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Now that the women of Real Housewives of New York have finally returned from their choleric trip to Anguilla—and have applied proper medical care to the third-degree verbal burns that left a trail of steam in their wake—everyone has a chance to breathe (including us viewers). I’m reluctant to say that their first international trip was exhausting, but it lacked the kind of mirth and childlike revelry that this cast has been supplying thus far this season. The closest thing we got to the absurdist joy we’ve come to expect was Jessel falling on her back after trying to shimmy under a limbo pole—and that’s not enough for a a light amuse-bouche, let alone a whole meal.
But now that they’ve returned from the city whence they came, everyone is back in the groove that this season has nicely established. Jessel and Pavit are preparing their all-night fuckfest; Brynn is wearing funny hats and continuing her habit of frequenting odd shoppes (the “-ppes” is essential when it comes to Brynn); and Sai and Erin continue to be two of the most obnoxious humans in the tri-state area. Episode 12 of Season 14 is nothing we haven’t seen before, but when these women do ridiculous Real Housewives entertainment so well, why mess with a good thing? There’s even an appropriate amount of drama in the episode, which should satiate anyone still reeling from Anguilla. The episode is also a rallying cry for us Jessel Jaguars. Leave this poor woman alone and let her remove her chastity belt at whatever speed she pleases!
Once everyone gets a chance to catch their breath back in the city, Jenna and Brynn head out to Henrietta Hudson, one of like…two and a half lesbian bars in New York. (The half comes at 2 a.m. when the Dallas BBQ restaurant in Chelsea gets a little freaky.) Brynn has the energy of every other straight girl that I’ve ever brought to a gay bar: She’s both a kid in a candy store and a decorated anthropologist studying the rituals of an unfamiliar people. For what it’s worth, Brynn has never been specific about her sexuality—and she reads pretty fluid to me—but Jenna called her straight in a confessional, so I’m going with Miss Lyons on this one.
A woman named Katie walks up to Jenna and Brynn’s table and Brynn demonstrates a kind of flirting that can only be described as “dangerous for the pharmaceutical industry.” If everyone had Brynn’s arsenal of coquettish tools, pill mills would dry up faster than you can say, “Do you have a beauty mark above your lip?” That’s exactly what Brynn asks Katie two seconds after she approaches their table, and suddenly I realize that we might be able to eliminate all depression and anxiety if everybody could have Brynn’s deficiency of fucks given.
With her wingwoman status secured, Brynn passes Katie over to Jenna, who has an equally palpable chemistry with her fellow bar patron, despite being a couple of decades her senior. Despite all of her hesitation to own it, Jenna is a damn good flirt. When Katie tries to write her number on Jenna’s wrist, the Sharpie smears and Katie says, “I’m gonna need to give it to you again.” Jenna, a regular Mae West, replies: “You can give it to me as many times as you need to.” When Katie leaves, Brynn is waiting to make sure she takes a photo of the number to hold her friend accountable. “Your dumb ass is going to wake up and say, “Oh, I put together a PowerPoint presentation for Loveseen and I totally deleted [the number].” Call me a hypocrite for laughing at this after calling out Erin’s use of “dumbass” to describe Ubah two episodes ago, but it’s so clear when someone is saying that with love versus malice.
Elsewhere, Sai and Erin go on a double date with their husbands and do their favorite activity: talking about Jessel because they have nothing interesting going on in their own lives. They fall back on the conversation that has been happening for the last 12 episodes about Jessel and Pavit not having sex for a year and a half, and all four people at the table say that, at that point, they would have sex with other people. Erin then says she thinks that she can lure a gay man in to spice up her marriage and have sex with her in this hypothetical situation. I’m not entirely sure Erin has ever met a gay man. I think she permanently lives in 2002; she’s heard of gay men, she’s passed them in the street like Samantha Jones in the Meatpacking District, but she’s never met one or been friends with one.
The middle of the episode contains exactly what all Housewives filler episodes should include: a random group trip to a holistic healing center; a visit to a rare bookstore where Brynn is wearing a version of Lady Gaga’s Joanne hat in black and telling the shop attendant that she wants a book with no illustrations because she feels it will be rarer; and a completely nude bathtub FaceTime call between Ubah and Brynn where Ubah is munching chocolates from a box. Between all of this, Jessel and Pavit have a sexy staycation at the Ritz Carlton in NoMad—or, excuse me, “The Ritz Cahlton in NaurMad”—and finally dampen their dry spell.
At their trip to the holistic healer, Jessel asked Sai to lunch so the two women can cut some remaining tension from Anguilla, after Sai yelled at her multiple times to be more real when sharing personal stories with the group. Sai arrives at the lunch 20 minutes late. Jessel arrives 20 minutes after Sai. Neither woman is on time, and both of them are 20 minutes late…sort of. To me, this math makes sense, as Sai would’ve kept Jessel waiting for 20 minutes if she were punctual. (As Sai might say, “The math is not math’ing,” but maybe she’s got some other two-year-old internet phrases banked to use instead.)
Jessel apologizes to Sai for not being able to open up in the way that Sai desired, explaining that Jessel’s uncle—whom she lived with when she moved to New York—was an alcoholic, so it’s hard for her to talk about that period of her life. Jessel cites Sai’s story about her mother, who was also an alcoholic who died from the disease. Jessel brings this up as a point that they can bond over, but Sai once again sees this as Jessel comparing their struggles.
Jessel starts to cry, and Sai says that she’s being “a little dramatic,” which is a really lovely thing to say about someone displaying physical vulnerability four feet away from you. “I didn’t come from a family that openly talks about this shit,” Jessel says, ascribing a reason to why it’s harder for her to delve into her past in the same way that Sai does.
Sai seems like she’s endlessly preoccupied with everyone acting exactly like her, and then at the same time, no one’s story can possibly compare to hers. According to Sai, you should be vulnerable and share exactly as she does—on her terms and her timeline—or you’re being dishonest or hiding something. But if you do open up and share something similar, it can never equate to her experiences. Someone who one-ups a story with their own trauma is not a friend, that’s an annoyance. Be a decent person and empathize with each other! Jessel and Sai should be using their similar stories to heal other parts of each other. Jessel isn’t trying to say that she had it just as hard as Sai, she’s trying to say that she has an inkling of understanding of Sai’s experience, which can make them closer. It’s so wildly frustrating to watch the point completely fly over Sai’s head, but I guess that probably happens a lot when you’re five feet tall.
Sai awkwardly excuses herself from the lunch and leaves things wrapped in a band-aid instead of a bow, leading me to ponder just how these women thought their power rankings would be standing at this point during filming. Sai and Erin are operating with the arrogance of cast members who believe themselves to be running point, but it’s Jessel, Brynn, and Jenna who the fans have fallen in love with. It goes to show that Real Housewives is a game that never really stops being played, it’s just that the rules are always changing.