The Oscars are just a few short days away, and I’d like to praise RHONJ for this week’s unintentional throwback to the awards from 24 years ago, when Shakespeare in Love was a surprise Oscar winner over Saving Private Ryan. This week we learn that, somehow, Tre’s first wedding to Juicy Joe had a theme of “Shakespeare in Love,” because “the movie was out that year.”
I’m not quite sure how the wedding was specifically influenced by the Paltrow vehicle, but let’s pause for a few moments to remember that it’s not the first connection between the worlds of the Housewives and the Oscars. Why, the very role that won Gwyneth the Oscar had her playing a role named Viola De Lesseps – not unlike that of Countess Luann herself, back in the day!
We spend the bulk of the episode devoted to the two continuing schisms governing the entire season. The Shakespeare in Love revelation comes up on an excursion into NYC for Teresa to try on dresses in front of Gia and Melanie, during which time they rehash the Love Bubble party that Joe sent Melissa to alone. The girls mention how Tre wanted to ask Joe Gorga at her party to walk her down the aisle at the wedding. Well, if you really want that, Tre, then it’s on you to pick the relationship up and ask him. Don’t say “Well, I would have asked, but then he didn’t come, and that was that.” Joe may be acting like a pouty child, but you’re not letting him know what he is missing out on. You’re just being punitive after the fact.
Simultaneously, Melissa takes Antonia out for driving instruction and a conversation about family. “I don’t ever want you to hold a grudge against Zia Teresa,” she tells her. “Family is everything.” “We don’t get involved in your guys’ stuff. We never talk about it,” Antonia responds. And say what you will about the Gorgas, but for more than a decade, we haven’t seen a wrinkle of disrespect between the Marco clan and their nieces or in-laws. They’ve done something right.
In a confessional, Gia also says something else: that even though it wasn’t depicted on the show, all the Giudice and Gorga cousins continued to be close until fairly recently. What changed? When Luis came into the picture, she said, in what I guess is supposed to be an indictment of Joe’s response to his new brother-in-law-to-be. But all that tells me is that Luis was the last straw. All the other fighting has been constant for more than a decade? Then the thing that changed is the thing that’s new, and that’s the California Raisin himself.
Meanwhile, Jen Aydin has convinced herself that she has a new angle on her war with Marge, and she starts planting grenades at a lunch with Melissa. These two hate each other, too. How and why was there a détente? I guess because it’s a new season. Jen tries to turn Melissa against Marge by saying the latter insisted that Melissa leave Joe during the time last season when the two were fighting. Jen A. mentions that Marge’s “former friend” Laura told her that “Margaret encourages you to leave Joe.” Melissa demurs about this recharacterization of Marge’s friendly encouragement during a difficult time. “She never encouraged that,” she says. “That’s a little bit of a reach.” A little!
It’s not clear where things stand moving forward with Jen A. and Melissa long-term, but the short-term brings us to “friend-of” Jen F.’s Southern-inspired party. (“You can’t fight when you’ve got chicken and waffles!” she says, but I bet Siggi Flicker once said that about cake, too.) When both the hostess and Melissa fill Marge in on Jen A.’s latest campaign, Ms. Josephs starts right in. They both try and hit each other in their well-known weak spots. And we see that we’re in our fifth season of the same battle between the two headstrong women, which I seem to recall starting with Jen A. weaponizing Marge’s personal relationships, including her infidelity and her mother’s promiscuity, then leading to Marge insulting Jen A.’s appearance and hinting at Bill’s infidelity, which of course turned out to be true. (I still say that rumor first stemmed from Dolores, since she was working at Bill’s practice at the time, which has gone unlitigated on RHONJ, a franchise which throws around the term “loyalty” the most.)
Speaking of the law, back in the present, Jen A. continues her defense that she can say whatever she want because it’s a free country. Yes, but again, everything she says is designed to interfere with Marge’s pursuit of happiness. And you can’t cry victim and villain at the same time. Jennifer tells Marge has never known what it’s like to have a family, so Marge ups the ante by telling Jen A. that she doesn’t have a good marriage: “Let me tell you what I fucking have. A good marriage, you stupid fucking bitch!” Marge also follows that up by calling Jen a “disheveled little drug addict,” to which Jen A. replies “Marijuana is not drugs!” (ahem) and insults Marge’s “f–king Driving Miss Daisy hat.” (Haha. And again, more Oscar tie-ins rom yore!)
In a rare move for a first-season friend-of, Jen F. loses it and tells them to shut up. “This is not Teresa’s house, I have neighbors!” (“Yeah, I’m on six acres,” Teresa adds. Helpful, Tre.) She tells Marge to stay but tells Jen A. to go, so Teresa also leaves to show her support. Those battle lines, they stay put, no matter how many times the housewives say they’ve moved on.
The next time we see any of the women together, it’s at Valentina’s birthday party, a lavish pink affair Danielle has thrown because Bravo is throwing money into it. But only some of the housewives attend: Rachel, Teresa (with Luis, in a t-shirt and shorts), and Jen A. (with Olivia, who is absolutely lovely, as always). Rachel and Jen A. discuss the ongoing discord between Jen A. and Marge, and all olive branches seem to have been burnt. Jen A. and Teresa persuade Danielle and Rachel, in their unsophisticated ways, not to trust Marge and to be their friends. Teresa may have been told to cool her behavior after last season, but she is too threatened by Marge’s smarts to ever really trust her.
Will the newbies take the bait? I bet at least one will.
See you next week!