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Fresh Hell

Guest RHONY Recap Confession: I Underestimated the Fortitude This Gig Requires

"Housewives" virgin Adlan Jackson boldly steps in to determine just how real these "cackling hags" are, and learns he actually likes Jenna Lyons.

1:08 PM EDT on August 16, 2023

RHONY cast member Jenna Lyons, in wire-rimmed glasses and red lipstick, on the left, and Adlan Jackson on the right, with a wall of fire in between the two.

(Bravo / Hell Gate)

Let's get this out of the way: Yes, I've never seen any episode of a "Real Housewives" franchise before. So, I'm going into this fifth episode of season fourteen of "The Real Housewives of New York City" completely blind, save for what I've read in Hell Gate's own recaps of this season.

I don't know about Jessel Taank being "annoying AF in the Hamptons," I don't get why conversations are broken up into discrete tonal bites (one minute we're talking about Brynn Whitfield's childhood abuse and everyone's crying, and the literal next we're sniping at each other about whether Jessel is working, complete with shady wine sip b-roll, two separate confessionals, and a flashback to three weeks ago), I don't get why people keep giving these women free stuff when the whole point is that they're rich, and I don't know why, in two separate moments in this episode, people pretend that they have cooked food when their private chefs are standing right behind them. 

But with normal Hell Gate Housewives recapper Katie Way on vacation, I figured, I like partying, I like gossiping, I make snap judgments of other people, and also I'm an arts critic or whatever. So I think I'm more than qualified to watch 20 minutes of cable television and see what these "cackling hags" have going on. 

Lesson #1: Episodes of "The Real Housewives of New York City" are 40 minutes long, not 20.

So I watched at 1.25x speed on my piracy website of choice (sorry Andy Cohen).

NYC authenticity is the theme of these round-ups, and as Katie was anticipating last time, the girlies are finally out of the Hamptons and back in the city. I've got to be honest, though: All I feel is contempt and envy for most of these people. That's just the small soul I have, I guess. Jessel got the villain edit, with plot threads like her thinking TriBeCa is an up-and-coming neighborhood, but I also don't like her adversary, Erin Dana Lichy, the real estate agent who doesn't ever want to be told that she doesn't support women. I don't get these people at all, mostly. But that brings me to my next point:

I actually do like Jenna.

Jenna Lyons easily has the best vibe of all the RHONY stars, or at least is the closest approximation of a human being whom I feel like I might encounter in New York City. She's not someone I'd let my guard down around—she reminds me of the "nonprofit executive director" character from TikTok, and yeah, sorry for being reverse-racist, but she looks like she asks to see your manager. But those archetypes are realer than anything else her castmates have going on. Late in the episode, Jenna skips Jessel's fundraiser to put a Christmas tree up with her kids, which she gets shaded for but...makes a lot of sense to me! Also, her love of fashion oozes genuine creative enthusiasm, especially in contrast to Jessel's charmless "fashion line"—at her fundraiser, Jessel promises an absurdly dressed Paper Magazine editor that she'll send them a check soon, presumably for advertising (maybe that shit did not clear). I'm truly sorry that Brynn was abandoned for six days or whatever as a child, but Jenna is my favorite, at least as much as any person whose closest companion on the show is billed as her "friend/chef" can be.

Special shout-out: The Help

Speaking of that friend/chef, Brandon seems like he parties. When the Housewives at Jessel's fundraiser squeal upon seeing him on FaceTime, he flirtatiously tells Jenna to "tell them to meet me out later." Where does Brandon like to hang out? Brandon, let me interview you for Leave Your Apartment! On second thought, all the staff on the show are probably NDA'd out the wazoo. But that didn't prevent the cameras from capturing a shot of one particularly forlorn-looking assistant of Jessel's during her and her husband Pavit's Christmas card shoot early in the episode. Great job to the RHONY editing team. That's pathos.

Sorry to be like, "literally me," but yeah. (Bravo)

Most authentic NYC moment: Rich people getting offended at being called rich

Jessel spends the whole episode being offended because Erin implies that Jessel is used to getting "pampered," and Erin also lowkey answers in the affirmative when Jessel asks if Erin is calling her a "princess." Jessel proceeds to whine about being an immigrant (she was born in London and raised in a "tight knit but strict Indian household") and having "worked her way from the ground up." A quick Google reveals that while Jessel may not be "old money," which is how Sai De Silva later describes her, her dad works as a financial manager at Pentax in London. If you hang out in New York's creative scenes for even a second, this dynamic is familiar to you: rich kids who just can't accept that that's what they are. Everyone can clock it instantly. I'm not a big fan of Sai, but I agree with her advice to Jessel on this point: "Just own it."

Most authentic NYC moment (runner-up): Talking about how much you're working

If there's one word these women love to use, it's "work." The whole conflict in the episode revolves around Erin undermining Jessel's professional life, and it seems like all of the Housewives are, in general, extremely defensive about being portrayed as anything less than a girlboss on her grind. But from what I can see in this episode, the jobs that the Housewives do mostly involve figuring out what they'll wear in "static" and "story" Instagram posts (Sai) and getting magazine editors to come to parties (Jessel). All of which I find extremely relatable, so this gets runner-up. 

Most authentic NYC moment (second runner-up): Being performatively into chess 

This episode was definitely shot in New York in 2022 because it has Brynn, a 30-something-year-old person in media, telling everyone how much she's getting into chess. She whips out a travel board at coffee with Sai and Erin and ropes Sai into what looks like a pretty poorly played game.

Least authentic NYC moment: Sai holding up sneakers sent to her for free and brainstorming an Instagram post: "This is [for] a bodega run."

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