The Manzo clan is back for another season of mayhem and meddling in New Jersey. Caroline is busy grappling with all the changes in her kids' lives: Lauren is in the midst of prepping for her wedding to Vito and the boys have started living separate lives - with Christopher living in a Hoboken bachelor pad and Albie moving back home while he explores new business opportunities. Even amid all the chaos, the Manzo matriarch is still holding all the moving parts together.
Mornings in the Manzo household seem a little crazy - Albie's doing overly cheerful daily affirmations in the mirror and Vito's trying to coax Lauren into his bed (a big no-no under Caroline's roof). Over breakfast, which Lauren seems to be rather angrily making while making digs about her brother's testicles and snapping at her fiancé to "sit the f*** down", Albie announces that he's gotten involved in a business that markets some sort of mineral nutrient activator in plants. This seemingly magic serum makes plants bigger and a lightbulb has gone off over Albie's head to sell this product to growers in the booming, now-legal cannabis industry in Colorado. Lauren rightfully points out that this plan is screaming "drug dealing" and Caroline makes it clear that growing pot in her house is right up there with premarital sleeping arrangements on the no-no list. However, Albie assuages his mother's fears by explaining that he'll only be testing the supplement out on non-marijuana-related greenery to see if it works. Naturally, the conversation then leads to who in the family has or hasn't tried pot, with Albie sporting his biggest lie face as he promises Caroline he's never toked. Mamma mia, these kids are going to drive Caroline to drink...or maybe weed.
Meanwhile, Christopher is setting house rules for the bachelor pad with his new roommate Rob, who talks like every word out of his mouth is the most vitally important piece of information ever repeated. Using the bathroom with the door open is an obvious no, but sleepovers with girls is a draw. Rob says yes, but Chris is planning on pulling a full Ricky and Lucy when he gets married with separate beds and a dresser in between. When it comes to cleaning, Chris insists that if they simply make a mess every time Caroline comes over, she won't be able to handle it and will do the cleaning for them. Having an Italian mother of my own, I can tell you that this strategy works. To prove the point, Christopher calls his mom, who happens to be on her way to the nursery with Albie. Apparently Albie hasn't told Christopher about his new business venture yet, which surprises Caroline. Even further, Albie hasn't gone to see his brother's new apartment, and Caroline's motherly intuition has officially been kicked into high gear.
Caroline says in her confessional that Albie has turned over a new, more relaxed leaf from the type-A personality he's always been. This new Albie is cool and happy to grow his garden out back. The oldest Manzo child explains that he realized he was living to please everyone else and is now focused on taking that pressure off himself. While shopping for herbs and vegetables, Caroline presses her son on his relationship with his brother. Ever since Christopher moved out, she's started sensing a divide between the two. In her interview, Caroline says that she knows what it's like to not speak with a sibling during her estrangement with fellow RHONJ Dina and will be damned if she lets that happen between her sons.
Back at home, Albert and Caroline discuss whether Lauren getting married will be like losing a daughter or gaining a new son. Caroline says she's gaining a son in Vito but Albert doesn't think it's quite the same thing. To settle the debate, Caroline calls her mother-in-law, who takes her side by screaming that Caroline is like a daughter to her. She says Albert's attitude must come from the Scottish side of him, not the Italian. Sitting on the counter, Albie - who stirred up this entire argument - is blindsided by the fact that he's of Scottish blood. Caroline tries pointing out that she wins the debate because Albert's own mother disavowed his theory, but Albert says the truth will come out when the time comes for his mom to give away her jewelry. Burn.
Later, Jacqueline Laurita comes over to get the lowdown from Caroline on Lauren's upcoming bridal shower. After showing off her heart-shaped soaps and mad scientist potions, Caroline goes over the guest list: their former cast mates Melissa Gorga and Kathy Wakile will both be there, as will life of the party Rosie Pierri. Another Housewife who made the invite list? Estranged sister Dina. Jacqueline feigns happiness at the news, though the look on her face says otherwise. It's hard to tell how she really feels after all the bad blood that's gone on between her and Dina. Since the reconciliation happened off-camera, Caroline lays out the story in her interview: after exchanging some nasty texts following the airing of the Season 6 RHONJ reunion, Caroline asked Dina to meet without telling a soul. The sisters got together and talked for over five hours, coming out at the end with their years-long feud squashed and everything worked out. Since then, everything has been good between Dina and the rest of the family - she even texted Jac asking for a fresh start. Dina is by far one of my favorite Housewives of all time - I want her to be my best friend - so over the past few years I've been squarely on Team Zen. Even though I wanted to know every detail possible about the reconciliation, I found some of the conversation between Caroline and Jacqueline annoying in how Dina was still subtly positioned as the bad guy. But, all's well that ends well so it's worth brushing off. Hopefully she shows up sometime during the season.
Caroline also confides in Jacqueline her concerns that there's a new divide brewing between Albie and Chris. Jac thinks the two are just focused on being individuals rather than the unit they've been seen as for years, but Caroline doesn't let it go. Later while she's exercising around the house (literally running through the halls and doing wall sits on cabinets), Christopher comes over to replenish his stock of toilet paper. Seeing an opportunity, Caroline presses the issue once again by prodding Albie - who's in the backyard fiddling with his plants - to go talk to his brother. Albie relents, confronting Christopher in the kitchen and asking if there's some problem he needs to know about. Chris says he was about to ask the same thing since Caroline keeps telling both of them that they need to talk. Eventually, the duo conclude that the invisible divide is something conjured up in their mom's overactive brain. As Caroline struts through the kitchen, the brothers inform her that she's officially 'micromomaging' and created a problem between them out of thin air. However, Mama Manzo insists she saw a real issue forming and stopped it before it got worse. You're welcome boys. Caroline bluntly states that she'll never stop meddling in her kids' lives until the day she dies. It's an Italian mother's most important job, after all.