It may be a new day in the Caribbean, but not much has changed between last week’s episode of Real Housewives of New York and this week’s. The cast is still living it up in Anguilla (if being emotionally broken down by your pestering castmates and accused of lying about egg freezing is “living it up,” in which case, they’re having the best trip ever), trying to enjoy their final days in the sun without any of the drama that has plagued the trip so far. That’s a formidable task, seeing as none of these women are particularly adept at letting go of a grudge, and their reluctance to drop anything keeps the walls of their luxurious villa steadily closing in around them.
Though tensions do stay simmering, eventually reaching a boil in this season’s biggest blowout yet, the episode is nicely balanced in the same way that the rebooted RHONY has been from the jump. There are moments of real hilarity, amusing obliviousness, and even some hot-and-heavy flirting between Brynn and Jenna to round out the explosiveness of the cast’s conflicts. But it’s when that quarreling begins that we’re reminded of why we come to the Housewives. It’s not just for magic, if I may borrow the phrasing of a certain Aussie superstar, but for delectably petty spats that turn into sunglass-snatching fights in the blink of an eye. Dazzling images on a modest television screen, conflict we can feel!
Things begin innocently enough, with most of the women feeling refreshed on a new day. Brynn, who opted out of the previous night’s group dinner, approaches Erin to download her on what went down. Brynn knows that Erin is the cast’s Michelin star shit-stirrer, and therefore, she’s also the castmate who will relay any drama with some creative liberties. Erin tells Brynn that Jessel once again tried to explain to the group that she didn’t necessarily have the most privileged upbringing, which no one seems to be buying.
Truthfully, I think Jessel’s English accent combined with her lovable self-assurance is just throwing everyone off, which Jessel tries to clarify to no avail. Sai and Brynn interpret Jessel’s stories as comparisons to their own difficult childhoods, but Jessel is simply just trying to tell her story in her own way. Granted, that comes with some innately haughty undertones, but that’s just who she is and it’s why fans have fallen in love with her so quickly: She’s as batty as she is genuine!
After Brynn fills up on morning coffee and spilled tea, the group heads out for a day trip on a yacht. It might be a lovely, sun-soaked afternoon if there wasn’t mischief hanging low in the air. Erin tells us that Ubah threw her in the pool at the villa the night before, and now Erin—being one of four children who is used to this kind of thing—is hellbent on returning the favor. She is, however, a little too gung-ho about this for my taste. “Ubah’s just trying to avoid getting pushed back into the pool,” Erin says in her confessional. “But it’s a matter of time … you started the pranking!”
She says this with all of the earnest conservativeness of a stuffy mom in 1987; the only thing she’s missing is a little finger wag. Hearing someone use “prank” as a verb and not solely a noun is jarring to me—she sounds like Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Clearly, Ubah had no idea what kind of escalating prank war she was getting herself into by pushing Erin, but she’s on high alert all day. Meanwhile, Jenna and Brynn are completely oblivious, lost in their own budding flirtationship.
Brynn licks Jenna’s finger at lunch, before later telling Jenna that she’s slamming pineapple juice all day long—somewhere in the distance, I can hear Teresa Giudice screeching—so they can consummate their relationship later that night. “Brynn’s incredibly attractive and sexy,” Jenna says in her confessional. “We’re on an island, who knows what might happen? Not no.” While they flirt, Jessel is at the front of the boat, touching random buttons and pulling shiny levers after the captain (whom she calls “the pilot”) invites her to operate heavy machinery after multiple drinks. The group takes her absence as a cue to relitigate Jessel’s stories about growing up, and Jessel returns irate.
Jessel’s had it with Erin’s penchant for making inferences, repeating that Jessel lived with her uncle for two years when she moved to New York, but adding that this uncle was “incredibly rich,” something Jessel never said. Erin and Sai band together to claim that the way Jessel details her life is “inauthentic.” Sai doesn’t understand why, when asked about how she grew up, Jessel began with a detail about her parents immigrating from Kenya. “Is that not part of my story?” Jessel asks in response. “No! We want to know about you, it’s that simple!” Sai retorts.
Sai’s annoyance is completely vexing. Why she’s becoming so agitated by Jessel invoking her own parents’ lineage—and therefore, her family’s history, and the trauma and stories they shared together—is completely baffling. Especially because, just last week, Sai told the group that her mother becoming an alcoholic later in life greatly affected how she grew up and how she parents her own children. Thankfully, Ubah clarifies this in her confessional. “Any generation, people share stories of their family,” she says. “You are who you came from; it’s so shocking that these intelligent women, they don’t see that. It’s annoying and actually quite embarrassing.”
Once their afternoon of flirting and fighting comes to a close, the ladies regroup for dinner at a beachside restaurant, where Brynn tries to liven the mood by simulating oral sex on a plastic straw. Congratulations to whichever sea turtle gets that straw stuck in their nose: You will own a piece of Housewives history! Brynn’s antics trigger a round-robin discussion where each woman shares their most embarrassing story. Brynn accidentally stuck a tampon up her ass (the anatomical veracity of this is quickly called into question); Sai shat herself while running track and field; Ubah had toilet paper stuck to her shoe in front of a beautiful man, and Erin’s…kids cried really loudly on a plane? Erin’s story is a dud of an ending, but at least we got to hear about Jessel accidentally becoming a topless spring-breaker in Cancun and Jenna eating shit in front of Ralph Fiennes.
After dinner, the group returns home to where Ubah’s prank anxiety is ratcheting up. That fear might be why she’s so distracted that she leaves her phone in the car, which Erin grabs for leverage in case she can’t push Ubah in the pool. While doubling back to the car, Erin coyly mutters, “Such a dumbass, this Ubah.” The remark sucked the air out of my living room; is that not one of the most casually cruel things you could call a friend? “Dummy” or “ass,” sure, if you’re got that kind of friendship. But “dumbass” seems loaded with venom. I reserve that term for the bikers that like to speed through red lights and almost barrel me over, not my friends.
Erin can’t find a good time to push Ubah into the pool. But while Ubah is worrying about Erin, Sai runs at her from another angle, successfully sending Ubah into the chlorinated waters. To an alleged prankmaster like Erin, a secondary party acting on her behalf is not enough to exact revenge. Erin keeps Ubah’s phone with her, until Ubah realizes it’s gone later that night and starts turning over the entire house looking for it.
What Erin doesn’t know is that Ubah checks in with her family each night while traveling to let them know that she’s alright. It’s something she started as a jetsetting model, and besides that, who isn’t going to freak out if they can’t find their phone, especially in another country? “Everyone, when they lose their phone, the first thing they do is panic,” Ubah says. “Your credit card is in there, your password, your pictures. This is a serious matter, I wanted my phone.”
Erin gives Ubah her phone back that same night, but not before Ubah spends an hour in a panic. Sleeping on it does nothing to quell her irritation, and Ubah arrives at breakfast the next morning armed with a death glare. She won’t even acknowledge Erin’s presence, passing her by to give Brynn—who is sitting inches from Erin—a kiss on the forehead. It’s equally as petty as taking and hiding someone’s phone, so they’re close to even.
But the tension between Ubah and Erin is only getting thicker. Perhaps if Erin had thought of a prank that was actually good or funny, she wouldn’t be in this mess. (Professional’s note: Bring Ubah a cup of “tea” that’s actually just hot Diet Coke, it’s really as easy as that.) On their way out of the villa for the day, Erin finally calls Ubah out for ignoring her all morning, telling Ubah not to say her name if she won’t even look at Erin. Oh, she’ll look at Erin, but Erin is going to be looking back. Ubah stands in front of Erin, swipes the sunglasses off her face, and tells Erin to look at her when she’s talking. Pure shock and even a little fear fall across Erin’s face, before the both of them become embroiled in a screaming match that leaves Erin close to tears just before the episode ends.
Ubah’s escalation is definitely going a little too far, but I understand her frustration. Erin took her beloved pranking to an inordinate level. Hiding someone’s stuff isn’t really a joke, it’s just childish. Ubah snatching sunglasses off of her friend’s face is equally as immature, so they should be even, despite this fight looking like it’s going to color the rest of their trip. That’s unfortunate for them, but good for us. The best Housewives arguments are ones where neither person is objectively in the right, leaving the viewers to decide whose side they’re on without a clear winner. Personally, I’ll be choosing the side of the woman who didn’t call her friend a dumbass.