In fair Franklin Lakes, where we lay our scene, Teresa discovers a large, overweight creature in her backyard. Oh wait, just kidding! It's Juicy Joe doing some construction work in a "Housewife" beater and shorts. It looks like a junkyard, complete with some random scary dogs barking behind a chain-link fence. They seem very hungry for evil children, and it's quite the buffet at the Giudice's. While Joe explains everything he's building (a carport and a garage for his tools), Satan's tiny mistresses play precariously close to large holes. There's so much potential for something bad to happen, but alas, they live to torment another day.
Teresa explains that she's not terrified of being poor. "In bankruptcy, you are able to start your life again -- and that's exactly what I'm doing. Just because you do bankruptcy doesn't mean you have to crawl and die in a hole." It's a common misconception in this country that people who declare bankruptcy then go out back to inter themselves, vampire style. That's actually what "True Blood" was originally about, but then the writers realized the story needed a little less liquidation and a little more libido.
Meanwhile, Joe Gorga is pretty busy with some demolition of his own at a similarly craptastic site. Architect John informs him that he's also working with Joe's sister Teresa. He's helping with a car port that looks just like Joe's! Better get Teresa a flea bath 'cause she's the copy cat now. "I'm also building a garage. I think they're putting your parents in there," Architect John says with a nervous laugh. Joe's been his parents' land lord for the past 10 years, but he's been looking for a new place for them with no steps. This certainly wasn't what he envisioned, though he does admit that Grandma and Grandpa Gorga are at the Giudice's an awful lot. "They're practically like nannies," Joe scoffs. Yes, just like nannies who are also really old and have to go live out back at the end of the day, like some farm dogs that you eventually shoot and replace.
Speaking of a delicious meal, we then head over to lunch with Caroline and Lauren who is, shocker of shockers, talking about her weight! Before we go any further, I'd just like to note that Lauren recently admitted she did lap band surgery on September 21, 2011. Since my personal goal weight is "emaciated," I have no problem with that decision: But I do think it's amusing/ironic that she went out of her way to disparage her dad for taking the "easy way out" only to follow right in his thin footsteps. Anyway, Lauren orders a fruit cup and Caroline looks at her like she just asked the waitress to apply 20 extra pounds directly to her ass.
As you recall, she's not supposed to be chewing anything (other than the fat, haha!) on this Perricone diet. "Is it worth it to drink liquid egg whites every single day to lose a pound a week? I think I'd rather just enjoy my life and eat healthy," she says. In an off-camera interview, Caroline says she realizes Lauren is a "food addict," but she's afraid to tell her. So, obviously, she decides to share this secret with every single person tuning in. Over a few slices of sad-looking cantaloupe, Lauren says she's tired of being the only Manzo who isn't a success story. Off camera, her dad chimes in: "When you're like us -- and I'll speak for all fat people -- there's a demon saying 'eat that pasta.' And the demon always wins. So the bottom line is Lauren, until you start getting the self-control to not eat, you're just bullshitting yourself. And when all else fails, daddy will get you the lap band."
Nothing like the support of the family who knows you definitely won't succeed, eh? Sometimes the ties that bind ... are in your stomach.
Speaking of bullshit artists, it's time to see what Jacqueline's daughter, Ashlee Formerly Known as Ashley, is up to. She's living with her dad in Texas after a less-than-stellar stint in Vegas with her aunt and uncle. Her dad reports (via video chat) that she's "up all night and sleeping all day." Since Jacqueline can see where the convo is going, she makes a big show of grabbing some Bailey's to add to her cawfee. Dad explains that Ashlee/Ashley was being so bad that he finally told her to get the eff out. "Let her pay her way and take her ass to California," he says. As Jacqueline pounds her mother's helper, her husband expresses his concern. Her pain is palpable, and her daughter is failing all across the US. In the movie version of this story, this demented road trip ends in Ashlee/Ashley becoming a stripper. She's already got the name and daddy issues for it, ya know?
Over in Hoboken, Lauren and fab friend Greg are lounging at Greg, Chris and Albie's apartment. It's a gross, rainy day and there's nothing to do but eat. They bring in an incredibly cheesy, mouth-watering and thigh-fattening pizza for the boys and a salad for Lauren. It's got some meat on it, but it's still like hauling an alcoholic to a bar and being all "here, enjoy this water, we've added a slice of lemon to spice things up." As everyone takes the carbs directly to their face, Lauren explains that she's going off her diet. The boys laugh and unhinge their jaws before stuffing sub sandwiches in. Lauren reminds herself that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels," because it's not an eating disorder if it comes with a cute little saying. (But seriously ladies, it's true. Every time I put on a size 0 dress, the number on that tag is more delicious than creme brulee.)
Back at the home of a future exotic dance mom, Jacqueline is sending herself into an even deeper funk by reading the latest Teresa tabloid. This one says that "Bankruptcy trustees allege that Teresa knowingly withheld assets, including a $250,000 advance for her 'Skinny Italian' cookbook." In laymen's terms, Teresa and Joe are both in danger of going to jail.
Next, we flash to Teresa and Joe visiting their lawyer's office. But in an unfortunate twist, their attorney is arrested by the fashion police for wearing a stripped shirt and a polka-dotted tie. Just kidding. Their pattern practitioner uses a lot of big words that fly right over Juicy Joe's head, which isn't too hard considering he's about 5'3 on his best days. The lawyer that they probably got from one of those commercials basically explains that both Joe and Teresa have their own individual shit to shovel -- and Teresa's offer hasn't been accepted. "Everything takes long," Teresa mews. Then she goes into Oprah mode, explaining that God has put her through this for a reason, and though her bank may be broken, her will sure as hell isn't.
She also pulls an "every girl ever" card and uses one of the most popular phrases in the history of females: "Now I know who my true friends are." This is a thing you say after you've realized that you no longer have any friends. Teresa says Jacqueline is the only person she trusts, which is odd because she's not actually confiding in her. Jacqueline's getting her news from the tabloids because she knows Teresa often plants stories herself. Until now, we never knew just how involved Jacqueline and Chris were in the bankruptcy drama. Chris explains that when the Giudice's possessions went up for auction, he offered to buy everything and give it back to them. It's an incredible gesture that makes Teresa's secrecy all the more painful. If you've got friends willing to bail you out, you have to first let them in. Jacqueline lets a single, mascara-stained tear slowly slide down her Botox-smooth face. Dramatic Crying is her favorite sport.
What's going on at Melissa's house is less emotional, but equally upsetting: Melissa is hula hooping with wild abandon. She will do anything to remind us that she's got a rocking bod. I swear to God she would have gotten the Skip-It out if Kathy hadn't driven up. Kathy whips out the same "Teresa Facing Jail" tabloid and everyone does shocked eyes. Kathy admits that she hasn't really reached out to cousin Teresa in a long time and she's not proud of it. As she spills her guts, Melissa applies makeup 'cause girlfriend's skin is having a high school flashback. She checks her teeth in a compact and tries to put an end to the conversation, asking Kathy to just go and talk to Teresa instead of making her the topic of their conversation.
They discuss whether or not Teresa is feeding the tabloids or being victimized by them. The Giudice's keep up pretty incredible appearances, so it's hard for Kathy and Melissa to believe that behind the fancy new garage and gaudy decorations there's nothing but a mound of debt and lawyer's fees.
Back at Jacqueline's, Teresa has just arrived. She proclaims that Jacqueline's dress makes her look like she should "be in South Africa! Very Aztec-y. Very Missoni! I like your shoes, too." Now she's playing another favorite girl game called "I Know I'm in Trouble So I'll Compliment the Shit Out of You to Get You Lubed Up for What I Know Is Going to Be a Bad Talk." Fun game, but hard to fit the name on a box. Unfortch, sweet nothings don't do much to fix Jacqueline's mood. She's crying before they even start talking.
"I'm worried and I'm upset," Jacqueline says. "About whhaaaaa (hair flip)?" Teresa replies. Jacqueline explains that she's tired of reading magazines when she should be getting updates from the horse's mouth. (I originally was going to transcribe this part of the chat for you, but Jacqueline goes a little bonkers, talking a mile a minute about her feelings and her feelings' feelings and how she feels about all her feelings. It's the first time you can't hate on Teresa for not following.) Teresa says she has no plans to invest in a new stripped jumpsuit -- and if she did, Jacqueline, her "best friend," would know.
She denies selling articles and explains yet again that bankruptcy doesn't mean you can't totally redo your home and/or lay on a bed of money laughing like Uncle Scrooge in "Duck Tales." Jacqueline's husband Chris chimes in (off camera of course) that Teresa calls every day at 8 a.m. like "clockwork," but she never asks how Jacqueline is doing. Now those tears make sense. There's two levels to Jacqueline's pain: Sadness that her friend withholds things, and anger that it's a one-way relationship. Talking to Teresa is like talking to a wall that just wants to chat about itself.
As the sun begins to set, the argument is still blazing bright. Teresa's not moved by Jacqueline's concern in the least. "I don't know if Jacqueline's crazy, if Jacqueline's psycho. Some'in is up with Jacqueline," Teresa screeches. "She's like looking sad, another minute she's attacking me. She's like Hekyll and Jyde." Let's just take a moment to process that fact that she said "Hekyll and Jyde" before we move on. Go ahead and thank whomever you feel is responsible for making you more intelligent than Teresa. I'll wait.
Now that they're really dredging up everything, Jacqueline brings up the fact that Teresa tweeted at Danielle Staub. You remember her, the totally coocoobananas ex-"Housewife" who Ashlee/Ashley assaulted? That was a fun day. Jacqueline raises her voice and we get a peek at some of the tweets. It's juvenile and confusing and I no longer really follow. They're talking about awkward hugs and reunion shows and malicious lies about Teresa's nephew. Teresa starts to scream about holding a baby and they both do furious finger-in-the-air circles. Teresa says "malicious" like, five more times. Then she yells "WHAT? FREAKING JEALOUSY WHAT DO YOU THINK" and her eyes pop out of her head and have to be reinserted like a Chihuahua. I think they're talking about Melissa and Joe now.
Then, in true soap opera fashion, Caroline pops out of the shadows in a long black dress. "Why are you screaming?" she asks, as if it's normal to just appear in someone's backyard and question what they're doing. It's potentially the most scripted moment of the entire series, and it's hard not to picture Caroline sitting out front waiting for producers to give her the go-ahead to strike. Teresa tries to explain the fight she and Jacqueline are having and Caroline calmly drinks her mochachocafrap while flipping though the tabloid. She brings up the nasty things Teresa said in the last magazine and joins in on the wild finger pointing, too. Then they bring up the friggin' cookbook and the non-apology that ruined Caroline and Teresa's friendship. "You talked about my son," Caroline reminds her. "Why didn't you mention what you wrote!? You are lying to my face! You're crazy," Caroline shouts. Then Teresa lets out a blood-curdling scream and says "YOU KNOW I ADORE YOUR FAMILY," which is very easy to believe when it's being shouted in your face.
"It's so sad, I've known you 15 years and for you to turn on me ..." Teresa rants. She reminds us that Caroline "turned on her own sister," so turning on her friends is no great stretch. "It's not just the cookbook," Caroline reminds us. "For years she's been trying to poison my family member's minds against me." (It's just a shame she couldn't have poisoned Lauren's food a little, 'cause then the pounds would totally just sliiiiide right off.)
Caroline reminds us for the 100th time that she's totally over this, and tells Teresa that at this point, she can't be "more than cordial" with her. Teresa's confused because she doesn't know what "cordial" means. Jacqueline chimes in with, "For my health, I'm going to distance myself from you and your family." As awful as Teresa can be, it's not fun to watch her friends systematically dump her to her face. "I feel like I'm going through a friendship divorce," she says. "It's sad. I thought Jacqueline and I were definitely going to grow old together. It'll just never be the same." She stands up to leave and says, "No kisses? Are we kissing anymore?" Yes, Teresa, you should definitely give a nice smooch and a tight hug to both women who just told you they'd like you to exit their lives stage left. "There are evil people out there," Teresa reminds us, "and sometimes they come in the shape of your friends."
As Teresa gives Jacqueline what may be her last peck on the cheek, Caroline gets in a final zinger. "Nice bag," she scoffs at Teresa's Louis Vuitton. Relax, Caroline. Can't a gal go bankrupt in style?
"The Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs at 10 p.m. ET on Sundays on Bravo.
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