By Emily Exton
Updated August 24, 2010 at 02:13 PM EDT
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Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/BravoAfter last night’s finale, something just doesn’t feel right with me. Maybe it’s the one too many Coke-and-red-wine combos I had, or maybe it’s the fact that yet again, I find myself actually siding with Danielle [shudder]. Relax, I’m not saying we’re about to get our nails done at Chateau together or share cheese fries at the diner, but let’s face it: Danielle is the show. I want to be on Team Caroline/Teresa/Jacqueline, but would you rather watch an hour of family “drama” featuring Gia’s road to stardom and Ashley’s bad behavior, or Danielle’s ridiculous attempts to explain the complexities of life? Hate her if you will, but Danielle’s lunacy provides a common ground forhousewives and Housewives fans alike; it’s something we can all agree on. And to be fair, in the real, non-reality-show world, if people really had such a problem with a person, they wouldn’t stage a third public confrontation. As Danielle put it, “If you didn’t like me, would you go where you know I am to tell me, ‘I don’t like you!’?…You just wouldn’t be around me!”

But of course this isn’t the real world: This is reality show world! You know, where Italian food doesn’t make you fat and $11 million in debt doesn’t lead to foreclosure. During a family gathering at Teresa and Joe’s, Caroline announced to her loyal subjects that she was tired of watching the rest of them suffer at the hand of Danielle. “She’s just is so driven to try to hurt every single one of us, and I have done nothing but stay out of that woman’s life. The bottom line is she just won’t go away. So I’m asking you, can we find a solution to make her go away?” she asked. “Go away” is a relative term, because unfortunately Caroline’s plan had less to do with leaving Danielle down at the docks than it did pulling a Dina and inviting her to lunch to tell her how over the whole situation she was. Without wasting any time, she sent a text to Danielle right then and there: “I’d like to put an end to all the nonsense. Let me know when you if you are available to meet Sunday at 2 [sic].”

There was one catch to Caroline’s otherwise “brave” decision: Ashley’s is the family’s loose cannon (among other things), so her mother better keep a leash on tight if Caroline’s going to go to the mattresses for her.“With all my heart and with every fiber of my being, I just want her out of our lives for good,” Caroline said. “And just as badly as I would like her to go away, I would like to think that she wants us to go away.” Maybe so Caroline, but Bravo doesn’t, and the viewers sure don’t.

At another dinner, Danielle was enjoying pasta with her daughters (is it symbolic that Danielle is eating plain noodles from a bowl? Or has her Diner palette just left her with a liking of all things bland?) when suddenly STOP EVERYTHING WORLD, “Caroline Manzo text me [sic]” (“text” is the new “woman” of Danielle’s questionable speech patterns and vocabulary. Texted! She text-ed you!). She read the message aloud to her confused daughters, who she really forgets are just children, and not ex-cons. “She doesn’t want to go, like, what normal person would want to go?” said Jillian. Oh Jillian, you’re so smart yet so naïve about the reality show mentality. Of course she wants to go! Danielle told her not to worry because “I’m not in fear no more!” Just like with Dina earlier this season, she let the allure of being accepted by this group of women negate any growth or closure she’d achieved and willingly stepped back into the lion’s den. But this time would be different because Caroline and Danielle would be meeting “matriarch to matriarch.” Sure, keep telling yourself that.

The Real Housewives franchise has provided many memorable moments in questionable parenting, yet last night Danielle laid out her grievances and the behaviors she felt were being passed down from the older Manzo generation to the younger: “This is what they’re telling their daughters and sons to treat woman like: Chase them, investigate them, claw at them, rip the hair from their head when they’re hiding on the side of a building to get away from you.” As the matriarch, Caroline is the ringleader (or puppeteer, according to Danny) in this whole operation. “You’re not Carmella, you’re not a Soprano, so stop sending out your little ‘brilliant ones’ to make it look like you’re not doing anything while you’re sitting there on your proverbial throne [Ed note: This is the third usage of the word ‘proverbial’ in two weeks]. Get a life!”

“It’s not what I want to do at all; I’ve been trying to stay away from this,” Caroline told her kids before her meeting with Danielle. Seriously, what’s the point? For someone who all season long has been preaching about staying out of the situation, and advised Teresa and Jacqueline to ignore Danielle and her posse, what compelled Caroline to initiate a meeting of her own? Did Bravo threaten a pay cut if she didn’t do what they asked? Regardless, the showdown must go on.

Caroline prepared for the meeting like a warrior prepping for battle. She carefully adorned herself in jewels that could double as weapons and meticulously applied her war paint lest Danielle not know her true intentions. Danielle’s preparations were less aggressive: she called her energist Sarai to help her “drive [her] message home.” Who knew that these energy scans could be conducted over the phone? Thanks, Steve Jobs.

The meeting between Caroline and Danielle began as civilized as possible. The restaurant cleared out the dining room, anticipating a Kim G. level meltdown, or worse, North Jersey Country Club part 2. Caroline rehashed a speech she probably rehearsed with Dina, about how she was so much better than Danielle yet compassionate enough to feel she deserved to hear her side. Things took a turn for crazy when Caroline brought up dropping the charges against Ashley. If you want her to forget about an impending lawsuit, don’t you think you should make more of an effort than just meeting for lunch? Caroline believes that because Danielle has had her own legal issues in the past, she should feel bad for Ashley and drop the charges as not to mess with her future. (Um, what future? She doesn’t do anything!) Yes, Danielle could be some sort of twisted mentor to Ashley, but in her defense, the girl pulled her hair extensions! It’s not crazy that she doesn’t want anything to do with her, and it’s not mandatory that she drop the charges just because the Manzo matriarch asks her to.

But Caroline claimed that Ashley had integrity for admitting she was wrong, while Danielle had lied about the death threats she claimed were hurled around that night. “What have I done to attack you? One example right now,” Caroline asked. Rather than give an answer, Danielle threw the question back at Caroline: “Not your family, just you” she said, which is true considering this was the most screen time the two shared together in two seasons. “When I stand, I don’t stand alone, I stand with my family,” she said (which just wasn’t as a good as last year’s “Let me tell you something about my family, we’re as thick as thieves!”). By now, Caroline was visibly worked up, and was repeating herself, and continued to pester Danielle with questions.

This is how Danielle works, people. She manages to wiggle her way into even the most calm person’s psyche and gradually dismantles every little piece of normalcy and every element of reason, until they’re left as a big psychological mess — just like her. Danielle is also a member of the Tupac school of thought, where only God can judge her, not some stinkin’ Manzos, so don’t even try, Red. Caroline called her a clown, even though she’s the one with the red hair (don’t say Danielle’s not logical), and then finally dropped what we were all waiting for: “You will not hurt me. Do you know why? I have integrity, okay? And I sit here and tell you the truth, okay? And when I called you garbage, I meant it.” That was Danielle’s cue. Call her garbage once? She’ll sign up for season two, but call her garbage twice? Who knows (stay tuned).

Caroline looked a little immature with her “bye,” “have a nice life,” “you walked away from me” lines as Danielle left the restaurant. Instead of ridding this woman from their lives, it seems to be more about proving that they are right and she is garbage. Who cares? Albie graduated from police academy and Christopher wants to open a strip club/car wash! Celebrate! While Danielle waited for Jerry to bring the car around from the (handicapped?) parking spot, she gave the camera the best line of the night: “I’m not going to be called garbage by her or by anybody. Know your place Caroline. She ain’t no matriarch of my family, and I’ll tell you one other thing about her, she’s the clown, not me. Teresa’s husband’s a drunk! Jacqueline? Certifiable! And here’s a little message for Teresa: My kids wore lace and crinoline at those ages, okay? My dogs wore leopard. [shrugs, smirks] Just a little message there.”

Ashley continued to prove that she’s immature, unable to live on her own, and 20 years away from becoming a new version of Danielle. Her temper tantrum at the dinner table was worse than anything to be expected from Gia or Milania, as was her blaming it on the fact that she’s “stressed out” (from what?). Later, Saint Derek fed her lines for an insincere apology to her mother, and she couldn’t even pick up on the appropriate cue to go in for a hug? God Bless Derek and his patience. I wonder if he’s still around.

What did you think of the finale, PopWatchers? Am I crazy for thinking Danielle is a little in the right here? Were you surprised that Ashley got off with only a $189 fine?

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The Real Housewives of New Jersey

The Jersey housewives and extended clans keep the Garden State interesting.
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