‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey’: Sympathy for the Meatball

The Real Housewives of New Jersey
“All Bets Are Off”
September 5, 2016

So this episode was a bummer.

Let me be clear: I have never been a fan of Joe Giudice. I think the man is a dumb and cruel grifter buffoon who has been shown to be abusive towards his wife and daughters and through his own stupidity helped send his wife to federal prison. I do not like Meatball.

But even I was filled with a certain amount of pity for him after this episode. While I never cheered il Meatballs’ prison sentences, I never mourned them, either. These two dummies got what they deserved. So why am I feeling bad for Meatball now?

Honestly, I think this pang of empathy towards this sloshed idiot stems not from watching him try to drink the anxiety and depression away, but instead from Teresa’s profound honesty about the situation. Up to this point, I had been skeptical that she had changed so much. But in this episode, it seems that Teresa really has come to understand that being honest about her situation instead of denying it or, worse, trying to disguise it makes her much more sympathetic. She openly discusses in this episode that her husband is drinking too much, is mean to the girls and herself and that when he goes to meatball prison it is going to suck for her family. The Teresa of 2013 would never have been able to admit any of those things. Not one. But watching Teresa finally allow herself to be a human being with human problems and human feelings made me feel very sad for all of the Giudices — including Meatball — for the first time ever.

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Having returned from an uneventful and downright peaceful vacation with Teresa, Jacqueline tells a slightly skeptical Laurita and Potatoee Face that she thinks things are getting back on track with their friendship. “LOL, sure,” they say.

Elsewhere, Dolores puts her sick dog to sleep and expects her ex-husband to pay her bills for some reason, and Siggy allows her 16-year-old son to drive her around.

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As for Melissa, she has a CRISIS!! at the boutique when her partner orders a jacket that Melissa herself would not personally wear. WILL THIS DOOM THE BUSINESS FOREVER? MAYBE!

Oh, and Stugats and Folletto go to a Daddy-Daughter dance together. While Melissa helps Stugats get ready, she asks her daughter what she wants to be when she grows up having convinced herself that she’s some sort of feminist role model now. Stugats explains she wants to see where cheerleading can take her. Melissa, realizing that encouraging and reinforcing society’s ideas of gender-normative behavior like participating in cheerleading in the first place might actually be limiting her daughter’s horizons, briefly panics.

It passes.

As for Teresa, she’s preparing for her big book launch party, where she will find out if she makes the New York Times bestseller list, in front of all of her friends and family and our dear friend and sometime contributor to Foolish, Bobby, for some reason. At home, she explains to Gabagool that she’d love to bring her to the party, but it’s an over-21 event, and Gabagool is all, “Oh no. I am so disappointed.” And that’s when Meatball stumbles into the kitchen and begins yelling at Tre and Gabagool about how ugly their dogis. Gabagool gets up to leave, because who needs it, and Meatball begins screaming at her to get back here or he’ll “kick [her] ass.”

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Teresa sighs in an interview that Meatball is about to be sent away to meatball prison in a few weeks, and he’s decided to spend his remaining days as drunk as possible.

Back in the kitchen, Teresa assures Meatball that she’s going to stay with him no matter what, no matter how drunk and abusive he might be in these last few weeks at home with his famiglia. In response, Meatball assures her that when he gets out of meatball prison, he’ll be looking so good that other women are going to want him, so she’ll need to stay on her toes.

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And then Meatball begins berating Teresa, telling her that she’s going to need to learn how to survive without him …

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… and to remember that he had money before he met her …

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… and when she makes some off-handed comment about him being just like his padre, he threatens to smack her in the head.

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Teresa, to her immense credit, simply tells him to leave the room. And he does, but not without hollering all the way down the hall that he, “CAN’T WAIT TO LEAVE,” and that he’ll “ONLY MISS [HIS] KIDS” while he’s in meatball prison. He then passes out on a couch while she fusses with a security system he bought and chats on the phone with Dolores about what an asshole her husband is being.

Over at Jacqueline’s, Laurita is hosting a poker party for Folletto, Meatball, Rosie and Potatoee Face’s boyfriend, That Peter Kid, who clearly has no idea what he’s signed up for, bless his heart. Rosie is the first to arrive and she explains to Jacqueline that she’s anxious to see Meatball, because she feels bad about some of the things she said on camera on New Year’s Eve about Tre — which is interesting, because in a normal, non-reality-show universe, this wouldn’t ever be an issue. The only reason this is an issue is that Teresa will see Rosie’s little tequila-fueled outburst when it eventually airs. However, in a normal, non-televised family, there is no reason Teresa would have never known about it. No bigger point, I just sometimes find it fascinating how much the show has had an impact on the entire Gorga famiglia dynamic.

ANYWAY. Folletto arrives and everyone heads down to the poker basement to wait on Meatball … who never shows up. Laurita eventually calls to find out where he is, and Meatball answers by making one long fart noise. Which is about 70% of all Meatball’s conversations, honestly. Meatball goes on to explain that he’s too drunk to come over, and already in bed, goodnight.

This bums Rosie out, so much so she leaves to go home, and the men are all, “wait, what is happening?” But while Jacqueline is explaining to them that Rosie really wanted to visit with Meatball to clear some things up, and that Rosie thinks Teresa might be behind Meatball’s decision not to come, Rosie returns to the game. Folletto then calls Teresa just to clarify why, exactly, Meatball didn’t come to the poker game and Teresa is like, “Look, he’s drinking too much these days because he’s freaking out about meatball prison.” Everyone has a sad.

Later, Teresa takes Gabagool out for a one-on-one dinner at a sushi joint, and thanks her for being such a rock for their famiglia while she was in meatball prison. Gabagool tells her mother that she’s so happy she’s home, because she and Meatball had been butting heads the entire time she was gone. She then adds that Meatball needs to go to meatball prison already, it will be good for him. Teresa blanches, and is like, “because of the drinking?” But Gabagool is all, “I know it would be convenient to blame all of his terrible behavior on drinking too much, but the truth is he is and always has been emotionally abusive of all of us and maybe spending some time away from his famiglia will make him come to realize that he needs to treat all of us with kindness and respect.” I mean, that’s what she’s getting at. And Teresa doesn’t disagree.

Then it’s time for Teresa’s book festa. On the drive over (in a white prom limo, of course) Meatball receives a call from one of his goombah friends, Chris C. who is at the party and FURIOUS that his 12-year-old son isn’t being allowed in. Teresa explains to Meatball that it’s a 21-and-over party, that’s why Gabagool isn’t joining them, duh. Meatball begins raging that NO ONE TOLD HIM THIS.

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But! Additionally! Goombah is himself a felon — and here you just thought I was being racist. Lawyer Jimmy, upon finding this out, bars Goombah from the party because Teresa is legally not allowed to be around other felons — with, apparently, the exception of her husband.

They eventually arrive at the party which my on-location scout described to me as being filled with drunk New Jerseyans, and people who look like either “friends of the Housewives” or Erika Jayne dancers.

As Teresa is just about to go up for her presentation, Meatball heads outside to try to get Goombah into the party, but Lawyer Jimmy is like, “NOPE.” So Goombah — safely filmed from across the street — begins screaming at the top of his lungs that he “PUT [HIS] BALLS OUT FOR [MEATBALL],” adding, “FUCK THE GOVERNMENT! FUCK THE COPS! THIS IS MY KID!” He seems nice.

Eventually, Meatball goes back inside and joins Teresa for the big announcement that her book is number 2 on the New York Times bestseller list — beating out even Nice Pope, who is at number 4. While everyone celebrates, Meatball begins yammering about how skinny he’s going to be once he’s in meatball prison. Because this moment is definitely about him.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Sundays on Bravo at 7/8 CST.

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