On last night's episode of Brawl in the Family, it was finally, foreal this time, Christmas. Actual honest-to-goodness Christmas, with Santa and presents and all that. Well, actually, it was just Christmas Eve. And first we had to finish a party.
Last week's episode ended with the beginning of a terrible Kim G attack. Kim G is the weird ancient elf-troll lady who occasionally slithers out from under her bridge to cause havoc. She is basically Eris, goddess of discord, only she is not a goddess, she is, as mentioned earlier, a weird ancient elf-troll creature who lives under a bridge. But she does spread discord! Oh how she does. She is trying to drive an even deeper wedge between Teresa and her brother, because Teresa once
failed to answer Kim's riddles three
called Kim old. So Kim showed up to Melissa's house last week with some lady who is suing the Giudices, a blatant attempt to make Teresa angry. Luckily Melissa was in full-on keeping the peace mode, so she told Kim that the lawsuit lady had to leave. Problem solved? Not quite!
This episode began with Kim still at the party, muttering and murmuring to the harpy wraiths who always encircle her about how awful Teresa is and how dare someone politely as possible ask that an uninvited enemy guest leave their Christmas party. How dare anyone! Kim was just trying to have a nice time at this Christmas party and has never tried to cause trouble, never ever. Her ghoul friends were buying it, or at least pretending to buy it for the sake of being on camera, but unfortunately for Kim she had awoken the sleeping giant that is Caroline. Caroline doesn't often get mad, usually she admirably takes the higher road and avoids unnecessary conflict, but this time Caroline had had enough. So she confronted Kim, who was busy saying "Ohh look Melissa and Teresa are making all nicey-nice. Well, for now at least! Right??" Caroline accused Kim of trying to stir up trouble and Kim blinked her beady black eyes and did her best "Who, me?" And then voices began to rise.
Everyone else at the party started to back up against the walls and move furniture out of the way, because they know how these Jersey Housewife fights can get. They can get ugly! Caroline and Kim stood there, barking back and forth at each other, and oh how I hoped that Kim would lash out and strike Caroline about the face and neck, just so there'd be a low, ominous rumble and Caroline's hair would glow bright red with fire, actual fire, and then wallop Kim clear through the wall with her trusty Manzo Hammer. We haven't seen the Manzo Hammer come out since the dark, lonely days of Beverly Merrill and I'd really like to see it again. But alas I was not satisfied. As Caroline has often told us, her family is thick as thieves, so just as the fight neared its fevery, fiery zenith, Caroline's sons, gleaming butter angel Albie and withered darkling Chris, intervened. You see, as is rarely mentioned on the show, Kim G. happens to be the
mother of Chris's best friend, a lad we've only met in one brief scene long ago. I guess I had thought that he and Chris had had some falling out, perhaps this Johnny had caught wind of Chris's sinister plans to unseat his starchild brother, but no, I guess not. I guess they are still friends, so it is really hard for Chris to watch Johnny's mom up in his mom's face.
The boys stepped in and Chris all but forcibly took Kim outside to talk to her. It was a creepy thing to see Kim go from snarling rage beast inside the house to cooing nightmare kitten outside of it. She spoke sweetly to Chris as Chris tried to calm her down and, though Kim's sudden niceness was as false as her teeth, it at least seemed that the immediate conflict had passed. But no, it had not! While Chris has obvious emotional stake in the G. family, Albie does not. And Albie was very angry with Kim for talking sass to his mother. So he came rolling out of the house on his perfect golden war chariot, ready to do battle with this awful Hadean monster. Or, well, you know, he at least wanted to get his hunched, Richard III-esque brother back inside, because at that moment he didn't want any Manzos conferring with the Lady G. Chris was kinda mad at Albie for making the situation more dramatic, but a Manzo abides, so he turned to follow his brother back into the house. But not before Kim had acted really weird with Chris, telling Albie "Noooo" in her girlish squeak, whining "We're talking" while pulling Chris toward her. It was just a really distressing thing to see — no adult woman should act that way with one of her child's friends, it was too familiar and... I don't know? What's the word? Undignified? Immature? It was something. It's a side of yourself that you should not let your son's friend see, it blurred too many lines. It was strange. I think Chris ultimately knows that Kim is very off, so he resisted her strange pulls and dutifully went inside with his brother.
Then there was much thrashing around the doorway as various Manzos, so many Manzos, tried to get out of the house to pummel Kim or something. Albie kept pacing back and forth, from the doorway into the foyer, nostrils flaring like a bull's or a dragon's. He really wanted to do SOMETHING, something big and definitive that would rid them all of Kim G. forever. Not murder, no that is his wicked brother's game, but some sort of valiant princely conquest. Luckily, though, Caroline was there to lay a soothing but stern hand on his arm and say "No. No. Nobody go outside." And so they didn't. Kim G. was forced to creak into her chauffeured car with her strange old man date (aka "Whoever the fuck you are," to hear Albie tell it) while Teresa and Joe, who had wisely decided to go home during all this commotion, stood by their own car and watched and giggled. Teresa hugged her husband and laughed and said "We're going to go home and make love alllll night, and what's she gonna do?" Joe shook his head. "Nothing." "She's going to use her toys," Teresa hissed, nasty as a schoolgirl. Then they drove home, so horny from battle, and rattled the walls with their lovemaking, cracking the great marble floors of their palace, the girls hiding under their beds, thinking they were having an earthquake.
Back at Melissa's, all the Manzo men and their loyal guardsmen were assembled in some sort of media room, all having a beer and trying to calm the fuck down. Chris was emotional, because obviously his mom just got in a weird fight with his best friend's mom, and his brother had tossed the old lady out of some other lady's house, and that's kind of an awkward thing. Unsurprisingly Johnny called him on the phone, right then and there, and a teary Chris went to go talk to his pal. Caroline stared after him worriedly. She also had a chuckle with Melissa and sort of, only sort of, apologized for kicking someone out of someone else's party, and all seemed well enough. Chris returned with a thin smile on that pallid face of his and he said that he and Johnny had just agreed to not talk about it, their mothers' business is not really their own, so they'd just let it go. Which is nice, I was glad, but it's also plain to see that should a true, big war be waged between the Gs and the Ms, Chris will have to go with god and family every time. Sorry, Johnny boy. That's just the Manzo way. But yes, for now at least, things are settled. Things are calm, if not entirely peaceful.
The same could be said for the rest of the episode. It was mostly devoted to cheery Christmas Eve preparations, lots of fishes being cooked and presents being wrapped. There was a strange interlude where Caroline did her radio show, this week's theme was divorce, and her brother Chris called up and basically asked for advice about his stepdaughter Bouffant. Only he didn't identify himself as Chris, but Caroline knew it was him anyway and she got all teary and it was just a strange way to advance the whole Chris/Bouffant storyline. I realize they have problems, but it's unclear as to what their origins are? I guess it's maybe because Bouff has been acting ridiculous for a while now? But then when Bouff talks about it she's always saying how Chris tries to buy her off with cars and whatnot. Which really isn't how it comes across on the show? It comes across like he's trying to reward her for good behavior, not buy her love? Ashley's whole "But money can't buy a relationship" line from last week really seemed like some dumb cliche thing that Bouffy has seen in movies and TV and so she felt like she wanted to say it about this situation, even though that doesn't really feel like what the situation is. (Good writing, Richard.) But who knows. At the Manzo Christmas Eve extravaganza, Bouff got all teary when talking about New Year's Resolutions and she said to Chris "One of my resolutions is to make you like me." Chris told her that she just needed to listen to other people more, to learn how to be a better person or something, and that seemed to confuse Bouffant a bit but she got the basic gist, that she'd been acting up recently and Chris was tired of it, but of course he loves her in the big Love way that family Loves family. So I guess that's something.
Though, does family always love family? While the Gorgons' Christmas party had gone reasonably well, besides the Kim G attack, things between Teresa and her brother still aren't peachy keen. Joe Gorgon is still upset about Joe Giudice and his family, the way they acted at the christening or something, so he is reluctant to go over to Teresa's for Christmas Eve. To complicate matters, Cousin Kathy has invited the Gorgons over as well. So they will have to divide their time! This is stressful and uncomfortable, but what can you do, it's the holidays.
So the Gorgons went to the Giudices and things were good. Well, things were good for the kids. The cousins all really like each other and they like to laugh and shriek and run around in their weird enormous dresses. They even had a visit from Santy Claus, who was just Teresa's old Italian ma in a Santy outfit. This was very cute, this little old Eyetalian lady doing her "Ho ho hos" and whatnot, then coming back and saying she was at the store. It was all very nice and familyish and, I don't know, these people are human beings I suppose, huh? They're people who love and want and need and try their best to give. Well, not always their best. Sometimes they want more than they love or give, but you know what I mean. Christmas! Give us a song, Bill Nighy.
But the niceness was fleeting, as Joe Giudice sat at the kitchen counter with his brother-in-law Duma, a big hulking silent type, and stared hard and mean at Joe Gorga. Joe was talking with the eldest Giudice girl, Abbondanza, about some big gaudy plastic costume ring a boy at school had given her. Her dad had already given her a gentle ribbing about this — the usual protective father nonsense that everyone thinks is cute and is a little I guess but is mostly patriarchal and weird and sorry sue me send me to Northampton — so it made him mad in a territorial way to see Joe Gorgon doing the same thing. And Joe Gorgon took it further. Giudice said "I'm gonna kick this kid's ass" (nice language in front of the nine-year-old, sir). Gorgon said "I'm gonna thrash this kid. I'm gonna bite off his ears. I'm gonna drown him in a lake. I'm gonna put a gun up his nose and pull the trigger. I'm gonna feed his pecker to Kim G. I'm gonna break his arms off and beat him to death with them. I'm gonna set his shoes on fire and run him over with my car. I'm gonna tie him to the train tracks and curl my mustache. I'm gonna dissolve him in a tub of acid that I keep in my Milwaukee apartment like Jeffery Dahmer. I'm gonna wall him up alive in an old creepy theater like in Interview With the Vampire." And so on. It was a little overkill? I mean, just a bit? Just sorta strange. Giudice watched from the kitchen and told Duma that the Gorgons were animals, all of them animals. Except for Teresa, obviously. And her nice old parents. But other than that, animals.
And that's kind of where we ended? There were other little things, things at Kathy's house and things with Duma and Joe and Joe all hitting on each other's wives, even though several of them are related or something?, and things with the Manzo boys being cute and sassy with their grandma, but mostly it was nice family stuff that doesn't belong in one of sour old Professor Sadlawson's sad-caps. it was just warm Christmas cheer and all that. Of course dark clouds always loom over these feral people, and maybe next week Giudice and Gorga will battle again, but for now, with the cool Christmas star glowing serenely in the sky, we are settled. We are calm. We are near as peaceful as the baby Jesus in his manger, surrounded by all his animal friends.
My favorite scene in the episode was one we didn't see. It was the scene of Teresa's mom, hidden away in some bedroom, having put on the Santy suit. She stood in the mirror, adjusting her beard, quietly practicing a few ho ho hos. Outside the room she could hear the kids screaming, could hear the clank and clatter of pots and pans, the hiss of the faucet, the noise of a house. A house full of people and here she was, all the way across the ocean from where she was born, in a cheap rented costume wearing a fake beard. How strange it is that life had taken her there, she thought. Not a bad strange, no no, just the kind of everyday strangeness that makes up a life. She'd never have guessed when she was a girl, kicking around in the brown loam of Naples, that this is where she'd end up. But here she was. Santy Claus. The giver of gifts, the bringer of cheer. She checked herself in the mirror once more and gave a quiet little Italian huff. She was ready. She strode to the door and opened it and walked down the hall, the bedroom now suddenly empty, the noises of the house then growing louder and brighter, just like that beaming Christmas star.