If life were a game of doubles tennis, would you rather be Jill's partner or Ramona's? Luckily we got to ponder that important question last night, in our most ball-hittingest episode yet.
It wasn't all about tennis though. No, there was also home design and charity work and important issues about branding to be settled. Oh, and toward the end of the episode Kelly was eaten by squirrels while walking in the park. A sad end for a sad lady.
First we'll get in our Lexus and put on the up-tempo Phil Collins and mensch our way over to Jill's soaring observatory condo. Her little gay house elf finally finished decorating the place, from old century mid modern carpetbaggery to new century mid chic decor for the 90's woman. This involved getting the set from The Real World: Miami out of MTV's storage warehouse and having it delivered to the Upper East Side. Oddly enough, Flora came with the furniture. So Jill keeps her in the closet now. She brings her out for special "vacuuming parties." Jill was thrilled with the new house. "Oh I love thissss," she purred while stroking the taxidermied corpse of Idalis. "And this is terrific!" she exclaimed upon seeing the cover art for Deep Blue Something's classic LP blown up on her east-facing wall. But her favorite part was that the gay house elf had somehow managed to get all of her TVs to play news from the 90's. So in Jill's house it's always the Clinton era! Caroline in the City is STILL. ON. THE. AIR. You're still a virgin, mom and dad are still married, you're 30 pounds skinnier, you don't smoke, you and Donna are still talking, Aunt Sarah is alive!, Steven Seagal could still have that comeback (I mean, The Glimmer Man isn't that bad!), you're younger and your heart hasn't hardened, the world doesn't seem so roped off as it does now, there in Jill's fabulous mid-90's apartment. Back when the world was green. Back when we were grownups. Back in those wonderful times when dreams hadn't yet taken wing, and buildings hadn't fallen, and everyone had jobs, and beautiful things outnumbered the ugly, and cynicism still got trumped, every time, by a happy thought. So thank you for the time capsule, the fabulous shimmering time machine, little gay house elf. Here's a sock. OH WAIT FUCK NO. I've given it clothes now. It's free. Free to design other houses. Goodbye, dear friend.
In other corners of this remote, dying futureworld, Kelly showed up to Jill's house or someone's house, really who the hell knows, to help with the Achy Dicks charity. That's probably not actually what the charity is called. I think it's actually called SoreTits: A Charity Club for Friends. That's probably right. So Kelly, obviously embarrassed about being a complete nincompoop at the last Leaky Taints meeting, figured she'd be all good Samaritan now and donate things like her Hannibal Lecter face mask and an hour of her precious ex-husband's fancy photo time. You know, for the auction. Because of course Jill and the rest of her unleavened friends would be the kind of people who would pay "$25,000" so they could have their own fucking photo taken. Because, what do you do with that? Hang it over the zebra-skinned fire place? Does it look really good next to the shrunken head of Kevin Williamson, Jill?
Whatever. Jill and friends no longer doubted Kelly's commitment to Sparkle Non-Motion Because We Have Arthritis, so Kelly felt good about herself. And it's important that Kelly has those memories, because her life has taken a swan dive into a shitter made of more shit recently, so she'll need to cling to the good old days lest she go insane(r).
At a restaurant, Bethenny was sitting minding her bin'ess when a rare albino flamingo wearing stilts walked up to her and started squawking. "Sit down, Alex" Bethenny mumbled. Alex was actually there to talk about SkinnyGirls, Bethenny's brand name for her Booze for Fat People program. (See the trick is, you drink cause you're fat and you're fat cause you drink but at least you can drink SkinnyGirls and feel like you're not a fat drunk who, evidently, spends way too much time watching Real Housewives of New York City). Alex seemed to be fairly helpful and Bethenny congratulated herself for not stabbing her in the eye with a fork or rolling her up in a rug and throwing her off a bridge like the other girls would have done. When it gets to be that the most decent person on the show should be hugely praised for not having an epic Frisco Freakout, then it's probably time to pack up the Penske.
Then the best thing in the entire world happened. And I mean this almost literally. My beloved Countess Crackerjacks did a Crackerjacks monologue. Well, not entirely. But, like, she went to Black People's Town for Black People, which is also called Brooklyn, and talked to Black People about Black People Feelings. The kids were really excited, nervous, thrilled, and grateful to meet her, LuAnn informed us. Because, you know, she's a fancy lady who wears red sweaters and high heel boots and she's a Countess! The poor girls LuAnn showed up to counsel about self-esteem just blinked at her confusedly, guessing that this strange braying lady had maybe mistaken hot air for a'steam.
There was an activity where the group had to write down a list of four things that they liked about themselves. The answers were cute, things like "My sneakers." But then we got to LuAnn. She smiled and a tooth fell out and her wig crept down the left side of her face and somewhere an old jalopy sounded its loud owwwooooga horn and Ruth Buzzi fell over dead. "I like that I'm likable. People like me." Is what LuAnn had said. What LuAnn had said at the Boys & Girls club in Brooklyn. What LuAnn had said, brazenly, in front of a camera crew. How those unfortunate fuckers didn't bust out laughing is beyond me. Anyway. Then she lit a campfire and played her wooden flute and told a story about her (ex! yikes!)-husband, the Count of Monte Cristo Sandwiches, and about her upbringing as a fancy, magical Native Injun.
And, oh, I could picture it. Little Lunz standing there, a scrabbly girl of 17, her white bathing suit with the thin rainbow stripes baggy at the rear, her clear Jellies dirty and broken in places, the curl of Newport smoke caressing her scabby, sun-tanned arms. Papa Crackerjacks, we'll call him Poppycock, asleep or drunk or passed out in a fraying lawn chair. Mama Crackerjacks, we'll call her Fiddle Faddle, watching her stories up in the single-wide, the smell of Hamburger Helper a'waft. And Little Lunz is flipping through a book she stole from the liberry, a book about places called an atlas, like the moving truck company her old boyfriend Sean—is a guy who fingers you at a $2 matinee of Little Darlings your boyfriend?—used to work for before he shot that toe off and went to Wethersfield for screwing Ricki Graynor, who was like twelve or something at the time. Anyway she's looking at this atlas and she sees this place, one of those African places, and they got this water near the pyramids and there's this canal thing, the Suez Canal, and some dude, some guy built that. "I'm gonna marry that," Little Lunz murmurs to herself. Poppycock stirs in the lawn chair, maybe not as unaware as he seemed. "You ain't marryin' shit. Ain't no man gonna buy the Dodge if her trunk won't stay shut."
But Little Lunz will dream. She'll dream hard and she'll dream big and eventually she'll skip that shitty old town, Poppycock and Fiddle Faddle eating her dust. She'd go out West, is what she'd do. She'd go out West and be a rodeo bride. She'd go out West and hump a movie star. She'd go out West and spend a few aimless years serving cocktails to balding drunks and their malnourished wives, slips of things who would disappear forever into the cracks of history, their family trees gnarled and dying. She'd go out West and do the floor shows, work the mid-afternoon dancing shifts, hole up near Ashville for a while then drive South and find herself one day at Big Sur, looking out at that water and behind her those hills and all around her those people, real people, people who were going somewhere, people who knew things, who really knew things. She'd go out West and feel a lump in her throat, some tightening ache in her chest, and she'd know that some dark mass, some mean thing, was settling inside of her. She could feel it every dusty day, every starless night. She could see it in patterns, spelled out in the dead moths still stuck to the porch light. She'd go out West and forget it, or learn to love it, do something with it, anyway. She'd go out West only to find herself back East, living some lie. Standing there in her townhouse, wearing her furs and fancy boots, her daughter Noelle breakdancing in the background, and all the while she still feels that baggy hollow, that small, embarrassing, human, windswept space where that bathingsuit sagged down. And those Jellies blisters, well they never did heal. They never, ever seemed to.
So after the Countess solved the problems of black people in Brooklyn, because she has so much to teach them, she played basketball with the girls and she thought of that blissful week she spent with the Golden State Warriors, and then she left. Clacking away back to her car, as beautiful and mysterious in leaving as she was when she arrived. The girls stood gazing out the window as she puttered away. After a moment one girl, the girl who liked her sneakers, softly said "Man, that lady is a mess."
Bethenny had a meeting with her assistant, Molly, and they had a good laugh about Simon. He has a Facebook appreciation group or something. It was perfect timing, because then Bethenny went over to Jill's house and something Simon-related occurred. After suffering through the house tour—"This is the withered body of Samantha Mathis, and here's my Pog collection, and that, dangling from that sterling silver cord up there, that is a vial of Eric Stolz's semen"—the two sat down to talk big important things about tennis. Jill's sexy pro partner had canceled, so she needed a new one. After pushing an eager, chained-up Jennifer Capriati away, Jill turned to Bethenny for help. The wicked bitch had an idea. Simon! That gangle of bone spurs and tree burls, that mincing kangaroo stuck in its own gooey pouch. It was a perfect plan, because Ramona's strange, made up, Santeria-esque religion believes Simon to be "Verdooloo," which roughly translates from toucan language as "The destroyer of the Earth and Controller of the Realm Beyond." (For Ramona, the 'Realm Beyond' is a guest bedroom in her house. She lost the key one day and couldn't get in for months. Now her husband has made a new key but she's scared to go in. It's been months. What if there's something bad in there now?) So she'd be totally psyched out and maybe would lose the match.
So Jill went off to play a practice round with Simon, who confessed to not being the best tennis player ever. After what looked like the chandelier from the Sedlec Ossuary had been suddenly made animate and done some strange, haunted fever dance, Jill decided that Simon was a decent enough player. Game on, mothafuckaz!
Spaceman Spiff Kelly returned from her vacation home on the surface of the sun and decided to go on a date with Isabella Rossellini. Or whoever that weirdo foreign guy was. She asked him a horrible TV date question: "If you could be anyone, who would you be?" He grinned, pretending to understand English, and just said, as is his stock answer for everything, "Superman." Hello sir, how are you today? "Superman. Yes. Yankees." Sir, how many pounds of pimento loaf would you like? "Superman. Fantasteriffic." Sir, your loafers appear to be on fire. "Superman. Asbessstos." Kelly thought it was adorable and had her cheek muscles not been lost in that terrible modeling accident, she would have smiled.
Then it was on to tennis! Everyone who knew about the Simon Surprise was super excited because Ramona would probably, upon seeing his crooked silhouette fast approaching, run around in circles, hyperventilating, then pass out, only to be carried off by the group of six swarthy Greek 25-year-olds she travels with. And that would be awesome to watch. Everyone who didn't know (Ramona and Mario) was trying to put their terrible game faces on. Well, Ramona was wandering around the hallway, muttering to herself, praying in her weird religion way, asking for protection from Verdooloo, lest he open up the Beyond Realm and let a scary mouse out or something when she least expects. Oh, and, you know, please let me win tennis, amen. The problem was that Ramona wouldn't leave the breezeway, so creepy old Simon couldn't skibble in on his bone-wheels and surprise everyone properly. Eventually Ramona finished her chanting and stepped out onto the court. Then it was time for Simon to make his grand entrance. He rattled in, a mechanical marvel that he's even able to stay upright. Everyone thought it was funny and surprising but also disappointing because Ramona, mad as teacakes, decided not to react. To show that she was mature. And angry. And because Verdooloo will destroy her if she speaks negatively about him anymore. Don't open the secret room, Ramona thought fretfully to herself.
The tennis match was:
Four crippled alligators tumbling down a flight of stairs.
A small tornado that forms over Westchester and destroys a historic barn.
A child crying at a ChildWorld toy store circa 1989.
The entire offensive line of the Bengals dying in a plane crash.
The answer to the question: "Why do they call it work?"
A zombie playing an organ in the middle of a snow storm.
Everyone seemed pretty satisfied with how it went, except for, well, everyone. Ramona and Mario were angry that the game wasn't taken seriously, what with the Simon joke and all. Jill was mad because she started playing very well but still lost in the end. And Alex was mad because Simon played terribly and it was so embarrassing but mostly it was unfair because "he didn't have time to warm up." Jesus Christmas what would Simon warming up entail? Someone standing in the middle of an empty field, shaking a mobile made of human teeth, is what I'm guessing.
So that was tennis. Everyone played and everyone came to watch. There was Kelly, that buffalo pelt infused to her skeleton by the wicked Colonel Stryker. There was Bethenny, dreaming up more ways to keep people fat and drunk. There was Alex, in some sort of trench coat dress, trying to remember where her children were. There was the gay house elf, wearing the most glorious chapeau. He sat there thinking to himself that maybe, just maybe, he should have kept that Airborne Special Edition DVD for himself, rather than making it the centerpiece of Jill's breakfast nook table.
And there was Crackerjacks, smiling coldly at these horrid proceedings. In her head the song "Sister Christian" was playing. Because it was that song that she listened to when she grabbed Poppycock's car keys out of his limp, gray hand while he slept, shouldered her little ratty blue overnight bag, and busted out. That song that was playing on the radio, loud and beautiful, when she crossed the state line for the first time and began to see the event horizon of her dreams being realized approaching. That song that played as the old world died out and a new one—full of dingy, sick pine trees and holes in screen doors and men named Cody and women who disappeared at 35 as it was, it was still terrific, every bit of it—being born in front of her. That song that was playing as time raced on, like a freight train, like a hurricane, like a Kenyan marathoner, like lightning, like a pinball, like Sonic the goddamned Hedgehog, like a tennis ball.
Thanks to Lauren Strupp for the clip and the beautiful screen cap.