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It seems like we blinked, and just like that, the finale of the Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Checks In is here. We laughed, we cried. In a brief moral crisis, we wondered why we were laughing and crying (maybe that was just me?). But it all comes to a close now, as Teresa Giudice checks in for the last time on national TV before she is released in December from Danbury Correctional Facility.

Since Teresa has been locked up, Joe Guidice has been running the household. Which means he has been spending 100% of his time trying to control Tropical Storm Milania. After fixing a clogged sink for cutie-patootie Audriana, Joe heads outside where Milania is feeding rocks to the pond fish (because she spilled all of their food on the ground). Gabriella is attempting to discipline Milania, but she gives up quickly, knowing it’s a futile battle. Joe Gorga comments that he has to hand it to Juicy for taking care of these 4 little girls because “they’re not just normal girls; they’re tough!”   

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As Joe and Gabriella try to clean up Milania’s mess, she tears off on a pink four-wheeler, #gangstastyle. “Bye bye, SUCKAS!” yells Milania. Joe turns his head her way in disbelief, throwing him off balance, and sinking his cell phone into the pond. “My f**kin’ phone!” Oy vey! How’s Teresa supposed to “check in” now!? Milania doesn’t seem to care, as she just stands by and taunts her father while he wades through the muck with a net to find it. Gia hilariously attempts to help with her misguided use of a “find my phone” app from her phone. Joe finally finds the slime-covered phone and crawls back up to dry land.   

The Giudices are heading upstate NY (with the Gorgas because there will be cameras rolling), a place Joe associates with his late father. He tells the girls they’ll have a lot of fun, but it won’t be the same since their Nonno, who built the house, is gone. Since Nonno passed away, Joe hasn’t been upstate. It’s been a year.

Over at the Gorgas, Melissa is schooling Joe on how “dangerous” the trip upstate will be – because she’s the only MOM there, after all so suck on that, Tre, thinks Melissa. She’ll have to look after all the kids, provide meals, see to their safety from the dangerous “hills and mountains” that threaten these cherubs at every turn! What is an angelic, selfless aunt to do in these circumstances, when her beloved sister in law has gone to the pokey and abandoned her wifely duties!?!? She, Melissa Gorga, must somehow persevere. <wipes tear> #weseeyou!

Joe Gorga, who seems to actually be torn up about his sister’s absence, has finally been approved to visit Teresa in jail. Melissa has not. Teresa’a lawyer, James Leonard Jr (Lenny) explains that inmates submit a list of people they want added to their visitor list, and the process can take months to approve. For Joe, it’s taken 6 months. Inmates may also ask for visitors to be removed from their list at any time. Joe notes that he thinks Teresa has a hand in Melissa not getting approved, joking that she’ll probably make the cut the last day of Teresa’s sentence. He knows what’s up.

Joe’s cousin Eugene picks up the Guidices to ferry them upstate. On the drive, Milania does her best to drive everyone to the brink of insanity, with Gia trying her best to be the sole disciplinarian in the vehicle. Gia notes that she’s trying to help out with her sisters, but Milania is basically impossible to control. At last, they arrive upstate and get settled in.  

The Gorgas pull up with cupcakes (what? no sprinkle cookies?) and immediately encounter Milania carrying a chain saw. Because the mountains and hills aren’t the most dangerous entities here. Milania is. Joe and Joe get cooking as they discuss (well, as Joe Gorga discusses) the tough situation they’re in. Melissa is cutting mushrooms up inside, feeling sad without Teresa there. Joe Gorga comes in to chat with her. She encourages him to be there for his sister when Juicy goes away, which Joe Gorga says he will obviously do. “I’m gonna take care of my sister even if she doesn’t want me to,” says Joe. 

Juicy comes in to take a call from Teresa. She’s on speaker phone, so Joe Gorga asks her if he can come visit her Saturday. She says yes. Melissa says hi, then she and Teresa joke about vaginas getting tighter in prison and how all the girls in Danbury have dildos. Hmm. Ratings play? Since her daughters aren’t around for the call, Teresa hangs up after a few short minutes. 

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The natives are getting restless waiting for dinner outside. But guess who shows up to cheer the crowd? Rosie Pierri! The gang makes pizza (which look AHmazing) and toasts to family. Melissa thinks it feels like old times. She hopes Teresa is “prioritizing” in prison, thinking about how important family is, and making room for Melissa to shine on future Bravo installments. Rosie hopes the Giudices learn from the mistakes they’ve made. Joe Gorga says he’s tough, but when it comes to family, he’s a little b*tch. “Everybody’s a b*tch when it comes to family, Joe,” says Juicy

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Night falls on upstate NY as Rosie takes the girls out for a spin in the Jeep. Melissa and Joe Gorga talk on the porch about his upcoming visit, for which he’s nervous. He just hopes that when his sister gets out, she has a reality check. He’s been at odds with her for so long, he admits he doesn’t miss her right now. He misses the “old Teresa” – the one who he knew before all the money bullsh*t came into play. Joe just wants them to be a family again. “I’m hoping,” sighs Melissa. 

The next day, Joe Giudice takes his girls up to see the chapel his father built on the property. Although he doesn’t pray every day, he does pray for his family’s health and safety. They have a sweet moment in the chapel as they say a prayer together – sort of – at the coaching of Gia (who has successfully memorized the Lord’s Prayer). Teresa calls as they sit in the chapel. Juicy confesses his daughters’ sins to Teresa: they don’t know their prayers! She immediately instructs him to take them to church, promising that she’s going to take them every Sunday when she gets home. Teresa says she’s learned in prison that  you don’t have to recite memorized prayers to talk to God; you can just say what’s in your heart. #truth  She says a prayer over the phone with them, asking God to bring her safely home to her family and to bless them while she’s away. The girls all chorus “I love you” as she hangs up. And again! I’m brought to an emotionally poignant moment from – of all people! – this family. Ugh, Giudices. I just can’t quit you! 

Back home in NJ, Milania is running amok. Gia is frustrated at her dad’s inability to control Milania, even as he races after her on his teenie-weenie motorcycle (lolololol!). Gia thinks her dad is ridiculous, but Joe doesn’t appreciate Gia yelling at him like he’s her son. He takes her aside to tell her this. Gia says she’d rather be out with her friends than playing “mom” to her sisters here at home. But Joe argues that Gabriella does more around the house than Gia (chore-wise). “Have a little patience,” says Joe. “Everybody has a little part here while mom’s gone.” Gia says her dad’s trying his best, but the situation is overwhelming. She’s trying to stay strong for the family, but is suppressing her emotions as a result. Gia tells her dad she’s strong, and he thanks her for her hard work. Joe tells Gia she’s a tough girl, and he likes that about her. They kiss and make up. Awww.

In the next scene, we find out why Milania is perhaps psychologically, uh, unsettled at times. She is (gulp) the Official Daddy Back Hair Shaver! And she takes her job seriously. As she shaves every errant hair on Juicy’s ample back, he talks to her about how he’s going away after mom comes home. She knows this, but doesn’t say much. I don’t know about y’all, but Milania just got 10,000 bonus points as daughter of the year in my book for undertaking that unsavory task. 

Joe heads out to the restaurant where Teresa infamously flipped the table many RHONJ seasons ago. He’s meeting up with Lenny, who updates Joe on where they’re at with restitution: paying back the money they owe. Lenny says the Giudices are in good standing with the government in their restitution right now. Joe says he’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. When Teresa comes home, she’ll be on “home confinement,” which is not exactly house arrest. When Joe goes to prison, Teresa should still be allowed to visit him even though she’s on home confinement.

They talk about Joe Gorga’s upcoming visit, which Juicy thinks will be tough for him. “What have you learned from this?” asks Lenny, acting as the mouthpiece for the general public. Joe says he’s gonna do things the right way in the future, even though he didn’t know he was doing things the wrong way in the first place. (Really!? We’re still sticking to this story, are we?) Bottom line: He wants to get past this situation and never look back.  

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It’s the day of Joe Gorga’s visit to his sister, who he hasn’t seen in 6 months. As he drives the Giudices (plus Teresa’s mother) to Danbury, he’s feeling numb. Melissa has sent her love and prayers along, asking Joe to see if Teresa will get her on the list. #dontholdyourbreathMel  Growing up, Joe says he and Teresa never got in trouble. He never, ever thought he’d be visiting her in prison. As they drive, the girls school Joe Gorga about prison rules: no shorts, no phones, no Melissa. They cross into Connecticut, Gia warns Uncle Joe that leaving Teresa at the end of the visit will be hard. They arrive, put the car in park. And that’s where we’re left. No cameras are allowed in prison.

After the visit ends, Joe Gorga confesses he cried throughout the entire first hour. Teresa held his hand, telling him it was okay. But he wasn’t prepared to see her like this. On the drive home, Joe processes the reality of his sister truly being in prison. He says it was very hard to see his sister there “like some chained animal.” And this is the final image we’re left with. 

Well, folks. There it is. Three Sundays of Giudices behind us…for now. I am the first to admit this show probably did what it set out to do: build sympathy for the Giudice family. But where does the reality of their children’s pain, the idiocy of their parents’ mistakes (and, at times, their continued denial), and the slick Bravo “spin” leave the viewers? Should we feel informed or duped? I’m still too confused to process it all. (Help!)

TELL US: WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE 3-PART SERIES? PLAY FOR SYMPATHY OR THE REAL DEAL? DO YOU THINK JOE AND TERESA HAVE TRULY CHANGED? 

Photo Credit: Bravo 

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