The reunion is finally here! After 19 weeks of non-stop drama, the New York Housewives gathered at the Edison Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan for the annual sit-down with Andy Cohen. After such a fantastic season, my expectations were high and I have to say, the ladies didn't disappoint in Part 1. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Being the first reunion I've recapped on THG, I'll break down the episode (as well as Parts 2 and 3) by topic of conversation so I, and you, don't miss a single argument, catfight or setting straight of the record. Before we jump into that, we need to talk seating arrangements on the couches and the ladies' reunion looks.
On the Couches
Reunion seating is without a doubt one of my favorite things to overanalyze. Early in the season I started wondering where the women would land on the reunion seating chart. With an unprecedented eight Housewives, there were a lot of personalities to fit on those two couches. Plus, there were plenty of questions to ask when figuring out the perfect arrangement: obviously Luann would be separated from Heather and Carole, but would Bethenny also be on the opposite couch from Ms. Yummie? If so, would it be a case of veterans on one couch and newer 'Wives on the other? Having been such a great addition to the season, would Dorinda be placed at the end of the couch as the designated newbie?
It's not exactly how I predicted, but the seating arrangement is as perfect as it could be - short of dividing the ladies onto three separate couches. On the right couch (from the center outwards) is Ramona, Luann, Dorinda and Sonja, while on the left couch we have Bethenny, Carole, Heather and Kristen. The most coveted hot seats on either side of Andy obviously went to Bethenny and Ramona, with the Ramonacoaster occupying the same place at the head of the right couch that she's been at since the Season 4 reunion. I had assumed based on the last three seasons that Sonja would be right next to her, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Frick and Frack separated for once. On the left couch, the problem of Bethenny being seated on the same side as Heather and Kristen is dealt with by placing Carole as a buffer between B and the other girls. Also, I was personally very happy to see that Dorinda wasn't relegated to an end seat simply for being the new girl on the block, though the end position doesn't bode particularly well for Kristen after being in the prime seat next to Andy last year. That's a big leap in the wrong direction.
Ranking the Ladies' Looks
The ladies' outfits were definitely an eclectic mix this year: we had four gowns, three minis and a revolutionary pair of pants with an overarching theme of sparkles and metallics. The award for my favorite look goes to Heather for her stunning emerald-green Valentina Kova gown, with close runner-ups being Carole and Kristen. Everything from the jewelry to the ab-baring peek-a-boo bra was daring and divine. Quick thoughts on the other ladies: Carole certainly knows how to rock a vintage dress at a reunion as this is the second year in a row she's done so. As I've mentioned more than once, Kristen is my Housewives style icon, and I really love her dark red Maestro by Sylvio gown. Out of all the women, she definitely looks the most glamorous. I like Bethenny's pants, and give her points for breaking the mold, but I don't understand the floor-length asymmetrical shirt at all. Obsessed with her short hair, though. I would've been surprised that Dorinda wasn't wearing her favorite Pucci, except that she tweeted me earlier this week telling me otherwise. She's definitely serving Donna Karan disco ball glam. I love Ramona's silver gown, but was a little shocked she wasn't in her signature "Ramona blue" or better yet, her new "Ramona red." Sonja's rocking her updo and smoky eye (more on that later), but the gold snakeskin dress from her collection doesn't look like it fit with rest of the clothes we saw during the fashion show two weeks ago. Did that really come from the same collection? And then we have Luann. In nearly every episode this season, she gave us a majorly terrible fashion moment, but this bright blue-green dress from her Countess Collection looks like it came out of a car wash from the 1970s. Or maybe a nail salon? It's really terrible and I can't look at it for too long or it starts to hurt my eyes. Also, someone needs to tell her to stop with the shoulder cutouts. Her look is very easily the worst of the bunch.
Taking Bethenny Down
First up, we're treated to a package on Bethenny's return to the show after three years away, complete with a montage of all the times she cried during the season and her attempts at maintaining surface-level relationships with the other women. The queen of self-awareness, B readily admits that she can be abrasive and aggressive, and takes it a step further by saying that it's harder to be her than it is to deal with her. She also explains that the onslaught of tears early in the season may have been the result of having come back to the show a bit too early, as she was still in the midst of grueling custody issues with her ex. Andy asks if she and Jason are divorced yet, and she says no. The divorce proceedings have been going on for over three years now, which is longer than the duration of the couple's marriage. Bethenny's legally bound from discussing details of the divorce, but calls it the most excruciating experience of her life, akin to emotional torture. In regards to her ex, she explains that when you bring someone into fame (like she did when she met him), they grab at the shiny objects and when it's taken away from them, they want to take it from you as well. Carole adds that, having seen some of the custody issues Bethenny goes through, there are a lot of mind games being played by her ex.
Andy then asks the other veteran Wives what their reactions were to finding out Bethenny was returning to the show. They all claim to have had positive feelings about it, with Ramona and Sonja even giving a half-hearted "yippee," but Heather is quick to point out that everything wasn't sunshine and roses when the news was announced. Following the Countess' estate sale, Ramona, Luann, Carole and Heather even toasted over lunch to taking Bethenny down. Conveniently, both Luann and Ramona don't recall the toast ever happening. However, Heather insists it's the truth and Bethenny believes her, citing the fact that such attitudes are common in the franchise. (Just ask Shannon Beador.)
The Skinnygirl also explains that it took her a while to re-acclimate to being on the show because she didn't know the newer ladies and everything needed to be real. This reticence to dive in head first with some of the 'Wives she didn't know led to clashes with Heather and both Kristen and Dorinda feeling left out of various events towards the beginning of the season. When asked about not being invited to Bethenny's birthday party, Dorinda says it would've been odd if she had been invited since she didn't know B. (Mind you, this isn't what she said at the dinner at Cherry when she claimed her feelings were slightly hurt.) For her part, Kristen claims the entire issue was blown out of proportion, and points out that the last time she'd seen all the women prior to the party, Bethenny and Ramona were arguing in the street, so she merely questioned why she hadn't been invited when seemingly everyone else had. As for Heather bring up the issue at Cherry, the (now-retired) Holla queen claims she was only trying to let Bethenny know before the group headed to Atlantic City. However, slight tension once again rears its head between the two when Heather cuts B off in her explanation...
Atlantic City: Land of Bunny Ears, Snatchguards and Gstaad
Next up is the first trip of the season to Atlantic City to celebrate Ramona's birthday, and of course this story starts with Sonja not letting Heather, Kristen and Dorinda into her house, forcing them to camp out and wait since she "wasn't receiving guests." The slight is still a hot-button issue for Heather, who claims her friendship with Lady Morgan ended right there in that cold foyer. Sonja, however, continues to defend her actions and not just apologize for the offense. (This will be a continuing theme during this segment.) Sonja's hard partying ways become the topic of conversation as all of the women express concern over her drinking habits. Sonja defensively claims that the drunken night in AC - paired with the constant criticism from her cast mates - set the tone for her season on the show and she couldn't dig herself out of the hole no matter how hard she tried. She also reveals during the exchange that she might be slightly bisexual. OK then...When the other women try to express their concern over her drinking habits, Sonja angrily deflects by claiming that several other women in the cast have more legitimate problems with alcohol than she does. I've said it before and I'll say it again: when it comes to her past and her partying, Sonja Morgan does not tend to operate in reality. But you can't force someone to get help until he or she recognizes the problem, and even with Andy playing mediator the conversation goes around in circles.
Lady Morgan's drunken comment about partying with John-John Kennedy also gets scrutinized. Carole in particular didn't find it funny, considering the man was her late husband's cousin and one of her closest friends before his tragic death. She succinctly and forcefully tries to explain why the comment was out of line, but Sonja once again refuses to apologize, saying John-John was HER friend and she can talk about him whenever she wants. Carole wisely points out that no one who really knew him called him John-John and that he didn't party the way Sonja's describing, but the entire thing goes over Lady Morgan's head. Most importantly, he isn't alive anymore, so Carole doesn't want his legacy tarnished by Sonja running her mouth. The whole issue hits very close to home for Radzi and I really can't comprehend why Sonja doesn't the sensitivity of the situation. There's just absolutely no attempt at empathy or understanding there whatsoever.
The Princess vs. the Countess
In the final topic of part 1, Luann and Carole go round for round about the demise of their friendship once Carole started dating Adam. Honestly, the entire situation has been beaten to death so there's not much more to retread here. All in all, the Countess argued out of both sides of her mouth, first saying she was angry because of Adam's age, then that he was her niece's ex-boyfriend and finally the unforgivable sin that her girlfriend would come into her house and pick up "the help." Yes, the help. Which reason is it? We may never truly know. Though if you ask me, Luann was desperate to get a golden apple back in her hands and was willing to sacrifice her friendship with Carole when she saw an opening for a storyline. To borrow one of Carole's most epic lines of the night, desperate Housewives do desperate things.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter why Luann is angry because none of the reasons are very good ones. Whether it's the age issue, her niece or his being a family friend, you'd think that Luann would be genuinely happy that her friend had found love. Carole cops to the fact that maybe she should have told Luann about the relationship sooner, but in reality it was only eight days between their first date and her sit-down with Lu at Dorinda's party. Even the earth was created in seven... As the argument escalates, Carole rightfully points out the Countess' hypocrisy in judging her for the very behavior Luann engages in herself, though says Lu is more prone to hooking up with an endless parade of 20-somethings rather than settle down in a real relationship. In the final moments of the episode, Carole brings up Alisteir, the 21 year old house manager from the Turks and Caicos, insinuating something happened between him and the Countess. Bombshell! Be sure to stay tuned for more to that story coming soon, exclusively on That Housewives Guy...