Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 5, Episode 12 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey," titled "Hair-Binger of Doom."
Because Teresa's not content with a 39-count indictment, she's decided to commit another offense: fishtail braiding while under the influence of a confusing hairline. With so much of her face exposed, it's hard for me to focus on what she's saying to Melissa -- which, ironically enough, is an update on her new Milania Hair Care line. (Check out her website and you'll see it is extremely legit. It was voted Best Hair Product 2013 by ... well, actually, they don't say by whom, but when has that ever mattered? Also, did I mention that it is "ENDORSED BY TERESA GIUDICE"? Please, if you have a second, use it to watch the video of Teresa running her hands through her hair in slow-motion. It has the same mind-numbing effect on your brain as a horse tranquilizer, and it's totally legal.)
Since no self-respecting "Housewife" sister-in-law would sit back and let the other shine like your mane after an infusion of Argan Oil from Milania Hair Care, Melissa doesn't ask Teresa a single question about her new venture. Instead, she walks as fast as her Abercrombie Toddlers pants will allow and grabs one of her "Love Italian Style" books
"I'm excited about having the book," Melissa says to Teresa. "But all of a sudden, all these rumors come out." With that, the Life & Style cover with the headline "Melissa Cheated on Joe" is splashed across the screen. "It just seems so contrived and calculated," Melissa adds. Teresa stares stonily at Melissa, silently trying to understand. As she sits in her blue top that looks like a couture straight jacket, I can see the wheels turning slowly in her head: "So, Melissa feels like someone used a calculator to hurt her."
"I have a happy marriage to your brother, so this accusation is huge," Melissa continues. (My advice? Relish in the fact that you can finally use the word "huge" in conjunction with your bite-size man.) Teresa tells her just to ignore it and it will go away, but Melissa's not buying that. When Teresa puts her thinking hair on, she can accomplish some mighty cruel feats -- and I don't just mean her wardrobe.
Oh, did you hear that? It was the gloriously expensive sound of Jacqueline not jiggling at all as she re-enters Jersey! "I wish I would have gotten my eyes done when I was under," she sighs to her mom as the car speeds toward her house. As she gingerly walks up the driveway, CJ gives her a gentle hug. Inside, she rushes to Nick and smothers him with kisses. Though she wants to, she can't pick him up. She's overjoyed that he acknowledged not only that she's back, but that she was away.
Later, it's time for Chris Laurita to blow off some steam at the cigar bar with the other housebands (minus Joe Giudice). Joe Gorga's trying to plan a party for Melissa, so he asks the men for ideas. Rich "the Lebanese Jeff Goldblum" helpfully suggests that Joe give Melissa a break from his man parts, but Joe explains that Melissa gets "crazy" if he doesn't touch her. Thanks for sharing, Joe. Poor sex-deprived Chris suggests a nice, relaxing vacation to Arizona, and Joe agrees -- then, in the next breath, he asks if everyone would join him. If there's one thing Melissa would love for her special day, I bet it's a romantic trip with people she wants to strangle in a totally non-S&M way!
In Hoboken, the Manzo kids are helping fill their parents' empty nest with furniture. As Caroline directs the chaos, her husband walks in, barks at her to hire a decorator, then starts to walk out. Caroline meekly asks for money for food shopping, then explains that theirs is an "old school" marriage in which Al calls the shots. It seems the outspoken proponent of speaking your mind has checked her feelings at the door.
Perhaps as a result of watching this power struggle for so many years, Lauren Manzo refuses to live in the shadow of a man -- which is for the best, 'cause her Vito is quite large, and she'd never be able to maintain a tan in there. She explains unabashedly that since opening her business, Vito has become her second priority, and she's no longer in a rush to get engaged. "You have the cojones to say no?" Vito says to her over dinner. "Would you move in together? Take this relationship to the next level?" Lauren tells him it's not the time, then asks for a kiss. I am proud of her for being an independent woman and eschewing the whole "put a ring on it" phenomenon. She's like 20 pounds away from being spandex bodysuit-ready anyway.
Over at a different, less classy joint named Aladdin Restaurant (more "I can show you the back room" than "I can show you the world"), Melissa and Joe discuss her impending birthday. Melissa suggests Vegas, but Joe explains his brilliant idea instead. Melissa is struggling to keep her eyes open under the weight of her makeup, but her mouth drops open with ease. "Why?" she sputters. Before Joe can explain, Rosie, Teresa and Joe, Caroline and Jacqueline enter. We get a glimpse of the nasty scar on Jacqueline's neck, but its ugliness is quickly topped by the newcomers' outfits.
As everyone chokes on their hookah, Joe Gorga makes a speech. "There's a great spa in Arizona. You meditate there, heal, relax. I'm inviting everyone. I set everything up." Everyone accepts the invite and toasts to a southwest trip that hopefully won't go south.
A few days later, Melissa and her family are playing outside when the phone rings. It's Teresa with an invitation to the launch of Milania. There's just one fly in the weave ointment, though: Jan and Penny, Melissa's BFFs-turned-Brutes will be there since they're "in the industry" and own salons. (A word about this dirty Penny: She's Angelo's cousin. Angelo, as you'll recall, was the dude who looked like Mr. Clean's older pedophile brother. He confronted Melissa last season, claiming that she used to dance for him.)
Teresa tells Melissa that she's not friends with them, and that Melissa should consider the event the "perfect time" to confront them. Some people schedule dancers to get a party started ... but Teresa knows a good ol' fashioned brawl gets the collective blood pumping a lot faster. It's also her alleged way of proving her loyalty to Melissa, and she notes that this is all in the spirit of openness.
"For two years now, my sister's been trying to take us down," Joe says when Melissa gives her the scoop. "She's got all these people behind her doing all this dirty work. Now, we just made up. I'm hoping she's for real."
At Teresa's, the inspiration for her adult hair care line is sliding down the banister with fake boobs under her bedazzled shirt. "I need to be a mom for one day," Milania says, totally exasperated. Then, because vampires can't enter your house without being invited, there's a polite knock at the door. It's Kim D., all fresh and perky from gorging on the blood of young Posche shoppers. Teresa informs her that she's in a "good place" with Melissa, and that the night will go well. Hot damn, that girl has an incredible talent for foreshadowing in bad eyeshadow.
Meanwhile, Melissa's getting ready with an unnamed friend and Lisa. She explains that Jan stabbed her in the back, and is likely responsible for the cruel Life & Style cover. "I don't get the motive," Melissa laments. Still, she's confident that Teresa will stand behind her (or at least teeter on her weird heels that look like they have bangs behind her) as she gets to the bottom of the treachery.
With Joe by her side, Melissa walks nervously into the party. The second she enters, the peanut gallery starts yapping away. Jan's so heavily made up that she resembles a bad wax figure version of herself, like what some drunk apprentice at Madame Tussauds would sculpt while on a bender. In all her gold 'n' glittery glory, Penny looks like the drag queen that placed third in the Liberace-Look-Alike competition. (Psst ... behind the candelabra, there's a wiener!)
Melissa promises Teresa and the melting pile of flesh wearing Kim D.'s dress that she'll confront them next time she's upset about a rumor. As Gloopy the Molasses Monster talks at Melissa a while longer, good ol' Jan saunters up from behind, all starched and ready for her 15 nanoseconds of fame. As she struts into the group, she blows past Melissa and gives everyone else air kisses, so as not to spread the Herp. "Want to say something to me, Melissa?" she snarls, though Melissa has barely acknowledged her. I swear, if Bloody Mary got 21st century makeup and popped out of parties instead of mirrors, she'd look like Jan.
Melissa stammers, "You said that I meet my ex?" She's obviously still stunned that her former BFF has gone to the dark tan side. "Well, you do meet your ex!" Jan says triumphantly, just like she practiced with some Bravo executives behind the scenes.
"I was there with you that night," Jan says. Melissa's hands start flying and she grabs her husband for support. Meanwhile, Teresa has faded into the background, capable only of opening and closing her mouth like a guppy that didn't get the memo about lip liner.
"You used me as an alibi. I'm done lying for you," Jan says. Melissa stares at her, completely incredulous. "You're my friend. I loved you!" is all she can manage to say. "You loved yourself," Jan retorts before turning to leave. "Melissa, the Academy Award goes to you. Thank you Jesus!" Teresa and Kim D. try to do damage control, and Penny walks over, ready to give herself-worth of thoughts. "I heard that you had a dinner with my sister-in-law and Jan and that you were talking s*** on me," Melissa says.
Penny quickly confirms that she 100 percent talked crap about her, and then tells Teresa that she's not her buddy either. Penny says people asked her questions about Melissa, and that she was always happy to oblige with an answer. "Who asked you these questions?" Melissa says while Teresa has a stroke in the background.
"I know I should say it, but I don't want to cause problems," Penny says. Before Penny can continue, Teresa jumps in and defends herself. Then, Penny says (yet again) that Teresa has nothing to do with it, but nobody feels like they're getting the truth. Joe Gorga actually puts it best when he says, "Teresa's hovering over the situation, telling the girl, 'I had nothing to do with it, riiiight?' She is trying too hard to make herself look innocent, and to me, that makes her look guilty."
There's also something about Penny's eyes that I can't shake. At first, I thought they were just rheumy and that maybe that's what happens when you get old and lose your will to live. But now, I think they were just searching for something. It's like she was trying to use ESPN to tell Melissa that there's more to the story than she's being paid to tell.
In fact, it is starting to really seem like Teresa orchestrated this entire painful confrontation to absolve herself of any wrongdoing, while simultaneously reinforcing Jan as the "bad" one.
After all, when has Teresa ever shilled this line before -- and what other event could she have conceivably invited Jan and Penny too, while still being able to say, "Well, I can't NOT have the industry people." If this really is a scheme, it's one of the most elaborate and involved ones we have seen to date.
As Penny turns to leave, Teresa has the last few redundant words. "You didn't believe your own sister. I would never do anything to hurt you guys, and you should know that." Melissa assuages her, and Teresa crab-walks away. "I just feel like someone's hands are a little dirty right now," Melissa says. If anyone deserves an Academy Award tonight, it's Teresa ... and I don't think she'll thank Jesus unless he commits to using her products.
Though Melissa placates her sister-in-law with hugs and smiles, she can't shake that "uh oh" feeling that she's been completely had. "There's a connection here" she says, her face all screwed up with suspicion ... and every acrylic nail seems to point right back to Teresa.
"Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
THE spot for your favorite fan theories and the best movie recs. Learn more