As promised, #POPGate has arrived! But before we get to any of the new drama, the episode kicks off back in the midst of Bethenny and Heather's blow-up during Dorinda's Berkshires birthday dinner. Like I said last week, this entire problem stems from these two simply approaching the situation from completely different perspectives. Bethenny has a wall up and doesn't want any special attention, but Heather is naturally a solver and is trying to bond with B by offering a solution. The truth is, as she explains in her confessional, Bethenny is under a ton of personal pressure and is having to deal with all of it in a very public forum. She's standing behind glass and if anyone tries tapping on the glass, as Heather is continuously doing, it's bound to shatter. Wanting to keep the drama from escalating any further, the Skinnygirl quickly gets up from the table and apologizes to Ms. Yummie Tummie. Heather accepts the apology, but leaves the ball for moving forward squarely in B's court. The dust finally settles and the ladies move on to giving toasts for the real reason everyone's gathered together: Dorinda's 50th birthday. Luann gives an awkward toast about being "physically and chemically" attracted to Dorinda when they met, but I'm too distracted by her giant earrings that must weigh 10 pounds each; Ramona credits the birthday girl with finally converting her to the Berkshires and Bethenny toasts to Sonja being the sanest person in the room, which means it's a real party.
Immediately following dinner, Heather, Kristen and Dorinda retreat to a separate room while Bethenny, Ramona, Sonja and Luann (the veterans) remain at the table so each group can debrief on the evening's drama. No word on where Carole disappears to. Heather's inner gansta comes out yet again to point out that Bethenny doesn't know who she's dealing with, while B claims she'd rather eat glass than rehash what just went down. However, my biggest question in all of this is what's this so-called skully that Heather wants to whip out? Is it some kind of weapon? Maybe a shiv? It must have been something she picked up during her time working for the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy. My attempts at googling the term have me leaning towards it being a beanie of some sort, but how gangsta is that really? Any clarification from someone more streetwise than myself on the skully situation is more than welcome. Heather, if you're reading this, maybe you can educate me yourself...
Back in NYC, Ramona is picking up her daughter Avery, who's home from college on winter break. It's the first time we've seen Avery this season, and I continue to wonder how the Ramonacoaster managed to raise such a level-headed kid in between Turtle Time and episodes of Crazy Eyes coming out to play. As Avery unpacks at home, Ramona catches her up on the increasingly-complicated Mario situation. Apparently, the Italian lothario still wants to reconcile with Ramona, but Avery - having just made up with her cheating father - doesn't ask too many questions and would rather not have a ringside seat to her parents' drama. For a college freshman, Avery gives her mom some very mature advice, saying that she only wants to see Ramona happy - whether that's with or without her estranged husband. Besides sorting out her marital problems, Ramonational claims she's known for the "Ramona blue" that's all over Avery's wardrobe, but that she's been transitioning to "Ramona red." No, surprisingly that's not referring to Ramona red wine.
Next, Bethenny has invited Sonja to attend her yearly brand summit, where she meets with the more than two dozen partners to manage the Skinnygirl brand. As she waltzes into the meeting, she's clearly channeling Olivia Pope in her white trenchcoat, while Lady Morgan arrives in a sequined power suit. B's business prowess is on display as she commands the room of executives from companies like ConAgra Foods and AriZona Beverages. As Sonja points out, this one meeting could be considered an associates degree crash course in a single day. Hopefully Sonja can learn something to apply to her "international fashion lifestyle brand."
Meanwhile, Kristen is meeting with executives at Ricky's NYC to discuss the development of her new nail polish line, Pop of Color, and she's invited Carole along to give some creative input. As usual, I'm instantly obsessed with Kristen's outfit - particularly the single giant pearl on her necklace. The girl's jewelry game is constantly on point. Carole's come up with some edgy ideas for the names of the different nail polish colors, and her primary rule while brainstorming is advertising 101: sex sells. Writer Girl's nail polish names include things like Thrust, Slide and plenty of different terms for penises (One-Eyed Trouser Snake, anyone?) which are hilarious, but clearly don't match the burgeoning Kristen Taekman brand.
Next, Ramona, Bethenny, Dorinda and Carole meet for dinner, and each of the ladies arrives drenched in fur. While Ramona complains about the restaurant's lack of eye candy, the Berkshires drama gets rehashed yet again. B makes it clear that she doesn't want any daisy circles or kumbayaing with Heather, and that she just wants everyone off her jock. However, Carole is quick to stick up for her BFF and explains that Heather is naturally a nurturing person who was coming from a good place. Somehow, the conversation turns to the women's various lesbian phases, and prude Catholic girl Ramona isn't having it. Her grossed-out reaction to the concept of a "three-way thing" made me laugh out loud. In the quick cutaway between commercials, we also see Bethenny and Dorinda bonding over naked skydiving, which had me chuckling even harder.
Finally, the main event for the episode has arrived: Ramona's holiday party at AOA Bar and Grill, her new restaurant in Tribeca. As each of the ladies arrive - minus Sonja for some reason - Ramona expresses pleasant surprise at how much she and Bethenny have been connecting. However, the hellos are still icy between B and Heather. According to Bethenny, Heather must not know what to do with her, which can come across as disingenuous. Also feeling boxed out by the Skinnygirl is Kristen, who up until this point hasn't connected with the returning veteran whatsoever. During the party, Carole pulls Kristen aside to tell her that Bethenny claimed in a recent conversation that the trademark for Pop of Color wasn't registered and had managed to call Kristen "dumb" in the process. Now, this conversation between new buddies Carole and Bethenny happened off-camera, so - as with many feuds of Housewives past - we have no real way of verifying the facts beyond a game of she said, she said.
But before #POPGate goes any further, Bethenny has to deal with Luann, who is questioning her about the conflict with Heather. In the Countess Couture moment of the night, I can't even pay attention to what she's saying because I can't look away from the funky layered sleeves on her top. Bethenny points out in her confessional that the Countess used to be like Switzerland but now seems to be getting involved in drama that has nothing to do with her for no reason. However, it's transparent to me that "no reason" is actually because Luann wanted her golden apple back as a main 'Wife after being demoted to Friend of status last season. While the two are hashing it out with accusations of pretty packages and bad deliveries, Kristen tries to interrupt and gets readily dismissed, but Ramona's offer of chicken is apparently more substantial. As B puts it, chicken is pressing; pretty can wait.
After settling the non-issue with Luann, Bethenny finally gives Kristen a moment of her time. Sitting down, Kristen explains that she's trying to connect with Bethenny, but the latter is having none of it. When confronted with the trademark issue and the "dumb" comment, B seems completely uninterested and - rather than confirm or deny that she was talking behind Kristen's back - literally gets up to walk away from the conversation. This certainly isn't helping the issue of Kristen feeling like she's not being heard. In this situation, I'm firmly taking Kristen's side. As a cast member, it has to be hard to watch Bethenny sticking with the veteran 'Wives, bonding with Carole and Dorinda and even arguing with Heather, but refusing to give Kristen so much as the time of day. And though she hasn't made any attempts to bond or connect with Kristen, Bethenny apparently has plenty to say behind her back about a new business opportunity that Kristen is excited for and passionate about. As a more experienced businesswoman, it would've been a better look had Bethenny simply been supportive and even offered some advice as a co-star, like she did with Sonja at the brand summit. Instead, Kristen's left feeling that Bethenny simply doesn't care about her and doesn't want to even make an iota of effort to be friendly, which is not the best feeling in the world.
After walking away from Kristen mid-conversation, Bethenny calls a truce with Heather. Owning that she can be both abrasive and aggressive, the Skinnygirl explains more calmly where she's coming from and Heather seems more receptive to the explanation. The conversation actually ends with an apology and a hug, but the Holla! Queen admits in her interview that - while she accepts the apology - she'll be cautious about jumping into any kind of renewed friendship. As Bethenny leaves the party, Kristen is still left on the outs, with wine in hand, as the only Housewife left on the B's bad side. "So much for making new friends" is right.