Leah throws a party, and Dorinda throws a party, and Sonja loves them all.

By Jodi Walker
August 28, 2020 at 12:39 AM EDT
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Pride is not an emotion I often feel while watching The Real Housewives of New York City. So color me shocked to find my heart growing three sizes as I watched Leah celebrate her company, Luann reflect on her father's struggles that mirror her own, and Sonja finally, finally put the townhouse on the market. Indeed, this little recapping heart grew all the way past snark, even beyond sass, and just straight onto pure happiness for the things (some of) these women have accomplished over the course of season 12. And, dare I say, it gave me a little hope that (some of) the others could grow in the future as well…

Don't get it too twisted, though. This surprisingly sweet episode still starts out with all the RHONY staples: Sonja monologuing to an intern about how they can just keep the dead flowers because they still look good, Dorinda demanding that her housekeeper tell her how cute her pink Christmas tree looked and then immediately lying down for a nap, Leah greeting her sister with "Hello, slut" on the phone, and of course Ramona putting together an outfit made entirely of beige metallics and then declaring that she should really be a stylist. Never change, New York!

And they never will.

Everyone is getting ready to attend Leah's 15th anniversary party for her streetwear brand, Married to the Mob. That includes Luann going over to Ramona's house for sushi so they can debrief how Luann talked to Dorinda about her anger in Mexico, but Dorinda didn't seem like she really cared. Plus, the Dorinda convo is just a Trojan horse so that Luann can deploy her actual reason for being there: finding out what happened between Ramona and Elyse…

Oh, had you forgotten about Elyse?! Me too. Even though Leah definitely likes Elyse (against all odds, considering how they started off), and Dorinda seems fine with her, it seems that Ramona has done her darnedest to keep Elyse off the show after some unknown crime against Ramona.

But much like when Ramona was running her defense on Leah after her birthday party, Ramona won't really say why she suddenly hates Elyse or what Elyse did that was so awful. When Luann asks about Elyse at lunch, Ramona literally runs away from the table, calling behind her that she has to go to the bathroom. It is cartoonery at its finest. The only concrete reason Ramona cites for disliking Elyse is that she started hopping around, trying to be friends with everyone else when Ramona brought her into the group. And somehow that turned into Ramona telling Luann after her fake trip to the bathroom, "I don't trust her, I think she's manipulative, I think she's not genuine, and um… she disgusts me."

Ramona also apparently thought she could tell Leah that she wasn't allowed to invite Elyse to her anniversary party — but Leah gave that a big ol' nope and invited her anyway. Indeed, Leah has invited all her friends to the party, but she says she's most nervous for the other RHONY women to attend. Of course, the difference between Ramona and Leah is that Ramona was nervous for Leah to come to her birthday party because she was worried she'd embarrass her, and Leah is nervous for Ramona to come to her party because she's worried she might not have a good time if there's not caviar.

But I guess it was Dorinda who Leah should have been most worried about, because when she arrives at this very hip downtown party full of Leah's hip downtown friends, she cannot stop saying that everyone else in the room looks like they're wearing their pajamas. Dorinda is clearly a little self-conscious about not fitting in with this younger crowd (looking like "Karen from HR" as she puts it, aptly), but instead of just saying that, she keeps clutching her fur coat and saying that sweatpants shouldn't be worn outside the house. To which Leah says in her testimonial: "Maybe Dorinda has never looked at my website, but I'm in business because of sweatpants and T-shirts."

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It's not until Luann arrives also dressed up and Dorinda yells for the 100th time, "I walked in and said these people need to go home and get dressed still," that Leah finally whispers to her, "Dorinda, these are my friends."

When Sonja arrives, however, she has found her people. The moment she walks in, she's chirping, "I'm friends with Leah," at the bouncers, and cooing, "Don't be scared, I don't bite," at every single young man she sees, which is… a lot of young men. When Leah finds Sonja, she is basically sitting in the lap of a man she assumes is "twenty… four?" and saying, "I never get invited to parties with hot guys!" She has been there for three minutes. It's amazing.

But it's also really sweet how Sonja keeps telling Leah how great her party is and how much she likes her friends — because that's how you should respond to a friend's party! You shouldn't insult all her guests' fashion choices, and you definitely shouldn't flee the scene like you just got the runs in Cartagena. Which brings us to Ramona…

Even though Ramona was given fair warning that Elyse would be at the party, her plan of dealing with it is clearly to just pretend Elyse doesn't exist. The moment Ramona arrives, she physically pulls Leah out of a conversation with Elyse and cheerfully says she can't wait to meet Leah's mom. So, Leah brings Bunny over, and they bond over how frustrating they find Leah — fun! The whole time, Elyse is lurking around in the background, which to be fair, has been her most dominant personality trait in the time we've known her: just a whole lotta lurkin'.

Elyse eventually moseys into the conversation, so Ramona tells Bunny goodbye and turns tail to walk away. Elyse grabs Ramona by the arm, and says, "Really, you're gonna pretend I'm not even standing here?"  Ramona snatches her arm back and giggles, "I don't even know who you are," and then Elyse grabs at her arm harder and yells, "Are you serious? You're gonna f—ing walk away like you don't know who I am?" Ramona continues to flee as Elyse continues to chase after her, saying, "You are a devious, nefarious, narcissistic, superficial bitch!" Ramona never once looks at Elyse, she just straight-up runs away from her, all the way back up the stairs and out of the party.

Leah runs after her, calling for Ramona to come back, but she doesn't even turn around to look at Leah — sister just flies out of the door in her metallic jeans.

Apparently, Ramona called Leah the next day to apologize, but when we see a flashback of the call, it's Ramona telling Leah that Bunny was nothing like she thought she'd be: "She's much smarter, I thought she was going to be like a simple person." In perhaps the best read of Ramona I've ever heard, Leah says in her testimonial, "Ramona doesn't mean to be one of the rudest people in the world — she just doesn't have any awareness of how socially awkward she is."

But no matter, everyone still has a good time after Ramona leaves. They dance and drink, and Leah gives a speech about how much she appreciates everyone in the room, followed by Bunny giving a speech about how proud she is of Leah for marching to the beat of her own drum. It's really sweet! In her testimonial, Leah says her heart is bursting with gratitude: "I have all these people who I've known for a very long time, and I have my new friends who are genuinely proud of me."

And as if I wasn't already going too soft, we then head to a meeting between Luann and her memoir ghostwriter. The ghostwriter tells Luann she can't believe how much story they have already, and Luann says, "My life was not an easy one — people think I come from this privileged background, and that couldn't be further from the truth." She talks about how her dad was "the river that runs through my life" and reveals that he struggled with alcohol as well, and went to prison. When Luann was arrested, she says it made her understand her late father in a new way. She shows Cheryl old photos, and talks about how AA saved his life and she'll "forever be proud of him for that." It's really sweet, and I just hope she keeps remembering all of it as she continues to experiment with drinking again, like at, ahem, Dorinda's birthday party…

Dorinda is hosting a birthday party for herself at a traditional Russian dining room, and she's very excited about how intimate it's going to be, with only her closest friends, as opposed to, say, 50-60 girlfriends. She's also invited John, which she's very defensive about in her testimonial, but it seems great to me if they're able to stay friends and be on the same page about that friendship, which it mostly seems that they are.

In a turn I truly could have never seen coming, Hannah enters the party wearing the matching coat to the sequined crocheted-quilt-look pants that Dorinda wore in Mexico. I know this can't be a popular opinion, but… I kind of like them?! And to continue the unlikely compliments, Dorinda really is the least offensive she's been all season for most of this episode, excluding a few rude comments at Leah's party. The woman loves to host, and at her own party she's gracious and hospitable, and pleasantly full of herself. There's only one small kerfuffle when Dorinda is trying to help Sonja close some the 200 open apps on her phone and Luann starts hollering across the table that they need to get off of their phones.

Dorinda tries to tell Luann what she was doing, but Luann is very insistent that she shouldn't be on a phone after what she said to Sonja in Mexico, which then sends Dorinda down a brief spiral, waving her clutch around at Luann saying, "I'm not on my phone, my phone is stuffed in my bag because that's what I do at a dinner party, Luann, because I throw dinner parties, because I know how to throw dinner parties."

But then… just like that, it's over. Dorinda doesn't fully spiral, which leads me to believe that if she cares about a night not being ruined, she can get herself back under control. I'm sad that Dorinda announced she's leaving RHONY because I remember how much fun Dorinda used to be, and how funny she still can be. But I also know that we've gotten less and less of the fun Dorinda over the last few seasons, and I genuinely hope that this departure (or maybe just a break!) will be good for her.

We get a glimpse of that old Dorinda when Luann suddenly procures a microphone out of nowhere and gives a long, rambling speech that she clearly thinks will move everyone to tears. And of course she caps it with this season's 100th rendition of Luann-singing-Marilyn Monroe-singing-"Happy Birthday." Dorinda smiles along at the party, and then in her testimonial does a wonderful little bit of physical comedy that I really can't do justice here, but basically, she's saying that Luann could pop up anywhere in New York City and start singing: "It's so on cue! 'Hey, it's your birthd — HAAAAaAaaAaaaaAPPY birthday to YOOOoooOoOoooOUUUU!"

The night ends with cheers and hugs, and it seems only fair that I let Dorinda close the recap out on this, her penultimate episode: "A little bit of vodka, a red room, some great music, and we're just those girls from New York City that ultimately like each other — there's a reason we've been together for such a long time." See you next week for the season finale, and then onto the socially distanced reunion!

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The Real Housewives of New York City

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

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