We're back in the Berkshires for Dorinda's 50th birthday weekend! Here's hoping that this year's excursion goes better than last year's Ramonacoaster from hell. Dorinda promises a great big country weekend with all the husbands, boyfriends and significant others included. Fingers crossed. First to arrive at Dorinda's Berkshires estate are Luann and Ramona, who rode up together. Let me repeat that: Ramona Singer and Luann de Lesseps voluntarily spent three hours in a car together after last week's threats of caviar face-smashing at Petrossian. Longtime RHONY fans will agree with me that the progress these two are making in their relationship is nothing short of a minor miracle.
Once Heather, Kristen and Carole arrive (no, Heather, you're not the co-hostess just because you took the girls here first), Dorinda tells the ladies that she wants their help with naming the house during the weekend. This house is most certainly an estate. A manor. There's no way Ramona could mistake this place for a garage, like she did last year at Heather's. As Kristen points out, the house definitely matches Dorinda's personality - "wild, crazy and fun, but chic and elegant." The multitude of colors in every room are rich and vibrant, and possibly an overload of brightness.
Ramona and Kristen retreat to the sitting room with the giant blue couches for some gossip and Ramona pinot. As Ramotional debriefs Kristen on the drama with Luann at Petrossian, it becomes clear that that minor miracle I referred to earlier might not be quite so miraculous. Ramona's still bugged at getting called out for her comments about John and posits that Luann may be jealous of her friendship with Dorinda. We can all share the new girl, ladies. Kristen then mentions how John got a bit too touchy with her at Dorinda's cocktail party at World Bar, and in an genius stroke of timing, Dorinda waltzes into the room just as her name leaves Kristen's lips. Isn't that the best feeling in the world? Ramona tries to deflect, assuring Dorinda they weren't talking about anything important. However, Dorinda presses the issue and things quickly spiral into an argument. Although Ramona was specifically discussing Luann, the situation somehow turns into Kristen and Dorinda squaring off about John's behavior at World Bar. While it maybe wasn't the smartest thing for Kristen to bring up, I feel like she's the one in the right here. Dorinda is clearly sensitive and defensive about her boyfriend, and goes on the attack to prove it, but the blame sits solely on John for crossing the line and not keeping his hands to himself. Dorinda tries to find fault in Kristen, but there's a difference between some harmlessly fun dancing and her boyfriend's hands finding their way to the hips of another Housewife. As accusations of "playing coquettish" are hurled between the two, Ramotional is stuck in the middle like a deer in headlights.
Eventually Heather wanders in and immediately needs to know every detail of why the girls are sparring. It comes across a bit like this: "Girls, girls, girls! What happened, what happened, what happened???" So, the issue immediately gets rehashed. At first, Dorinda is still defensive, but it turns into a vulnerable moment between the four as she talks about being a widow and starting her life over at 50. Dorinda's crying, Kristen's crying, tears all around. In her interview, Ramona admits to judging John too quickly and too harshly, and determines to give him another chance over the weekend.
For dinner, the ladies go into Great Barrington to the Red Lion Inn. Welcomed with fresh apple cider, we learn that this happens to be where Heather got engaged to her silver fox husband, Jonathan. I do not, for the life of me, understand what Luann is wearing to dinner. A blue, off-the-shoulder lace number complete with a choker and black bra straps? Just no. Conversation turns to Bethenny and how no one can seem to get to know her. Ramona claims that Bethenny doesn't have any girlfriends, which launches the discussion into a roundtable therapy session to diagnose the Skinnygirl. Is it because of her childhood? (Yes). Is it a trust issue with other women? (Yes). Does it have to do with everything she's been through in the last year? (Also yes). While the rest of the women seem to be understanding of the situation, Heather isn't being sensitive or empathetic to Bethenny whatsoever, and thinks everyone cuts her too much slack. Is Bethenny excused for her lack of engagement? Is it a double standard? Either way, you can't compare losing your nanny to everything Bethenny is going through.
The next morning, Sonja finally arrives to the party on the day of Dorinda's birthday. We made it 28 whole minutes without Lady Morgan, and I wasn't mad about it. She arrives looking like, as Dorinda so wisely points out, a 19th century Dracula, draped in capes and furs, just in time for a shopping excursion to what looks like the main street of Great Barrington. The town looks quaint and utterly charming in the daylight, while Sonja looks like a Russian nesting doll in her giant fur hat. Luann and Ramona rehash the caviar incident yet again, and, after Luann admits she "pulled a Ramona" by calling her out, actually make up! The progress really is happening, even if Ramotional wonders if it was too easy.
For Dorinda's official birthday dinner that night, her one wish is that everyone is accepting and gets along. A tall order for these 'Wives. John and the two husbands of the group - Josh and Jonathan - show up to help get the party started. I'm loving Kristen's red maxi skirt and subtle crop top, and am equally overjoyed that Jonathan is making an appearance. (Seriously, you guys, he's like the dark horse of Househusbands). Sonja saunters in on Dorinda and John in lingerie to inform the hostess that she somehow forgot to pack a dress - perfect timing for John's hands to get themselves into trouble again. If Lady Morgan couldn't have an intern pack a dress for her, maybe she should've stayed home? Luann looks like she's dressed for a murder mystery costume party, complete with long gloves and oversized costume jewelry. So many bad Countess fashion moments in this episode. And next thing we know, Bethenny makes a surprise appearance with gift in hand! Everyone is delighted to see her, besides Heather, who looks as if she's about to vomit. For the record, this is Bethenny making an effort.
As the whole group sits down for a sushi dinner, Bethenny mentions to Dorinda that she can only eat shellfish. She's allergic to fish with fins, Heather reiterates. We honestly don't need a food allergy to get blown into a big problem, but the issue is already snowballing into one giant sushi roll of pettiness. As Bethenny tries to move the conversation on, Heather continues to belabor the point. Bethenny wants to keep things light and easy, but Heather wants to know why the Skinnygirl is always so harshly shutting her down. Just like that, the tension between the two boils over. Bethenny wants to be left alone; Heather is smothering. Bethenny wants to be her own solution; Heather goes from teaching to preaching. These two just don't see eye to eye in their methods. Neither is wrong and neither is right, they simply don't click. To keep the situation from escalating further, Heather tries to pull Bethenny aside to talk privately, but that's just one more thing that Bethenny doesn't want. Both women clearly frustrated and on the verge of tears as the episode ends with a rare and ominous "TO BE CONTINUED..."
This clash between the Skinnygirl and Ms. Yummie Tummie is equally frustrating to me as a viewer, because I really like both women. They just operate so differently that a natural friction can't help but exist. As Heather starts getting emotional, you can see that all she's trying to do is befriend and get to know Bethenny, and feels rebuffed at every turn. It's coming from a genuine, good place, and it must feel like Bethenny is making an effort with most of the other women - particularly Heather's real-life BFF Carole - but not with her. When all you're trying to do is be nice, that feeling must be mind-boggling. On the other hand, Bethenny simply isn't in a space to go deep with Heather, and as a social acquaintance, that should be respected. Jumping back into the group, Bethenny wants to take things person by person, on her own timetable and not force anything. That's why she's started to gel with Carole. She certainly wasn't best friends with every other Housewife on her first three seasons of the show - at least not at the same time - so why should she be now? For now, the battle lines have been rashly drawn and we have to wait until next week to see the confrontation explode. Which alpha do you think will come out on top?