Plus: Ramona reports on quarantine with Mario, and the Countess advises on etiquette in isolation.

In a moment of such uncertainty, when our screens are filled with sad news and stressful headlines, it is with gratitude that we cling to small familiar joys, to remind us of happier times and reassure us that there will be more again. Look for solace in beloved sitcoms. Inspiring lifestyle shows. And the Real Housewives of New York City raising hell in the Berkshires.

“There is an annual trip to the Berkshires, that’s given,” RHONY star Ramona Singer tells EW of the 12th season, which premieres Thursday. “And if I tell you what craziness happened… I mean, I can’t even give it away, because it’s too insane.”

That’s right, the Big Apple Bravolebrities return this week, and the dozenth round with this crowd of New Yorkers promises to be “the best season yet,” Luann de Lesseps tells EW — in part because of the departure of Real Housewives legend and Skinnygirl tycoon Bethenny Frankel, who announced last summer that she would be leaving the show after eight seasons (with a three-season gap in the middle) on the series’ main cast.

“Bethenny is a strong character, she’s a wonderful person, very accomplished, great TV, but I think it’s much better without her,” Singer says. “We had to walk on eggshells around her. You never know what would set her off. We weren’t able to show ourselves more because we were always under her scrutinization and her dominance. You know what I’m saying?”

“Like I said, it’s really the best season yet, because I feel like, you know, Bethenny takes up a lot of oxygen in the room,” adds de Lesseps (who describes the current status of her friendship with Frankel: “there is no status”). Without her, “you’ll get to know the women better and see more of them — and more of the newest Housewife.” That would be entrepreneur Leah McSweeney, a “great addition,” per the Countess. “She’s a tough New Yorker, she’s a mother, she’s a business owner, and at the same time, I think she’s very vulnerable.”

Singer has a different perspective on the new girl in the group. “The only way I can handle Leah, myself personally, is to think of her as my daughter,” she says. “I don’t relate to her as a peer… My relationship with her was more like an older, like an aunt, a young aunt, or like a mother. And I have high expectations for her, and I hold her to a different standard than everyone else because of that. And you’ll have to see how that played out.”

Credit: Sophy Holland/Bravo

For de Lesseps, this will be “a season of redemption,” she says, after having spent last year expanding her cabaret show (and talking about it a lot, much to the irritation of some of the other women) and working on her sobriety. “I’ve been through a lot and you’re going to see me come off probation and move on with my life. Finally!”

Happily, Singer invited all the girls to her birthday party this year, but that’s not the only change in store. Her storyline this season begins with “me at one moment becoming very raw and being very upset that I have no one in my life and I’m afraid that’ll never happen,” she explains. “And then you’ll have to go through my journey of how I deal with it. Actually, this season when I filmed, I just started in one place, and I ended up in another. I truly evolved in the months that we filmed.”

For the record, this does not mean that she finds love with her ex-husband Mario, who has reappeared in recent seasons and with whom the reality star is currently in quarantine, along with their daughter Avery. “We’re not together, we’re not going to get back together, but we are friends, and it’s working, so God bless us. We’re very blessed,” clarifies Singer, who is watching Game of Thrones every night with her new roommates. “He’s very kind, very giving. I just learned to never argue, because that doesn’t work. Just go ‘yes, yes, yes.’”

De Lesseps is also social distancing with her children, and is working on writing for her new cabaret show “Marry, F***, Kill,” the dates of which have been postponed due to the pandemic. Sadly, she does not plan to post any virtual cabaret shows for fans to watch at home, as “it’s a little difficult without my piano player,” she says. “I need Billy Stritch!”

Just because everyone is stuck inside, however, is no excuse to abandon etiquette. The Countess’ number one rule for keeping it classy in quarantine? “Hand-washing!” she cries. “And, you know, trying to get a fashionable mask.”

Travel with the ‘wives!

Feeling cooped up in quarantine? See the world from the comfort of your own couch by revisiting the New Yorkers' favorite RHONY getaways (plus EW's own picks). Just be sure to brace yourself for the room-assignment battle that kicks off each one…

LUANN: That trip to Morocco (season 4, episodes 8–10) is just so good. I mean, I almost died on a camel, but beside that — you know, the riad that we stayed in, just everything was an amazing, colorful, beautiful trip, and I think there was a lot of great storyline in that season in particular.

RAMONA: The one where we’re in the villa! Where it was all about the gummi bears and the candy and then Jill showed up (season 3, episodes 11–13). I mean, you can’t make up something like that. That was like, I’m telling you, that episode was unreal. And then also I think the one where we were in St. Barths (season 5, episodes 13–15), [where] Aviva and her husband showed up and she called us white trash, and Sonja and I were like, ‘what’s white trash, I don’t even know what that means.’ I told her to calm down, take a Xanax. That was a good one too.

EW: For more recent globetrotting, stream the ladies’ trip to Cartagena (season 10, episodes 15–17), including a doomed boat ride that Tinsley insisted was very normal. And a boozy vacay in Tequila, Mexico (season 9, episodes 16–18) is worth it for Luann’s spectacular tumble down the stairs alone. 

The Real Housewives of New York City returns Thursday at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

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