After eighteen episodes of redemption, drama and bitter feuding, Season 7 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey has reached its conclusion. So, as has become tradition on That Housewives Guy, I'm breaking down the reasons I loved this season so much as well as what could and should change for Season 8. Plus, I give my take on where Season 7 ranks against years past in Jersey...
WHY IT WORKED
- Sincerely Siggy: Relationship expert Siggy Flicker burst onto the scene as the first Jewish Housewife in the Italian-dominated history of the franchise. From the moment we met the Sig with her face wrapped in a scarf post-facelift and sipping lobster bisque through a straw, I instantly fell in love with her and she became an unforgettable addition in the Housewives canon. Initially introduced as a friend of Jacqueline Laurita, Siggy's goal throughout the entire season was to bring the feuding Jersey OGs together and help them heal from years of family feuds and friendships falling apart. All Siggy ever wants is peace. And while her strategy and relationship expertise seemed to work at first (the cast spa-cation in episode 7 was a standout for me), by season's end Siggy realized the wounds between the veterans may be simply too deep for her to fix alone. What endears Siggy to me the most is the light and positivity that simply radiates from her. She's hilariously funny, loves fiercely, is genuine, emotional and real - basically everything you want in a rookie Housewife. Siggy brought a new, distinctly Jewish perspective to the Jersey franchise and I am 100 percent here for it.
- Dolores Catania, Italian Whisperer: The other new addition to the Jersey gang this season was Dolores Catania, a longtime friend of both Jacqueline and Teresa Giudice with deep ties to former OGs Caroline and Dina Manzo as well. In fact, to call Dolores a "new addition" is a blatant misnomer considering that she's made frequent appearances on the show since the very beginning and - as revealed by Dina recently - was originally supposed to be a Housewife way back in Season 1 before she dropped out and was replaced by Caroline. Dolores also happens to be BFFs with Siggy and proved throughout the season to be the levelheaded voice of reason among the group. Having so much history with all the other women, she also had a particular knack for breaking things for viewers in her confessionals. Whether that meant explaining the fundamental differences between how Teresa and Jacqueline operate or providing insight into Italian-American culture, Dolores' commentary was invaluable for both longtime fans and brand-new viewers. But one word of warning: push the rookie 'Wife past her breaking point (like the drama did in Vermont) and you'll quickly see her Paterson side come out!
- War and peace: For the better part of a decade, we've watched the dynamics implode and rebuild and explode again between the Guidices, Gorgas, Lauritas (and Manzos). The connections between these women and their families are deeply entrenched and the history is centered on families and goes back decades. It's part of what makes RHONJ so different from other cities in the Housewives franchise. So, from the moment Teresa came home from Danbury, Jacqueline and Melissa Gorga braced themselves for a rollercoaster of drama. However, "Namaste" Teresa came home determined to make peace and - in a near miracle - she and sister-in-law Melissa put years of family feuding to bed once and for all. On the other hand, Tre's road to rebuilding with Jacqueline was much rockier, full of twists and turns as the former besties tried to navigate past years of hurt feelings. After a couple false starts, the drama exploded on the disastrous cast trip to Vermont as an argument over Season 4's Strippergate (of all things) drew a permanent line in the sand with Teresa and Melissa on one side, Jacqueline on the other and the newbies caught in the crossfire. The fallout was gripping and it went from bad to worse between the women, leading to Jac's great escape with poor Siggy and Dolores running after her fleeing Range Rover in the finale. The drama was vicious and seems insurmountable, but if there's one thing we've learned from the Jersey ladies it's to never say never when it comes to their relationships with each other. Yes, Italians fight hard but they love each other just as intensely.
WHAT COULD CHANGE
- Feuding family no more: Ever since the christening heard 'round the world in the Season 3 premiere, fans have watched the Giudice/Gorga family feud take center stage as the primary storyline driving RHONJ forward. From Strippergate and tabloid scandals to therapy sessions and a fistfight between Joes, we've seen the family go through some pretty dark drama. But this season, the relationships between Teresa, Melissa and Joe are fixed on all sides and the OG shut down the tension with Friends of the Housewives Kathy Wakile and Rosie Pierri, seeing her cousins' attempt at reconciliation as a ploy to get back in the spotlight after not reaching out to her once during her time at Danbury. The bond between sisters-in-law Teresa and Melissa seems genuine and solid, so can we finally call the family feud over and done with? The Jersey franchise has always been about family, but honestly, that dead horse doesn't need to be beaten one second longer.
- Jersey girls go international: The cast trip is a cornerstone of every season of Housewives in every city across the franchise, but year after year the Jersey 'Wives have stayed stateside for their big vacations. From Napa Valley and Arizona to Florida and Vermont, the ladies have made it work and the drama has been far from disappointing, but next season can we please send them to some far-flung, exotic destination to watch all the drama boil over? I completely get that Teresa hasn't been allowed to leave the country for the past couple of seasons due to her legal issues, but now that they're in her rearview mirror, I'd love to see the ladies explore Siggy's roots in Israel (and perhaps visit the bomb shelter where she was born). Who's with me?
- Cast shake-ups: Changes in the cast from season to season are almost inevitable in the Housewives universe (though RHONJ holds the record for keeping the same cast of 'Wives from Seasons 3 to 5). However, I feel fairly confident that I speak for the majority of Housewives fans when I say all the girls from Season 7 need to come back next year. I'm obsessed with thedynamic between these ladies and in my well-versed opinion, the Fabulous Five is near-perfect as a cast. Jacqueline has already confirmed on Twitter that she'll be back for Season 8, Teresa and Melissa are no-brainers and I'd like to see Siggy and Dolores continue to thrive and blossom in front of Bravo's cameras. The one major addition next season is the rumored return of Tre and Jac's fellow OG Danielle Staub, the iconic Housewives villain who helped turn RHONJ into a pop culture phenomenon back during the days of Seasons 1 and 2. As revealed in the finale's "Where Are They Now?" cards, Teresa recently reached out to Danielle and the two seem to be building a friendship again - hitting the yoga studio and attending events together. If Danielle's rumored return does happen, Season 8 will undoubtedly be one for the books.
- Season 2: The Jersey 'Wives sophomore outing is undoubtedly the franchise at its most iconic. From Dina Manzo's abrupt exit following her showdown with Danielle Staub to the chaotic country club brawl between Danielle, Jacqueline and Teresa, Season 2 built on the foundation of the show's first year and reached a fever pitch. I mean, who can forget Danielle pulling a mannequin head out at the reunion to demonstrate getting her extensions ripped out or Teresa shoving Andy Cohen in a blind rage?
- Season 4: Strippergate. The implosion of Teresa's friendships with Jacqueline and Caroline after the night on the deck. The surprise eleventh hour appearance by Dina. The Napa Valley RV trip. For many, Season 4 represents some of the very best drama that Housewives has to give. The issues between the women reached cataclysmic heights as Teresa found herself at war with each of the other 'Wives. By the time the epic, three-part reunion aired, it seemed the Jersey women would never be able to come back from the toxic darkness that had consumed the show.
- Season 7: In many ways, this season was a return to form for RHONJ and even while some fans were critical, I loved every minute. The drama may have been as dark as it was in the days of Strippergate, it turned out to be exactly what I didn't even know I needed. From Teresa's emotional homecoming and the addition of Siggy and Dolores to the hellish Vermont trip and Jacqueline's unraveling, the show returned from a long hiatus to tell a story that was real, authentic and ultimately heartfelt.
- Season 3: With the introduction of her sister-in-law Melissa Gorga and cousin Kathy Wakile, Teresa Giudice's family drama became RHONJ's primary storyline and turned her into the unequivocal star of the show. Upon airing, the chaotic christening was the highest-rated season premiere in the history of both the Housewives franchise and Bravo as a whole. However, the network's decision to film Seasons 3 and 4 back-to-back resulted in a confusing third season reunion with Jacqueline not showing up and the other women bitterly divided over events viewers wouldn't see play out for a full year.
- Season 1: Teresa's iconic table flip. Cop Without a Badge. While the first season may seem tame and brief by today's standards, the Jersey 'Wives became instant celebrities when they hit TV screens back in 2009. In fact, it's easy to long for the relatively simple days when the Manzos, Lauritas and Giudices were united against villain Danielle Staub as a common enemy and Caroline Manzo uttered the famous words "Let me tell you something about my family..."
- Season 5: The season began with Superstorm Sandy and ended with the Giudices, Manzos, Lauritas, Gorgas and Wakiles finally brokering a fragile peace treaty, but boy was it rough getting there. The cast trips to Lake George and Arizona were essentially settings for fist fights and extended therapy sessions. Add in the finale brawl at Kim D.'s second Posche boutique (which had to be largely edited out for legal reasons) and the introduction of minor players like Penny, Johnny the Greek and Jan stirring up trouble and cheating rumors about Melissa, and many aspects of the season were simply confusing. Still, the emotional payoff of seeing forgiveness and peace between Teresa and her brother brought tears to my eyes, though by the end of the reunion Caroline was ready to exit stage left.
- Season 6: I feel the need to start with the caveat that I actually really enjoyed much of Season 6. That being said, it's indisputably the weakest link in the RHONJ canon. The conviction and subsequent sentencing of Teresa and Joe Giudice cast a somber, dark shadow over production, which was truncated into a short, choppy run of episodes. Personally, I rejoiced in the return of Dina (namaste, bitches!) and immediately liked twins Nicole Napolitano and Teresa Aprea, but the less said about Amber Marchese and her husband Jim's stain on the show's legacy the better...
With that, it's time to say goodbye to Season 7 of RHONJ. Did you enjoy the season as much as I did? How would you rank the show's seven seasons from best to worst? Should all the ladies come back next year? Should Danielle Staub? Let me know in the comments!