Join us every Thursday morning for Sarah D. Bunting's Real Housewives of New Jersey Power Rankings, wherein she ranks the RHONJ women (and their families) based on the events of last night's episode. Click here to view earlier RHONJ power rankings.
S10, E14: "Something in the Water"
After a segment on Gia and Frank Jr.'s prom date -- and not for nothing, but my actual wedding was not this elaborate, or comprehensively photographed (Gia looks fantastic, though) -- it's time to tag Danielle back into the drama. On the eve of the couples' trip to the Jersey shore, Danielle appears for a coffee date with Teresa, and asks a series of questions clearly scripted to 1) catch Teresa in half-lies about why she and Danielle haven't been hanging out, and 2) ramp up Danielle's delusions of persecution.
But Danielle's semi-threatening announcement that she'll be down the shore at the same time as the rest of the 'wives will have to wait until Jennifer's brother, Steven, has a heartwarming rapprochement with their conservative mom at his charity cabaret event -- and until Dolores and David have yet another stagey conversation about his level of commitment. Genuine emotional arcs thus dispensed with, it's time for all the couples -- sans David, who's "on call," and Jackie's husband Evan, who's coming later for reasons he declines to specify -- to pile into Escalades and head to the 609 to lay the groundwork for the season's homestretch of conflict.
Joe Gorga's and Bill Aydin's beef is squashed early and efficiently, and an all-skate conversation about Joe Giudice's extracurricular activities is met by Teresa with surprising equanimity, in that she actually admits -- well, to the extent Teresa can admit these kinds of things -- that Juicy for sure cheated on her, but their daughters' love for him won't let her cut him dead.
It seems like anyone could get cut dead before this trip is over, though. Your Episode 14 power rankings...
1. Dolores. I remain a little weirded out by the Frank Jr./Gia relationship, because I get the sense that he's more into her than she is to him -- and that he's too old for her, maybe? But it's the right call to bring Frank Sr. on the trip (whatever David's "commitment narrative" is, he can't handle this group's boozy cross-talk combat), not least because he's making eggs for everyone, speaking sugar-free truth about Juicy's treatment of Teresa...and eating the novelty couple cupcakes because he's hungry. With that said, if you have to take sides in the Jennifer/Melissa flap, don't make it because Melissa "started it." Tequila started it, don't get it twisted. [Last week: 1]
2. Jackie. Barely registers in the episode, comparatively, but let's give her family some points for the team: her husband smartly arranges to reduce his exposure to this "fun" weekend in Point Pleasant; and her eight-year-old objects to losing some kind of sportsball championship with "it fucking sucks!" Hee. [Last week: 4]
3. Teresa. I was impressed that she admitted what we've all more or less known for years: that Juicy cheated on her, and that she knew about it but felt unable to make a move. I was less impressed that, when her brother was making (for him, reasonably witty) comments about it later, she did the Teresa Clench and decided it wasn't funny. And it isn't, but this is not the person to be arbitrating black humor -- or, let's face it, to be the liaison between Danielle and the rest of the group. Tree's having what looks like an overdue moment of terrified reckoning with Danielle's chaotic evil, and her inability to mediate it. Good luck? [Last week: 3]
4. Melissa. You have to wonder what the producers' meetings look like with these two, especially Joey. What exactly are they being told in terms of stirring the pot? Whatever the case, while they're sweetly supportive at Gia's pre-prom bash, their machinations once the couples' trip starts seem pretty clumsy and obvious: Joe squashes it with Bill, but promptly oversteps with his sister; Melissa talks big about Jennifer and Danielle, but her heart isn't really in it. I've been predicting a heel turn from Team Gorga all season; is the show going to let that happen or not? (Completely unrelated, and this doesn't contribute to Team Gorga's ranking, but is it me, or is Melissa almost unrecognizable in those old photos they showed from the summer she and Joey met?) [Last week: 6]
5. Jennifer. I'm happy for her brother that their mom came through for Steven socially and emotionally, and I respect that Bill didn't back down about Joey Gorga's disrespect, but accepted Joey's apology. But Bill clocking her for drinking too much, while not really doing anything about it, rubs me the wrong way; don't try to take care of that business in front of the group. And if Jennifer doesn't want Margaret to start in on her, maybe she shouldn't jump in with a dismissive comment when Margaret is trying to establish common ground with Teresa. [Last week: 5]
6. Margaret. Her fashion is on point; Joe B. is always a value-add; other than that, this week she's a disappointment. Everyone else in the group has sided with her about Danielle, who is a stressor at best; almost everyone else also agrees with her that Jennifer has no filter and takes things too far. Why have another big reaction about Danielle, or bait Jennifer by saying she doesn't work when she's home with five kids? Why not just sit back smugly and let everything play out? [Last week: 2]
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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!. Find her at her true-crime newsletter, Best Evidence, and on TV podcasts Extra Hot Great and Again With This.