Jersey Girl vs. Jersey Girl 2.0
Truce for Teresa and Joe? Radio & recriminations dominate Real Housewives of NewJersey
What’s the weather like in Franklin Lakes? Cloudy, with a 30 percent chance of table-flipping.
Caroline Manzo admitted she was afraid to read the weather report on her new radio show, but the women were all nerves this week on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Our favorite Garden-State-gals displayed dangerously variable relationships to the reality of their lives.
It was sit-downs galore as everybody tried their hardest to manufacture a reconciliation between Teresa Giudice and her brother Joe and his wife Melissa. Caroline squawked advice, Kathy waxed nostalgic and Jacquelyn feared a sudden bout of irritable bowel syndrome. But Teresa seemed cool as a cucumber, brushing off family feuds and bankruptcy proceedings as if true peace is only one more big glass of red wine away.
No one else seems this unperturbed in Franklin Lakes. As the episode opens, Melissa and Joe are pacing tensely in their walk-in closet, which is larger than our master bedroom. Melissa is picking out an outfit for him to wear to his long-overdue meeting with Teresa. She chooses an orange dress shirt, which he wears with one shirt-tail hanging out, along with his signature silver cross necklace. The camera cuts to Teresa behind the wheel as she drives into the night. It’s yet another restaurant meeting, this time at the rustic Portofino’s. We noticed that Teresa doesn’t stand up when Joe arrives. Joe sighs deeply when he sits down across from his sister.
Joe takes out the letter Teresa left in his door-grate just a few episodes ago. “You said you were sorry,” he reminds her, asking, “What exactly did you mean by that?” Teresa looks away and starts to brush the hair away from her face repeatedly, the way she always does when she’s nervous. She never gets around to answering his question directly. In fact, she never answers any of his questions in a satisfactory way. After each blames the other sibling’s spouse, Teresa claims she wants to make up and move on, but the video interviews tell a different story: Teresa thinks Melissa is a gold-digger, and the Gorgas find Teresa and Joe Giudice fake. How on earth could anyone move on?
Caroline, however, is all about moving on. With her sons having flown the coop, leaving her fewer lives to control, she’s turned to a radio advice show to satisfy that need. Her talk-radio debut gets off to a stumbling start. She hesitates as she waits for the phones to start ringing and tells listeners that she wants to talk about family feuds. It’s a familiar topic to her, as we learn that eight years ago, during a family dispute, Jacqueline threw a punch at her. We don’t approve of violence here at Aftershocks, but we can understand this response to the dull sanctimony of Caroline Manzo.
Caroline shows up to work with 23-year-old Lauren, the daughter she seems to forget still lives in her “empty nest.” Lauren sits in the studio for the entire hour in support of her mother but spends most of that time texting. We were wondering which is worse: Showing up to work with your mother in tow, or your daughter? What do you think?
As things warm up, the producers admit that Caroline is good with the callers. What nobody seems to mention is the shameless product placement. New Jersey 101.5 is certainly getting plenty of free advertising for its latest program, and we see a huge disaster looming on the horizon. Caroline is already the biggest know-it-all in Franklin Lakes, and the radio show is only going to inflate her self-appointed authority on family matters. Doesn’t anyone else see the monster being created before our very eyes?
Teresa may not be a monster, but every week she seems more loosely tethered to reality. How can she not see what’s plainly in front of her? Jacquelyn gets it right in a video diary when she says of Teresa: “She’s often in the middle of a shit storm and not acknowledging it.”
Her “sit-down” with her brother Joe was punctuated with self-aggrandizing video diaries in which she takes no responsibility for anything. Everyone else is always to blame. Even more disturbing than her family relations is her financial situation. In an especially telling moment, Teresa asks Jacqueline to stop analyzing the family feud — apparently insight provokes rage in Teresa. Luckily, a phone call from her husband interrupts the conversation. He’s called to say that “all the news on CNN is bullshit.”
Earlier in the episode Caroline explains that Teresa’s especially on-edge because she may be losing the contents of her home in a court-ordered auction resulting from her bankruptcy filing. Caroline then tosses off a few clichés perfect for her new radio show like, “Long as you have your health.” Readers, let’s finish that sentence: “Long as you have your health you can rack up $11 million in debt and power through embarrassingly public bankruptcy proceedings with a spray-tanned smile on your face.” Kathy is the true master of understatement this week when she says, “Mindless spending will catch up to you.”
The episode finally approaches its second sit-down, this time between Teresa and Melissa. We’ve been waiting for this all season — Jersey Girl vs. Jersey Girl 2.0. Even after her son’s christening broke into a brawl, Melissa has consistently urged reconciliation between Joe and Teresa. Suddenly she changes her tune, saying, “I don’t see how it’s ever going to work.” And suddenly we wondered if the often-delusional Teresa might be a little bit right about Melissa.
Either way, we can already imagine tables flipping through the air.