Real Housewives of New Jersey: The Education of Teresa GiudiceS

Last night on Brother and Sisters: The Reality Show every screeched and shouted about the importance of family and then Sally Fields wept for 20 minutes straight. Teresa also passed the SAT writing exam by sending a missive to her brother.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am Dame Brian Moylan, curator of the Real Housewives Institute. Richard Lawson, the founder of this museum, is currently at some New England country club pretending to read The Hunger Games while watching young men engage in athletic activities and decided he didn't want to come back to work today. Depending on how things work out with a certain tennis pro named Kip, he might not ever return. So this week you're stuck with me, a little sunburned and bellicose from a long weekend on Fire Island, where this is no tennis, but plenty of pros. But enough about the weekend. Let us start our tour of New Jersey, shall we?

We start with Teresa (well, actually we started with Kathy, but we don't really care about her or her new white Mercedes or the fact that she burns dinner while driving in it with her husband, so we're just going to ignore everything Kathy did last night. I mean, it's not really at all relevant. The one funny thing she did was going to Caroline's house with a muffin basket and the cheapest bouquet from 1-800-FlowersToImpress to apologizing to Caroline for fighting with Teresa. That's sort of like kicking your dog and giving the cat a treat to make up for it. What is going on in that leopard-printed head of yours, Kath? Much like major league baseball, the Department of Agriculture, and the future career of Selena Gomez, I just can't make myself care a lick about Kathy.)

OK, so we start with Teresa. She went to a place called Divine Studios which specializes in taking photographs of fat drag queens, so it was totally appropriate that Teresa was there. Though when she walked in, they were cooking all this food to fatten this drag queen up. When Teresa walked into the room, they were taking pictures of all the Italian dishes they were going to feed her, and there was a red-fish tailed gown in a size 20 hanging from the wall for inspiration. They were going to get Teresa in that thing one way or another!

No, that's all crazy talk. They were actually taking pictures of the food for TT's new cookbook Fabulicious. See, Teresa didn't come up with that portmanteau just for the book. No, one night she was waiting with the other mothers to pick up her daughter Sopressata from gymnastics class and someone was flipping through a People magazine and said, "Oh, did you see the pictures of Brangelina at Cannes?" And she said, "Who is Brangelina? I want to name my next daughter that!" And the mother said, "No, it's a combination of Brad and Angelina, you know Pitt and Jolie." Teresa was just so tickled by this combining of names she started to do it all the time, but she only combined the word "Fabulous," which is the only three syllable Teresa knows, with other words. "So, the other day I drove my fabular to the faburocery store to buy some tomatoes and I ran into FabuLorraine and she told me she loved my peep-toe Dolce & Fabannas. Fabulouslous." When it came time to name her book, of course only a combination of "fabulous" and "delicious" would do.

Teresa has such an astounding command of the English language. In fact, she is so proper that she uses the archaic plural of the word "ingredients" which is "ingredients-es." She also uses the Old English (and technically proper) pronunciation of the spice cumin, which she pronounces like "come in." This really confuses her though, because she doesn't know why her Juicy Joe is always bringing up this spice right near the end of their intimate moments.

Anyway, while discussing the intricacies of recipe copy editing with her staff, the dulcet strains of the Black Eyed Peas song "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night" erupt from her purse. "Oh, that's my phone. Hold on one minute." It's her husband Joe on the phone telling Teresa that he ran into her brother Joe at the gym. I just imagine Joe's Gym in Franklin Lakes which is full of short, built Italian guys all named Joe and as they do their curls and squats and deadlifts, instead of grunting they all shout out, "Joe!" with each lift. And then they go, all sweaty, to the locker room, where they saunter around going "Hey, Joe. Good to see you, Joe. Wow, your arms are looking big, Joe," to each other. Just as Joe was about to tell Teresa about their run in at Joe's gym, Teresa's phone cuts out. She really has problems with communication.

Speaking of Joe Gorga, we see him back at his home complaining that his wife won't fuck him. I finally decided what Joe is. He is a goomba. No, that is not a slur against Italian Americans, I'm talking about the short, fat-necked villain from the Super Mario Bros. games. That is exactly what Joe is. He's just this stout little thing that shuffles back and forth with a frown on his face trying to kill everyone around him with his proximity. That was the danger of the goomba in the game. If you touch him, Mario will either turn small or, if already small, will leap up into the air, turn to face you, and shake his hands and legs and he descends down and down and down into an 8-bit video game hell. That's just what Goomba Joe does, he kills everyone who gets close enough to touch him but he does it with his negative energy, his persistent half emptiness. He even talks about the reservoir of semen building up inside him as "poison." Is that what he wants to inject into his wife? Does he want to kill her with his seed?

Melissa tells Goomba Joe the reason she won't fuck him is because she was at the Posche fashion show the night before and Teresa made a scene. While telling the story, Melissa does a spot-on impersonation of Teresa which is creepy for so many reasons, but mostly because it just shows how desperate Melissa is to be Teresa totally and completely. Joe decides he still wants to be mad at his sister and forgets all about his sex drive for a minute so that he can pace back and forth with his scowl on his face. When her daughter comes in to tell her parents that her younger brother has spilled water, Joe sends her off with a paper towel and a pat on the ass and tells her to be nice to her brother. Oh, the irony.

Cut to Jacqueline who is at her psychic. OK, after Allison DuBois, the Beverly Hills cigarette-smoking medium; Mama Elsa, the Mystic of Miami; and Ashanti, the fortune teller the New York ladies visited in Morocco, psychics are now officially part of what goes down on every Real Housewives season. Visiting a psychic isn't the new black, but it is apparently the new releasing a dance single. At least in Housewivesland. Jacqueline's psychic tells her that her daughter Bouffant is emotional and crying all the time and a bit of a bitch. Jacqueline is amazed at how spot on she is. Oh please, that's kind of like saying, "Oh, I went to this psychic and she told me that water is wet! She was so fucking right!" Then she says Teresa's family is a mess. Again, water=wet. I could do a better job with a bowl full of fortune cookies and a divining rod. Have me on the damn show! "NeNe Leakes, I see that you are going to say mean things about someone in a tabloid." See, I'm psychic!

Later we find out that Bouffant is having a hard time being apart from her half brothers in Texas. She can't even talk about them without busting into tears. See, the psychic was right. Jacqueline's father, who seems like a nice old man with a penchant for airport paperbacks, tells Jacqueline the problem is that flop-hatted Bouffant just has too much family. That is a fair diagnosis, there is nothing like family to make you absolutely insane.

Just look at what's happening to Caroline 2: The Revenge. She goes to help her brothers Albie and Chris move into their new palatial apartment in Hoboken, which is really like the sixth borough of New York. Well, that's what they're telling all the sweet strange they're bringing back to their pussy den. So, Caroline Original Recipe is all sad that she's losing her babies and Caroline 2 is all, "Uh, I still live at home, but if you all keep ignoring me, then I'm going to elope with Vito and we're going to move to Hollywood, California and I will never come back to this two-horse town ever again." Poor Caroline 2. And poor Caroline Chapter One: The Phantom Menace. You can tell that she's really struggling losing her babies and it's a sad thing, but she's handling it well. Just like any strong matriarch, she only cries in the car on the way home, not in front of the kids.

The best part of the whole moving in scene is that we met Albie and Crittopher's other roommate Greg who appears to be some sort of Northern New Jersey homosexual, a rare and exotic breed indeed. I don't know this for a fact, but he has a dog named Vogue (after the Madonna song, not the magazine) who he dresses in a pink sweater and is the Manzo brother's "mister," as Chris says. Their "man sister" (he learned how to combine words from Teresa) and he is just like their real sister, but with a beard. That makes us think he is a gay and we enjoy that thoroughly. There isn't nearly enough gay in this chapter of the Housewives, and this seems like the perfect way to insert some. Yes, insert some gay into Albie and Cristopher. PS, Bravo, I would watch the fuck out of a reality show about these three roommates trying to learn how to live on their own. You can even call it Super Manzo Bros.

The next time Caroline, Teresa, and Jacqueline get close to the city it's when they're on a field trip with Kim X, who is really like the women's Charon to the fashion underworld. In case you forgot, she is the owner of the Posche dealership, where they all buy their Posches. Kim X takes them all to her Posche dealer in the city to show them where she buys Posche wholesale. The dealership is called COC + Co. which is somewhere on Eighth Ave in the 30s right next to Mary Lou's Massage Parlor and Cumin (pronouced the old way, like Teresa says it) Emporium. When they get there, Teresa says to the owner, "I used to work in the fashion industry. At Macy's." "Oh, were you a buyer?" "No, I worked the register at the Macy's in the Paramus Park Mall one Christmas. I'm really a fashion insider."

The only thing that happened at COC Enterprises (not to be confused with the dildo company of the same name) was that Caroline told Teresa she need to clear things up with her brother about the Christening and since they can't talk without getting into some sort of physical altercation (which is really a trait of the Gorga family that goes back a million generations) that she should write Goomba Joe a letter. This is a device I'm sure Caroline stole from Jersey Shore, when JWOWW and Snooki write Sammi and anonymous letter to say that Ronnie was cheating on her. For those of you who follow the exploits of the greatest sociological experiment of our time, you will know this is an idea that Snooki and JWOWW took from an episode of Charles in Charge. That sitcom continues to have an iron grip on the inner workings of New Jersey's families long after it stopped being on the air.

Teresa asked for Jacqueline's help writing the letter, and Jacqueline has patience and tenacity, the two most important traits for any good first grade teacher. That's sort of what Jacqueline was doing, trying to get Teresa to use her words and form the letters on the page in a way that wouldn't piss off her brother more. Like any six-year-old she also spoke the words slowly out loud as she put them to paper. Teresa, for her part, could barely snatch herself together long enough to get a first draft done. Really, getting Teresa to write a letter is sort of like getting Marlee Matlin to sing karaoke. I'm sure it can happen eventually, but it's going to take a lot of practice.

The most difficult part of Teresa's letter—other than the fact that she can't, you know, write—is that she doesn't want to apologize because she still hates her sister-in-law Melissa and doesn't want to acknowledge her in any way. Oh, TT, can't you swallow your pride for your family's sake?

Finally they get the six simple sentences down onto eight pieces of really nice stationary that Teresa bought, because the last time she wrote something by hand it was on a piece of notebook paper torn out of a Trapper Keeper and she got an F on her book report about Curious George. It was the worst day of sophomore year. She brings the letter to Goomba Joe's house and rings the bell, which completely defeats the purpose of writing a message down in the first place. Ringing someone's doorbell and handing them a letter is more like serving them papers than starting a conversation.

Teresa leaves the letter on their front door and skedaddles. Joe and Melissa find it later. See above. First of all, Joe getting all pissed that they're "at the point of writing letters," is stupid. She's writing because you won't return her phone calls. Goomba Joe is just determined to be mad. Scowl, scowl, scowl, with his fangs out, looking for a Mario Brother to kill. That's our Joe. He won't even read the letter (possibly because, like Webster's grandfather in a very special episode, he doesn't know how to read) so he has Melissa read it to him.

It's a nice note that basically says, "I'm sorry if I fucked up, I want to make things better, let's meet and talk about it." Very mature and rational and as heartfelt as Teresa is expected to get. But Goomba Joe is not having any of it. He is determined to be pissed. Scowl, scowl, scowl. And then he gets to the crux of it and says, "If she can be the old Teresa I knew, Teresa Gorga, then I will forgive her." That's what Goomba Joe really wants. He wants the past back. But you can't go back to the past, Joe. And your sister has changed. We've all changed. You changed. And just cause she's been "poisoned" by Juicy Joe doesn't mean she's not your sister anymore. You have to adapt and you have to move on from a place of love.

Melissa, strangely, is doing God's work by trying to make him see Teresa's point of view. You would expect a Housewife to take something like this and twist it all around to show that Teresa is some kind of Medusa monster and should never be forgiven. No. For a second, I like this Melissa. She says that Teresa is family and Joe should forgive her and move on. Just take all those awful things that happened in the recent past and forget about them, start fresh. That is what families do.

Yes, that is what families do. They forget all the hurt and they make themselves strong. They try to push past the pain and reach a place of understanding, no matter how far away and exotic it seems. That is what Teresa was trying to do with her letter. That is what Jacqueline does, peering into Bouffant's room as she sits on her bed on the butterfly bedspread they picked out together in Target all those years ago, before the other kids, when it was just the two of them. She's chatting on the phone with her family in Texas and Jacqueline wants to stop her, to slap that phone out of her hand and her unearned New York dreams out of her head, but she can't. She can just close the door with a light snap and let Bouffant learn from her own mistakes.

Caroline, so tough on the outside, is the most pained of all, as the mean silence of the autumn night buckles down on her house, empty, except for the memories. She looks at the photos behind her couch, of Albie at his graduation. The valedictorian, of course, beaming in his cap and gown. Of Lauren in her fuchsia satin prom dress with the big bow across the breast—a number only Lauren could pull off. And there's Christopher, goofing off and making faces in his little league team picture. Always the ham, always her ham, always throwing ham around the kitchen. But the lights are off now. No one to cook for, no one to care.

She wants to clutch all of those pictures to her chest, burrow them deep, right into her heart where she will never forget any of them, never forget a moment, because she knows the time with them will be sparser and sparer and all she has to look forward to are nights like this, where the only thing around her is the stillness. And that's when Lauren comes home, slamming the front door behind her and scampering with Vito up the stairs, her manicured hand in his thick paw. "Goodnight, Ma," she yells down the stairs while disappearing down the hall. "Goodnight, honey," she yells back before settling down on a stool in her glossy dark kitchen. "I love you," she says softly, to no one in particular. "I love you."