Men, they ruin everything. Might one even be capable of laying waste to Season 13 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey?
Tuesday’s premiere featured new cast members, accusations of witchcraft, a painstakingly benign ’80s-themed roller rink party, and a stronger presence from Teresa Giudice’s now-husband, Louie Ruelas.
Louie seems like a nice enough guy. He’s classic Jersey in that he’s constantly lubed up in hair gel and more closely resembles a Ball Park 100 percent beef frank than a human man. But he’s dimming Teresa’s light, the Housewife most known for her inability to appropriately cope with conflict.
Suddenly, thanks to Louie’s encouragement, Teresa has adopted an affinity for talk therapy. She has embarked on a journey where she’s learning, “I don’t have to get reactive, start yelling, throwing things, that’s a no-no.” Says who?
Last season, we watched Teresa and fellow Housewife Margaret Josephs butt heads in a conflict that culminated in a laundry list of expletives paired with a side of thrown drink. In this season’s opener, thanks to Louie’s thoughtful advice, Margaret and Teresa engage in a mild conversation about their feelings regarding last year’s debacle over hors d’oeuvres beside an outdoor pool.
Louie coaches Teresa ahead of Margaret’s arrival, telling her, “You want her to know you regret your actions.” He also encourages Teresa to set out bottled water at the table, as opposed to glasses, likely in an attempt to avoid thrown glassware. It’s this kind of forward thinking that disrupts the enigma that is Teresa Giudice and begins to contrive an inauthentic reality, something that does not bode well for this genre of television.
The conversation goes down without a hitch (just as Louie hoped), more closely mirroring a geriatric counseling session than a scene from a Housewives premiere. At one point, Louie even has the audacity to interrupt Teresa and says, “Babe, you have to listen. Cause you’re cutting her off. Just give her the space to talk.”
Louie, enough! You’re deconstructing what Housewives is at its core: reactionary women working out problems at whim. What’s more boring for television than a person who deals with conflict in healthy and constructive ways? We watch Housewives to escape, to make our own relationships feel less asinine, to witness what might happen if we acted on impulse, not to outdo us with admirable mediated discussion. We have Dr. Phil for that (well, reruns at least).
Margaret ultimately left the conversation feeling no ill-will and even observed, “I think Louie really is impacting her life.”
How a New Jersey discussion meant to rehash old drama could occur without anybody ending up in the nearby pool swaddled in soggy clip-on extensions is equal parts remarkable as it is disappointing. Thanks, Louie.
In some circles, Teresa is a fan favorite (we see you, Tree Huggers), and in others, she’s bemoaned. But all Housewives fans can agree: Teresa’s table-flipping short fuse injects this franchise with a unique, flammable quality that can’t be found in Beverly Hills, Orange County or Salt Lake City (though they sometimes try to fabricate it). The outbursts themselves are not necessarily what attracts viewers; we’re more bewildered by the deep-rooted feelings of betrayal from which the outbursts stem.
We’re curious about Teresa because she makes little sense. She is the only cast member capable of starting and maintaining a years-long war over the demerits of a sprinkle cookie; she is the only one who would hold a grudge against someone because they got married during her pregnancy; she is the only one who can flip a table without the audience doubting the authenticity of her rage. Somehow, all of these seemingly random explosions do oddly add up when coming from the New Jersey matriarch, someone who values family loyalty and bloodlines with more fierceness than a character in a Gothic drama.
Of course, we are not opposed to genuine evolution among the ladies. We’ve watched Atlanta Housewife Porsha Williams transform from someone who thought the Underground Railroad was comprised of actual trains driven by actual conductors traversing hidden tracks beneath the Earth’s surface to a staunch activist who was profiled by the New York Times and described as a “crusader against police violence.” We’re here for that kind of growth.
But New Jersey fans know that Teresa will never exhibit any real, lasting change. We’ve seen her flirt with reform before. After spending 11 months in prison, we watched her reenter society in a state of zen, claiming to have achieved equilibrium through yoga. All of that was quickly thrown out the window in Season 10, with the whisper heard ’round the world that led to a violent ponytail pull in a handbag shop at an outdoor strip mall.
Thanks to Louie’s efforts to water down Teresa, we were forced to spend the New Jersey premiere following the women from one lame get-together to the next. Let’s just skip ahead to the good stuff and cut the contrived amicability — we know this won’t last.
All we’re saying is, if 11 months in a Connecticut Federal Correctional Institution can’t change a person, neither can a greased-up beefcake named Louie.
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