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You know things are about to go upside down when the RHONY editors show a white wine montage. The second Tinsley made it past her third glass of Sauv Blanc, we could only sit and wait for her outer child to come tearing through the screen, begging for empathy from the one person who simply cannot give it to her…

But the white wine montage, we know—she’s a friend of ours. Our kids went to preschool together on the Upper East Side, we have the same rabbi, there’s that one British detective series on Netflix that we know only we watch, so we text each other about that from time to time. No, it is no shock to see a white wine montage scroll across the screen on an episode of The Real Housewives of New York. But something else happened during tonight’s RHONY that was so startling, so jarring, I do not know if I’ll ever be able to look at Sonja or Dorinda the same way again.

One mention of Anne Hathaway? Okay, sure, she is an A-list actress who could casually come up in a scene between Dorinda and Sonja. TWO mentions of Anne Hathaway from Dorinda and Sonja Morgan as they exit an alleged early screening of the new Anne Hathaway film, The Hustle, and this recapper starts to get a little suspicious.

And please make no mistake—this was not one of those situations where in the middle of a commercial break, Carole and Ramona are suddenly wearing wigs and gabbin’ about Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. This isn’t Giggy Vanderpump spending one of his last good summers on The Secret Life of Pets 2 red carpet. This isn’t even Lisa Rinna in a legitimate Captain Marvel ad. This is The Hustle busting into our RHONY safe space and tricking us into being marketed to with all the subtlety of Luann…that’s it, that’s the comparison. With all the subtlety of Luann telling you how her cabaret is the biggest thing to happen to art and performance since… well, since Anne Hathaway in The Hustle, coming to theaters May 10th!

In an episode that features Tinsley weeping in doll makeup, Sonja doing a somersault in a cocktail dress, and Barbara K somehow being the one to get it through Ramona’s skull that she needs a filter…in a series that has seen Ramona walk a runway in Beetle Juice drag, Luann fall in a bush, Sonja live out of a hole in her king size bed because it’s the only place she could sniff her underwear to see if she can get another round out of it without getting covered in sawdust, and, of course, the iconic “don’t let it be about Tom” exchange…listening to these two broads try to naturally advertise a movie in the middle of a reality TV show was one of the wilder things to which we have ever bore witness.

The only thing I want advertised to me in an episode of RHONY are the benefits of botox and therapy, a deterrent for hubris, and SkinnyGirl mini muffins, do you hear me?

At one point, after Dorinda and Sonja left the theater and entered a restaurant, you think they’re done talking about how they can really relate to Anne Hathaway’s performance in The Hustle (oddly, they speak very little of Rebel Wilson, almost as if she’s offended them in some way), but no. They’ve just paused ever so briefly to order fish tacos, and now they’re back to talking about Anne Hathaway in The Hustle, comparing her ability to cry on command to Tinsley’s inability to not cry when demanded to stop.

Mostly, I’m curious about the logistic of this in-episode product placement. Does Bravo get The Hustle paycheck? Do they split it with Dorinda and Sonja, who are really doing the lion’s share of the Anne Hathaway advertising here? And now that I’ve also done their dirty work for them, should I be expecting a check from The Hustle and/or Bravo? Excuse me while I send a group DM to Anne Hathaway and Andy Cohen…

Okay, I’m back to tell you about how the rest of this episode is mostly fragile women in crisis. But first, a happy tale! One of Luann and Jill’s enduring friendship, which I’m a little wary of on account of Jill seeming to try to convince Luann that she just barely seems like an alcoholic after some recreational tennis. Luann, to her credit, is like, No I super am an alcoholic. But other than that, she’s doing great. As Lu will readily tell you, her cabaret show is going national and she’s “playing on all the biggest stages across the country.” The biggest…stages…across…the country, people.

Bethenny, on the other hand, is not doing well. Seven years later and she’s still dealing with her nightmare ex in a custody battle and divorce proceedings. Luckily, she’s victorious in the judge ruling that she doesn’t have to go through regular drug testing which could jeopardize one of her brand partnerships, but the whole process of going to court makes her realize how stressed out she is right now…

And you know what happens when Bethenny is overwhelmed—the hands are trembling, the voice is wavering, and she gets some kind of extremely painful looking facial peel that you simply must give her props for showing on camera. Beverly Hills could never. (New Jersey, of course, could—never forget that Siggy Flicker made her series debut, post-facelift, sucking lobster bisque through a straw). Bethenny is finally ready to sell off some of her SkinnyGirl empire, which means she gets her business partner to wheeling and dealing, and also means we’re treated to a 2009 clip of her O.G. SkinnyGirl hustle (a Hustle sequel, coming to a theater new you in 2021!) when a lady asked her where the rotisserie chickens were while she was schilling fat free cookies at a Whole Foods.

But the meat of this episode is Tinsley’s debut as guest ringmaster at The Big Apple Circus, which starts…apprehensively and ends in an absolute explosion of tears. Tinsley’s mother Dale has come to support her in that way that only Dale can: by bringing with her a Louis Vuitton lifetime full of measured love and unmet expectations. The relationship between Dale and Tinsley is often hard to watch, but also one of the more fascinating things in the current RHONY oeuvre. It’s so transparent to everyone on the outside and so elusive to the two people who live in it. Tinsley wants to be her own person and wants her mother to approve of that person. Dale wants to encourage Tinsley, but she only knows how to encourage her to be the person she wants her to be.

That this all goes down while Tinsley is dressed like a literal child is just too much.

For her role as ringmaster, Tinsley wears a pink dress and a big, puffy bow in her hair, and rouged cheeks. She descends onto the stage on a spinning ring which is very fun, and then she says “Welcome to the Big Apple Circus”…and that is it. And that is fine. Tinsley was always an odd choice for this role, as later proven when Sonja gets called onstage and has the audience howling for 10 straight minutes as she effortlessly plays the clown. Tinsley claps and claps for Sonja, but you just know…

Baby girl’s outer child is about to come tearing out, and what better way to self-sabotage yourself than by begging your mother to give her approval on how you’re living your life, when you know the only way your mother will ever approve of your life is if you are married to a millionaire, producing heirs. Dale can tell Tinsley that she’s doing the right thing breaking up with Scott, but she’s also going to tell her that she needs to move on immediately to the next person. Dale can pat Tinsley’s shoulder and tell her she did a good job while she drunkenly weeps, but she’s also going to tell her to “stop it” every time Tinsley mentions that she’s desperately depressed at a time when she thinks she should be happy.

You see what Tinsley wants from her mother; you see what Dale wants for her daughter…

Tinsley and her mother rocking back and forth as Dale coos, “You’re my little girl, you’ll always be my little girl” is a real Sharp Objects of a doozy to end on, folks. I’d love to suggest something to lift your spirits after all that darkness, like maybe a fun female romp full of accents and intrigue; maybe something with an excellent Anne Hathaway performance…

Ah, Princess Diaries 2, that’s what I was trying to think of! A young Chris Pine with swoopy hair is in it—enjoy!

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