Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 5, Episode 1 of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."
Note II: If you think "drownded" is a word, I'm going to need you to back away from this recap slowly.
It's November 2012 and Seaside Heights, New Jersey is slowly starting to recover from Hurricane Sandy. (For non-east coasters who didn't experience it first hand, it was more frightening than whatever animal Teresa has sewn into her hairline.) Though the women had to deal with 12-day power outages and downed trees, they're quick to remind us that they're the lucky ones: unlike over 100 victims, they're still alive. The precious gift of life almost makes you want to, say, quit your reality show and spread kindness and joy ... almost.
Though our anti-heroes are still standing, their second homes on the shore didn't fare so well. I know it's "commonly believed" that the hurricane was caused by intense low pressure areas forming over warm ocean waters, but did you ever think maybe Mother Nature just seriously hated how Melissa and Teresa decorated? Just when you thought you knew your bitches, the biggest one blows through town.
Their furniture is shot, the floors are "like muck" and the walls are stripped barer than Melissa during her oft-debated years on the pole. Now, their homes mirror the state of their relationships. If this was a feel-good movie instead of a prime-time horror show, they would spend the next 60 minutes rebuilding both, and Taylor Swift would burst in at the end, full of hope and glittering herpes.
But seriously, the hurricane was no laughing matter. My parents on Long Island didn't have power for 9 days. Pots full of hot water "heated" their bedroom. Meanwhile, I was forced to burn my $50 just-for-show candles from Bed, Bath and Beyond Your Price Range in my darkened Gramercy co-op. The doorman was sent home. It was painful.
(Unlike me, people are still suffering. Here's a great way to help: http://occupysandy.net/)
In the wake of all this destruction, Teresa's looking on the bright side: Though the foundation of her home is wrecked, her marriage has been fixed. "If we didn't get divorced by now," she explains, "I don't think we're getting divorced." (Plus, she needs him to rebuild the curb outside the beach house before she can potentially kick him to it.)
Looks like the largest Atlantic hurricane on record aint got nothin' on Italian siblings scorned, 'cause Teresa and Joe never spoke during the natural disaster. The eye of their storm isn't just deadly ... it also holds a grudge. Juicy Joe says that given the circumstances, he would have been at his brother-in-law's in a flash, but the call for help (or just to check in) never came. "I love my brother whenever he decides to come back to me," Teresa says simply, taking no blame for their issues. Oh, did you hear that? It's Joan of Arc sending out an e-vite to her Martyrs Only party. (It's a steak-only menu. Like J-izzle in 1431, that's so hot right now.)
Finally, Bravo makes the brave decision to show the unsightly debris that remains in Jersey, despite the relief efforts: Teresa's children. They've been asked to go through their closets to find the "beautiful and glamorous clothing and shoes" that displaced people in the area could use. It's a noble effort, as the stiletto shortage is grave, and people made homeless by the storm are desperate to look as sexual as possible as they rebuild.
There's some good shots of Gia pretending to part with things, but Milania, per usual, is making this all about her. She's less interested in the cause and more concerned about missing her cousin, though I'm not understanding why she's randomly bringing that up. I wonder how many unicorns and lollipops Bravo bribed her with to get the "Mommy, when are we gonna see Antonia again?" line. Or maybe they just hold up cue cards with cave drawings on them.
Where you see Bambi eyes and a child's pain, I see scheming producers with lady boners for ratings. Milania goes on to name all the estranged family members she misses. She botches a few, and Teresa finds the mistakes poignant: The next step is simply forgetting them. "Hopefully, we'll see them soon, OK?" she says with a sigh, as if distance, not pride, was dividing them.
Over at Jacqueline's house, there's no sign of Sandy damage, but she's still reeling from a different shock: her three-year-old son Nicholas' Autism diagnosis last year. "The biggest challenge is getting him to communicate," she says, her eyes rimmed red from crying. "I do think one day, he will be able to tell me how his day was. That will be a great day." For now, she puts on a brave face and tries not to get frustrated that the bubbly baby she knew has changed.
Meanwhile, things are getting pretty emotional with Melissa and Joe. As she sits in front of a computer and looks at what seems to be a massive photo of herself, she whips out her daughter's homework. Apparently the assignment was to write a letter to your long-lost cousin that would also tear out your parents' hearts, in five lines or less. "I miss you so much," little Antonia writes simply, like a child Kurt Vonnegut. "I don't want to keep the cousins apart, but Teresa talks a lot in front of her children," Melissa says as her voice cracks. "I don't want my kids to ever hear anything negative about me." So it goes, Antonia. So it goes.
They decide to mail the letter, even though they're basically neighbors and could walk it over for free. Joe explains that he's hesitant about bringing the kids back together: "The children always listen to their parents, then they start arguing. It's inedible. It will happen."
I included this quote solely because he actually said "inedible." I'm now considering drafting my own Jersey-themed cookbook, entitled "Things That Aren't Inedible." It will have recipes in which the main ingredient is always the olive oil that Joe Gorga has rubbed into his face. He is one shiny, intelligent man.
When Milania receives her note, she gets so incredibly excited that Teresa decides to extend a branch full of thorns: "Let's invite Antonia over and give her her birthday gift!" Everyone's all smiles, so it's time for Gia the Misery Enforcer to step in. She reminds everyone that Antonia did not invite them to her birthday party, and swiftly brings the note out to her father in the garage. Joe talks to Gia like she's an adult, unfairly turning her into his ally in a war where all kids should be neutral. Under her attitude is a layer of hurt and resentment that Joe is pretty effectively laying brick by brick.
Wondering what's up with Kathy? Oh, she's just at her mom's house with sister Rosie, who has some sort of inexplicable mini-perm and added a touch of Parisian flare (ie: she's got a scarf wound around her neck) to her look.
She informs us that she's still on the prowl -- but she most certainly will NOT be trying Al Gore's crazy Internet again. Last time she logged on, she got catfished by a 300-lb bleached blonde with rotten effing teeth! If you can't trust the total strangers you meet on a dating site, who the hell can you turn to?
Just when you thought it was safe to go outside without being judged ... Caroline's back! She's currently testing out apartment life in Hoboken, as she and Al are considering selling their home. Now that they're empty nesters, it's just too big -- and don't you dare suggest that the move to the exact same place her sons live is, in some way, "chasing them." Caroline does NOT like that, and she will cut you like bad jean shorts if you so much as think it.
When Melissa and Joe come over to get a peek of the pad, conversation quickly turns to the Giudice-Gorga drama. Melissa (with some prodding from the local red-headed instigator) decides to text Teresa, who receives it at a boozy dinner with her super sweaty husband. The text is innocuous at best, as Melissa simply asks if she can take the girls for a play date on Sunday. "She's like 4 going on 6," Joe snorts, angry that Melissa had the audacity to suggest hosting the hangout on her turf.
Teresa replies "Yes Milania planned the play date and invited her over to our home to play. Hope she can make it ..." proving her mind-blowing inability to be flexible. Two texts later they're no closer to a resolution, and it's obvious that there aren't enough emoticons in the world to solve this. (When will they make a tiny lady stabbing her sister-in-law to death with the jagged shard of an 'On Display' single icon?)
"We're all just dust in the air," Teresa says lightly, referring to that famous song by the band Michigan.
Since Caroline successfully stirred Melissa's pot the night before, it's time to head over to Jacqueline's because she needs a dash of something vomit-inducing. Though Jax nods and looks sufficiently concerned, she tells us afterward that listening to G-G family drama is "right up there on my priority list with bleaching my a******."
Since I don't know the current state or hue of her a******, I cannot speculate on exactly how high that action item is. I do know she's from Vegas, so it's more likely that the thing has been rimmed in rhinestones and a teen pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Teresa is out with Gia at Kids at Heart, which is kind of a confusing name for a children's store where the clientele (presumably) are like, kids at everywhere. "I think you're a large, Gia," Teresa says a little too loudly, ensuring a lifetime of troubled feelings about food. As they shop, Melissa checks in again ... and Gia takes the touch-screen reigns. The plan is finally set -- and Teresa will be tagging along.
The reunion goes down at a jewelry making store. Is it just me, or does this location feel like a reference to how Melissa and Teresa's relationship is hanging on by a string? Oh, sorry. Lost my beads there for a second when I suggested that the creatures natural selection accidentally forgot to weed out could orchestrate anything subtly poetic.
Once inside, Melissa looks out from under her unnecessary fedora for something to fuel her hatred -- and Teresa hands it to her. Teresa's present to Antonia is an iPod, and Melissa quickly reminds us that "expensive gifts don't make you the aunt of the year."
Hey, Melissa. You know what else great aunts don't do? Micromanage the kids' freaking bracelets! Just let their tiny, inept hands string the ugliest creations ever till the cows come home and say, "Holy crap, my kids could have done a better job and they have hooves!" As Melissa sucks the fun out of the room and demands that the girls lose a bead here or add a bead there, Teresa picks her jaw up off the floor and changes the subject.
An innocent question about Antonia's communion raises a huge issue: Turns out they've completely randomly, in-no-way-done-as-fodder-for-a-new-season both scheduled communions for the exact same day. That's a fun topic to freak out about.
Teresa says she'll try to change Gabriella's party, and I wait for God or a large assortment of glass baubles to strike her down for telling a lie. I guarantee you, Jesus will walk into that shop and calmly jazz up his rosary with fire-polished gems before Teresa so much as calls her caterer.
As they leave, Atonia begs for a bit more time with her cousin, but she gets shut down hard. "You know what I've taught you about begging," Melissa says. Yes, we know, Melissa. Unless you've stripped for something, you haven't earned it.
While Melissa's in the depths of bead hell, her husband's having a random coffee date with his new bestie Caroline. She has heroically decided to break her promise not to get involved (Note: Joe has not asked her to get involved) and is offering a slightly perplexed Joe her ample bosom to cry on.
It seems like a desperate attempt to stay relevant in the show's biggest storyline, since Caroline hasn't been close enough to Teresa to play verbally-abusive Oprah. "Sometimes, you've gotta take a beating to do what's right," Caroline says. Suddenly, Joe starts to cry. It seems he's gotten a glimpse of his Kangol hat in the reflection of a shop window. "I'm willing to go talk to your sister," Caroline says selflessly. "But I'm gonna do it because you asked me to." (Note: Joe has never asked her to.)
Then, Joe offers Caroline the same advice that I'd offer to you, my dear readers, as we embark on this Season 5 journey together: "Wear some armor and bring a hand gun."
"The Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo