What even happened in this episode? We’re having a weird party for the seventh anniversary of a surgery, the anniversary of eight years of being sober; we’re in the city, we’re at the shore; there are new friends, or are they “friends of”; Melissa’s mother somehow broke both of her elbows carrying a baby named Anthony. I mean, none of it even makes sense, and to make it even worse we have to watch Melissa, Rachel, and Marge play pickleball. Pickleball! The Hyundai Elantra of sports. We’ve seen seasons get off to slow starts before, but this doesn’t even seem like it’s started, it feels like it’s just waking up and snoozing for an hour before even thinking about getting up.

The episode starts with the time-honored tradition of a Real Housewife bringing her daughter to get headshots before her adult teeth have grown in. This time it’s Danielle taking her daughter Valentina, who has just signed with a talent agency at Danielle’s urging. We’ve seen plenty of daughters go through this and they all turned out okay, but for some reason I worry that Danielle’s stage-motherhood is going to be way worse than everyone else’s. That might be a result of my watching about eight different actresses do their version of “Rose’s Turn” while lying in bed this morning, but it might also be something that Danielle did. (It’s Bernadette for me.)

It’s at the photo shoot where we learn that seven years ago her husband Nate had brain surgery to have a cyst removed and now he’s “not just surviving, but thriving,” as the very eloquent and original poster at his “celebration of life” party reads. I get it, the show has to throw parties and sometimes those parties need reasons, but is this a reason to have one? Couldn’t we have waited three seasons and just had this on the very round tenth anniversary of the surgery? I’m just wondering why this and why now and the only good answer I have is that the producers thought if they got both Teresa and Melissa around a raw bar that someone might end up with a bra full of clams.

Oh, we also learn that Danielle’s business, Bougie Kids, is going to be in New York Fashion Week. Oh yes, she’s way better than Brooklyn Fashion Weekend, she’s at actual New York Fashion Week! In the tents! In Bryant Park! Wait, they don’t do that anymore? Anyway, Danielle lets us know that she has designed seven (7) looks for her presentation. Only seven? You need a whole show for that? Sister, you could cover all of them in half a TikTok and you need a whole fashion show?

Next, we’re onto Antonia Gorga’s 18th birthday brunch with Melissa’s whole family because the Gorga siblings aren’t speaking to each other. It’s boring. I was hoping the whole time that Melissa’s secret sister whom a psychic told her about would finally show up right here at brunch. She would walk in, wearing all black with a veil over her face, and just stand at the foot of the table and say, “It’s me! I’m here!” And everyone would stare blankly at her for a moment and then she would say, “Your sister!” with a sweep of her claw like she’s Alyssa Edwards in the musical of Death Becomes Her. But sadly none of that happened. They just ate French toast and Joe agreed to officiate Melissa’s gay cousin’s wedding for some reason.

While Rachel, Marge, and Melissa are playing pickleball we learn all sorts of weird facts, like that Rachel had both hips replaced at 18 because of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that sounds horrible but until now I had only heard about on pharmaceutical commercials. We also learn that John Fuda got arrested at 17 for dealing weed, something that is now legal and Frank Catania is pursuing on a corporate level.

Over at Teresa’s house, she’s getting Emsculpt with Danielle and Jen Aydin. Emsculpt is that thing where it supposedly tones your muscles by making them contract using electric pulses or shocks or something. I don’t know, but it seems like one of those things that can’t possibly work. Right? Like, there’s no way that you can get a big, juicy ass on that machine by just lying there and taking laughing gas. Right? Like, I shouldn’t look into this for my entire body. Right? Like, there’s not a free version where I just put a fork into an electrical outlet and I come out looking like Brad Pitt but without the body odor. Right?

We find out little here, but Jen Aydin is still making fun of John Fuda for liking a bit of ass play and Jen says she’s not trying to make fun of him, but she still is. I don’t know, maybe if Jen weren’t kink shaming and decided to engage in a little keister action, then Bill might spend a bit less time alone in that pool house of his. Danielle also tells the other women that she’s staying with Rachel and John Fuda “down the shore” for the party. They don’t care. Well, Teresa pretends not to care, but I think she probably has some great plan to humiliate her.

So, at the shore, Teresa, Dolores, and their partners are staying at Jen Aydin’s house, Marge is staying at Missy G’s Party Palace, and the Fesslers and the Cabrals are staying at the Fudas’s. Got it? Great. It doesn’t really matter except that Rachel is upset that Jenf is being friends with Teresa. The problem I have with this story line is that we’ve just barely met both of these women. I didn’t even realize that they were friends. Now Rachel is saying that Jenf was her “ride or die” and she’s upset that she’s friends with Teresa. Did they even know each other before last season?

Jenf does say that people “in their group” say nasty, mean things about each other and she doesn’t like it. Um, the reason they say nasty things is because Teresa loves to fight dirty, loves to call people names, loves to make fun of people’s looks, loves to pretend she’s innocent when really she’s instigating. That’s why people say such mean things, because Teresa is continuously dragging everyone down to her level. If Jenf doesn’t like it, maybe she should reconsider her friends. She also says that Teresa is a “good person.” There are plenty of things that I could believe Teresa is, but in the 14 seasons that she has been on our television there is very little evidence that she is actually a good person. Damn, and I thought I liked Jenf.

As they’re all getting ready to go to the party, Joe Gorga has Marge’s wig on and actually looks better than she does. Also, Danielle has never heard of a “roadie” and thinks that it sounds like a “blowjob in a minivan behind a gas station.” How did she know how I lost my virginity?

At the party we meet someone named Kayla and someone named Tiffany and their husbands are both there and their last names are flashing on the screen and they’re sitting down in the scrum of the ladies to talk about things. Are these friends of? Am I supposed to remember these people? It’s like Game of Thrones: Should I remember this person’s face, name, and everything about them because they’re coming back, or is this just some random jamoke that Nate met in the hospital when he was getting his brain cyst removed. I will say that Tiffany has a husband named Dante and he looks like a hot piece, so I guess I won’t mind if he’s around. This Kayla chick, though? Hate her. I’m just kidding. But if they are going to be part of the cast, wouldn’t it be nice to get a more formal introduction?

The only interesting conversation of the whole episode happens when Teresa drags Jenf to the side so that she can drain Jen Aydin’s pot pen while she’s not looking. Teresa wants to know about this big meeting that was had before the last reunion, which I still think is nothing special. Jenf says that Margaret was going to pull up her recording of Luis on the phone with her son but never used it. She also pointed out that they all had these manila envelopes with all this info about Luis that they never used, either.

Ugh, this season is going to be exhausting, isn’t it? I thought we would get over all the stuff that happened last year; we could put the Gorga/Giudice feud in the rearview and have some new arguments. But no, Teresa is still out there looking for ammo against her brother and Margaret, and now she’s sucking up to Jenf to try to get it.

The fight is also getting way too ornate. There are phone calls from Luis to people we’ve never met; there’s John Fuda’s ex talking shit about him in the press; there’s private investigators; there’s manila envelopes. Oh, and what about when Teresa tells us that she can’t talk about what is going on with Marge because it’s a legal issue, but when she can, just you wait, it’s going to be so good and juicy! It’s all so trashy and opaque. It feels like this show should be on TLC instead of Bravo, like this whole thing is just dragging us down to our basest impulses. I love a base impulse — in fact, if I had a line of poppers it would be called Bass Impulse — but Jersey needs to classy up this joint just a fraction.

Then Jen asks Teresa if Luis called Margaret’s son, and Teresa swears on her dorters that he didn’t do it. Come on. Are you serious? The Maroon Marauder definitely did it. He did all that horrible stuff. He called Bo Dietl. He followed people. He called private investigators. I can tell just by what wafts off him that Luis is as shady as an umbrella factory. Of course he did it. But Jenf wants to believe Teresa because she swore on her dorters. Come on.

Then Jenf asks Teresa if she was saying John Fuda is a drug dealer now. Teresa says, “No, he seems like a great dad and a great guy.” Um, that is not the tone she was giving off when she was ruining Jenf’s birthday party. (Did Jenf forget that this woman ruined her birthday party?) She was saying it like he should be ashamed of his past, like the fact that he was arrested 20 years ago should hang around his neck like 20 pine-tree air fresheners on the rearview mirror of the car. She was saying it as if she herself is beyond reproach, like she was always sweet and generous to this man. My, how easily Jenf is fooled.

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