Oh what a year it's been. So much has happened. We've left and returned, had and lost, breathed and blinked. And now finally our long, arduous wait is over. The New York Housewife critters have skittered back into our lives.

Oh they're so much sharper than their Orange County sisters, aren't they? They've just got a bit more going on, they're hustling a lot harder. They're not lazy and sun-struck and tired. They are moving and moving and moving as fast as they can, beady eyes fixed on the gray buildings towering above them, structures they'd like to scale and sit atop. They are, despite all of our hemming and hawing and mooing and moaning, representative enough of this city. In some strange way, in a Bravo Real Housewives sorta way, they are New York. As much as Vicki and Lynne and the gurgling rest are Orange County. Place is place, like it or not. What's done is done.

Except nothing ever is done! Not for these women. These women hold grudges like Kate Gosselin used to hold her kids, tight to their chests, clutching them with fervor, these precious moneymaking loaves. This anger and spitty upsetness about people being Mean or Rude or Disrespectful, years ago. They never forget. They are all elephants with elephant skin. So no, nothing is ever done. Last night felt like they were recapping themselves, rehashing things from the past. Things that happened in the strange slip between seasons, that mysterious unknown world.

We began our tale, like so many great epics begin, on a boat. Naturally the season began in the Hamptons, all green grass and sandy smiles and the slow death rattle hum of these women eroding the cachet of this place. It's gone from the moneyed tuft of The Hamptons to the pallid cheapness of Long Island, and it's all their fault. They have the power to do that. That are unwittingly doing it. Everyone's forgetting that word, Hamptons. "Are you going to the Ha...Ham... Long Island for the weekend?" people ask in the city on a Thursday afternoon. "No, I'm going to Albany to visit my great aunt. We're staying at the Ha... the Hamp.... the Long Island Inn? Is that right?" Just the sheer presence of our breezy trashbags is stripping the already-mostly-stripped Hamptons of their leafy clout. That is mostly dead now. There is just Long Island. Just Egg and Quogue. Two strange feathery fingers, tickling the Atlantic.

Anyway! Yes, a boat. Specifically, Ramona's boat. A boat Ramona rented. Jill and the Countess Lulu Crackerjacks DeLesseps strolled down the dock and saw the bobbing yacht and then they heard a piercing screech and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, up popped Ramona. She was giggling and crying and Fluff was pouring out of her ears and she started throwing full champagne flutes at them, she got a pistol and started shooting it up into the air. Ramona was excited. Ramona is different. First off, she has a new haircut. It's a youthful little 'do, sprightly and bright, bright blonde. Ramona is convinced that she looks like an older Cameron Diaz, which is true. New Ramona looks like what Cameron Diaz looks like in dreams, all fuzzy and irregular, a vague hint of Cameron Diaz, because in the dream you know it is her, but it really doesn't look like her. That's what Ramona looks like. And that's not half bad.

The reason for the haircut? Well, see, Ramona is redoing herself. She's reevaluating, reviving, Renaissance'ing. Ramona is having a moment and it's quite a thing to behold. She's still as loopy as a children's shoe-tying class, but she's goals in mind, she's driven and has purpose. Her rented yacht party was partly meant to be a big splashy Hello to a new season of the show, but it was mostly so she could show off her big fancy entrepreneurial endeavor. You see, Ramona is selling jewelry on QVC. Yes. The height of class. Beautiful jewelry. And she wanted to show off her wares to a captive audience. I mean, if they wanted to get away from the pitch, what were the ladies going to do, hurl themselves over the side of the boat? (Well, one tried. Just pretended to yawn and stretch and plopped over into the water. Sadly, she forgot that she was at the back of the boat and was quickly chopped to tartare by the propeller.) They were stuck. They had to look at all of her costume trinkets. "Beautiful baubles..." Ramona said as she opened the case to reveal the treasures. "Pretty shining things..."

This made Crackerjacks and Jill moan. Oh how they moan. These bitches are never satisfied with anything. Everything is always annoying. Ohhhh how awwwwwful to be on a boat in the summer in the Atlantic Ocean drinking things and wearing breezy clothes. What a dreaaddddful annoyance! They had to look at rings for five minutes. The horror. It's so exhausting! I mean, I would probably want to tear my hair out every time Ramona did something near me too, but c'mon ladies. Let's try to have a little perspective here, shall we? You're not exactly shoveling shit.

After Jewelryfest '09, the women spent the rest of their boat trip reciting their Histories. They drew maps with their words, showing where they have been, what Meannesses and Rudenesses they had suffered, explaining their scars, singing the old songs of the shtetl or homestead. These are a storytelling people, these New York Housewives. Such a strong oral tradition. Ramona sang a prayer to her three Bear Gods and offered them a sacrifice of a beeeautiful three-karat garnet topaz Forever Luxury ring. She tossed it into the ocean, with a Gloria Stuart-esque "Woop!", and that was that. Jill told some story about Bethenny. She and Bethenny aren't friends anymore. It's true. Sad but true. Something happened with something else and then there was a third something and then someone did something to someone and now something's just broken, irreparable, torn asunder. I think maybe the problem is that Bethenny got too big for her britches? Maybe she doesn't even wear britches anymore. Maybe she's changed her outfit entirely. Jill doesn't recognize her. She doesn't like this new look.

(When JZ came to the office I chirpingly told her that I'd met Bethenny before and Jill's eyes turned to slits and she smiled acidicly and she said "Oh yeah? And how was that? Was that an enjoyable experience?" At the time I had no idea they hated each other, so I thought it was very weird. But lest you think it's all made up for the Television, it is not. It was very real then, on that particular afternoon, and there was hardly a camera in sight.)

So that was Jill's bitchery. Oh, ha, Alex was there? She was mostly there to stand in a corner with her arms out to scare away seagulls, but they let her talk a little too. She didn't have much to say. Mostly she just sat there and blinked and, by sheer virtue of her plugged-up silence, became sympathetic. Yes, it's true. Alex didn't make an enormous mockery of herself last night. I mean, don't worry, I'm sure she will. I'm sure when she gets back to New York it'll be like watching an American Keeping Up Appearances all over again. But last night, just last night, she had a slight pleasant reprieve. Alex was our silent observer, frowning and making Frankenstein faces in the corner. Oh Ganglepuss. We were friends last night.

Then the clouds darkened and the waves roiled and it was time for the big event. Ramona was sitting by herself down at the back of the boat. She was singing a little song to herself ("Hmmm hmmm gems and stones / Dug up my grandma just to see her bones / If you get there before I do / Please tell me if the sky is blue") and tugging at her Play-Doh spaghetti hair. And then suddenly there was a clanking and creaking and a low, throaty chuckle and Crackerjacks plopped down next to her. She looked heavenly. She was wearing big sunglasses and a turban and a kind of silk muumuu or coverall. She was a '70s coke queen, a fluffer for Magnum P.I., a disco washup with forests in her eyes. Ramona look scared, she trembled like a tuning fork. "Yesss....?" she said slowly, her head turning 100° like an owl. Crackerjacks smiled, enjoying circling her prey. She lit a long cigarette. Exhaled in Ramona's face. (What a bully.) "Lemme ask you somethin'..."

And let me tell you. You really, really never want to have a conversation with Crackerjacks that begins with her saying "Lemme ask you somethin'..." Because it never, ever ends well. Just ask Mackenzie Phillips. So Ramona was terrified and unsure of what LuAnn was going to say. And it turned out to be jibberjabber nonsense. It was some bullshit about how LuAnn had seen Ramona's husband Mario at Polo or something and she had given her name as "The Countess" and Mario had uttered under his breath "The Countless," because Lunz is getting d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d. This gravely offended Lunz and Mario had had ample time to apologize, but he hadn't. So Crackers was mad. Ohh she was very mad. She's a tricky snake, that one. She initially tried to pretend that she wasn't mad, saying to Ramona "Oh, we don't have to talk about it right now." But then, of course, yes they did, yes they did have to talk about it right now. Ramona's eyes went twirly and the canary in her head gasped and fell dead and she was trapped.

Because every she-wolf needs a little hyena to eat the carcasses of its prey once it's had its fill (that's just a natural fact!), Jill was right there behind Crackers, snarling and snickering, nipping at Ramona's poor, trembling body. Crackers was very mad that Ramona wouldn't apologize for something her husband had done, because these women are just fed and fueled by this dumb, petty anger. They cannot let it go. They will never ever let it escape or dissipate. They do not have that valve. Ramona was mostly cowed by this terrifying assault until, suddenly, she remembered: I'm a new woman! I'm am Reimagining myself! And she gained strength from that. She flattened the Play-Doh on her head and burped and out flew some moths and it was time to go on the offensive. She didn't need to apologize for her husband! She wasn't her husband! Crackers is just a big dumb bully and doesn't know what the crinkly christ she's talking about! And Ramona said just that.

Or, at least she tried to, in her Ramona way. She ended up mumbling something about mountains and mole hills and "hole mills" and making mountain moles out of mill holes and somewhere a poor girl, unrelated but for trick of nomenclature, named Miriam Webster just dropped dead, school books clunking to the pavement, her friend Roget running away in terror. Poor Ramona. She tries to extract words from the pool of glimmering protoplasm that sluices around inside that head-shaped shadowbox of hers, but it's hard. It's very, very hard. But, she does have a point, Loony. Stop making hill moles out of mountaintops. You really shouldn't be doing that. Oh, and Jill? Butt out! It's none of your beeswax. No wonder Bethenny said you need a hobby. BURRRRRRN.

Then the cameras swished and the music diddled and it was off to the real New York City, where, high atop a building, a naked woman was standing, valiantly protecting the animals. It was Bethenny, posing sorta nude for a PETA photoshoot or some silliness. At one point she stood bare chested, hands on hips, staring out at New York, naked as a jay bird. If you watched closely, up in the sky, you could see an airliner, and in the cockpit window, it was Sully. As he caught site of the naked lady on the rooftop and the engines started to sputter and die, all over again, he sighed and said "I'm too old for this shit."

Back at home, Bethenny had a secret for us. A secret so deep and so dark and so wicked that she could only tell us on the season premiere of her reality show. Do you want to know what it is? OK, I'll tell you. Bethenny has a boyfriend! Another boyfriend! Remember the one she had in the first season? Yeah, well, that didn't work out, didn't work out a long time ago, but now she has this new guy. Rick or Josh or Stetson or somebody. Who knows what his name is. The point is, he's a human male with a job. That's enough for Beth. That's enough for anyone, really.

I know there have been some rumors about Rick/Josh, but I won't address those here. We've no proof and, frankly, I don't exactly see it. But know that there are rumors, dangling out there on the internet, for you to find. (People think he's gay. There. I said it.) Mostly though, Rick/Josh is a prop. Rick/Josh is a prop used by Bethenny to show the world that o ho ho, hasn't her life become simply marvelous in the past couple years? And, you know, I will say. Given how most of these reality show star trajectories go, Bethenny has had a pretty good time of it. Writing hit books about how eating dinner isn't always necessary, getting her very own (upcoming!) reality show, hiring a frumpy assistant, meeting Rick/Josh at Pieces. It's just been a good ride. So I guess I don't blame her for showing off a little. A little.

A SkinnyGirl car, though? Ha, yes. There is a SkinnyGirl car. Sometimes Rick/Josh drives it. This little puckered berry of a VW, a chubby car advertising Skinny. A rolling contradiction, the way the world is a spinning one. Anyway, more on the car later.

For now, let's turn our gaze back upon the Ham... the Ha... Long Island, where three lovely ladies were having a lovely lunch and saying lovely things. It was Lunzy, Jill, and Kelly Bensimon. Yes the boyfriend-bashing, leather scourge of the Northeast has returned for another round of merciless shaming, either because she is dumb or foolishly brave or both. Absolutely nobody likes Kelly Bensimon. Nobody in the entire world. Not one person in six billion likes Kelly Bensimon. This is a proven scientific fact. But since they have to be on a show with her, the two harpies decided that they should do lumpch with the hateful creature. Jill was concerned that no one really had gotten to know "the human side" of Kelly. Which, you know, is terrifying, but also true. The other side is... Well. Or.

Kelly just sort of sat there and tried to justify everything about herself. She tried to explain away, in hilariously vague terms, the whole boyfriend-bashing incident and basically tried to seem likable, hoping that someone, anyone, in this enormous world would find the energy in their hearts to like her. Sadly, no one did. Everyone in the world still hates Kelly Bensimon and there is little she can do about it. Although, I suppose she could use more catchphrases and idioms. Holy lord can that woman string a series of awkward sayings together.

  • "I want Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now."
  • "I'm Batman, I need a Robin."
  • "Takes more vinegar to catchy honey."
  • "How do you do, and bah ram ewe."
  • "You can't turn a horse purple just by lookin' at it."

Jill knew that last one wasn't true, she'd seen Ramona do it once, but she didn't say anything. Both she and Lunz were too busy being confused by the first one. "Wait... you don't want Mr. Right right now?" "Hold on... Right now, you want a Mr. who isn't right?" "I think I get it... you're talking about time as sort of an imagined fabric, something we use to put human metrics on an unknowable cosmic force." "So... do you want to get married or not?" "Who's Batman?" They just really didn't get it. Clearly they haven't seen a talk show/other program made for ladies in the last fifteen years. Except for their own. Oddly, had they, known ladies themselves, been watching their own program last night, they'd have known what the whole Mr. Right vs. Mr. Right Now thing was all about, so they never would've needed to have that embarrassing conversation. The strange circles of the world!

But yes, mostly Kelly sat there and said awful dumb things and the other girls nodded and wished so so so hard they could just stand up and get the fuck out of there, but damned if LuAnn was gonna pay that check. She had to sit it out and wait. LuAnn does not like to pay for anything. Nothing at all. She learned all the bill-avoiding tricks in her earlier days, out in those seamy Western years. She's a pro at it. She's been a pro at lots of things. So very many things. In the end, Kelly paid for lunch, and when she got home she ran to her wardrobe and flung it open and said to the small, tarnish-edged mirror, "Oh Mirror, Cruel Mirror. Tell me. Do I have friends now? Do Jill and LuAnn like me because I paid for their lunches and said I was doing charity work [that I was court-ordered to do after beating up my model boyfriend]?"

The mirror shook slightly and then a ghostly face appeared in the glass. It bore an odd resemblance to Simon. It spoke. "Kelly, Kelly with the brown brown skin / I'm afraid you've committed the cardinal sin / Of being vain and proud, and ugly to boot / No one the whole world o'er finds you cute." Crestfallen, Kelly threw herself onto her bed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, wondering if she looked pretty and tragic while she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. What a misery! What a pox life is!

As they'd spent a lot of lunch bitch-mouthing Bethenny (Jill harped on more about the whole Hobby thing and said that Bethenny didn't visit her husband when he was sick with cancer [which is beat, Beth, seriously beat]) Crackers had worked herself up into a manic frenzy of being upset at other women. She needed more, mooooore. Luckily her prayers were answered when, of all people, Bethenny called and said that they should get a drink. Yessssssssss, her brain hissed. More.

Because she really likes to get people as on-edge as possible, Crackerjacks demanded that Bethenny drive two hours to come meet her around the corner from her house. Charming, Loony. Very charming. Exhausted, Bethenny rolled up in the SkinnyGirl car. And Rick/Josh was driving. There he was, dopey pencil eraser head sticking out the top like a french fry, the little junebug car all bulbous and curvy. "Byeeeee baby!" he waved and yelled as he sped off and, toot-tweetle-tooooot!, sounded the horn. Like Bethenny herself, the SkinnyGirl car is amphibious, so Rick/Josh is flooring that thing all the way to Fire Island.

The minute Bethenny got inside, things were testy. She was openly pissed at LuAnn for making her drive all this way. "It took me an hour and a half," she whined. LuAnn smiled. "Oh, I know, it's Labor Day weekend, the roads are crazy, so that's why you're late, and it's OK." Ha! HA HA. Terrific. The two went back and forth like that for a while, debating about past things and previous slights and all this boring blah blah that I really hope they don't spend the whole season focusing on. Let's live in the now, guys. C'mon. There were some wonderful barbs though. Loony endeavored to make fun of the SkinnyGirlMobile and said something about how Bethenny was getting paid to drive the car, like it was so de classe, and Bethenny said (in interview, not at the restaurant, sadly) "Yes, you dumb drag queen." HAR. Har har har. That was tremendous. Bethenny is meeeean this season. She's jumping ship and she'd like to break some noses before she goes.

Most of the conversation was about disrespect and rudeness, which Crackers knows a thing or two about. Plus she's been dealing with this divorce, this awful divorce, and it's just so hard. Bethenny called her a hypocrite for saying that she shouldn't pick up guys, when, apparently Lunz has spent plenty of time cruising dudes of her own. Crackers balked at this. "I do not pick up guys," she said, aghast. Which, who knows if that's true. But we know she used to. Yeah, she used to. Used to saunter on down the road, thumb up, hips sticking out over the asphalt. Used to pick up guys in smoky, pine-wooded bars, used to make out with them, fizzing Budweiser neon signs glowing hot and red on her face.

Used to know this gal in Truckee, Lena. Skinny little whippet of a thing, tired girl with tired eyes. She and Lena lived in a run-down cabin kinda place, stuck out in a stand of pines. Always smelled like the heater, that mucusy, citronella smell. She and Lena had hooked up further north, had been doing a little escorting in Corvallis one summer and one night, drinking Molsons in the flatbed of a guy named Brucey's truck, Lena'd said, "You know I got an uncle just died, and my old lady said his house is mine if can make the payments. Four hunnerd a month. You wanna help me pay that, Lou?" And Lou had said yeah, hell yeah, 'course. So they went to Truckee together, Lena — scraggly, twenty-seven, coming dismantled from the inside out — and Lou — twenty-five, brown and hungry, booming.

And those girls were popular. Those girls were real, real popular. Felt like they'd have a different man back to the house every night, during the days sometimes even. Sitting out in those ratty dirty-white plastic chairs, grilling up thin steaks they'd dug out of the bottom of the freezer Lena's uncle had used for his hunting kills. Constant party, constant fun. They felt cool and known. People in Truckee, California, people in certain circles, they knew Lou and Lena. They knew who those gals were. They'd been working the bar at the Gold Rush, a tiny hole full of truckers and loggers and some of the scruffier Tahoe ski bums, guys who'd disappeared from New England years ago, guys who had whole other lives hidden behind those glassy eyes of theirs. They made money. They spent it. And things went on.

Of course things ended too, finally, eventually, as all things do. Lou had been sick one night, had a stomach something, bad meat maybe, and she'd stayed in. Looked up at Lena teetering in the doorway, miniskirt and plastic hoop earrings, asking her to come on out and said "Hon, I ain't doing nothing but hugging this bed tonight, you go on and have fun." And so Lena had. Or at least Lou hoped. LuAnn hoped that Lena had fun for at least part of that night, before things got sour and turned black. See Lena never came home. No one ever did see Lena again after that night, some dumb October Thursday, some wrong patch of man, some fuzzy mistake. Lena's mom came down a week or so later and told LuAnn she had to move out, she didn't want any of Lena's friends hanging around that house ever again. So LuAnn packed it up, moved it along, she'd gotten good at that. Later LuAnn wondered if maybe Lena knew something that night. Had it been there in some worried wrinkle? Had the mysterious fact been on Lena's face the whole time, when she stood there, framed in that doorway, the amber porch light hung low behind her, outside the whisper of trees, pine needles matting the ground, turning brown, turning to dirt. LuAnn didn't know. Knew she'd never know.

Most of the time she imagined that Lena had run off with Julio, the dishwasher at the Rush, and gotten married in Mexico. Maybe she had a whole little brood, a whole ragamuffin clan of caramel babies, playing somewhere in some desert. LuAnn liked to think that.

And with a rush, a flood, LuAnn opened her eyes and there was Bethenny's angry turtle face, staring at her, having just said something prickly and cold. And just like that she was back, putting on airs again, it was the summer of 2009, those other old things were long, long gone.

Crackers tried to kinda make up with Bethenny and declare a truce but Beth was not having it. She's doing her bucket list, isn't she? She's just saying all the mean things she's always wanted to say because she knows she's not long for the Housewives world. She's on to bigger and, we'll see, better things. Her own show! Her own career! LuAnn can have her stupid little title, her Countess reign over the Housewives. And LuAnn knows that Bethenny is leaving and doesn't understand why. Doesn't understand why it wasn't her that got asked. Everyone in LuAnn's life seems to disappear eventually. How mean. How rude.

OK, no more. Not much happened this episode, huh? I mean, it was just a lot of talking about things that happened before. It was people sitting and talking about the past. It was, yep, people recapping. What a silly, dumb thing to do. Pah.

Still, though. Welcome back.