Each Monday, Eli Yudin and Carey O'Donnell, authors of the very, very funny Twitter account @NotTildaSwinton, will be recapping the Real Housewives of New Jersey for us. Below, their next installment.
Eli: The animal kingdom is the source of this week's healing at Miraval, which is Navajo for "hot Ramada Inn." In order to connect with each other, the Jerz crew must first connect with a horse. Melissa starts to comment on the fact that she's tired of therapy and crying and would like to just drink by the pool in a bikini, and I have to say, I kind of connect with her. If this was my birthday weekend, I wouldn't be super pumped about it. I like to have deep emotional conversations MY way, which is in the backyard of my apartment at 4:30am with brass monkeys. Either way, the gang all gets herded into what I can only describe as a horse enclosure, and they meet a man who looks like he settled the West. There's also a horse there, and it turns out that they're going to be doing a form of therapy where the horse acts as some sort of emotional barometer -- depending on how easily he lets them clean his hooves. Which sounds crazy until you watch how well it works. I will say that I wouldn't do this at all, because I am terrified of horses. I don't know why people trust them. They're massive animals, their legs are basically muscular wrecking balls, and they have giant teeth...not my favorite. I can't be around a horse without being very aware of how easily it could gravely injure me. Their lips are like velvet curtains of death. I think it's because when I was a Cub Scout, at the insistence of my troop leader, I tried to pet a horse, and it bit one of my fingernails in half. Sorry horses, but your one guy fucked it up for all of you.
Carey: Horses are the tool of healing in this episode, and our handyman of healing is Wyatt, the equine therapist. EQUINE THERAPIST. Wyatt the equine therapist. Say that out loud right now; when I say "out loud" I don't mean "loud." Whisper it, actually. Turn all the lights off in your bedroom and say it as your oscillating fan drones. We are all going to die someday. ANYWAY! Apparently Wyatt is known for this method where he brings a person up to stand next to a horse and tells that person they're weak or some other terribly predictable and vague thing that only therapists on reality television say. If the person is "authentic," the horse can apparently sense that and allows them to lift their leg up to clean shit out of their hoof. Okay. Wyatt is a cross between Dr. Phil and Willie Nelson. He has this humble self-righteousness in his possibly affected western accent. I went on Miraval's website, just to see if it actually had a website, and under the category is our man WYATT. Wyatt is under a category called "Equine" and he charges $150 for 2.5 hour horse therapy seshes. Wyatt also doesn't appear to have a last name. His information section also reminds guests to take their Miraval water bottles to his workshops. REMEMBER THAT. Most of the crew eats up the horse stuff right up, and are super excited to scrape some poo. Caroline mentions in a confessional interview that she LOVES horses. "I love horses!" she says. I then imagined Caroline doodling muscular centaurs in her notebook in junior high then getting embarrassed and excited after she was finished drawing them. Chris and Ro-Ro are the first to go, and the horse named "Cracker" decides they've opened up enough to Wyatt to lift its ginormous leg. Rosie starts crying within minutes and talks about how she thinks she's not good enough in her family because she's a lesbian and single and reaching middle age. I will marry you, Rosie. I really will. Melissa comes up next. She's really over all the therapy and just wants to drink alcohol and wear bikinis. I don't really blame her. There are only so many trust falls. Wyatt can't seem to crack Melissa's aloof attitude, and throws some lame duds like "You do so much for other people, but not yourself" and "Someone has hurt you," and Melissa is like, "Uh yeah I guess," and adjusts her tank top.
Eli: However, whatever Wyatt's doing, it seems to be working to some extent. I also like Wyatt for being one of the few professionals on the show who truly seems to not give a shit that these people are on television, which no one should. All they really did to be on TV in the first place is fight dramatically. When Rich pipes up near the beginning, he counters with a "You make jokes because you're afraid to open up," which is not exactly a groundbreaking deduction, but clearly is effective enough that we don't hear any more trademark Rich quips for the remainder of the session. This is great because I really don't need to hear jokes about fucking a horse. Whatever your opinions on equine therapy -- of which I assume you probably don't have any, because why would you? -- the therapy is pretty effective. We even get rare moments of emotional honesty from Al and Juicy Joe. We find out that Juicy Joe is genuinely frightened of his impending jail sentencing. We also find that his nipples are very disconcerting, as they sort of hang lazily off the underside of his moobs, and get whiter towards the end like mechanical pencil erasers. Al reveals that he was abused (not the sexual kind) as a child, which we were led to believe was going to be a huge affair, but is really a short admission in between strategic adjustments of his BLK hat. The editing of the preview last week also was clearly targeted to suggest it was sexual abuse, which I'm sure the producers were hoping for, because that's how most reality TV works. I remember one of Kurt Vonnegut's 8 writing tips: "Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them--in order that the reader may see what they are made of." In this case, it is the producers, hoping for awful things to happen to their characters. Unfortunately, their characters are real people, and the awful things have real consequences. I think that's part of what disconcerts me about these sort of shows, is imagining the producers in the editing room, and when Al admits he went through emotional abuse, them pumping their fists, thinking, "Jackpot." This is a grim medium. Any story needs conflict to be interesting, but this isn't a book where the last page locks the characters into suspension. This is a story that, even when the show is cancelled, and the only memories of it are GIFs and bargain bin books, the lives of the people involved will have been permanently altered. They'll still be dealing with the fact that they decided to take their own personal business and sell it as a commodity. We on some Faust shit, y'all.
Carey: I think the most "clever"/gross moment was when steak ball Juicy Joe walks off during Kathy and Rich's sad therapy moment to take a phone call. The editing made it seem like Joe was off chit-chatting with one of his alleged girlfriends like that horrible, truly painful moment in a vineyard during last season's jaunt to Napa. Joe begins to coo and ask, "What are youuuu doiiiing?" in a flirty way. Teresa trails behind him like she did in the vineyard last year. As she approaches, Joe says, "Oh, no," only to reveal the mystery caller was MILANIA. This is indicated when Teresa says, "HI MILANIA" HI MILANIA AND NOT JOE'S GIRLFRIEND. Oh man! All this while my stomach hurt as I watched Teresa trailing after her husband into another humiliating trap like last season when it turned out to just be a genuinely sweet moment between two parents and their child. GODAMMIT. "Ha!" the show's editors cackled at me. "Duuuuuuuuumb!" They yelled at me, "You thought Joe was going to call Teresa a c**t again while hiding in a vineyard to talk to his mistress! Only this time he's not in a vineyard! He's in the desert at a spa run by people with no last names! But you see, we made it SEEM like that was going to happen to show you that you're just as bad as we are. You're THIRSTING for more just like WE are. Foaming at the mouth. You want MORE. You want to see MORE alleged infidelity, MORE husbands calling their wives c**ts, and MORE prostitution whores and MORE legal woes and MORE home foreclosures and MORE Kim Ds and MORE crow Kim Ds. RIGHTTTTT??? YEAH? YOU WANT THAT???? AW YEAH, FUCK YEAH. WE ALL LOVE BLOOD." Later Teresa and Joe hit the hot tub, and Joe continues to show a more vulnerable, relatable side as he voices more concern about his growing legal woes. Teresa, who earlier told her brother and sister-in-law that she has "no insecurities or problems," says, "My husband is a truthful guy and doesn't deserve any of this." At one point, there is this wonderfully real moment where she quickly drops her eyes down and then back up again after saying this obviously ridiculous and false statement. It's all very sad to watch retroactively, as their days of appearances at cooking emporiums in strip malls and book signings in the tri-state area are fading as fast as Teresa's future outfit options, which are most likely just to be lots of orange, very soon.
Eli: We're all just sitting at the coliseum, except this time the weapons are back-handed compliments and carefully calculated snubs, and the beheadings are all emotional. After the horse therapy -- as I wished a loving goodbye to Wyatt, whom I now consider a father figure -- they went back to their sleeping cells in the desert to wade in various pools while drinking red wine slowly. The next morning Jacqueline and Chris sit down to breakfast and discuss Teresa's karma remarks. I have to say he's definitely not the most exciting character on the show, but I love Chris with every ventricle of my heart. I love him because he seems to be the only one as sick of all this as I am. I love him the same way I love the one child in a school recital who is aware that what they are "playing" is barely even a suggestion of the song that the program ASSURES you is being performed. Good ol' cynicism just makes me feel bubbly inside. The next activity that Miraval provides is the most overtly racist, which features a token Native American that they probably found on craigslist, having the crew bang drums in unison to do, I don't know, something. At one point Kathy asked, "Are you Navajo?" and he replied, with a quietness sort of like, "Yes, but don't tell anyone," or "Yes, but this entire ceremony has turned my heritage into a recreational activity with an hourly fee."
Carey: They all bang away on the bongos, attempting to reenact a beating heart. "I like this!" Teresa says. "I feel like I'm a Navajo right now!" Indeed, the entire purpose of the colonization of America was so Teresa could say this. Then they go inside and drink more wine. Juicy Joe pretends to be a horse and Gorgon Joe sits on his back and everyone laughs. Teresa drags Jacqueline out on the patio for another "burning ceremony" (aka writing down some bullshit on a piece of paper and throw it into a bowl-shaped fireplace). Jacqueline again mentions how she unnecessarily took Teresa's comment about bad karma being transferred onto your children as Teresa accusing Jacqueline of causing Nicholas's autism. Teresa is like, "Noooooo waaaaaay" in a raspy, high pitch shriek. Then they burn a piece of paper and hug -- carrying on this uneasy truce. Why are we supposed to care about this friendship being mended? I legitimately do not understand. Lucy and Ethel, they are not.
Eli: Next week they burn a horse!