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New Nose, Same Fights on The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Season 12 Premiere

Jennifer is feeling on the outs of the group as we re-convene, and everybody's busy talking about Teresa's new man.
  • (Photo: Bravo)
    (Photo: Bravo)

    Can it be that we're already back with The Real Housewives of New Jersey for another summer (for them, not us) of pineapple cocktails, husband drama, and table-flipping fights? Of all the longest-running Housewives franchises, New Jersey is the one, historically, with the strongest cast stability. Over 12 seasons, the show has only had 15 total main cast members, and they're currently on their fourth consecutive season with the current lineup of Teresa Giudice, her sister-in-law Melissa Gorga, Dolores Catania, Margaret Josephs, Jennifer Aydin, and Jackie Goldschneider. With that comes its advantages, of course. The drama that we're getting between these women has been stewing for ages, gaining complexity and depth and a certain funk that you can only get from very expensive aged cheeses or fermented vegetables.

    The downside to this is that these women have been having the same fights for four years, or — in the case of Teresa and Melissa — ten seasons now. Often, alliances and allegiances on these shows will shift and re-shape. The Talls vs. the Smalls on Atlanta couldn't survive Phaedra's betrayal of Kandi. The alliances on Beverly Hills seem to switch up every season. But here we are, back in New Jersey, and once again we're promised a season of Melissa vs. Jennifer, Teresa vs. Margaret, Teresa vs. Melissa, and a Dolores vs. Jackie moment that is new but not necessarily surprising considering it's usually Dolores siding with Teresa and Jen against Jackie, Margaret, and Melissa.

    There are a few new wrinkles in store as the season opens up, and unfortunately one of them is that the househusbands are now a stand-up comedy revue? Leave it to Joe Gorga to find a way to parlay the Housewives fame he's always been thirsty for into a side-hustle where he gets to be a big star on stage. The Jersey househusbands are by far the most visible in the entire franchise, mostly thanks to Joe, who's been right in the middle of Teresa-Melissa drama from the beginning. In recent seasons, he's found his camera-hungry match in Dolores's ex-husband Frank, and they've managed to rope the other husbands into everything from boys' trips to on-screen nudity.

    Joe's either at or near the center of three setups for drama in the season premiere. In the first, he's managed to run afoul of all four of Teresa's daughters for the things he said about their scumbag father (his words!) last season. Meanwhile, Melissa and Jen are in an Instagram feud in which Jen, among other things, called Joe a crook. And finally, Joe made a joke about Teresa's new boyfriend in his stand-up "act," a faux pas that has him so nervous about his sister's wrath that he's considering not going to Teresa's big yard party.

    Teresa's beau, Luis, is fixing to be a major source of drama this season. Teresa is head over heels and planning to move in with him, but tabloid headlines about his playboy past abound, not to mention a weird video floating around of him begging an ex-girlfriend to take him back. It's all spoken of very vaguely and in hushed tones by the other women, but the point is that Teresa's man has given the other women reason to gossip about her, which is never good.

    The episode's other major conflict revolves around Jen, who is on the outside looking in at the group as the season begins. This can't come as a huge surprise to her since she spent last season's reunion going after Margaret, Jackie, and Melissa at various points. Over the off-season she got a long-awaited nose job, and the result is … significant. She shows up to Teresa's party with her nose literally upturned, and after initially trying to mend fences with Jackie — who's mad that Jen tried to drive a wedge between Jackie and Margaret last season — she ends up getting into a fight with Margaret … and that's before Melissa, who seems to hate her most of all, even enters the fray.

    There's also the small matter of new friend-of-the-housewives Traci Johnson, who is married to former NFL star Tiki Barber and who spends a large chunk of her screen time trying to paper over the controversy where Barber left his pregnant wife for Johnson. Whether she gets more interesting that this is to be determined.

    So, yes, the Jersey wives are back in action. And yes, they've all assumed their familiar battle stations. Jen remains the wild card who could bust everything open if she really wanted to. Maybe her her nose will lead her in some fun new directions. If Melissa doesn't end up tearing it off.

    The Real Housewives of New Jersey Season 12 airs on Bravo Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM ET, beginning February 1st. Episodes stream the next day on Peacock.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Bravo, Jennifer Aydin, Margaret Josephs, Melissa Gorga, Teresa Giudice