After last week's detour to Miami to delve into Bethenny's backstory, we're back in NYC and moving the story forward. At the top of the episode, we have Dorinda and Ramona meeting for dinner, and the first thing I notice is that it's snowing as Dorinda walks in, umbrella in hand. It's Christmastime in the city! Over dinner, Dorinda brings up the upcoming weekend trip with all the girls to the Berkshires for her 50th birthday. I'm still surprised that Ramona didn't choke on her fork and seems completely game about going to the place she formerly considered to be a backwoods trip down her childhood memory lane, mud pies included. Just a question here, did every single NY Housewife celebrate her birthday during filming this season? We're only one third of the way through the season and we've already celebrated Bethenny's and Ramona's and now Dorinda's is here. The dinner conversation between the two eventually turns to Mario and Ramona - specifically that Mario is now claiming he wants his family back. Again, I'm surprised this doesn't make Ramotional more emotional, at least not on camera. Instead, she claims that, while she's glad Mario has fixed his relationship with their daughter Avery by owning up to the cheating, Ramona isn't quite sure she wants to take him back. I say it's wise to keep the cheating husband at a distance. And while Dorinda's confessional soundbite about how "people's business is their business" is admirable, I'm not sure she's latched on to the point of being a Housewife yet: you're getting paid to comment on each other's lives, Dorinda. All private business becomes a storyline to be dissected, picked apart and commented on. This fact will come back to haunt her by episode's end.
Next, we're back at Left Bank in the West Village for something completely different: Carole is running for a spot on the board of her apartment building. In NYC, this is akin to running for local government. Carole isn't taking the election lightly either, running on a campaign platform of transparency and hope. The campaign materials were hilariously tongue-in-cheek, mimicking Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign - exactly the kind of self-aware humor we would expect from Radzi. Along with Heather and Ramona, she's rounded up a campaign manager, campaign strategist and social media consultant. She means business. And while they may have also contributed helpful ideas, it was strategic of Carole to invite Ramona, Heather and Heather's husband Jonathan to the meeting as well. The more 'Wives you have filming with you, the more likely it is that the footage will make the episode's final cut. This fact is particularly true when filming something more personal or casual, like a housing board election meeting.
We also get more of Bethenny and her therapist, Dr. Amador, as she debriefs him on what happened in Miami with her stepfather. Bethenny gets a bit defensive when the doctor starts pushing her to confront the issue more than she's willing to. The sad reality is that for Bethenny as a child, it was just what she was used to. Watching abuse and living in terror were her way of life. It's likely baffling to most people to even consider growing up wondering "what it means to think you're not loved." But for viewers watching who have experienced something similar, this is a hugely important topic to bring up on camera. Bethenny's vulnerability's about her past, and how she's handled it, can be a lifeline for other people to feel like they're not alone in their struggles.
Sonja's throwing a party for her Latino Show Magazine cover. But, again, we're getting some mixed messages. It's for her cover of a "Latin international luxury" magazine, but it's also a Sonja in the City event and she's proudly wearing a sample from her upcoming fashion line. Most of the ladies show up to support her: Kristen seems excited and genuinely wants to see Sonja succeed, Ramona's not quite sure what she's there to support and Bethenny's running past the step-and-repeat in a giant coat and boots. The difficult thing about the party is that it comes across as Sonja constantly trying to put on a show and convince the other women she's legitimate. She's parading around her team and the magazine editor and photographer like prize show ponies to impress the other 'Wives, instead of just letting the work speak for itself. As Heather wisely puts it: "An ad in a magazine does not a collection make" and can't help but throw in an underhanded dig about Sonja's line being sold in Kmart.
The next day, Carole throws an election party at her apartment to wait for the results to come in. This way, she'll either have her friends around to celebrate her victory or to drown her sorrows with. Kristen takes a moment to pull Sonja aside to apologize for doubting her business ventures and reiterate her support from the event the night before. On the opposite end of the room, Heather is attempting to bond with Bethenny by asking her about her custody situation. While it may be coming from a good place, this is not the way to connect with Bethenny Frankel, and highlights the basic difference between Ms. Yummie Tummie and the Skinnygirl. Heather wants to dig deep to connect with people on a human level and Bethenny still has her guard up around these new women. Not the best combination. In the end, Carole wins the election! Will we see a Senator Radziwill in the future? This could just be the start of an illustrious political career for our favorite Writer Girl.
In an effort to spend more time with the ladies, Bethenny invites Carole to come furniture shopping for B's newly-renovated apartment at CB2. While browsing through stemware and couches, the discussion turns to the other ladies' perceptions of Bethenny. Is she aloof and standoffish? Does she think she's too cool for the newer girls? Bethenny explains that her daughter is her first priority, thereby limiting the time she can spend going to dinners and events. Opening up to Carole about such a vulnerable topic creates a giant crack in Bethenny's wall and the next thing we know, she's crying in the middle of the furniture store about her fear of missing out on time with Bryn. I honestly think that Carole was the perfect person to support Bethenny in this moment. She was caring without being overly emotional, and handled the situation perfectly. "Maybe one day we'll hug," jokes Carole, and I think this is the start of a real friendship between Writer Girl and the Skinnygirl.
And with that, we've arrived at the final event of the episode - the first of more than one birthday dinner for Dorinda. Organized by Luann at caviar and champagne fine dining restaurant Petrossian, the guest list apparently only included Dorinda and John, Ramona, Luann and Heather, the self-proclaimed "caviar whore" with Jonathan in tow. The evening starts off nicely, until Ramona doesn't know how to take a compliment from Heather about how much she's changed and proceeds to refer to Heather and Luann as "people like you..." It's off-putting to see glimpses of the old Ramona, and the tension puts the Countess on the attack. Remember what I said about private business being used for storylines? Well apparently, conversations have been happening behind Dorinda's back about how much some of the other ladies - particularly Luann and Ramona - dislike John. So, while John's in the bathroom and Ramona's playing "kissy-kissy" with the birthday girl, Luann decides to call out the apparent hypocrisy. We see further shades of the Ramonacoaster's old self, as she immediately starts placing blame on both Luann and, somehow, Dorinda - conveniently leaving her role in the anti-John conversations out of the equation. By talking about John behind Dorinda's back, are Luann and Ramona being protective friends? Or are they crossing a line? Is John going to become RHONY's version of Brooks Ayers? I know I've been hard on the Countess in the past, but I'm 100% with her on this one. For trying to use her as a scapegoat, Ramona's face might deserve to be shoved in the caviar. So much for blossoming new friendships...