It's episode three and the blush is off the rose. Everyone continues to get more comfortable with everyone and what that actually means is that everyone now feels comfortable enough to figure out who they don't like. The twins go shopping with Melissa to talk shit about Amber. Amber and Melissa go to Teresa's and Amber talks shit about the twins. Amber's husband, Jim, has a boy's night with Nicole's boyfriend and unsuccessfully tries to find a polite way to never hang out with Juicy.
Do you want to hear something ironic? For all the fighting this season, as every season, a lot of this stuff is now about how a lot of these people really enjoy each other, and not just for money or sex or fame but because they are related and they have lived together for many years. I do not know who to like! I like everyone; the show has shoved them all down my throat, softly wrapped, one after the other, and they're all just struggling little devils so I swallow.
With the holidays complete, Teresa launches a new line of Fabulicious products, complete with a photo shoot and taste-testing cum party. Milania, the absolute worst character in the history of the franchise who is nonetheless a child living under a hot lamp, terrorizes the photographer before Dina shows up and showers everyone with Zen.
Melissa, realizing that now is the time, now is the hour, gives it to us straight about those desserts: "I'm a big fan of being blindfolded and having thing stuck in my mouth."
Amber—and stay with me; this becomes a pattern—builds up some good will and then squanders it a few breaths later. She apologizes to Teresa if any of the guests at her party were rude. Then, watching Teresa with Audriana, she begins to weep while sipping her wine. Yay, Amber! I thought. And then she wants to connect with Teresa on the level of her own battle with breast cancer in a way that is probably meant to be empathetic but cannot be anything other than what it is, which is me me me.
The other ladies freeze right up. Teresa asks, "Are you okay now?" and it's meant to mean like, you're in remission?; but the editing also suggests Teresa means, Are you ready to calm down now?
For some reason the twins can't make it to this shindig, so they invite the Giudices out to dinner instead and a merry time is had by all. Juicy tells the table that he does not like meeting new people usually, but these new people he likes.
Along the same axis but at its other end, Amber and Melissa go out to dinner to discuss the state of their friendship, which is a very official kind of thing friends do sometimes and it is always awkward but is especially awkward when the friends in question aren't even friends.
Melissa apologizes for not having been in touch and for that whole thing about The Cancer and they both use the verb "reconnect," like they are computers. A consensus is reached, but it will not hold.
With the girls out, Jim watches the kids with his friend Bobby, who is Nicole's boyfriend and kind of a huge queen (you'll see). Bobby tells Jim about a possible boys' night and Jim says, you know, I can't be seen out with someone who has been indicted for mortgage fraud because I work in mortgages. Optics are kind of everything.
They say all of this over red wine, so you think that some consensus here has also been reached, but then when the guys go bowling later (plus Rosie, and I'm not even touching the sexual/gender politics of her being included), Bobby isn't even able to come up with a good cover for why Jim didn't come.
Joe is pissed ("People take numbers to hang out with me") and immediately decides that Jim is a prick.
Fun fact about Jim: So far he seems gratefully uninteresting, like he is too much of a dad, you know. How he chides one of his sons about his schoolwork at the dinner table. How he gets everyone together to imagine the next commercial for their company. How he and Bobby sneak the kids fast food and homemade milk shakes when Amber is out.
Fun fact about Joe: He has invested a lot a lot a lot of money in a new trash collecting company wherein, with a new electric blue truck and all of its new equipment, he and Melissa will be able to shred ("smush," in her parlance) high-level government documents. Melissa is on board with this plan, mostly, though like the audience she has to be told what is going on more than once because this kind of thing did not even seem possible to me until about 8:03 p.m. Sunday. What Melissa does not really know is exactly how much money Joe has invested. A lot a lot a lot.
All of this is not to say that Jim is better than Joe or vice-versa, but just that in this all-for-one/one-for-all kind of season this kind of conflict becomes highlighted for its rarity and so is worth a little digression. Does Joe's head look more attractive to anyone else?
Dina, now only going to places and speaking to people that further burnish her immense inner peace, stops by the boutique where Lexi works so that they can both learn that Lexi has been rejected from NYU. They do a whole back and forth about what this means for Lexi's self worth (it doesn't, it does, I love you anyway, etc.) and Dina gives her a wristlet and reflects on their life together so far, but not really on how it will change.
And then a medium comes over. Really, just like that.
Dina invites her friend/professional medium James Van Praagh, who is an excellent sport, to her home, where they exchange the pleasantries that are apparently fuel for James' proclamations. He's a very spontaneous kind of truthsayer, slipping in foretellings (You're moving within two years, Dina!) between sips.
Teresa is also invited, heralding a lovely exchange where Dina previews her as, "My friend Teresa is coming over" and then asks James if he's met Teresa and he refers to her by her cookbooks, of all things. What a guy.
James tells Teresa that she'll come out of all legal trouble this just "fine," but that she will probably be moving soon, too, although she doesn't want to. Her husband though, James is less sure of. (The Giudices will be sentenced in September.)
At night's end, Melissa and the twins go shopping and Twin-Teresa is soon telling Melissa that the real reason Jim didn't come out to boys' night is because he doesn't want to be seen with Juicy. Melissa is really upset for really no reason, since it's not like Jim made this plainly known at a party. He told his friend Bobby who probably told his girlfriend who then probably told her twin sister. Here we are. Jim needs to "know his role," which continues Melissa streak of blistering self-awareness and also dims it simultaneously.
Melissa then pretty quickly decides to just come out and tell Nicole that she heard from Amber who heard it from "the grapevine" that Nicole broke up a family. Nicole denies it.
"WHAAAAAAAAAT," Nicole says.
Nicole gets Twin-Teresa together and orders her to buy her jeans because they are going over there right now, and so they do. (In all of this, we're treated to a brief moment at a New Jersey gas station where Nicole tries to wave down an attendant and do we even have time to talk about how ridiculous it is getting gas in Jersey?)
While the twins do make it all the way to Amber's home, both we and they are led to believe that the family is putting the kids to bed and then turning in themselves. So this maybe isn't the right moment. Nicole's back-up plan: At their next party, she'll confront Amber and make her apologize to every single person at the party. This is an excellent plan if you are the kind of person who takes immense pleasure in the formulation of plans regardless of their tethering to reality. Then Nicole screams.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH," Nicole says.
And so! Dina and Teresa and Melissa, the old guard, are all in agreement now that each is lovely and brave and that the individual thrashes and throws of life will not knock them down, dammit. They do not seem to really care for the twins, in the sense of inviting them places all of the time, but maybe soon.
Amber seems to have a lot going for her except that at least half the cast in this hour decided she was dirt. Like a switch being flipped, Amber is over. We'll finally have a fight.