Because you've watched television before — specifically epic multi-part Bravo reunions that tend to stretch the drama of a single hour over two, and two over three, and so on — you already knew that when Danielle Staub finally consented to join the other Jersey 'wives on the stage, it would be a letdown. She's as insufferable and out of touch with reality as always, and it stopped being interesting from even an anthropological standpoint so long ago that I'd really like Bravo and Andy Cohen to issue a notarized promise that she's not coming back to RHONJ.
But Teresa will be back, because Teresa's the star, but the producers know she has some image rehab to do on her own behavior before Season 11. As far as her relationship with Juicy Joe, what she knew about his cheating when, and how willing she is to hear the Gorgas talk trash about him, she does well. Pressed on her continued involvement with and defense of Danielle, Teresa does less well. Like, demonstrably (via freeze-framed footage) not well at all.
The end of the show's tenth season might have gotten lost in our current historical moment, but not to worry: I've got your five takeaways from the third and last RHONJ reunion episode...
Teresa has gotten a LOT better at admitting she screwed up. She's still not great at it, but she does seem to have developed at least a rudimentary ability to put herself in other people's shoes (like her comments about Juicy Joe only knowing one way, "a hard way," to express himself, which are surprisingly compassionate given how many "hard ways" Juicy has expressed himself to/about her). When Melissa cuts through Teresa's stammering about what made her finally turn on Danielle to sniff, "She told on you," Teresa doesn't deny it, and when Margaret sadly wonders why Teresa didn't reach out with an apology while all these episodes were airing, Teresa seems genuinely stricken, says she's sorry, and insists on a hug.
Okay, she also denies having seen the hair-pulling incident and claims she would have acted differently if she had, and she tries to blame her role in the kerfuffle on being "f*cking wasted," so she still has some work to do. But she's getting there.
Until she does, the producers are happy to sell her out. While Teresa's claiming that her back was turned during the actual ponytail-yank, so she didn't know how bad it was, and that she would have stopped it if she had known, we see footage of it occurring — with Teresa, face spotlighted in a freeze frame, so the audience can see that Teresa 1) absolutely saw the whole thing, and 2) was laughing. Pretty harsh when she's the show's "lead," but maybe the editors are as tired as I am of...
Andy Cohen going along with the Giudices' victim narrative. Don't get me wrong: I have a lot of respect for Andy, and I think people may not appreciate how difficult his job is, particularly at these contentious reunions, because he makes it look smooth and easy — and I'll get into more praise in a sec. Here, I'll point out that his willingness to go with the narrative of victimhood for Juicy and Teresa is getting really old. Teresa plays the old "they didn't just punish us, they punished the kids" card, and that is shitty and I do feel for the girls — but the grownups cheated, sucked at it, and got caught, and should have thought of what it might do to the kids before. Phrasings from Andy like "it seems like this family just can't catch a break" don't acknowledge the reality here, which is not in fact that Juicy and Tree got hit by lightning.
But man, is Andy a pro with Danielle's drama nonsense. Danielle — whose yes-man Marty is for some reason backing her up with extremely wooden and scripted-sounding pronouncements about the other 'wives ganging up on her — is still insisting that, as an "OG," she should get to sit next to Andy, and if she can't, she's not going on. Informed of this, Andy pretends to believe that Danielle's real concern is that she won't be able to hear him otherwise, what with everyone cross-talking; then he shrugs that he's not moving anyone, because the last time he sat her next to him, he got shoved by Teresa, so Danielle can come out or not, it's up to her. "I hope that I'll see you out there!," he says, and leaves, knowing full well she's bluffing. Sure enough, Danielle appears, performing frightened reluctance and only starting towards the stage when the "scene" is already underway. As experienced as Danielle is at forcing those around her to accommodate her reality-distortion field, Andy is even more of a pro at manipulating narcissists like her.
I can't decide if Danielle is truly unwell, or just an asshole. I do believe that she's not experiencing facts the way the rest of us do; her insisting that Margaret and Joe broke up her marriage to Marty because of remarks made after that divorce was finalized is typical Danielle. Ditto her admitting that she accused Marty of abuse, but refusing to talk about it further in an unsupportive environment, and describing the end of her relationship with her titled fiancé, Oliver, as her needing to "take care of me, and stop taking care of other people." I suspect what actually stopped in that instance was the rest of the world caring about their relationship once it moved behind closed treatment-facility doors, and when Danielle saw she'd get neither attention nor Euros out of sticking around, she "chose herself." Danielle has acted like a manipulative weirdo for so long, and with so few meaningful consequences, that she probably assumes she's a good person? But this is someone who can't wait to claim she's "triggered" by a topic so as not to have to engage with her own hypocrisy. And maybe she is triggered. But in the end, she's also an asshole.
...And that's a wrap for me on Season 10! Thanks for coming on this sparkly journey with me; be safe out there.
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Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity, and her work has appeared in Glamour and New York, and on MSNBC, NPR's Monkey See blog, MLB.com, and Yahoo!. She's also the editor-in-chief and publisher of Tomato Nation, and true-crime blog and podcast The Blotter Presents.