Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 5, Episode 12 of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," titled "Spaghetti Western & Meatballs."
Though this season was taped before the feds got to Teresa, it seems the Giudice family was still having financial issues. How else do you explain the cooking demo Teresa's doing at Chef Central for a group of six people whose combined age is 908? In fact, I'm pretty sure they're actually just resting at her station between aisles. As Teresa tries to convince them to eat her kale bruschetta before their impending deaths, Kathy walks up. "I followed my nose," she says with a laugh. Now that it's not entering rooms before the rest of her face, she's happy to let it be her guide. (Let it be known that I firmly believe in nose jobs and support hers with every perfectly shaped fiber of my own totally fake schnoz.)
After plating her creations, Teresa takes a breather. She tells Kathy that she's been completely absolved of her alleged sins, and reinforces that she had NOTHING to do with anything. Note that she told Kathy all the above in front of a wall of knives ... just in case she had to cut a bitch. Still, Teresa's the only one confident in her innocence. She may have a clean conscience now, but Joe and Melissa still think her hands are dirty.
Meanwhile, everyone whose going on the vacation orgy gets to packing for their journey. Ahh, Arizona! As dry and incapable of supporting life as Teresa's scalp! Nobody's really sure what the weather will be, but Rich Wakile sums it up pretty well: "It's warm during the day and cold at night, kinda like my life lately." He makes this kind statement in front of his daughter, just to ensure she'll have enough fodder for therapy.
Speaking of which, someone better reserve some spots on the ol' couch for Teresa's kids, 'cause they've got a lot to try and unsee. Teresa shows her kids the scraps of fabric she calls "bikinis" and Gia advises her to throw them away. Trying to fit that body into those bandages seems like the clothing equivalent of getting waterboarded.
Another small hellbeast (I can't keep the last two kids straight) says "ew, why your chickarina full of sparkles?" Now, there are many things I figured "Housewives" would ruin for me -- namely my sanity and desire to procreate -- but the Progresso soup was never one of them. Just great.
Thanks to the magic of TV (and a plane that's on time) the Gorgas, Wakiles and Giudices arrive in AZ two minutes and one cocktail later. It's good that they got there early, because now they have more time to do important things like wonder whether a cactus will hurt you. The Lauritas and Manzos, however, are not so lucky. Their flight is delayed and they're stuck at the airport with hoards of unwashed masses and their screaming children. One mini-monster right in front of Caroline moans, complains, says it smells and then slides out of its chair and writhes on the floor -- oh wait, that's just Jacqueline! Looks like she lost 10 lbs. of fat and 30 years of maturity back in LA.
Since Rich heard that Arizona means "land of aromatic farts" in Old English, he lets loose the moment he enters Miraval Resort and Spa. It's gorgeous (the spa and villas, not Rich's flatulence), but I fear for all the other patrons who have come to enjoy the many "quiet areas." Now's probably the time to see if the gift shop has ear plugs and Valium drips.
As everyone settles in, Melissa grows very ill and throws herself on her bed, begging for a throat "losenger." Seriously, why do people say that? It's throat lozenge. Throat lozenge! A "losenger" is a "flatterer or a deceiver" -- and actually, if that's what she really wants, she's got one right next door.
Though it's really quite beautiful and this is a free vacation, nobody's grooving in nature. Teresa's got a bug on her leg, there's a bat, Rich tells Melissa she has a camel toe ... lovely.
Later, the boobs are flowing and the wine is out (wait, maybe I got that backwards), so everyone's having a good time. Melissa informs them that an "energy healer" is coming later. That's a fancy word for "medium," which is also a fancy word for "gullible." With that, Tina Powers (not making that up) walks in and gives her introduction. "I hear voices from another dimension, from people who are dead but not dead," she says. Oh, of course. Dead but not dead. Sort of like Kim D.
First, Tina strikes out with "J." She has a little more luck with "Marion," until she's informed that good ol' Marion is still alive and kicking. At this point, everyone's snickering at Tina Powers' lack thereof. Now girlfriend's just grasping at straws. She sees a lake, then a dock in a lake, then a house on a lake. So, she sees that 2006 Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock flick? She's channeling Netflix now? "When we're in a group like this, it comes in really fast," she says by way of explanation. So far, the Arizona medium ain't got nothing on the Long Island version, besides a more flattering haircut and a voice that doesn't make me consider going all Van Gogh on my ears.
Finally, the spirit guides (or, like, the spa and resort that hired her for this birthday party) tell Tina that it's someone's birthday. "I'm hearing the words like, to 'enjoy it more,'" Tina says. WOW! She finally picked up on something: that this isn't the best career path for her!
Then, Tina says she's channeling someone who died of heart failure or a heart attack. Oh, how impressive! Heart disease is only, like, the leading cause of death in both men and women. Still, Rich Wakile is not skeptical about anything (except his wife's cannoli business, but who isn't) so he buys what she's selling. Then, he's overcome by the dreaded ugly cry. Then, John Edward with bangs brings up the "videos, like old film" that this spirit wants to talk about, and Rich switches over to heaving sobs. WHO ELSE IN THE WORLD COULD HAVE KNOWN HE HAD A VIDEO FROM HIS WEDDING? Nobody does wedding videos! Nobody captures memories on film! It must be his dad!
Sarcasm aside, it's a touching moment -- and obviously one Rich needed. He allows himself to feel everything he's tried not to for 12 years, and totally gives himself over to this ghostly cocktail of relief and pain. Now, if his father could just come through and say something about those tinted lenses ... then I'd be able to agree that he really was a great man.
Then Tina starts to hit the nail on the head with Kathy and Rosie's dad ... or maybe she just looked up "symptoms of lung cancer." They both start to cry, even though the medium is looking just at Kathy and hasn't picked up on the fact that this latest spirit had two kids. Either way, they seem soothed and grateful for the experience. Afterwards, Kathy shares the painful memory of speaking with her father on his death bed. She hoped his parting words would be "I love you," but instead he urged her to remain close to her siblings. All Kathy wanted was to hear those words, but they never came. "Grab every moment and give that gift to your dad," Kathy urges Teresa.
The next day, Melissa is dying. "I've never felt pain like this in my life," she says, even though she's given birth to three children and had two silicone watermelons stitched into her chest. As Melissa struggles to take meds that even a horse would second guess, Joe looks on fondly. She's completely bare-faced, by which I mean she only had a local house painter apply the first four layers of primer and one quick shellack. "My wife is sexy no matter what," Joe says. "I'll catch all her diseases." I imagine this is how proud, devoted scientists feel about their petri dishes of viral plague, too. Though Melissa somehow already has a mini-pharmacy of legit pills, Joe asks if she needs Tarzan. I was hoping beyond hope that he was referring to an herbal supplement, but no ... of course we all know he was referring to his trouser snake.
The rest of the gang goes on a hike led by a couple of crunchy granola guides named Deborah and cute guy. Deborah looks like the only kinda snake she's ever seen is in nature book descriptions, bless her sweet heart and horrifying hat. The group keeps themselves occupied by wondering whether or not they are in the desert (they are) and if the sun is "very shining" (it is).
Though Melissa tells us in her interview that it "sucks" to be sick and that she "literally can't even take a sip of water," the Arizona footage of her happily lounging in her bikini and lapping ice water out of a glass suggests otherwise. Hey, it's her birthday and she'll be blissfully anti-social if she wants to.
Back on the trail, a traditional healer named Pamela does a cleansing and purifying ceremony. Everyone sits down and writes what they are letting go of on a pad. Then, they burn the paper in a bowl sitting in the middle of some dry grass. As everyone starts to write, Pamela helps them focus by gently smashing a gong and staring holes into their minds.
Albie chooses not to participate, so Caroline goes first. She releases "worry," though what she should really be burning is that epic fanny pack. Next, Joe Gorga lets go of "anger" and "hate." Kathy, channeling Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a massive cross around her neck, has quite a laundry list. She could probably shorten it by just sticking Rich in the flames, but she goes with "putting everyone else's needs before my own."
Next, Jacqueline contemplates ditching "negativity" or "getting rid of ill feelings toward people who have hurt you." She cries as she watches the paper disintegrate. Then, with much coaxing, Teresa stands. Her voice breaks as she calls up Jacqueline, Kathy and her brother -- and soon, the entire group is standing up. It's the first time she's really, truly taking responsibility for her actions and admitting that she has hurt everyone in different ways. Getting out of Jersey and into some spandex hiking gear hasn't done much for their asses, but their emotional quotients are looking great.
With everyone around her, Teresa begins. "I'm in a good place with everyone I'm holding hands with, and I just want to keep it there." She says she intends to invite "love, happiness, joy, friendship, reuniting" into her life. Teresa and Jacqueline embrace, then take a moment alone. This is like déjà vu all over again -- remember the epic hug in California last year? -- so let's hope this grand gesture lasts longer. Better hold on good and tight this time, Jacqueline.
As they spew Hallmark niceties and get lady boners for each other, Teresa does make one weird comment that Jacqueline can't shake. Teresa says she never wants to do anything to hurt anyone, because karma could potentially skip her and hurt her daughters. She couldn't possibly be insinuating something about Jacqueline's son Nick, right? Though I think Teresa's capable of meanness and I am still pretty certain she orchestrated a lot of the show's worst rumors, I don't think she'd ever sink that low. Then again, she did end up packing that sparkly chickarina wrapper ... so who knows.
Let me know what you think in the comments, or tweet me @sydneyraylevin.
"Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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