Karen Valby
March 12, 2010 AT 05:26 PM EST

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/BravoEverything is inside out and upside down this season. Jill and Bethenny aren’t speaking, Jill and LuAnn are playing at being girlfriends, Simon and Ramona are bosom buddies, and even my beloved Bobby is throwing me for a loop. The Big Bear revealed that his collection of Playboy magazine includes nearly 30 years of issues and he keeps them in his Mommy’s basement. “I go every once in a while to take a look and they’re in good condition,” he told LuAnn’s dinner table. Jill’s smile curdled uncomfortably, the poor  kids tried not to yack up their steak, and LuAnn nyuk-nyukked him about adding Kelly’s spread to his illustrious collection. Kelly’s grimace at the thought may have been her sanest Housewives reaction shot to date.

I’m all for friends in times of need, but there’s no contact fuzziness from watching Jill and LuAnn play comrades. Last year’s episodes of Jill and Bethenny in the Hamptons made me want to go on vacation with my best friend. I miss those two, however irrevocably broken their union appears to be. At Ramona’s Labor Day luncheon—does buying excess retail inventory really afford a person that luscious mansion?—one of the guests tried to break down for Bethenny the source of Jill’s hurt. Said guest spoke tartly, with little sugar-coating, about Jill’s sense of abandonment. I root for Bethenny, I really do, but I wish in moments like these she was able to put down the ‘tude and take in what’s being said. Jill misses you! She feels kicked to the curb! Instead of assuming she begrudged you any of or your professional or personal momentum,  take her to brunch and thank her for sticking with her in good times and bad. Toast your sudden tidal wave of good fortune! Conference call Gloria! Instead, Bethenny kept her lip curled throughout the conversation. “Who are you?” she later asked the camera of Ramona’s guest. “Are you the caterer?” Bethenny, for shame.

We did get a better sense of Bethenny’s man this episode. Unlike the former Jason, he was ready to move in together, this despite the fact that his lady describes herself as “tortured, damaged, mentally disturbed.” Maybe I’m easily won over but Jason strikes me as a proper gentleman, and the first man on this show who can carry off wearing shorts. Ramona definitely approves as well. When she and Mario met Jason and Bethenny for drinks—Ramona poured into her Forever 21 dress, blathering yet again about her new do and how her hair is her sex symbol and harkens back to the story of Samson and Deli–eye—Ramona couldn’t stop cooing in Jason’s hair. Bethenny is so loud, she talks so fast, she makes my heart rate go up, she tittered in poor Jason’s unflappable ear. “I’m happy to meet you on a more intimate level,” she purred. Run Jason! Meanwhile Mario, as oozy as ever, continued to shrug over his “Countless” comment. “I didn’t say it behind her back,” he tried to clarify. “She overheard what I said.” It took her two episodes but Ramona finally mastered the expression “mountain out of a molehill” and she proudly used it to describe LuAnn’s lingering resentment.

I will hand it to Mario that he left LuAnn a surprisingly reasonable voicemail inviting her once more to their house for Labor Day and expressing his willingness to discuss in person their rift. LuAnn wasn’t having any of it though. So Jill, like the trouble-making ding dong she can often be, called up Ramona on speaker phone to say that out of solidarity she too would not be in attendance. Well Ramona can talk about her spirit’s true renewal until her eyes pop out of her head (any… second… now), but you can’t take the crazy out of this cat. She started ranting about LuAnn and the Count tom-catting all over town and what a farce their marriage had always been and she just wasn’t going to take it anymore. Not only is the woman classless, Ramona seethed. She is tacky! It’s hard to know what would offend LuAnn more but she did not offer us any insight into Ramona’s claims of her infidelity. (LuAnn has such an air of genuine vulnerability and mortification that I find it hard to believe the woman is not in genuine pain and shock about the demise of her marriage.)

Lines were drawn. It’s Jill, LuAnn, and Kelly on one side of the fence. Ramona, Bethenny, and an irreverent Alex on the other. Simon and Mario are on the salmon shirt team, while Bobby will only wear tops bearing an over-sized insignia. For notes of grace, we will have to depend on sporadic sightings of Rosie. No fool, she opted not to stay with LuAnn’s family when the Countess fled to the Hamptons. When she came for a quick visit, looking ever lovely with the season’s real short and sassy haircut, LuAnn, who bemoaned the hard work of training a new housekeeper,  looked like she wanted to crawl in her lap for a good cry. Of course LuAnn is stuck being LuAnn, so even her  compliments can sometimes drip with condescension. “So how do I look?” she demanded of Rosie, who smoothly patted her ego. “You look good too,” said LuAnn. “You’ve kept your weight off.” Oh LuAnn, I love you, even when you make it so difficult.

What say you PopWatchers? Can you handle the sudden bloom of friendship between LuAnn and Jill? Is Jill being kind to Kelly onto to get at Bethenny? Does Bobby’s mother need to clean out her basement? Do you like Jason?

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