Because I had to wait a few days for a repeat to catch the third season premiere of Real Housewives of New Jersey, I thought that all the hype I was hearing would make the actual show anticlimactic. Thankfully, I was wrong; that was 90 minutes of pure, unbridled, off-the-rails insanity that we haven’t seen since the last time our dear, sweet Teresa flipped a table.
So here we have it, the longest recap I’ve ever written about one of the best episodes of reality television in recent memory. You guys didn’t warn me that we were going to get Lizzie Grubman and a full-on riot at a christening in a single episode. If I had known, I would have put on my helmet.
Well. Bravo decided not to waste any time after last season, which was full of ass-dragging and manufactured Danielle drama, and I couldn’t be happier. And also sadder, for humanity, but mostly happier. Naturally the fight centered around Teresa, because all physical altercations in the annals of Housewifery start with that heinous hosebeast. Even the ones in other cities; somewhere in the background, Teresa is creeping around, injecting people with steroids to make them rage harder at each other. Look closely next time, you might even be able to spot the bad black wig.
But back to the conflict at hand, which happened at her brother’s baby’s christening, as all the classy fights do. Teresa doesn’t get along with her brother’s wife, newly minted Housewife Melissa, and when she approached their table to offer congratulations to the new parents, things went awry for seemingly no reason (which is always the reason that things go awry on this show.) Teresa, as it turns out, is not the only one in the family with violent table manners – after only a few words exchanged, her brother started beating on the table and then got up, at which point he was restrained. That family must have to have constant supervision at meals, just in case someone decides to tackle his or her sibling and needs to be held back.
We then jumped to some footage filmed a week prior, which struck me as a new thing for Real Housewives. The show is always presented as being completely chronological, even though you can tell that it’s not if you’re paying close attention, and that should have been the first indication to you that the episode was going to be epic. Actually, I take that back. The physical altercation within the first three minutes should have been the first indication. This should have been the second.
The flashback started slowly with Teresa hitting all of her bankruptcy and cookbook talking points like a trained monkey, but not even her carefully rehearsed cautious optimism could cover the fact that Joe is now slinging slices of pizza at a joint in a strip mall. We’re lead to believe that he owns the place, but we were also lead to believe that he owned a successful construction business, so pardon me if I take it with a grain of salt.
Next up was Caroline and her family, who were visiting Albie and Chris’s brand new apartment. Yes, that’s right, they managed to cut the umbilical cord and find a place with two bedrooms and a view of the city, and it looked a good bit like the first apartment I ever had. Except I was 19 at the time, because I had parents who didn’t stunt my emotional growth by guilting me into staying around the house just to avoid the necessity of admitting that their kids were grown. Don’t get me wrong, I like Caroline just fine, but enough already.
In moving news of a far less fraught variety, Jacqueline’s weave-tugging daughter Ashley is still out of the house and now has a PR internship in the city with…Lizzie Grubman. Yes, she of Mercedes-SUV-into-a-Hamptons-nightclub eternal infamy. Ashley is an “intern,” in that special way that only a daughter of a reality TV star who doesn’t go to college and is working in the office of another reality TV fameball can be an “intern,” and mom visited her at work to take a lap around the office with the cameras. I’m sure that was to Lizzie’s eternal delight.
Unfortunately, Ashley didn’t love it as much. Well, it was unfortunate for her, anyway. She mentioned to her mom that she wanted to move to the city to work instead of commuting every day, to which her mom responded with little enthusiasm and an inquiry about how she planned to pay for it. (It looks like even Real Housechildren take unpaid internships these days.) When confronted with the fact that Manhattan is, like, totally expensive and she might have to get a job that actually pays her to do things, Ashley burst in to tears and ran away, her fameball boss trailing right behind her for maximum camera exposure. Moms are just so mean you guys.
I thought we could use a little musical interlude. 90-minute episodes make these recaps kind of a long haul.
Next, we found out where Ashley gets her massive penchant for hissy fits – her mother! The two of them met up with Jacqueline’s husband at a diner to talk things over, and it came up that Ashley has been missing work and coming in late because getting to New York City from New Jersey is just so hard, you guys. Never mind the thousands of people who do it every day for work – it’s tricky! You have to get up early! And, I mean, that’s totally a drag. No one likes to do that. Least of all Ashley, who doesn’t like to do anything but pout and fight with her mom and have an overinflated sense of her own intellect and attractiveness.
And anything Jacqueline says to her when she’s in one of Those Moods just makes it worse, as we all know from watching two previous season of this god-forsaken show. Chris, on the other hand, is pretty good at calming Ashley down while still making sure that she realizes he’s right. The only problem with that, of course, is that Jacqueline doesn’t get to have her daily required screaming match with her daughter, so she got up and marched out of the diner, headed to god knows where. Maybe to Lizzie Grubman’s office to see if she could get an internship.
Or maybe she walked her ass all the way back to New Jersey, because we then saw Jacqueline sitting down in the park to talk Family Business with Teresa. Oh, right, that fight at the beginning of the episode, which happened a thousand words and one YouTube video ago. Right. I kind of forgot. Apparently Teresa’s brother’s marriage is fairly recent and they were close until he got married to Melissa, at which point things starting unraveling.
Which means that it’s time for our official introduction to our new Housewife. Melissa’s husband Joe is Teresa’s brother (not to be confused with Juicy Joe, Teresa’s husband), and he’s a real estate developer who built the original Conference Center Home of the Future for his wife, which Teresa then tried to best with her own conference center. Thankfully, we’ve never seen Teresa’s Joe offer to lotion his wife’s butt, which was one of the first scenes that we saw between Melissa and her husband. That gagging sound you hear in the background is me.
I continued to gag while the couple talked about their marriage, which is sort of like that of Alexis and Earth Jesus in Orange County, except instead of basing the inequality on a fundamental misreading of the Bible and trying to couch it in personal choice, Melissa and Joe simply base their “traditional” relationship on backward beliefs about a woman’s place that don’t seem to have anything in particular to do with misguided religious beliefs so much as plain old ignorance and sexism. And unlike Alexis, Melissa seems perfectly ecstatic to participate and play her secondary role. Give her a season in the spotlight, she’ll be wanting to leave the house unaccompanied in no time.
Kathy, our other new Housewife for the season, showed up to eat lunch and gossip with Melissa and Nonjuicy Joe. Kathy is Teresa’s and Nonjuicy Joe’s first cousin and apparently she’s not thrilled with how Teresa’s behaving herself either. It’s family, you guys. Family. Family is the most important thing, and Teresa’s getting a little uppity and a little too close with people who aren’t her family. First the Manzos got to play the family game for two season, now it’s Teresa’s turn.
After that brief meeting to establish Kathy’s disproval, we retired back to her house to meet her husband, who scandalized the family by being Lebanese instead of Italian. It’s no matter, though, because he has all of the Italian stereotypes down perfectly, including the open shirt with the gold chain. It’s like he took a class in Guidodom. I think The Situation taught it. Their family is clearly intended to be the quirky one – Kathy rides a bike and everything, y’all.
We then found ourselves back at the Manzo’s house for Sunday dinner, because Caroline’s house is sort of like the Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Instead of the traditional Italian meal, the family decided to take a crack at Southern food and wax philosophical about whether or not Southerners know how to cook pasta. (Some of us do. It’s not that complicated.) Chris also debuted something he called the Cajun voice, which sort of sounded like Billy Bob Thornton’s character in Sling Blade and might have been offensive if it hadn’t been so out of left field compared most mock Southern accents. Safe to say that Little Crittopher has never been south of the Mason-Dixon line, methinks. And that’s just as well, it’s best to keep people like the ones on this show contained in a single area. The South has its own Real Housewives to deal with.
And then, finally, it was on the to The Great Christening Smackdown of 2011. Or, more accurately, on to the preparations for the christening. Melissa and her sisters sipped champagne and had their hair done like they were getting ready for a wedding while Teresa and Joe chased their 18 children around the house and tried not to crap themselves. Literally. I don’t even want to go further into that story line, but suffice it to say that Teresa had to leave without Joe, who was tinkering around in the garage because apparently that helps when you get the runs. I had no idea. More likely, Joe just didn’t want to go; my mom once ducked out of a trip to see my grandmother because her tooth hurt.
And so Teresa showed up late and with only two of her half dozen children in tow, which enraged her brother and sister-in-law because it was just so freakin’ disrespectful. Personally, I’m of the opinion that taking a dump in a church pew would have been more disrespectful, but that’s just me. Melissa had put on her best polyester minidress and polyester clip-in hair extensions for the occasion, and she wanted everyone there to see her, dammit. Oh, and the baby. Right. That kid.
When Joe finally did show up, he declined to take a shot at the bar with the other Joe, which is apparently a major yankee faux pas. Can’t we just chug some booze to commemorate the day that we gave little junior a shot at not burning in hell for all eternity? Is that so much to ask, Juicy Joe? Just one little shot in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Jose Cuervo? Alright, apparently it is. Just more evidence that Joe and Teresa hate Jesus and their family.
Over at the Manzos’ house, things were a little closer to functional. The clan sat down to a meal of chicken-fried steak, chili, biscuits and cobbler, which is a little more Texas than it is traditionally southern, but I’ll give them a pass because they clearly had no idea what they were doing. My mom would have passed out at the sight of the black bottoms on those biscuits. While everyone ate, Caroline lamented the loss of her two sons to the apartment complex down the block and simultaneously pressured her daughter’s boyfriend to get her out of the house as well. Never mind Albie and Chris, let’s make sure Lauren’s married off as soon as possible. And pass the cobbler, please.
Back at the christening, more people had gathered around to tut about Teresa and Joe and the way they conduct themselves, but the more Teresa’s brother talked, the more it seemed like Joe might be the real problem. As Nonjuicy Joe accurately pointed out, Juicy Joe doesn’t like it work. Instead, he just likes to hang out and drink and talk shit, and although I can’t verify that last part, it does have that ring of truthiness to it. And if Teresa follows him around blindly, which she seems to based on her lack of knowledge about the family’s dire financial situation, then I could see how that would bother all of the people who realize that he’s a slack-jawed deadbeat. I’d call him a neanderthal, but that seems insulting to neanderthals.
After everyone had gotten good and liquored up, the entire group took to the dance floor to wiggle around embarrassingly for the cameras. When it came time, Nonjuicy Joe wouldn’t wiggle with Teresa, his very own inappropriately dressed sister, so she went and stole his baby and had a “special dance” with Juicy Joe. At some point, an anonymous woman came and rescued the child from being a literal pawn in the ongoing familial fight, which brought us back to the point where we started the episode.
For some reason, I had assumed that the fight ended where the clip was cut the start the show, and I was wrong. Oh god, I was so wrong. After Juicy Joe lunged into the confrontation, things devolved into what appeared to be a full-on riot with dozens of participants. At some point, the Bravo cameraman dropped the camera altogether, perhaps because he had been knocked to the ground, it was hard to tell. If he was one the ground, he certainly had some company down there; a bunch of anonymous men in suits took what was a small argument as an opportunity to have a barroom brawl, and brawl they did.
There was much yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth, and the scene went on longer than I had ever guessed possible. Women tried to pull their men off of each other with little luck, men cried and everyone nearly killed Teresa’s dad, who somehow ended up in the bathroom, hollering about how he didn’t want anyone to bring him any water. A crowd escorted Nonjuicy Joe away from the scene through the bowels of the event space while he wailed in Italian about his father, and I was honestly surprised that no one got capped or cut or anything. I had always been under the impression that this particular brand of northerner took great pride in arming themselves, just like a certain (and completely different) type of southerner does. Did Bravo make everyone go through a metal detector to enter the party so that they could get insurance to shoot that day?
Did anyone see where they put the baby? Anybody?
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