The season kicks off with three new big apples in the bunch. (Somewhere Jill Zarin is crying into her Skweezwear.)

By Karen Valby
June 05, 2012 at 12:20 PM EDT
David Giesbrecht /Bravo
  • TV Show

Oh Bravo. If you had to replace Jill Zarin—and you really, really had to—did you have to add insult to her injury by doing so with a woman who actually has a successful shape wear line? And if you had to replace Kelly Bensimon—another real obligation—didn’t you know it might burn to do so with a leggy New York Times best-seller with even better hair? Of course the network had to replace Cindy Barshop too, but they could have slotted in a still of Sonja’s intern rolling cat hair off the chairs and we’d have been satisfied. And somewhere in Brooklyn, Alex McCord, whose buggy oddness I’m going to miss a little, is taking a picture of new Housewife Aviva’s hair to her stylist as an example of what she wants.

Out with the old, in with the new intro lines. Welcome, Aviva! “Never underestimate a woman born and raised in New York City.” (Hmmm, got to jazz that up, ‘Viva.) “She’s poised and graceful and charming,” admired LuAnn, “you would never know that she had a handicap.” Handicapped people, always so lacking in charm. Aviva is an old friend of LuAnn’s, and her ex, who last season chortled at Sonja’s exposed derriere at her courtesan party, is an old friend of both Sonja and LuAnn’s. Watch her face cringe whenever his name comes out of their mouths. Watch it similarly cringe if there are ever dried apricots or diet sodas or anything else that she read an alarming email forward about in her midst. And then watch it turn child-like with fawning delight when Carole Radziwill enters the room.

Speaking of Carole, “I may be a princess but I’m definitely not a drama queen.” That sounds like something a Saturday Night Live guest cooked up on Watch What Happens Live, but it’ll do. Carole has a news background and ties to the Kennedy family (her deceased husband was the son of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ sister) and great hair and nobody, including her, really understands why she’s on this show. I don’t buy for one second that shot of her getting out of the Times Square subway station in stiletto heels. And all of the above impressive pedigree is negated somewhat by the fact that she had to write a story about the Kardashian sisters’ New Year’s resolutions. All that said, she spoke some rare truth during last night’s premiere when Aviva started talking about her four kids and Ramona started nodding her whippet head, declaring the job of a mother harder than any corporate job out there. Carole, who has beautiful lingerie instead of kids, goes to her bye-bye place when groups of women inevitably start sharing war stories of potty training or the playground. “I bet you it’s not even interesting for those who do have kids,” she said. (She’s right!, says this mother.) “I’m going to get a drink while you guys talk about kids,” she said. I’m going to use that line from now on too, even when I’m at kid birthday parties and the only options are a juice box or eight oz. water bottle.

The final new addition is Heather, who has the too-eager smile and the generic Disney princess hair of a woman who would get kicked off in week 2 of The Bachelor. “My success is built on making women look and feel their best.” Okay, so far, so good. “Holla!” Oh Lord. Heather is the queen of Yummy Tummie, and has either worked in the fashion business alongside the likes of Calvin Klein, Puff Daddy, and Beyonce, or she is the world’s most amazing photo bomber. Speaking of bombs, she has an unsettling habit of dropping them into conversation. “My Dad died on Friday. Yeah, it’s really hard. This drink is amazing. My son had a liver transplant at six months. OMG, I love your dress. I love my kids so much. That’s why I booked up a weekend nanny three months before the one was even born.” Does she want to have real conversations? Is she just nervous in front of the cameras and so is speaking in awkward, smiling sound bites? Has she not watched previous seasons of the Housewives to understand that one doesn’t talk about serious personal matters with Ramona, who goes twitchy when the subject is not her? She’s actually pretty shrewd in her private interviews—see: her scathing response to Ramona’s Learning Annex cover—but needs to bring some of that bite to her group interactions.

NEXT: “A little Sonja will spice up any party.”

The night kicked off in earnest with a little gathering at Sonja Morgan’s grand and vaguely decrepit townhouse. She was kvetching at her intern about the furry convention center-style chairs and the thirsty flowers, buzzing around in her white blouse and afternoon jeans, wondering if she had time for a quick romp upstairs with the bartender before her party. And by the way, she told us, flopping her hands down like Goldie Hawn in The First Wives Club, “The only thing worse than stale brioche at a party is stale guests.” How I’ve missed you, you dingaling floozy.

Tensions were high at the party, with LuAnn still rightfully bristling over all of Ramona’s previous digs at her parenting and her kids. So when Ramona and the ever-oozing Mario showed up even the Countess couldn’t muster up the artificial affection to air kiss Ramona, blaming her distance on a cold. Later LuAnn tried to approach Ramona, declaring in her haughty style that the two needed to talk and that Ramona had crossed the line with her. Ramona’s head started turning around, and her hand started fluttering in the air, and she yapped about how LuAnn started the whole thing and she really wasn’t in the mood and don’t go there with her and she’d had an unhappy childhood and an abusive father and she just says what everybody else is thinking. LuAnn, who looked cute in red pants, looked like she wanted to bop her on the head with a stale brioche. Sonja glided over, reminding every one of their hiatus promise to take the high road. “We are taking the high road!” she hissed. “And I’m taking the higher road.” Zing!

Meanwhile, Heather and Ramona had their first of many awkward conversations. Ramona, rooting around up Heather’s dress, wanted some of that Yummy Tummie action. “I would wear it in a heart flash,” she said, speaking Ramonese. Ramona has never been a listener and Heather is one of those people whose version of listening is loudly saying “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” when she finds a story boring. Oddly, these two, who clearly were never meant to be, later met in Sonja’s office. After hearing that Heather’s child needed a liver transplant at six months, Ramona upped the ante with a vomited-up tale of Avery’s traumatic birth. Just to seal the deal of their season enmity, Ramona then invited Heather to her Hamptons house for some of Sonja’s yellow meatballs and tequila shots and lessons in Singer etiquette. It’s not that you interrupt, said Ramona. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” smiled an increasingly peeved Heather. Fun pop quiz: Which one said this, and to whom does it apply? “This woman will not shut up.” All of the above!

NEXT: Sonja gets a look at Aviva’s legs.

Aviva and Sonja had an easier time bonding on a pedicure date. Hey, Sonja recognized Aviva’s bag. Eric Clapton used to bring it to lunch and then they’d go play pool. Before we had time to visualize such a nooner Aviva pulled a third leg out of said bag. See, she’s wearing her high heel leg and, wait, Sonja said, grasping her turtleneck, what’s with the legs? It turns out that when Aviva was six she snuck out on a sleepover date to ride the conveyor belt that moved the manure out of the barn with the cows. (She grew up in Brooklyn.) Anyways her foot got caught, she lost it, and now she has prosthetics that roll on like a condom. “Yeah!” murmured Sonja. While the pedicurist asked the prosthetic if it had any fun plans for the weekend, Sonja and Aviva made pleasant, strained talk about Aviva’s ex-husband. Look for this topic to boil over by, I’m guessing, episode 4.

Elsewhere in the Hamptons, LuAnn’s daughter Victoria was hosting her first art show in the garage. Dear Victoria seems to have grown more world-weary after a summer in Paris. Her art was dark, “but not evil,” she was quick to clarify. “I mean, life is not blissful 24/7,” she explained to a prospective client. LuAnn couldn’t help but telegraph her anxiety over the paintings. “Do you like them?” she asked Aviva, while the two looked cock-eyed at a tower of skulls. “You don’t have to say you like them. She has her own style.” Aviva told her seemingly nice guy husband to choose between the naked girl painting and the speared skull for the baby’s room.

How LuAnn held it together at the art show we’ll never know, as she later revealed to the new Housewives at lunch that she’d received a highly disturbing phone call from Ramona that weekend. Apparently someone had gotten s&@^-faced at Noel’s 15th birthday party. Clearly the girl had brought alcohol to the party or drank somewhere beforehand but she’d ended up passed out in the bushes, here’s where the story got fuzzy, one of Ramona’s spies found out and now Ramona was threatening to spill all of Noel and Victoria’s sordid secrets. “I know things about your children and I will tell the world,” she supposedly threatened. I’m totally confused. So was Carole. Anyways, LuAnn had to run! Being on the Housewives is like being in high school again, they agreed. “I don’t want us to become mean girls,” said Carole. No, never!

Well friends: What do you think of the new cast? Do you miss anyone from the old? Who bothered you the most? Who intrigued? Will Sonja and Ramona’s allegiance last the season? Do you sense any new ones forming? Most ridiculous line of the evening? I’ve got dibs on “heart flash.”

Ramona, LuAnn, Sonja, Carole, Heather, Kristen, and Dorinda—and oh, yes, Bethenny—are in a New York state of mind.
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