Let’s call a spade a spade: This episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey was simply the run-up for the main event, which shall be next week when Caroline’s head explode and she goes into a rage black and tears Kim G. limb from limb. And because I love Caroline and her occasional “Let me tell YOU something about MY family” outbursts almost more than I love life itself, I don’t mind a little buildup.

But that means that we have to get through this episode first before we’re allowed the good stuff, even though the Very Jersey Christmas wasn’t without its charms. They weren’t exactly numerous, but they were there, even if talking about Christmas in the middle of a July heatwave is enough to make me have my own personal rage blackout.

We started with Teresa and Juicy together in their foyer, decorating their own Christmas tree like a couple of common peasants while their litter of children tried to destroy all of the ornaments on the floor while sitting under the ladder that was supporting their father’s bloated body. Shards of glass, heavy people on vertiginous equipment and children – what could go wrong there!

Over at the Gorga residence, a similar scene was going on with a fake tree and a similarly bullheaded husband, and both families alternated talking about their Christmas plans and how they’re terrified of how the other couple will act. None of them seemed willing to admit that they all act like a pack of wild gorillas when you put a camera and some booze in the room, but I suppose that’s the level of self-awareness that we’ve all come to expect from this group in particular.

Speaking of bad behavior, we caught up with Ashley, who somehow hasn’t been shot into the sun yet. (Seriously, if there were any justice in this world, she would have been dropkicked off the planet by now.) As her birthday and Christmas approached, she was feeling sorry for herself about her two families and her biological dad, who doesn’t live in New Jersey with the rest of them. By all accounts, she has a good relationship with her father and he stays in contact with her, but still, Ashley is not satisfied. Ashley thinks everything in her life is unfair.

Look, I know that being a child of divorce is probably tough. I know that sharing that on television has to be even harder. But even with all that in mind, I couldn’t scrounge up even a drop of sympathy for Ashley, who may have proven herself to be so annoying, dim-witted and entitled that it’s now literally impossible for me to feel any sort of positive (or even quasi-positive) feeling toward her. Even pity, which isn’t really positive at all. Nope, Ashley has worn me down to my cold little Grinch heart, normally reserved only for people who are mean to dogs and the old guy who worked at my last job who thought I was his assistant. (I was not his assistant.)

The group then decamped to a hibachi restaurant to celebrate Ashley’s special day, where the Manzos and Gay Roommate Greg had already arrived to be perfect and functional and almost disturbingly likable while everyone else, including the guest of honor, got there late. Sadly, no one thought to buy Ashley any manners for her birthday, so she just got a rosary and that Jeep that we saw a few weeks ago. Maybe the manners are all wrapped up and waiting for Christmas morning. One can only hope.

Elsewhere, Melissa was busy planning Jesus’s birthday party with Fabulous Fred or some other middle-aged gay dude with a three-piece suit and an inflatable head. The party was going to have tables for blackjack and craps and a DJ and definitely lots of booze, which totally makes sense because those are exactly the things that I think of when I think of Jesus. That Melissa, she clearly has a very close relationship with her lord and savior and a clear understanding of all the lessons that the Bible teaches us.

But that doesn’t mean that she (or Fabulous Fred) loves all of his creatures equally. After doing a run-through of the space for the party, Melissa sat down with the planner and he explained how much fat cater waiters would cost as opposed to skinny, pretty cater waiters. Did any of you guys watch Party Down when it was on? If not, watch it on Netflix Instant and then try to imagine what it would be like if those guys worked a Real Housewives party. And then laugh yourself silly, but cry a little bit because it got cancelled before that episode could be made. Party Down would be the dirty, unkempt cater waiters and Valhalla would be the company that Melissa should have hired. I know that probably no one is going to get this reference, but I feel like I need to keep the Party Down torch burning after its unfair cancellation, ok? Indulge me a little bit, I’ve had to watch every single episode of Real Housewives for the past two years.

Anyway. Elsewhere, the Manzo parents went to order custom diamond bracelets as a tribute to their family. When they were sitting in the little office and Caroline was talking about family togetherness and how important it was to keep the bonds strong between their kids and wanting to do something because of that, I really thought they were going to buy the kids an apartment so that they could all live together or something. But no, customized diamond bracelets instead. And none of the kids were getting one. No, screw the kids, the bling is just for Mama and Daddy Manzo. Next time I want to buy a ridiculous piece of jewelry, I’ll just tell myself that I’m doing it for my parents and that it symbolizes my gratitude to them; I bet they’ll find that charming.

Naturally, our next stops were to observe everyone’s party preparations. Teresa got her hair teased into a bouffant while complaining that Melissa had stolen her personal hairstylist, Joe hid in the basement in hopes that Teresa would forget he existed and go without him and Nonjuicy supervised Melissa’s hair appointment while telling her that if she ever wanted to go Lorena Bobbitt on him, she’d need a chainsaw. My first reaction was to hurl, but then my second reaction was to hope that someone would give Melissa a chainsaw for Christmas. At some point, Melissa said “li-berry” instead of “library” and insisted that she needed to go put on panties because her crotch was getting cold, both of which are things that I feel as though I should not dignify with a response. Also: Juicy’s crazy karate kick on the way out of the house. As if there were any more evidence needed to prove that these people all function at a fourth grade reading level.

Once the party had started and everyone had arrived, Kathy tried to approach Teresa and Teresa wasn’t having it. And although I think Teresa is a dolt among dolts, I’m on her side when it comes to Kathy. The last time that she tried to pull Teresa aside and smooth things over at a party, Kathy went on the offensive and created a huge scene out of nothing. Not to mention that a Christmas party in front of hundreds of people and television cameras is not the place nor the time – if Kathy was really invested in repairing her relationship with Teresa, she would have called a meeting in Jacqueline’s secret padded room like Melissa did. THERE’S A PROTOCOL FOR THESE THINGS, NEW LADY.

Elsewhere at the party, Melissa’s brother in law tried to collect on a thousand-dollar debt owed to him by Juicy for alleged air conditioning repair, which I’m assuming must be a daily thing for the Giudices – random people pop out at them from dark alleys and from hiding behind cars to collect debts that neither of them even remember accruing but almost certainly did. That Monica woman (the one who’s suing Teresa and who Teresa, in her infinite maturity, tried to fight at the courthouse) from last week also showed up, this time escorted by Kim G., who is constantly trying to worm her way in front of the cameras in any way possible. Teresa sent Melissa to clean up both messes and surprisingly, she did exactly that without a moment’s hesitation. She and Nonjuicy must have been warned that Kim is a total low-life even relative to your average reality TV hanger-on, because they did not take any of her excuses.

They did, however, allow her to stand around for a few minutes and argue with them about whether or not Monica should be asked to leave, but since she wasn’t an invited guest and her presence was causing drama, the natural and normal solution would be to kick her out. Even when Monica herself joined the conversation, she didn’t seem surprised or offended at the request to get the hell out. Kim G. was both surprised and offended, and she kept saying that Melissa shouldn’t let Teresa dictate how she runs her home. I guess the implication of that statement is that it would be preferable to allow Kim to dictate the rules of the house? Excuse me while I shudder in horror.

But I didn’t shudder for too long, because the episode abruptly ended with promise of a good time next week – we’ll pick right back up at the party, where Kim G. has gone and done something to anger Caroline. We haven’t seen Caroline angry all season, and I couldn’t be more excited. I hope she stabs someone. (Ok, she’s probably not going to stab anyone literally, but perhaps verbally. A girl can hope.)

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