What’s left to say about Teresa Giudice? She has been on the cover on countless tabloid magazines (but not been paid for, of course), used her own reality TV fame to create a fabulous-ish food brand and appear on other reality shows, and currently is facing legal drama over mail, wire, and bank fraud accusations with her husband, Joe. Well, after five seasons of table-flipping, hair-pulling, and back-stabbing, Teresa is the last original Jersey girl standing… kind of.
Tonight’s premiere had a much darker and solemn tone than what we know to expect from the Housewives franchise. Could Bravo actually be trying to do something different here? Case in point: The show’s chronological timeline is usually mentioned only in reference to holidays, but the episode started precisely on February 28, 2014, with news of the Guidice’s troubles strategically playing on the TV in the home of sister-in-law Melissa Gorga, the only other housewife returning from last season. Let’s not forget that things ended on a positive note for the two (cue playback of the retreat from hell), so Melissa calls Teresa to check in. Although it’s nice to have a moment like this between the two, we already knew the legal drama would be Teresa’s main story line, so did the season really need to kick off with such a downer? Well, don’t get too emotional because the show jumps back three months and the real narrative of the season begins.
The premiere then welcomes back original housewife Dina Manzo, who left midway through season 2. Now that all her frenemies (Danielle Staub) and famenemies (Caroline Manzo) are off the show, Dina is back on with her good (and honestly, maybe only) friend Teresa. But no Mr. Producer, she will not talk about sister Caroline (eye roll). Though she made a brief appearance last season and had a short-lived HGTV show demonstrating her party planning skills, it was nice to catch up again with Dina, daughter Lexie, now 17 and almost going off to college, and the most eclectic collection of weird-ass pets ever documented by Bravo cameras. “It’s nice to want the unwanted,” Dina says of her hairless, some legless companions. And that folks, is what we call a metaphor.
Now that Caroline, Jacqueline, and Kathy are out, three more ladies are introduced. First there is Amber, who was friends with Melissa back in their partying 20s, but they fell out of touch at some point. Amber seems like your typical Jersey housewife, or rather, Amber really knows how to play the part in front of the camera. There is a sense of authenticity to her (who wouldn’t be freaked out by a dead pig waiting at your door?), but the cameras and added attention might already be bringing out her not-so-great qualities. The other additions are the first sister housewives of the series since Caroline and Dina. Twins Nicole and Teresa (luckily it’s pronounced Terehsa, though confusion is more than likely) may seem like a walking stereotype of a Guidette, and that’s because they are. Nicole in particular makes quite an introduction with the line, “A woman only needs two things: Dunkin’ Donuts and oral sex.” Twin Teresa (this is already hard) is married to Rino, who seamlessly takes over the role of clown husband from Rich Wakile. Clearly this guy is just as excited to be on television as his wife is.
Another downer moment: Amber reveals that she survived breast cancer at 31, with two young children at home. This experience has clearly changed who she is as a person (“I may have been shallow before that”), but Amber’s delivery of the news to Melissa—who claimed she had no idea that Amber had been ill—seemed like an intentional way to start a feud. Amber must have studied the series before filming, as it looked like she was using the cancer as a way to make Melissa feel guilty about being a bad friend. The only communication between the two during that period of time is apparently one now-deleted Facebook message in which Melissa wrote “Let me know if you need anything” as a polite, common gesture. And now we have yet again an off-camera misunderstanding and missing evidence that can keep this debate going all season.
The premiere ended as the Guidice family gathered to celebrate Joe’s grandmother’s 80th birthday. It was extra bittersweet to see Joe’s father (who tragically died earlier this month) in the scene. Not only that, but we also got to see Joe began to show some raw and vulnerable moments; he thanked his family for their support in the tough and unsettling time in all of their lives. As a blossoming teenager who practically grew up in front of the cameras, eldest daughter Gia is more aware of what’s going on than her parents may think, and she is definitely affected by it, too. Though Teresa is more likely to get off without time served, Joe has the real potential of not only being taken away from his family but also deported from the country. The solemn tone in the end is a humble reminder of the real stakes at place in this housewife’s new reality.