The Real Housewives of New York City recap: Tinsley who must not be named
Oh, what a laid-back little Christmas-season finale this almost was on The Real Housewives of New York City. We got to check in with some of our favorite side characters, like Martin the boxing instructor, who, in addition to wearing bandannas and never actually showing more than one square inch of his face, is now dabbling in sandwich-related humor. Plus, there was another run-in with the Only Living (Single) Man in New York, Ron, who now gets his own official entry in the Creeps of RHONY scrapbook.
We got to see Luann practicing a new song in the recording studio, one of my absolute favorite ways to watch people trying with all their might not to laugh; Dorinda palled around with her stylist, Luke (which always makes me miss Ladies of London, RIP); Sonja got to show off her renovated townhouse with 100 percent less thongs in the bidet and 100 percent more interns on every single floor (poor basement intern, though); Ramona puttered around her house mumbling about old Christmas cards; and Leah took Bunny and Kier to decorate gingerbread houses…
And all in all, it was just a quaint, jolly ol' time.
Y'know, right up until the last five minutes, when Dorinda absolutely flipped her lid and torpedoed the season's last hurrah over the mere mention — and I do mean mention — of Tinsley Mortimer.
Usually by the end of a RHONY season, the cast has been living out loud for so many episodes in a row that the finale is just a nice, easy wind-down. We get a chance to catch our breath before the reunion, and the cast gets to go to a holiday party, wear sparkles, and verbally accost a couple of shirtless bartenders while Luann performs a song that she deems a great personal success. So when all those things had already taken place and the text updates for each housewife's post-filming life had already rolled but there were still five minutes left in the episode, I was confused.
But after watching this season, I really should have known that Dorinda might still have some bitter rage up her sleeve (or sling, as it were), ready to unleash with only seconds left on the clock. And I definitely should have known that the editors would be sure to show said footage right before the reunion, just in case there was any lingering doubt that Dorinda's release from the franchise was the right call.
But before we get to all that, there's the other 55 minutes of this finale! We've made it almost an entire season without having to watch Luann do any cabaret, and that probably accounts for how much more tolerable she's been this season (that plus some actual personal growth). But in season 12's very last episode, not only are we treated to Luann's cabaret stylings, but we also get to see her head into the studio to record a new song. Truly, it has been too long since we've heard that sweet, sweet rasp coming at us, unencumbered by the aid of Auto-Tune. When I hear my Lu, I want to hear her off-key, out of tune, and not even able to stay in the pocket of a song written specifically for her range.
Luann is recording with a producer named Desmond Child, who has written songs such as "La Vida Loca," "Livin' on a Prayer," and now for Luann, "Viva la Diva." You have to appreciate a man who is not only a subject matter expert, but whose expertise exists within the confines of exactly three to four syllabic sounds.
Desmond tells Luann that "Viva la Diva" was written by "the Barbra team," as in Streisand, but Luann isn't threatened. She marches right into that recording booth and confidently talks her way through lines that I'm almost positive were supposed to be sung. And when Desmond asks her to lean into the deepness of her voice on the word "class," she just says it the exact same way over and over again until he finally gives up and assures her she's nailing it. There is a line in the song that says, "I told you money doesn't buy you class, but a diva has needs / See these? / They didn't grow on trees!" At that point, Luann gestures toward her breasts — which the song tells us did not grow on trees. Every moment of this recording session is a blessing.
It's definitely more purely enjoyable than seeing Luann do her actual cabaret show, which remains a tough watch. I absolutely give Luann credit for having the instincts to cash in on her RHONY fame and her statuesque frame to create something that people will undoubtedly pay money to see for at least two more years. But having to watch her stumble through jokes that rely on an extreme familiarity with the happenings of RHONY like how she fell in a bush three years ago, or how Harry Dubin… exists? It's not a super-good time.
But hey, this is just a showcase of Luann's new show for a handful of friends, and it becomes a lot more fun when Luann pulls Sonja on stage (hopefully in return for more than $200), and Sonja just does her thing. Unlike Lu, Sonja says she's "impromptu," and it might be a little annoying to hear Sonja insist that she "doesn't need a schtick, [she] comes up with new stuff all the time," if it weren't for the fact that she's right. Sonja is legitimately funny and quick on her feet, and I'd love to see her have a little bit more of Lu's branding instincts, and see Lu have a little bit more of Sonja's stage presence. Then maybe people would buy tickets to this thing for three more years.
After the practice show, Luann and Sonja retire to a weird empty room to have drinks with Leah and a few other friends. Dorinda couldn't come to the cabaret show because she had surgery on her hand and is still recovering, and Ramona couldn't make it because she didn't want to. Which Leah finds insulting, but she's also happy Ramona isn't there because she can "chew gum, and show [her] vagina to everybody without being judged for it." But she doesn't do either of those things.
Instead she… promotes an exercise class app in the middle of the episode?! While the sponsored app content is extremely obvious, I will admit that it was a little more streamlined than in the past when Dorinda and Luann saw Trolls 2 and went to lunch to talk about it, or whatever. Unfortunately, considering the current state of our nation, I don't think this app that helps you schedule group fitness classes really got their money's worth out of whatever they paid Bravo.
Finally, it's time for the last party of the season: Sonja's drag queen bingo to raise money for GLAAD. Now, the details on this party are a little vague, but the theme is definitely drag queens, which includes but is not limited to being a drag queen yourself, bringing a drag queen as your date, dressing like a drag queen, or even just teasing your hair out a bit. Luann repurposes her silver limo driver hat from Halloween, and there's a gorgeous little bit of camerawork that shows Luann getting ready in the background, with a statement necklace laid out on her bed in the foreground. Dorinda wears a sequin turban and metallic dress in hopes that they'll distract from her sling. And Leah pulls off a sort of Jessica Rabbit look, including a skintight metallic purple gown that I swear she told someone was her eighth-grade Christmas dress from 1995?
Either way, they all look the part, and Sonja — in a beehive hairdo encircled by a tiara — is thrilled to see them. However, when Ramona arrives in yet another copper skirt with a cream blouse, accompanied by a straight man, Sonja is not having it. It seems that this is also the first moment Ramona realizes there will be no straight men for her to hit on at this party, and I'm frankly shocked she didn't run out of the room like a cartoon roadrunner at that exact moment. I guess she was too busy being chastised by Sonja to make her escape, but I was likewise too distracted to even log what Sonja was saying because: WHY and HOW was Sonja carrying a Kyle by Alene Too shopping bag?
Has she saved it for the past two years under her sink and just brought it out tonight to carry some things over to this party? Did Kyle by Alene Too reopen? Is there an underground Kyle by Alene Too where only housewives can shop? Is Sonja going to open a Sonja by Sonja Morgan by Kyle by Alene Too shop of her very own? We demand answers!
Until then, Sonja gets up on stage to start the bingo, starting with this rousing speech: "The number-one message tonight is we're benefitting the LGBTQ+ community, and I just wanted to say: I don't know why you bring a straight guy to a LGBTQ thing!" Yes, Ron the straight man is still there creeping on Leah; yes, Sonja is still terrible at giving speeches; and yes, Ramona is about to pull out her phone for the second time in one night to litigate whether she misread a Paperless Post invitation.
But let's be honest, none of that really compares to what's coming after the bingo commences, and after Luann is finishes singing "Viva la Diva" two beats behind her own backing track, and after the cast updates roll on each housewife, informing us that while the facelift on Sonja's townhouse was not successful in helping it sell, the facelift on her actual face has been very successful.
With five minutes left in the finale, the housewives gather on the Housewives Couch™ to conclude the season with a round of toasts. Sonja cheers, "We're not Sex and the City, we're not Absolutely Fabulous, we're f—ing us!" Building off that, Leah thanks the women for welcoming her with open hearts, saying, "Tinsley introduced me to you guys, and — "
And that is as far as Leah gets before Dorinda is exclaiming, "No! I'm not doing this s—! F— you, I will not give Tinsley that!" She storms off at the mere mention of Tinsley's name, but then she storms right back with an interesting twist: "Tinsley didn't do s—, Tinsley almost ruined out show!" Dorinda gets right in Leah's face and hisses, "You're gonna give a toast to Tinsley Mortimer, who left the show and breached her contract and left over nothing? I WON'T!"
Oh, I see what's happening here. Tinsley wasn't interested in sticking around for the rest of the season because Dorinda was a relentless monster to her, so now Dorinda is going to continue to be a relentless monster in her absence in hopes that it will make it seem like Tinsley is the monster for breaking her contract and abandoning ship, and not because Dorinda made it completely undesirable for her to stay. I understand that this show is part of these women's livelihoods, and what the individuals do affects the group… but no one is buying that Tinsley nearly ruined this show that has been on for 12 seasons by gracefully leaving in the middle of her contract, clearly with Bravo's approval.
Especially when Dorinda is the one yelling at Leah, "YOU DON'T MENTION HER NAME!" I mean, seriously, what is up with Dorinda's Tinsley trigger? The woman's whole personality is having tiny dogs and liking ruffles, there's really not that much to despise. But there's no doubt that's exactly how Dorinda feels about Tinsley as she calls her a bitch over and over, and declares, "I am a principled person!" Luann jokingly says that Dorinda's hand in her sling seems to be working pretty well as she swings it in all their faces, and Dorinda cries back, "No it's not! It's sore! You should be appreciative of it!" Luann should be appreciative of her sore hand??? What is happening!?
Of all Dorinda's outbursts all season long, this might be the wildest and most unexpected — and they got it in the last five minutes of the last party on the last episode of the season before Dorinda's last reunion ever. I'm crossing my fingers for Dorinda that she's done some soul searching before next week's reunion and is ready to own up to some of her more egregious behavior. Because right now, I think we all feel like Leah as she checked her armpits and confirmed that she did indeed stink after stress-sweating her way through being screamed at for no reason.
To quote Luann after drag queen bingo has gone up in absolute flames: "Happy f—ing holidays." See you next week for part 1 of the RHONY reunion!
Ramona, LuAnn, Sonja, Carole, Heather, Kristen, and Dorinda — and oh, yes, Bethenny — are in a New York state of mind.