Erin and Jessel’s Tribeca Fight Is an Instant Classic

The sweet scent of evergreen fir and the warm glow of twinkling lights has come early this year, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic that it has been paired with one of my favorite Christmas traditions: watching Real Housewives of New York. From Season 7 through Season 10, the cast of the original RHONY took a December trip to Dorinda Medley’s Berkshires home for some arguments as hot as their mulled cider. For any reality TV addict who also makes Christmas their entire personality starting on November 1 (read: me), those episodes made for must-rewatch television every holiday season.

I am delighted to report that, though we have lost Bluestone Manor, the RHONY reboot’s first Christmas installment is an instant classic. In just 42 minutes, there is raw emotion, petty digs, a beyond-nutty one-on-one in Tribeca, a couture closet cleanout, and the worst thing you could ever accuse another woman of doing on a Housewives franchise: not supporting other women. This episode is like a holiday gift to us all, a non-stop thrill ride of franchise tropes executed with more vivacity, earnestness, and cackle-worthy drama than we’ve seen in a hot minute. Joy to the world, let earth receive her monogrammed Versace robe!

The episode picks up where last week’s left off, with the cast huddled around the table at Sai’s Brynnsgiving, which is quickly going south, as Brynn breaks down while reflecting on her childhood. Brynn tells the women that, after years of neglect from her birth parents, her father reached out to her when she was a high school senior to reconnect. He was dying of liver cirrhosis and cancer, and the two of them forged a bond in the little time he had left. It’s a truly stirring moment, especially when Brynn says that he finally apologized to her before he passed. “He said there was never a day when he didn’t look in the mirror and [see] a monster.” It’s heartbreaking, and also the reason why this night is so emotional for her, since her father died just a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

What I really admire about this cast, and what I think makes them so incredibly fascinating to watch, is how they lower their guard when another one of them is hurting. There was so much artifice in the original iteration of RHONY that we didn’t get those moments until the show was many seasons into its run. Now, just five episodes into the reboot, their empathy for one another is palpable—even when they may not all be on the best of terms.

The more trivial tensions are brought back to the surface when things calm down and the group can relitigate Jessel’s remark to Jenna that the “cackling hags” were ganging up on Jessel during their Hamptons trip. Most of the gals blow it off, but Erin takes offense, leading to a strained coffee date with Jessel a few days later. It’s undoubtedly just recency bias to call their ensuing conversation “iconic”—and I despise the overuse of that descriptor anyway—but damn, is this one for the books.

For starters, Erin’s only wearing a stitch of eyeliner, while Jessel’s face is caked in makeup. That dichotomy would be enough to make this exchange funny if Jessel didn’t immediately put her foot in her rouge-lined mouth. “This neighborhood is, like, really up and coming,” Jessel says about Tribeca, which is where Erin lives. Erin’s eyes bug out of her head, as do mine.

A screen grab of Erin Lichy and Jessel Taank in Season 14 episode 5 of RHONY.

Erin Lichy and Jessel Taank.

Bravo

For any non-New Yorkers, Tribeca is a ridiculously expensive zip code filled with yuppies, chic restaurants, and some of the most profitable business empires in the city; it’s hardly a little-known hovel in Brooklyn. As Brynn later says, “I think that was when JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessett-Kennedy lived there, that’s when it was up and coming.” It is an absolutely batty thing to say, and I am now a diehard Jessel stan because of it.

The two of them then get into a micro-tiff inside of their larger conversation about Jessel being impossible to read, which is true. Erin says that Jessel can come off entitled without trying, to which Jessel responds, “So I’m a princess…a princess that doesn’t work, apparently?” She’s referencing Erin’s surprise at Brynnsgiving upon finding out that Jessel had returned to her fashion consulting career after taking some time off to care for her twins. But Jessel twists it into the ultimate Housewives dagger. “I launched my own consultancy, I truly embrace women—,” Jessel begins, before Erin cuts her off: “Now I don’t embrace women?”

“This is why I have trouble with Jessel,” Erin says in her confessional. “I don’t know that she’s working again because she never told me, and now I don’t support women, which is incredibly insulting.” (As an aside, Erin: a person’s political donations say more about them than Jessel ever could.) They go back and forth for a bit longer, and ultimately decide to put the issue to rest in favor of both of them trying to be transparent going forward. But as they’re exiting the cafe, Erin hilariously halts to let Jessel go ahead of her and talks to the camera: “So fucking weird, she’s a lunatic.”

We then get a pleasant check-in with Jenna, who is cleaning out her vast storage unit full of designer wares with the help of her friend Heather, who has the biggest aura of lesbian energy that I’ve detected from someone in a relationship with a man (a fact I just verified through my favorite hobby: snooping).

Though this scene is just Jenna holding up gowns and saying, “Should I sell this dress I met the Obamas in?” it’s still a ton of fun. I was just lamenting last week to friends that I didn’t think we’d ever get a solo scene with Jenna, but lo and behold, she surprises me yet again. It also pairs nicely with Sai’s individual scene, where we watch her and her assistants open PR packages. That level of unattainability is necessary for a New York-based show, and I appreciated the chance to dip our toe into a little glamor amidst the spats.

Speaking of stylish, the episode wraps with a party Jessel is throwing in support of one of her designer clients. “I’m really excited to launch my first fashion consultancy,” she says in her confessional. “It’s called ‘The Know,’ as in: you’re in the know.” She states this with such unexpectedly sincere pride that I almost fell out of my chair. I love how much she loves the name—her impish little grin! All the girls drop by, except for Jenna, who is spending the night in her beautiful Soho loft with her son, decorating their Christmas tree. Jenna’s absence is the party’s hottest topic, given that when Jessel invited them all to the party at Brynnsgiving, Jenna immediately said, “I think I have an event that night.”

That was a bald-faced lie to anyone who has ever quickly ducked out of an invite to something they didn’t want to go to, one that these women did not seem to register. But their disappointment stems from Jenna not just simply saying she had to be with her son, given that she has joint custody and doesn’t get to see him every day. And no disrespect to Jessel’s party—which actually looks pretty hopping—but I’d opt for tree decorating in custom jumpsuits at the Lyons property any day. “I love all the ornaments, I like the house smelling like cinnamon, I want to hear Mariah—I love Christmas,” Jenna says, capturing my own heart in her dainty hands yet again.

But even though RHONY’s biggest star spent the night with the star on her tree, it was no loss for the rest of us. We even get treated to a cameo from motherf*cking Lynn Yaeger, fashion industry legend and source of Brynn’s starstruckness. Both Brynn and I had to give it up to Jessel: “That’s legit, that’s like having André Leon Talley or Grace Coddington walk in.” In the last moments, the ladies get a chance to gossip about Jenna’s little fib, dubbing her “Jenna Lyin’,” a nickname she surely won’t take kindly to.

This wonderful episode closes on a brilliant note, and I don’t just mean Erin gagging on the wine Jessel serves at the party. The women all go around, wondering why Jenna would refer to her excuse as an “event.” “Is that the thing people do now, we’re calling [everyday things] events?” It’s that pure unimportant bickering that we crave, especially from a RHONY Christmas episode, and Brynn caps off their paltry frustration with Jenna perfectly: “I guess this morning when I took a shit, I had a gala.” And…scene!

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