The Top 5 Most Exciting Moments for me in all of television history probably go a little something like this:
1. Jack screaming, “We have to go back!” making every single viewer feel gobsmacked by the staggering and sudden realization that Lost has just bounded into the future, that some of our castaways got off of that fucking island.
2. Jim telling Pam in a dark parking lot that he’s in love with her on The Office – while she’s engaged to somebody else.
3. Visually stumbling into that dark red room where a dwarf danced a jig and spoke backward on Twin Peaks. The scene was so bizarrely brilliant that it’s quite possible that I threw open my bedroom windows, looked up in wonder at the darkened sky, and shouted, “Hooray for fucked up art appearing on television!”
4. Frank Underwood tossing Zoe Barnes onto the train tracks seemingly out of nowhere on House of Cards. The moment stunned me to such a degree that I turned to the person I was with and actually asked – as the train crushed every bone and cell in her body – “Is she really dead?”
5. John declaring that he’s not at all terrified of Bethenny while he sweats clear through his clothing and shakes like a coked-up leaf because the truth is that Bethenny scares the fucking bejeezus out of him.
That’s right: last week’s exposure to a revolting man so panicked by a woman he has every reason to be scared out of his mind of was so inherently satisfying to me that it bumped a nine-months pregnant Amy Poehler rapping about Sarah Palin to Sarah Palin (who was too dumb to know just how absolutely skewered she was being in that moment) right off the list. John’s insistence to follow Bethenny around her own house while she avoided him like he was a child whose scalp was crawling with lice also made me push aside that stark and devastating Sopranos scene where Adriana got killed by Silvio after attempting to crawl through the woods to avoid her clear and blood-drenched fate. And while it’s really inconvenient to shuffle my mental lists around, I’d just like to make a brief announcement: should The Real Housewives as a franchise turn briefly into a live-action version of The Lottery, I will remove the poignant scene from The Office from my list so long as it’s Brandi Glanville, Kim Richards, Vicki Gunvalson, or Theresa Giudice who are selected to be hit with boulders in the center of town.
While I’ve taken the last few weeks off from recapping The Real Housewives of New York so I could finish getting my Master’s degree in Recognizing the Signs of Munchausen Syndrome – it’s truly a lost art – I’m back now and I’m thrilled to say that this season has been fucking fantastic. Carole blithely responding, “Actually, I don’t,” to Luann’s public insistence that she must talk to her at some point? Dorinda’s blotto boyfriend showing up with what I believe he thinks is real swagger to launch into a tirade against a woman who can destroy him in five seconds flat at a party his girlfriend threw so her dear friends could finally fit their tits into correctly sized bras? Sonja and Luann becoming roommates because, once you’ve fucked all the same upwardly mobile older gentlemen and the same twenty-something German models who walk the streets outside of Beautique, you might as well start sharing a bathroom? And I haven’t even gotten to the moron with a thigh gap so expansive that maybe Luann can live inside of it should she not find a pied-a-terre to her liking in all of Manhattan.
Loyalties seem to be shifting somewhat in the lives of our NYC Housewives. Two women were sliced from the cast after last season – and I do not miss them in the least because the ones who are here are bringing it and I’m enjoying the show more than I have in years. Part of it, of course, is that stuff is actually happening. Yes, I realize that stuff should always happen on television programs, but I’m currently in recovery from this last season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where absolutely nothing of consequence occurred in a way that was at first sort of odd and then quickly became absolutely fucking infuriating. But watching the New York ladies brunch and lunch and guzzle wine is helping to heal me. That’s right: Ramona Singer is like a walking human lozenge, one that tastes like cheap Pinot but also makes you feel like you’re right in that sweet spot after taking a really good pill.
We’re only three or four episodes in, but good shit has gone down. Already, the new girl has called those around her “elderly” while crowing about how the old money she has – the sum of which she’s never attempted to earn herself – is so much better than that silly new fortune Bethenny amassed purely by creating a successful business out of absolutely nothing. We’ve seen Sonja flit about her townhouse wearing the sort of marabou-trimmed robes I’m quite sure Mrs. Roper used to don on Three’s Company. We’ve seen conversations about how Sonja and Luann are always drunk off their asses – and when Ramona Singer is worried about your imbibing habits, you probably have a serious fucking problem. Speaking of Ramona, her brand new face seems to have offered her a brand new lease on life and she’s moving through these days looking hopeful and optimistic. She even appears to be newly equipped to recognize feelings and emotions in others instead of just staring at someone quizzically after insulting that person in a crowd. Unfortunately, just because she realizes she should maybe apologize doesn’t mean she has mastered the art of apologizing. Perhaps my favorite non-Bethenny moment so far this season was Ramona intently practicing how to tell her dear friend that she felt sorry for hurting her. I stared at my television during that scene like Ramona had just grown wiry tentacles because the whole thing was absolutely insane. The truth is that I actually know someone who I quite firmly believe was born without the gene that allows him to formulate much-warranted apologies to others, but I just always assumed that he was a fucking leprechaun. I never realized there are two people out there with the same affliction. I fully expect to learn by day’s end that the Earth is not really round and that the guy who once told me that he doesn’t believe in evolution is my actual soul mate.
Here’s what I’m realizing as I watch a show that I truly believe has just entered its best days: great things can happen on reality shows when everybody is not screaming at one another. Have there been fights? Please. The fights this season that have already been waged between Bethenny and John and Ramona and Dorinda and Luann and Carole have been juicy as hell. There’s clearly so much these people are holding themselves back from saying in front of the cameras, but the shadows created by those still-guarded secrets come across as bold and menacing. I mean, Bethenny all but declared John a cokehead even though she’s still not saying everything she knows. Please God, I thought at one point. Let it come out that the drug-fueled dry cleaner is also the Zodiac Killer. Look, it probably won’t happen – I know that – but a girl can dream, right?
So yes, there have been fights this season, but there have also been resolutions and that’s something rare in this franchise, which means it’s also something to cheer. Bethenny swallowed the vomit she wanted to drench John in for existing and instead told him brusquely that they should try to get along for Dorinda’s sake. Luann and Carole smiled tightly and agreed not to murder one another before the Reunion. Ramona, after practicing how to make her mouth say “I’m sorry,” went ahead and apologized to Dorinda for announcing some disgusting things Dorinda’s disgusting boyfriend said in her absence. And, even though we never saw it go down, I feel very confident that Sonja has apologized to her fleet of interns at least once for the crimes against human rights that I’m certain she’s committing simply by employing people whose job it is to tell her that she looks pretty, nod at her like it makes sense when she claims to run a successful fashion empire, and buy her douches in bulk.
Tonight begins with Bethenny and her assistant packing for a trip she’s taking with her daughter. I have no idea where the two are going, but I’m pleased to hear that Brynn is an opinionated child because otherwise I’d worry that she got switched at birth. Watching the genuine smile curling across Bethenny’s lips as she tells us how sassy her daughter is legitimately makes me happy for her. Maniacal almost-ex-husband aside, the woman appears to be doing pretty well. Unfortunately, Jules does not quite share my newly burgeoning appreciation for Bethenny Frankel – and I suppose she’s got a point. In the few times Jules has met Bethenny, she has witnessed the woman tear John several fresh assholes, listened to her insult the gargantuan amount of construction happening in Jules’ house, and sat with her at tables while Bethenny muttered not so quietly that Jules is clearly emaciated and it’s not the kind of emaciation that occurs naturally. As a result of this brazen bitchiness that has become Bethenny’s trademark far more than the silhouette of the girl with the ponytail who appears on her bottles of booze, Jules thinks Bethenny is the worst. That said, Jules is smart enough to realize that she should try to get along with Bethenny, even as she blabbers away to Carole and Dorinda about just how much the other skinny girl sucks.
Is Jules eloquent? Let’s just say that I’ve had interactions with foreign mutes that have yielded far more clarity than I walked away with after listening to Jules hem and haw through a muck-filled sea of “ums” and “likes.” Still, I’m glad Dorinda encouraged her to speak to Bethenny directly and I’m even more pleased that Carole didn’t compromise her friendship with Bethenny just to make her lunch with Jules feel any less painful. Instead, Carole just shoved food into her mouth and prayed like hell for a blackout that would entirely shut the city – starting with that restaurant – down. I wasn’t expecting much from the lunch Jules and Bethenny had shortly thereafter, but that’s probably because I’ve been permanently warped by watching the same old bullshit transpire on the other coast where Housewives must believe that they’re fighting the aging process by waging the same old battles and walking away with absolutely no semblance of a reconciliation. It’s different in New York. Sure, Jules makes absolutely no sense as she attempts to explain to Bethenny all of the different ways she’s offended her in the last two weeks and there was a moment there where I thought Bethenny would break out some paper dolls from her purse and hand them to Jules while saying, “Show me with these dolls how I hurt you.” But Bethenny eventually manages to create a linear meaning out of Jules’ disjointed words and she tells Jules that it’s okay – she should totally feel free to explain why she’s so mad at her. Okay: it’s not at all normal for almost-complete strangers to be angry with one another, but this is not a normal environment and this is not the conventional way women meet so I suppose that fights that wouldn’t typically occur might happen much as it does here. Bethenny sort of apologizes for fleeing from Jules’ horrible brunch, but what really gets her to start to like Jules is the way Jules comes out and admits that she battled an eating disorder for a long time. Eating disorders are real and they are serious and they can slowly destroy someone’s life. I’m sorry that Jules went through that – I’m sorry that anyone goes through that – and I hope she’s better, though I kind of suspect that the issue has not entirely been solved. At any rate, Bethenny appreciates her honesty and her candor and, when she meets up later with Carole and Ramona, she says rather kind things about Jules without revealing to the others the secret Jules told both her and the cameras.
So it appears that everything is dandy, right? Fuck that, my fellow Housewife fans! Jules and Bethenny might be momentarily okay, but Dorinda is now convinced that her friends want to blame John for everything including the Kennedy assassination and that the only reason they’re even talking about the guy at all is due to the unmitigated sense of envy they feel because it hurts so bad that they don’t all get to sleep with a fleshy man who has a hairy back and crumbling nasal passages who touches filthy clothing for a living. Meanwhile, Carole is still staring at walls in public just so she doesn’t have to look at Luann’s face and Ramona stopped by to visit Sonja’s intern-run home to let her dear friend know that the reason nobody wants to be around her is due to the fact that she’s an embarrassing lush. “Oh, please,” says the lush, “I was going through my Chapter 11!” She needed to blow off some steam! And who should judge her just because she blows off financial steam by drinking until she can’t stand up? I guarantee that Sonja was that girl in high school who guzzled peach wine coolers by the case and then slurred from the place where she was found lying in the bushes on someone’s front lawn, “Oh, please. I had a Trig test today!”
Despite the scolding – which I probably would have paid a whole lot more attention to had I not been sidetracked by trying to figure out why Sonja was wearing those boots – Sonja still shows up for Ramona’s birthday lunch. Women of an indeterminate age who all apparently share the same plastic surgeon gather to fete Ramona Singer, a woman so jarringly jittery that I used to think she was on drugs but now I just believe that she’s clinically manic. But being manic does not necessarily mean that she’s a bad friend – especially to those she mostly associates with off-camera – so fifty people have come out to honor her and she’s thrilled to see them. She’s slightly cold to the ones who show up wearing red, which she’s apparently decided is her new signature color. I’d wonder about what caused her to move away from Ramona Blue, but I don’t actually care.
Luann arrives at the party loaded down with gifts for both Ramona and Bethenny and wearing a necklace so heavy that I think she might now be several inches shorter than she was yesterday. She seems to be trying, the Countess. She says hello to Carole and she gives Ramona a kiss and she waves to Sonja, her new roommate, across the room. But she positively chokes up when Bethenny takes her to task for begging her for an invite four months ago to a dinner Bethenny hosted when the Beverly Hills Housewives rolled into town. She was alone in a big house, Luann explains. Her daughter moved out. Nobody honestly believes that her Countess title means anything at all. (Okay, fine – she didn’t say the Countess thing, but you know that shit keeps her up nights.) Watching the tears that are so very rare drip from Luann’s eyes, Bethenny backs off. She doesn’t scream in the woman’s face about how pathetic and desperate she seemed when she was begging for an invite all those months ago. And when she sits down and hears that Dorinda is claiming that the women who rightfully believe John to be trash are only motivated by insane levels of jealousy, Bethenny refrains from stabbing anybody (including herself) with whatever sharp cutlery happens to be within her reach.
I would like to applaud Bethenny’s restraint – and, when it eventually falters, I’d also like to recommend that she use a grapefruit knife to slice John’s heart right out and then send his bloody attire to a rival dry cleaner so they can remove all of the stains from this world.
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.