The 13th season premiere of The Real Housewives of New Jersey introduces two new Housewives, which is noteworthy considering RHONJ has had one of the most consistent — and smallest — casts among the franchises.
But that's not the main story here, kids. Teresa's getting married! And sister-in-law Melissa Gorga is not in the wedding. This, along with a history of sibling animosity, has driven a wedge between Teresa and her brother Joe — one that, to this day, remains firmly in place.
"When you stand in front of your parents and they say, 'You're family, you stay together for me,' you do it," Dolores Catania says in a confessional during the premiere. "Where are those parents to bring them back together? That's what scares me here."
Teresa Giudice, who has been on RHONJ since the beginning, save for a brief stint in prison, and her brother Joe Gorga have lived some of the hardest years of their lives on television, including the deaths of their parents. So for fans of the show, it's kind of heartbreaking to see them at odds with one another... well, at odds more than usual. Because Joe and Teresa's ex-husband, also Joe, never got along and eventually came to blows. A pattern that, if the trailer is to believed, repeats this season with Teresa's then-fiancé Luis Ruelas.
While we won't actually get to see the wedding this season of RHONJ — Bravos' too smart for that, they're giving Teresa and Luis their own wedding special — we'll get to see the buildup to that walk down the aisle and the breakdown of the siblings Gorga.
But first, the Househusbands are shirtless and oiled up for charity; we've got two new troublemakers in the cast — Rachel Fuda and Danielle Cabral — who are wasting no time inserting themselves into the drama; Dolores is dating Irish Frank; Jennifer Aydin is limping around in an orthopedic boot on one foot and a stiletto on the other; and Margaret Josephs can now wipe her ass with her left hand thanks to a wrist sprain to her right during Melissa's '80s rollerskating party.
And that's just the first episode.
We sat down with Teresa and Melissa — separately — to unpack the episode, discuss (in rather ominous tones) what's coming this season, and where things are with them now. Spoiler alert: things aren't great.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I guess my first question to you, Melissa, is, "Are you the bad guy?" It seems like you're really getting the villain edit this season.
MELISSA GORGA: No, that was very tongue in cheek. There's just a lot of noise going on right now outside of the show and on Instagram. And it's really just, it's not what it seems. I feel like when everyone watches, they will see where our heads were at, and why we said the things we did, and why we didn't go to the wedding, and all of these things that people have questions about.
The season seems to revolve around the rivalry between you and Teresa and the fallout with you and Joe and Teresa. Where are you both now with Teresa?
MG: We haven't seen her.
MG: We haven't seen her since the finale.
MG: Yeah. It's been a while.
Do you feel there's a way back now with you and Teresa? Is there anything that can fix your relationship?
MG: I don't know. Right now, we're just trying to focus on what's not working, and we know that that relationship is just not working. We feel like we've tried every avenue. I've tried to stay positive with that relationship for so many years, but there does come a point where you have to do what's right for your family. I need to do what's right for my 18-year marriage that I have, and my three children, and their sanity, and what's right for them.
It's not always one-sided, and what's right for them, and their marriage, and what we should be doing. It's also about what's right for my kids and my life and my marriage. I feel like it's time for me to step up to the plate, and I'm done with all the toxic air, and I just want to breathe the fresher air now. I really do.
And where are you with the other ladies? We have new cast members this season.
MG: So exciting. We don't really add a lot of new cast members all the time, so the fact that we did is beyond. I'm so happy. I've been begging Bravo to do this, so I'm so happy that they finally did. They're so different, all three of them. They all bring a great vibe to the show. I really love them. I think everyone's going to love them, and they're fun.
I think Jenn Fessler, first of all, is hysterical. She just brings a lot of fun to the show. She brings messy moments, and she's unapologetic about it, which I love. Rachel is super sassy and smart, and I know her. Our kids are best friends, our two sons. That's really nice. I have a relationship with her outside of the show. And Danielle I met through the show. She's super loud, super in your face, very extra. Everybody brings their own little dynamic.
And how are you with the other ladies?
MG: I'm okay. The thing is, with my girlfriends, if they see Teresa out, they'll say hi to her. I do not demand soldiers. I really don't. I don't believe in that. If my girlfriends are my girlfriends, they're my girlfriends because they want to be, not because I'm demanding certain things from them. I am secure enough that if they are friendly with Teresa, I'm fine with that. I hate this whole divided thing. To me, it's childish. It's weird.
You're going to see me this season really try to let Jennifer [Aydin] in a little bit and mesh with her and try to make a relationship with her outside of Teresa, because I feel like she's her soldier in a lot of ways, or whatever it may be. I try to let Jennifer just to see who she is and see if her and I could have a friendship. You'll see how that ends, but I try.
What are you most excited for viewers to see this season?
MG: Well, I open a new store. You guys are going to see a bigger Envy in a new location, which I'm very excited about that. You're going to see Antonia start to drive. Joe surprises us both, actually, with cars, and it's pretty amazing. We're starting to look at colleges for her. Just with my family, everything's changing a little bit that way, where my kids are growing. You met Antonia as a four-year-old, and now we're literally, she's driving and we're picking colleges.
You mentioned before everything going on in the outside world — what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
MG: I think the biggest misconception probably is that I don't want the family to mend, or I don't want everyone to be happy and together, because that is not the case at all. I do not come from that. It is foreign to me to see a family that is not tight, and that is not close, and that does not spend every waking hour together, because that's how my family is. I think everyone really needs to know how foreign Teresa and Joe's relationship is to me. I don't come from that. I don't understand that, and I would never, ever, ever promote that.
What has been the craziest thing to happen to you on this whole journey of being a Housewife?
MG: For me, it's the opportunities, obviously. I went from being a stay-at-home mom with three kids that I now own a small business that makes amazing money. I bring in a salary. I bring in money. That's big for me, to be able to be independent and contribute to the family and have my own independence and make my own money. That was big for me.
When Joe met me, I had three jobs. That's really who I was, but I put that all to the side for Joe and the kids and to raise my children, which I have no regrets on at all. But I knew it was the right time to get in there, and now I have a very successful podcast. I have my business, I have Envy, and I love inspiring other women that are at home with children that want to go and build their companies and their dreams and get back to work. I appreciate that it inspires them. That's the best part of it.
And do you watch any of the Housewives franchises?
MG: I always did watch Beverly Hills. I think Miami's amazing. I watch them all, but I don't sit down with any of them, if I'm being honest, at the right time when it starts that day. It's always like I hear about it. I'm like, "All right. I have to catch this episode." And I get filled in with all of them. Potomac, I know is awesome too. I do fill myself in with everything.
A big part of the Housewives is that there's always a trip. Any big trips this season?
MG: Yes, Ireland. Oh, my God. Gorgeous. Ireland is such a great couple episodes when we get to that. Beautiful, authentic, very different vacation than we normally take, and I loved it. I never thought I would even want to go to Ireland, if I'm being honest. It was amazing. Loved it. There's a lot of drama on that trip too, though.
MG: You have no doubt, right? I know.
Anything else you want to say about this season?
MG: I think it's a season where you guys are looking for a lot of answers. There's a lot going on on the outside, and you'll get it all. The problem is, you're going to get a lot of the answers towards the end, so just keep watching. We'll keep you entertained the whole way through. But towards the end, you're going to know where everyone's head is at and why we did what we did.
Now that we're in the 13th season of Housewives New Jersey, how do you feel? Do you want to keep doing it for more seasons? Or are you tired of doing it?
MG: I'll continue to stay here and do it until it really starts to affect my mental health or my happiness. I'll do something as long as I can remain happy and figure out a way to do it without it hurting anyone or hurting anyone in my family. But at the end of the day, when it's time, it's time. When it's time to call it, I'll call it.
Right now, we're okay. We're making it work with how it's rolling, and we'll see what happens. There is a lot of toxic. It gets toxic at times, and I'm trying to breathe the fresher air. That's why I don't do what everyone else does on the off-season, where they're rallying the fans and making the stories and doing the blogs and the podcasts. I need a break. You guys could keep talking about the show for another six months. I'll see you when it's time, because it's just too much for me.
[In a separate interview, we asked Teresa the same question] Now that we're in the 13th season of Housewives New Jersey, how do you feel? Do you want to keep doing it for more seasons? Or are you tired of doing it?
TERESA GIUDICE: Listen, I started this. I'm the OG, and I'm sticking. I want to ride the wave till it's done. Because right now I'm so happy. I just got married. I think every year I bring it to you guys. Right?
TG: I've been through so much. I don't have to make up any fake storylines or anything like that. I bring it. Every year, there's something. So I feel like I have a lot more to give. So if you guys want to keep seeing it, I'll keep bringing it.
So where are you with Melissa and Joe? How are you with those kids?
TG: Well, we do not speak. Unfortunately.
How's that been?
TG: The season, it was a very emotional season for me. There's highs and very low lows. So right now, I'm just concentrating on myself, my family, and I'm healing.
Then let's start with the highs. First episode, we see your 50th birthday. What was it like turning 50? Was there anything you expected?
TG: Oh, at first I didn't want to turn 50. I was just like, Oh my God. It's just a number. But I have to say, I found love at 48. I got married at 50, remarried. I found the love of my life, my soulmate. So I have to say, 50 was pretty fabulous. It really was.
What do you think is the most important lesson you've learned in your 50 years on this planet?
TG: Wow. I've been through a lot. And I feel like I'm just getting better with age. I'm like a fine wine. I just keep getting better and better and growing and learning more. And I'm always working on myself, which I think you need to do that in life. Just don't think you know it all because every year you just learn something new.
It seems you're in a very good place at the start of the season. You reached out to Margaret. You're in therapy for your anger. How has that been for you?
TG: Really good. Yeah. I'm glad that you guys are going to see a different side of Teresa, which I'm really excited about. It's been very good. I used to go from zero to 100 really quick, and I really didn't like being that way. So like I said, you'll see me working on myself throughout the season.
Is there one thing you credit to helping you to deal with your anger?
TG: I have to say my husband. He had a big part in it. He really did. And of course, I wanted to better myself for my daughters. Because they're looking up to their mama.
What was it like, the buildup to the wedding? What was the most stressful part of that for you?
TG: You're going to watch this season, and you'll get your answer clear as day. Unfortunately, yeah, unfortunately. Because I was so happy. I was on such a high, and you will see. You'll get your answer.
Okay, fair. Now, Jersey has had the same Housewives for the past few seasons, which, no complaints. But now we have two new Housewives. How's that been with the new women?
TG: Oh, great. I'm all about new blood. I love meeting new people. I really do. So yeah, it's great. And I can't wait for you guys to all get to meet them and see what you think of them.
What do you think they bring to this season?
TG: I guess young-ness because they're younger. They're in their 30s. They're the youngest of the Housewives. I would say [they bring a] freshness. Because when you're young, you bring freshness.
Where are you with Margaret and the other ladies?
TG: I think I'm good with all the other ladies. Yeah. The only one I don't speak to, unfortunately, is my sister-in-law. And that's very deep. And that's very deep. That's very deep.
But I see you invite Marge to the wedding, and what was —
TG: Everyone was invited to the wedding.
Yeah. But we see in the first episode that you invite Marge after not talking to her for a while. Were you nervous with that meeting, about talking to her and apologizing?
TG: No, I wasn't nervous because I was speaking from my heart, and so ... I wasn't nervous at all. I don't want to have bad blood with anyone. That's really not my thing. It's really not. Especially at this point, at 50. Don't want that. I'm all about peace and love, happiness. That's what life's about. And you want people around you that bring you up, not bring you down. That's what you learn. I'm all about good energy. That's why I named my podcast Namaste, Bitches. I'm about the namaste.
And do you think there's a way back for you with Melissa and Joe, or is it done?
TG: Yeah. No, like she said, she said it also, that's in her tagline, she wants the toxicity out of her life. I agree one million percent. Right back at her. And I just want peace in my life. And I'm healing. I need a lot of time to heal. It's been a long road, a long, hard road.
Yeah. Understandable. In the first episode the producer asked if you knew what a fluffer was. Did you ever figure out what it was?
TG: Wait? A fluffer? Where did they say that?
The calendar shoot for the men.
TG: Oh, yeah. I didn't know what that was, but that's a feather, like, what tickles you or something? I figured it was something, of course, sexual. So I was thinking of fluffer, like a feather fluffer. That's what I thought. Is that what it is?
TG: Oh, it's not. What is a fluffer?
It's someone on the set of a porn film that gets the guy hard.
TG: Oh! I didn't know. [laughs] Oh my god. I didn't know that. Oh my God. I'm thinking it's a fluffer, like a long stick with feathers on the end. And you're going to fluff him and tickle his balls or something. [laughs] That's what I thought it was! I didn't know that a fluffer's that. Okay. So you taught me something new. See, I learned something new!
Glad I could help. Anything else you want to say about the season?
TG: I can't wait for everyone to see my happy ending!
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. Each week, the latest episode will stream the next day on Peacock.
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