‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey’: Tough love

The Real Housewives of New Jersey
“Belly Up & Up”
August 28, 2011

Finally, Teresa and Meatball’s legal shenanigans, they are over. A very lawyerly lawyer explains to the couple that the judge has made a ruling in the lawsuit brought against them by Meatball’s former partner: Teresa’s liability is extinguished, hooray! But Meatball, he’s on the hook for $620,000, having admitted to signing his former partner’s name on some document. The couple sighs heavily and roll their eyes and moan that they are being punished for “telling the truth.” And not for “forgery.” Teresa assures us that she’s not arrabbiato con Meatball, and that while her Jewish friends all tell her that they would leave their husbands under similar circumstances, she has no intentions to do so.

Wait, what?

Caroline and Jacqueline and Kathy and Melissa all read the story of the settlement in the newspaper and they frown and they shake their heads and they say that it’s a pity. E basta.

Kathy, in preparation for her catering business, has decided to host a tasting party. And in preparation for her tasting party, she’s invited Zen Jen, Dina’s energist WHICH IS TOTALLY A THING, SHUT UP, to come to her house and wave around some sage and listen patiently while Kathy tearfully talks about wanting to attract positive energy into her home. Jeff Goldblum, Jr. and his negative energy disapprove.

While Kathy busily cooks for the tasting, Melissa comes by her house, laughs at some Holy Water that Jeff Goldblum Jr. intends to give to Teresa as A Very Hilarious Joke, and announces to Kathy that Teresa thinks Jeff Goldblum, Jr. is obsessed with her. Kathy is clearly stunned and thinking about tearing Teresa’s lingua from her testa, but tells us later that being offended would take too much of the energy that Zen Jen just waved around her house or whatever.

The theme of the tasting party — because no tasting party worth its salt wouldn’t have a theme, come on — is “Inner Goddess” or “Bringing Out Your Inner Goddess” or “Toga Party,” I don’t know. Something about goddesses and Middle Eastern food. Fittingly, Melissa wears a blouse whose entire back is made of chains, because it is very classy and very goddessy. Caroline and Jacqueline are the first to arrive, and while they wait for the always late Teresa to show up, Jacqueline notes how well-mannered and studious Kathy’s daughter Victoria is. Because not everyone’s daughter is an outrageous jerkhole. Teresa finally arrives and the group awkwardly talk about the weather for a while, Teresa explaining that they are forecast to be hit by a Norwegian later in the week. LET’S HOPE NOT. The group then eats a bunch of baked beets and eggplant and Teresa complains that they aren’t being served by naked men. Sure.

Kathy gives the women bracelets and describes what she finds goddess-like about each of them:

  • Jacqueline finds light in bad situations
  • Caroline has wisdom and strength, and means what she says and says what she means
  • Melissa is talented and is a great mother (“WE’AH ALL GREAT MUTHAS,” howls Teresa)
  • Teresa puts on a smile when things are going crazy around her, and she “brings it”

Teresa takes this the wrong way, of course, because that’s how she takes everything. But Caroline steps over Teresa’s outrage to apologize to Kathy for not giving her a chance in the past and compliment her for her grazia e gentilezza. When Caroline mentions Kathy’s plans to start a catering business, Teresa interrupts with an announcement that she and Meatball are going to open a restaurant, too. She’s going to teach the cooks her family recipes and she will wear a ball gown and be the hostess and it will all be very classy and glamorous and everyone should talk about her now, please. When that fails, Teresa makes a bunch of terribly rude noises about the parsley in the tabbouleh salad, and then attempts to start a fight with Melissa over her friendship with Kim G. Kathy defuses the situation by bringing out a belly dancer who shimmies around, and Teresa is all “So what, who cares,” and then says that Melissa’s outfit is something a prostitution whore would wear you would buy on the boardwalk. Indeed.

But back to that Brunch from Hell last week, with the Potato Face and the crying and the complete lack of respect and the storming out. While Jacqueline sobs in the bathroom, Poppa Potato Face calmly explains to his daughter that she is awful. He then orders her to go downstairs and apologize to her mother, but Potato Face whines that she will do no such thing. So Poppa Potato Face, who is a formidable slab of humanity, escorts his daughter downstairs to make her tell her mother that she loves her and that she’s sorry for being so terrible all the time. However, Jacqueline is uninterested in Ashley’s insincere apologies. This leads to a renewed round of whining from Potato Face that she’s always the one that is expected to change or say she’s sorry. When Chris points out how much Jacqueline has sacrificed to raise her daughter and how she doesn’t get to enjoy the results, Potato Face moans that they need to stop “putting that on” her. Poppa Potato Face decides that maybe his daughter needs to hit rock bottom before she will realize JUST HOW TERRIBLE SHE IS.

Because, the thing is, this adventure in brunching just didn’t doing the trick. Later, Ashley meets with Lauren to discuss the t-shirt project which needs to be ready in 10 days, and which Ashley has not even begun, BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE HASN’T. Lauren is thoroughly irritated and tells a weepy Potato Face that she needs to get her priorities straight and respect her parents. Ashley rolls her eyes into the back of her potato head and Lauren drops some science on her: the problem is Ashley isn’t afraid of disappointing her parents because she thinks she already has. OH, HELLS TO THE YES. Lauren needs to abandon this whole make-up venture and go take some psychology classes, because, DAYUMMM. INSIGHT.

Some time later, when Ashley comes downstairs for breakfast, Jacqueline asks her daughter, again, what her plan is. And, again, Ashley explains to her incredulous mother that she is going to move to California, go to beauty school and get a job. When Jacqueline is underwhelmed by this complete lack of self-awareness, Ashley passive-aggreseively grabs her younger brother and starts making all this noise about how most people her age, they go away to college, but she didn’t get to, so she’s going to move away to her own house and he can come visit her sometime. Jacqueline suggests that a better plan would be for Ashley to save her money and go to school in New Jersey somewhere, and Ashley calls her mother a bitch.


Unsurprisingly, this sets Jacqueline off, and she storms into the other room, unable to be near her horrible, horrible daughter. Chris attempts to speak calmly to Ashley about how disrespectful she’s being, only to have Jacqueline shriek at her daughter from the other room, and Ashley storm off in a fury. While Ashley calls her father to whine at him about the situation, Jacqueline announces to Chris that she’s done. Ashley has 2 weeks to get her stuff and get out. But when Ashley yells at her mother from the other room to Shut up!, Jacqueline changes her tune: she wants her daughter out now. And so Chris heads up to Ashley’s room, tells her to call a friend to come pick her up and get out.


This entry has taken me a while to write because I’ve been thinking about the whole tragedy over on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, New Jersey‘s sister show. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the estranged husband of Taylor Armstrong, Russell Armstrong, killed himself last week, a mere 3 weeks before the Beverly Hills second season was scheduled to begin airing. Predictably there has been a great deal of hand-wringing in the media, blaming everyone from Bravo to the reality genre as a whole for Mr. Armstrong’s decision to take his life. There are some points to be made that the producers chose the Armstrongs to be on the show because of their volatile marriage and their financial situation — or illusion thereof — both of which seems to have played a role in Mr. Armstrong’s distress. On the other hand, the impulse to blame an entire genre for one person’s emotional instability seems overreaching at best and hysterical at worst. Are reality cast members exploited? Should cast members of reality shows be compensated better? Should they receive psychological counseling while they are a part of their shows? All of these are important questions that hopefully Mr. Armstrong’s death will force some reality producers to seriously consider. But, like the trend in the 80s to blame heavy metal bands for teenagers’ suicides, sometimes it’s easier to blame an already maligned genre for someone’s inexplicable behavior than it is to admit that sometimes people do tragic things for reasons that we may not ever understand.

THAT SAID, it is difficult to watch any episode of a Real Housewives series in the wake of Mr. Armstrong’s suicide, much less this one, without cringing a little. Mr. Armstrong’s death and whatever it says about the nature of reality shows is a reminder that all of this is real. What Jacqueline and Ashley are going through is real. I don’t believe for one second that either of these people are acting or performing; this is a real struggle between a mother and a daughter. A struggle that is fairly common and has taken place and will take place behind countless closed doors across this country. This family, however, and for whatever reason, have chosen to broadcast their story, and we don’t know what the fallout of that decision will be. Hopefully, this is a story arc that will conclude with Ashley maturing, coming to terms with her responsibilities and mending her relationship with her mother. But it’s also possible that we could be witnessing the unravelling of a parent and child relationship with some very serious consequences. I’m not trying to suggest that Ashley might be the next tragedy from the Real Housewives series — I’m sure Ashley will be fine, regardless what happens to her. Despite being kicked out of the house in this episode, Ashley clearly has plenty of loving family and support, and she’ll find her feet. But I can’t help but wonder if Ashley’s desire to flee to California might not be so much the unrealistic expectations of a spoiled child, but instead the perfectly reasonable desire to escape the unforgiving eye of the reality camera.


The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Wednesdays on Bravo at 8/9 CST.

This post first appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.

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