‘Real Housewives of NYC’ Recap 8×09: December: Berkshires County

I haven’t laughed this hard over a Housewives episode in a long time. It was as if the Real Housewives had turned into a daytime soap.

Luann de Lesseps in The Real Housewives of NYC.
Luann de Lesseps in The Real Housewives of NYC.

The episode title may be drab and humorless, but I haven’t laughed this hard over a Housewives episode in a very long time. There were epic highs, and dramatic lows. There was theatrical posturing followed by some crazed histrionics. The whole kerfuffle was so over-the-top, so overacted, it was as if the Real Housewives had turned into a daytime soap. I half expected Slimy Johnny to pop in just to “complicate” the situation.

But what really made this episode special was how fan-centric it was. This episode was the reality television equivalent to an Easter Egg. There were numerous shout outs to longtime viewers, viewers who helped coin many favorite descriptors – like Carole calling Luann “LuMan” while Bethenny went with “Drag Queen” and her old favorite, “snake;” Bethenny mentioning Sonja’s parallels to Grey Gardens; flashbacks to scenes from almost 10 years ago showcasing Luann’s hypocrisy and lies. It was, in short, a fantastic episode.

This episode was a continuation from last week, a second installment in the trilogy that is the Berkshires Sleepover From Hell. The “to be continued” shtick is favorite tool of this franchise because it’s an easy way to rope in viewers. And because this season is determined to spend a lot of time in Dorinda’s overstuffed country manor, this episode is delineated not by location and an intro image of the featured housewife in the scene, but by time. So we start the episode at 3:40 pm, which was where we ended last week: Bethenny called out Luann for taking credit for the name of Bethenny’s company. The argument went nowhere, and Bethenny went over to Ramona to snark on Luann, while she sat only two feet away and heard every word.

Ramona is another person with an axe to grind with Luann. Ramona was upset because Luann knew that Ramona had dated Tom, but didn’t ask if it was ok. It’s really petty and a little bit stupid, but I can understand why it would bother someone. Especially when it’s revealed that Luann was a bit predatory with Tom. But that confrontation wasn’t great in of itself, it was great because it evolved into the epic showdown between Bethenny and Luann.

Bethenny was in excellent form: calling Luann out, letting out all the bullshit that has been building up over the years – Luann’s lies about her rampant cheating and sleeping around, her sanctimonious grandstanding about proper etiquette as she periodically breaks propriety to suit her agenda. Bethenny even called herself out, realizing that her ravings went a bit too far.

Luann is a deflector. For her, it’s easier to pivot the conversation away from the accusatory words and focus instead on the first dumb idea that comes to her mind. Like that she thinks that Bethenny has the same hair as her (which she doesn’t, because Bethenny’s hair looks young and fresh. Luann’s frozen, hairsprayed hair looks as old and dated as the huge necklaces she loves to adorn her neck with. But anyway). This of course means that Bethenny is jealous and needs to get laid – which no one is disputing, least of all Bethenny. But that’s not why Bethenny was frustrated with Luann.

No, what gets Bethenny’s blood boiling, what makes her so frustrated with Luann is the plain and simple fact that Luann is not an honest person. She is a liar and a bullshitter who pretends to be so elegant and refined, yet she has no qualms with sleeping with married men. And so, at 4:20 pm, Bethenny raised her voice, got a manic look in her eyes, and listed a litany of scathing critiques on the hypocrisy of the Countess’s morality. She called Luann a “slut, a liar, a hypocrite and a snake.” And with that, Bethenny stalked off as Luann’s Countess side came out – Luann miraculously acquired a posh accent for a brief moment and scolded Bethenny for raising her voice. And instead of taking the legitimate criticism to heart, Luann chose to get insulted over being called a slut.

Luann’s talk with Jules outside was extremely revealing. Jules was outside, anxiously nursing a cigarette as she spoke to her Dad who was in the hospital with pneumonia. Luann, seeking a person to vent to, found Jules and sat down next to her. She was so fixated on Bethenny calling her a slut, that when Jules tells Luann that her father is very sick — and clearly a little bit of a wreck because of her dad’s condition — Luann barreled on about how Bethenny had the gall to call her a slut. She ignored Jules and instead, in a badly acted moment from Luann, threatened to flounce. No acknowledgement of the very real life situation going on in Jules’s life. No awareness of the pain and suffering Jules was enduring. No compassion for a woman whose father is suffering. Such life and death moments are outside Luann’s self-centered, self-serving purview and so it’s disregarded. No — what matters to her is that her self-created, manufactured drama and hypocrisy was called out on national, primetime television.

In that moment, I truly felt for Jules. This is her first season, her first time surrounded by cameramen, and it’s obvious she was just in no mood to deal with the idiotic drama. She wanted to be by her father’s side, but she was contractually obligated to show up at the Berkshires. For a moment, it looked as if she would actually leave – leave behind the petty bullshit and take care of stuff that actually matters.

But Jules is a passive person, a woman who doesn’t like drama, who lacks the wit and erudition to express herself properly. Her inability to express herself stunts her and makes her appear unintelligent. And when trying to gain sympathy from the unsympathetic, she lacks the persistent aggression that, say, Ramona or Bethenny would have to push for a modicum of humanity toward her pain.  Despite all her flaws, despite all the ridiculous brags and horrible parenting, she is open about who she is and the issues she goes through. There is an honesty about her that I respect, an honesty that Bethenny possesses as well.

And it’s a stark contrast to Luann. Luann is an obfuscator, a woman who hides behind secrecy and lies as she pretends to be someone she’s not. She has two personas: the Countess and the Cool Cat. As the Countess, she is the perfectly groomed, perfectly mannered, soft-spoken lady of the manor. As the Cool Cat, she is that downtown hip Manhattanite, the sophisticated, connected woman about town that is chill about life. But she is neither proper nor easy-going; she has a fluid morality, is judgmental of other’s choices, and actively hides her indiscretions. Luann isn’t a real countess anymore, but she’s the queen of deflection. Bethenny has a valid point — Luann is a hypocrite. The rules she doles out don’t apply to her. And when Bethenny pointed it out, Luann didn’t acknowledge the validity of the statement.

I doubt anyone cares whether or not Luann’s a “slut” or a “whore.” Even Bethenny doesn’t give a crap about who Luann sleeps with and how many partners she chooses to have. Bethenny’s problem with Luann is simple: Luann refuses to own her actions and deeds. Like Bethenny said, “it’s the bullshit” that pushed her over the edge (and it’s why she doesn’t hang out with Upper East Side Ladies Who Lunch, apparently).

Luann knows she’s a hypocrite, knows that she acted like she was the original inventor of the Skinny Girl Margarita, even though archival footage proves otherwise (Season 1, Episode 6. Thank you Twitter!). So she does what any delusional person wishing to preserve any last vestige of their chosen persona: deflection.

She was deflecting when she chastised Dorinda for not being a good hostess and having her back – because, after all, as the most important guest, the Countess should be able to dictate who gets thrown out of the house. She was deflecting when she accused Bethenny of SWFing her hairstyle. She was deflecting when she remained fixated on being called a slut. She was deflecting when she conjured up a conspiracy theory that Bethenny was out to get everyone, that she was on a character assassination spree – first Slimy Johnny, then Sonja, and now Luann. She was so concerned about her own trivial hurt and pain, that she disregarded everyone else, to the point of insulting others. Like the dog crap Coco spewed all over the house, the Countess’s bullshit spewed all over the house.

As she wallowed in Bethenny’s vitriol, Luann took her “hurt” and “pain” too far. She started making fun of the birthday cake Dorinda’s mom made, hitting a nerve. With booze pumping through her veins, Dorinda went full on mafia mode – slurring, cursing and threatening everybody with eviction. That sobered Luann up pretty quickly, getting her to finally stop her diatribe, as Ramona ushered her out of the room with emphatic gestures and arm pulling. In a strange turn of events, Ramona became Luann’s conscience, the voice of reason directing Luann to write odd apology texts to both Bethenny and Carole. This is where Ramona thrives — being at the periphery, swirling between the to opposing sides, orchestrating drama, stirring up shit.

Despite her threats to flounce, Luann doesn’t leave. Because she’s not an idiot and doesn’t want to miss precious camera time – camera time that affects her paycheck. And so at 7:30, as the evening began to wind down, Luann was in the kitchen, chatting with Dorinda. She claimed that Tom likes her better and Ramona is just jealous. I don’t know how this is a compliment. I really don’t get Tom’s appeal. Does he have a secret title stashed somewhere in his family tree that he found on ancestry.com? Does he have a billion-dollar inheritance? I need answers!

She then complained about Bethenny, repeating her conspiracy theory that Bethenny must be on a rampage to ruin her friends — first John, then Sonja, now Luann. Finding a pattern where none really exists. But in a classic movie moment, as Luann continued to bash Bethenny, that is the moment that Bethenny walked in, interrupted Luann’s soliloquy, ending the episode with the question, “Is this part of the apology you sent me by text, this whole little monologue?” Part three of this battle is coming next week, so we have to wait to see how this confrontation plays out.

Episode Highlights:

– Oh Len, you sly fox. Dorinda’s housekeeper, Len, wins the episode by serving Bethenny tea named “Easy Now” with an enigmatic smile.

– Sonja wasn’t totally ignored this episode. We got to join her as she went to rejuvenate her vag because she felt left out of Dorinda’s weekend sleepover.

– Carole and Jules hiding in the wallpapered closet to eavesdrop on Luann’s and Ramona’s conversation about why Carole still hates her was hilarious. ‘Real Housewives of NYC’ Recap 8×09: December: Berkshires County