The key to a great episode of any Real Housewives franchise is to get the women out of town, in close quarters, to a luxury resort location where they are unable to escape. This episode of RHONJ is no exception.

The time came for Teresa’s trust-building relationship retreat, and her family geared up to inevitably throw down for the cameras. Tensions were running high, especially after last week’s altercation with Kim D and Melissa’s former best friend, Jan. Teresa is going into the retreat unaware that the others hate her/blame her for this incident.

As Richie says before they hit the road – “I don’t even think Teresa knows how to SPELL retreat.”

The family rides up to Lake George in a party bus, presumably because this is their last hoorah before the fun-suck that is hanging out with Teresa. She and Joe Giudice opt to take their SUV up so they can rag on Jacqueline in private.

Caroline and Al have opted not to go on the retreat because there’s really no reason for the Manzos to be involved in the Gorga-Giudice fight at this point. Instead, they head to Patterson Falls, a beautiful park that Al’s father helped build once upon a time. Caroline wants her husband to take more time to enjoy life and not devote everything he has to his job. Al kindly reminds her that they have their lavish lifestyle because of his work habits, but he’ll try.

Jacqueline and Chris are not going to the retreat either, because her problems with Teresa just aren’t worth fighting over. She did make a little blunder by angrily tweeting that Teresa was a moron, and that’s probably going to haunt her forever. And as the family shows up to the hotel without the Lauritas, it’s the first thing that Teresa launches into. Vacation!

Joe Giudice and Teresa retire to their room to angrily discuss Jacqueline’s tweeting, and the fact that the others didn’t defend Teresa in the whole 10 minutes they’ve been at the hotel. Joe wins the Worst Person Award when he says that Jacqueline is using her son’s illness as an excuse to get away with bad behavior. In his words, autism isn’t even that bad of a disease. “Scientists have it.”

Teresa looks visibly uncomfortable at her husband’s words, and immediately states in her talking head that Joe was trying to defend her. Nothing like discounting the illness of a defenseless toddler to make you look favorable on TV, buddy!

The fighting between the family members starts at breakfast the next morning, even before the counselors and mediators get there to start the exercises. Joe Gorga and Richie crack open the drinks as soon as possible.

Steve and Stephanie, the professionals, show up to get down to business, but the group is not convinced that they can handle their level of crazy. Melissa refers to them as “Opie and Sunshine,” and Joe Gorga has a vodka soda in his hand the whole time.

They do a lot of team building exercises that don’t seem to make much sense, but Steve and Stephanie have 15 years of experience mending relationships. It has to work, right? The only person who seems to be having fun is Joe Giudice, who Melissa says is happy because the games require no thinking.

Steve wants to know if everyone can trust each other, which opens up a whole can of worms. Teresa believes that Jacqueline is responsible for her and her brother not speaking, and can’t get over it, despite the fact that Jacqueline isn’t even on the retreat. The whole mess devolves into a screaming match about taking sides and defending Teresa against her former friend.

Melissa tries to confront her about all of the rumors that conveniently start in her presence, but it’s like talking to a brick wall. She gets on her knees and begs Teresa to stop being mean to her. In the middle of the screaming match that ensues, Joe Gorga calls Teresa scum, and tells the counselors that they’re wasting their time trying to help the situation.

Teresa runs outside and tells her husband about Joe’s remarks, and he responds by busting back into the room to attack his brother-in-law.  The fight is disastrous, but we only see snippets – the real mayhem is happening next week.

To be continued…

Grade: A

Stray Observations:

- Do you think Steve and Stephanie had any idea what they were getting themselves into when they got a call from Teresa? It would have been nice to be the people who finally solved the Gorga-Giudice feud, but you can’t win them all, Opie and Sunshine.

- Best Quote:

Jacqueline: “Go on this retreat? I’d rather get my lips waxed. All of them.”