Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 5, Episode 8 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey," titled "Scum One, Scum All."
We open where we left off last week, standing on the precipice of hell. Joe Gorga and Joe Giudice use their tiny mallet hands to pound each other into the tenderest Italian meat possible, while Teresa runs for help. Melissa screams maniacally , and then helps out by ensuring Joe's hair is never exposed to the elements. "I have 10 years of hate against this man. Any opportunity I have to go against him, it's on," Joe Gorga says with pure hate in his eyes. Teresa throws her weight against her husband, pushing him out the door. "For your kids! For your kids!" she repeats endlessly. Joe Giudice's face is bright red and his arms are streaked with something black; Teresa suggests that it's Melissa's makeup, but it could just be the afternoon's evil seeping into him.
Back in the event room, Melissa's running around like a chicken with its extensions all mussed up. She swigs the last of her drink and looks at her hands: The strange "black tar" is on everyone. I always thought white trash was just a nasty term, but it turns out they do actually leave a mark behind. I hope the hotel staff knows that whoever goes in that room next will end up pregnant in a wife beater with Cheeto stains.
We eventually find out that the black stuff was a hair spray Joe Gorga uses to make his strands look a bit thicker -- and suddenly, Melissa's intense desire to bring him his hat makes sense. Boyfriend is losing his mind AND his hair, and it's a whole lot easier to fix the latter.
"He's the c*** husband! He's all these things!" Melissa says from behind the hotel door. Inside, Joe and Melissa are out of breath, hurriedly packing and thrashing about. Joe's so mad that his anger can't be contained inside a mere mortal's shirt, so he remains nude from the waist up.
"They're not normal," Melissa rages. "Guess what, honey? Saddam Hussein, that's someone's brother too. Doesn't mean that he's a good person." That doesn't really make much sense to me -- if Teresa is Saddam Hussein, doesn't that make Joe the not-good person? -- but it did lead me to learn that "Saddam" means "one who confronts" in Arabic. Sort of fitting, no?
Over in Teresa's room, Joe recounts his version of the brawl. "I swear to God he was grabbing and biting my nuts," Joe says with a weird smile, like he's recalling his time with the human-squirrel fondly.
Now Melissa and Joe Gorga are sobbing in bed. Meanwhile, everyone else is sort of bored, so they decide it's a really ideal time for Teresa and her brother to make peace again. Rosie leads Teresa to her brother's room for a chat, but Melissa refuses to leave them alone. "Joe's always the rock, so when Joe turns weak, I need to become strong," Melissa says in her interview.
When your friends fail you and your husband tries to kill your brother, there's really only one thing to do: SPLISH SPLASH! A very nude Joe and Teresa climb in what I hope (for the tub's sake) is a massive bath, then proceed to call up some poor waiter for a bottle of champagne. They make no attempt to cover up as he enters -- I guess what's one more person when you've already got a camera crew standing a few inches away? -- and since he doesn't burst into gutteral screams, I assume he had a co-worker stationed outside with a pillow that was then used to muffle his sobs. The scene is akin to sexual waterboarding.
In her interview, Teresa explains: "My husband was defending my honor, so I'm going to give him a little brown-chicka-brown-chow." (I am pretty sure she means bow-chicka-bow-wow, but I'm not going to judge another woman's sexual preferences. I mean, besides how much I already judge her for choosing Joe.) She tries to follow this up with a wink, but that proves difficult. The end result is reminiscent of temporary Bell's palsy. If you think that sounds attractive, you should see Teresa try to pour some champs into Joe's mouth. "You're gonna get abused tonight. I'm gonna take your brother and abuse you for it," Joe says. I think that's some type of saucy talk for them, but everything I learned in high school health class taught me that normally you're supposed to call the police when you hear a man saying that to a woman.
The next morning, everyone tries different remedies for their rage hangovers. Joe Giudice says some crude stuff, Kathy and Rich have champagne ... and Teresa calls Caroline. My, how the thrown tables have turned.
She fills Caroline in on the fabulous situation and asks her to come join the retreat. "Teresa does not ask for help. For her to call me, it's heavy. It's bad. She's scared," Caroline says, trying to mask her joy at being needed. Then, she pretends like she hasn't had a small suitcase packed all along.
As Melissa and Joe Gorga get ready to face the day, they're still obsessing over how Teresa didn't help Melissa tear the men apart. "All she cares about is her next book deal," Joe says tersely. Still, they grapple with leaving, since officially cutting sibling ties would be like putting a pillow over their ailing dad's face, "Othello" style.
Next thing we know, Bravo's slipping in some nifty cross-promotion. The famed "Dr. V" everyone's been talking about is none other than Venus Nicolino from "LA Shrinks." "She came highly recommended by friends of mine who live in California," Teresa lies. Even if I hadn't watched the show, I'd know that was total bullshit ... after all, if nobody in your own bedazzled suburb can stand you, there's no way someone across the country will.
Dr. V's first words are that though she is blonde, she is Italian "where it matters -- my vagina!" I guess the drapes may not match the carpet, but both equally enjoy a nice lasagna. Teresa gets Dr. V and her green, white and red lady bits a cup of tea and brings her up to speed.
Finally, they all sit down at the table. When Dr. V meets Melissa, she brings up the stripper rumor. "That was the icing on the cake," Melissa explains. Then, the conversation flips to yesterday's fight, and Rich says it was all Teresa's fault. "Nothing's going to be solved if we think that one person is the problem," Dr. V says. She wants to skip the group therapy and talk to everyone mano y Italian vagina.
Joe Gorga goes first. He tells Dr. V that his sister is a fake, and explains that she is the definition of scum since she plants rumors that will hopefully result in his divorce. Dr. V explains that Teresa's issue may not be Melissa, but the fact that she doesn't trust Joe to make smart decisions. Though it makes sense, Joe's not willing to hear it -- and he admits he just wants out of this whole experience.
Dr. V grabs Teresa and brings her up to face her brother. Joe says he needs time and wants to walk away from this retreat, and Dr. V agrees. With that, the real therapist drives up: Caroline. Sure, she doesn't have a PhD in anything besides meddling, but when has that ever mattered?
Back in therapy, Dr. V takes out the most powerful weapon in her arsenal: her amazingly fast ability to make clients cry. "When you think about life, Teresa, without your mom and dad, what happens to you?" she asks. Joe admits that even seeing an older woman in the supermarket makes him ache for his mom. Now that Dr. V is seeing them interact, she changes her tune: Now, she wants Joe and Teresa to stay and talk without the influence of anyone else. "We both have families and we want to be together," Teresa says as her voice cracks. It seems she's alluding to how painful it is to realize that the happy upbringing they loved may not be something they can replicate with their own children.
Those words seems to be the magic bullet, and Joe's plastered heart cracks open. You can almost see all the hate burning off of his body, and all the deep, deep love spilling out if it. Or maybe that's just the hair spray.
He grabs Teresa's face and kisses it voraciously, like a starving man finally being handed a steak. Sobs rack his body and suddenly he's heaving, totally giving himself over to the emotion and crying into her face and clothes and hair like a small child.
They're tangled up in a big salty mess of emotion, and suddenly, it's obvious that the path to forgiveness has never been paved with the "right" words or the perfect therapist. After all that time spent talking and talking and talking, it's time to not speak ... and to feel.
So yeah, the episode ended on a sort of nice moment. Still, if somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, aliens are discussing whether the human race is highly-evolved enough to share their knowledge, I pray that they have no access to "Real Housewives of New Jersey." If they do, let us hope they think it's a hilarious weekly version of April Fools, and not in any way a reflection of a typical Earthling's capacity for love and understanding.
"Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.