‘Real Housewives of NYC’ Recap 8×05: Birthday Bashing

Dorinda Medley.
Dorinda Medley. Bravo TV

We are back again this week with a kind of sentimental theme: vulnerability. Vulnerability scares people who are afraid of connection, afraid of losing control. Vulnerability is about being honest with yourself about the things you did wrong, about humbling yourself and admitting that you have flaws, that there may be skeletons in your closet. But vulnerability is also what makes a good friend, it lends humanity and warmth, and it allows people to give.

And so we begin this episode with Dorinda, Carole, and Jules going out to dinner, discussing the tension at last week’s shmear at Jules’s house. Jules is understandably upset about Carole and Bethenny’s rude behavior, and Carole, being decent, understandably apologizes. But Jules is a high-strung Upper East Side lady, and as such, she throws out the class card. Yes, class card. See, Jules sees herself as “Old Money,” while Bethenny, with her “tiny” Hamptons home that is smaller than Jules’s apartment, is at the bottom of the barrel with her “New Money.” Which is funny, because her 50,000 square foot monstrosity, an empty shell of a McMansion, is the epitome of new, tacky money. As Carole, who, as a former princess, knows a thing or two about this, tweeted last night, “The first rule of old money is to never talk about money.” Bethenny is like the least “New Money” person with new money. Even now, as a legitimate millionaire, she doesn’t flaunt it in your face; unless you count her amazing new hair and fabulous wardrobe this season. Slay girl, slay.

But as soon as she said it, it was obvious Jules regretted it. Jules isn’t the most eloquent person; she fumbles her words and can’t articulate her thoughts. With skills like that, it’s amazing she managed to get a part on this reality show. Yet, I think, despite her bluster and condescending attitude at this dinner, in her heart, she’s a sweet, genuine person. And that sweetness becomes clear later in the episode when she meets Bethenny for brunch at the Tipsy Parson and opens up about her past issues with an eating disorder.

It’s a beautiful moment of bonding between a woman who had to battle an insidious disease and a woman who had to live with a mother with the same disease. Despite all of Jules’s annoying traits, her honesty on the subject is extremely brave. In a world where it’s common to skewer skinny women by calling them “anorexic” without regard for the fact that it’s not an aesthetic, but a disease, it makes things difficult for people who actually have the problem to admit it. And it’s nice to see that Jules is more than just the resident pretty dum-dum, that she has struggled and experienced hardship. It prevents her from becoming a caricature, which, in Real Housewives land, happens all too often because producers tend to find the craziest people to cast. Jules is definitely crazy, but I like that producers allowed her to be given a sense of humanity so that we as viewers could relate to her.

Going back to the brunch, it’s obvious that Jules is uncomfortable with confrontation, that confrontation makes her poor communication abilities disappear entirely. She tries to dance around her annoyance with how Bethenny behaved. And Bethenny – our take no punches, abrasive Bethenny – had to “help a sister out” and argued Jules’s case for her and apologized. Because as much as Bethenny can be a total obnoxious jerk, she is a straight-shooter who, when she does the wrong thing, will admit it and apologize sincerely.

Sonja, on the other hand, has a hard time admitting fault because she is, quite simply, delusional. When Ramona comes over to Lady Morgan’s crumbling townhouse to invite her to Ramona’s 60th birthday party, Sonja is with one of her dozens of interns, a sweet-looking blonde named Juliana. Sonja answers the door having just picked up her dog’s poop – continuing her relateable-Lady Morgan theme of greeting people after having done everyday people things like DIY-painting her chairs. And Ramona, after offering the invite, tries to do an intervention. Floozy, boozy Sonja drinks too much and Ramona, echoing her concerns from last season, tries to tell Sonja to lay off the sauce a bit. Sonja, in classic form, is dismissive and in denial and deftly deflects each of the Stinger Singer’s barbs. When Ramona says she’s embarrassed to be seen with Sonja, Sonja jabs back that SHE is embarrassed to be seen with Ramona. After some back-and-forth, Sonja finally admits to possibly, sometimes, maybe “going off the rails,” and promises to cool it a bit with her hard-partying ways. But then Sonja realizes that Luann – our favorite mooching Countess – is going to be staying by her house for awhile. This is a cause for concern because the Countess is a total partyer and a hard drinker so “cooling it” will likely be difficult for the foreseeable future.

Another person who has a hard time with the truth is Lulu – the Countess who brought us class, the French-talking man-voice with a penchant for oversized necklaces. This season, Lulu has been a Stage Five clinger with Bethenny. First, she gives Bethenny an embarrassing hula-hoop dance at Bethenny’s party, and now, at Ramona’s party, she gives Bethenny a gorgeous bag with a monogrammed engraving as a belated birthday gift (while giving poor Ramona an ugly, Lulu-approved necklace that she had just gifted to Ramona only two months prior). Her obsession with Bethenny borders on creepy and that creepiness becomes more apparent when we finally get to hear all the details about why Bethenny is not happy with Luann.

After Bethenny got her gift, and after feeling sufficiently uncomfortable, she decided to confront Lulu about her clingy behavior. So apparently, over the summer, while RHOBH was filming, Kyle asked her old friend (and former babysitter for her nieces) to host a dinner party in her home while the cast was in the Hamptons. If anyone here watches the Beverly Hills Housewives, you will recall that this was the episode that the ladies had a jolly good time watching Erica Jayne’s sexually explicit music video.

Anyway, Lulu heard through the grapevine that the Beverly Hills ladies were coming into town, and she wanted in. Now most normal people would just wait for an invite and, if they didn’t get one, would just let it go. But not this supposed class-expert. No, she begged Bethenny for an invite. Because it wasn’t her party (and likely because of producer limitations), Bethenny said that she couldn’t invite her. But that didn’t stop Lulu from basically pulling out every card she could – from the “don’t be all uncool” to the “but I invite you to all my things” – just to slither her way onto another TV show (because, as we al know, Lulu is a “snake”).

As Bethenny lay into Lulu, instead of accepting Bethenny’s criticism, Lulu gets defensive, she raises her voice, she can’t handle it. And when Bethenny threatens to walk away, she immediately affects a pathetic demeanor, a woe-is-it-to-me that my life is so hard. Her children are out of the house, she lives isolated all the way out in the Hamptons and has to travel into Manhattan in order to have a social life, and she broke up with her Adrien Brody-look-a-like French boyfriend. For Lulu, life sucks.

When the RHONYC first premiered, Lulu was at the top of her game: she was married to a Count, had a coveted townhouse on the Upper East Side, and forbade her staff from calling her by her first name (they had to call her “Countess”). But now, at Ramona’s party, Lulu – in a rare moment of vulnerability – began choking up that she was only badgering Bethenny because she didn’t want to be left out. She is living out of a bag and is just very fragile. In that moment of vulnerability, Luaan was likable for a split-second, but then I got over it. Because let’s get real, Luann is the definition of self-centered and self-serving. She isn’t a friend, she is a user and a manipulator, a person who wouldn’t give you a second glance if she felt you weren’t important enough and couldn’t help her get ahead.

Look at the way Luann is treating Bethenny now compared to how she did in the past. Before, when Bethenny was the underdog, Luann took joy in lording over her much in the way that she-who-must-not-be-named (aka Jill Zarin) did. It’s why she gets along so well with Sonja — Sonja doesn’t need much in friendship, except a good time. Now that Bethenny is the clear Queen of this group – the RHONYC MVP and most successful and famous amongst them – Lulu has made it her business to kiss up to Bethenny, hoping that some of Bethenny’s star would sprinkle onto her own (funny, because that’s EXACTLY what she accused Carole of doing just a couple of episodes ago). And so, because Lulu is desperate for relevance, even her tearful moment of supposed vulnerability feels like another cheap grab for the audience’s love.

Episode Highlights:

– “She should walk in a Geisha outfit holding a matzah ball”

– “Michael and I had a guy in mind for you” “Really?” “Greek shipping heir” “Ok, I like that. I like feta cheese a lot.”

— “I’d rather do the glide-by then the fake double-air-kiss” ‘Real Housewives of NYC’ Recap 8×05: Birthday Bashing