‘Real Housewives of NYC’ Recap 8×13: Steel Calzones

How many times can you say vagina in one episode?

Bethenny Frankel in The Real Housewives of New York City.

Bethenny Frankel in The Real Housewives of New York City. Bravo

This is a female-centric show, so it was only a matter of time before someone would come down with a medical issue, um, down there. The fact that both Bethenny and Jules both have varying degrees of vaginal woes at the same time is nothing short of coincidental. Yet while Jules’s issue was humorous, Bethenny’s is heartbreaking.

Bethenny – strong, confident, nothing-can-shake-me-boo Bethenny – was a mess. Faced with a major, potentially life-threatening surgery, a surgery that is so dangerous her doctor told her she needs a living will, Bethenny was scared. Aside from employees and friends, she has no one to lean on. But as she cried on the phone to her friend, it soon became clear that it wasn’t the surgery she was scared of – it’s the loss of control. Bethenny is the definition of a control freak. And the fact that the surgery could go sideways without her being able to control the outcome is terrifying. But it goes further than that. If something did happen to her, her ex would get what is dearest to her in this world: her daughter. It’s her worst nightmare. I do empathize with her in this respect; it’s tough dealing with a recalcitrant ex, one who is sucking you dry, taking you for all your worth. But her need to control everything around her, even her daughter’s life, is not a good thing. And it reflects badly on her, especially in light of her behavior during the rest of this episode.

At a pizza-making night in a restaurant, Bethenny was rude and judgmental. But she was also medically ill and was kind of over the bullshit. So when Jules was acting very strange, Bethenny did not react well. Jules decided to make, as the episode title suggests, a stainless steel-filled calzone. She stuffed it with a knife, a fork, and the entire kitchen-caboodle. She even joked that she would make a baked pharmacy special, and stuff it with heavy doses of Percocet and Adderall.

The way Jules interacts with food is definitely weird and makes me uncomfortable (and I’m not just talking about her interesting definition of kosher). But she is open about her food issues. And so it’s understandable that Carole should think nothing of questioning her strange food rituals. Yet, while Jules is open, she still doesn’t want to be interrogated. And she told Dorinda as much when Dorinda came by the next day. As Dorinda sat there, an empathetic sounding board, Jules opened up and had a bit of a breakdown, revealing what could perhaps explain her erratic calzone-making behavior the night before.

Jules described how her husband doesn’t care for her, that she’s not valued. She gives and gives and gives but never receives anything. She doesn’t have a partner. Her husband is incompetent. She can’t even take a shower or sit down to eat because he can’t take care of the children in her stead. And when no one is there for you, when you don’t have the physical or emotional strength to stand up for your needs, when you have a passive personality and try to be a martyr – all of that will take its toll on you. And there will come a point where you can’t take it anymore, where you will lash out in a desperate attempt to take your life back. But until you reach that point, there will be little blips of insanity – like making a calzone filled with stainless steel utensils “to make things fun.”

After Dorinda played shrink with Jules, Dorinda took her advice tour on the road and ended up at Sonja’s Grey Gardens manor. In the cavernous depths of her crumbling manor, Sonja was in her dungeon basement. Now that her daughter is in boarding school, she decided to go through decades of hoarded crap she accumulated over the years. Because Dorinda had been going through a purge of her own with Bethenny’s assistance, Dorinda understood that an outsider who doesn’t have a connection with your possessions can be an asset to a possessions purge.

But poor Sonja had a tough time letting go of all the mounds of dusty clutter, from her daughter’s favorite stuffed animal to a hair dryer from the 1970s. As she surveyed her torn and dusty stuff, Sonja was quiet. She looked overwhelmed and frazzled, her eyes filled as she fought back tears. And it that moment, as we see how much losing these old and broken objects affected her, we feel for her. She admitted that she misses her old life, and doesn’t want to give up her old stuff.

It’s clear that she’s having a difficult season, but it’s also a character defining season. Years of delusion have finally caught up to her, and its exacerbated by a profound sense of loneliness. She has all these unpaid interns, these dogs and Luann filling her home. But when the interns leave for the night, when her dogs go snuggle into their dog beds, when Luann is off spending the night with another man – Sonja is all alone, where the silence is deafening and the commodious rooms are never-ending holes of sorrow. The basement filled with useless crap is a shrine to her former life – a connection to who she once was, who she wishes she could still be. And the mountains of items function as a security blanket. It’s brave of her to face this embodiment of her delusion, and it signals a willingness to deal with her new reality.

Which, as usual, takes us back to Luann. It’s almost as if she feels she’s not on a reality show, rather a scripted television drama. And her performance is worse than her god-awful blink-you-missed-it guest appearance on Law and Order: SVU. She threw a party and Ramona took the opportunity to confront Luann about her inability to make up with Carole. Ramona, in her own crazy, manic way, tried to be the voice of reason. And when Ramona is the voice of reason, you need to re-think your choices.

The problem is, Luann is willing to apologize only when she sees an advantage in doing so. But once you put the mirror up to her actions, and it shows that they are lacking, she gets defensive. So not only did she renege on her apology, she turned it around, claiming that Carole needed to apologize to her for hurting her family by dating the chef and her niece’s former boyfriend. The result is twofold: her original apology seems even less sincere, and it highlights her spitefulness.

Luann is living in “Lululand” (which is possibly the most self-aware statement Luann has ever said about herself). Whereas before Luann was lonely and that loneliness made her needy and annoying, now Luann is in love and happy. And that happiness has made her even more self-involved and annoying. When Ramona told her that she needed to do more if she wanted to make up with Carole, Luann responded, “I’m in love with a man I’m going to marry.” Ramona shot back, “what does that have to with anything?” And on the surface, it doesn’t have anything to do with Ramona’s attempt at an intervention. But, if you understand Luann, it actually makes sense.

In Luann’s mind, she had gone above-and-beyond in trying to make up with Carole. And, as her relationship with Tom continued to get serious, where she basically called him her fiancé despite not being engaged yet, her unique capabilities in the art of delusion made her strident and spiteful – to the point where she claimed that she simply did not care about trying to make up with everyone. So she took her spite one step further: she decided to plan a trip to Palm Beach and, in a haughty, Countessy voice, declared that Carole is not invited, and that Bethenny is a big maybe (as if Bethenny, with her bleeding vagina could even go to Palm Springs).

‘Real Housewives of NYC’ Recap 8×13: Steel Calzones