Norman Rockwell would blush
Real Housewives of New Jersey's Thanksgiving in June is a real turkey
Christmas in July or Thanksgiving in June? Take your pick: Every day is a holiday in New Jersey.
Thanksgiving always makes us think of the iconic Norman Rockwell painting, the one that shows a serene grandmother presenting a perfectly browned turkey to her smiling family. We wondered if we would have to watch at least one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey pretending to be that icon. Instead, we got two, Melissa and Teresa, rival mothers in the ongoing cold war that plagues the Giudices and the Gorgas. And for their petty squabbles, we offer numerous thanks.
At Corrado’s market, we realize we’re thankful for Joe Gorga’s total lack of self-awareness, which has livened up the season considerably. Melissa and Joe are going all-Italian, so they eye the produce, the provolone, and a real suckling pig. “It’s sleeping,” Joe says to reassure his children. Joe slaps a roast when he’s told it’s the butt. “Oh yeah, I’m an ass man,” he says.
We’re even more thankful the children are still too young to understand what an ass their father is.
Melissa tries to restrain her husband from madly stacking pineapple and other irrelevant items in the cart. The more she scolds, the more impatient he gets. Finally Joe tries to console himself with a little banter with the clerk. “Women do everything, the guys just eat,” shrugs the store clerk.
Meanwhile, steady rain falls as Teresa and Joe Giudice drive to a turkey farm. Teresa is hosting her first Friends-giving, because her friends have helped her through a rough year of fiscal disaster, and her family won't speak with her. Husband Joe informs her that Italians don’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving, leaving Teresa puzzled. We sense that Joe doesn’t like to say "Thanksgiving," but we suspect that’s because he has trouble with dental fricatives. Teresa has her own problem finding the farm, but after we remembered Joe’s drunk driving accident, we were thankful Teresa was behind the wheel.
After many more wrong turns they arrive at Goffle Road Poultry Farm, which looks a lot like a storefront. Several inflated plastic turkeys lean crookedly, framing the door. Joe and Teresa enter and stare dully ahead, as if they’ve landed on an alien planet, one a little too close to nature for their tastes. The clerks try to get them in the Thanksgiving spirit by offering to show the Giudices their wares. “You can meet it before you eat it, if you wish,” one offers. “You can say hello.”
They go out back and look at the live turkeys and chickens. Teresa doesn’t like the odor, but thankfully she’s the philosopher in the family. “Do they know how to speak turkey language?” Teresa wonders in her video diary and we wonder if she was referring to the clerks or the turkeys. The clerk doesn’t want her to feel bad for the turkey. Humanitarians that they are, Joe and Teresa decide against slaughter and instead buy one that was killed yesterday.
It’s an odd moment when the Giudices stammer back and forth about whether to pay with Joe's cash or Teresa’s credit card. Joe pulls a suspiciously large 3-inch stack of bills from his pocket and pays. Even more suspicious is Teresa's reference to a credit card. Do you really get to keep your plastic after declaring bankruptcy for racking up $11 million in debt?
As the dueling holiday parties continue, we realize that for Bravo, Thanksgiving is a time to heighten sibling rivalry. It was like watching the rise and fall of an American dream of conspicuous consumption. Teresa sets out a lovely spread, but it's significantly homelier than the Gorga’s Thanksgiving extravaganza. Teresa nearly starts weeping as she thanks her guests for supporting her through a difficult year. In a video diary, Jacqueline praises Teresa for never complaining. Then she says, “I don’t know how she does it,” as if she wouldn’t mind a little peek into the Giudice ledgers.
Across town, Joe and Melissa Gorga go whole hog. Melissa’s wearing leopard print and even has a fur apron. She wonders why the other women didn’t all wear leopard as well. This must be one of many charming traditions in the Gorga family. In Italian culture, Melissa tells us, the women are generally in the kitchen while the men, “they’re like, where’s my food, bitch?” Everyone laughs about this as the men do shots. Joe Gorga walks around with a beer in his hand planning a little surprise for Melissa.
Perhaps a trip to VH1’s Tool Academy? No such luck.
Instead, Joe has installed a mechanical bull in the yard. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a ton of vibrating, bucking steel. “It keeps our marriage alive, baby,” he says. Joe rides until he falls off. Everyone laughs. Melissa rides until she falls off. Everyone laughs. Finally, Rich appears in a black executioner’s mask for his ride. As his wife, Kathy, takes her place on the bucking bronco, Rich slaps her with a toy whip. When Joe and Melissa ride together on the mechanical bull, Joe ups the ante, seemingly intent on proving he’s an ass man with a little holiday frottage in front of the kids, family and friends. Thankfully, dear readers, it was brief.
The Thanksgiving spirit lasts a few minutes more before the recriminations begin again. Teresa resurrects a story about Melissa bringing the wrong cookies to her house one holiday. “I hate sprinkle cookies!” she shouts, “I threw them right in the trash!”
Jacqueline bites her lip awkwardly, remembering that her contribution to the night’s meal was a huge platter of sprinkle cookies. We wondered what Bravo's resident Miss Manners, Luann de Lesseps, would think. Who knows, but it's likely she'd scold Teresa in a totally fake — but vaguely aristocractic — accent.
Meanwhile, Chez Gorga, Melissa’s done thanking Jesus for all her blessings. She, too, remembers the unfortunate incident of the ill-chosen cookies. “I’m sorry, throwing a pregnant woman’s cookies in the garbage isn’t funny,” she fumes. “It’s just plain stupid.”
Rich interrupts the complaints, saying, “It’s Thanksgiving, let’s be happy,” while over at Teresa’s, Caroline and Jacqueline encourage Teresa to mend family fences. Melissa lays down the law with husband Joe. “If you don’t talk to her, I will,” she warns.
We began to believe in the spirit of the holiday, until we remembered a fight earlier in the episode. Teresa’s daughter Gabriella gives one of her sisters a massive, audible, championship smack right in the kisser. After the echo subsides, Teresa tries to coerce an apology and some familial love, shouting, "Go hug your sister, now!" Gabrielle stomps off, shrieking prophetically, “I won’t do it.”
Out of the mouths of babes?