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 last week's RHONJ power rankings.
S10, E02: "On Lock Down"
Another week, another RHONJ episode devoted to distracting Teresa from problems she and Joe brought on themselves...this week, everyone's agreed to pretend that Joe "should be" released from custody and home with his family instead of in an ICE detention center. It's hard to feel sorry for him OR Teresa -- despite a montage of Teresa angstily working out, scored with sad piano -- but it's clear their daughters are having a hard time. It probably doesn't help that they have to drag their asses out of bed for a visit from Jim, Joe's attorney, intended to explain to "them" (actually the viewers) what's going on with their father.
Jennifer's also trying to get her daughter through a hard time, specifically bullying from her former friend group (though how anyone could turn on a young lady whose reaction to early-morning exercise is "ew," I do not know), but doesn't see how Jackie might have felt slighted by the same kind of behavior from Jennifer.
And everyone's trying to get through a literal obstacle course, intended by Dolores as a fun outing to get Teresa's mind off things. Alas, because it's "Teresa's day," Jackie gets uninvited -- a job Teresa leaves for Melissa to do -- and Teresa and her dumb topknot drag Danielle back into the mix instead. Danielle is feuding with Jennifer over Jennifer's use of her "real" name, Beverly; Margaret has renewed her feud with Danielle because Danielle stole Margaret's friend's boyfriend two weeks after finalizing her divorce from Marty; and Teresa is trying to feud with Margaret because Margaret called Danielle a whore at lunch. Never mind that Danielle called Margaret a whore first -- or that Teresa called Danielle a whore in the most famous RHONJ sequence of all time.
Who wins a medal and who gets the (fake) booby prize this week? Your power rankings for Episode 2...
(Note: family members and other ancillary "characters" are grouped with their respective Housewives, so if, say, Margaret's husband is awesome in a given week -- usually a safe bet, actually -- he contributes to her ranking. Science!)
1. Margaret. I can't imagine how infuriating Danielle must be in person, given how irritating she is secondhand onscreen -- but it's just not worth it to try to best her in these situations, because Danielle very clearly does not experience reality the way most of the rest of us do. At least Marge Jr. doesn't make a big deal out of finishing first in the obstacle course, but having to cede the win to dumb baby Teresa because it's Teresa's "day." [Last week: 1]
2. Melissa. Seems to be positioning herself in opposition to an impending Teresa heel turn, taking Jackie's side against Teresa with the invitation to the obstacle course, and snarking on Teresa's "friendship" with Danielle. Her fortieth birthday blowout promises to be the producers funneling booze and personality conflicts towards each other using a less flimsy pretext than usual, but Melissa tries her best to sell it (and to keep Danielle off the guest list). Also, does anyone else get the feeling nobody on Team Gorga tried too hard to get Joe's book-launch party moved to another day? [Last week: 3]
3. Jackie. She's not in the episode much, thanks to the Queen Tree, but she's a shot of energy every time she's onscreen. There's something about a newer Housewife doing what she's been cast to do -- in this case, drive a wedge between the sisters-in-law by declining to back down from Teresa -- but coming from a sincere emotional place with it instead of just hitting her marks. [Last week: 4]
4. Dolores. Dolo was my favorite, once upon a time, so her willingness to go along with any damn production whim in order to get screentime makes me sad. If it's not this dullsville non-story about her and Frank Sr. building her boyfriend's house, which Dolores may or may not move into, it's her pretending she had anything to do with planning Teresa's Laughter Is The Best Medicine Fun Day, then acting like Danielle had a right to freak out on Jennifer for asking about her birth name. And let's face it: she clocks Margaret for asking Teresa straight out how she's doing with the Joe situation, but if Margaret had kept it to small talk, Dolores would have judged her for that too. [Last week: 2]
5. Jennifer. Her line about Danielle getting on all fours, "which she's very good at," to help Teresa over a wall on the course is classic Jennifer: shitty to another woman, and not that funny. But despite not seeing the parallels between her own behavior and that of her daughter's school nemeses, she's very sweet with Gabriella on their walk -- and very matter-of-fact in busting Danielle for lying about their dust-up over Danielle's name. (And her stated rationale for not inviting Danielle to her husband's plastic-surgery event last week is more diplomatic than some commentators might have been about, you know, many of Danielle's procedures making a terrible advertisement for the industry as a whole.) [Last week: 5]
6. Teresa. Look, if anyone's dumb enough not to see why Danielle is a capital-P Problem, it's Teresa -- and if anyone's enough of a franchise team player to see why Danielle being a capital-P Problem makes good TV, and go along with it, it's Teresa. But it's still hard to watch her unwittingly throw fuel on the fire of a personality disorder. It's even harder to watch her daughters remind her (in impatient tones that suggest it's not the first time, or the tenth) that their parents' dumbshit choices have caused them genuine pain and loss. It's one thing if she's an ass to other grown-ups, but her dimwittedness about her children's individual emotional struggles is another (saddest of all, the kids seem resigned to it). [Last week: 6]
7. Danielle. I'm not entirely comfortable ranking a person who is unwell, but if production is going to bring her back, and feed her lines to try to zing Margaret, she should do better with her delivery, and insist on fake lashes that don't look like she stole them from that creepy Genesis video. [Last week: n/a]
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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.