Film/TV

Recap: Penny, the Desert Ballerina

by Eli Yudin & Carey O'Donnell
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: Well, apparently the producers had a Tarantino binge over the past week, because they've decided to start this week's episode with Joe throwing a glass at the wall and then to cut to the cryptic "10 hours ago" title. We're left to wonder, "WHAT COULD MAKE JOE GORGA THROW HIS GLASS LIKE THAT," which would be more thrilling if there weren't about a hundred reasons that Joe Gorga would throw a glass at the wall. Most of the rewind just helps to inform us exactly how everyone got drunk in those 10 hours. Either way, we then find ourselves in the Gorga bed-cell the morning of Melissa's birthday, where she's woken up by a face-ful of Trademark Gorga Flesh (now 10% bubblier). Then Teresa walks in and for a second we think this will all turn into one incestuous nightmare that will be available for purchase from Vivid in a few weeks. Thankfully my eyeballs narrowly escape the level of corrosive chemicals I would have to pour into them, and it's just a normal interaction -- by which I mean still filled with strange sexual energy. Teresa gifts Melissa silk panties with a peace sign embroidered over the vagina flap -- which I assume is correct undie terminology and is also a very weird gift to give your sister-in-law. I feel like gifts between family members shouldn't involve something that gets the other one hard, but perhaps I'm just stuck in my old-fashioned ways and don't understand this new age of free sexuality. (I blame that goddamn Wood-Stock Festival and Dubstep!!)

Carey: Earlier that morning, Gorgon Joe wakes his bride up by wishing her a happy birthday, "dipping" his rear-end on her crotch, and sucking her toes. Nice. Teresa barges in with a coffee and a birthday goodie bag for Melis; her eyes widen watching her bro and his wife canoodle, and she says something like, "Oh my gaaaaaaahd," like they're teenagers again and Teresa barges in on them while they dry hump in their darkened basement. She sits on their bed and Joe keeps on toe-suckin' and it's terrifying and awkward. Her gift to Melissa is silk, black lingerie; thank God Melissa decided to make this even more terrible. "Lingerie with a peace sign ain't gonna make it betta," Melissa says of Tre's not-so-subtle peace offering. Shut up, Melissa. SHUT UP. Outside, Kath, Creepy Rich, and Empress Rosie take a stroll through the cacti. "Yo, I'm all f*cked up from that horse shit," Ro-Ro says, reflecting on the previous day's equine therapy with garbage sage Wyatt. Kathy then brings up Rosie's unnecessary toast later that night, where she asks everyone to be nice to Kathy. "After the drum ceremony..." Kathy begins. Yes, after the drum ceremony. I'm going to begin every conversation with that this week. She feels like she doesn't need Ro prodding everyone to make them give a shit about Kathy, that she can do it on her own. The quicker Kathy accepts her role as "miscellaneous," the easier this will be for everyone else. Rich decides to peace out from the morning stroll to find the rest of da guys, and kisses both Kathy and his sister-in-law "on the lips," as he says, planting a big juicy kiss with his big juicy fish lips on Rosie. It's cool, though! Right, Rich? Cause Rosie's a big ol' lesbian! She don't caaaare when you kiss her, or grab her boobies, or grab her ass! She don't mind at all! GRAB AWAY!

Eli: After kissing everybody on dem lips, Rich vanishes into the desert, presumably to fuck a cactus. "Looks like somebody's enjoying themselves!" he whispers to a coyote. His spent flaccid dick covered in agave nectar, Rich puts his polo back on, pops the collar, and heads to the pool. Meanwhile the female squadron heads to the Body Mindfulness Center, a.k.a. the BMC, a.k.a. the BM Center, a.k.a. The Mindly Body Center for Mindfulness About Centering Your Body Center. This is a tennis court. Rosie and Melissa face off against Kathy and Teresa, all wearing clothing they apparently found in the Olivia Newton John section of Kohl's. This is all supervised by the Head Body Center Mindful Tennis Mind Instructor, Leigh Weinraub, who has the first name of a country club admissions officer and the last name of one of the Jewish families she would reject. Teresa is unsurprisingly a sore loser. The guys gather around the pool, chatting, jumping, splashing, and drinking what look like wheatgrass margaritas. Wheatgrass margaritas actually wouldn't surprise me, since they seem pretty in line with Miraval's strategy of healing all day and then, at night, supplying enough alcohol to get a state school fraternity put on social probation.

Carey: Now it's time for more TEAMBUILDINGGGGG. The crew is delivered back to Connor, the perky camp counselor type with strawbs-blonde hair and a surprising amount of chest follicles. Their last test of trust is a ropes course, with a bunch of tall wood poles and tight ropes that pairs of two will have to inch across using each other for physical support/balance. Before anyone climbs the ladder up, Teresa stares above her, her green eyes gleaming in the blanched sun. "This the hardest fuckin thing I've ever done," she yells. No one address her, except Rosie, who calls her a pussy. Connor grins. "We want you to be scared," he says. Miraval wants you afraid, you see. It wants your fear; it wants to swallow you whole, dragging you beneath the sand and into the bedrock. The first two to volunteer are Tre and brudda Joe. They walk across the rope, and everyone keeps yelling "Tre!" and "Lean, Tre!" and Teresa lets out a vulture squeal. From then on, it's just quick clips of each pair (minus Caroline who's afraid of heights) walking for like 10 feet and then falling. When Juicy Joe falls, he squirms around like a sad Cirque de Soleil clown as the harnesses lower him. That was my favorite part. Tre and Melissa are the last to go up: it's supposed to be the "climax" of the trust therapy seshes. They do their job and walk the allotted amount of tight rope, but of course Caroline has to note that "there was somethin' missing between them." Caroline, please, just stop talking. Stop coining tired, universal sayings about family and honor, and just get through this pretend-healing trip and go on back to New Jersey. No one wants these people to actually like each other. You would not have a show if these people liked each other. Just let us have it, LET US HAVE IT. After this final fake "challenge," they head back to the mausoleum for Melissa's bday dinner and draaaaaanks.

Eli: The whole rope thing reminded me of when I worked as a counselor at a summer camp climbing wall, and worked at the "Leap of Faith" which was basically a half-assed bungee jump. It was 20% standing at the top of a telephone pole for a few hours and 80% convincing smaller children that they would be fine, probably. The dinner itself is a thing of tension. I would say that the dinner had more tension than the wires they were walking on, but I'm better than that. (I'm not.) As Carey touched on, Caroline's in full Terrible Sensei mode, reaching a climax when, during a perfectly nice drunken post-dinner haze, from her lush-like pile on the couch, she brings everything to a screeching halt so Joe and Teresa can confront each other. Joe does spill, explaining he does think Teresa talked to Fucking Penny about their relationship, which Teresa still denies. In fact, as the conversation progresses, I actually start to believe Teresa, which is a first, and genuinely feel bad for her, which is a second first. This may all actually be the orchestrations of Fucking Penny, who I'm sure had to change panties after getting this much airtime. We finally arrive at the point of Joe Gorga's champagne glass fastball. He retreats to the bedroom to calm down, and is brought back out when he's screamed all the fire out of his lungs. It seems he'll accept Teresa's statement that she had nothing to do with it, and it ends with a furious mob-like mutual hatred for Fucking Penny. If I were her I would start wearing Kevlar and get a food taster.

Carey: PENNY! Penny is mentioned again, and still, no one knows who she is. "Ya mean, Penny?!" Teresa asks at one point during Joe's slow-burner meltdown. "Yes," Penny said softly, waiting outside in the brush behind the room they drank champagne in. "Yes!" Penny whispered, then skipped on the tip of her toes -- a skeleton ballerina, twirling in the desert blackness. There is never a moon where Penny is. "Ha!" she yells at an armadillo, trudging past her as quickly as it can. This could be her desert, she thinks, not Miraval Carol's, or Horse f*cker Wyatt. 'This will be mine,' she thinks. Kim D the crow, digging her talons onto the top of a cactus nearby, sees Penny dancing, and hears the din from the orange glow of Miraval ahead of her. She'll let Penny have this moment, this desert dance. The Gorgon/Giudice units agree to take on Penny togetha, and "STRAIGHTEN HER OUT." What does that even mean? In the most WTF moment of this episode, Teresa says to her brother, "Swear to me, though, NO violence." NO VIOLENCE? Was that even an option? Anyway, the estranged family has united on their final night in this bizarre Marriott Courtyard in the middle of nothing. Thank God for all of us. They'll wake up at night years from now, when this show has run its course, thinking of Miraval and Carol and Wyatt and Connor, and how they didn't have last names, and that sad, terrifying drone of the desert wind at night. Kim D leaves her cactus perch and lifts off into the moonless sky, flying over the mountains and vastness until all the lights of small towns and cities extending to New Jersey go dark. It would be dawn there soon.

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