Greetings, cackling hags! I’m Molly Fitzpatrick, visiting adjunct teaching assistant at the Real Housewives Institute, filling in for Brian Moylan while he’s off piloting a submersible to the bottom of Crappie Lake. Choke down the last slice of your rainbow sashimi pizza from [redacted], and let’s begin.
In honor of her contributions as this week’s MVP, I would like to award the grease-stained-paper Burger King crown I keep in my purse at all times in case of emergency to Brynn. (Not to taint this victory with an asterisk, but it probably helped her cause a bit that it was a relatively Jenna “Jenna Lyons” Lyons–lite episode.)
As Brynnsgiving continues, the guest of honor tearfully recounts more shattering details from her childhood, including how, as a first-grader, she drank a bottle of Dimetapp because she “wanted to sleep forever.” Oof. Her vulnerability in sharing what she’s been through — and her resilience in thriving in spite of it — is genuinely inspiring, and if I were at that table, I, too, would be over-seasoning my branzino with tears.
I also love that Brynn is healing her inner child by allowing her adult self to explore all the hobbies she’d wanted to try as a little girl but couldn’t: violin, fencing, ballet, and more. (Does this mean it isn’t too late for me to go to space camp?) I’m particularly charmed by her travel-size chess set and ambitious participation in what may very well be the first chess tournament ever depicted in the Bravo Cinematic Universe — where she beefs it and beefs it hard. Trying new things and being undeterred by (spectacularly) failing at them can be a really wonderful trait in a human being.
And then there’s Jessel — not worthy of a crown per se, but I’ll see if I can rustle up a half-empty box of Tic Tacs from the bottom of my bag as her prize. If nothing else, there are definitely some tissues down there.
Jessel remains deathly allergic to accountability, to an extent that almost makes one nostalgic for Ramona “The Apologizer” Singer’s reign of terror. Erin brings up how Jessel described the group as “cackling hags” to Jenna, prompting Sai to demonstrate a cackle that is less Wicked Witch of the West and more … if the Hungry Hungry Hippos made noise? I don’t hate it. Anyway, Jessel emphatically protests: It was a joke! I think she honestly didn’t mean any harm by it — my sister and I answer each other’s phone calls by hissing bitch, so I’m not on an entirely different wavelength when it comes to insults as terms of (sort of) endearment.
Jenna generously comes to Jessel’s defense, insisting that she’d be “totally fine” if Jessel called her a cackling hag. And so Jessels carpes the diem, playfully calling out across the table: “Jenna, you’re a cackling old hag.”
Excuse me. When did “old” enter into it? An incredible escalation. And, I am confident, a 100 percent unintentional one, which is what makes it so perfect — it’s Jessel’s true-blue weirdo, profoundly oblivious moments like this that make me feel like an old-timey baseball scout excitedly jotting down notes about the arc of some 15-year-old’s curveball. We could have the makings of a top-tier Housewife on our hands.
That said: The more challenging aspects of Jessel’s personality can also make for less compelling television. Specifically, television that makes me feel like I put in somebody else’s contact lenses by accident and now everything’s a little blurry and my head is killing me, I better lie down.
Jessel invites Erin out for coffee in Tribeca, which she calls a “really up-and-coming neighborhood” — to the bewilderment of her real-estate frenemy, who points out that it’s literally the most expensive Zip Code in New York City. I mean, come on — we just got an establishing shot of the Odeon, where scientists have determined that half of what appears to be grout between the tiles in the downstairs bathrooms is actually cocaine leftover from the early ’80s. Tribeca been here. In this social circle, at least, this comment robs Jessel of as much I’m walkin’ here! NYC credibility as if she’d pronounced Houston Street like she was in Texas. (And for the record, as far as trendspotting goes, I prefer the forecast Brynn cheerily offered us earlier in the episode: “You know what’s coming back? Hand jobs!”)
Has Erin been summoned here to … receive an apology? She doesn’t have the slightest idea what kind of abstract AI slam poetry the “human chatbot” might have in store for her. Lo and behold, Jessel is hurt that, at Brynnsgiving, Erin expressed surprise upon hearing she’d gone back to work. I don’t believe Erin meant anything by this — I think, as Erin said, Jessel had mentioned she’d been taking a break since the twins were born, and either she failed to update Erin that that was no longer the case, or maybe Erin simply forgot. I believe the technical term is “big whoop.” Jessel, however, has apparently interpreted this misunderstanding as condescension if not an outright special-place-in-hell act of misogyny. Erin bristles at the suggestion that she doesn’t “embrace” working women. Jessel — citing her immigrant background — bristles even harder at the suggestion that she’s used to “being treated a certain way.” Is Erin calling her a “princess?” I mean … kind of? It becomes immediately clear that, in an upset Jessel’s estimation, “princess” ranks at least three tiers higher than “cackling hag” on the universal linguistic offensiveness scale. “We’re just very different people,” Erin tells her. “I don’t really understand the way sometimes you … are.” (Echoes of “I hate so much about the things you choose to be.” — Michael Scott — Wayne Gretzky)
Unfortunately for Erin, she and Jessel achieve enough of a tentative, confusing peace that she’s still obligated to attend a cocktail party–slash–designer handbag pop-up sale–slash–charity event at Jessel’s home. There, Pavit chooses to drink Champagne with a carrot stick floating in it, a move that, based on Jessel’s horrified reaction, has most likely delayed their first post-babies sex occasion by at least another six months.
The guest list includes various illustrious Vogue personalities who regrettably mean nothing to me and a woman whose only current print subscription is to Fangoria. That said, I must gratefully acknowledge the Paper Magazine editor who arrives in an outfit that incorporates both a blazer printed with a map of Los Angeles and a shirt (?) collar (?) featuring what appears to be two of the flower puppets from Pee-wee’s Playhouse (RIP Paul Reubens). “There’s a lot of fashion going on here,” he says, and I would surely have to agree.
The only cast member not in attendance is Jenna. The others FaceTime her at home, where she’s decorating a towering Christmas tree with her son and goddaughters, all clad in matching jumpsuits. I deeply appreciate Jenna’s holiday maximalism; as she says, aren’t lights just “sequins on a plant?” She tells the women she misses them, and it is, all in all, a pleasant exchange. Or … is it?
Brynn disputes the way Jenna characterized her conflict with Jessel’s party: She’d said she “had an event at her house.” Does an unstructured family hang constitute an “event” in the strictest sense of the word? I don’t need to crack open the OED to know my answer: Who cares? Event, shmevent — Jenna’s desire to share a holiday ritual with her family (especially given it seems like she shares custody of her son), and to protect and prioritize that time, rings true to me as a valid excuse. But — in what feels like an echo of her previous double-standard complaint about how Jenna got in less trouble for leaving Erin’s house than she did for escaping dinner at the Restaurant That Must Not Be Named — Brynn won’t let it go.
“It’s Jenna Lyin’, not Jenna Lyons, emphasis L-I-E,” she says, wearing the unmistakable smirk of someone who really thinks she did something there, even though she demonstrably did not. Still love you, girl.