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Well, that's it! No more. No more Housewives for the rest of our lives. Well, until Thursday, when the D.C. Devils once again crawl out of that fissure to Hell. And, also, until next week when the two-part reunion begins.
But for now! For now the narrative has once again ended and, in true RHONJ fashion, it has ended with Danielle unleashing the full force of her Garbage Powers and casting a great, long night over the town of Franklin Lakes. There was no Table-Toss event this year because Teresa is still recovering from a rotator cuff injury from last season, but there were at least some shrieks and bellows, two Housewives' faces booming and cracking like lightning storms, once again the poor innocent waitstaff of a big, drafty restaurant cowering terrified in a corner. These woman leave scorched earth wherever they go. These woman are rubble machines. Someday these woman are going to burst into flames and swallow the world.
But, again, for now. For now they're mostly where we found them. Let's take a look, huh?
Some days Dina will feel a slight tremor — while she is grooming Grandma Wrinkles with his special skin brush, while she is dressing Lexi up like the Wendy's girl so they can make hamburgers together, while she's half-asleep on the couch watching Andy Cohen's variety half-hour — and she will know that the muted rumble means that something bad has occurred in the Housewife world. She knows that Caroline or someone else, sighing Jacqueline or whining Teresa, will call her and tell her what happened, but for a quick moment, she wants to be there. There at the epicenter, at the white-skied ground zero. It was frustrating dealing with Danielle and other monsters, but it was also kind of thrilling. She feels that for a moment, a kind of swallowed wish, but then it always passes, usually when she does get the explanatory phone call and it is something so dull and repetitive. "She said this, again." Ugh. "She did this, again." Bah. There's a record skipping somewhere, and occasionally Dina will hear one quick note and thinks she likes the music, but when she listens closer and longer, she doesn't — it's just the same old tired thing, over and over again.
Sadly we didn't see the Kims this week. We do know, because of a video promo thing, that Kim G. will be making a terrifying, jittery appearance on the Reunion Showdown. Kim X. is... Well, who knows. Sometimes on cooler nights, if you listen very closely on the wind, you can hear it. It's a voice the sound of paper ripping, and it is whispering "Posche..." And, no, it's not some faraway ghostly thing. It's Kim X. lying under your window, down there in the bushes, rooting around for something she lost a long time ago. And Kim G.? Oh, well. Kim G. is going on the reunion to surprise Danielle with one of her trademarked psycho grins, Kim G. the true clown, the awful Pennywise with a wispy blonde wig and a girlish, Dolores Umbridgian bow in her hair. Will we see more of her next season? Will she perhaps join the cast? Or is her role done? I hope she comes back next year, if only so we can see more of her son Peebo, who is the light analog to wretched Failure Manzo's dark, they a curious and well-matched pair. I'd like to see some of their madcap, psychosexual adventures, and if that means that the creepy kangaroo woman must occasionally come hopping by, then so be it.
Speaking of Failure... Gosh, he didn't progress much this season, huh? Last year in his little update placard it said that ol' Faily was steaming ahead with his plans for the Tits 'n' Bubbles Washaroo, a car wash slash strip club. And what did his tombstone say at the end of this season? Same deal. "Failure is still planning on opening the Scrub 'n' Tug Sudsmaker... someday." Oh Failure! No progress whatsoever! And you had a second there while your brother stumbled, you could have broken free and gotten a decent lead. But you squandered it. So sad. Failure's sister, Caroline 2: The Revenge, is still doing her quiet thing. She's not on the show much, but I'm sure she is watching her mother and learning... Learning all about being the red-steel matriarch. And someday, when the time is right, she will challenge Caroline to a bloody axe duel and they will fight to the death. That is the only way to challenge Caroline's throne. But for now, it's waiting. It's waiting too for Danielle's children, those poor willowy hayseeds, those unfortunate wisps of molted snakeskin. They are waiting for a return phone call from the judge they saw in Irreconcilable Differences. Will he be able to free them from this parental prison? Will they be rescued? I worry, seeing the ever-dying light in their eyes, that they know they are trapped, stuck until they are 18. Christine knows that she'll be out pretty soon, but what then to do with the young tortured singer-songwriter Janis? Is Christine really supposed to just leave her behind, to drown at the bottom of a whiskey bottle? Some hard decisions are coming, glowing small and sinister on the horizon, like the first cold glimmers of winter. Teresa's girls are off somewhere in a brightly lit room, devouring each other from the feet up, a four-cornered ouroboros. And last and certainly most we have cherished honey-god Albie, who took a stumble this season but is already halfway up the road out of hell. You can see the first glimmer of his swagger returning, a slight dip in his hip when he walks around the house, that easy, cocky grin settling beautifully in the corners of his mouth. The police academy thing is... interesting. Obviously we would all, every single one of us, burst into hot blue sexflames if we were to see Albie in a policeman's uniform, so that is something to look forward to, of course. But other than that... I hope he gets back on track with the lawyer thing, that he keeps striving toward that flashy Manhattan life he built in his head like an Inception dream. I hope we get to see him meet the raven-haired Eyetalian woman of his dreams, a hard and polished woman who carries a small Beretta in her purse and does mysterious work for her father. You know what, Bravo? Why not take that Real Kids of New Jersey thing off the internet and just put it on the regular TV. Just do that, please. I'm tired of old women. Aren't you?
Teresa didn't do much this episode. Which is good, because it looks like she needs to save her energy for the reunion. Yiiiiiikes, it looks like she goes completely apenuts. Which is fitting, because she is an ape woman. She is all sloped low forehead and squared-off shoulders and thick, stubby strength. Her husband Joe is much the same, all grunt and trundle. He almost stole the show last night when he ordered a red wine with some Coke and lots of ice. (Oftentimes I order the same thing, only I mean cocaine and I want to be sprinkled in diamonds. I cackle and cackle as I writhe around in the diamonds, face white and powdery, lips and teeth purple and stained.) I know that this is an actual thing that people in It'ly and Spain drink, but it was just funny how deliberate and specific he was about it, and how you could see a confused quiver in the waiter's body language. Obviously you don't say no to Joey Joodice, no matter how strange the request. Well, OK, I guess you do say no to Joey Joodice if you are the United States Money Police. Obviously Teets and Jeets' little update was about their finances. It said, yes, they are a humble eleven million dollars in debt, but their house is NOT in foreclosure. And, hm, OK. Well... Still... SELL THAT FUCKING HOUSE. It's not going to cure all your debt, but it's a start. There must be someone who wants to buy an airplane hangar-cum-Grecian bathhouse that's made entirely of marble. Isn't there some crazy Russian billionaire who's looking to live in New Jersey? Sell that house! Or don't, whichevuh. Whatever you say, Joey Jooz. And Teresa? Well, I guess keep selling your hobo cookbooks. It was nice of the girls to let her plug Skinny Eyetalian on the show last night — "Italian doesn't have to be bad for you!" "We ate pasta the whole time in It'ly and didn't gain a pound." Hopefully that will prop up the family finances enough for a while. If not, I guess they can go live above the pizzeria, in their little apartment, Teresa in an apron and kerchief, Joe in his white undershirt, the kids playing stickball in the street. Teresa leans out the window to bring in the wash from the clothesline and waves at old Mrs. Clementi across the way. She stares up at the Ionian-blue sky and there's the sun, all lemony and warm, and it's not a bad life, huh? Not so bad to be simple.
You'll notice I didn't mention Bouffant in the Kids paragraph. It's because she deserves her own paragraph. Let's smoosh her in here with her mama. Last night poor exhausted Jacqui and Chris tried to drive a stake into the heart of the whole Danielle issue. They were to be done with it all. So they summoned Bouffant and her trusty FlopHat 5000 to the Kitchen Of Deciding and laid it out for her. There was to be no more. Auntie Caroline had volunteered to walk out across the corpse-strewn field and do single combat with the terrible Vladelle the Inhaler, and Bouffizzle had to honor that bravery by cuttin' the shit with the Facebooks and the text-mails and all that manner of paganry. Bouffant's face oozed butter and sour cream and some broccoli (for health) and when she opened her mouth-flaps to speak, molten cheddar cheese drooled out. So instead of saying anything she huffed impertinently and her hat flopped ominously and Jacqui turned to Chris and they knew, with the shattering of their hearts, the pieces sinking into their organs with a stabbing burn, that she would never be done. That she would be flop-topped Bouffant forever, always with that sideways cartoon mouth sneering and grumbling. Sigh. Later in the episode they were having a big family banquet and Bouffant's long-suffering and improbably handsome boyfriend, Nickels, was trying to counsel her on how to be good. "Whaaaat?" Bouffant gerbiled, a pat of butter flying into Nickels' worried face. "Just, like, apologize to your mom or something." Bouffant's eyes rolled in her head, making a wheels-on-gravel sound, and she said "Hyyuunnghghhhhaa....", because Bouffant is so conscious of looking Cool in front of the cameras that she ends up looking so way less cool than she would if she didn't try so hard. "Hyyyunngghhhaaaa, Mawwwwmmmm," she said, by way of apology. "Oh honey," Jacqueline said, brushing mealy starch molecules off her face. "Thank you." She offered her daughter a hug, but Bouffant did not take it. She was too busy flopping around in her brain, trying to think what next season could be like. Maybe she'd start beef with Teresa. Maybe she'd boof with Caroline 2. Maybe she'd try to seduce nimble coitus-nymph Albie. Maybe maybe maybe. Her gooey heart was full of maybes. But in the end I suspect that she's mostly uncreative, so she will just try the Danielle thing again. If she can. If Danielle's still there. If her life still has purpose. Meanwhile, Nickels will recede further and further into the background, and one day, many years later, she'll run into him in the supermarket and he'll tell her that he's home visiting, from LA where he works in movie special effects and lives in Venice, and she will be lying in the prepared foods case, all stuffed and loaded, and his eyes will be very sad and very brown and he'll say "It was good to see you." And she'll wriggle a bit in her tinfoil as if to say "Help!" As if to say "Don't go!" As if to say "I was wrong all those years ago." But he won't understand, he will have forgotten that baked language long before, and then he'll be gone.
As mentioned above, Caroline strapped on her most fearsome breastplate, grabbed her ruby-hilted sword, and strode across the rolling, bloody hills, beating her chest and yelling "Danielle!!!!!!!!! Beast, show thyself!!!!!!!!! DANIELLE!!!!!", her fearsome battle cry echoing down the Turnpike. Why did she decide to do such a brave, foolish thing? Oh, because. She was having dinner over at Teresa's house — all of them sitting in the hilariously enormous chairs, looking like children dwarfed by big furniture, or like throne-sitting warlords. Or, most accurately, like child warlords — and, inevitably, Danielle came up. And Caroline was just so damn sick of it. So, so sick of it. All of this tawking, all of this nonsense. She was going to end it. So she scratched her nails down a blackboard, on which she'd drawn a picture of Danielle, and everyone covered their ears at the horrible sound and turned to stare at its source. Her eyes were mean slits in her strong face. Finally, she spoke. "I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole." And they were grateful, but they were scared. What if Caroline couldn't reason with or kill the monster? What if she was shot by Scraps, set upon by other unknown bodyguards? Could Caroline pull this off? Most importantly, could she somehow convince Danielle to drop the charges against Bouffant? It was going to be a challenge. So Caroline braced herself, prepared. She spiked her flame hair and put on powerful shoes and she got in her car and drove off. Somewhere secret inside her she was nervous, nervous that she would not see the children again, that she would never run her hand along Al's smooth bald head again. But she buried those fears deep down. She needed to be strong. She walked into the restaurant, sat, waited. Finally there was a sound like bones rattling in a sack and shotguns racking and a crow cawing in the night and in walked Danielle, flanked by hulking bodyguards, the butts of guns poking out of the waistbands of their pleated silk trousers. "Chieftain Danielle, Salve. I greet you." Danielle presented Caroline with the customary wild boar's head and Caroline nodded. It was an acceptable gift. She spoke. "I brought you here today to end this. This is silly and it's over." Danielle nodded. So far so good. But then, of course, the issue of Bouffant came up and that was it, the whole thing dipped over the side of the flat Earth and fell into dark chaos. Caroline could not keep up her facade of courtly manners and the true warrior woman emerged. Her fiery hair grew fuller and brighter, her nostrils flared, hands curled into stony fists. "You're a clown!" she told Danielle. "You're a filthy fucking slithering shit-eating hobo-blowing clown." Danielle's strange eyebrows did trapeze work and she spat back "You're the clown, with your red hair." ZOOMBAZOO, GOOD ONE, DANIELLE. "You and your... hair." BURN. Caroline swatted off that meager attack and then brandished her dagger and went in for the real kill. "When I called you garbage I meant it. You're garbage. Scum-guzzling garbage!" Danielle was knocked back by the powerful garbage-attack and she stumbled out of her chair. "No, no! Never again! Never again!" Danielle would not be called garbage again. She stormed out. So the conversation was over, Bouffant was still going to be sent to prison for the rest of her natural life for the terrible crime of Weaveicide (or, you know, be forced to pay a $189 fine). Caroline yelled after her "Come back, coward! I'll crush your bones and snort the dust! I'll play ping-pong with your eyeballs! I'll sit on the same couch as you at the reunion!" Various threats like that. Then she composed herself, got back in her car, and drove to the dinner. There she was greeted as a hero. Though her campaign had not ended in the resounding defeat or truce that she'd hoped for, she was still brave and bloody. Everyone presented her with the traditional cat corpses and she grabbed Al and said "Hrrarggh!!! I am going to my tent to ravish this beauty!!" and she slung him over her shoulder and tromped off, Jacqueline playing a long curled horn of triumph, Teresa throwing flower petals in the air, the children dancing and cheering. Caroline had protected her family, her nation, and her people loved her for it. It was a good day to be the queen. A good day to be a Manzo.
The terrible bug woman sat in her chair made of cold jade, her yellow eyes flitting back and forth. She'd just received a text message from Caroline asking to meet up. Her sad-faced vizier, Scraps, wasn't available at the moment, so she went to talk to her poor daughters about it. "Caroline just text me. Why would she text me? These woman are trying to kill me. But I'm not playing games no more." She's such a beautiful speaker, isn't she? She's just so eloquent and, I daresay, lyrical in her oratory. Her daughters were curled up by the fireplace like the poor soot princesses they are, and they shrugged their shoulders and said kid things: "I dunno." "Why would you want to go?" "Whatever." These were not the answers Danielle wanted. "She text me. These woman need to be stood up to. I'm not not standing up no more." The girls shrugged their shoulders again, retreated further into the fireplace. "OK..." they said, their voices faint and hushed. Danielle nodded. "Good." And then, finally, Scraps was available to talk. And he knew the score. He knew what was up. Caroline, the leader, had reached out, and this was a big deal. The capo. The boss. "She's no Carmelo," Danielle said, sounding like Copernicus or some other Polish genius. Yes, Danielle. Caroline's no candy bar. That's true. She's no Carmelo. She's no Whatchamacallit either. She's no Nutrageous, that Caroline. She's maybe a little Heath Bar, maybe a small bit. Definitely Mounds, definitely Skor. But she's no Carmelo. You're right, Danielle. You're always, always right. Anyway, Scraps gave her some smart tactical device — where to hide guns on your body, how to stick infected needles in your hair, y'know, basic stuff — and Danielle felt prepared. Well, not quite yet prepared. First she called her energist, who told her to breathe. That's what the energist said! "Breathe." Man, that's a good energist. She really knows her energy. "Breathe. I suggest you make your heart beat, as well." After her energist, Danielle called her spiritist, her soulist, her vim-and-vigorist and her spunkist. And then she was ready. So she drove off, armed bodyguards at her side. Yes, actual armed guards. She said they had guns. OH DANIELLE. You fitful idiot. You stupid wreck. I don't really even know what else to say about her. The fight happened, as detailed above, and she stormed off and I guess she eventually got her $189 vindication. But I wonder: Was it worth it? The Reunion looks like a mess and then... well, then she's maybe done? Supposedly, according to rumahz, she got fired. She will Housewife no longer. She'll just be D. Staub, singstress. Flanked by Union Square dancers. How lonely. She'll be all alone. Scraps will someday disappear under mysterious circumstances, their timid love never quite realized. And then her daughters will leave. Her daughters will eventually disappear into the wide gray world and there she'll be. Staring off. Wandering the house. Listening to the ugly old creaks of this pile of wood and rock and memory. "Those woman..." she'll say, shaking her head. "Those woman." And then one day, on one of her wanders, she'll see something, out in the yard, far out by the dark, swaying pines. A girl, young, just taken a few fawn steps into her 20s. She'll be wearing a short tight skirt, white denim, and she'll have a tube top lashed across her midsection and skinny-strapped purse hanging from her shoulder. She'll be surrounded by big sprayed hair and a smoky cigarette curl and Danielle will know her, know her so well, this girl out there by the woods. "It's me," she'll say to no one, to the sky, to the evening owls watching from the trees. "It's me." And she'll raise a hand to wave, to say something somehow to this vision from the past. To say what, really? "Don't go. Quit. Run away. Don't stay with Rico and Johnny that one stupid weekend. Don't. Just don't. Just do something different entirely." She'll put up her hand and the girl will mirror her, her little thin hand hanging there in the twilight, an uncreased, un-worried smile on her face. Or is it a smile? Is it a frown? Is it a look of quiet resignation? And then she'll be gone, wobbling off in her heels back into the past, back to the club, back to dance under the groan of throaty music, back to losing herself in the bright pains of pleasure. And old Danielle will stand and watch after her, wondering where it all went. Wondering which of them was the ghost.