It's the holiday season on this week's The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but not everyone is feeling very festive. Teresa attempts to mend fences with both Melissa and Jacqueline, but only one of her fellow 'Wives is feeling the spirit of the season. Plus, we learn more about Dolores's life before Housewives and Siggy is nowhere to be found. Read on for a full recap of the drama...
Since we didn't get to see it in the premiere, let's analyze the new intro and taglines before jumping into this week's episode, shall we? My vote for best tagline of the bunch goes to Teresa Giudice for "I used to flip tables. Now, I'm turning them." Not only does it reference the iconic Season 1 table flip that cemented the OG's place in Housewives history, it also rather cleverly ties in the title of her new memoir and tells us we're dealing with Teresa 2.0 this season. Quick thought on the others: Melissa's is great, if a bit on the nose regarding her storyline of becoming a modern Italian woman. Newbie Dolores Catania's is classic Jersey - she'll fit into the show's modus operandi like her last name was Manzo. Fellow rookie Siggy Flicker elevates her line through delivery alone. She may be "too much," but I'm sensing a star being born. Lastly, fans should be happy Jacqueline Laurita is back full-time after spending last season relegated to part-time Friend of the Housewives status, but her tagline is easily the worst of the bunch. It's never a great sign when a Housewife's tagline is clearly targeted at someone else on the show - it rubs me the wrong way and just proves her critics' assertion that she's obsessed with Tre. (Also, it's weirdly aggressive and threatening, which makes me even less of a fan...)
Now, on to the episode. It's the morning of Teresa's release from Danbury. As the other 'Wives watch via smartphone and laptop, Tre's lawyer James Leonard, Jr. holds an impromptu press conference in the Giudices' driveway - wishing the gaggle of reporters a happy holiday and sending everyone on home. The moment has Jacqueline all sorts of mixed up - one second she's wiping away tears thinking about how happy Tre must be to be home and the next she's making digs about the brand new Lexus in the Giudice's driveway. Wise as a sage, Dolores sees right through Jac's facade and calls out the real, emotional reaction she's having. Jacqueline can't deny the history she has with Teresa, admitting that while she's been upset with her former BFF, she's never stopped loving her. Now that Teresa's reached out, Jac doesn't know what will happen next between the pair...
It's the day of Christmas Eve and the Giudice house is still being swarmed by dozens of paparazzi. In her confessional, Teresa explains that all of her businesses essentially hit rock bottom when she went to prison and she needs to start bringing in the money again. To do this, she's given People Magazine an exclusive on her first few days home, including pictures of the morning of her release and the first Christmas photo of the entire family. After all, as Tre wisely points out, the price tag on her face will never be as high as it is right now. To avoid the photographers parked outside the house, Joe Gorga comes to the rescue - giving the entire family a ride to his house and covering Teresa with a coat to avoid any snooping flashbulbs as she makes her grand entrance through the Gorgas' garage. This is the first time Melissa's seen her sister-in-law in more than a year, and while she didn't quite know what to expect, Teresa immediately acts like nothing ever happened. Literally like she just got back from a year-long trip to the grocery store. The entire family sits down for Christmas Eve dinner and when Melissa goes to the kitchen, Teresa seizes the opening to talk one-on-one.
The OG opens the sisterly chat by reiterating how much she wants things to go back to the way they were when Melissa first married Joe. You know, those storied off-camera days when the Gorgas and Giudices apparently got along perfectly. Melissa agrees, but wants their relationship to finally...finally be real. In the past, she feels Tre has put a wall up and only tried to make their relationship copacetic on a surface level. Teresa counters that she was only guarded because she didn't feel like Melissa was being genuine and all of a sudden it feels like we're back on the hamster wheel of Seasons 3 and 4. But hold the phone. This is Teresa 2.0 and we're all going to be real, ok? The sisters-in-law eventually agree to not rehash the past and move forward with the promise that they'll always have each other's back. Sisters and best friends from here on out. Peace on earth, good will towards Housewives, it's a Christmas Eve miracle!
Two days later, Dolores goes to therapy, where we finally get to learn a little more about the newbie's backstory. Turns out that Dolores divorced her husband way back when her now-20-year-old daughter Gabby was only three years old and she was nine months pregnant with Frankie, now 17 due to his cheating. For six years as a single mom, she worked as a cop, transporting prisoners from the cell block to the courtroom. Following the divorce, Dolores never remarried - going as far as to get engaged before breaking it off (due to what she refers to as her then-fiancé's "extracurricular activities"). Now, she's living back in the house she shared with her husband and is ready to rediscover and reinvent herself. After years of selflessly taking care of everyone around her, it's time for Dolores to put herself first for once.
While Jacqueline banters with her daughter Ashlee about their respective sex lives (cringe), Joe Gorga takes the kids to visit Melissa at the construction site that is quickly becoming Envy by Melissa Gorga. However, while Joe may be remodeling the space, he's still not very enthusiastic about the project. Melissa maintains that Joe should step up to the plate if she needs extra help with the kids as she gets the boutique running, but he doesn't exactly appreciate being Mr. Mom. He throws out a dig about not signing up for a "part-time wife" when they got married, and thankfully Melissa puts a stop to that line of thinking right then and there. Joe may be old-school Italian, but Melissa is well on her way to becoming a 21st century housewife.
Meanwhile, Dolores sees Teresa for the first time since her release from Danbury, and is taking the OG out for an afternoon of manicures. As Tre fills her old friend in on what life was like in prison, it's nice to see the easy, natural dynamic between the two and I'm struck again by how seamlessly Dolores fits into the show. After Teresa invites her over for New Year's Eve, the newbie reveals it's her birthday. Dolores may not love making herself the center of attention on her big day, but she sees Teresa's insistence at throwing her a party as a way to get all the ladies in the same place - Jacqueline included. Just call Dolores the friendship whisperer of RHONJ.
New Year's Eve rolls around and it becomes quickly apparent there are two dueling parties with Teresa and Jacqueline as the respective hostesses. In the Giudice corner, we have Teresa, Juicy Joe Melissa and Joe plus the entire extended Gorga/Giudice clan. Well...not the entire extended family: over at the Laurita house, Jacqueline and Chris have invited Rosie Pierri and Kathy Wakile, Teresa's cousins and this season's official Friends of the Housewives, along with Kathy's Jeff Goldblum lookalike husband Richie. Then there's Dolores, who's left to ride the fence by juggling both parties. (Fellow newbie Siggy Flicker was in Boca over New Year's and is absent for the entire episode.) It's a slightly strange dynamic, which Jacqueline makes crystal clear when she asks point blank why the cousins aren't celebrating with Teresa and the rest of the family.
Ever the peacemaker, Dolores hits Teresa's party for the first part of the evening, and helps Tre navigate the tricky waters of letting Gia go out with her friends for the night. When it comes time for her to head to Jacqueline's, Teresa decides to call up her former BFF to wish her a happy New Year and let her know Dolores is on her way. Tre is once again extending an olive branch but Jacqueline isn't sure what to make of it, and the conversation quickly turns awkward when Kathy and Rosie chime in from the background. Caught off guard, Teresa asks Jac to take the phone off speaker, but it's too late. The chat has soured. After hanging up, Jacqueline starts to spiral, describing the call as "cold" and "distant" and claiming it felt less than genuine. Once Dolores arrives, she questions the newbie about Tre's motivation behind the call and hesitantly brushes off the idea of rekindling their old friendship. Happy New Year?
What did you think of this week's RHONJ? Was Teresa's attempt to make amends with Melissa sincere? Was the phone call with Jacqueline? Let me know in the comments below!