It’s season 6 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, except now we’re starting off with a few new changes. Jacqueline Laurita, Caroline Manzo and Kathy Wakile are out and there are three fresh new faces. Dina Manzo is back and Teresa Giudice is facing criminal charges. Let’s get to it!

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Flash Forward

We start things off with Joe and Melissa watching the news in February 2014. They see Teresa and Joe going to court, but they don’t know what to believe since they never hear anything directly from Teresa. No matter what they’re going through, Melissa says they have to put their petty differences aside and be there to support them no matter what.

Melissa calls Teresa to check up on her. She tells Melissa that nothing she’s seen on TV is true. Okay? But they just watched you walking into a court room so … was that an illusion?

Gia witnesses her mom taking the phone call and asks her what it was all about. Teresa tells Gia not to worry, that mommy will take care of everything. But Gia is old enough to understand that something bad is happening to her family. She starts to cry and Teresa gives her a hug. If there’s any victims in this situation (besides the people/institutions that the Giudices stole from), it’s these poor kids who, if they’re lucky, will only be losing one parent to prison.

Three Months Earlier…

Teresa and Joe play the happy family. Teresa makes dinner and Joe tells Milania to do her homework. Dina comes by for a visit. In her confessional, she says, “The bitch is back, and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my ass.” She says she’s happy to be spending more time with Teresa again, but refuses to say anything about her relationship with her sister Caroline when the producers ask.

She gives Tersa a guardian angel bracelet to help her with her troubles. (She’s going to need more than a bracelet to get her out of this mess.) Teresa tells her that she worries about the money it’s costing them to pay for attorneys and that’s money that could be going into her daughters’ college funds. So … the money she stole? She says that one day her life was normal and then she woke up in a nightmare. Sorry, but Bravo seems to be trying really hard to make me feel bad for Teresa, and she’s kind of already admitted to being a criminal, so that’s probably not going to happen.

Dina is going through a divorce. The tabloids said that her husband cheated on her, and she confirms those rumors to be true. And her daughter, Lexi, is going away to college soon so she feels like everything in her life is leaving. Teresa promises to be there for her (as long as she’s not in prison).

Dina goes to see her zen therapist where she admits that she still hasn’t filed for divorce from her cheating husband, and the two still live together and have sex together. Her therapist tells her that this isn’t a healthy way to live and she’ll never find love again if she doesn’t open herself back up to someone new, but Dina admits to being afraid.

The next day, Teresa and Melissa meet to bring Milania and Antonia to cheer practice. It’s nice to see them getting along; it was getting so old to keep them re-hashing the same fights. And their daughters really do love each other and it’s sweet. Melissa tells Teresa that her friend Amber is having a party and that she and Dina should come. 

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Meet the New Wives

Amber wants to build a friendship back up with Melissa. The two were friends before Melissa got married, then Amber felt like she disappeared. Amber has been married to her husband, Jim, for 10 years and they have four kids. She says that she likes to be in control of everything and she expects good behavior of her kids. She and Melissa both wanted to be rich and successful when they were younger, so Melissa married rich young, while Amber went to Columbia where she earned a Masters in Bio-Behavioral Studies/Exercise Physiology.

The twins, Teresa (pronounced Te-ress-ah) and Nicole, live in the same neighborhood as Amber. Teresa is married to Rino, who owns two restaurants. She says they are like the King and Queen of Little Italy. The two of them were married for seven years, had a son, divorced and then got re-married.

Nicole was married for 14 years, and had two sons before she got divorced. She says she loved being married and she would like to be married again someday. She’s been dating Bobby, Amber’s husband’s best friend, for about nine months. She claims the only two things a woman needs in her life is Dunkin Donuts and oral sex.

I will do my best to try and tell these two apart for the rest of the season, but I’m not making any promises.

Anyway, Amber is a little miffed that the guest list for her party is getting a bit out of control. She told Nicole that she could invite some people and it turns out she’s invited a lot more people than Amber had in mind. But Nicole thinks the more the merrier … especially if the party’s at someone else’s house.

The Wives Meet Each Other

On the way to the party, Dina asks Teresa if she’s worried that other people will judge her when they see her. Teresa says she can’t concern herself with what other people say about her, otherwise she would spend it hiding.

At the party, Amber is not very impressed with the crew that Nicole brought over. They’re displaying bad manners by dropping food and not cleaning up after themselves and tracking snow through her house.

A lot of people do whisper about Teresa when she walks in, but she lets it roll off her back. Dina gives off a very stand-offish vibe to the other women, but her coolness melts away when she mentions her charity Project Ladybug, for kids with cancer, and Amber tells her that she is a cancer survivor. She tells Dina that when she was 31, she had breast cancer, and at the time she had four kids. She says the experience changed her as a person and now she’s someone who wants to be the best version of herself at all times. She tells Dina that she would love to help her out with her charity.

Amber really wants to re-connect with Melissa, but she tells her before she can do that she really wants to know why Melissa disappeared. Melissa says that they both fell out of touch, it wasn’t just her fault. Amber brings up her cancer, and Melissa acts shocked. She claims she had no idea that Amber had cancer, but Amber swears that Melissa sent her a Facebook message when she got sick. So they’re already fighting about whether Melissa knew Amber had cancer or not? This is a weird argument. Melissa is irritated after the exchange, because she thinks that Amber is calling her a liar when she says she didn’t know.

Meanwhile, the Teresas are getting along because they both love food, and Teresa Giudice loves Teresa Aprea’s restaurants. And Nicole and Dina connect because they are both “divorced” single mothers.

A Bittersweet Reunion

The Giudices are having a big family reunion for Joe’s grandmother’s 80th birthday in their home. It’s the first time they’ll all be together at once to take a photo since Gia was a newborn. This is an opportunity for the Giudice girls to have their hair and makeup done, and for Milania to abuse the poor hairdresser by calling her “the worst hairdresser in the world.”

About 50 Giudices gather in the front room for a picture. When they’re done taking photos, Joe goes to the balcony to make a speech. He toasts to his beautiful family and tells them, “I love yous all.”

Gia gets emotional and tells her dad what a good job he did making the speech. She cries as her dad hugs her and gets emotional too. Frank Giudice, Joe’s father who recently passed away, tells Gia not to worry about any of his kids and that no matter what, she’ll have family around her that loves her. Bravo kindly dedicates the episode in Frank’s memory.

Next week, Kathy and Rosie make a cameo in what may be the last chance the Giudice family gets to spend Christmas together.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Sundays at 8pm on Bravo.

(Image courtesy of Bravo)

Gina Pusateri

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV