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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

RHONJ Finale Review

Article from

By:Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger
The "Real Housewives of New Jersey" finale opened with a meeting awash in portent and dread. The heads of all the famiiles were there -- Caroline Manzo, Teresa Giudice, Jacqueline Laurita, Emilio Barzini and Phillip Tattaglia. Hey, is that Johnny Fontane on the sound system? ... whoops, wrong work of fiction. And sadly, that's all this season was -- an elaborately staged costume drama with too many leading ladies and not nearly enough plot.

You can argue that this is Bravo's modus operandi, but at least in the first season of "Real Housewives of New Jersey," there was a sense of ... well, wonder is probably too strong word, but possibility? Who are these women, what do they know about each other, and how are they going to interact? It devolved rapidly into Danielle Staub vs. the world, of course, but at least it went somewhere. This season has been one long rehash, punctuated with bracing interludes of sheer insanity (sometimes sickening, sometimes, well, entertaining yet sickening), but still, primarily Danielle vs. the world. The other gals said countless times how sick they were of talking about Danielle, yet every time they gathered together, who did they talk about? It's not like Teresa didn't have other things on her mind.

One silver lining: It does seem like the ladies (and Bravo) are actually putting this long-suffering plotline to rest. Add on rumors that Danielle Staub either was fired or may refuse to return for a third season, and the fact that wacky neighbor Kim Granatell -- Mrs. Roper in a minidress -- is showing up for the two-part reunion show, and there's hope for some fresh mental illness next season.

The Meeting of the Five Families: Okay, so it was technically only three, but overdo the Godfather/Sopranos iconography much? I know that most of the references are courtesy of Danielle -- and c'mon, who didn't love her mangled "Caroline, you're not Carmelo" comment -- but Caroline certainly relishes the Don Corleone role, no matter how much she protests any family connections to the Mafia. Caroline tells the other housewives and their families that she's tired of watching them "battle this lunatic," citing the rumors that Danielle has allegedly spread about Teresa's dream home being foreclosed upon, how she let her friend call Chris Manzo a gay slur, and "the Dina situation" (details, please!). Caroline says she's going to talk to Danielle and attempt to reason with her to drop the charges against Ashley Holmes, Jacqueline's daughter, stemming from the contretemps at the North Jersey Country Club last year. In exchange, Caroline wants to be able to promise Danielle that all her family and friends will stay out of her way. "The only loose cannon we have here in Ashley," Caroline says in voiceover.

"Real Brats of New Jersey": Jacqueline and husband Chris have yet another sit-down with Ashley about keeping her distance from Danielle. To her credit, Ashley does not say "whatever" once. She does, however, roll her eyes, sigh dramatically, and all but stick out her tongue at her parents. "I don't think Ashley understood that it's time to move on," Jacqueline says. Ya think?

Bracing for battle: Danny Provenzano drops by Danielle's house for the express purpose of fleshing out the Godfather imagery. Is Caroline secretly behind Teresa and Jacqueline's shenanigans, Danielle wonders. "It would have to be their boss, no? I mean, Caroline?... She's the strongest. She's their boss," Danny says. "The puppeteer is Caroline. She's the ruling party, there's no question about that. They do what she dictates. I believe that." Um, based on what, exactly? Has he even met Caroline once? Danny promises to provide Danielle with security during the confrontation with Caroline. Possibly in the form of a gun hidden behind a toilet in the bathroom?

"Real Brats," part two: Everyone but Caroline and Danielle are gathered at the Brownstone to await the outcome of the meeting. Everyone is rehashing Danielle's past, saying that she should know what it's like it to be a young kid who had done a dumb thing, but Ashley just does not want to hear it again and tells her mother that. "You have a mouth on you. You need to control that Ashley," Jacqueline tells her. They bicker a little more, and then Ashley is up and outta there. She retreats to the bathroom. Chris Laurita and Ashley's boyfriend Derek smartly retreat to the bar, where Chris essentially tells him to shut Ashley up. Derek pretty much agrees to do so. After a pep talk from Lauren Manzo, Ashley pulls herself together and apologizes to her mother (not without some coaching from Derek).

Battle Royale: As far as fights go, this one was pretty toothless. Danielle is escorted into the restaurant by her boyguard. A coiffed and bejeweled Caroline is waiting. The two agree that they are both tired of this nonsense, and that they're setting lousy examples for their children. The meeting of the minds comes to a screeching halt when Caroline asks Danielle to consider dropping the charges against Ashley, although Caroline does say that what Ashley did was "dead wrong." Caroline says that Ashley never threatened to kill Danielle, as Danielle told police. "Tell the truth, then I'll respect you," Caroline says. "Amazingly, I don't need you to validate my life," Danielle tells her, and wonders why Caroline and her family and friends keep attacking her. But when Caroline asks her to name one thing she has done to attack her, Danielle is stumped and changes the subject: "What have I ever done to you?" "Jacqueline is me," Caroline says. "Dina is me. Lexi is me. Ashley is me. When I stand, I don't stand alone. I stand with my family." There's more blah blah blah, and then Caroline delivers her coup de grace ... well, let's go to the videotape (okay, the stenotype):

Caroline: You know what you are? You're a clown.

Danielle (disbelievingly, then barely keeping a straight face): I'm a clown. Really?

Caroline: Your whole life is a joke.

Danielle: You're saying this, sitting there with red hair? I'm the clown?

Caroline: Yes, you are.

Danielle: Really?

Caroline: Yeah. No matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, no matter who you talk to, okay, you will not hurt me. Do you know why? I have integrity, okay, and I sit here and I tell you the truth, okay? And when I called you garbage, I meant you were garbage."

It's no table flip, folks.

The show closes out with epilogues for our cast members. You know most of them already -- Danielle, memoir, pop song, sex tape; Ashley, $189 fine for assault; and Teresa, bestselling author and bankruptcy poster child, who still maintains that her house is not in foreclosure. Which is kind of like a woman in a wig denying she has hair extensions. Or something.

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