This episode of The Real Housewives of New York begins the way every episode of this show – and every single day of my life – should always begin, with a Deep Thought By Luann: “When you’re in love, everybody tries to rip you down!" Luann wails the sentiment, and it's probably because she has no idea who she really is or how people really view her. She’s a woman so blinded by her massive and spiking levels of self-worth that she cannot see that it’s actually her insufferable arrogance that is causing these women to turn on her, not the jealousy that only she can see. Also? Whenever someone above the age of twenty-three insists upon using the word “soulmate,” the wise people in their midst need to be given free reign to snicker and start forming brackets or perhaps an entire gambling ring that will monitor just how long it takes for this relationship to implode since the people in the relationship are clearly currently clouded by overwhelming lust and dollar signs that smell like lube.
We are still at Dorinda’s dinner party, the one she threw because she’s contractually obligated to do her part in getting this group of women who would never actually see one another on their own volition into the same room every once in a while. Having heard quite enough about which of her fellow castmates Tom has seen in just a thong, Luann finally gets up and walks out. She runs into the smokers on her way to freedom. Dorinda and Jules implore her to stay, but Luann’s had it. She is going home, dammit, to the penthouse apartment with the fucking terrace and she will stare into a hand mirror until she feels better about herself while she reclines on a chaise that allows her to stare down from Tom’s rooftop at all of the little people who just want to be her.
Speaking of those little people, Carole is clearly my soulmate because she too finds it hilarious that Luann made sure to mention that she now lives in a penthouse. Then again, maybe Sonja is the right person for me, because the manner in which she describes her relationship with Luann’s beloved is nothing short of fucking awesome. I’m just gonna go ahead and quote her here because I could not improve on the way she says this shit in a million years: “My relationship with Tom was very discreet over the years. We kept it on the down-low in certain quiet Upper East Side locales. When he wasn’t with a woman and I wasn’t with a young man, we would touch base. That’s what grown-ups do!” Seriously, I’ve given Sonja a bit of a hard time (because she’s behaved like a crazy person and all), but I salute her here, and not just because she was able to fit the words “young man” and “Upper East Side locales” into one phenomenal sentence. She might not do everything perfectly – who does? – but Sonja Morgan knows how to have a no-muss and very little fuss casual sexual encounter with a friend and I fucking applaud her for it.
Weirdly, Jules does not participate in the applause. She’s upset! Luann is their friend (um, has she been paying attention?) and now they’re all talking about her behind her back and that is not what friends do! I love Carole’s retort that all friends do that and my guess is that she's right. I'm sure the second Jules leaves the room, her best friends most definitely start talking about her weight and which hobbit her husband most closely resembles, and no, that’s not very nice of them, but that’s also not my issue right now. What's really at issue here is the way Jules maintains that she’s shocked at how a group of women who earn salaries for starring on a Bravo reality show precisely because they talk shit about and to one another are talking about Luann after she leaves the room. Her pretend naiveté is annoying me. This show has been on for almost a decade. The franchise itself has been on for more than a decade. Jules knew full well who these women were when she signed that contract and she also knows exactly what is expected of all of them when the camera is turned on, so to now feign shock about any of it makes me want to clobber her with a calzone that’s been stuffed with pork, cheese, and six measuring cups made out of the heaviest form of steel that can be located on the dark web.
“She’s happy,” Jules insists of Luann. “Let her be happy.” But see, Bethenny can’t get beyond the way Luann sat across from her while Bethenny was bleeding out of every hole in her body and still all Luann could talk about was herself. Such a complaint astounds Jules. She fires back that Bethenny is just as self-involved. After all, Bethenny is not the only woman at the table with a wounded vagina and the second Jules found out that Bethenny was not feeling well, she texted her three times and fine, Bethenny texted her back that she hoped Jules was also feeling better, but she did not once serenade her from the street with some Peter Gabriel and that shit is just not okay. It’s right about then when Jules realizes that she has an opening to finally vomit up all of her stored complaints about who Bethenny is as a person: she is insensitive; her humor is always at someone else’s expense; she’s a fucking idiot for not guffawing loudly when Jules baked a measuring spoon made out of materials that can definitely cause cancer if accidentally consumed. And all of that is nothing compared to how furious Jules is that Bethenny allegedly travels around town saying negative things about Jules’ eating disorder and her now-in-whatever-the-stage-is-after-shambles marriage.
What comes next has got to be one of my favorite Housewives moments ever. We get to watch as Bethenny quickly flips through a mental Rolodex of her catalogued insults to recall if she has ever said anything truly terrible about Jules’ marriage or her husband and after a few seconds of deep pondering, she is satisfied that she has not. In fact, she has said nice things about Michael, even after Jules regaled them all with the story about how he demanded she serve their kid milk at one in the morning after she had been at her father’s hospital bedside the entire day. (Want nobody to react to a story like that? Then maybe don’t say it on camera.) And as for her eating disorder, Jules declares, “I may be very skinny. You may not like how skinny I am, but I love my body.” Okay. Quick question though: when did this evening become about Jules? Had she just kept quiet, the entire table could be finding out the sordid details of all those evenings when Sonja banged Luann’s soulmate in the bathrooms and the bedrooms of Upper East Side locales! If Jules would just shut up, maybe we could hear something kind of juicy that would allow us to giggle at Luann in a louder volume than usual the second she appears onscreen. But no, Jules had to go and ruin everything.
In any case, Bethenny now has to engage in this conversation. She explains to Jules that she has been wary of getting close to her because she grew up around an eating disorder and it was horrible. Since she’s now decided that she’s the communicative sort, Jules busts in to respond and that’s when Bethenny – who has had quite enough, thank you, what with her hemorrhaging and needing to draw up a will and having to sit at the same table as Luann (who is in love) twice in recant memory – snaps. She tells Jules that now she is the one who gets to talk, and though I’m not a religious girl, the bite in Bethenny’s voice caused me to immediately start chanting some safe words to myself. (For the record, those safe words include calm, oneness, and Hostess. I sincerely hope they work for you, too. I am, after all, nothing if not a healer.)
Bethenny wants Jules to know that she is very well aware of how much a lying disease an eating disorder is and she has been part of such a dynamic before and she doesn’t particularly want to be exposed to it again. And you know what? She’s exactly right when she says that she is not Jules’ best friend and she’s allowed to protect herself. I so love it when the people on these shows break for a second and sum up with one tart sentence what their relationships with one another are actually like. In any case, Jules agrees that it is not Bethenny’s job to be exposed to everything about her sickness and she illustrates such an agreement by informing Bethenny and the rest of the women at the table that she is still struggling with her disease and in fact made herself throw up three days ago. “Jesus,” mutters Carole in unison with every person watching the show in this hemisphere and then Dorinda hops in to say that sometimes she thinks Carole and Bethenny are mean to Jules. Upon further reflection, though, Dorinda decides that Bethenny’s not mean. She’s just so reactionary that a team of experts should study her. But Carole? That bitch is just mean.
You know what will make them all feel better? A Ramona-sponsored trip to Mohegan Sun! It’s been a while since these women have thrown down near a craps table! Besides, the trip will only last twenty-four hours and, though I’m really bad at geography, I’m pretty sure they could swim from Mohegan Sun to Manhattan if they ever really got in a jam, like being appointed Sonja’s guardian from 2:00AM-6:00AM and knowing you just don’t have the fucking strength to deal with that madness.
Ramona meets up with Luann the very next day so they can lie to one another for a while about being loyal. Once that little duet is complete, Luann begins to perform on a city street. Today the Countess is playing “Rage” and maybe she’s good at it, but I can’t focus because I’m preoccupied. Has Luann recently crossed some imaginary line into being Fully Ridiculous or has she always been this ridiculous and I just never realized the depths of her waves of crazy? More self-righteous than anyone I’ve ever seen – and it’s an election year, people – Luann has become an evil parody of herself. I’ll give Ramona credit for trying to reach Luann, though. She tries to explain that while she is happy for Luann, she’s wary of how fast everything is going because she and Tom are talking marriage before they really know one another. If you think Luann pondered this concern or took it as anything brimming with good intentions, you’re a bigger idiot than she is. Ramona is wrong, Luann explains with a husky laugh. As she boasts, she can tell immediately whether or not a man is right (and rich enough) for her. You know, like how she agreed to marry the millionaire guy who came with an actual title in only two weeks? It’s such a relatable story – such a relatable gift – and it’s so very sad that Ramona doesn’t have that gift.
(Also: Is there a person out there who really believes Luann didn’t jump on Tom while he was seeing someone else? I’m just devastated there’s not footage of that evening. I enjoy seeing masters in action.)
“Tom and I met, it was magic, end of story,” Luann says. From her mouth to God’s ears, but something tells me we’re about to be fed a spinoff that chronicles Luann’s triumphant march towards marriage and I already hate myself because I know I’ll watch it at least once.
At Carole’s place, Adam is cooking because Dorinda and Bethenny are coming over. Bethenny arrives toting her new UTI (I know that pain – drink pure cranberry juice!) and the three of them immediately dive into what went down with Jules the night before. Dorinda tries to stand up for Jules, but Bethenny and Carole wave her aside. In their opinion, Jules is a little paranoid and she’s still completely wading through her illness and is nowhere near recovery. Whatever her problem actually is, Bethenny wants nothing else to do with Jules. She doesn’t hate her, but basically Jules is dead to her and that means this woman better seriously up her drama even more than she has so far during the hiatus because once Bethenny hates you, you often don’t last very long on this show. Then Adam comes out of the kitchen with personal pizzas in the shape of hearts and all that is wrong in the world is immediately forgotten because a symbol of love that’s made out of cheese is the very best kind of love. What’s that? It’s vegan cheese topping that pizza? Jules might not be the only one vomiting later.
All the way uptown, Sonja is having a dinner party for Jules, Michael, Dorinda and John. Sonja’s interns and Patrick, her “Brother-in-Law’s Butler,” help her set up – and can I just say that is the snarkiest description to appear onscreen since the editors made sure to label Sonja’s Hamptons home “a rental”? Damn. As for this Patrick guy, I’m dying to know more about him. Oh, the secrets he could probably tell about people who love money more than anything else! Soon, perhaps, Patrick will get to add a new tale to his repertoire, one that’s all about Sonja and Rocco, the blind date Jules sets her up with. By the way, if you’re not praying for Sonja right about now, you are just fucking evil.
Dorinda and John show up first and Sonja uses their arrival as a way to train her interns in the complicated art of how to answer a door. The process seems to be to answer a telephone and then shriek “Hello?” at the top of your lungs so the person at the door can hear you because apparently the act of picking up the phone is purely ornamental in this scenario. John and Dorinda are finally let inside (is it just me or did Patrick look John up and down and then almost snort in derision?) and Dorinda is happy to be there because she notices positive (read: sober) changes in Sonja lately and she wants to celebrate how far her hostess has come. But the mood darkens when Jules and Michael appear. Once again, the guy has made them late because showering the scent of another woman off of his testicles takes time. And then Rocco comes in and it turns out that he knows John very well, but the real entrance belongs to Sonja. She saunters in wearing thigh-high boots and it just so happens that she knows Rocco as well (which probably means that Luann has already fucked the guy) and she’s thrilled that he’s her date because the man knows everyone all over the world, which is a polite way of saying that she will benefit financially by being with him and she will get to travel the globe without having to pay for a blessed thing. (While it’s not my first language, I do speak semi-fluent Manipulation. I took several years of it so I think I understand Sonja’s subtext here pretty well.) Over dinner, John grows red-faced and he looks clammy and the rest of them play with their gigantic napkins. Can everybody just eat really quickly and then get out so Sonja can have a down-low hookup with Rocco in her Upper East Side locale? Must we actually sit through a dinner with these people? We must? Okay, then lucky us because we get to hear (yet again) all the ways in which Jules feels betrayed by Carole and Bethenny and it’s all told in a manner so lacking in cohesion that it’s frankly very hard to follow.
It’s nothing short of ridiculous that, amid all this conflict, there’s actually a group trip going on and most of the women are actually attending. I would fake a fever or claim I was suffering from a groin pull or pretend I impaled my vagina on a window (the variables of which I still don’t understand) just to get out of boarding that bus. Everyone except Luann is heading to the casino and Carole arrives looking so unenthused about being there that I have to image Andy Cohen himself arrived at her apartment at dawn, threw her blindfolded into a car, and then pushed her out the door while that car was still moving and he shouted to her (once he was a block away and safe) that she had no choice but to board that fucking bus and go to Mohegan Sun. Jules arrives with snacks, Bethenny arrives with plans to avoid Jules, and Sonja arrives without a tooth and her mouth gap makes everyone giggle and the mood finally lightens. This new feeling of unity is probably what causes Bethenny to raise her glass and offer up a toast on behalf of Luann’s engagement. Yes, Luann and Tom are now officially engaged and Bethenny’s shrug that accompanies her well wishes might not make her happiness seem real believable, but who can blame her? The bride is such a total asshole.
But Bethenny is also acting like an asshole here. She is sitting right near Jules on the bus and she’s talking about how awkward she feels being around her and Jules can hear everything. I guess what it comes down to is that Jules is like a walking and waking form of deja vu for Bethenny. One glance at Jules’ face makes Bethenny remember just how tough her childhood was because she had such a sick mother and Present Day Bethenny can’t quite handle it. Therefore, she does the only thing that will bring her the tiniest bit of momentary peace. She scoots next to Sonja, apologizes for throwing her out of her office and, for a time, her life and Sonja graciously accepts her apology. Even Bethenny has to admit that Sonja no longer seems to be acting in a manner of one who is clinically deranged. Unfortunately, once one Housewife gets cured, another one usually becomes the new host of the psychological ailment. What does all that mean? It means it’s yet to be determined just who will be infected with rampant delusion next. I’d guess Luann, but I’ve heard her engagement ring is made out of magic and between that piece of jewelry and the raging love she and Tom share, delusion doesn’t stand a chance. Besides, it’s just jealous of her anyway.
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.