There’s precious little – besides certain family members and this amazing coconut layer cake my sister serves at Thanksgiving – I love more than a great brunch. I’m not such a difficult girl to please anyway, but there’s just something that brings me an overwhelming sense of bliss when I get to sleep late and then meet up with friends at a place that is simultaneously serving both breakfast and lunch and whichever choice I make is bound to be accompanied by a very welcome cup of hot coffee and a cold glass of something that contains alcohol. Everybody has a story to tell from the night before and the guys in the vicinity look sleep-rumpled – which is my second favorite kind of rumpled – and there is a relaxing coziness that permeates between the tables as brunch-goers languish away a Sunday.
Then there is brunch in the land of a Real Housewife – and in case we’re meant to be keeping score, right now only two of our eight Housewives are actually married and one of those two women is married to Eboost Josh, so it looks as though one day only one of our Housewives may be married. But who can care about factual logistics or how these statistics will be explained on the next Bravo census? There is brunch to declare war upon, and it’s quite possible that a Bloody Mary will soon be gripped by a Bloody Ramona, who seems to want to maintain her newfound brand of calm so badly (so that one day soon she can actually brand it as something like a moisturizer that can be worn anywhere but the Berkshires) that she is willing to snort anything calm that’s around her – but there really is nothing calm around her because what’s around her is Sonja and now Ramona doesn’t have a prayer of maintaining this new semblance of Zen she’s pretending that she’s got going on. I suppose that the fun in this equation for the viewers is that we are meant to guess exactly how insane Ramona will become the moment she finally blows and reverts back to her typical baseline of crazy, but now with a public separation and a terrible betrayal tossed into the mix, to actually win the contest I like to call HOW PSYCHOTIC IS SHE, I think it’s best to follow the rules for guessing how many jellybeans are in a glass jar; it’s always just prudent to round up.
The reason for brunch turning into a battlefield stems directly from The Return of Bethenny colliding with The Resurgence of Ramona, an event that was akin to two dwarf planets ramming into one another’s protective surface without warning and unbridled chaos becoming the result. When it comes to Bethenny and Ramona, I think the big problem between them is something that could simply not be avoided – not on this show. See, Ramona has apparently earned the right to act periodically like an insane person and she is given the license to get away with such behavior because, as Heather says, “That’s just Ramona.” Meanwhile, back on this marble we call Earth, Bethenny has managed to avoid this particularly warped airspace for a few years now and she has forgotten the rule that beyond-questionable behavior is supposed to be excused, if only for a nice narrative arc that can stretch across a season.
Here’s to #brunchgate! I mean, Bravo tried so hard to make #bookgate happen. Let’s just help them out with this one so that maybe it will go away faster.
Anyway, Sunday dawns with rays of sparkly yellow sunshine radiating down on Luann’s perfect new home where Heather and Carole recline happily on the couch. As Carole contemplates how many calories might be in a meal the hot personal chef could serve her if she manages to get out of going to a Ladies Brunch, Heather decides between braiding the hair on Carole’s toes or spraying it into a swoopy pompadour, and that’s when Luann enters the room. The Countess decrees that Carole must shave her toes before brunch and then tells everyone sitting around her – as though she is Maria in The Sound of Music and the rest of them are uncultured children wearing curtains – that they will all attend both brunches to avoid hurting anybody’s feelings.
Two brunches? Carole doesn’t even like one brunch! But it turns out that, though Bethenny invited everybody over to her home for brunch last night, Ramona could not let any of the conflict that formed between the two of them instantly go missing and she chose to up her game and invite everyone who already RSVP’d “I guess I’ll go…” to Bethenny’s brunch to her brunch too. And Ramona’s would not just be a simple brunch! No, her brunch would be in honor of her dear friend Dorinda, a last-minute attempt to sway brunchers and one that surprised everybody including her dear friend Dorinda. Now, the joy typically associated with brunch is that there is nowhere anybody needs to be because it’s Sunday, but this competitive meal organizing has removed any of the lazy happiness from the women who give brunches and the women who enjoy brunches – and if you’re Carole, the woman who vomits up brunches – but honoring Luann’s rules of etiquette just makes sense when absolutely nothing else does.
Over at Bethenny’s the mood feels frenzied. I think that maybe it’s that I get a little freaked out when I see assistants having to work a brunch for Real Housewives, but that’s probably because I’m still suffering from PTSD after watching a season of the Beverly Hills Housewives behave like virus-riddled cattle during meals. Either way, it’s hard to focus on what’s being served or who is showing up when all anyone can possibly react to is all the Skinny Girl merchandise strewn around the house like a collection of plush chenille throw pillows. Yes, there are Skinny Girl products as far as the eye can see and the skinniest of the skinny girls whips up eggs and assembles a bowl of bagels, as though any of these women would dare eat a carbohydrate.
The women arrive knowing that soon they will have to leave to hit up Brunch 2: Dorinda’s Boogaloo, but while they’re there, Kristen and Heather would love some clarification about why Bethenny actually gave Ramona’s outburst any reaction. Luann believes that maybe Bethenny is harboring some animosity towards her old friend because of that time when Ramona stole a Herve Leger dress from the set of Bethenny’s talk show and then maintained that it fell out the back of a car (which is a ridiculous excuse that I’m going to use immediately) even though Bethenny later saw an Instagram picture of Ramona wearing said dress and posing happily with her daughter. Now, I’m willing to believe that Ramona being a kleptomaniac is not what is causing Bethenny to have a problem with her – and just so we’re all clear, there are some people on this series so out of their minds on a minute to minute basis that we wave away the silly thievery flaw one of them has. What actually seems to be the major issue that caused the first verbal throwdown of the season is the disparity that exists between those who shrug at Ramona’s bizarre personality and Bethenny, who witnessed a reaction and a response so disproportionate to what the situation required.
“You know she says crazy shit,” shrugs Heather.
“I have no interest in being around it,” counters Bethenny, which shows me some evidence that while Bethenny is a little too fidgety and guarded for me right now, it’s also clear that she’s still logical and mostly normal and should Carole wither away from malnutrition, Bethenny can be the new cool skinny girl who sometimes says wise shit.
Before we get to the next brunch that the women are basically being dared not to attend, we learn a fun little tidbit about Ramona and Sonja and the origin story of their friendship. Perhaps more perceptive viewers than I knew about this incident already, but it turns out that Ramona and Sonja stopped speaking for twenty years after Ramona allegedly stole a dress away from Sonja at a sample sale in the mid-eighties, the kind of dress they would have both worn to a place like Xenon. Knowing these women, it strikes me as perfectly believable that they would have cut one another off without even a thought after being robbed of what I’m guessing was a gold lame’ strapless number with leather inserts. It also makes total sense to me that, as soon as cameras wanted to surround them, a truce was brokered. Either way, I cannot help wondering – believable though it is – if that sample sale story is entirely accurate or if it was manufactured in a reality writer’s lab as an event designed to give these women a backstory of lunacy so their present narratives of insanity makes better sense.
Over at 75 Main, Ramona is concerned that the people she invited at the last minute won’t show up, which means they would be daring to miss a revenge brunch that doesn’t need to happen in the first place thrown in honor of a woman who has no idea she’s being used as an honorary scapegoat. But Ramona need not worry her crazy little head; the women, sans Bethenny, are on their way because as Luann so perfectly explains, “Bethenny is a rock and Ramona is a hard place right now,” and she does not want to incur either of their fiery wraths, especially because Ramona’s wrath smells like skunked wine. With lines such as that one, Luann might be turning into my favorite Housewife. I think it’s the kind of thing that was always going to eventually happen, but I just needed to wait for enough time to pass so I could scrub the memories of her singing about etiquette and her steadfast refusal to personally maul Jill Zarin when she had so many opportunities to do so from the darkest recesses of my memory.
Waiting for the rest of the women, Ramona, Sonja, Honorary Guest Dorinda, Ramona’s male friend, and Ramona’s sister wait at the bar with some cocktails. Embarking upon the beginning of yet another calm day in her world, Ramona explains to the rest of the group how out of control Bethenny behaved towards her the night before.
“She was verbally abusive,” claims Ramona, and look – Bethenny was pretty blunt and kind of callous, but she was the farthest thing from being verbally abusive, which Ramona should know since she drags her history of being verbally abused into every single scenario in which doing so might absolve her from blame.
“For what reason?” asks Sonja. “What did you say?”
Sonja keeps repeating that last line, asking Ramona what she said to Bethenny to cause the vitriolic reaction Ramona is comparing to verbal abuse, and it’s kind of hilarious. After all, Ramona didmanage to get in some snippy comments to Bethenny about how she knew Bethenny’s life was all but covered in shit and that Bethenny was behaving very immaturely, but what’s funny here is that – in relation to everything Ramona has said to people over the years – what she said to Bethenny is nothing. Still, no matter what she says about how she didn’t antagonize Bethenny, Sonja cannot make herself believe that Ramona never shot back that Bethenny was a bad mother or that she blew lots of fat men to become The Skinny Girl. So whose fault is this Ramona/Sonja tiff? Is it Sonja’s for not believing that Ramona is legitimately trying to change and therefore didn’t say anything horribly vicious to a person who is a co-worker? Or is it Ramona’s fault for being so consistently out of her fucking mind for years that she has all but peed on anybody’s belief in her ability to act lucid for an entire evening? It’s actually difficult to choose a side between these warped women, but I’m officially throwing my bread into Sonja’s toaster oven – which sounds dirty – because Ramona officially lost me when, to make her point that she didn’t say, “I’m sorry…but…” like she has for decades, she rises in her seat at the bar and from above like a mentally unstable hawk, she leans down and presses her forehead into Sonja’s and opens up her eyes so far that I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse of her cerebral cortex. Violating personal space and forehead touching have never been the way I have chosen to resolve a conflict or sought to make someone see me as the most normal woman in the land.
That’s what lap dances are for.
The guest of honor sits at the bar and watches Ramona and Sonja bicker next to Ramona’s sister – who looks very much like Ramona but I’m still operating under the belief that she is not really her sister but instead an actress pretending to be her sister and her appearance is suddenly before us in an effort to make Ramona appear softer, like the kind of mammal who has a family. The sister believes in what Ramona is saying about Bethenny. And why does Ramona’s sister believe her? Because she was able to sense that the karma radiating off of Bethenny was negative karma, and I’m concerned now for this woman because if she can really read and then feel bad karma, she must have to sleep for eighty-seven hours straight after an afternoon with her sister.
Back at Bethenny’s, The Myth of the Toaster Oven comes up and it’s widely bandied about that Sonja is completely delusional in most things, but definitely in her belief that she has a viable business happening, and Bethenny suggests that she can help Sonja by giving her a “Come to Jesus” moment that ends in laminated organization charts that Sonja’s interns can write on in erasable marker. I think it’s sweet that Bethenny believes that she can help Sonja, and maybe she can, but I’d toss “organization” farther down the list and concentrate first on something little like “lucidity.” But really? Who am I to say anything, because when guests leave my house, they don’t get parting gifts of appliances with my very own logo on it and maybe a woman who hands out blenders on a random Sunday knows far better than I do about how to whip a delusional buddy into shape. That said, when Bethenny told the women to “take anything,” I like to think that a part of me would have grabbed her flat screen in one hand and her harried assistant in the other and I would have taken that girl someplace more calm – like a dogfight – and then I would have mounted my new television on the wall and thanked the good lord for bringing Bethenny into my life.
Ramona’s brunch, however, is not going well. First, there is no food. Second, there are no guests. Third, Dorinda is tired of listening to some “old bitches fighting,” and I think this is our first hint at her aggression and that well of aggression does not look like it is going to experience a drought any time soon. But when the other women do arrive, Ramona wants to know why she wasn’t invited to Bethenny’s brunch, to which Luann responds, “Because she didn’t want to invite you to brunch. Don’t you remember what happened with you two on the street?” and I’m just not sure that was a rhetorical question the Countess just posed. I mean, how likely is it really that Ramona remembers what happens from one second to the next?
Back in the city, Dorinda and her boyfriend have lunch. She is dressed like a Scottish bagpiper, which is how I also dress when I’m eating shrimp, and John is a little bit sweaty, which is maybe why she doesn’t love it when he leans over and smooches her in public. But he’d be more likely to feel her up at the table than get through a business call with his testicles still attached because Dorinda does not care for her lunch being interrupted by silly things like clients and their needs. She actually gets on the phone with the client to tell him her boyfriend will call him back later. Every single businessperson I know would bludgeon me if I did that – and they might have a point. What concerns me more is that this scene too serves as foreshadowing and I feel like creepy violins should score it because this Dorinda lady seems to get riled up pretty easily and, well, that’s when Housewives start throwing detachable limbs.
I wish Ramona would start throwing around those framed pictures of Mario, but they are still in her apartment. I’d actually encourage her to have herself a cleansing bonfire and get rid of a lot of that stuff, but I do fear Ramona being in charge of or adjacent to flames. Still, it saddened me to see her so devastated by the crumbling of her marriage, and when she behaves both calm and thoughtful, she’s not at all a bad person. It’s too bad that quality has not been her most defining quality; maybe things will change. Whatever happens, I did appreciate her breaking that fourth wall of the ninth dimension of Housewives World and addressing what’s going on in her life, especially since we know what is going on she knows that we know what’s going on and well, you get it. The talk she has with Luann is quite sweet and Luann is relatively supportive, though she believes Mario has been cheating for eons because she has the power of sight. I didn’t really think it was all that necessary for Luann to inform Ramona of Mario’s online dating presence, but etiquette dictates that she must destroy at least one person a day or she loses her imaginary crown.
Luann is getting around this episode and is in the proximity of more food than I have ever seen her near, and now it’s time for her to meet up with Bethenny and Heather. Was I the only one who felt like Bethenny’s reaction to listening to Heather discuss her MSNBC appearance brought forth something resembling competitive energy? I’m hoping I’m reading it wrong, but Bethenny just looks so uncomfortable so far and I hope more time in front of the cameras start to settle her down a wee bit so she’s fun instead of wild-eyed and frantic.
I’m still rooting for her, but it’s really starting to hurt a little bit.
But relief can be found in an Upper East Side meat market for Housewives and men who pretend they’re models, and the Girl’s Night Out gives us some interesting information about the women and how they flirt. Sonja likes ice-cold vodka, any dick within tugging reach, and is so brazen that I would be mortified if I happened to be her daughter, her friend, or her dry cleaner. Ramona finally realizes that eye contact makes men go droopy in the knees. Bethenny likes to insult the men who try to speak to her, though she’ll gab their ears right off if doing so keeps her away from Housewife alumnus, Kelly Bensimon, who I could have gone two eternities without ever laying eyes on again and who Bethenny still thinks sucks a gummy bear’s balls. And Carole watches it all avidly, stealing into the bathroom to take some quick notes for what will surely appear as a plot point in her next book.
Carole, if you edit out the part where Kelly appears, get Bethenny to calm the fuck down, and turn Jill Zarin into the only vampire who can be permanently slayed, I’ll buy that book.