By Emily Exton
Updated July 27, 2010 at 02:53 PM EDT

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/BravoLast night was a celebration of milestones, achievements, good parenting (or just genetic luck), and the American legal system. Teresa and Joe were approaching 10 years of marriage (though to Teresa it only feels like 5), Albie enrolled in the police academy, and Danielle’s daughter turned 16. Of course, her daughter’s birthday wasn’t enough of an occasion for Danielle, so she had to turn what was supposed to be a relatively low-key party into one big tear-inducing, pressure-filled audition for her youngest daughter.

Her eldest, the aspiring model and perpetual deer in headlights Christine, chose to celebrate her 16th birthday with a party where all the money she received as gifts would be donated to charity. “Rather than just celebrate just you?” Danielle asked, looking confused and mentally reviewing her own account balance and next hair extension bill in her head. Christine insisted that she didn’t need the money (don’t be so sure of that), and Danielle applauded her (and herself) for her selfless ways: “I must being doing something right,” she said, giving herself a pat on the back . “My daughter…I gave birth to her…I couldn’t be prouder.”

But forget Christine, she was merely born 16 years ago. It was all about 11-year-old Jillian last night (Who may be my new favorite? Her response to Danielle’s friend Kathy telling her she should wear heels because Suri Cruise does was awesome. “I know, but I’m not her, I’m me.” Finally someone with some perspective!). Christine’s Sweet Sixteen was also Jillian’s Big Break, because she’s an artist who’s truly passionate about her singing and songwriting… or so her mother will have her believe. What started out as a cute idea — Jillian performing a song for her sister at her birthday party — turned into a scarring, cringe-worthy ordeal. Danielle kept reminding Jillian that the night was “life changing,” “mind-bogglingly huge,” and the beginning of her career (she’s 11!). This totally trumped her pushy behavior during Christine’s photo shoots earlier this season. Danielle really rivals Mama Rose in her attempts to force her children into the spotlight despite their own reservations or alternate desires. I was ready for her to break into her own “Rose’s Turn” (I guess that would be “Real Close”?) at any moment.

I’m not sure where these girls got their looks and talent (eh, their father?) but they’ve definitely seemed to have inherited Danielle’s compulsive paranoia. Poor Jillian expressed fear at the thought of performing in front of guests: “They’re going to judge me and they’re not going to like me.” To which Danielle agreed, since everyone in the tri-state area is out to dirty the Staub name (“Jillian’s concerns are valid.”). And when she began crying after forgetting a few lyrics, Danielle didn’t hug her or tell her not to worry, but instead sternly looked her in the eye and said, “You need to do this!” Why? Of the 300 people at the Sweet Sixteen, no one is there to listen to a little 11-year-old sing her own songs (the teenagers are more concerned with grinding with one another and finding ways to sneak alcohol from the bar…which is probably not that hard when the theme of the party is described as “The Forbidden Room”).

But Jillian needed to do this, just like Christine needs to be a big time fashion model, in order to ensure they put their best faces forward around Wayne and Franklin Lakes, in hopes of letting the remnants of crazy stemming from the very public country club brawl, subsequent court hearing, sex tape, and table flip fade away. Instead of prostitution whores, victims, and whistle blowers, Danielle wants to perpetuate the idea that the Staub daughters are the world’s next pop culture icons (maybe this Sweet Sixteen gig could lead to Jillian’s own tween show on the Disney channel), worlds away from anything she has ever been involved with. She sees an opportunity to escape through her girls, absolve all her sins, and get a second chance at what she may have never had.

As the Giudices prepared to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, Joe struggled with what to buy his low maintenance wife. The money ain’t flowing like it used to (possibly because Joe’s been using Monopoly money to pay their bills), but Teresa wanted him to “wow” her with an impressive gift, something that starts with “Dia” and ends with “monds.” But not the Crown Jewels or anything, she’s just a simple Jersey girl. The two took a romantic helicopter ride over Manhattan (something they were supposed to do for their honeymoon, but Joe backed out of at the last minute…money problems then too?), where Joe presumably saw Central Park, or that big park in the middle of nowhere, for the first time…evidence that Jersey really is separate from New York. Over a romantic dinner (who knew Joe was such a poet), he surprised Teresa with a yellow diamond ring from Yellowstone Park, conveniently hidden in her chocolate cake. Let’s just hope that’s not for sale.

Danielle’s ex-husband Tom arrived at Christine’s party with his new wife (who is a “few” years younger than Danielle). Big D had coincidentally chosen to wear her engagement ring (something she hasn’t worn in over a year and a half) with her party outfit. “It’s just a ring, a beautiful one at that, 7 carats,” Danielle modestly confessed. To each their own when it comes to dealing with old engagement rings or wedding bands, but I don’t believe for a second that Danielle’s decision wasn’t motivated by the fact that Tom’s new, younger, wife would be in attendance. For someone who says she doesn’t get along well with her ex, Danielle was fawning over him, repeatedly hugging him and crying as she thanked him for coming (she even shared an awkwardly long hug with the new Mrs. Staub). Desperate, much? You really showed him you’re better off without him!

With his law school fate put on hold (he needs to reapply and wait to be accepted), Albie, enrolled in the police academy (because working at The Brownstone just wouldn’t do). Of course this is all part of the longterm plan: “[The police academy] is basically like a law class, but stretched out really, really long, and really, really, easy to understand.” His slight derailment gave his younger brother Chris prime opportunity to make fun of the prodigal Manzo son, and he jumped at every chance he had to crack jokes about Albie’s police training (sorry, but I think his buzz cut looks good!). Caroline has mellowed significantly, showing acceptance of the fact that things for her children may not always go as planned. Her forceful, “don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do” speech and encouragement to practically sue Albie’s former school was replaced with a much more subdued, “He will get there [law school] one day.” Do you find the refreshingly normal Manzo family enjoyable to watch or the perfect opportunity for a bathroom break?

Ashley received her court summons and agreed to plead guilty to simple assault against Danielle, but not harassment. Once again she giggled about Danielle’s hair extensions and began plotting nonsensical grounds to counter sue her on. This drove Chris to drink, and Jacqueline to once again throw up her hands in defeat, while Ashley, ever the mature one, walked out on both of them. Chris thinks Ashley needs a mistake to finally teach her a lesson. Yes! Send her away, force her to work, and hide all of her hats of the beanie/beret variety. The Maury show is still on the air, wouldn’t Ashley would be the perfect “Out of Control” teenager for motivational speaker Duane “D” West to work with? If he could get through to her. (P.S. Where is little CJ? We haven’t seen him in a while.).

Next week Kim G. throws a napkin at lunch, in her biggest audition for full-fledged Housewife-dom yet. Sorry Kimmy, but you’ve seen the tapes. You’re going to have to do a lot better than throw a napkin to get a spot in the opening credits. Plus, Dina’s back!