At the end of last week’s episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, the stage was set for some big showdowns to take place during the season 5 finale. It looked as if viewers and cast members alike would finally get some closure regarding events that have been going on, in some cases, for years. But the much-hyped finale’s first 10 minutes is just more accusations and denials.

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Guilt by Association

This week’s episode picks up right where the last one left off, with Penny claiming that Teresa knew Melissa was going to be set up at last year’s Posche fashion show, a fact that Teresa has and continues to vehemently deny. Penny’s also not the first one to make this accusation; Jacqueline said the same thing that night. Joe believes Penny because she has nothing to gain other than to clear her name. Penny isn’t willing to take the fall for all this drama. Penny says that Teresa wanted to destroy Melissa. Teresa demands proof, and Penny tells her she doesn’t save her texts. Teresa treats this revelation as if it automatically pardons her from any guilt.

Lay Down with Dogs, You Get Fleas

Jacqueline and Melissa both believe that Teresa used these people to do her dirty work but has now lost whatever control she had over the flow of information. Caroline sees Kim D. as the common denominator, and it isn’t a secret that the woman is a troublemaker who doesn’t like Melissa.

In the midst of Melissa trying to figure out whose primary agenda it is to take her down, the infamous cyber bully “Johnny the Greek” makes his big entrance. Joe immediately introduces himself as the guy he’s trying to destroy on Twitter. He confronts Johnny about his tweets about Melissa. Melissa questions where the hate is coming from. Johnny says he doesn’t even know them, which leads Joe to ask why he’s talking about them. Johnny tells Joe to ask Teresa where it stems from. Nothing is really getting resolved and tempers flare until it appears, based on the shaky camera work, that there is some kind of physical altercation, or an attempt at one, between the men.

Caroline begins to scream at Kim D. asking her if she’s happy about destroying a family as she’s pulled away by her son, Chris. Caroline is brought to tears by the idea of people who are hell-bent on causing so much pain. She is confused on how these people manage to infuse themselves into the Gorga/Giudice family and quickly gathers her family together and leaves.

Kathy is shocked at the intensity of the situation. She says the only thing even comparable to the evening’s events was the christening debacle at the start of season 4. She says these people are like cockroaches; you kill one and another comes out.

Family First

Penny and Johnny have disappeared, leaving a lot of unanswered questions in their wake. Joe questions his sister on why Johnny is always mentioning her. Teresa downplays it, saying he must have nothing better to do. Melissa tells Teresa to “get those people out of her corner.” Melissa doesn’t know the intricate details of Teresa’s smear campaign, but she wants Teresa to know she needs to stick by her family and not with strangers. There’s also no doubt in Joe’s mind that his sister is guilty, but he defends her anyway.

After a much-hyped but disappointing confrontation, Teresa is visibly shaken and is concerned that all the progress recently made by her family could be ruined.

The Morning After

Emotionally hung-over, Melissa, Joe and the Giudices deal with the fallout from the previous night’s events. Joe and Melissa are disgusted by the caliber of people that Teresa introduced into their lives. Melissa hopes Teresa is sitting at home regretting her actions.

Teresa is hoping that Melissa and Joe choose not to believe what they’ve been told and believe that she’s merely a victim of circumstance. She does tell her husband she realizes how things could look bad to Joe and Melissa. Joe says they’re idiots because they believe everything they hear. Actually, Johnny and Penny’s credibility is called into question somewhat by Melissa and Joe, but not enough to let Teresa off the hook. Joe is embarrassed and heartbroken and doubts he’ll ever be able to trust his sister again. He still wants from his sister what he’s craved all season: the truth. Melissa decides her only option is to find a way to forgive and move on.

Rich and Kathy stop by the Gorgas, and Rich offers Joe some advice. He says that with Joe Giudice’s court date looming, all this drama needs to be squashed. Rich tells Joe he should go to his sister and tell her that he still loves her and still wants to have a relationship with her. If Joe Giudice goes to jail, she’s going to need her brother. 

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A Fond Farewell

The news that Caroline Manzo will not be returning to the show for another season recently broke. In what seems like a fitting end, she walks through her home reminiscing while brief clips from previous seasons play. While she and Albert have been flirting with the idea of downsizing for the next phase of their lives, Caroline now seems convinced that their family home is where they belong. She’s walking away from her time in the spotlight proud of what she and her family have accomplished.

Confessions of a Devious Mind

Jacqueline tells Teresa that the way things stand, it doesn’t make her look good. She also lets her know that her brother has to be confused by the string of events. Jacqueline believes Teresa genuinely has good intentions when it comes to her family now, but bad behavior from the past has resurfaced. She encourages Teresa to come clean, which is something Teresa hasn’t been able to do for years. Shockingly, Teresa says looking back that maybe she does regret some of the things she’s done. Let’s face it. She has nowhere left to hide. She’s been called out,  and she knows it. If she had any tricks left up her sleeve, she’d use them.

She quantifies her admission of any guilt by saying she shouldn’t have listened to any gossip about Melissa, that she should have walked away. So she still won’t admit to being the instigator or mastermind when it comes to all the sleazy allegations.

Happily Ever After?

Teresa and Joe sit and talk, and Teresa comes as clean as one could expect her to. Joe admits that neither of them are perfect, but that it’s important to admit when you make mistakes because it makes you look better as a person. Teresa says that her anger at Melissa in the past made her willing to listen to bad things people had to say about her sister-in-law. It made her feel better. She still insists she never personally acted with malicious intent. The conversation ends with hugs and tears.

It’s no coincidence that the season started with the destructive images of Hurricane Sandy and end with rebuilding. Kathy and Rich are designing and building their dream home. Jacqueline believes miracles are possible and continues to work on her son Nicholas’ recovery. Caroline says that despite all of their differences, they all love each other and support one another. Melissa and Joe have finally sold their mansion and moved a half hour away from Teresa, but promise to implement regular Sunday dinners someday.

There is, amongst all the positivity, one unhappy epilogue: a rundown of the criminal charges that have been brought against the Giudices since filming ended. They include:
conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud and making false statements. The couple have been indicted on a total of 39 federal fraud charges. They have pleaded not guilty, but if convicted, they could both serve jail time, and Joe could be deported.

So, legal woes aside, will all this renewed goodwill still be evident at the reunion, or will old wounds be reopened?

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Jennifer Lind-Westbrook

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.