Backstage Drama: “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” Season 13, Episode 9 recap
This episode perfectly epitomizes what’s working and not working this season on RHONJ (and it’s more the latter than the former). We’re mostly experiencing a lot of déjà vu and a lot of withholding. I’ve already talked about how we’re treading familiar ground with the Teresa-Joe-Melissa fighting, the Teresa accountability evasion, and the division along party lines between Teresa and Jen A. versus Marge, Melissa, and Jackie.
And beginning last week, we’ve started to get glimpses into what seems to be really going on behind the scenes, either contradicting or supplementing the storylines played out for the cameras. There’s the story of two guys (Joe and Luis) and a pizza place, which we only just heard about and which casts the entire Gorga-Reyes conflict in a new light, even if it is a very hazy one. There’s the sketchy story about the rift between Danielle and her brother, which she initially brought up to close the gap between her and Tre, and then bristled at the other women questioning the holes in the story – probably because there are holes in the story.
Now, the offscreen friend breakup between Tre and Dina Manzo has trickled, ever so slightly into the show. We still don’t know the why of it for Tre or for Dolores, who says he doesn’t talk to Dina anymore and gives an emphatic “I’m not talking about Dina. Ever” in her confessional.
But even though we are recycling through plotlines and alliances, something happened to shine a light through the RHONJ tedium: Tre was barely in it. COVID (or apathy, who knows? She seems to wear them the same) kept her home, so we got one video call with her and the rest was free of Ms. Guidice.
So we get tidbits of other threads, which also seem like we’re not getting the full story. We see Rachel Fuda talk about the difficulties John had with Jaiden’s birth mother, and how she wants to officially adopt him. She also goes into their business endeavors: “We have our parking company, we have concierge, we have tile, we have a burger store.” What exactly is it they do for a living, and what exactly is a burger store?
Dolores and Jen A. also make up after their early season rift, which essentially took the form of Jen A. saying terrible things about Dolores and trying to provoke her, and Dolores ignoring her. So they move forward, since this episode shows they have a lot to do together. First they are hosting another psychic, one apparently recommended by Teresa and arranged by Jen, but hosted by Dolores at Paulie’s cliffside condo – because half the cast hates Jen A. and wouldn’t be as likely to show up if she had it in Paramus.
After everyone arrives and settles in, Dolores and Jen A. deliver more shared news. While Melissa is still not going to be a bridesmaid, the two of them will be! “Teresa called while we were together and said that while she was meditating about her wedding, she pictured Jennifer and I being in the wedding,” Dolores explained. Melissa reacts maturely, but can’t help from announcing some surprise since, as we know from last season, Dolores wasn’t invited to Teresa and Luis’ engagement party in December 2021. Teresa previously said Dolores wasn’t invited to the engagement party because she was single at the time and it was all couples at the party, but there was also speculation that she wasn’t invited because she doesn’t get along with Dina, who is close to Teresa.
But, again, off-camera, there is speculation as to the reason behind Dina’s decision not to attend Tre’s wedding to Luis last summer. Joe and Melissa both share that Dina and Teresa had a falling out over – gasp! – a separate a failed business venture between their husbands, Luis Ruelas and Dave Cantin. I know people want to cry foul over Joe Gorga’s complaints about Luis, but this is now two separate examples of bungles attempts at entrepreneurship on Luis’ part, and I believe them.
Dolores also announces that she will be “taking” the women on a trip to Ireland, the homeland of her new love Paulie, in celebration of Teresa’s impending nuptials. “Let’s do something different. Maybe that will bring a different energy into the group,” she reasons.
Then we get to the fortune0telling aspect of the visit, where the women drink coffee and then Angie, the psychic, “sees” their future based on the coffee grounds. Angie tells Margaret Josephs that her cup reveals both a friend with the letter “L” and a knife stabbing her in the back, which seems to set up the back half of the season involving Marge’s ex-friend Laura.
Things feel even more dubious when Angie tells Jen A. that she will have time for “endorsements” after her children get older. “I’ve never seen such a set-up in my life. Endorsements! That’s not a word you use every day,” Marge says, with production flashing straight back to their fight back at Jen Fessler’s house, during which Aydin claimed to be more financially “in demand” than Josephs. “Jennifer, nobody’s endorsing you. You know who’s endorsing you? Charmin. Because you have sixteen bathrooms and you’re full of shit.” The housewives all call her out for planting seeds with Angie before everyone came (I mean, just do it in a less obvious way).
Then we return to the thing Danielle doesn’t want to talk about, but keeps coming back to: her fractured relationship with her brother. “I was so blindsided by you,” Danielle barks at Rachel, “that going into our conversation with what I heard about my brother, I was already gone; I was left-right KO’ed; you knocked me the fuck out.”
“I don’t care about this,” Rachel responds, more than holding her own. “This is so beyond and completely unnecessary…just because I repeated something that you said doesn’t mean I was using your words against you.”
One thing is crystal clear. The show moves along just fine when Tre isn’t there. Having these same women, but a new conflict, might be the thing that saves the show.
See you next week!