The Real Housewives of New Jersey episode 4 recap: Don't Mess with the Mechanical Bull if you don't want the Horns.

As the fourth episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey opens, we see that Teresa and Joe Giudice are on a wild goose chase searching for a poultry farm so that they can acquire a personally-picked turkey for their “Friendsgiving.”  Since “Tre” and Joe have already celebrated two separate thanksgivings with each of their parents, Teresa has decided to throw a “Friendsgiving” since it’s very obvious that her brother hasn’t responded to her letter as of yet; meaning they won’t be giggling over who gets the last piece of pumpkin pie any time soon.  As Teresa guides them along through the fair state of New Jersey, Joe becomes increasingly frustrated with his wife’s inability to get there in a timely manner.  Throughout the entire trip, Joe kept yelling at Teresa like, “TRE! I’m gonna be sticking you in the oven, make a left!”  After what appears to be several hours in the car, the Giudices arrive at their destination, a poultry farm where they are allowed to “meet it before they eat it.” 

At first, Tre and Joe think that they’d like to “meet it before they eat it” but then they decide that it’s far too “gross” to actually “meet” the turkey they plan on masticating the next day.  In fact, both Joe and Tre suffer from extreme turkey guilt, despite the fact that Teresa is wearing a feather vest (highly appropriate outfit for a poultry farm if you ask me).  PETA they are not, but it does appear that the Giudices realize the slightly cruel nature of meeting your turkey before eating him or her.  Joe sums it up best when he says, “It was the most disgustingest thing ever – I had like turkey poop in my throat.”  Further on the subject of turkey cruelty, Teresa ponders whether turkeys actually do feel bad about their doomed fates.  Does a turkey not feel?  Does a turkey not yearn for a more fulfilled life?  Although the poultry man insists that turkeys don’t know what’s going on, Teresa wonders: “How do they know? They’re not freakin’ turkeys.  Do they speak Turkey Language?”  To quench the turkey-eating man’s burden, Tre and Joe elect to buy a turkey that was killed the day before so that they can evade the turkey guilt.

On the subject of guilt, one person who was not feeling guilty about his success was Albert Manzo (Sr.).  In a far less dramatic commute, Caroline, Albert, and Lauren Manzo take a trip to meet the parents of Lauren’s boyfriend, Vito, at his family’s famous deli (where Vito and his entire family work).  As they are pulling up, Albert lovingly gives Lauren a hard time: “Oh this is a nice place to live.  Get a little house dress, let your mustache grow in.”  One thing I love about the Manzo family is their ability to make fun of each other and give each other a hard time without it being a big deal.  It’s not atypical for the Manzos to make fun of each other, and Lauren rolled with the dig pretty well, knowing full well that she’d never be that type of woman. 

Upon entering the deli, it’s very obvious that Caroline Manzo, decked out in Chanel and wearing beautiful black knee-high riding boots, is not the same type of woman as Vito’s mom, who had a far more simple style.  Despite their obvious differences, Caroline insists, “Whether or not I wear a Chanel, and his mother doesn’t, I could care less.  With in-laws, it’s all perception.”  Speaking to the fact that there are obvious socio-economic differences between the Manzos and Vito’s family, the Manzos try to play down their money to the best of their ability.  Although he meant well, I did cringe a little bit when Albert insisted that he “grew up poor” in front of Vito’s family, and that his children “don’t know how to be poor,” despite their great survival “instincts.”  While he probably meant that as a commonality, it came off a little awkward.  The worst was when Vito put an apron on Lauren, and after handing over her Chanel purse to her future mother-in-law, Vito tells Lauren, “Don’t get used to that babe, the Chanel.”  Lauren seems like the type of independent woman, who will be doing it for herself, so whether or not Vito buys it for her or not: I’m sure Lauren will still be rocking her Chanel.  Although Caroline heeds a warning to her daughter in her confessional: “Italian mother-in-laws…buckle up!”

One housewife who certainly should have buckled up was Melissa Gorga.  As Melissa and her (evil) sisters are in the kitchen preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, Joe Gorga tells Melissa that he has a surprise for her.  As Melissa opens the front door and sees her “surprise,” it’s not exactly the puppy she was hoping for. Instead, Joe Gorga got Melissa another type of animal.  I’m sure he was totally thinking about his wife when he got her the most highly appropriate gift possible for a Thanksgiving meal: a mechanical bull.  I mean, what woman doesn’t want a mechanical bull in their front yard on Thanksgiving?!  Joe explains his logic for the mechanical bull by saying, “I wanted people to say, that Joey Gorga, he’s crazy!”  For some odd, completely unfounded reason, I don’t think Joe needed to get the mechanical bull in his front yard for people to call him “crazy”. That’s just an opinion though.

What wasn’t unusually crazy or extremely creepy was Kathy’s husband, Rich Wakile, putting on his leather bondage mask to ride the mechanical bull.  Furthermore, I wasn’t creeped out at all when Joe Gorga got on the mechanical bull and said, “Now I know how my wife feels!”  Lastly, it wasn’t crazy or creepy in the slightest when Joe and Melissa got on the mechanical bull together and started making out (as she was unbuttoning her husband’s shirt) in front of their entire family.  None of those things are creepy or crazy, they’re fun, okay!?  Despite Melissa’s slight hesitation to get on the bull, Joe Gorga insists that getting a mechanical bull in his front yard is just the type of loving little surprise that “keeps [his] marriage alive, baby doll!”

In her classic essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” highly regarded British feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey takes a Lacanian psychoanalytic approach to discuss the role of women in narrative cinema as objects of the “male gaze”.  Mulvey states: “In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female.  The determining male gaze projects it fantasy onto the female figure which is styled accordingly.  In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.  Women displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to strip tease to Busby Berkeley [to mechanical bull-riding on Thanksgiving], [the female] holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire.”  And it ain’t that different in reality cinema, because Melissa Gorga was surely playing to and signifying the male desire of her husband the minute she got on that bull.  Melissa couldn’t have said it better herself, “Any time I do anything with a little bit of contact with Joe, it becomes sexual.”  At least “baby doll” knows what’s up.  And I have to give it to Melissa: she strives to be the best wife and mother she can be, and if that means riding a mechanical bull on Thanksgiving day in front of her family and children for her husband’s enjoyment, then so be it!  Moreover, you can’t fault Melissa for complaining, as she laughs off her husband’s slightly unusual requests with total aplomb, all the while exclaiming, “THANK YOU, JEEEEESUS!!!! (hands raised up to the ornate ceiling of her mansion)”

Since Thanksgiving is about gratitude, I couldn’t help but shed a small tear when Teresa talked about how thankful she was for her friends, who have stuck by her through all of her familial and financial hardship: “I have to say you guys are great.  I feel like you guys are my brother and sisters too.  Every time I need advice you’re there for me, and it’s nice to know.  It’s been a really crazy year, but thank you.”  Judge me if you want, but I love Teresa Giudice and I feel for her situation.  Exhibiting some real, actual growth, Teresa had a little chat with her girls about how things “don’t always have to be perfect” since she formerly was obsessed with the cult of perfection (la bella figura).  Previously, if Gia, Gabriela, Milania, and Audriana weren’t “doing fabulous” then Mama Teresa was not happy.  Nowadays, Teresa has learned to mellow out and enjoy the small things, because “Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and being with your friends and family.  Things don’t have to be perfect.”  However, they do have to be fabulicious!  And it looked like Teresa made a completely fabulicious, delicious meal for all of her adopted brothers and sisters at her “Friendsgiving.”

“Friendsgiving” was actually pretty mellow until the subject of Joe Gorga came up.  Regressing for a slight moment, Teresa brought out the card that Melissa Gorga sent her after she had her brand new mansion built.  In the card, Melissa congratulated Teresa for having her house “redone”, which was ultimate insult for Teresa and Joe.  And Teresa rehashed how she maliciously threw away a box of cookies that Melissa had brought her as a gift in retribution for the slight she received via Hallmark gift card.  As they started to badmouth Melissa even more, Caroline stepped in and steered them back in the right direction: “It’s not about cookies and cake!  I don’t want to talk about the cookies and the cake and the card!”  True to form, Caroline displayed some real matriarchal authority and calmed everyone down at dinner.  After all, Caroline used to handle a .22 caliber assault rifle, so she is not the one to mess with if you catch my drift. 

In the spirit of “Friendsgiving”, one thing I’m extremely grateful for was the clue bestowed upon Jacqueline’s daughter, Ashley, by her adopted cousins, Christopher and Albie Manzo.  Visiting the Manzo boys at their new Hoboken pad, Ashley starts up again with her “move to the city” courtesy of Jacqueline and Chris, and Albie and Chris quickly put her in check.  Since they’re older and wiser, Albie breaks it down for Ashley in the simplest of ways: “You DON’T HAVE THE MONEY… I guarantee you would be back home within three months.”  When Ashley tells Albie that she feels like he’s not being very optimistic, he fires back with, “but it’s realistic.”  And Chris also gives her some solid advice with, “Show your parents you actually give a sh*t and want to do something with your life, and not just for a week.” 

As soon as Ashley gets back home, she takes her cousins’ advice by cleaning her room, cleaning the kitchen and walking the family Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, much to the shock and surprise of her parents.  When Jacqueline and Chris probe Ashley as to why she felt the need to do all of these completely altruistic, responsible household duties, she says that she had no motivation or reasoning behind doing them, other than wanting be more responsible (and needing a new car to get into the city every day).  Ashley also states that she’s given up her dream (“for now”) of moving to the city and “being Carrie Bradshaw.”  And it’s good that Ashley realizes that she’s not going to be Carrie Bradshaw by not putting in the hard work and effort requited to be Carrie Bradshaw.  After all, Carrie Bradshaw-esque columns on female affirmative websites like aren’t just given away, they’re earned!  Take a note, Ashley.  For more musings on the lives of those in the Garden State, be sure to read next week’s recap of The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

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