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Here we are on week two of Bravo’s 3-part series, Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Checks In, and I’m feeling even more conflicted about this grand experiment of a mini series than I ever thought possible! We’re back this week with the Giudice family as they visit their Jersey Shore home for the last time (it’s gone into auction since filming). Joe Giudice also hears disturbing news from Danbury Correctional Facility, where Teresa Giudice has been “shaken down” on suspicions of harboring a cell phone – due to Gia’s tweeting on her behalf

It’s July 1: five months before Teresa’s expected release and eight months before Joe begins his sentence. Joe is fixing Milania’s hair while he reflects on becoming “Mr. Mom.” Meanwhile, Melissa Gorga shows up to take Gia, Gabriella, Milania, and Audriana to get pedicures with her daughter, Antonia. Melissa says she’s reached out to Teresa in prison, but she hasn’t heard back because “Teresa’s email chain is full.” <side eye> Melissa is still praying for her, though because she knows which side her Bravo bread is buttered on. Antonia and Milania, who have always shared a special bond, hold hands the entire way to the salon. #tendermoment 

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At the salon, Melissa talks to the girls about how they’re coping, focusing on Gabriella first, who, as her godchild, “has a special place” in her heart. Is it because Melissa baptized her? Perhaps, but Melissa thinks Gabriella has basically taken on the duty of being in charge of the household since Teresa’s departure. She’s the neat, clean, orderly one of the bunch. Turning to Gia, Melissa asks how home life is without Teresa. Gia admits that dad tries his best, but it’s rough without mom there. Melissa encourages Gia to remember to be a teenager, even though she’s got a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. They talk boys, and Melissa reminds Gia that she’s “here” for her if she ever needs to talk. But given Gia’s discomfort with Aunt Melissa (as she confessed last episode), I wonder if Gia will take her up on this offer.

Joe Gorga and Joe Giudice are out for a workout. They’re good right now, says Juicy, even though Gorga likes to talk smack about him on TV now and again. They trash talk a bit, then Gorga grills Juicy on important matters like: How often do you jerk off? D’you and Teresa have phone sex? You know…the normal convo you like to have with your brother-in-law about your sister.   

Back at the Giudice’s house, Joe is getting his bike in working order. His license has been suspended for two years, so now it’s the bike, or nothing. Teresa’s lawyer, James Leonard Jr (Lenny) – pays Joe a visit. But what’s this he’s got with him? Why, it’s Teresa’s prison diary! Which she’s hoping to publish after her release. Lenny says this is the stuff she’s not putting in emails, the stuff that she wants Joe and the girls and the paying public to know about the reality of prison life. Lenny shares details of Teresa breaking up fights, and argues that Teresa is not in a “spa” (as Joe suggested last week), but is working hard to earn respect and hold her own in prison. Lenny tells Joe that Teresa writes about using her commissary money to have a fellow inmate do her hair before a visit from Joe one time, and how it was all worth it when Joe complimented her. This is the “powerful” transcript we can look forward to in Teresa’s diary, says Lenny.

Joe admits his youngest daughters don’t quite understand where Teresa is, or at least exactly why she’s there. They think she’s working there or something, Joe mumbles. But Gia understands everything. (And I’d argue that his younger girls understand more than he and Teresa realize, no matter how much mumbling they do about it.)

That evening, Joe and the girls get ready for their cousins coming to dinner to celebrate the school year’s end. “Get the Gucci plates!” Gia orders, because that’s what Teresa would want. #priorities Joe marvels at how Teresa is still running the show from the inside, even down to the plates they use. As for him, he’d just as soon use paper plates. After all, “it’s only Gorgas” coming to dinner, so who gives a frig? 

The Gorgas arrive, along with Teresa and Joe Gorga’s mother. They get a call from Teresa, who calls more frequently at the beginning of the month when she gets her 300 minutes. The family all tries to talk to her on speakerphone. Melissa horns in, acknowledging that she hasn’t heard Teresa’s voice until this very minute. Joe Gorga chats for a moment with his sister, trading barbs about working out and getting jacked up, which Teresa wants Juicy to do more of before she gets out. Mama wants to see those abs. 

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After the call ends, Gia tells her Uncle Joe that Teresa is looking good in prison. She interviews that it was rough seeing her mom in prison during the initial visits, but has gotten easier. It hasn’t gotten easier for her dad, though, who hugs Teresa for dear life and bawls every time they leave. Teresa’s parents are happy to hear she’s okay, while Joe Gorga laments not seeing his sister in the past six months. Apparently, he hadn’t been approved as a visitor yet, but will get to see her soon. Teresa’s father hasn’t visited her either, refusing to see his daughter behind bars. “Tell her I’ll see her when she gets home,” he tells the Joes. Gia tells Joe Gorga and Melissa that June was the hardest month for Teresa because Gia had her eighth grade graduation, Audriana had her dance recital, and Milania had her gymnastics recital. The group toasts to their families and good health, despite their past drama. 

Lenny is back the next day to visit Joe Giudice, and asks what’s going on with the Jersey Shore house. Since they couldn’t pay for it “with all the legal matters,” Joe says they had a sheriff’s sale. But it’s at a stand still right now. Lenny moves on to talk of Joe’s possible deportation, which will be decided after his prison sentence. If Joe does have to go back to Italy, he says Teresa and the girls will of course come with him. Joe has lived in the US since he was one year old, but has never filed for citizenship. He knows nothing about Italy. His family there lives in an “over sized village” where he’d have to find something to do. But what that something is, Joe doesn’t know. In the meantime, he and Teresa don’t discuss these matters because they refuse to “talk about negative things.” (Isn’t that what got them in this mess!?)

On July 4th, Teresa calls again to check in. “Hi Mother Nature!” chirps Milania. After berating them for eating doughnuts while she’s away (“I want you to eat healthy!”), Teresa tells Joe she saw a low-flying plane circle the prison yesterday seven times trying – she thinks – to get a picture of her. She was told to change up her routine to avoid paparrazzi (seriously?), but Teresa went one step further to quench the public’s thirst for All Things Tre: she put a family picture out there online – assuming Gia tweeted it? Teresa says the drama of Real Housewives is child’s play compared to prison drama. “It would make your head spin,” she tells Joe.

The Giudices and Gorgas are heading down to the shore. Joe and Joe discuss the Giudice shore house while they pass Juicy’s future home: Fort Dix, where he’s stationed to go at the end of March (low security sector). In Melissa’s car, she and Gia discuss how Joe Giudice tries to make a joke of everything as a coping mechanism. Gia interviews that she asked her parents to please be honest with her through this whole mess, as she was not about to accept any BS from them about the reality of their family’s situation. Whoa. Hats off to you, Gia! Although they’re playing it off to the younger girls, Gia admits that Gabriella and Milania basically know what’s going on. Audriana, being so young, may be the only one buying their “mommy’s working” lie at this point.

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After settling into the house, the kids clean the boat. Gia and Joe Gorga sit down to toast their love for each other, then Teresa calls them as they start up the barbecue. Teresa gives Gabriella a pep talk about working hard, then the phone abruptly hangs up as Teresa’s minutes run out. Off to the side, Melissa chokes up telling Joe Gorga that she can’t fathom Teresa’s pain of missing her kids every day.

On the boat, Joe Giudice tells his kids that he’ll “be working” while mommy will be here, but when he comes back, they’ll get another boat. A bigger boat. Gia keeps quiet, while Audriana asks if Joe is going to the same place mommy went? “Mine’s nicer,” says Joe. “Daddy, don’t go,” says Audriana quietly. Which is just heartbreaking. Dang! I curse Bravo for making me want to cry over this family! But kids are kids, and these kids are tugging at the heartstrings right now for sure.

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Back home after the weekend away, it’s business as usual. Milania pours herself a cup of coffee, then lies that it’s hot chocolate before Gia intervenes, taking away the only thing standing between the the Giudice family and total end-times disaster: A Caffeinated Milania. Teresa calls again, chats briefly with the girls, then asks Joe to go into another room so she can talk to him in private. She’s got news. Last night, she was “shaken down” by the guards because they suspected she had a cell phone. Teresa had asked Gia to tweet for her, heightening suspicion that Teresa herself had access to Twitter from prison. She had to cough and bend over during the search, which makes Joe smile. Because he’s Juicy Joe and, despite his Mr. Mom tendencies, will never change. 

Off on his bike later (that week?), Joe is heading to the train station, then the city to see Lenny. Once in the city, he finds himself at Angelo’s restaurant, owned by Rino Aprea – husband of former RHONJ twin Teressssssa Aprea. Rino ushers Joe into a back room, where Lenny and Angelo Lutz await. Who is this mysterious Angelo Lutz? Apparently, he’s a formerly convicted gambling felon here to shed some light on the ins and outs of federal prison – like how to make your own wine in the clink. Angelo spent seven years inside, so he knows these things. Apparently. Joe, not one to be outdone by a fellow convict, describes the week he spent in county jail, where he “was going nuts.” Angelo says Joe will be considered a high profile inmate, so he may not be put in the general population right away. He also gives him this super useful advice: buy extra soap. Because the soap is too small to wash your a$$. #prisontipsbybravo

The conversation turns more serious, with Angelo encouraging Joe to focus not on prison itself, but rather on what he plans to do when he gets out. Joe is worried about his wife and daughters living without him while he’s away, but Angelo reminds him that they can’t do the time for him. He’s got to do it himself. 

We’re told in the end credits that two months after filing, the Giudice’s shore house was repossessed by the bank. What’s still up in the air is the fate of their Montville mansion, spurring questions about where exactly Teresa and her four children will be living after Joe leaves. 

TELL US: WAS THE GORGA/GIUDICE BONDING AT THE SHORE REAL OR FOR THE CAMERAS? WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT TERESA’S SHAKEDOWN? DO JOE AND TERESA’S KIDS KNOW MORE THAN THEY’RE GETTING CREDIT FOR? 

Photo Credit: Bravo

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