This episode of the Real Housewives of New York City was based on some fundamentally implausible events. First of all, why would anybody — much less two dozen people — turn out to watch four piss-poor amateurs have a tennis match? And why would any genuine charity allow LuAnn de Lesseps around the kids in whom it is trying to nurture self-respect and inter-class understanding? And, finally, why on earth would Kelly Killoren Bensimon go on a "date" with a super-hot polo player at a completely empty salsa restaurant in Hell's Kitchen?
Moving past these problems, though, this episode was fundamentally watchable, and the tides of favor changed remarkably among the cast from last week. But did you see who won? It was subtler than you might have predicted ….
LuAnn: Okay, let's get this out of the way. Yes, it was nice that LuAnn went to the Boys & Girls Club, and yes, she was a lot more charming and down-to-earth than we thought she'd be. She didn't even introduce herself as a Countess! (At first.) But the minute that one 12-year-old girl told her (in mockery? We couldn't tell) that she wanted to be a model, all of our goodwill was erased. "You have plenty of time to grow and you have a beautiful face, and you know what, losing weight is easy," she lied. "You know what you have, you have the basics!" Ugh. We will never get back the part of our soul that died at that moment.
Kelly: After last week's nightmare of awkwardness and microdermabrasion, we didn't think it would be possible for Kelly to recoup any of her charm. But we found her less horrific this time around. The fact that conversation on her fake date with her fake boyfriend was clearly scripted by producers (Who would you rather be, other than you? Really?) reminded us that Kelly is more dumb than mean. And even though we think her sudden interest in Jill's charity event was motivated by self-interest, she came up with genuinely good auction items, and it is for charity. Even Allie, the stealth Yoda of the show, seemed impressed.
Ramona: We're not going to deduct credit from Ramona for the douchesticity of her husband, Mario (Wondering: Is he wearing a full face of foundation just for the show, or does he do that in real life?), but even she didn't do a good job of hiding her outrage at the tennis match. Everyone said she didn't react, but the Bravo cameras caught the most amazing facial twitches we've seen since Matthew Perry tried to hide his drug addiction on camera during Friends. ("Could I be any tweakier??") And lest we forget, when women who are not southern call people "honey," it is not because they are being nice. Her failure to see the fun in Simon's cameo on the court — or in the Team Jill T-shirts, which were leftover from a previous episode — cost her the episode win.
Alex: Once again, in this episode, Alex proves herself to be slightly more capable — and constructively helpful — than her castmates. Her photo shoot of Bethenny may be the only time we've ever watched someone demonstrate a skill (other than tennis and strutting) on the entire series. Simon cost her points by being pathetic at tennis — despite the fact that he, naturally, had the full outfit, complete with terrycloth armband and headband at his immediate disposal — but Alex kept the secret well and seems to be trying hard to repair her relationships with at least some of the other Housewives. It's not enough for the win, but we expect big things from this one in the future. Next time, ditch the faux Pucci palazzo pants, though.
Bethenny: Once again, Bethenny had some of the best one-liners in the episode. "I love criticism," she observes. "Who criticizes more than I do?" Well, us, but that's okay, because as the most normal woman on this show, Bethenny is basically the viewer surrogate. To wit: When Jill weeps that she "can't deal" with the loss of her housekeeper, she snaps, "Well, you'd better, because life's a lot harder than that." When Jill boasts about her apartment, she snipes: "Jill's apartment is Liberace, Versace, la cucarachi. If I were alone in Jill's apartment for a week, I'd think I'd dropped a hit of acid." She expresses disappointment at Ramona's reaction to Simon's appearance ("It was so anticlimatic"). And when she watches Simon play tennis, she describes it as "watching skinning an animal while it's still alive." Bethenny gets credit for being nice to Alex, and for being completely honest with Simon when she asks him to play the tennis match just because it will be awkward. But her plan sort of backfired, and even her sense of humor was eclipsed by Jill's this time around.
Jill: Her home renovation finally complete, Jill was able to bust out and anchor this episode in a way that she hasn't all season. She helped Kelly repair her image (she won't, "what do they say, kick a gift horse in the mouth?") and even joked with her about the ill will from the other Housewives. "Bethenny is going to see Madonna that night," she cracks. "She's going to see Kelly!" Sure, the makeover of her apartment (which appeared smaller than we had anticipated) was heinous, but she wanted to support her friend Brad, and it was at least better than before. It was funny when she immediately released her little Chihuahua to soil the carpets, just as Bethenny remarked "Brad marked his territory all around the apartment." She had a great sense of friendliness and humor when she invited Simon to play with her, and kept it up throughout, but behind Ramona's back, she had a little fun. We loved it when, after saying that Ramona looked like "an ass" stretching in the lobby, she told her she looked "adorable" to her face. We also loved it when she said, of Simon, "My partner is here, and ready to come out." By the end of the episode, we even found ourselves sort of rooting for Simon. For that alone, we'll give her the win.
Ally: For offering to talk to Avery, who has "aches and pains."
CityView Gym, Long Island City: Even though it appeared to be entirely empty at all times.
Justin Gimelstob: The tennis pro canceled on Jill because he "threw his back out playing Pete Sampras." Nice move. This way, he got name-checked but wasn't sullied by actually appearing on the show.
Jody, Ramona's friend: For looking, unlike the cast, like an actual person who lives in New York.
The Smart Girls: For resisting the urge to clobber LuAnn de Lesseps, even when she said, "I know what you girls like — let's play basketball!"