You guys? I think I have to confess something here right at the start. No offense to my beloved O.C. harpies and my bankable New York climbers, but the New Jersey broads might be my favorite of all the Housewives.
I mean, don't get me wrong, they're dreadful. Some more dreadful than others, for sure, but all are terrible. And yet... And yet and yet and yet. There's just something about them that's oddly familiar, that makes sense in a terrifying way. They're like dreams I once had and am now suddenly remembering. Composites of stories and movies and other television shows all rolled into five glowing brown bundles. Letters from the front of the mutated suburban northeast. A cautionary tale about the nouveau riche.
Anyway. Enough theorizing. Onto the theatrics.
Teresa. Ohhhh Teresa. You are my absolute favorite. Your wig might be pulled a little too far down your forehead and you may sweat olive oil, but I can forgive it. Teresa's story this episode was called "Maybe and Marble." The 'Maybe' part has to do with her three daughters, Limoncello, Aranciata, and Buca di Beppo. Buca is Mommy's little
vicarious cashcow superstar. She sings (I guess?) acts (sort of!) and looks like a nice bite-sized portion of veal parmigiana. Teresa likes to take all three of her daughters shopping at least three times a week, mostly because she likes her entire family to match. What her husband is going to say at "the office" when he shows up in his whimsical Reno Sweeney sailor girl costume, I do not know. But Teresa gets what Teresa wants.
After the three little ones—Shrimpscampi, Beretta, and 8 1/2, screamed and brayed and mommy payed for their little outfits (all in cash! suspicious! Ricooo!), it was time for Teresa to sew her wig to her forehead and head on over to Il Palazzo di Giudice, the marble and onyx clusterfuck of a "French chateau" that Teresa and her mysterious husband are building in some blasted corner of the elbow state. The thing is... absolute insanity. Marble refrigerator. Onyx grass out front. Granite pillowcases. There's a fourth child, Giancarlo Giannini, who is just built entirely out of those three rocks. Teresa kisses him on the head when she sees him, then has the workmen move him into the closet. The house is supposed to be done in three weeks and ohhhh holy god aren't you SO EXCITED to see what it looks like? The unveiling episode is going to be spectacular. Teresa will descend the staircase dressed in a gown made entirely of quartz and shreds of the Italian flag. Her mysterious husband will emerge all pixelated from the basement with three goombas dressed in suits made entirely of shark. The showbiz daughter, Mama Celeste, will be launched into the heavens by a fireworks canon. When everyone is standing around drinking room-temperature Pinot Grigio and chilled Chianti, suddenly there will be a great rumble and moan. The earth with tremble and people will fall to the ground. Then a great cracking will be heard and the house will disappear. It was too heavy! It's fallen through the Earth and is now sitting ass-up in China somewhere.
So everyone will shuffle off in their Cadillacs and Teresa will just stand there, itching her wig line. "C'mon babe, we gotta go," her antsy husband will say. "Just one sec," Teresa will say dejectedly, staring at the gaping hole in the ground. After a short while there will be a whistle and a whine and then a thwump. Teresa just had to wait to catch her baby Barilla as she tumbled out of the sky.
Poor bewildered Jackie can't handle anything. She just stands there in her dopey, oversized kitchen and quietly weeps on the inside. She'll stare at the stove and wonder fretfully to herself, What are all these knobs and buttons for? She's also having a hard time figuring out the knobs and buttons of her teenage daughter, a willful briquette-faced thing who won't listen to reason or even the distressed kittykat meows Jackie resorts to when she's feeling cornered.
Jackie had a birthday party for her little one, but really it was Jackie herself who wanted to enjoy the petting zoo and the clown and the moonwalk. (After the party had long ended and the whole town was asleep, you could hear a "bouncy! bouncy! bouncy!" sound as Jackie jumped up and down on the moonwalk in the moonlit night, a still, glassy expression on her face.) The rebellious teenage daughter threatened that she was going to bring over a bunch of other awful teenagers and they were going to put on their acne medication and mutually masturbate right there in front of all the party guests. Jackie put on her best mean grownup face and said "No... please... don't" and everyone felt bad for her, so Danielle the Garbanzo bean sassed some sense into the testy teen and all was well.
Well, all was well until Dina the wicked showed up for the party, all drowsy and blonde, with that strange upticking voice that sounds like she's always vaguely amused-yet-bored by everything. Garbanzo desperately wants to be friends with this small-town airport lounge singer of a lady, and so she creaked and snapped her way up the lawn, hurtling towards her. Dina looked as scared as her face allows her to look scared, and Garby finally approached her and opened her jaw wide and took a huge fleshy bite out of Dina's shoulder. "Oww..." Dina said, bored. Garby went in for another delicious zombie bite, but then Jackie ran up with a broom yelling "no! no! no!", swatting Garbanzo away, sending her lurching and crashing toward the punchbowl and the sour cream 'n onion potato chips. "I think she wants to wear my skin like a Gucci suit," Dina said in a funny joke. Jackie just stared off into the trees, delighting in the way they hiss in the wind. The sound of angels sleeping, Jackie likes to think.
Bouncy. Bouncy. Bouncy.
After Teresa had another chateau built, this one made out of emeralds and carbonite, it was time to take Principessa to a big fancy audition. See The Rock is going to be in this new movie where he plays the tooth fairy, kinda like Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny. And there's, of course, a precocious little girl part and seein' since Lifeisbeautiful was in Doubt with Phillip Simon Hormen and all, she should really get this part. So—somehow!—the little one scores an audition, but first she must go to acting class. Acting class is taught by a woman who "had a role on The Sopranos", which, um, if you live in North/Central Jersey and have been on stage before and can learn lines, you have probably "had a role" on The Sopranos. But whatever. The nice lady sat Ragu down and said "OK, you say your lines when it's your turn. Ready go."
TEACHER: Good morning, Girl Character.
SANGIACOMO: Buona sera! Devo andare al bagno, per favore.
TEACHER: No dear, that's not your line. Your line is "Where's my tooth?" OK, let's try again. Ahem. Good morrrning, Girl Character!
SANGIACOMO: Mi dispiace, signora. Non posso parlare Inglese.
TEACHER: Um... I... Hm. I see. OK. One more time. GOOD MORNING, GIRL CHARACTER.
SANGIACOMO: Franco e Marisa vogliono andare agli Stati Uniti, ma non hanno i soldi per i biglietti.
TEACHER: Oh, fuck this.
SANGIACOMO: Va fan culo!
So after the class had ended, the teacher was all rattled and upset and Teresa boundered up to her and asked "So how'd she do?" and before the teacher had a chance to answer Teresa yammered on "I mean this is her first time so you know she did good huh? Yeah she did good, OK thanks, we have a week and we're gonna get this part!"
Meanwhile up at the raven-circled headquarters of the Brownstoner, Dina's sister Strega Nona was having meals with her husband and dumb kids. Little Chrissie Crackers was talking about some dumb scheme of his and the daughter, we'll call her Peaches, was being grilled about job prospects. Stregz really wants her to work at a beauty salon, because when all the girls are getting ready for prom or charity functions or high-class funerals, Peaches is always the one they call to do their makeup. Seeing as Peaches applies makeup using the makeup shotgun that Homer invented in that one episode of The Simpsons, I must assume that all those gals are always in a big hurry and don't have time to pay attention to details like "Please don't put pancake powder on my neck."
Peaches isn't exactly a verbal gymnast and so she tried to make sense of what her father was saying about "democracy" and "dictatorships" by simply mumbling "I'm gonna assume that's a bad thing." To which Streggy laughed and said "She's so dumb." Nice. Really, really nice.
Across town, Dina was in her giant floating chandelier that hovers over the turnpike, interviewing a potential assistant. The assistant was a little spike-haired gay Jersey boy named Lance Carmichael, and for some shadowy reason he doesn't drive. DUI? Motorists' Mange? Hysterical Shrillness? Nobody knows. But other than that, he seems good for the job. He's willing to draw a bath for the worm that Dina has glued construction paper ears onto and calls a cat. He's willing to accept payments in hugs. And, most likely, he's willing to be found floating face down in a drainage ditch after wandering on accident into Dina's hubby's "private study" and seein' too much. So Dina gave him a hug and a fabulous life begins as a gay house elf. Maybe Jill Zarin's decrepit old Kreacher could give young Dobby some lessons in the city some time. At night. Alone. With wine.
Poor Garbazno has problems with her ex-husband, where money is concerned. And where paying attention the children is concerned. I don't really want to make fun of that kind of stuff, because it's sad (as are Jackie's miscarriage problems—no humor there). And there was a nice scene where Garby jogged with her daughters and they seemed to have fun and they fell down in the grass and laughed and I thought, "well that's nice."
That sentiment was of course torn completely asunder mere moments later, when Garby had her two daughters help her pick an outfit for a big date. The little one seemed genuinely excited, giving oddly sage advice about which purse was formal and which was casual, while the 14-year-old looked bored and a little perplexed. I'd like to give ol' Garbs the benefit of the doubt here, but did it seem to anyone else that maybe this whole "they always help me pick out my outfits!" thing was a little staged for the cameras? That maybe they'd never actually done this before? I dunno. It just seemed a little forced.
Ding dong went the enormous doorbell and it was time for the date. Garby's man of choice is a "26-year-old" who is actually closer to 34. He brought her not only flowers, but a vase for them to go in, like they'd just fallen off the Kabloom truck. He took her to eat somewhere that looked like a conference center. It was called the something Pavilion. Must every place in New Jersey be named the Chateau or Manor or Pavilion? Doesn't anyone ever want to just eat in a damn house? Ah well. At the dinner, Garbanzo made crocodile eyes at the seemingly-terrified young man and then made some chilling innuendo about going to do the nasty in the Pavilion restroom. "I'm wearing my Pauline's Fashion Corner stiletto push-up panties...", Garbanzo cooed. After a moment of trying to figure out just what the holy hell those could possibly be, the poor old man chuckled and said "Why don't you, uh, just finish eating." "Why don't you get started eating," Garby replied, swinging her peg leg up onto the table. The Pavilion has since closed and been turned back into Rick's Put-Put Golf Hut.
At the end of the episode, there was a party. Because there's always a party! This time it wasn't for Creaky Shits or Leaky Tits or Binky Bits or any of those other charities across the Hudson. No it was called Ladybugs, a trust set up to encourage more people to make cross-dressing teen soccer comedies. I kid, I kid. It's for, um, children who are terminally ill with cancer. So a good, noble cause. Dina put on her bitch face or bitch mode or bitch hat or bitch bloomers or whatever she calls it and she stomped around ordering sad, scared cater waiters to move things, chastising (correctly) annoying helper girls for wearing high heels, and snapping at poor, scared bunnyrabbit Jackie. Jackie's bouffant was all in a tizzle because why is Dina so mean and it hurts my feelings and I just want to go into my special corner and suck my thumb but my special corner isn't here, it's all the way back at the Scary Stove house and I don't know how to get back there. So she moaned to Teresa, who was busy twist-tying her showkid Bolognese onto a cardboard backing and putting her into her original packaging so she could be sold as a collectible at the charity swap meet. Teresa, I guess, doesn't have these problems with Dina because they're not family. "Well it's not just me," Jackie snapped petulantly. "It's everyone." Jackie was also mad that she had to work at the party, because she wanted to just be a guest and maybe stand on some nice older man's shoes as he led her around the dancefloor.
The charity event went well, even though Jackie's annoying daughter kept changing into different ugly outfits, and I think that Dina should be proud of herself. It actually looked like a real event that actually raised money! Not an Atlanta or New York charity disaster at all. So good for everyone. They all put on Afro wigs (except for Strega Nona because... well... you know, mulignans) and danced wild tarantellas.
So, there ya have it. Dancing in Afros. Teresa, dreaming deep for her beautiful daughter Grizabella, who is tired and frightened of the mean acting teacher lady. Poor sad, childlike Jackie, hiding untold secrets in her large, long pompadour. Mean, pointy Strega Nona calling her kids dumb because... they are. Crinkly Garbanzo dating fake 26-year-olds, making out in front of her daughters, hungrily eying the exposed flesh of Dina. I really hope Dina's house elf makes more appearances and that maybe one night, stoned on sambuca and cheap schwag weed, feeling electric and strange, he and Albie share a tender yet passionate kiss behind the Brownstoner. Wouldn't that be fabulous?
Until then we'll just have to keep jogging through this valley of mansions, that one down there at the end, the one glowing in the sun like Apollo's chariot, threatening to crush us all.
Someday it will. And, oddly, I can't wait.