Let’s talk about Luann, shall we? My dear internet friends, our favorite Countess appears to be smack dab in the midst of her own personal renaissance! Gone are the days when she used to invite her daughter’s friends out for a festive afternoon of learning which fork to use while insisting that there’s nothing teenage girls enjoy more than brushing up on their etiquette. That Luann is dead and the reincarnated version does shit like crawl home at dawn from some guy’s place before enjoying a breakfast laden with carbohydrates in her roommate’s kitchen while chortling about a brawl her friends caused at a party for a dry cleaner that was covered in the Post because it’s not like anything important such as genocide or terrifying elections are occurring these days.
I think it’s pretty undeniable that New Luann is far more fascinating than Old Luann. New Luann seems to be more of a person and less a bland prototype of what she once heard generic royalty is supposed to act like. It would be hard, for instance, to imagine New Luann sliding into the backseat of a car and admonishing the friend sitting beside her for deigning to call her by her name when introducing her to the driver. In fact, I’d like to think that New Luann would slap the shit out of the antiquated version of herself – or, at the very least, squirt all over herself in disgust.
But even though the Countess has potentially grown (or devolved – it really depends on how you look at it) in leaps and bounds and has always made for phenomenal reality television because she is almost too ridiculous and full of self-importance for words, I’m still not all that positive that I’d want to actually spend any time with her in real life. Look, it’s one thing to giggle at the way she attempts to deny sleeping with a worthless amalgam of DNA like that guy Rey or how she launches into French in a furniture store just because; it’s quite another thing to imagine sitting beside her at brunch and not sawing off your own pinky finger with a butter knife just so you have an excuse to get the hell out of there. On the other hand, there’s a decent possibility that New Luann might actually be a fun hang, what with all her new ways to define the word “lover” (I do love linguistics!) and how she arrives at backyard barbeques with her very own hula hoop. All of these variables make this particular conundrum perhaps the most difficult one I’ve ever faced (you know, besides that time I had to decide what I should maybe do with my life or if I should break up with a man I loved who I also knew was deep down a garbage creature) and I think the only possible way to come to a conclusion about whether or not I could make it through a meal with Luann de Lesseps without choking her with a baguette is by creating a time-tested Pro and Con list. Fuck, my incredibly organized mother would be so proud…
PROS FOR ALLOWING LUANN TO SURVIVE THE MEAL AND SOON THEREAFTER BECOME MY NEW BEST FRIEND FOREVER AND EVER:
• She doesn’t seem to have an actual job and that means she’ll be free during the day to join you for a chopped salad when your real friends have such bad cramps that they can’t make it as scheduled.
• Should you be in the market for a diversion of some sort, your new best friend can toss on yet another enormous statement necklace that will be sure to keep those around you positively transfixed. You can then slip out of the room undetected while the people from whom you are trying to escape continue to debate whether or not those are crystals or dried hunks of bird feces dangling off the ends of the delicate golden chain.
• If you’re a secret smoker, you’ve just found your soulmate. Think Luann was born with that husky voice? If you do, you also probably believe she didn’t sleep with that pirate.
• She can always sing you to sleep if you’re tossing and turning. And remember, her songs are not just examples of modern art; they also teach important life lessons! Before Luann rolled onto the scene, did anyone know what a Girl Code even was? Oh, you did? Then maybe move on to my next point.
• You will look more sober if you stand beside her.
CONS FOR ALLOWING LUANN TO SURVIVE THE MEAL AND SOON THEREAFTER BECOME MY NEW BEST FRIEND FOREVER AND EVER:
• I’ve heard that gazing at too much turquoise can cause seizures.
• She rarely laughs at herself, even as there is just so much to laugh at wildly. And she’d probably get annoyed if you laughed at her while pointing and it’s really hard to be in a friendship where there are so many rules.
• She’s probably slept with your dad.
Luckily for me, the possibility of either New or Old Luann and I ever becoming friends is slim to none because we do not travel in the same circles (Can you believe I’ve never even been to the luxury spot that is Beautique?) and we do not fuck the same men. And trust me: I did copious research on both of our sex lives to make sure there was not even an iota of a crossover. So tonight I do not have to make any such decisions. I can instead recline on my sofa and watch Luann fight first with Bethenny and then with Ramona and then with Carole while taking breaks to duck into the powder room of Dorinda’s Berkshires paradise to check the mirror to make sure the haughty expression is still projecting off of her face. Sitting beside me while I watch will be my puppy – and she is not in the very best mood right about now. Turns out Tallulah became a woman yesterday, something I discovered when the groomer asked if I knew she was “in season.” I can think of nothing (short of spaying her immediately) that will offer my sweet pup more comfort than watching people who pretend to be friends fight to the death while cameras zoom in for a close-up. See, Tallulah? I’ll say to her at the very moment Luann once again claims that she alone is responsible for the raging success of Bethenny’s business. Reality stars are just like us! I’ll bet the Countess is on the rag, too!
I do not follow any of the Housewives on Twitter or Instagram because to do so might cause me feel like I should check into a convent or take a shower with bleach, but I do follow Sir Andy Cohen and he posted that tonight’s episode is “NUTS.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure something has to be seriously fucking crazy for Andy Cohen to even react to it anymore and that means it’s time to take a deep breath, quickly jerk off a pirate, and prepare ourselves for the insanity that is about to come our way.
Last week’s episode ended with Bethenny laughing in Luann's face for claiming to be a qualified mentor for Sonja and Luann coming back at that dig with points of fury all her own. Tonight that inferno is still raging and my eight-month old dog's nipples are swollen, which I realize has absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand, but I just feel like I need to share this horror because I'm pretty sure that keeping it locked inside of me will result in some sort of psychosis.
But back to the show. I've always been really taken with stories that occur in a short amount of time. I probably first experienced that kind of narrative structure with The Catcher in the Rye and then again with The Breakfast Club and I think what I love about those stories is how there's an immediacy and a frenzy to actions and reactions when they occur inside a condensed amount of time. I'm relatively certain that everything that goes down on tonight's episode happens in about three hours. I’m also relatively certain that all of us were born under a benevolent moon that resulted in never having to be locked in a room with any of these people.
Turns out that Sonja's the lucky one. She was banished to her own island (Manhattan), so she's not at Dorinda’s safe place, the one that's about to be sullied forever. Everyone else is there, though, and the editors are pulling no fucking punches tonight. They start by time-stamping round one of the Luann/Bethenny fight in a manner that immediately causes us to wonder, "Shit, if it's this contentious at 3:40, can you imagine what might happen once 6:47 rolls around?" So what are Luann and Bethenny fighting about? The issues for right now seem to be the origin of the Skinnygirl moniker and how Bethenny would rather tuck into some tapas with Mephistopheles than tell Luann who she's actually dating. Being shunned so coldly rankles the Countess, but it's nothing compared to how furious she feels sitting literally three inches from Ramona and Bethenny while they whisper about just how much she sucks. It’s a bitch move on Bethenny’s part for sure and Luann finally gets up and confronts the situation, whereupon Bethenny informs her that she believes Luann is entirely full of shit and she would never tell Luann who she's dating and, holy fuck, it's gotta be, what, 3:44? If I actually cared at all about any of these people, I might be having a full-fledged panic attack right about now.
New Luann will not take this bullshit lying down. Oh, no. She wants to know why Bethenny always has to fire on somebody. First it was Dorinda’s revolting boyfriend. Then her wrath turned to Sonja. And now Bethenny is coming for her and she and the rest of those people are entirely innocent! John is the best guy ever! Who cares if he stumbled into a bra party coked out of his skull and started taunting Bethenny for no good reason whatsoever? Bygones! And can't she just get over Sonja hijacking the name of her business or Luann laying claims to it? God, Bethenny is such a bitch – and that flourishing bitchiness is nothing compared to how Bethenny copied Luann's hairstyle! You know what? Screw my pro and con list and hand me a baguette, a butter knife, and a shovel.
It's right about the moment when Bethenny bellows that Luann is completely full of shit that Carole walks in the door and believes she's hearing Bethenny fight with a man. But I can't concentrate on how Carole calling Luann "Lu-Man" strikes me as rather beneath her because there might be bloodshed spilling across that dining room table any time now and it could easily be caused by Bethenny telling Luann how messed up it is that she never gave Ramona a head's up that she is now seeing Tom. Listen, as far as Luann is concerned, Ramona didn't need to be consulted; she and Tom only went out on one date! What’s that? It was seven dates? And the last one occurred merely a week before Luann straddled him after sidling up to him at a bar and announcing, “You dated Ramona and I’m next”? Can we blame semantics for this? No? Okay, then let’s allow Bethenny to scream in Luann’s face about how she screwed Tom the night she met the guy.
In the other room, Carole quickly proves she’s a woman after my own heart by arriving at that mess of a party with her very own exit plan. As someone who never goes anywhere without figuring out ahead of time how to extract myself from a scenario, I can appreciate such a move. Carole, honey? I like to blame my constricting uterus to get me away from crazies, but announcing you’re going to vomit all over one of Dorinda’s nativity scenes will probably be just as effective.
While Carole checks her Uber app to see if they will send a helicopter to Dorinda’s roof, Bethenny follows Luann into the next room to taunt her a little bit more. Yes, she tells Luann, she copied her hairstyle so she could be just like her. Because if she has the same hair as Luann, maybe she too can go play Grey Gardens Rehab with a fellow lost soul and fuck every man with halfway decent credit on the Upper East Side. Luann's comeback to this verbal smackdown? She announces that she’s the Kim Cattrall in this group dynamic, a line that almost causes me to swallow some antidepressants because it sadly proves something the darkest and most cynical side of myself always guessed was true: half of these women truly believe they are starring in some poorly-budgeted sequel to Sex and the City. Oy.
What Luann really can’t understand is why Bethenny hates her so much and it seems to come down to the fact that Bethenny can’t stomach how Luann pretends to be refined as fuck, even as she sleeps with married men, an act that also makes her the worst spokeswoman for Girl Code in the tri-state area. "You fuck everyone and you pretend that you don't," Bethenny seethes. "I'm calling you out on your shit because nobody else has the balls to do it."
And now it’s 4:20. Instead of doing a bong hit, Bethenny decides to call Luann a slut and a liar and Luann decides to announce that Sonja is a more decent person than Bethenny will ever be. As the screaming grows in decibels only small dogs can hear, Carole listens from the top of the stairs, Dorinda’s housekeeper considers quitting on the spot, and Jules wonders how things could have possibly gotten so tumultuous when all she was expecting was a lovely trip because Jules is either a total moron or she's trying to play one of my least favorite games ever, the I'm-a-new-Housewife-but-I-like-to-pretend-I’ve-never-watched-a-single-episode-of-this-show-so-now-I-have-to-appear-shocked-by-even-the-most-predictable-acts-of-verbal-assault.
Poor Dorinda. She was hoping for dancing sugarplums and making angels in the snow and those thoughts are dwindling rapidly as she hears Bethenny shriek that Luann is both a drag queen and a whore. Actually, forget Dorinda. Poor Jules! She's wandering into rooms she hopes will be quiet so she can get some information about how her father is doing in the hospital and she finally goes outside where there's less of a chance of getting hit by plasma. That’s when Luann joins her and responds to Jules’ news that her father is barely coherent with the soothing comfort of, "It’s so hurtful how Bethenny just talked to me," and then takes several huge drags off a cigarette, marking maybe the first time she's been seen smoking on camera. Point: Bethenny.
"Well, thank you for defending me," Luann snarls to Dorinda when she walks outside. Then – proving Old Luann is still alive and kicking (and probably fucking) – she imparts a bit of hostess etiquette to Dorinda by telling her that a proper hostess always kicks out one houseguest for declaring the other houseguest a giant drunken whore. Whoever says watching The Real Housewives is not an edifying experience is simply not paying attention.
At some point after making sure Jules understands that her problems are way worse than the minor issue of having a dying father and stubbing out her cigarette, Luann walks into an upstairs bedroom to find everyone giggling without her and she announces that she wants to leave because she doesn’t feel welcome. And who comes to her rescue? Why, it’s Tom’s last serious girlfriend, Ramona! She all but carries Luann downstairs where they find themselves in the kitchen and Ramona tells Luann that she needs to stay there for Dorinda. But when the hostess herself enters the room, somehow a birthday cake made by Dorinda’s mother sparks total fucking insanity. I would really love to explain exactly what happened that caused Dorinda to start screaming like a madwoman who just gulped down six tabs of mescaline, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that Dorinda starts screaming that Luann better not even mention that birthday cake or her mother and they all are supposed to be having a nice time, dammit! "You hold your things to yourself! I'm ashamed! I decorated, I cooked, I made it nice. So go home!"
By the way, it’s 4:55.
Maybe at some point these women will realize that it's terrible form to walk into someone's house, pull out a symbolic machine gun, and start spraying bullets across the kitchen when Dorinda’s mother just baked a cake. Unfortunately, these women are paid to be on a reality show where sedate doesn't quite sell as well as viciousness. Also, maybe at some point Dorinda will get some therapy.
Positively terrified by Dorinda’s outburst, everyone immediately snaps into shape. Luann suggests they all play charades, which is a really bad idea since every clue Bethenny will have her guess will surely be some version of "Suck it, Countess." Ramona tosses out the idea of playing Twister so she can show off how flexible she is, though maybe Luann should just ask Tom about how bendy she can be. Jules wants them to all hop into the frozen swimming pool because nothing bonds women more than hypothermia. Bethenny paces the hallway wondering if all of this is her ex-husband’s fault, too.
“Nobody wants to go home,” Jules swears to Dorinda. “I'm having the best time of my life.” I either hate this woman or I want her to adopt me tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Luann quotes from one of her own songs to make a very important point and watching her do that with a very serious expression on her face has made me want to go drown myself in Dorinda’s frozen swimming pool. See if you can revive me when she's done pretending to analyze her own lyrics, okay? In another room, Bethenny laments to Carole that she is pretty sick of such nonsense. “I work too hard to spend time with people I don't want to be around,” she says. Exactly, Bethenny! Get yourself the hell off this show and don't look back, not even if Jill Zarin shows up and launches a Merlot called Jealous Girl on camera.
Let’s take a quick break from the agony of vacationing with dear friends and calling people whores and check in with Sonja! She and her fedora are back in the city and they visit an office so she can have her vagina tended to so she never ends up with a droopy pussy in a scene that singlehandedly proves a dominant theory I have that Sonja has become a total joke while simultaneously being the only one who doesn't actually get that joke.
Back in the Berkshires, Bethenny is feeling guilty about her earlier behavior. However, she also realizes she hasn't particularly seen eye to eye with Luann throughout most of what I guess we're calling a friendship. To illustrate what she means, we get to see a fantastic montage of Luann and Bethenny spending time together over the years and I think my favorite moment was when Luann advised Bethenny to speak softly on dates so the guy has to lean in to hear her. I think that strategy was quite similar to something Michael Scott did in The Office to try to get the upper hand during a contract negotiation and that means Luann is almost as wise as a doofus like Michael Scott. Point: Everyone who is not Luann or was not raised by Luann.
In some corner of the house, Carole and Ramona chat about how utterly ridiculous it was for Luann to invite Carole to her holiday party after screaming across some benefit that Carole is a pedophile for dating a twenty-eight-year-old while Dorinda decides she’s going inside where it’s quiet to watch Law & Order because a show about people committing murder is far more soothing than whatever's been going on near her downstairs credenza all night long.
Realizing she is the only one who can make things better for everyone (!), Ramona takes Luann aside and imparts the same wisdom Bethenny attempted to pass along earlier in the season by explaining to Luann how to formulate an apology. And as Ramona dictates how Luann should text Carole – who is in the closet listening to all of this – and apologize for the “pedophile” comment, Carole whispers to Jules (who is hiding in that closet with her) that wallpapering the inside of a closet is the mark of a very wealthy person.
It's still only 6:40 when Ramona tells Luann that she's not revealing who she's dating either and she’s keeping the information from Luann because of something Ramona calls “friendship ethics,” a term I’m dying for her to define, but one I’m guessing means “being afraid to tell your friend anything because chances are that friend will attempt to fuck the man in your life.” Any chance Ramona can turn this “friendship ethics” thing into a spinoff? I’d totally watch that – and I’d do it after swathing myself in shades of Ramona Red.
It's 7:30 when Luann tells Dorinda that Tom likes her better than he ever liked Ramona, a shitty thing to say after Ramona all but served as the MVP of the Normal People for the day and helped keep Bethenny from knocking Luann’s fucking head off with a meat cleaver. Then she relaunches into her Bethenny anger and rehashes it to Dorinda, but she vents for just a tad too long because Bethenny hears all of it and she enters the room in her pajamas to ask Luann if her little diatribe right now is part of the apology Luann texted her earlier when Bethenny was upstairs and Luann was too chickenshit to say anything to her face so she hid in the kitchen and sent “I’m sorry for stealing your business” emojis. And as the battle that will never really get resolved rages on, Dorinda takes a giant gulp of wine and makes a wish upon a star and her mother's birthday cake for her friends to be stricken with total and complete spontaneous muteness. I’ll drink to that, Dorinda, and I’ll also tell you the cake your mother made is as gorgeous as the ones at Milk Bar, but that’s only because I’m terrified of you at this point.
Next time, everybody continues fighting, Luann shows up somewhere in a dress that looks exactly like a couch my grandmother would have walked by in a consignment shop, and Ramona laments the fact that Sonja has clearly lost her entire mind. I wonder what time it will be then…
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.