So, my initial reaction to all what was said in part two of the Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion is this: it shook out very differently than I expected, but also, in a way, exactly how I thought it would. And maybe it’s because yesterday was such a sad day in the entertainment industry, or maybe it’s because this part of the reunion wasn’t really funny or ridiculous, but angry and brooding and kind of sad. I’m not sure, but I didn’t really enjoy it, which probably means I still have a soul. So hey, that’s good news. But I’m gonna recap it anyway – it’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Tonight, we got to the meat of the issue, in a way (and then, in another way, we didn’t, at all). Part two was The Danielle Show, more or less, and Andy Cohen asked her, bit by bit, which of the book’s accusations were true. She had ‘no comment’ about dating a major drug dealer, which to me meant that she did but he’d kill her for talking crap about him, and she intimated as much. Drug dealers: not to be trifled with. She copped to the name-changing and arrest, but continued to deny everything else, including that she was a stripper. She claimed to have been a burlesque performer and go-go dancer and, uh, I don’t really buy it. Potato, PoTAHto. But that figure of speech doesn’t really work in text, I guess.
She also insisted she was a pothead instead of a coke whore which, because of my general knowledge of the 80s, I also don’t believe. I can understand her wanting to tone a few things down for her daughters’ sakes instead of admitting the entire nastiness of her past indiscretions, but come on. She also said that she didn’t realize when she signed up for the show that things from her past would be exposed in that way, and I have to wonder if there’s any way that that’s true. Are there people out there that have thought so little about the Reality-Industrial Complex that they wouldn’t understand the consequences when they sign up? I can’t say if she understood that she was selling her soul, but I’m sure producers knew it all when they cast her.
And then a weird thing happened. Danielle talked a bit about her nasty, abusive background, and I started to soften. I know that some of you will indignantly claim that she’s lying about it for sympathy, but I don’t think it could all be made up. She is easily identifiable as someone that’s got emotional problems and issues with sex, intimacy, and her relationships with men. The kinds of stuff she claims to have endured – molestation, absentee parents, rape, an abusive home life and eventually an abusive husband (the one who wrote the book) – are the kinds of things that cause the problems that she so obviously has. So while my first inclination was to say that Danielle was lying through her teeth, I kind of believe her. And if even half of what she said was true, I have so much more sympathy for her now than I’ve had over the past few months.
Things got weirder – she apologized to Dina for how she handled things. She said that when she watched herself on TV, she didn’t like how she sounded or what she said. She said that she had been mad, and that she handled things badly. And her mea culpa sounded sincere and she was certainly candid, and either she was honest or a prolific, amazing, pathological liar. It’s impossible to tell which at this point, but the fact that I’m not immediately jumping to the negative conclusion should probably demonstrate just how well Danielle did last night.
And Dina’s response to her apology was also more mature that I expected. She even shushed Caroline’s comment that she was the bigger person for accepting it, and said that she was open to being friends with Danielle in the future if she continued to put forth a good-faith effort to not continue whatever nasty behavior she had been perpetrating.
And then Caroline flipped out and told her she was garbage, and Dina asked her to not tell America what Danielle had done that made her so upset. And Caroline complied, frustratingly, but gave us a bit of a clue – whatever it was, she had asked SOMEONE ELSE to do it to Dina. Besides taking out a contract on her life, I’m not sure what that could have been – asking another women to try and sleep with her cad of a husband? Whatever it was, Caroline was furious and Dina seemed embarrassed that it had been mentioned, so you’d think that it has to do with her personal life.
And despite my new-found benevolence, I can’t decide if it’s fair for them to hold back that information or not. I know for sure that it irritated the heck out of me, and I know I’m not the only one, but it brings up some interesting questions about exactly what reality tv stars sign up for when they agree to appear on tv. Should we have access to everything? Everything that has to do with the plot lines, even if the plot lines might include things that are embarrassing and unexpected when they signed up? And it also begs the question that I asked earlier of Danielle – is it possible that someone who signs up for a reality show not really understand what they’re doing? That’s impossible for Dina – this isn’t her first reality show, after all, and she should have some idea of how all of this works.
But then, the blame for the anti-climax probably rests with Bravo. Surely someone there knows what everyone is talking about, and allowing the Manzos to gloss over a major plot point in a show that they volunteered to star in is not what I would expect from the reality experts. It’s only a matter of time until someone squeals and we find out, but Real Housewives have had to cop to all kinds of embarrassing crap at reunions past, and Andy Cohen didn’t even press Dina on the issue (which, despite his feigned ignorance, tells me that he knows what went down).
This wasn’t the gleeful beatdown that I was expecting/hoping for, but since it aired on a day when we lost two beloved pop culture icons, I don’t think anything I could have said about a televised verbal flogging (of Danielle, or Dina, or Caroline, or whoever) would have been funny. I feel a little icky for all involved, but simultaneously not as icky as I WANTED to feel. I wanted to be horrified and holier-than-thou, because those recaps are the most fun to write, and all I got was anticlimactic hand-wringing, and maybe a little bit of a soft spot for Danielle. Somehow, I think the most interesting information might be yet to come, and I think Bravo missed a perfect chance to really capitalize. Ultimately, I’m hoping for some hilarity and ridiculousness in the hour of outtakes that airs next week – this entire season has been so much fun, I’d hate for them to end on the unfortunate note of this reunion.