I have unfortunate news to report. Since we last convened, the Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s boat didn’t sink. No, the cruise ship stayed afloat and no one fell overboard (and no one was tossed overboard, which was probably just as likely). And back in Jersey, Danielle was still…Danielle. She doesn’t really do things, does she? She just danielles around town.
In this penultimate (YAY ALMOST DONE) episode of the season, we saw the conclusion of the Great Italian Adventure and Danielle’s birth-mom storyline. Word on the street is that she won’t be on the show next season, so I guess it doesn’t matter who she does or doesn’t find. It certainly doesn’t matter to me – she can love-and-light her way straight out of pop culture, for all I care.
The episode opened with the cruise ship docking in Naples and Caroline very much wanting to scramble off the boat and away from her entire extended family. Teresa, on the other hand, didn’t so much scramble as crawl off the ship because she and Joe have four kids and approximately 8,489 pieces of luggage. Unrelated: Teresa thinks Mount Vesuvius may have erupted about sixty years ago. Or maybe several hundred years? Teresa’s grasp of history is…not strong. Nor is her grasp of language: “bidet” is apparently a difficult word. Joe said it’s like a douche. SOMETHING in their hotel room is a douche, but I’m not so sure that it’s the bidet. I think it’s the grown man in the Ed Hardy shirts and hair gel.
Speaking douches, Danielle was still in New Jersey and wanted to have a serious conversation with her kids, but they wanted to smack their gum and text because not only are they teenagers, but they’re poorly parented teenagers who have to deal with her every day. Danielle informed them that she was looking for her birth mother, which I honestly thought was something we had already been over. She spent roughly half the conversation talking about her mom and the other half explaining to them what a good mom she is, which probably goes under the, “If I say it enough, I shall make it so,” theory of parenting. It’s not a great theory.
Back in Italy, things were actually a little heart-warming for a second. Caroline and Jacqueline’s husband got together with their parents for a moment and spoke about how special it was to be back in Italy and think about where their family came from, and it was clear that the whole trip would have been kind of nice if Teresa’s Psycho Circus had been left at home. I don’t dislike Teresa or her family in most situations, but the thought of being on vacation and in close quarters with them makes me want to fling myself out of a window. Even a free vacation, which this likely was.
While the entire group was dining on some admittedly fabulous-looking pizza in Naples, we were reminded that the point of this trip was to go to Teresa’s and Joe’s family reunion in some tiny town outside of the city. Joe helpfully mentioned that everyone was going to have to hike up a giant hill to do so, and when Jacqueline pointed out that doing that with a bunch of strollers and old people (but thankfully not old people in strollers) might be a problem, Teresa got a little huffy and eye-rolly for my taste. Just because she can sprint up a cobblestone hill in high-heeled boots doesn’t mean that it’s easy for the grandparents in the group. On the other hand, props to her for handling her heels so well.
As the group prepared to leave Naples and travel to the family reunion, all the Giudices chose to fill the drive by complaining loudly and profanely about minibar charges and tour bus air conditioning. Somehow, I don’t doubt for a second that the family managed to eat, drink and destroy an extra 600 euros worth of food and property. Joe thought it was exorbitant, though, so he sat in he back of the bus like a spoiled fifth grader and yelled for the entire bus trip about crappy ham sandwiches, cognac, and above all, the need to be CIVILIZED. I really wish that more of the people on this show were capable of understanding irony, because sometimes it’s just so beautiful.
I’m not sure how many stairs it took for the entire clan to get from the bus stop up to Teresa’s and Joe’s grandparents’ houses, but it seemed like an unreasonably long period of time. Jacqueline sat down in the middle of the street when they got to the top, but pretty soon afterward we were in for another reasonably cute family moment: Joe’s grandmom looked overjoyed to see the family and meet some of her new great-grandkids. Aww. So Joe and Teresa are humans after all, and not just guido robots. Well isn’t that nice.
Speaking of familial heritage, Danielle finally met with the people who were going to help her find her birth mom. According to Danielle, all the information she has to go on for the search is her birthdate, place, and “ethniticity,” which isn’t going to get her very far. I’m not without sympathy for Danielle’s situation, but trying to add a sympathetic storyline about Danielle to the show seems to be entirely beside the point. The producers have spent two years trying to make us hate her, and congrats, they succeeded spectacularly. As a result, I’m significantly more interested in the story behind Teresa’s wonky hair line than I am about Danielle’s complex inner life.
In Italy, Teresa’s and Joe’s patience with each other was wearing thin, as was Jacqueline’s and Caroline’s ability to keep up with which relative corresponded with which Italian name. Thankfully the producers managed to intersperse the insanity with a few cute stories about where Joe’s birth and Christopher’s parents’ wedding, and it was almost odd to think of the people on this show as real people, complete with families, histories and ancestors far beyond the scope of Real Housewives. In fact, being forced to confront the cast members’ humanity was probably the most interesting moment of the season thus far for me, which might say something about the entertainment value of this show.
Speaking of family histories, Danielle finally got some word from her PI about finding her birth mother. She hadn’t been found yet, but the PI had located some files about the adoption and needed the court to take action on them. I started to feel for Danielle a little bit more at this point, but then I reminded myself that sociopaths understand emotions on an intellectual level and are able to fake them at will. Danielle’s scenes are far more interesting when I use all of the armchair psychology I’ve learned from repeated viewing of Criminal Minds to profile her.
In stark contrast to the nasty realities of life going on in New Jersey, the actual family reunion happened in Italy (wait, that part before with all the pasta and the strangers wasn’t the family reunion?) and Teresa’s daughters showed up in hoop skirts. Not to be funny or silly, but because Teresa thought they would all look great in pink-and-brown, satin-poly, custom-made matching dresses with hoop skirts. Thankfully, the infant didn’t have a hoop skirt but she DID have an extra-giant pink and brown bow on her bald head. I wonder if she could get cell reception on that thing.
Finally, after all of the little girls were unstrapped from their horrific dresses (there were pantaloons, people) and everything was stuffed back into the suitcases, the family returned home and went back to their respective suburban McMansions to recover from the jet lag and pick up the drama where they all left off. And drama it shall be: it looks like the finale is comprised mainly of a Caroline-Danielle showdown, although knowing our producers, the actual confrontation probably lasts for two and a half minutes at the end of the show and is what we saw in the commercials. Pessimistic? Me? Never.