Ramona explains that she feels apprehensive about seeing Bethenny again because you never really know what you are going to get with her and I'm guessing that somewhere about an hour away on the Long Island Expressway, Bethenny is begging her driver to stop the car at green lights too because she knows exactly what you get when you’re in the presence of Ramona and it all finally begins to seem like it might be too much.
As Ramona, Sonja, and Dorinda arrive at Luann’s, the mood feels festive. Dorinda and Luann know one another and Ramona has been emotionally buoyed by some wine and the presence of a gay friend who seems to find her charming and Sonja and Luann hug one another hello, both trying to forget their smoldering hatred so they can save the real brawling for when they go on some organically-planned vacation to the Appalachian Mountains later in the season and then Sonja forgets that Luann is even there in the first place because there’s a penis nearby that Sonja has yet to go down on and she decides to turn her attention towards the gardener because at least he will know how to plow.
Inside, the conversation almost comes to a stop when Bethenny enters the house. She’s nervous about being here in Housewives World. She doesn’t know who likes her and who doesn’t and how any of the women feel about her successes or her failures and sure, there was a slight possibility that the churning uncertainty would have led to her entering the party with some quiet vulnerability, but who are we kidding? Bethenny’s husband has decoupaged their former dining room with her quiet vulnerability and all Bethenny is left with is combative energy and she crosses the threshold of the house like she’s entering a Cross-Fit event where she will be competing against the woman who killed her entire family.
Her energy is boiling – and it’s uncomfortable to watch. There is no warmth to Bethenny anymore, at least none that is coming out onscreen. She is a walking manifestation of economic success and personal ruin and one of the side effects of is that she cannot stay quiet for even a single moment lest that silence remind her of all that she has lost so she yammers away exhaustively about Luann’s house and her own house and then she coldly hugs the other women hello, her bony embrace devoid of anything but self-protection, and then she sits on the couch with the women she signed a contract to interact with in exchange for a paycheck – and hopefully some medical benefits which include no copayment for tranquilizers – and she asks if Ramona is dating anyone and the answer is that Ramona is “keeping the company of men.” As far as Bethenny is concerned, “keeping the company of men” is the way that Edith Wharton would have described the biggest whore she ever knew and she kind of questions Ramona a bit about what that “company keeping” might involve, tossing out to the viewer that she believes it might include “fucking him” or “sucking him.” But Ramona – pure, shy Ramona – will not cop to even a single instance of fucking orsucking, and she tenses up even as she leans back into the embrace of her gay confidante.
Noting the change in her demeanor from observing the way her eyes are beginning to swirl wildly like that pirate ride that made me sick when I was little, Bethenny announces that she sees how the discussions about sex are making Ramona tense, and that’s around the time it all begins to go bonkers.
“You’re getting tense because I’m talking about sex,” says Bethenny.
“I’m not tense! Sex is a wonderful release!” maintains the woman who is turns out is still totally crazy despite her new ability to chant positive thoughts about not dropping wine glasses into action.
It’s all kind of sadly hilarious because of course sex is a wonderful release, but the conversation is not about the physical benefits of sex. It’s not like they’re having a discussion about bran, and it just kind of miserably proves that Ramona is still more reactive than anything else. That impulse to react instinctively – and often socially inappropriately – will always be Ramona’s downfall and she can’t seem to stop herself from talking and talking and making herself look more and more unhinged.
But, you guys? That moment was nothing in the realm of the unreal insanity we will all but certainly be confronted by this season and we got a glorious example of the living nightmare that is about to grace our living rooms with the enormous fight Ramona has with Bethenny right there at Luann’s housewarming party. It all occurs kind of quickly. Bethenny suggests that she throw a brunch tomorrow at her home and before Carole could politely request that she serve buttered slices of cucumber submerged in vodka, Bethenny suggests that Sonja come over early to see her house. And that’s when Ramona sputters in disbelief and tells Sonja that she is her guest and that she will not be going anywhere and I think I maybe heard Ramona add “young lady” to the end of that sentence and it was sad to me that Sonja got grounded (though she deserves to be stuck in a convent for being so plastically delusional) but what was sadder was the immediate interaction that followed Duchess Ramona’s decree.
“Are you really saying these words out loud?” asks Bethenny, total disbelief racing across her face. That expression is immediately followed by a shadow of dawning comprehension, the remembrance that this kind of bullshit is what being on The Real Housewives is like. It is bickering with compromised women over wine in unfamiliar settings. It is someone you don’t like taking your words and turning them into a sentence you never so much as thought. It is Ramona unable to stop herself from throwing digs when she feels a loss of power. It is probably nothing like how Andy Cohen reminded her it would be when the two of them had dinner as equals, bonding over their combined successes, toasting with tumblers of Skinny Girl cocktails to how much discretionary income the people who tune into this franchise have. But now she is in a living room with people she hasn’t met or hasn’t spoken to in ages and Andy Cohen is nowhere in sight and Ramona will not stop talking about how wrong it is for Bethenny to invite Ramona’s houseguest to her own home and, wanting clarification about the etiquette of the situation, she turns to the Countess for advice. That need for royal clarification sends Bethenny tumbling over the edge of whatever slope she has already been trying frantically to climb and she turns around and removes herself from the situation and she looks both sad and dazed as it all sets in that yes, this is what it’s like to be a Housewife and she never should have blocked the truth from her mind.
Escaping from Luann’s home like she is a fugitive, Bethenny stands next to a sweet picket fence with her gracious host, frantically texting her driver to pick her the fuck up now and marveling to Luann that Ramona is nuts. And speaking of nuts, out the door comes Ramona who needs to confront somebody about something since her ex-husband is no longer taking her calls. It’s an odd little interlude to watch. Ramona explains that she was hurt that Bethenny was having a brunch when she was planning her own brunch, but it seems the email about her brunch got sent to her own trash instead of to anybody she actually meant to contact and she wants Bethenny to know why she reacted the way she did, to which Bethenny kind of nods and tells Ramona that she gets it but she just doesn’t want to hang out with Ramona at all. It’s kind of brutal and obviously an impossible goal for a woman contractually mandated to interact with this lunatic, and I can see Bethenny already composing the email to her lawyer in her mind about how to break her free from the platinum shackles Bravo has placed her in, and that’s when Ramona tells Bethenny that it’s very immature of her not to want to hang out with her and that she thought that Bethenny had grown up, to which Bethenny bluntly responds, “Maybe I haven’t,” and the response is smart in the way that it absolves her in the moment by making her appear simultaneously humble and kind of self-aware. Throughout their entire discussion, Bethenny does not raise her voice or hyperventilate, but Ramona keeps cajoling her to take a deep breathe, and she says it in the tone of voice of a yoga teacher who is trying to coax a suicidal student away from the edge of a tall building and it’s so creepy and ludicrous a reaction that there is simply nothing left to say and then Bethenny’s car blessedly arrives and she all but cannonballs into a backseat constructed from a supple leather and Ramona stares at the woman fleeing from her even after she made her mouth form the words of an apology and she turns on her heel and climbs the short stairs of Luann’s front porch and flings open the door of the house, announcing to all assembled that Bethenny has just drawn a line in the sand.
What terrifies me is that I don’t know what side of that line I want to even be on anymore. On the one hand, Ramona’s side is teetering and hysterical and Sonja vacations there. On the other side sits a woman so haunted by the events of her life that she no longer says words, she only spits them.
The line has been drawn? Has it been drawn in the sand of an East Hampton beach? Because, if so, I’m hightailing it to California to avoid the issue altogether.
Who can get me the number for Bethenny’s driver?