By Karen Valby
Updated March 05, 2010 at 04:17 PM EST
Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/Bravo

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/BravoHow I’ve missed New York. The new season began with some good-natured kvetching, as Jill warned that there had better be something to nibble on aboard the yacht. Ramona, wiggling like a fish in her little bikini and declaring herself a doppelganger of Cameron Diaz with her cute new haircut, welcomed the women onto her yacht. “You wish!” said Jill, who then scrutinized Ramona’s flushed face, looking for evidence of recent nips and tucks. Ramona told us that her verbally abusive father passed away five months ago and she is thereby experiencing a season of total renewal. New beginnings, inside and out. So when Alex clopped on board, Ramona jumped into her arms with only a passing shot about only girls allowed. (Back in the city, Simon diligently whacked a tennis ball against a wall, desperately hoping for a rematch and additional screen time.)

The sun was out, the wind in the women’s hair. It was time for Ramona to pitch her chocolate topaz jewels only available on HSN and for the gathered women to bitch about Bethenny. However much fun it might be to watch these women manufacture drama, my heart still swelled at the sight of Jill’s pursed and trembling lips. I loved the friendship between these two, never stronger than last season when they snuggle-worked on Jill’s Hamptons four poster bed. Jill thinks Bethenny had grown cold and distant, and cannot forgive her last stern voicemail in which she declared Jill in dire need of a hobby other than herself. The women gasped with narrowed eyes. She didn’t! Cut to Bethenny on top of the world, her Skinnygirl brand reaching ever loftier heights. She’s got a nude PETA campaign, she’s got an a– to die for, she’s got a team of stylists holding various shades of pasties. And as we all know, she’s got a new boyfriend. She groaned meanly when her assistant brought up all the unread emails from Jill, referring casually to her in-box as glutted with nonsense. Jill is right to feel cast aside. We learned that Bobby was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and all Bethenny did was send over some flowers. We also learned that Jill has an exceptionally generous mailman.

Back on the boat, with LuAnn now standing in as Jill’s BFF, Ramona was all twirly with happiness. That is until LuAnn called her over and insisted they discuss her rat husband Mario’s rude remark. Apparently, at a photo shoot Mario sneered that the Countess was now the Countless and how it chapped our lady’s hide. “I’m thinking you’re making a bigger mole….” said Ramona. No, that’s not quite right. “You’re making a mountain out of a hole hill.” Oh, dear Ramona, you just keep practicing. Well, Ramona didn’t see what the big deal was, and you know there’s really no such thing as American royalty, and shouldn’t LuAnn bring this up with Mario himself, and you know what, no, no!, NO! She started shrieking like an injured mouse about how it had been a beautiful day, and she invited everyone on a boat, and they’re the mean girls and she always takes their crap but no more and you know what? She’s a nice person and she’s honest, there’s nothing wrong with honesty and everyone just always goes after her with their “fricking knifes.” Somehow Ramona climbed herself down from her ladder of hysteria and everyone ended up doing tequila shots. “To friendship, to life, to health and happiness,” she stammered like a maniac. “Actually happiness you have nothing.” Get me off of this fricking boat.

Bethenny is in love. He seems like a reasonable enough young man, though I do wish her voice didn’t go three octaves higher whenever he entered the room. Perhaps Jill should be more understanding that whenever someone falls in love, they tend to spend that honeymoon period in a happy cocoon of two. But then Bethenny had the gall to call Jill grubby—”and Jason hates grubby”—and I felt myself getting mad. Of course, then I’m thrust back in the Hamptons where all of the sudden Jill and LuAnn are meeting Kelly for lunch and Jill is talking about the need for all of us to better get to know the “yoo-man” side of the woman. If Bethenny is out of Jill’s chosen circle, then surely we can find a better replacement than Kelly? That said, the woman did seem slightly calmer, although she started talking about Mr. Right Now, and Rapunzel, and Batman and Robin and I found myself wanted to ball up her sweater and stuff it in her mouth.

Later, Bethenny pulled up in a two-toned Skinnygirl VW bug — at least acknowledge its ridiculousness, girlfriend — for drinks with LuAnn. The Countess, who strikes me as desperately vulnerable and sad, greeted her with an incredibly awkward, highly workshopped punch. “Are you inviting me for drinks or are you going to wait until I leave and say I didn’t pay up?” We all had to catch up quick to what beef was being brought up. Bethenny looked stunned that detritus from last season’s surfing lesson had washed aground like that. The two lit into each other, in exhausting fashion. They’d go a round, and LuAnn would try to strangely defuse the situation. “Deep breath,” she said. “I’m doing yoga and meditation; it’s the best thing.” Bethenny’s eyes would bug out, she’d accuse the Countess of being high fallutin’ and inauthentic. They’d spend a minute chatting about their love lives. LuAnn took a crack at the Skinnygirl car. Bethenny declared her a “dumb drag queen” in her private interview. They ended with a toxic hug, realizing as they parted that they would be this season’s sworn enemies.

What say you, PopWatchers? Does Jill on the verge of tears make you feel on the verge of tears? Do we approve of Jason? Do we trust this new dialed-down Kelly? Is it possible that Ramona actually upped the crazy during the hiatus? Has Bethenny’s successes gone to her head or is she the show’s voice of snarky reason?