The Real Housewives of New York City recap: The return of Tinsley and her unseen footage
They say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But what if we never knew the Real Housewives reunion system was flawed until a global pandemic forced the Atlanta and Beverly Hills casts into tiny Zoom boxes where we could stare at their every facial expression and study their every eye-roll in a constantly rotating Brady Bunch grid of the future?
Listen, I appreciate that Dorinda had to stew in her own little club chair while everyone stared her directly in the eyeballs and told her she was mean, and of course it's always fun to see Tinsley's gown fill up an entire chair like a little girl pouting at her Pretty Pretty Princess birthday party…
But I was haunted by the tinny nature of the audio due to 100-foot ceilings of the Zarin Fabrics warehouse the women were gathered in, and I did not like that I could barely lay my eyes on anyone's shiny black outfit because every time two people argued, the camera had to zoom out to a space satellite to shoot the whole group, turning everyone into tiny specs and revealing that they were for some reason surrounded by dirty old rugs saved from the many floods of Sonja's townhouse.
But I guess I shouldn't be complaining about the visuals, because as far as content goes, the women of The Real Housewives of New York City gave us what we wanted — they almost always do. I mean, don't get me wrong: Dorinda didn't, like, open up about the emotional trauma that has caused her to lash out like an angry snake all season. And Ramona didn't fess up to being a socially incompetent citizen who has traveled for the entirety of quarantine or anything like that. But those topics were at least raised. Which leads us to our annual "Reunion Part 1" superlatives:
MOST SURPRISING NON-SEGMENT: COVID CONFRONTATIONS
Starting from the moment Ramona got out of her car in that clear Hannibal Lecter mask she's been sporting on Instagram, this became the definitive Reunion in the Time of Corona.
Still, I really was not expecting Ramona's bad COVID behavior to come up so quickly, and with so little prompting from Andy. The women of RHONY are historically pretty protective of one another's more privileged behavior, but not this time — not on Leah "Occupy Hamptons" McSweeney's watch! Andy can barely get Annie-from-Charleston's question about Leah's disgusted Instagram video before she's laying into Ramona in the present. "I don't even care if don't wear a mask," Leah tells Ramona. "It was more about the total lack of empathy for how many people are suffering in this country, in this world."
Empathy! From Ramona?! What a sweet summer thought, Leah.
But don't worry, Ramona has prepared a rock-solid defense. She says she woke up every day at 4 a.m. "to read all the horrific news," and that she and Avery were doing workout classes on Instagram and donating to charities, "and people would say we're inspirations." If anyone has ever called Ramona Singer an inspiration (other than Ramona Singer), I will buy 100 of those plastic Hannibal Lecter masks and eat them.
In addition to inspiring people, Ramona also says she was allowed to do whatever she wanted in Florida because it opened up 45 days earlier than New York — which, as we all know, went extremely well for Florida. Plus, Ramona says she already had COVID-19 (while also chanting later, "I don't have the virus! I don't have the virus!"). In February, Ramona was apparently sick from a sinus infection and Lyme disease, so when she tested positive for COVID antibodies months later, she and her doctor just decided that she probably had COVID in February. Her doctor's official diagnosis of her handy three-part illness, according to Ramona: "You're a strong damn girl, man." But I'm more in line with Sonja's thinking: "I think you're a walking petri dish, actually."
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: NEW GIRL NO MORE
In addition to fearlessly calling Ramona out any chance she gets, Leah has just turned in an all-around unprecedented first-time-Housewife performance this season. Leah expresses her appreciation of all the positive feedback she received from fans, especially during this particularly isolated time, and she also gives us some life updates, including that she's quit drinking again (but has no regrets about spending her nine months back on the sauce "with the funniest bitches ever") and upgraded her apartment. And thank goodness for Betsy-from-Charlotte, who gets us one more update by asking everyone's burning question: "Leah, please elaborate on the vagina wings."
Apparently, when Leah was a teenager, she took part in a hallucinogenic that took her "to another dimension of the universe" where she had purple wings. And when she came back to the current dimension, she wanted to get those wings tattooed on herself, but she thought getting them on her back would be too cliché. Thus: vagina wings. The absolute best part of this story though is not how wild it is, but watching all the other women try to act like they're totally cool with how wild it is. They are very cool, just like their new best friend Leah!!!
MOST SURPRISING SEGMENT: DRINK, DRANK, DRUNK
It would be impossible not to address the RHONY cast's prolific drinking in this season 12 reunion, but I was fairly surprised at how straightforward Andy was about it. After Leah shares that she's stopped drinking, he just straight-up segues into the next segment with, "On that note, the Real Housewives of New York City have a long and layered history with drinking." Cue the package of everyone slurring, falling out of chairs, and destroying seafood towers with their bare hands, and top it all off with Joe-from-Ohio asking, "Does anyone wish they did more to address some of their sloppier behavior?"
At this point in the reunion, Sonja and Leah have both addressed that they went overboard during the season and have since reeled it in, with Leah quitting drinking altogether and Sonja going on a cleanse (that got her stuck at a spa in Palm Springs for most of quarantine, and also included a facelift). So Andy points around the room to Leah, Luann, and Sonja, and says, "You've altered your behavior, you've altered your behavior, you've altered your behavior," and then he sets his sights on Dorinda: "Have you seen anything that's made you want to change your behavior drinking-wise, Dorinda?"
Reunions simply are not the time for subtlety, and I appreciate directly questioning Dorinda about how she plans to account for her many unwarranted outbursts throughout the season…
Of course, that doesn't mean she's going to do it. Dorinda starts in with her constant refrain about how "We all drink a lot" and "We all act differently outside of filming." Yes, Dorinda, but you're the only one who berates your co-workers within an inch of their life if they accidentally say the wrong thing, and "we all" know it. No amount of deflection is going to distract us from the behavior we've actually seen. To quote Dorinda later in the episode when she briefly lets her calm reunion demeanor slip and starts berating Tinsley again: "I believe half what I hear, and all of what I see." What we hear from Dorinda is every time Andy asks her a question about her drinking, she deflects the attention to Ramona, who she seems to blame for this entire narrative that she drinks too much.
"I mean, I'm not like Ramona, I'm not out drinking every single night," she responds when Andy asks if she's altered her behavior after watching the season. Nicole-from-New York says that Dorinda is clearly the angriest when she drinks, so why does she get so defensive when confronted about alcohol. "No, that's wrong, Ramona did that as a zinger," Dorinda replies, sort of… looking around the room at everyone like they'll all agree that Ramona invented this discourse on Dorinda's anger out of thin air.
Dorinda, who is very clearly scared and unwilling to acknowledge that she might not be able to control certain habits and certain emotions within herself, keeps taunting Ramona with, "Look at her, she's petrified — are you okay, darling, are you okay?" It's so weird! Of course Ramona doesn't have generous intentions when she brings up Dorinda's issues, but she's also not wrong. Andy finally demands that Dorinda answer a question without invoking Ramona's name, and she admits that she's "sensitive" when people bring up her drinking, "because I find it accusatory, maybe."
And it's almost as if we're getting somewhere until Dorinda adds, "Like, when Ramona's drinking or when Ramona's sleeping with all kinds of people, I try not to point that out." So this is Dorinda trying???
Andy asks again if Dorinda questions her relationship with alcohol when she watches the season, and she replies, "I think we all question our relationship with alcohol, there's not a person here who doesn't." Someone needs to tell Dorinda that just because she lived in London, that doesn't mean she gets to use the royal we all the time.
Plus, there is a clear difference in the way the other women question their relationship with alcohol, which is that they actually admit to it being an issue. It's really pretty remarkable to hear Luann talk about alcohol now, as compared to a few seasons ago. She says that she's stopped drinking again, but she doesn't want to put extra pressure on herself with a label: "It's such a thing for me and I have to watch myself — I'm very aware of it." Luann says she was completely embarrassed by the way she treated Sonja in the Berkshires, and it made her "have to evaluate [her] relationship with alcohol again." You know what that is? Growth.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: THE RETURN OF TINSDALE
And speaking of growth, despite leaving for Chicago midway through the season to pursue her dream life with the Coupon King of the Midwest, Tinsley has returned for this season 12 reunion. She says that quarantine has allowed her to be the real housewife she always wanted to be — and ironically, the one she couldn't be when she was a Real Housewife. Tinsley swears that Scott didn't issue any kind of ultimatum between himself and the show, she simply chose him because she wanted to. I believe this is what she really wanted, and this time around the other women seem to be supportive as well, although Lu points out that you can't really blame them for being skeptical at first.
Oh, sorry, I should have been more specific — the other women seem to be supportive of Tinsley, except for Dorinda, who was mad at Tinsley for being a part-time-New Yorker, and is now mad at Tinsley for leaving the show to be a full-time-Chicagoan. Because Tinsley cannot do anything right in Dorinda's book, ever.
The moment that Tinsley starts talking about her decision to leave the show and commit fully to her life with Scott, Dorinda starts monologuing about how Tinsley and Scott met on the show, so "Why is it so bad, then? You know your husband because of this show, so what, now he hates us? This is where you met him, seems kind of weird. Thank God for the show, you're welcome! Thank you, Bravo!"
MOST DELICIOUS REVELATION: 'UNSEEN FOOTAGE, SEASON 11'
So thank goodness Willa-from-Brooklyn finally asks the question we were thinking all season, right up until the very end when Dorinda went on a tirade at the mere mention of Tinsley's name: "Dorinda, what is your issue with Tinsley?"
Willa continues: "You talk about your charmed life as a wife, living down the road from Princess Diana in Kensington, but then you mock Tinsley for wanting to be a wife and have a family with Scott in Chicago. How is her situation any different?"
Extremely well stated, Willa-from-Brooklyn. Dorinda's rebuttal?
Well, first she avoids apologizing for the awful comment she made to Tinsley about using her turkey baster to get pregnant by saying, "Oh, are you having a problem getting pregnant? I'm sorry about that." When Tinsley says she's been shamed on the show for both wanting a baby and not having a baby, Dorinda says, "I'm just surprised you're not pregnant already, you've been talking about getting pregnant!"
When everyone yells at her to stop making a mockery of such a sensitive subject, Dorinda finally apologizes for the turkey baster comment, saying it was a bad joke, to which Andy (who had his own baby via surrogate last year) says no, it was just mean. To which Dorinda points around at the other women, and quips, "Well, they laughed!"
Okay, if you've been able to stomach all the cruelty to this point, you're about to be rewarded. Because when Dorinda tries to reason out her disdain for Tinsley by saying, "You guys only saw what was on the show, there was a lot of stuff with Tinsley that went on," Tinsley actually agrees with her. She says there was a lot that we didn't know about, like what she sees as the impetus for Dorinda's sudden turn on her. "After [Scott and I] had been broken up, in Miami in season 11, you and I got in a horrific fight that was not on camera," Tinsley says to Dorinda, (and a very eager Willa-and-Jodi-from-Brooklyn on their couches at home who have been wondering this very thing all season).
Apparently, the Miami argument came about when Tinsley revealed to Dorinda that "Scott had generously given John some money that [Dorinda] didn't know about." Dorinda tries to cut in that she doesn't know about any money passing between Scott and John, but Andy literally snaps at her, "Let her finish!" because like myself and Willa, he is jonesing for something — anything! — to explain Dorinda's attitude toward Tinsley.
Tinsley continues, saying that Dorinda felt betrayed by hearing the news about the money from her, "and the betrayal that you felt toward John manifested as anger toward me." She says that Dorinda called John screaming in Miami, and the producers didn't even want Tinsley to stay in the Miami house that night because they were concerned for her safety. And then she gives us this gorgeous line, straight out of a soap opera: "You turned on me the moment you found out John had that money."
Dorinda starts babbling that she was never involved in John's finances, and she never knew anything about any money passing between Scott and John, but the editors aren't having it…
They roll the clip. "UNSEEN FOOTAGE, SEASON 11," the title card reads, and then we see Dorinda, looking absolutely wild-eyed and red in the face, pacing up and down a hallway on her phone while Sonja watches fearfully. She's raging at John on the other end of the line: "Don't you ever run game behind my back, EVER! I don't want you to talk to Scott, he is not your friend! So when I say to don't do something, you better f—ing well listen!" It is full Carmela Soprano, and it is fully on camera, and it is a fascinating reveal.
Will we ever find out more about this mysterious money? I don't know. But I feel a small measure of peace knowing there's at least some specific reason behind Dorinda's behavior toward Tinsley — even if that reason isn't reasonable. Now, let's all go put a little hand-sanitizer-shine on our legs and prepare our minds for next week's "Reunion Part 2."
Ramona, LuAnn, Sonja, Carole, Heather, Kristen, and Dorinda — and oh, yes, Bethenny — are in a New York state of mind.