After last week's drunken shenanigans in Atlantic City, this week brings us back to cold, harsh reality in a heavily Bethenny-centric episode - plus a side of Art Basel, boxing and one very sexual clown. Ok, maybe not everything this week was quite so serious, but let's jump into the episode.
We start the hour off with Part 2 of Ramona's week-long birthday festivities. And I have to say, the Ramonacoaster seems to celebrate her birthday a lot like the way I celebrate mine - by milking the holiday for everything it's worth. While my birthday lunches usually involve wearing a crown, Ramontional's apparently involve wearing a show-stopping gold number that might be a tad bit extravagant for lunchtime. But it's the woman's first birthday as a single woman in almost 25 years, so dress code rules don't have to apply! Also on the Wives' parade of fashions, we have Carole's lopsided beanie - very edgy and downtown for this Upper East Side bunch - and Kristen's impeccable grey turtleneck with gold accent jewelry - which you can read more about here. The divide between Ramona's 'real' friends and her castmates is startlingly obvious, as evidenced by the endless procession of boobs and blondes desperate to make small talk with legendary Skinnygirl Bethenny. Star Wars bar, indeed. I'm going to move past the Sonja and the Swami priestess nonsense because, as much as I admire Hindu culture, we've spent quite a bit of time on Sonja the past few weeks and I like the shift of focus. Plus, according to my research, a Swami is defined as a "Hindu male religious teacher." So, unless Robin Cofer is hiding her true gender identity, she can't by definition be one.
Next, we start getting into the heavy-hitting stuff, with Bethenny meeting her therapist, Dr. Amador, for a session. Moments like this are a big part of why I've always found the Housewives franchise so captivating. Amid all the fighting, feuds and glamorous displays of wealth, we get to see authentic, human experiences play out in the lives of these women. And while viewers may not be able to relate on a personal level to Bethenny Frankel as the face of a multimillion dollar lifestyle empire, it's impossible not to feel for her as she opens up her feelings of failure regarding her cancelled talk show and broken marriage. It's sharing these vulnerable moments with an audience of millions that makes the Housewives real.
The boxing match at B.B. King's wasn't the type of event we typically see on Housewives, which is part of what made it interesting. Seeing the 'Wives in such a testosterone-fueled, ultra-masculine environment was on par in its fish-out-of-water-ness as last season's trip to Montana. And it certainly brought out an entertaining side to Kristen, who went quickly from dodging flying mouthpieces and busting out her hand sanitizer to pumping her fist and screaming for blood. Just as quickly, we were back to the ladies viewers are used to, ordering their mint tea and salads after the match. The hot chef pot gets stirred again as Carole and Luann tiptoe around the issue of Carole dating Adam. In the land of RHONY, the worst insult your man can be called is "Sonja-young," so the Countess certainly went for the jugular with that jab. Personally, I'm all for the romance and would bet money Luann was seizing this opportunity to blow the issue way out of proportion and regain her status as a main Housewife. According to The Andy Cohen Diaries, the Countess was quite upset about her demotion last season, and I can see her using any excuse necessary to get her hands back on a golden apple.
Finally, we arrive in Miami for Art Basel, where we see WAY too much of Victoria de Lesseps (in the name of art, people!) and Luann confronts Bethenny about her detachment from the rest of the girls. The interesting subtext here is that Luann is really questioning Bethenny about her place on the show. You can't come back to a show like Housewives with walls up towards the rest of the cast. So Luann is subtly reminding Bethenny, in front of the cameras, that at this point it's engage with the women or get left behind. This faintly meta conversation is of course followed by Bethenny paying three dollars to feed an overly-sexual clown an ice cream sandwich. The most hilarious part of this exchange is Bethenny being so taken aback by the absurdity of this performance art that, for just a second, she breaks the fourth wall and glances directly into the camera with a look of "Can you even believe this?" plastered on her face. The moment made me laugh out loud.
The episode ends with more heavy backstory - Bethenny reconnecting with her estranged stepfather for a very difficult conversation. It was a well-known fact from the early days of the show that Bethenny had a tumultuous childhood - the death of her estranged biological father was even a small plot point in her Season 3 falling out with Jill Zarin. But it wasn't until this scene that the audience really got any clear insight into just how difficult Bethenny had it growing up. And the backstory, filled with abuse, detachment and chaos, helps viewers understand a little bit about why Bethenny is the way she is. The sharp-tongued humor, the trust issues and even the self-made success are all direct results of her upbringing. Thankfully, the conversation ended with a hug and a small hope that this season can be the beginning of our Skinnygirl's path to healing her difficult past.