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It's Christmas In The Berkshires On RHONYC

Dorinda hosts everyone at her haunted estate; Tom and Luann are the gifts that just keep giving!

Chalking It Up To Whatever

Million Dollar Listing New York's Fredrik returns to help Bethenny sell her current place and act as a humanizing token gay friend of sorts; they do a walkthrough to get a feel for the place. It's pretty routine stuff until they get to her closet and he grabs a pair Louboutins and takes a giant whiff as if he's hitting a bottle of poppers in the bathroom at The Cock. Later, in the living room, she gives him a piece of chalk and Bryn's easel (another of her "fun" ideas that makes me want to run into traffic on Fifth Avenue) so he can make a list of everything she has to do to get the place ready for buyers. Naturally she disagrees with pretty much everything he says, especially the charge that her apartment is cluttered. She gets retribution when he notices chalk dust on his new Ralph Lauren suit and briefly loses his mind. We end things with each of them writing down a number to list the property at and, wouldn't you know it, they each picked $5.25 million.

"Downtown" & Central Park

It's a testament to how much Ramona hates Tom that she traveled past Union Square and had her driver circle Carole's block until she answered the phone and invited her over. Inside, Carole self-consciously asks if it smells like kitty litter, unwittingly granting her permission to comment on her apartment's other perceived shortcomings. Ramona settles on a tray of glasses on the living room table because she doesn't understand why a pair specifically for the bedroom is in the living room. It's absolute madness. Eventually, the conversation turns to Dorinda's fundraiser and the action switches over to Tom and Luann walking Aston in the park.

(Disclaimer: I'm sorry.)

There's no getting around it: Tom's bulge is insane. It's no Justin Theroux in The Leftovers, but also it doesn't not look like he's playing hacky sack as they walk down a path. Anyway, I'm staring at Tom's stupid running shorts, Tom's staring directly into the camera, and Luann's pitching South Africa as a honeymoon destination. Even if it's sobering like nicking your hand while chopping vegetables, or nearly falling asleep at the wheel while driving on the highway late at night, Luann's TH is a welcome relief. Poor Lu, talking about love and her relationship with Tom the way a 13-year-old boy talks about sharing a room with his parents or weird cousins on a weeklong vacation. What does she love about Tom? Well, for one thing, if she wakes up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep, she can turn on the TV and he doesn't even care!

Back at Carole's, she says she's heard things about Tom and hints at what Barbara, Luann's shitty friend, told her at Dorinda's fundraiser. Half-listening, Ramona chimes in with a story about her friend "Ann," a woman who was dating Tom until she wasn't and who ran into him last week. Apparently he tried to ram his tongue down her throat but relax, he does that with everyone. Carole refers to the behavior as Trumpian and Ramona loses it, arguing that her beloved president-elect would never do such a thing because he's "germophonic" and barely even shakes hands.

The last time we see Luann she's picking up dog shit and referring to herself as "Mommy" while Tom looks on. Ramona and Carole settle on handing the situation off to Dorinda that weekend in…The Berkshires.

The Berkshires

Dorinda's doing some lite decorating of her haunted Berkshires estate before everyone comes over. God bless her; if there's a ceramic Santa out there, she's got it. She also, for some reason, has three giant LED orbs and is struggling to get them to be the colors she wants them to be. Her plan is to have Ramona, Sonja, and Tinsley arrive first followed by Bethenny and Carole the next day, followed by Luann who's coming in from Palm Beach.

Once again, the attention to quirky detail is great. Especially when Sonja basks in being not only invited this time around, but being invited early. The first group arrives sans Tinsley and Ramona doesn't let a second pass before telling Dorinda her house is freezing and that it reminds her of Sonja's house. Some may be experiencing hot flashes and welcome the colder temperature, but not her! It's four degrees colder than her usual moist 68 degrees and she's going to maintain body heat by drinking and bombarding people.

The Chip On Sonja's Shoulder & Dale

I'll see your Patricia Altschul and raise you Dale, another disarming woman with a lovely southern twang that probably also has some weird shit in her basement and whose family proudly owned slaves. Dale is Tinsley's mom and, like Ramona's friends, she's a character and much-needed shot in the arm. For instance, after a good, extremely uncomfortable laugh about how they're both wearing white and fringe, Dale tells Tinsley that she "brought Daddy," by which she means his ashes. They may have divorced before his death, but it's nice that they're still on good enough terms to remain travel companions. Anyway, Tinsley starts freaking out so they hit the minibar.

Drinks procured, they move over to the couch so they can have another good laugh about how her mother was super-critical growing up (when the other girls started wearing makeup she made Tinsley start wearing blush; hugs and the rest of the day were dependent on how far she could get her arms around her when Tinsley visited from boarding school).

Back in The Berkshires, Sonja tells Dorinda and Ramona that Tinsley's the worst houseguest. She's not making her coffee, she doesn't invite her out when she's going to dinner or to drinks with friends, she's fucking 23-year-olds and deviating from the list. This isn't what Lady Morgan signed off on! This isn't what was in Tinsley's cover letter!

Lucky for Sonja, Dale agrees with her and is horrified to find out Tinsley's been leaving her out of social functions ("I'm giving her space, Mom!") and hasn't been surprising her lovely host with small pastries and cups of Skinnygirl tea. Their meeting ends with another good laugh as Dale tells Tinsley that she desperately wants grandchildren and imploring her to hurry the fuck up and have a baby with a 50-year-old man.

High Strung

Dorinda tries to make decorating one of the dozen Christmas trees in her home a fun activity with Sonja and Ramona. It doesn't work.

The North Face

Carole goes Christmas shopping with Adam's parents at The North Face in a scene I genuinely don't understand the point of. That said, her THes are wonderful this season and she's really coming into her own, or at least returning to the Carole we met her first season. I can't recommend this "scene" but I will say that I think the frank way she talks about the relative impossibility of children with Adam and how that will affect her relationship is low-key revolutionary.

The Bezerkshires

Tinsley arrives at Blue Stone Manor and is immediately put off by the decorations and Sonja, who wanders into her room to bully her about an event she attended with her mom's friends. The next morning, Dorinda's eager to show everyone her cake when, brace yourselves, she discovers it toppled over in the box. True to form she says, "Enough wine and the cake will be beautiful!" Adding some shades to Tinsley is the fact that she says her throat hurts (she does sound more hoarse than usual) and decides to treat it with Tito's and OJ.

Bethenny and Carole arrive on a cloud of faux fur. They're barely in the house a minute when Bethenny is looking at the card that came with the bouquet in the front hallway. Turns out Dennis, her new boyfriend, sent them. Well let me tell you something, he also better have sent Dorinda a fucking evergreen or a poinsettia for her birthday, too! They go upstairs to drop off their bags but linger, twirling their mustaches and stroking their beards as they figure out how to tell Luann that her fiancé is a bedbug and torturing the women of New York. It's a tricky position to be in, sure, but boy did I laugh when Bethenny earnestly said that she wants to tell her but doesn't want to be the one carrying the torch.

Downstairs, Tinsley, Ramona, and Sonja nearly burn the house down trying to start a fire when the rest of the group joins them. One by one each person makes a case to Dorinda until she finally relents and agrees to talk to Luann. Obviously the next logical step after talking about a mutual friend whose fiancé is a pale white turd floating in one of the bathroom stalls at Grand Central is to decorate cookies, which is what they're doing when Luann arrives. She didn't miss much. If anything she lucked out because she didn't have to see Bethenny's obnoxious gingerbread man but did get to see Sonja lament the loss of what she thinks are perfectly good pastry bags. She also gets to see Sonja go in on Tinsley, whom she says she's "razzing," but whom she clearly dislikes and wants to bludgeon with one of Dorinda's jade animal soldier mantle-pieces.

Later, those two really get into it. Well, okay, Sonja just attacks Tinsley because apparently she asked Connor -- Sonja's intern or employee or gay twenty-something BFF or sex slave or whatever, probably all of the above; it's all hands on deck over there -- to answer to get the hats she was having delivered from the Hamptons to the house for her. Sonja goes off the deep end. She runs her matchmaking service and fashion haus out of that townhouse with those people, Tinsley. By asking someone to sign for your package you're not just taking away one of her employees, you're basically taking food out of her mouth! Tipsy Girl demands attention!

In the living room, Dorinda talks to Luann, telling her that everyone's insinuating that Tom is, uh, doing things, and that she'd rather go to her directly than have a repeat of last year. Luann looks kind of like the victim of a home invasion in a thriller. Like Jodie Foster in Panic Room when she has to tell the cops that she's fine and someone called by mistake because otherwise Dwight Yoakam's going to shoot her in the head and let her daughter go into diabetic shock. Yeah, Luann looks like that while she tells Dorinda that she feels "good" and "amazing" and doesn't have any concerns. And then Ramona walks in.

Verdict

It might look like a tie, but it's really not. Each "Watch" is far and away better than each "Skip," which run short and are dead-eyed filler, but not exactly bad. This week zips along and does a lot of heavy lifting as it sets the stage for what I'm sure is a calculated attempted to recapture the magic of last season's trip to The Berkshires. And you know what? I'm fine with it. I will gladly grab a stick and join the women in poking Luann's sleeping bear or dead fish of a relationship in Dorinda's haunted mansion.

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