09/10/2012 12:54 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2012

'Real Housewives of New Jersey' Recap: Dina Manzo Returns

Did you hear that? It was California sighing with relief as it purged itself of "Housewife" toxins. The gals are back in town, summer's over and school's back in session, which means Melissa Gorga must send little Antonia to first grade. Self-proclaimed "super dad" Joe helps by making approximately two pancakes and warning his daughter that she can "only play with girls." It's odd advice from someone who seems to only want to play with men, but I'm sure it comes from a good place.

Over at the Giudices' mansion of horrors, Teresa pops in to wake up her brood. The three eldest are all sleeping in a tangle of limbs and fuzzy jammies. Aren't children so darling when their eyes are closed and they aren't encouraged to talk? It's a day of firsts for them, too: Milania's going to kindergarten, Gabriella's going to first grade and Gia, who I always thought was like, 25, is only going into 5th grade. Milania nervously asks Gabriella if she'll see her at school, and Gabriella quickly shatters her tiny dreams: "I cannot play with you, but I can see you." Establishing a caste system in elementary school? Loves it! Juicy Joe is in charge of lunches, and he commits a mortal sin -- noooo, silly reader, not cheating on his wife! (That was last week.) This time, he put Milania's name tag inside her lunch box instead of on her shirt. Now nobody will know who she is, so they'll have to measure her hairline. Eating her face? Must be a Giudice!

Meanwhile, Melissa finally gives in to her sexually ravenous husband Joe's demands and lets him videotape her ... running frantically down the street as they miss the bus. Antonia doesn't seem to mind, but let's call a spade a spade: Girlfriend never seems too aware of her surroundings.

With three of their four kids off to school, Teresa and Joe have time to sit at a tiny table and use their equally little brains to think about the vacation from hell. Teresa tries to gloss over things, but Joe's been practicing a few fightin' words. For Caroline: "Go dye your hair!" For Kathy: "She looks like a stress doll ... where the eyes pop out." Teresa doesn't jump on the insult wagon, but she does remind us that "[her] husband is really, really smart. And when he does say something, I trust him. Rumors that we're getting a divorce, that he's cheating on me? Joe's not going anywhere unless he cheats on me. Then I'll break his legs. No, just kidding."

... Uh, well then somebody better call Tonya Harding 'cause she's about to be back in business.

So, what's our pop-eyed princess up to? Just having a glass of vino with husband Richie "The Lebanese Jeff Goldblum" and discussing how she'd like her daughter to never leave the house ever except for a brief visit to the backyard for leg stretches and a sniff of Garden State air. Victoria, 17, swishes out of her house in all her carefree summer teen glory. She announces that she wants "to go to the gymmm and the mawll," but Kathy wants to look at colleges in the area. "If I'm gonna go away, I'm gonna go away," wise Victoria says. (I'm not being sarcastic -- I really like this kid). In fact, she's already made a call and has a tour at the University of Maryland.
Kathy has a teary mental breakdown, but her husband sees the glass half full ... of sex. "I'm anxious for them to go to college so I can be alone with my wife. Then we don't need any clothes!" Here's hoping the Bravo! cameras knock before entering next year.

Speaking of things I wouldn't want to see naked, it's time to check in on Jacqueline. She goes to Melissa's house for a vacation post-mortem and to molest some banana bread. After a few acid flashbacks, they get ready to play "Let's Talk Badly About Everyone While We Drink Tea Which Means We're Being Dainty, Not Bitchy." Jacqueline basically says she expected to hear from re-instated pal Teresa after the trip, but has been disappointed by her silence.

Meanwhile, Teresa goes to Kathy's house for quiche and slander. They rehash the toast while Teresa's littlest kid plays with the knobs on the stove. No joke, that girl is just wild about preheating. Teresa says she felt totally ambushed at the final dinner, and Kathy tries to set things right. "You did have quality friends ..." she starts, but Teresa's not hearing it. "I never really hung out with Caroline, I always hung out with her younger sister Dina and Jacqueline." Oooh is that the sweet scent of foreshadowing or has Audriana just singed something?

After her chat with Jacqueline, Melissa understandably needs some mental stimulation. She throws on a casual fedora and heads to Caroline's house. No moss grows under Caroline, and she's busily working on notes for her upcoming Sirius radio special. "That's huge!" Melissa bleats, but let's talk about Melissa again. "You have to play my song!" Caroline smiles weakly and says, "I'd rather pop out Kathy's eyes and eat them with a plate of Teresa's spaghetti." Well, in my head she does. Instead, she shares some of her talking points: Family and When to End a Friendship.

It's a perfect segue into Teresa talk, but Caroline's having none of it. She goes on a mini-tirade until Melissa stops her cold: "Caroline, we're not in high school." Uh, you kinda are Meliss, and you're messing with the bully. Yeah, I said it. I used to love Caroline for attempting to rise above all the drama, but now she's digging around in its sandbox. Don't agree? Let's have a rousing but cordial discussion in the comments, shall we? Sticks and stones may break my bones but mean words will make me consider hunting you down like an animal. Lolz.

But I digress. Now it's time for Teresa to get ready for her big Fabellini party! If you don't subscribe to 'The Disgusting Sparkling Wine Times," you may not be aware of this groundbreaking beverage. It is a sparkling raspberry or peach flavored wine that is very different because this one has Teresa's massive head on it. Try to enjoy without picturing that sliver of face peeking out from under an over-eager hairline. Goes down smooth!

Anyway, angelic Melissa has offered to watch Teresa's 500 kids so that she can get drunk and mingle in peace. "I want to just spend more time with them," Teresa says as she gleefully watches her sister-in-law go.

BREAKING NEWS: KATHY HAS LEFT THE STATE. QUICK, CALL FOR A GOLDEN-BROWN TAN ALERT. She reluctantly tours the University of Maryland, worrying about "inappropriate behavior from the guys." Uh, 'cause Jersey boys are all knights in shining Ed Hardy or something? The family's not too impressed with the tiny dorm and Victoria puts it perfectly: "I never thought I was spoiled until I saw this room." Then they take a quick moment to think the Capitol Building is the White House while Lincoln sobs quietly in his big chair. Surrounded by history, Kathy decides to stand behind her daughter and support her decision to wear really ugly red shorts ... I mean, to go to college. Hurray for higher learning! Hurray for binge drinking and blurry decisions that will horrify you in the morning!

Speaking of expanding your horizons, the Manzos have sojourned to NYC for their big radio experience. "My brain is in overdrive," Caroline stutters. "Millions and millions and millions of people listen to it, and I have no clue why people are drawn to what I have to say." Uhh, maybe because you are a vicious beast whose tongue-lashings can make a grown man cry?

But before we can see whether or not Caroline crashes and burns, it's Teresa's turn in the spotlight. "Let me get a Fab-u-llini before I fab-yo-ass!" her darling husband shouts incoherently as they hit the red carpet outside of her launch party. She's decided to invite just close friends and family, a.k.a. everyone she's ever known except any of the current cast. Of course this makes Jacqueline cry, but what doesn't make Jacqueline cry? Sobbing Sally really needs a better cocktail of meds before she mingles with any alcoholic bevvys in my humble medical opinion.

Teresa explains that she did not invite Caroline because "she hurted me." Kinda how the English language feels, Teresa.

Despite the missing "Housewives," the joint is jumping. And by "joint is jumping," I mean a Liza Minnelli look-alike in an upsetting sheer number is having some sort of seizure near the DJ and nobody seems concerned. Joe jiggles around the room, passing out wine/tossing it back faster than you can say "cheaters sometimes prosper."

Suddenly we're jolted outside. Cue evil music. Cue panning of camera up to the face of evil. Cue face of evil almost eating the curb as she falls out of her massive heels.

Guess who paid the devil to get her soul back from "Housewives?" None other than my favorite ex-cast mate/drag queen with a heart of cubic zirconium ... Dina Manzo! Between her feud with sister Caroline and her continued support of Teresa, she's about 5'5'' of tension.

Caroline's also in hell, 'cause nobody is calling in to her radio show. It's crickets, so she makes small talk with her extremely terrified family before announcing that she needs to take a break.

In contrast to her sister, Dina's rocking at life. Girl is channeling Victoria Gotti-Beckham in head-to-toe black, and as she embraces white 'n' sparkly Teresa, I wonder if Bravo! is alluding to the poetic light and dark imagery often used to differentiate between good and evil? ... Or maybe it's just two heavily made-up women hugging in whatever pre-teen outfit they could squeeze their swollen bodies into.

As they embrace, we get Jacqueline's intuitive take on the situation. "It did seem odd when she'd stayed away to her family for so long ... but at a time when it was the most heightened drama going on between Teresa and Caroline, they've gotten closer." Caroline agrees, saying that Teresa "has an agenda to drive a wedge against myself and family members. She's scary."

Dina and Teresa have a special moment. After clinking glasses, encouraging pal Dina leans in, locates Teresa's face, tries not to recoil and says: "Fabellini makes me burp!" In her interview, Teresa reminds us that "true friends always support me, and they don't get jealous at all." It's like the Girl Scouts sing: "Make new friends, and keep the old! One is silver and the other will discuss her gaseous emissions with you."

In true Teresa fashion, she decides that a public event is a nice place to bring up private 'ish. She gives Dina a peek into the vacation torture, highlighting Caroline's role. "Blood's thicker than water," Teresa muses. "Unfortunately not always," Dina replies. "I used to think that, but it's not always the case." Looks like Fabellini trumps blood. They oughta print that on the bottle. "Why does Dina see me for who I am, and Caroline can't?" Teresa wonders. Dina coaches her to move on and let it go. "You have your kids, you have your health. Everything else is BS."

Want to experience more pain? Then tune into Caroline's show! She finally gets a few callers who want her to dredge up awful memories like the RV trip and her falling out with her sister. "I'm one of 11 children ... and sometimes you're not on the same page anymore," is her canned response. She blames the damage on Teresa's damning influence. Perhaps Teresa didn't help matters, but I find it hard to believe that a smart woman like Dina could truly be influenced by a woman who says "hurted." It seems like a pretty nifty excuse ... and an easy way for Caroline to shift the blame.

And then, just like your birthday or Christmas, Dina's gone as soon as she came. Weeks of hype give way to fleeting moments of intrigue followed by a disappointing outfit, drunk family members and a fresh crop of issues to repress. Not that I'd ever be dramatic or anything.

All in all, pretty boring episode. Luckily the whole "was Melissa an exotic dancer?" drama will unfold next week, so we're just a short stripper pole slide away from some really good TV.