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'Real Housewives Of New Jersey' Finale: The Beginning Of The End

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Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 5, Episode 17 of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," titled "Salon Farewell."

Annnd we're back at the aptly named Moxie Salon ("a force of character, determination or nerve") where Teresa is summoning all of hers to shut Penny down. "You wanted to destroy [Melissa], not me," Penny reiterates. Though Teresa's putting in quite a performance, she's not fooling Melissa or Joe. "I believe Penny, because what is her gain? Her gain is 'Teresa, you put me up to this, now you're making ME look bad? No. I'm gonna rat you out,'" Joe and his lucky white Kangol say.

Penny says she has nothing to prove, and that Kim D.'s the one with the proof. "For years and years and years, [Kim D.'s] hands have been dirty," Caroline reminds us. Silly me; I thought all those unsightly smudges were liver marks brought on by aging ungracefully.

Since nobody's getting anywhere, Melissa starts to ask the tough questions. "Why do you have Teresa's home and cell number in your phone?" Penny's face is a plate of befuddlement with a side of baffled as she replies "she gave it to me!"

Teresa's hands go into flailing windmill mode, like she's trying to supply all of New Jersey with a more energy efficient source of electricity. She tells Penny to pull up her "textes." Penny shouts back that she doesn't save "texteses." I totally get it: a ton of texteses can really clog your inboxeses.

The lack of pixilated proof or an electronic paper trail makes Teresa get positively giddy. Now, nobody can really accuse her of orchestrating all this nonsense. To celebrate, she launches into her favorite rabid chipmunk voice and says things in a frequency that only certain creatures (like Penny) can hear. "I'm gonna show you what kinda liar you are," Penny says angrily as her husband, Johnny walks in.

Johnny, clad in a quilted Kangol cap and black dress shirt, looks like a human dark chocolate M&M: round, big and full of stuff that could eventually kill you. Joe Gorga walks up to him and grabs his huge sausage hand, telling him "I'm the guy you destroyed on f---ing Twitter." Johnny does something that I think is called shrugging, but it's hard to tell when the shrugger in question has no neck.

"We want to know where the hate came from," Melissa chimes in as Joe questions how the hell Johnny knows so much about his family. "Ask your sister where it stems from. Where the f--k did I get that information from?" Johnny says angrily. With that, Teresa starts to convulse, and Joe screams "JUST SAY IT!" What happens next is a blur of shrieking onlookers, flying clothes and black screens as cameras are thrown around. Though Bravo's had us salivating over this alleged knock-down drag-out fight scene all year, it seems like the only things that took a beating are a bunch of old racks ... and I'm not talking about Kim D. and her cronies' boobs. "Are you happy!? Are you happy what you did to a family?!" Caroline screams as Kim D. is restrained by a gaggle of elderly witches she raised from the dead.

Caroline hustles her family out while the rest of the cast tries to make heads or tails of the drama. "He's a psycho, but why is he always mentioning you?" Joe says to Teresa. "Get those people out of your corner," Melissa screams at Teresa. "Don't get your hair done at their salon!" Instead of being all rah-rah family when the shit hits the fan, Teresa has to actually live her promise to extricate herself from the people powering the rumor mill.

The next day, Melissa and Joe have a postmortem in their kitchen. Melissa explains that the party wasn't an "awakening call" for her because she knew all along that Teresa was the puppet master -- but she hopes that the evening was an eye-opener for Teresa. At this point, they've become numb to their anger ... so now, they're hoping to move toward forgiveness to lighten their emotional burdens.

Of course Teresa's not sitting at home wringing her hands and wondering how she can become a better person and make things right. Rather, she's feeling very sorry for herself and hoping her brother won't "allow a stranger" to cause problems between them. Joe Giudice goes a step further, saying that Melissa and Joe are "not too smart" if they believe that Teresa has a mean bone in her body.

Later, the Gorgas decide to invite Rich and Kathy over to remind themselves that life could always be worse. Sometimes when I'm having a rough day, I just imagine what marriage to a popped collar and transition lenses would be like and I suddenly feel much better, too. Rich reminds them that Joe Giudice's court date is coming up, reminding them that their inter-familial issues pale in comparison to the potential jail time the Giudices are facing. And if you thought Teresa's all-purple outfit last week was bad, just imagine how unflattering an orange jumpsuit would be. Still, I'm sure she'd fashion a darling little matching shiv to compliment her look ... 'cause jail or no jail, the only thing that separates us from animals is our ability to accessorize.

While the Gorgas and Giudices fall apart, Caroline's counting her blessings at her house in Jersey. As she stands in various doorways, she realizes that it's "so much more than a house," and that there's no way they can walk away from it. Suddenly, she realizes that she doesn't need the Hoboken apartment in order to usher in a new chapter of her life -- she can turn the pages right here, in her beloved Franklin Lakes home.

.... Yeahh, and if you believed that pile of sentimental crap for a second, you obviously haven't heard that Bravo's giving her a spinoff called 'Manzo'd With Children.' I'm sure she lurves her house and all, but let's be honest: It'd be pretty difficult to come up with a good story line if Caroline and Al actually flew the coop and left their kids to wander the streets scrounging for scraps of pancetta.

Things are not quite as snuggly at Teresa's house, where she's enjoying a nice liquid lunch with her loyal minion, Jacqueline. She encourages Teresa to come clean if there is even a shred of malicious talk that she can take accountability for. Teresa hesitates, then says that looking back she regrets some things she "maybe did." As she admits that she should have just walked away from the harpies, Jacqueline breaths an audible sigh of relief. This is hardly an admission of guilt, but it's the first time Teresa's even skirted the possibility of having a fabulicious hand in any wrongdoing. "We were in a bad place, and I'm sure we all listened to things that we shouldn't have listened," Teresa says. That's not really English, but we get the picture. When Teresa was ticked off at Melissa, it was kinda great to hear bad things about her ... and it was difficult to leave a conversation that made her feel good, or perhaps justified in her hatred.
"It's called 'being human,'" Jacqueline says wisely.

Over at the blk. headquarters, Chris Laurita and the Manzo boys host a small tasting for their new flavors, because Black Death spiked with blueberry is the ultimate thirst quencher. I tell you, this drink seems like the liquid version of Penny: It looks like it'll 100 percent give you an STD, and you will regret it in the morning. Joe Gorga isn't crazy impressed with the various black sludge he's been handed ... and then, something puts an even worse taste in his mouth: Teresa. She walks nervously over to her brother and goes in for an awkward kiss.

At Jacqueline's urging, Teresa decides to talk to her brother. It's quite easy, considering he's about 2 inches away from her on the couch. "I want to show you somethin'," she says as she leads him away.

She admits that she loves him more than anything, so she wants to be painfully honest. "This is really hard for me to say this to you," she starts. "Maybe I do regret things that I've done," she says. She's so freaked out at this point that she's practically twitching, and it's understandable: she's about to put it all out there, and she could lose a brother in the process.

She pushes onward and explains that the night she met Penny and Jan at a restaurant, she wasn't "the fondest" of Melissa. When they started to disparage Melissa and bring up cheating rumors, Teresa enjoyed their vitriol. "I admit it. I made mistakes, I listened to the wrong people, and I apologize" she says simply. "I just want to know in your heart, I swear to you, I never put them up to doing anything." Her hands fly to her face to checks if her hairline has risen a few inches, as that happens when she lies (case and point: where it currently is now).

Joe takes a deep breath and looks straight into his sister's dead eyes, letting Teresa dangle on the hook for a moment. Will there be an outburst? Will he continue his season-long bottle genocide? Instead of getting angry, he gets a little misty. "You admitted it, and that's all I ever wanted form you," he says. This is a big deal for him, and gives him the closure he's been longing for. He's a tiny, tiny man with a big, full heart.

"Melissa's not better than you, and you're not better than her" he says. Then, Teresa tells him he should put his wife and kids before her and breaks into an ugly monster cry . "I ... just ... love ... you!" she heaves. She grabs his hand and they stand up to embrace. It would be a lot more emotional if it wasn't a little funny that he only comes up to her shoulders. "That's it, I'm happy. I might not look like it, but I'm happy" he says. They cry for everything they've been through, and their tears say more than any therapy session breakthrough ever did. This is it: this is for real. They've pulled the sutures off the wound for the last time. Now it's time to slap on a band-aid and let it heal for good.

Now that Hurricane Siblings has passed, it's time for Teresa and that bitch Sandy to come full circle as well. Joe Giudice has worked to get their Jersey Shore house all fixed up, and it looks awesome. The only part that's still a bit dangerous is when all the "starting fresh" parallels between the house and her relationships hit you over the head. Watch out! Symbolism falling!

There's a knock at the door, and suddenly the whole cast has flooded in for a delish BBQ sponsored by Teresa's 'Fabellini,' because it's not weird or desperate to have posters for your own company in your own backyard. As they sit around the table, it's hard to believe there was ever any bad blood between this crew. They eat and laugh and celebrate another year of not killing each other.

So, where does the last episode find all the women? Let's see ...

Kathy is ready for a new kitchen and started building her dream home. (AKA nothing is really going on in her life, and her investors probably decided to take the gun and leave the cannoli.)

Jacqueline is "celebrating" Ashlee's return to New Jersey where she'll start beauty school (AKA she'll be Kathy in 10 years), and the family continues to focus on Nicholas' recovery.

Caroline is not moving to the Hoboken apartment, and Bravo slipped in a covert reference to the upcoming show. The whole "Caroline and Albert are back home with Lauren, Frannie and a rotating cast of animals" is how they described the spin-off in a PR blast they sent out.

Melissa and Joe sold their mansion for $3.8M and moved to a home that's 30 minutes away from Teresa. Still, they plan to have Sunday dinners ... "someday."

Normally, during seasons when cast members aren't indicted, that's where the episode ends. But this time, we're treated to a quick jail bird vignette between Joe and Teresa. She has a special glow that one can get from a fancy spa treatment called "being hammered," and I'm a little worried that they're having this cold dead heart to cold dead heart so close to the water. Instead of pushing him and cutting her losses, Teresa thanks Joe for all the work he did on the shore house. "Our little situation is basically nothing," Joe says, alluding to the federal fraud charges. "I will not let anyone take me down. I'll fight to do whatever I gotta do for my family. I'm gonna prove myself right." Teresa tries to mask her disgust as she gives him a little smooch, and they turn to walk back to the house.

Teresa's wrap up says she continues to "love, love, love" ... which, judging from her performance this season, can often look a lot like hate.

Though they're off the dock, Teresa and Joe are still in very hot water. They pleaded "not guilty" to the 39-count indictment, and face jail -- and Joe could be deported.
For sake of their girls, I wish them luck.

Thanks again for reading and for all your wonderfully kind comments. Let's meet back here for the reunions, K?

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