Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 5, Episode 7 of Bravo's "Real Housewives Of New Jersey," titled "When Joes Collide."
"We got a stripper in the house!" Joe Gorga yells while his wife convulses and his youngest son booty pops his diaper just like on "Incontinent Toddlers Gone Wild." Apparently, this is a typical "going away" ritual for the Gorga family, which makes me really worry about what's going to happen when they get back. Now that they're all danced out, Joe and Melissa can pack, and their children can rock quietly in separate corners.
"I don't even know why the hell we're going on this thing," Rich says as he and Kathy pack the matching Louis Vuitton luggage that's about as real as their healthy, happy sex life. When Rich asks what time the "party bus" is getting there, I assumed it was a silly joke juxtaposing the excitement of a party bus with the misery of going on a retreat with people you'd rather skin and wear as a coat than hang out with. I was wrong.
In the next scene, a massive bus backs into the driveway, and they also acquire Rosie. Melissa comes out with tons of luggage, and we get a look at just how much junk there is in the trunk. Oh, and also they put the bags into the bus' undercarriage.
On the bus, Kathy and Rosie try to talk the skeptics into the trip. Apparently, they will all be in good hands because Dr. V., an expert in relationships that Teresa knows, will be guiding them on a path toward love, respect and not dedicating every waking moment of their lives to ruining someone else's. "Dr. Va-jay-jay?" Melissa shrieks, proving just how mature and dedicated she is to all the above. As an aside, I'd just like to say that I think people really need to stop letting "va-jay-jay" happen. It got its 15 minutes of fame on "Grey's Anatomy" and the cover of every Cosmo magazine. It's time to think of a more creative way to refer to lady giblets. (I don't suggest that one.)
"We're wasting our time again," Joe Gorga says, exasperated. "Joe, to me, is a fake," he continues. "He doesn't love her. He's a cheater. He's an a**hole," Melissa says quietly, as if a mic can't pick up a whisper. She goes on to explain that Teresa's real anger toward her stems from how jealous she is of Melissa and Joe's relationship. Since she's "not embraced" by her husband, she doesn't want anyone to be. Granted, we see a heavily edited version of the housewives' lives and should take much of what goes on with a grain of Xanax -- but since Joe called Teresa a see-you-next-Tuesday at the winery, I have to admit I'm buying what Melissa's selling. (All in $1 bills, just the way she likes.)
Eventually Teresa and Joe arrive at Sun Castle resort in Lake George. It's gorgeous, albeit a little creepy. It's got a certain je ne sais quoi, not unlike the Overlook Hotel ... and the housewives are about to make RED RUM sound like a delish brunch cocktail.
In keeping with the "rural royalty" theme, Caroline and Albert are currently at Lambert Castle, a structure in New Jersey run by former "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert. It seems like a truly lovely building, if you can get past the eyeliner. Caroline has decided to skip the retreat, and instead, has suited up in a massively over-sized brown coat that I think was once featured in a Jenny Craig "Before" photo shoot. (The "after" was a nice, slim windbreaker that lost a full Jennifer Hudson.) They have a lovely time at the park, and I quickly realize something that makes me very sad: I'm officially a reality show violence convert. I used to love the sweet, "Everyday man and woman" bits when the ladies weren't tearing each other limb-from-limb ... but now, I find them boring, and wonder whether they are worth noting in recaps. What fresh hell is this?!
Oh, and by the way, the Manzo splendor in the grass culminates in Caroline asking Albert to take more time with the family, and Albert saying that he wants to, but it's not so easy when you're the breadwinner. Caroline explains that he works feverishly because he lost his father at a very young age, and in some way, it's how he makes him posthumously proud. Blah blah blah, no yelling or internal bleeding, get your tickets to Yawn Fest 2013 right here, before nobody else does.
As the fiesta wagon pulls up, Teresa and Joe awkwardly welcome them inside. After an elaborate line of air kisses, Teresa looks around and inquires about Caroline and Jacqueline. Kathy breaks the silence that ensues, explaining that they aren't coming. She mentions that Jacqueline is having a "hard time with Nick," which Teresa doesn't buy. She brings up the nasty tweet and asks how Jacqueline had time for that, as if sitting at a computer and dashing out 140 characters is time consuming, and in any way comparable to a weekend away from home.
With that, Teresa quickly brushes her anger under the rug and whips out her welcome mat. She shows the gang to their respective rooms (consensus: they are all too hot) and lets everyone settle in and talk about each other. Teresa switches emotions so quickly that it's a wonder she doesn't get whip lash. Joe Giudice, however, is as quiet as snow falling on cedar-scented insane people ... until he isn't.
What follows is Joe Giudice's medical opinion about Jacqueline's son and autism: "A lot of people have autism. Autism isn't really a bad disease. Some of 'em are like scientists!" Though Teresa only has half a brain cell more than her husband (Brendan Fraser owes them his career -- they were the people on which "Encino Man" was based, right?) even she knows not to go down this road. She goes silent, although she is careful to mention in her interview that the inane things Joe says are often in defense of her/come from a good place.
As they sit down to lunch, Teresa announces, "My brother is the king-- the king of the castle!" He's at the head of the table so it makes sense, but it's still kinda weird. You know that split-second just as you're waking up where you're free from the troubles of your life? When it comes to her brother, Teresa seems to go there quite often. In those brief moments, it's like their sibling battle royale doesn't exist. Everyone eats in awkward silence.
Joe Giudice decides to share some important feelings of his own: He was making very loud farts upstairs, and he hoped that everyone heard them.
With that, there's a sound -- and it's not coming from Joe Giudice's GI tract. It's the perky husband-and-wife team builders, Stephanie and Steve. They look like the couple that every housewife would have made fun of in high school ... so that's one step toward unity, at least.
If you didn't watch (and bless you for reading this!), the only way I can explain S and S is that they look like people who play Monopoly and like it. "What are they going to fix us with?" Melissa muses. "Butterflies and sweet dreams?"
"It should be a great afternoon!" Steve says, cheerfully masking the fact that he has most certainly not gotten laid in four to five years.
As they lay a rope out on the floor, Rich and Rosie look on, mesmerized. "They went to SCHOOL for this," Rosie says. "They read BOOKS!" Rich echoes. Meanwhile, you just know good ol' Steve has giddy fantasies of going all Christian Grey on his wife if he can ever get her to untuck those boots from her khakis.
As everyone rolls their eyes, Steve makes them stand on a square of cloth inside the rope -- without touching the ground. It's like Twister for people with trust issues. Eventually they take squares away so that everyone has to jump onto the same one and molest each other. You know Steve's saying: Families that act like sexual predators together, stay together!
Then, Melissa looked through the TV and into my soul: "I think Joe Giudice is so into these games because his brain could understand the content."
Steve reminds them that it will be the moments when he and Stephanie are away, definitely not getting physical, that will really matter. The gang can easily figure out how to get through a fast game, but they must learn how to hold on to each other in life.
"You're looking at loyalty. I'm here," Joe Gorga says. "We're both here," Teresa corrects him before bringing up Jacqueline. When Melissa tries to join the conversation, Teresa snaps at her. Now everyone's talking over each other, and poor Steve can't get a word in edgewise. "If we're going to fix this, everyone needs to take a little bit of blame," Melissa says in her interview. "But she sent the message that ... this has nothing to do with her."
The camera pans across the snowy landscape to quickly remind you that, contrary to everything you're about to see, beauty exists in the world.
"You are poison!" Melissa shouts while doing a sort of bend-and-snap movement, minus the bend. I guess she basically just snaps -- literally and figuratively.
"You should stick with your sister!" Teresa yells back, fixated on her brother while Melissa leans against the window and shoots daggers into her hair. Oh, silly ol' Melissa -- haven't you realized that nothing can penetrate that furry helmet? God's weapons specialist/hairdresser spent a little more time on her. As Teresa screams, we cut to her interview. "Certain things he's saying to me, it's not coming from him. It's Melissa chirping in his ear."
We may never know if Melissa truly manipulated her husband behind closed doors (isn't smart a prerequisite to cunning?), but one thing's for sure: Whoever trained him to hate has been ratcheting up the lessons. "You're scum!" he spits at Teresa. The impact of the painful slur makes her physically recoil. It's like she took all nine letters directly to the chest and her new boobies (I think of them as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's squishier Jersey alter-egos) moved out of the way and let 'em hit.
Mortally wounded now, Teresa storms out of the room. In a bit of foreshadowing (if you consider "foreshadowing" something someone says about two seconds before they do it), Teresa's husband is outside with Rosie, telling her how he's so ready to "flip out" on his brother-in-law.
"He just called me scum!" Teresa shrieks. "I want to go!" With that, Joe predictably flips out and starts to barrel toward the door. Though this seems to be the reaction Teresa was looking for just a moment ago, she immediately tells him not to go inside. "Relax! I'm going to tell him to apologize," Joe says as he rushes in. Apparently, when Joe learned English, someone explained that "apologize" means "attempt to beat the snot out of someone."
Back inside, Joe Giudice doesn't have time to maybe kill Joe Gorga, 'cause Joe Gorga's already called dibs on violence.
He throws all two feet of his body at Giudice, and they're officially in the shortest fight ever. Don't get me wrong, it lasts a pretty decent amount of time ... I just mean it's like watching champs at the International Stunted Growth Invitational flail their T-Rex arms about with gusto.
With that, the screen goes black -- and Steve and Stephanie realize in a surge of adrenaline and passion that this is exactly what their relationship has been missing.
Has this episode changed your mind about any of our deranged friends? Let's talk it out in the comments.
"Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.