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'RHONJ' premiere recap: 'Jingle Bells and Prison Cells'

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The Real Housewives of New Jersey

TV Show
Current Status:
On Hiatus
run date:
Reality TV

Welcome back to New Jersey, home of the leading ladies of one of Bravo’s East-Coast Housewives iterations. Before moving ahead with season 7, we have to look back…to Danbury Federal Correctional Institution…on Dec. 23, 2015…at 5:40 a.m. “It felt like a bad dream — all of it,” narrates Teresa Giudice. She is, of course, referring to her incarceration. We’re taken down a black-and-white rabbit hole, complete with flashes of the sibling rivalry between the “Skinny Italian” and her foot-loving brother, Joe Gorga. Ex-BFF and returning queen Jacqueline Laurita apparently managed to shed some tears for Teresa’s journey to prison the year before as well. All of this Dateline-meets-20/20 footage acts as a guidepost to the Dec. 23 prison release of the housewife.

But before we can get to the homecoming, we instead have to jump back two weeks. Queue the theme song, grab a cannoli, and pick your favorite tagline: Season 7 starts now.

The theme of looking back continues when Melissa Gorga re-introduces us to her family, acting as the Ghost of Christmas Past. It wouldn’t be a flashback without a glimpse of Joe grabbing her butt though, right? Melissa plans on opening a boutique called “Envy by Melissa Gorga,” which should be referred to as “Kyle by Alene Too, Melissa as Well: Jersey Edition.” Working with her hubby as the contractor, Melissa also has her assistant (business partner?), who looks like a mixture of Kim D. and Kim G. Momma wants the respect her children give their dad, and honestly, the lady deserves it. Although I may not love her music career (who among us can’t stop singing “On Display,” though?), I do appreciate her ability to power through family troubles and her husband’s constant need to rid poison from his body.

Now, everyone grab a box of tissues while we talk about Jacqueline and her son, Nicholas. The adorable 6-year-old was diagnosed with autism in the last season we saw the OG housewife, and she is proud to announce he’s made great strides. Acting as the Greek chorus for every viewer, Nicholas tells his daddy he loves donuts. When Nicholas isn’t making me weep in joy, he’s riding bikes, reading books, and of course, eating donuts while telling his family, “I love you.”

Alert! We have a new housewife! Her name is Dolores Catania, and she looks mysteriously like Dina Manzo. She’s an old friend of Jacqueline, Teresa, Dina, and Caroline’s, but Jacqueline warns everyone to not piss her off due to her Patterson upbringing. We later learn she was found eating from a box of donuts in front of her ex-fiancé’s house, so she’s pretty much better than all of us could ever hope to be.

After her introduction, Dolores goes to Rails Steakhouse with Jacqueline; they’re ready for a night out with their third partner in crime, and another new housewife, Siggy Flicker. Her introduction is like the opening of Mommie Dearest: quick cuts to a mysterious woman with a scarf-wrapped head and sunglasses disguising her face that forces me to scream, “Is it Faye Dunaway?!” I already love her, and it’s because of the first thing that comes out of her mouth: “I had a facelift.” She then orders lobster bisque and sips it through a straw, as any lady who lunches would after a surgery.

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It wouldn’t be Christmas without a little touch of forgiveness, and we’re treated to just that when Jacqueline reveals her newfound loving relationship with her daughter, Ashley. It’s a hard contrast watching this smiling and mature Ashley in an ugly Christmas sweater, versus the horror flashback of Jacqueline telling her to “get of my goddamn house.” All of that is in the past now that Ashley is a certified beauty technician and has a new boyfriend named Pete. On a sad note, Chris Laurita tells us he lost the black-water business (but it seemed so lucrative!) and now his family has been forced to downsize in any way they can, from getting a smaller mansion to selling their designer watches. To commemorate, the Lauritas have decided to have a party. Must be that extra watch money funding this shindig.

NEXT: Welcome home, Tre


As the Giudice family prepares for Teresa’s return home, glitter, glue, dogs, screaming, yelling, screaming, and more glitter are all on display (there’s that song again). Speaking of glitter and yelling, Jacqueline shares with us that she received a letter from Teresa in prison, as if she were Hannibal Lecter warning of her escape. (If only the letter had read, “I ate her liver with a nice Fabellini and a side of sprinkle cookies.”) Overall, I think Jacqueline is right in being wary of rekindling a friendship with Teresa “I’m not going to prison, how dare you ask” Giudice. But hats off to Jacqueline for her impersonation of prisoner Tre Tre.

The horror continued as the attorney called Melissa to share that Teresa could stay with the family for Christmas Eve. Teresa had time to write another note to the Gorgas when she wasn’t busy writing her tell-all book and scary notes to Jacqueline. Thankfully, this is all addressed when the who’s who of New Jersey gather at the Laurita’s holiday party, including former housewife Kathy Wakile and her wonderful sister, Rosie. (Before we continue, I have to note Kathy did not bring a dessert to share, a detail Jacqueline yelled about, so I felt it was imperative to point it out, too.)

Melissa proves she’s a Caroline replacement in spirit by pointing out the fact that Jacqueline can be triggered by a mere mention of Teresa. The phantom pains from their tumultuous relationship have only recently begun to subside for Jacqueline, which is why Dr. Melissa is afraid Jacqueline could have recurring trauma upon seeing her old frenemy. It seems only time will tell (and the preview for the rest of the season) if these ladies can truly find friendship again… but I doubt it.

“The boss is coming back,” spouts Teresa’s lawyer, Jim. His quote is the best way to describe what happens next, as Joe Giudice reflects on the past year without his literal partner in crime. Gia, the ever-present and unsung hero of the Giudice family, tries to express to her dumbfounded dad that not all of the kids will be going to school on the day of their mother’s return. She doesn’t back down when he says no, quoting and pulling in the spiritual and ever-looming power of Teresa. Even behind bars, the woman has some serious pull over what goes down at that mansion. Meanwhile, the holiday party is still in full swing as Siggy enters the fray, this time with the ability to eat lobster bisque with a spoon. Of course, just when things were lightening up, the lady of the Laurita household decides to give a speech about the return of Teresa, with some added strange editing where people are apparently screaming out in support. Giving tear-eyed glances to the gaggle of Gorgas and Wakiles, Jacqueline bids them good wishes.

We have now come full circle, to 5:40 a.m. and the return of our favorite table flipper. Our first glimpse of her comes when Joe answers a FaceTime call, where Teresa is hiding under what can only be a black hoodie. Paparazzi have invaded the freeway and the Giudice front lawn, which causes young Milania to run out the front door to taunt the TMZers. When can we see that footage?

All jokes aside, the cameras’ capturing Teresa’s reunion with her daughters is pretty magical. The logistics of how deeply she was involved with the crime are pretty fuzzy, at least to me as a viewer, but it’s hard to overlook that she had a hand in something. Regardless, she’s home, and even more intriguing, how will she act this season? Will she take a page from Ramona’s book and have a renewal year? Cut her hair and tell everyone to take some “turtle time”? We’ll see how next week plays out.