The Real Housewives of New York City
Credit: Heidi Gutman/Bravo

Nothing says New York Housewives like starting the episode with an argument, ending the episode with an argument, and weeding through enough past traumas in between to last any other franchise a lif—well, actually, no. Any other franchise would just never go there. Can you imagine anyone on Beverly Hills talking about their traumatic childhoods or their haunted relationships with where they come from over cocktails?

But that’s just what RHONY is. It’s like watching The Haunting of Hill House except each week they go to a new haunted vacation home, Sonja has a new sexual encounter with a ghost she mistook for Harry Dubin, and the Bent Neck Lady is actually just Jill Zarin peering through a window, hoping to get an invite to sleep on the counter of Luann’s guest kitchen. Maybe it’s because the New York women have to wear more sleeves due to the harsh winters, but they simply wear it all right there on their Pucci shoulders: their insecurities, their traumas, their heartbreaks, their instabilities, their narcissism…

If they can’t mask it with Botox, they can’t mask it. And that’s what I love about them. Listening to Luann talk in circles for 45 minutes trying desperately not to apologize to Bethenny for talking s–t about her parenting practices after the cabaret incident, only for Luann to land on this little diddy — “Well, I’m glad you came, and I’m sorry you missed me because I would have loved for you to see me”—it’s simply incredible!

I mean, Luann isn’t incredible, she’s a monster. But again, if you enjoyed the psychological terrors of Haunting of Hill House, you’re gonna love this.

The episode opens right where the last one left off, with Bethenny trying to explain to Luann why she should not be angry with her for coming to support her at her cabaret show and ultimately having to leave because Luann performed way later than she said she would and never gave her friends any updates about when she’d be coming onstage. Luann eventually concedes that she should have let her know it was going to be later, but it was beyond her control. Bethenny responds with a measure of patience that makes me wonder if she’s been wearing an earpiece all season with Oprah on the other end coaching her: “I get it, but don’t then say something negative about my daughter.”

Luann then pulls out the only argument she seems to have, which she finds entirely valid: “I was hurt to know that no one was there to celebrate my performance.” This is when the room finally erupts to yell at Luann that they were literally all there to support her, and only Bethenny had to leave before her performance, and that is because she went onstage extremely late without ever telling any of them!!! AHHHH, it makes me feel like an insane person listening to her not understand how desperately incorrect she is in this situation.

Tinsley, who is just mumbling straight fire under her breath for this entire trip nails it on the head when she says, “You were just so concerned about yourself, you didn’t even know we were all there.” If Bethenny had stayed, Luann wouldn’t have marked it down as a positive, it just would have been a wash: as far as Luann is concerned, everyone else was put on earth to either celebrate or support her. When Luann later says to Bethenny, after Bethenny tells her that she feels like she’s been a pretty good friend to her, “And I want that to continue because I want this to be a friendship I can trust,” I truly almost turned off the TV and sent in my RHONY-recapper-resignation.

This woman has undone me, and yet somehow she has not undone Bethenny, who is baffled, but not actively ripping her own hair out when she says, “But it’s not you—it needs to be a friendship I can trust because I have been straight up 100.”

And then this lady…this absolute wild-woman of a person has the nerve to say, “I feel like Bethenny helping me has given her the right to use the get-out-of-jail-free card, and she’s just overusing the card.” Luann, let me be clear with you here: there is no jail for women who came to their friend’s cabaret Halloween party for three hours and then eventually left because their friend never came onstage and they had to relieve their babysitter. That’s actually like a deficit of jail time. Bethenny could steal a gas range from your home and be in the clear because, well, you’d still have one gas range left over, and she’s earned the right to do so.

I understand not wanting someone to hold the help they freely gave against you. But Bethenny stepped in when Luann was a the height of a manic episode, got her a lawyer, paid for rehab, and the only thing she has asked in return is that Luann not be negative about her child and call her “Queen B” behind her back. It’s a pretty good deal if you ask me! But Luann would never ask me. Because as Dorinda says, “I don’t think Luann has ever thought she needed to apologize for anything in her entire life—including her arrest.” But somehow Bethenny listens to the calming mantras Oprah is chanting in her ear and ultimately accepts “I just miss your support and I know you were there for me, and I should have said that” as Luann’s version of an apology and moves on.

Dorinda, Bethenny, and Tinsley head to the hotel where they’re staying, and Ramona meets them following her birthday party that she didn’t invite anyone too. But none of the women are too hard on her about it because she soon starts telling them that Rhinebeck, New York, where they’re meeting the others for dinner, is where she grew up. And her memories aren’t exactly fond. Ramona can be a real caricature of a person, but to see her go through the complex emotions of wanting to remember he family fondly, but also knowing there was a lot of pain there, much of it unresolved, certainly colors in a lot of the lines.

Of course, there’s also the fact that Ramona feels the need to make sweeping statements, like when they go to eat at a restaurant Ramona used to go to with her family, and she declares that they’re eating at the exact same table because there’s only one six-person table in the restaurant, even though the very limited camera angle reveals at least two other six-person tables. But whatever, we can let a few things slide tonight. Well, some of us can. After Ramona has just finished telling the hotel women that her father intentionally kept her out of his will and left everything to her siblings, the house women join them, and Sonja (who has somehow flat-ironed her hair into the villain from The Incredibles) immediately starts in on Ramona about not being invited to her birthday party earlier…

Which Ramona immediately lies about not having control over, helpfully supported by the editors with a clip of her telling her other friend not to invite Sonja even though she wanted to. Because giving us a window into her rough childhood doesn’t suddenly make her not Ramona. She’s going to do hurtful things and then lie about them, but as she opens up about after dinner, she’s also had a lot of hurtful things done to her in her life.

The plan was for everyone to go to the cabaret show of an 80-year-old woman named Margarita back in Kingston (which Ramona has taken the time to tell Luann is a “depressed” town, no matter how many times Luan counters with “no it’s hip, it’s the Sag Harbor of upstate”), but Bethenny, Dorinda, and Ramona finally put their foot down, saying they have had more cabaret than they can handle at this point. I felt a little bad for Luann because she was excited about her plan, but then I re-read the first half of this recap, and watched the scene at the Kingston cabaret, and realized this was all just a ploy to make Luann and cabaret seem like they are a bigger deal than they are.

The many, many gay men that Luann has gathered there seem fun enough, but they had very clearly been gathered, and Margarita has very clearly been brought in from somewhere (like, I dunno, the animated film The Emperor’s New Groove). Margarita went on to hack her way through “Money Can’t Buy You Class,” and that was the only song we heard her sing for what seemed like hours and hours. It did not seem fun for anyone but Luann. Barbara did somehow managed to find the only straight man in the room—who was incredibly hot by the way, go Babs—though, make out with him, and maybe start a business deal too. And even though my allegiances are obviously to Sonja, I loved how jealous it made her. Sonja is weird about men!

Tinsley kicked herself for being too nice, wishing she had stayed back with the other women instead, but honestly, I’m glad she didn’t—I’m not sure she could have handled it. These broads have 10-20 years of dealing with their past shit on her, and Ramona and Bethenny sharing with each other about their similar childhoods with abusive fathers and manipulative family members no longer seemed to come from a place of pain so much as a place of growth. “We are the product of our parents’ unresolved issues,” Bethenny says, “But we get to be the mother we want to be—I think we broke the chain.” It’s a really special moment between three single mothers raising only-daughters, just trying to do their best, no matter what examples their pasts hold…

And that all comes tumbling rapidly down the next morning when everyone reconvenes at Luann’s house for breakfast. Dorinda announces that it’s about time for her crew to head out, which Ramona makes the mistake of making a face about, and that’s it: the thin veil of forgiveness that Dorinda had been holding up drops completely and all of the sudden we’re bringing out Angel Ball grievances and—shudder—the speech incident with Bridey.

Of course, I know her as Bridey, because her name was a much-discussed topic for an hour of my life two weeks ago, and also because I am a human who can remember someone’s name. Ramona and Dorinda just call her “the girl” when going back and forth about who was interrupting during the speech and who was just getting their point across. The answer, of course, is: I do not have the strength to relive that absolute nightmare zone.

And this all somehow gets resolved by Ramona and Sonja realizing it was Sonja who first planted the seed that Dorinda was upset about Ramona interrupting her during the speech (???), and so it’s Sonja who was causing trouble. Bethenny laughs that Dennis used to always marvel at how fast things could change in their group, and it’s kind of sweet that they’ve gone from screaming at each other to reminiscing about Bethenny’s departed friend in what is literally a matter of 30 seconds. I simply can’t wait to see what next week holds (or drops, as it were).

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