This week on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," we learn that Teresa and Joe are employing child laborers to help build the new garage in their wreck of a backyard. You know what's worse than forcing your daughters to pour concrete for hours and hours on end? Dressing them in less-than-stylish child laborer outfits. The Giudice girls (save for the tiniest one who I assume is inside painstakingly bedazzling something for momma) are clad in overalls, pink t-shirts and camo bandannas that have been on the "Not Hot in Gang Land" list for a few years now. As the girls stucco their little Italian fingers to the bone, Teresa takes pictures and squeals about how much money they're saving. After an unfortunate fight on the job, the kids are "fired," and I'm reminded again why I only buy goods from foreign countries: Tots there just have a much better work ethic.
The weird thing about their backyard is that they apparently rented a bunch of German shepherds and cages you only see in those awful "please help abused animals and also listen to this sad Sara McLachlan song" ad. Were these creatures brought in for effect, or do the Giudices actually own them? Either way, we only ever see them during the "working out back" segments, and they lend a nice eau de white trash to the whole scene.
As Teresa surveys the garage that looks exactly like a guest house, she says she can't understand why Jacqueline thinks it's "an apartment." She explains that she doesn't understand Jacqueline's fascination with her life. Teresa knows a whole lot of private things about Jacqueline -- like how "they were going through a bankruptcy with one of Chris' businesses" -- but it's not like she's going to tell the entire world that super big secret or anything. And she definitely wouldn't let something her pal confided in her slip out while spewing totally unrehearsed lines in a completely off-the-cuff interview!
Meanwhile in "Armageddon: Backyard Edition," Joe is giving Teresa some lessons in pouring concrete that forces him to press his concrete-spreader tool thing into the gray mess. It looks, to Teresa's well trained eyes, "like a va-jay-jay!" Then, as if beckoned by the va-jay-jay gods, Rosie drives up. If the irony of the scene was lost on you, don't worry. Our trusty narrator Joe reminds us that "Rosie would like this." He obviously remembered how much Rosie loves construction material made primarily out of aggregate, cement and water. Aw, BFFs.
Rosie gives the kids super awkward hugs and we're treated to an amazing flashback of the day Rosie babysat. (She became my personal hero when she threatened to throw the whole lot of 'em in "the lagoon.") Teresa has to remind the girls who she is, though, because they obviously repressed that memory.
So, what's with the sudden drive-by Rosie? "I got something that I want to get off my chest," she begins. "I was all lovey-dovey last night, but I hear things. I read s--- about my sister in the tabloids. How she's a traitor, how she's two-faced ..."Teresa informs her that the rags are total BS, and Rosie calls her bluff: If they're so stupid, why not release a statement to that effect? Nah, Teresa's not into that. "I don't have a computer in my head," she says, "but I have seen articles about Kathy bashing me." Good lord, can someone please tell Teresa that her head computer is called a brain? And while you're at it, could you please call the Geek Squad to come out and reboot it?
Our beloved (and normally composed) Rosie is all worked up. Her face turns a deep shade of crimson as she hollers that the newsstand madness must stop. But instead of taking any ownership, Teresa reminds Rosie that she has also been "through hell and back." Then they reminisce about days of yore when Rosie, Kathy and Teresa used to be really close. Rosie wistfully remembers how much fun they had before she grew "distant" and no longer "fit in."
Teresa then drops a pretty heinous bomb: She says Rosie felt left out because Kathy "hated the fact that her sister was gay." This stands in stark contrast to everything we've seen ... and even if it may actually be true, it's about the lowest blow dealt on this show. Teresa continues to flip the script, reminding Rosie -- who originally came to defend her sister -- that she can always come to her with any familial issues. It's a very crafty move, and one that makes me wonder if we're not giving her credit where credit is due. I mean, don't get me wrong -- I've met dirt with a higher IQ than Teresa; but her calculated manipulations are proof that people who can't form full sentences can still sharpen their words into poison darts.
Teresa takes a minute to spit-shine her halo and tuck her tail back into her jeans. She reminds Rosie that she's seeking therapy with her brother since the Mutiny on the S.S. Friendship has left her completely alone. Teresa deserves an Emmy for Best Actress in an "I'm the Victim" Role.
Meanwhile at Kathy's house, the Wakilies and Gorgas are discussing the big events of the previous night's party. Joe tells them about Teresa's therapy revelation, and they're very supportive. Kathy does the thing where she proves that she is listening really intently by popping her eyes out of her head. "I don't need the therapy," Joe reminds us. "I'm a sane man. I'm an angel from God!" OK I'm sorry, but this is the most ridonkulous thing I have ever heard. Everyone knows God is totally a "Real Housewives of O.C." fan. I mean, he gave the world Slade Smiley, didn't he?
Then, Rosie enters and tells them about her good tawk with Teresa. "She looks so sincere I forget about that other side of her," she remarks. Everyone agrees. "Is she so dying to be back with her family because her other family isn't there anymore?" Oh, that Rosie is quick on the uptake! Even though they're not so fond of Teresa at the moment, the group seems hesitant to bash her ... or anyone, for that matter. While Teresa's the only one with lines drawn, it's obvious that there are two very distinct groups: "Friends-family" and "family-family." Right now, Teresa has no allies in either, but her family-family is the gang that can't dump her as easily.
Over at Jacqueline's house, the Manzos and Lauritas are working on a big Sunday dinner. It's a pretty typical "cooking" scene in that Lauren makes more of her awkwardly self-deprecating "fat girl" jokes and we all wonder why she doesn't just get her jaw wired shut already. It would solve so many issues, dontcha think? They also discus the big Napa trip they're all about to embark upon. Jacqueline is like, "Oh my god, this RV trip is going to suck since we hate Teresa, but I don't care," and Caroline's all, "I think it's important to remind you that I spend 99.9 percent of my day thinking up ways to kill Teresa and make it look like Gia did it."
... Wait, do you smell that? It's the delicious scent of a "Housewife" theme! "Growing up Italian in New Jersey, Sunday dinners, that's family. Let you hair down. Be home," Kathy tells us. The Wakilies are over at Rosie and grandma's house (they're roomies, as you'll recall) for their weekly chow sessions, and it does look pretty delish. Apparently discussing Rosie's love life is also on the menu, because Rich immediately reminds her that it's time to dive back in. Kathy says she'd happily go to a gay club with her sister, as if that will somehow help her attract a partner. Rosie's dumbfounded, but she's too sweet to shoot the idea down outright. "It's not what you're thinking," she says. The camera pans to her awe-struck nephew who is obviously thinking some very saucy things ... and I'm not talking about the kind that's on his spaghetti. (Yeah, I hate myself for that joke too.)
As the pasta boils at the Manzo/Laurita dinner, so does Albie Manzo's blood. All eyes are on him, and the topic of conversation is his new giiiiirlfriiiiend. We got a glimpse of her on his phone a few weeks back. You remember, she looked like a Hooters waitress with a heart of gold. Nobody wants to like her because they're tired of getting attached to girls who he ends up dumping. Just when you think the conversation can't get any more boring, Lauren decides to chat about being a tub of lard again. She's eating grilled chicken, and she'd like you to know that. Speaking of things nobody cares about, someone brings up Jacqueline's first-born mistake, Ash-double-E. How is that delightful creature doing, anyway? Apparently she got a "brand new tattoo of a skull head to remind her of her days at the bar." She's also heading --jobless and apartmentless -- to LA.
Never one to speak her mind as bluntly as possible, Caroline says, "Maybe she'll look at the tattoo and think, 'What an ass I was.''' She says Ash-double-E is barely recognizable after a major makeover. "It's like she's trying not to look like her mother." But since that makeover included lip injections, it seems the apple may never far from the cheap plastic surgeon.
Back in Wakilieland, Kathy addresses her alleged issues with her sister. "I just think she needed to come to a place of self-acceptance. Until that happened, she couldn't sustain fulfilling relationships with even her family members." That seems pretty reasonable to me, but then again, I used to thinking it made total sense to tie my sister up with a jump rope and swing her into a puddle of mud. (Becky, you know you liked it.)
They ask Rosie and Kathy's mom if she had any sibling drama, and she breaks her silence with an absolutely gut-wrenching story. "I never had the chance to fight with anyone," she explains. When she was 5 years old, her mother gave her a bath and dressed her in a white dress. Then, they went to visit her aunt. Her mom sat her in a chair, gave her a doll ... and left her there. Because her aunt couldn't have any children, she was essentially allowed to take Kathy and Rosie's mom. Since she was so little, she had no recollection of the exchange. Eventually she met her mother and sisters and "didn't feel nothing." Kathy and Rosie (somehow) had never heard this story, and they're devastated. Grandma says that she never realized the horror of the situation until she had kids of her own and experienced a bond she could never imagine breaking. Still, she doesn't hold grudges, and it's one of those rare, human moments that reminds us what reality TV, at its core, should be. I'm not saying you readers need to quit tying your sisters up with jump ropes or anything ... but maybe you should tell them you love 'em first next time.
Speaking of siblings, we return from commercial break to check in with my favorite proof that everything evil happens in groups of fours. (In this case, Teresa's spawn.) She tells her mini-Satan worshipers that she's "having lunch" with their uncle Joe because she feels they are too young to understand what therapy is. But since their reaction to the news is along the lines of "Screw Uncle Joe!," it is pretty obvious that they know a whole lot more than she (very painfully and slowly) thinks.
Meanwhile, Joe Gorga's nervously getting ready, too. He's put on a pink shirt/black vest/tie combo that screams "I CRAVE LOVE, BUT ALSO PLEASE BE REMINDED THAT I AM A PHYSICALLY FIT MAN." When Melissa calls to check in, he says he knows he's not going to get his "old sister back, but hopefully she can be an aunt to my children." Melissa reminds him that "Rome wasn't built in a day" and gives some other cliched gems of wisdom, but Joe has a far off look in his eye. He's obviously wondering if perhaps a purple shirt is the way to go.
Finally, it's the big moment: Therapy party at West 70 Psychology! They kick things off with a really normal and not at all inappropriate and incestuous conversation about how good the other person looks. Joe comments that Teresa is in red and says it's a sexy color. As they sit on opposite sides of the room in their biz casual attire, it feels less like two siblings meeting and more like a waring duo bracing for pre-divorce couples counseling.
Family therapist Mike (can I call you Mike? Ok, good) comes out and sits in what seems like a really tiny chair. He explains that first, he'll have a conversation with each of them alone, and then they'll make it a threesome. Who doesn't love a good menage a therapy?
Teresa gets to kick things off first. "I've never done anything," she begins. "There's something that he can't get past. Maybe you could help him." It's fun to watch family therapist Mike's face while she talks. He looks totally amused by this strange, alien life form who doesn't seem to understand that "therapy" is Latin for "a time to talk about why YOU are totally coo-coo bananas."
She rants about how she was very close to her brother, but their relationship -- and their Sunday dinners -- came to an end when he dated Melissa. She tells family therapist Mike that when Joe and Melissa were having their first child, she was pregnant with her third. "That makes you a terribly busy woman," family therapist Mike murmurs. Ahh, I see what you did there, family therapist Mike! Way to make Teresa think you're totes on her side. We come to learn that their rift began because Joe felt Teresa wasn't around enough, but she was far too busy with her own brood to have ample time for his. Teresa throws in a few more nasties about Melissa and then reminds family therapist Mike that she's not a grudge holder; this could all be water under the bridge if Joe could move forward.
When family therapist Mike tells her that she is walking into conversations with Joe with a chip on her shoulder, she "has to correct" him. As family therapist Mike describes Teresa to a tee, she goes all dead behind the eyes. Her face flat lines, and you can see her brain powering down. There will be no getting through to her today, tomorrow ... maybe ever. You've probably heard about the ego and the id, but have you heard about the idiot? Yep, her name is Teresa Giudice. Now it's time for Joe to bare his soul, but first we have to hit the gay club with Rosie and Kathy and Heather.
Before they enter Cubby Hole for some hole-some fun, Rosie explains that she's into brunette chicks like Heather, the (married/straight) woman you saw in the hot tub a few weeks ago. Rosie's a little shy, so Kathy heads in to the crowd to play matchmaker. She brings her catches back to Rosie ... who ain't so coy after a few dranks. She smooches her new pal right on the lips as a greeting. Then, she promptly forgets the name of the next woman she chats up. Kathy gives her some valuable advice that I hole-hearted support: "First rule of thumb: Remember a bitch's name!"
Back in therapy, Joe walks into the room like he's heading to his execution. Family therapist Mike (who we'll just call Mike now because it's a lot to type and you get the picture) asks him how the grievance started. Joe agrees that it began when he was dating Melissa, but he paints Teresa as a vindictive, angry woman who was immediately on the offensive. He says her lack of respect and love was what ended their weekly dinners. "How do you work past that?" he asks. With that, it's time to bring Teresa in.
Mike tells them that the fix should be pretty easy because they both want the same thing. Then, he says they need to drop the old drama. "The thing the two of you need is you need some occasion for your families to get together. You need to start your Sunday night tradition." He also asks them to make promises to get along as they're driving over. Joe's not a fan of all these suggestions. "Why doesn't it just work?" Joe asks. "But it don't," Mike says, solidifying my assumption that he never actually went to therapist school and is actually just a crew member they stuffed into a shirt and tie.
Teresa announces that they will have plenty of time to practice getting along when they go to Napa together. "Do you want to share an RV?" she asks. Maybe-not-a-family-therapist Mike seems pretty wary. "Don't! It's a great way to get into an enormous fight," he says. "You're going to drink wine all day ..." Teresa's all, "Let's prove the doctor wrong and maybe kill each other!" We can't actually see the reaction of the show's producers, but I imagine it's a lot of gleeful jumping and salivating.
After the session, Teresa and Joe have a little post-mortem. Things start off well, and Teresa advises him to come to her first before letting things build up. Then, Joe brings up an article he read three days ago that said he had sold their parents house, effectively leaving them homeless. He's pretty sure the blind source is good ol' Teresa, and the accusation makes Teresa irate. She blames it on someone who "wants to make money. Maybe Jacqueline?" They decide to walk out the door and leave things in the office ... but somewhere between the door and the street they get into a screaming match. I guess the cameramen couldn't run fast enough, because we can only hear what's happening as they move to the ground floor. Joe shouts about the "shack" in Teresa's backyard, yelling that his father and mother "don't want to move there." "Buy him a house!" Teresa shrieks. "Why don't you?" Joe retorts. "You've got this f--ing purse. You don't get it!" I can't imagine they forgot they were all mike'd up, but we do manage to get a snippit of the first truly raw conversation they've had all season.
It seems like poor Grandma and Grandpa Gorga are probably going to have to live out back ... so let's hope someone feeds those dogs the day they move in.
"The Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs at 10 p.m. ET on Sundays on Bravo.