RHONY is back and I am over-the-moon happy about it. Housewives fans all seem to have a favorite franchise and New York is mine. Through all of its cast changes it has maintained a through-line and pace that’s difficult to rival. Much like the city itself, this show keeps it moving and if you aren’t into the drama in one moment, the next block of it is right around the corner. The women are unapologetically themselves, except in Ramona’s case where she’s constantly apologizing for being herself, then immediately repeating her behavior.
This season we are back to the basics of Season 1 with a core cast of five women. Technically Ramona is the only one who has been full time since Season 1, but Luann has been a presence since the beginning and only had one season as a “friend of.” Sonja has been such an institution since she arrived that it’s hard to recall the show without her unless you binge it from the beginning. Leah is entering her sophomore season after a mixed reception in my circle of viewers. It’s a fairly even split among them between thinking she reinvigorated the franchise and those who think her drunken antics were over the top. They say the second season exposes a cast member’s true self, so we’ll see where she lands.
My biggest anticipation this season is focused on newcomer Eboni. For years it’s seemed crazy to me that one of the most diverse cities in the world had one of the least inclusive casts. Bravo has finally broken its apparent propensity for segregation and I’m hoping it echoes across the network. If the trailer is any indication, Eboni fits like a glove with a strong point of view, a great sense of who she is, and a personality that’s not afraid of fun or confrontation. Count me in!
The show opens with the juxtaposition of crowded New York streets pre-pandemic versus the empty streets in the era of lockdown. Not sure that we needed the reminder, but it is the reality. We see brief glimpses of what each housewife is doing before the opening taglines and they all appear to reflect their respective housewives. Not sure how quotable they are, but there wasn’t a cringe factor one…at least not for me.
Leah not only got the opening mini scene with her boxing coach Martin, but also the full opening scene. Whether that indicates her life is going to be the primary focus or not is yet to be determined, but there seems to be a whole lot of love from Bravo going on there. They did have to shell out more money for her contract than they had planned, so it’s possible they’re angling for a return on their investment. So what are we investing in? A domicile upgrade, a new puppy named Angel (who is adorable) and a conversion from lapsed Catholicism to Judaism. According to Leah, it’s Yom Kippur and that already doesn’t bode well for the optics of the sincerity behind her change of faith. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and friends in my circle not only don’t work on that day, but they also fast and shun social media in favor of focusing solely on prayer, atonement, and temple services. I try not to judge other people’s spiritual paths though. I can’t know their hearts and it’s not my job to. I can say from my experience that it’s coming off a little like Golden Corral Judaism. A buffet of pick-and-choose which parts you like and leave the rest. Her Dad seems happy for her to have spiritual direction, while at the same time pointing out penance is a cornerstone of atonement. I’m gathering that is a part she left warming under the heat lamps.
We move on to Luann’s new abode and find that not only are she and Ramona neighbors, but they’re now besties? I didn’t see that coming and I’ve been a die hard fan since the first season. Lu sold her round house in Kingston and now has the pied-à-terre she’s been seeking for years. She cracks open a bottle of non-alcoholic rose while sharing with Ramona that she’s stopped drinking again after a couple of instances where she didn’t remember how she got home. I’m sure people will have a ton of opinions on this, but I’m going to hang back. Recovery is a process and you have to want it for yourself, and believe you have a problem. Courts can try to mandate it, but it won’t stick until you feel it applies to you. It seems she’s realizing that now, and I’m for whatever moves her towards growth and happiness.
Neither Ramona nor Luann have heard much from Sonja during lockdown. Luann commented that she’d seen Sonja’s daughter Quincy and that Quincy had said Sonja was too busy even for her. In my mind, even if that was a direct quote and not lost in translation, it’s difficult to take at face value. As a mother of two women in their twenties, there is dance of sorts that’s rarely discussed regarding mothers and daughters at this transitional phase of life. My own wanted their independence and freedom to become their own women free from the steering and advice. However, when they did need me, they expected me to be by the phone anxiously awaiting their next call. It took a few years for them to realize that if they were off exploring themselves, they’d given me carte blanche to do the same, and I think that might be the case here as well.
We finally get to meet Eboni and right off the bat she brings good energy. She’s a lawyer, a news commentator, and is involved in broadcasting as well. She’s also single and back on the dating scene. She and Leah discuss whether or not Leah is actually in a place where she’s ready for love. Leah heartily says that she is, and Eboni is glad, because she knows from her own recent experience that you really need to come from a place of intention when you’re looking to dive back into to dating. She had faced her own struggle of not wanting to have to start all over and give it the energy, but things are starting to look up.
We roll up next onto a scaffolding-free townhouse! That was such a fixture for so long, that I almost didn’t recognize where we were. We meet Sonja’s latest intern Zoe, and while the face is new, the randomness of duties seems to be the same. Sonja shared that she moved back into the townhouse because it neither sold nor had a lessee. Financially it didn’t make sense for her to keep the apartment while the townhouse sat empty. Sonja seemed to like the freedom that quarantine gave her to focus on herself, slow down and re-evaluate. I have to agree with her on that front. Lockdown was the perfect opportunity for introspection and deciding what worked for me and what changes I needed to make. Knowing that Sonja was doing the same brought me a sense of kinship. Where our paths diverge is displayed when she shows Zoe how to draw a bath. At first it was classic cringe-Sonja until I watched Zoe pour the bubbles nowhere near the spout. Maybe it was something she needed to learn after all? I don’t know if I was distracted while tweeting and taking notes, but it looked like Sonja kind of stumbled into a FaceTime session with Leah, who was also bathing. Sonja is planning a luncheon with the ladies and Leah asked if she could bring Eboni. This is one of those awkwardly clunky set-up moments that I wish Bravo would drop the pretense on. We know they’re filming a show and they know that we know. Trying to make inorganic casting seem organic is unnecessary. Just have Eboni show up without faking like Sonja has to grant permission. It’s weird.
Speaking of Eboni, we get to a chance for a more in-depth view and I’m liking what I’m seeing. Her friend Natalie came to visit and they had a natural and refreshing discussion about Eboni considering moving to Harlem. Her blunt authenticity about her struggle to get her FICO back in a position to get a loan is the conversation much of America needs to hear and cop to. The majority of us have been in a financial pickle at one point or another in our adult lives, where our spending doesn’t align with where we want to be and what we truly want for ourselves. New York has been notoriously tight-lipped about money issues and the reality of cast member finances versus the image they want to portray. Seeing Eboni be honest about wanting to put every cent into investing in herself and making some mistakes in doing so is refreshing and real. Owning up to mistakes she made and actually changing that behavior is also new territory in HousewivesLand. She’s breaking ground on so many levels right now.
We are fast forwarded to the day of the luncheon, and as Leah and Eboni arrive, Sonja is spraying of her patio pavers. I’ve had those before and it is really a thing to know how to clean them without disrupting the dirt “grout.” I like that Sonja is hands on, but I can see how Eboni (being unfamiliar with the concept of Sonja-time) was taking aback by the greeting. She also had every right to be underwhelmed by the diversFISHty conversation. There’s little that will put me on my heels faster than someone telling me that they are inclusive rather than just being inclusive and treating my family members the same regardless of melanin levels. Eboni moves quickly past the awkwardness, which I love, and jumps right into finding out more about Sonja. Century 21 closing hit Sonja hard, because she thought she had finally found her niche and could slow down the financial hustle. Eboni offers her some good advice and Sonja is liking the idea of having a lawyer in the squad.
Talk turns to whether or not Eboni wants children. Maybe one day we’ll get past that being the first question women are asked upon meeting, but apparently not today. I’m not invalidating being a mom…I am one for crying out loud…but it’s not for everyone, and for some it’s not even medically possible. As a community of women, I wish we could come up with a list of things akin to “questions you never ask on the first date” when dealing with each other. This would fall near the top of that list. Eboni took it in stride though and confessed that she had positioned herself to be on the Oprah track and motherhood hadn’t been a priority. She also shared about the recent break-up of her three year relationship. She had been planning a wedding back in January, but then Covid came and made them tell the truth. Again…the honesty and poignancy of that is palatable. She’s a gem so far in my book.
Luann and Ramona arrive and talk again turns to dating. I had to chuckle when Luann accused Eboni of moving on quickly. If I had the Tom debacle in my recent past, I’d recuse myself from commenting on a speeding violation, but maybe that’s just me. Somehow talk turns to Harry Dubin and Ramona which leads Sonja to point out the women having a habit of dating people that start off with Sonja. In fairness, how many rich, single men are in New York? There is bound to be some partner crossover going on, but can we drop Tom and Harry and find a Dick?
As the women adjourn from the patio, Luann pulls Leah aside to ask her about being her wing woman as she heads back into sobriety. Leah stopped drinking in late March and vows to have Lu’s back on this. From the previews, I’m not sure that this flies, but I don’t see a problem with letting the kite loose into the air and hoping that the wind will keep it aloft. I’m all for bonding on whatever level the ladies can to cross what used to be “team” lines.
The show ends with Luann and Ramona confronting Sonja about her lack of interaction with them over the past few months. I don’t understand how they don’t know that Sonja prefers to be the straw that stirs the drink and not the tears watering the drink down. She’s always become reclusive when she is struggling with something. It may not be their process, but if they are her friends they can respect that it’s hers. Offering to be there is fine, but give her the freedom to do life on her terms. In an effort to reconnect, they decide to make plans for a trip to the Hamptons. Eboni shares insightful history on why she’s so fond of Sag Harbor. None of the women realized until that moment that it was the first area that allow black ownership of ocean front property. I have a feeling that this won’t be the first time the womens’ eyes are opened to a new perspective on history, and I am here for it.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read along. While I can’t commit to blogging every episode, the season looks like I’m going to have the desire to. If my health can meet my desire, I’ll definitely share my thoughts and I hope you’ll do the same either by commenting here or on Twitter. I look forward to any interaction you feel up to. XOXO