The Real Housewives of New York City recap: It was a ceasefire
Leah takes everyone to a Russian bathhouse, where the other women (unsuccessfully) confront Dorinda about her anger.
The women of The Real Housewives of New York City may be monsters, but they're our monsters — and they're also each other's monsters! Yes, they fuss; yes, they fight; yes, they ruin the family reunions of upstate New York dwellers who made the mistake of choosing a quaint orchard for this year's reunion locale.
But the women of RHONY are almost always willing to ugly-cry in a dimly lit hallway, hug it out, and forgive each other. Because for most of them, there's a history that ties them all together — and no one loves living in the past more than a New York Housewife. So sure, Dorinda flies into a rage and decimates her friends' self-worth anytime one of them so much as suggests that she may have a little anger problem. But they've also been friends for 15 years, so it seems they can just remember the good ol' days when Dorinda didn’t morph into a Disney villain and start cursing to everyone to die spindle-related deaths every time she has two vodka sodas.
So here's hoping that one of these weeping sessions where Dorinda says she doesn't want to be mean to people anymore will actually make it outside of a life coach's office, onto the streets, and more than two seconds into a conversation where someone says anything even resembling a criticism. For now, Dorinda's friends are still taking their best stabs at figuring out what the hell is going on with her — and they're not doing half-bad! Dorinda's transparency this season is really bringing out everyone's minor in psychology.
Luann, Tinsley, and Leah gather for a brunch where all three of them are coughing, and even though the math doesn’t check out, I instinctively go wash my hands. When I return, Leah is, as always, hitting the nail on the head, regarding Dorinda's raging resentment of Tinsley: "Tinsley was born into the life that Dorinda puts on a pedestal." Leah thinks if Tinsley would just stand up for herself — or "thug her out" — then Dorinda would have to respect her. But Luann, as clueless as she can be about herself sometimes, has been here from the very beginning, and she knows her friends. Not just Dorinda, who she says would respond better to Tinsley if she could just stay calm in the face of an attack — but Luann also nails Tinsley.
"Tinsley tends to do the wrong thing," Luann says in her testimonial, which is just such a painfully correct statement regarding Tinsley's skills in conflict. "She screeches, which is brain-piercing," Luann continues: "And Dorinda reacts with aggression because she's annoying — Tinsley can be very annoying."
Indeed! Sometimes Tinsley is just annoying, but as Luann says directly to Tinsdale, that doesn’t mean Dorinda can judge her and be mean to her.
Dorinda, however, feels otherwise. Across town, after Ramona has introduced her trainer to Sonja and Dorinda as "Bergen, who helped transform my body," Ramona and Dorinda address Sonja's excessive drunkenness at the orchard. Sonja cops to the accusation immediately, and agrees was not an appropriate way to behave in front of the apple-picking public. Because Sonja may scream about using riesling as a lube a little too much, but she's also very receptive to constructive criticism.
Whereas when the conversation turns to Dorinda orchard altercation, Dorinda has this to say: "Well, I was thinking, Tinsley's whole sort of victim thing, it's like enough — we could all be victims." To which I say: and you all happily are, especially Dorinda this season! Everyone deserves empathy, but Dorinda has spent the whole season demanding that everyone be understanding that she's going through a hard time with this new wave of grief for Richard, breaking up with John, and the one that I can't help but laugh at every time she mentions it — breaking a rib. Even if the reasons are valid, no one has been claiming the role of victim more than Dorinda this year.
And I can't believe I am once again agreeing with Ramona, but when she said, "I don't see Tinsley as a victim, I see Dorinda victimizing Tinsley," I felt that.
In her most lucid moments, Dorinda also seems to know that she's treating people unfairly, like when she sits down with her (ugh) life coach. And, listen, Dr. Daryl seems nice enough, but what if we just went all in on a stone-cold therapist in untelevised appointments? Perhaps a therapist would have some follow-up questions to Dorinda's revelation that her anger "comes from frustration." Yes, and I eat lunch as a result of hunger — wild!
Dorinda tells Dr. Daryl that she thinks her frustration with people, including Tinsley, "comes out of wanting the person to be the best they can." And while I think wanting the best for others becoming destructive can be a very real thing, I dare anyone to watch Dorinda mocking Tinsley at the orchard last week and say it came from any sense of benevolence. Dorinda saying "Maybe I'm too different right now to tolerate how different she is" gets a little closer to the heart of things, because Dorinda's inability to tolerate anything Tinsley says or does is certainly an issue. Dorinda even admits that she handled that situation poorly because she's going through a lot internally right now…
But, if you can believe it, that personal accountability doesn’t make it outside the walls of Dr. Daryl's office.
Leah has decided to organize her first Housewives outing: a trip to the spa. And by spa, I do of course mean the Wall Street Baths, an extremely no-frills Russian bathhouse in lower Manhattan. As the camera pans over taped-up leather stools, rusty pool chairs, and a whiteboard menu reading "spicy cow feet soup," Leah says, "This is a New York iconic institution that has so much more character than any of the Upper East Side spas — they should be grateful I'm introducing them to this place!"
And even though Tinsley refuses to put her jewelry in the lockbox and just takes the risk of it heating up in the sauna and burning her skin off… and even though Ramona announces loudly that she read the reviews for this place and brought her own towels… and even though Sonja says she feels like she's in a prison… I think they all do ultimately enjoy the experience. I mean, they get cute little hats to protect their hair, two shirtless Russian men beat their bare backs with leaves, and there are giant vats of ginger-infused vodka everywhere — what more could they want?!
Other than a mealtime confrontation, of course — an absolute classic for any Housewives outing.
Once the crew has sat down to lunch, Leah ever so casually announces that she thinks they should acknowledge that the orchard trip "was a s—show." And I genuinely think Leah thought they could just hash it out there at the table and then move on to the pirozhki course. It's simply adorable how quickly things go south (although they never fully explode, I think because it's daytime in a basement and no one is blackout drunk).
After Leah asks that they acknowledge what happened, Dorinda replies simply, "I acknowledge it." Tinsley says nothing because history has taught her that's literally the only good option when it comes to Dorinda. So Ramona takes advantage of the silence to introduce an idea to Dorinda: "You advise me on a lot of things, Dorinda, and I respect you tremendously, but I realize that for some reason you have a pattern that when someone upsets you, you go for the jugular, you go below the belt and you really hurt people, and I don’t think you even realize you do it, and afterward, I think you feel bad about it."
Now, coming from Ramona this might as well be a compliment. But while she's listening, Dorinda's eyes turn to ice, and she seethes back, "You do it all the time, so you should recognize it very well." Yikes. Ramona says she'll just stop right now because this is exactly what she's talking about, and Dorinda replies that she doesn't think it's right for one of her best friends to be bringing this up in front of a group.
Doooooes Dorinda know what show this is, or remember the fact that she's been yelling at Tinsley for not being open with the group for the last two seasons straight?
A she-said/she-said sage ensues, complete with flashbacks to all the times Dorinda and Ramona have aired their friends out to the group. Dorinda says that Ramona asked her about John texting other women in front of everyone; Ramona says that Dorinda mocked Luann's mugshot in front of everyone in Cartagena. And I think we can all agree: They've each had their monstrous moments in the sun, but Dorinda taking offense at Ramona remarking on her anger in front of others is so clearly a deflection of accountability. Leah does a better job of presenting it when she says she's really connected with Dorinda and feels a special bond with her, "but I'm also terrified of what if I do something that triggers you and then I'm on the other side it."
I would think that would be pretty sobering to hear from a person that Dorinda agrees she feels a special bond with. But Dorinda takes in what Leah says and then turns to Ramona and says, "I know I've been scared of you." I wish I knew anything about psychology, because I assume I would be having an absolute field day with what's happening here. Of all people, Tinsley actually defuses the situation by saying that she respects and doesn't judge Dorinda, and just hopes for the same from her. And Dorinda earns herself a Razzie for Worst Liar of 2020 when she tells Tinsley, "I don't judge you, I respect you, and we don't have to say any more than that."
In fact, Dorinda does have more to say, but it's finally not about Tinsley! She has set her sights on Ramona now, and she makes it about five minutes into Ramona's cocktail party the next night before she stops feigning friendliness and unleashes.
Now, I don’t want to paint Ramona as an angel of accountability here. She's made a few astute observations this season, but she's still hosting a cocktail hour at her apartment for a smattering of women that she says is to "network and become friends and go out socially after." And worse than her boring social-climbing, Sonja tells us that in the locker room at the spa, Ramona told her she needs to lose at least 10 pounds "because she's beautiful." Sonja has the perfect response to the camera — "I'm beautiful with weight on, bitch!" — but you can tell that it genuinely hurt her feelings.
So, with a group of random women gathered around, Dorinda has plenty of ammunition when the spa visit comes up in conversation, and Dorinda announces: "I gotta tell you, Ramona, what you did to me yesterday was wrong." Y'know, airing Ramona out in front of a group for the exact thing she's upset with Ramona about, which is… airing her out in front of a group. Then Dorinda says she just learned a new word that explains Ramona, and pulls out her phone to play the pronunciation of said word: "schadenfreude," says a robot voice, and it feels exactly like the time that Dorinda proudly sent Luann a Tyler Perry quote about forgiveness just knowing that she had nailed the landing.
Elyse emerges from her hair curtain to explain schadenfreude to Ramona: "You don't wish someone ill, but if something bad happens, you get pleasure from it." Ramona takes great offense to this, and things really start blowing up. Dorinda says Ramona knew she was in a bad place, but she brought up the Cartagena incident from two years ago anyway. "You're supposed to be my friend, and I had nothing to do with it, and I need you to always support me!" Dorinda yells. Ramona says she does support Dorinda, but she's been lashing out at everybody.
They start lobbing insults at each other in such quick succession I can't keep up, until it finally all culminates in Ramona saying, "Dorinda, I'm sorry you're so unhappy, and I'm sorry Richard died tomorrow, and I'm sorry it's your anniversary coming up."
And Dorinda saying: "I'm sorry you can't land a boulder, and I'm sorry there's been so many men who have come and gone and you still can't land a boulder."
As I said: monsters.
But I kid you not, 30 seconds later, after Ramona has kicked Dorinda out and Sonja has headed to the elevators in solidarity, Ramona storms out of her apartment, yelling that she loves them both and she doesn't want to fight. Soon they're all sobbing in each other's arms. And while I appreciate the quick turnaround, and I appreciate the genuine love and affection that these three have for each other… I'mma need two of them to figure out how to balance that love out with holding one of them accountable for her constant raging, mean, hurtful, angry outbursts. (Answer key for next week's quiz: The two of them are Ramona and Sonja, and the one of them is Dorinda.)
The Real Housewives of New York City
Ramona, LuAnn, Sonja, Carole, Heather, Kristen, and Dorinda — and oh, yes, Bethenny — are in a New York state of mind.