I’ve said it all season long: Jennifer Fessler should have been a full-time housewife this year. And as Season Thirteen slumps to the end, we get another reason why she’s been the one secretly pumping up the show with pep.
Actually, we get two of them: Cazzie and Mazzie, aka Carolyn and Marilyn, Jenn’s aunt and mother. They’re identical twins, we learn, as Jenn brings them over to meet Marge Sr. over lunch (with a cameo from Marleny!) They grew up in Brooklyn, where Jenn herself was born, and as children, Jenn throws in with complete self-awareness, they played with Barbra Streisand. The show needs more of this! More connections to music royalty like Kevin Jonas and Alexa Ray Joel!
Around the RHONJ dial, we get snippets of storylines that bear next to no fruit. Dolores, Paul, Frank, Brittany and Gabby all meet up at an Italian restaurant to celebrate Frankie’s new job. While I marveled at how much the men ordered while Gabby just had a salad, something took me out of my reverie: Brittany asked if he had to learn English when he came to the United States at age 23 – she thought the Irish speak a totally different language! Frank tries to out-alpha Paulie, and eventually just sees that he is a good guy. Paul also says that he’s going to throw another Prohibition/ Roaring ’20s party. Sigh.
Elsewhere, at Danielle’s, she’s fretting because her kids’ clothes don’t photograph well online. Maybe get a better camera? This doesn’t seem that hard. Her mother comes over and they sit around and cry about how her brother doesn’t want to fix the problem they have, and they remain estranged. Here’s what I think: I think we’re not getting the full story here, because even if the brother pulled away from the whole family, Danielle must have instigated it, and she has not taken accountability for that. If she really wanted this rift to end, she’d do whatever it took. (I’ll repeat this later.) I keep thinking she’s not telling us something that might break the fourth wall – perhaps the brother’s family doesn’t want to be on TV. Or perhaps the sister-in-law tried out for the show, Danielle out-auditioned her (the one thing she seems to know how to do is outdo something), and now the woman is mad?
Jen A. tries to wear her do-gooder hat by helping her brother Michael and his wife move into a new apartment in New Jersey now that his wife has a visa to enter the country. Then Jen complains about how Bill still doesn’t help enough after long days of surgery. Michael is basically like “I’m the same. I have to provide.” Here’s the deal, Jen: your husband hates you.
There’s also the nice scene we’ve been waiting for with The Family Fuda. Rachel and John sit down with their son Jaiden to talk about how the adoption process is going. They tell him they met with a lawyer and that the lawyer has to try to get in touch with his biological mother to see if she wants to give up her parental rights.. Rachel tells him, “If you are uncomfortable and want to change your mind at any time, I want you to tell me and be honest, and we won’t go through with it.” This storyline feels real and, even in front of the cameras, honest. I like it, and I like Rachel.
What feels less real is the schism between the Gorgas, which should be coming to a head since the wedding is approaching, but lays limp. Teresa brings up that she texted Melissa to see if she was coming to the rehearsal dinner (which would just be for the wedding party, I thought). Melissa texted back that they had other plans. “I can’t read anymore; it’s making me sick,” Luis says.
Then Teresa says the only time she and her ex-husband Joe fought was because of her brother Joe. (Because production still seems to side with Teresa, they don’t show footage of the Napa trip when he was caught talking to one of his other ladies.) And you never fought when he got you arrested and you were sent to jail? You didn’t fight when you blamed him for missing the last months of your mother’s life because you were in the slammer? You only fought about Joe? She says she was always grasping for a relationship with her brother and taking the punches, but she’s given up. Wait, did Joe and Melissa get someone on the show to make up a lie about how Melissa was a stripper? (Also, it’s unfair of production to air these scenes without countering to include scenes of Joe and Melissa opting out of the rehearsal dinner and other events – they clearly have a different take on these things. We should see it.)
It’s at that point that my fiancée brought up what domestic abusers do – they isolate their targets from their friends and family, from people who can see clearly and help them. First he calls Joe and Melissa trash. Then in the final scene, he goes absolutely wild on them, no more spouting the self-help platitudes we’ve heard before. “He’s thinking about how to hurt you. It’s disgusting,” he says of Joe. Wait, isn’t Teresa the one who is always blaming them for things? And how is Joe trying to hurt her? By going on the show in the first place, which she still isn’t over ten years later?
But if she was so welcoming of him and always trying to help him, wouldn’t she have wanted him to get just as rich off the show as she has? Also, I’ll repeat it: if she really just wanted to mend things with Joe, she would have said “This is what you did that I don’t like, and this is all you have to do to make things better.” But she doesn’t. She has a bottomless pit of complaints to perpetuate an ongoing feud with Joe – otherwise known as an arsenal.
Meanwhile, Luis gaslights Teresa about Joe and fuels their fire. Joe and Luis initially got along, but over time, Joe, like everyone, saw Luis for the snake-charmer he is and Luis wants to separate them permanently like a long-term guest star would in a nighttime soap. Luis says, “If you see me standing in a snake pit, will you pull me out of it? … I’m pulling you out of the snake pit.” Luis is the snake pit, and we’re seeing Tre get pulled in in real time.
See you next week for the (sort-of) finale! (We then get the dreaded wedding episode between that and the three-part reunion.)