Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 5, Episode 14 of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," titled "Zen Things I Hate About You"
On the last night of the trip, alcohol (the ultimate therapist) helps convince the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" gang that they had a great time.
"I think we all saw a little bit more of each other that we never saw before," Joe Giudice opines. At first I think he's referring to how Jacqueline is sitting bottomless on the couch, but then I realize she just has a crazy fuzzy blanket draped over her lady bits. Phew! For a second there, I thought she was inspired by nature to really let herself go.
Jacqueline says she's "seeing a different Teresa now," but I'm pretty sure she's just very hammered and is, quite literally, seeing a blurry version of her friend. Now, she's totally ready to let the pain of the past be vodka under the bridge. Caroline's bullsh*t meter starts to beep, and she calls everyone out on this saccharine "Housewives Make Up For Real, 100 Percent Definitely This Time Part III" story line.
"We've all been here before, we've all raised our glasses before" she says. She urges everyone to air any unsaid grievances in hopes of truly moving forward.
There's a slight pause, and then Joe Gorga and his fedora speak up. "I'm not happy," he says. Contrary to popular belief, his hat has nothing to do with his emotional discord. He looks straight at Teresa and accuses her of being behind the cheating rumors. As Teresa sputters out a stunned defense, Joe boils over. "End it. END IT!" he screams before hurling his glass against a wall.
Now that Bravo has ensured you'll be tuning in for the next 40 minutes, they flashback to 12 hours earlier, before the wine glass genocide of 2013.
The sun rises, and so begins a pretty traumatic birthday for Melissa. She gets tea-bagged about two minutes after waking -- and I'm not talking about a steaming glass of Lipton. Joe jumps on top of her and does "the dip" in his PJ pants, because the best presents don't come in a box, they come on your ... whoa, now Teresa's in the room too! Apparently there's no knocking in Arizona, and Teresa's treated to a repression-worthy picture of her brother licking her sister-in-law's toes.
Teresa's gift of "peace panties" (underwear with a sparkly peace sign on it) is pretty creepy as well, though Melissa's probably just relieved that nobody's touching her for a minute.
Meanwhile, up on the trails, Rosie's having the first meltdown of the day. She tells Kathy that she's tired of being alone, and desperately wants someone who will love her and tell her she's great. "I'm freaking out!" she cries before smashing a water bottle on the ground. Seriously, what have beverages ever done to these people besides hydrate them? Water just wants to get along and make up 57-60 percent of your body, Rosie!
Speaking of water, Joe Gorga, Rich, Joe Giudice and Chris decide to hang out by the pool and relax. I use "relax" as shorthand for "generally act like children and ruin the zen vibe of the entire resort." They push each other in the pool, scream like animals, and chase away two bathers who look like they were like, one second away from a nervous breakdown before Jersey invaded. I mean, I thought a melting walrus had somehow entered the pool area, but it was just Rich's body: that alone could send someone screaming into a double-session of psychoanalysis.
Obesity aside, the men are in their glory. Joe Gorga even toasts to Joe Giudice, saying "I love you ... and we all see you're a good guy." Then, he compares himself to the horse from the previous day's therapy, because he would very much like to be ridden by a man. (Well, he actually says "because I'll always be there," but I think my interpretation is a little more cerebral.)
Over at "Zennis Tennis," there's no love (get it?!) between Teresa and Melissa. In her interview, Caroline notes that the only way the sister-in-laws will heal is to have an argument and really voice their issues ... and this vicious game seems to be setting them up for just that. Joe Gorga would envy the way these women throw their balls around.
After morning activities, the entire group comes together for a tightrope-walking partner activity high above the ground. They'll have to walk across a cable using their partner to balance, and it really does look terrifying. To add insult to injury, everyone has to suit up in helmets and harnesses that are like, one shade of pewter in the sexy department.
Though Teresa's shaking like a fabu-leaf, she joins her brother atop the structure. It's very difficult for her to show weakness, but she eventually leans in and makes her brother -- and Sheryl Sandberg -- very happy. Though they fall a few steps later, they're both elated.
Melissa's hesitant, but she finally decides to climb up with Teresa. "The hard part is just letting go," Teresa says. Melissa takes the lead, and soon they're moving as one. Now if only they could manage that on the ground ....
Down below, Joe Gorga's not watching fondly as his sister and wife tip-toe toward civility. Instead, he's seething over a tweet from Penny that reads "she did wt! Really Mel u want to go there! How did u meet Joe? Bitch." Hey, Penny: I'll give you a nickel not to share your thoughts anymore.
Later, as the gang gathers around the table, Melissa and Joe are still getting ready. Joe's ironing a shirt into submission and working himself up. His anxiety is palpable, but Melissa seems to have resigned herself to the reality of the situation: she's in a place she'd rather not be, with people she doesn't adore, and there's no way out until tomorrow. So, she stuffs herself into a baby prostitute's romper and heads outside to see if she can have her cake and maybe poison someone else's, too.
Then, since nothing pairs better with dessert than discussing your father's "crooked dick," Joe Giudice treats the group to a rousing tale about the time his dad's Oscar Mayer wiener had a "heart attack." I am pretty sure that story is the reason the song "it's my party and I'll cry if I want to" was written.
After Melissa blows out her candles, Rich asks her to share her birthday wish -- even though everyone knows that if you say it out loud it won't come true. Instead, Melissa stands up and lavishes praise on her pals, calling out everyone by name, except Teresa, Caroline and Jacqueline. For Caroline, it's clarification that no deep wounds between Teresa and Melissa have actually been healed. It doesn't seem premeditated, but perhaps that's the problem: Melissa simply doesn't give a second thought to the sister-in-law she's supposedly on great terms with.
It's dangerous for all these sparks to fly in a place as dry as Arizona ... and it's pretty obvious that a blaze is just on the horizon. How do I know? Well, it's officially 12 hours later and we're back to where we started. Caroline "Zen Crusher" Manzo is being the bad guy and opening the can of worms, and Joe Gorga is claiming that Teresa shared his secrets with her faux-friends.
Teresa takes no responsibility and asks them to drop the conversation, but nobody in the group is letting her off the hook. They start to butt in, but then go quiet so that Teresa, Joe and Melissa can have the conversation they've been therapy-ing around all week. Everyone basically begs Teresa to admit to even a smidgen of wrongdoing, but she refuses to budge. Her party line is "how could you not trust your own sister?," and she's sticking to it.
Up to this point, Joe Gorga has stayed relatively calm, but he's pushed to the brink when Joe Giudice and Rich essentially tell him to ignore Penny and move on. He can't believe that nobody wants to help put the kibosh on the rumors, and hates the thought of just turning the other cheek while a total stranger trashes his family in public.
Cue glass smash and total baby-Hulk meltdown. If there's one up-side to his violent outburst, it's that everyone was finally stunned into silence for the first time since birth. Melissa jumps up and reprimands her husband, calling him a "f---ing idiot" and dragging him into their room. "His heart is 10 times bigger than his temper. He gets so upset when people try to hurt his wife," she says by way of explanation.
He comes back into the common area, and Kathy finally finds her voice. She tells them to unite as brother and sister and take a stand together against detractors. Joe Giudice jumps up (or whatever the slower equivalent is for a massive person) and grabs Joe Gorga so they can engage in that weird half-body slam that guys do instead of hugging. "I'm with you!" he says triumphantly.
Teresa still doesn't want to give Penny the time of day, but she finally agrees to join the team. Even Melissa admits she finally feels content, and she breaks into a genuine smile (or at least as close to a smile as you can get with a brain full of Botox).
Then, Al gets all excited and does a black power fist shake thing which is kind of awkward, but I'll give it to him.
Per usual, Caroline sums up the entire experience perfectly. "We all go to Arizona and go through all these healing sessions, and all we had to do was what we do best: argue."
So what have we learned tonight, dear reader? In times of crisis, eschew therapy and team building and just have a totally childish, screaming freak out. It works like a charm, and a red-with-rage face really highlights a deep tan!
Think Teresa's lying about her innocence? I definitely don't trust her, and I'd love to hear your take. Leave a comment below or tweet me @sydneyraylevin.