The second season of Real Houswives of New Jersey…well, it put us out of our misery last night. I was going to say that it came to a screeching halt, but that would imply that something exciting happened in the four months during which we were forced to endure this pseudo-reality tragicomedy on a weekly basis, and that would be a wholly inaccurate portrayal of what was foisted upon us by Andy Cohen and his Bravolebrity henchmen.
Danielle and Caroline sat down to have a chit-chat where nothing got thrown and no one was injured and no tables were flipped and no prostitution whores were named, which is probably a fitting end to the season that wasn’t.
Things started just like they always do. Teresa was cooking, people were coming over, Caroline forgot to bring the wine. Cheek-kisses and hugs all around. For a moment, it was possible to believe that these people are normal and fun and reasonable. The food looked good! But then the subject of Danielle came up, and we were all reminded that this show is a black hole of inanity and awfulness.
Danielle was still pressing charges against Ashley, of course. As Caroline, Jacqueline, Teresa and their families discussed the situation, Caroline came up with the brilliant (in the strictly reality-television definition of the word) idea of having a sit-down with Danielle to bury the issue and get it out of everyone’s lives for good.
I’m not sure how Caroline thought all of this would go, but by my count, hers was the third proposed Danielle sit-down of the season. First Dina’s ghost whisperer or whatever told her to talk to Danielle, and then Dina left the show. Then Kim G. thought they should clear the air, and we haven’t seen Kim G. since that episode. My personal theory is that being too close to Danielle turns you to stone, Medusa-style (it has something to do with her eyebrows…), at which point her dinner companions have to be loaded onto handtrucks and wheeled out of New Jersey. Like I said, it’s just a personal theory.
Caroline texted Danielle to set up the meeting right then and there, and in a feat of a producer setup if there ever was one, cameras were conveniently available to tape Danielle receiving it while in the company of her two daughters. When it became clear that the text was requesting an in-person meeting, Christine and Jillian looked justifiably terrified and told their mother that it was a bad idea, thus proving for the 89,345th time this season that they are indeed smarter than the woman who bore them.
Unbowed by the logic and wisdom of her daughters, Danielle puffed up her chest and agreed to the meeting of the matriarchs, which is clearly a word that Danielle had just learned that day. Great. This isn’t going to end badly at all. Her daughters, for their part, seemed relatively unimpressed by the word “matriarch” or Danielle’s ability to use it in a complete sentence. I wonder if she can spell it.
Speaking of dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships, Jacqueline promised Caroline that she’d tell Ashley to stay away from Danielle if Caroline asked to have the charges dropped when she met with Danielle. Ashley, predictably, didn’t seem enthusiastic about cooperating or avoiding the subject of Danielle in the future. If we ever needed an indication that she is in fact a complete moron, this conversation did it. Can Ashley really not shut up about some old broad in exchange for the end of her legal troubles?
As always happens at this point in the episode, Danielle got together with Danny The Ex-Con (because he’s the only person who will still talk to her besides her own children) to get up on her high horse and try to make her nonexistent persecution into a feminist issue. Admittedly, I think Danielle is correct in saying that the Manzos just need to ignore her and move on, but assuming that any of this, on either side, is a reflection of how anyone would handle the situation in objective reality is naive at best. This isn’t objective reality, it’s a planned and produced show, and the narrative arc of the season needed a bombastic resolution. I would be genuinely surprised if any of this was Caroline’s idea, and there aren’t many things that could surprise me about this show anymore.
Anyway, back to things that aren’t surprising: Danielle called her energist (which my spellcheck doesn’t recognize as a real word, and I tend to believe it) before the meeting (on her iPhone with a gold plastic case, god help us all) to center her and make sure that she’s dignified and full of love, which can apparently be done via speakerphone now. There’s an app for that. What there’s not an app for, clearly, is armed guards – she brought the real thing.
While Caroline and Danielle were getting ready to sort things out in a private room at one restaurant, the rest of the gang was at some other restaurant, discussing Danielle. When Ashley complained that she didn’t want to hear about or talk about Danielle anymore, Jacqueline snapped at her to control her mouth. Apparently she forgot that she had already told Ashley that she was to never, ever speak of Danielle again or to participate in any conversation about her. Details, details.
Caroline’s daughter Lauren, one of the more well-adjusted children on any of the Housewives franchises, managed to talk Ashley off the ledge and bring that dinner back to normal. Well, as normal as a dinner with a bunch of Real Housewives ever gets, which is probably a subject that merits further contemplation. If you could have dinner with this group, would you? The food usually looks great, I’ll give them that.
Across town, at the dinner being held in a padded cell with no windows and steel doors, guards stalked the perimeter in full riot gear, clutching their AK-47s nervously and fretting about the carnage that would surely be ensuing inside. Things started calmly, with Caroline explaining why she felt she needed to talk to Danielle face-to-face and what she hoped could come out of the meeting. And then, Caroline mentioned Ashley and something snapped inside of Danielle’s brain. You could see it on her face.
Danielle, perhaps justifiably, wants to see Ashley punished for assaulting her. After that, there was some overdubbed dialogue and Danielle used the word “matriarch” again and nothing constructive happened. After a series of ad hominem claims from Danielle about the persecution that she’s endured, Caroline asked her several times for specific instances in which her family has attacked her in any way, and each time Danielle changed the subject or rolled her eyes or answered her with another question after an uncomfortable, clearly panicked silence. There had been a few telling moments in this episode so far, but that awkward exchange was easily the most interesting.
It was kind of startling to see such a clear-cut conversation between the two sides of this series-long battle. Mostly all we’ve seen has been Danielle complaining to her daughters or her prison buddies or her small, terrified dogs and the Manzos kvetching among themselves, but to see the two meet and actually trade sentences (as opposed to the normal profanity-laced heckling while a third party tries to restrain them) was…kind of epic. Epic in a way that this show hasn’t been in a long, long time. Unfortunately, it only lasted for about half a second.
When things devolved into personal insults about clown hair and indicted friends and whether or not Danielle is garbage (probably not an unfair designation, considering), Danielle got up and walked out so that she could call Joe a drunk and Jacqueline a psycho and Teresa’s daughters whores from the safety of the building’s exterior and in the company of giant men. She’d rather say nasty things straight to the camera than to the faces of the people she’s talking about, because ultimately, it’s only the camera whose opinion matters to Danielle.
Afterward, Danielle and Caroline both went back to their families and told them that it was over. On both sides, there seemed to be a sense of finality that lent credence to the rumors that this is Danielle’s last season. As I mentioned in the comments last week, I think that would be for the best – Danielle’s presence means that the show can’t change, and we seem to all agree that it’s gotten stale as it is. The only option seems to be to get rid of her, add a few new housewives to shake things up, and go confidently in a completely different direction. With Danielle thrown out of the Manzo family’s social realm (hopefully for good), it appears as though that’s exactly what will happen. Will you still watch the show if it comes back for another season?