For over a decade, we’ve tuned in week after week to see a group of wealthy women living in New Jersey deal with their conflicts in the most Jersey way possible – with raised voices, quotable insults, and flipped tables. Now preparing to shoot its 14th season, it seems that there’s trouble afoot for The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Bravo’s Andy Cohen has alluded to the drama as a standoff between cast members and sisters-in-law, Teresa Giudice and Melissa Gorga, with each woman unwilling to balk at the other’s demands. On one side, we have Giudice, a staple of the franchise and the only original cast member left standing. On the other is Gorga who, after coming into the fold during the show’s third season, has been another stalwart mainstay on the series. So, why are things coming to a head now on the longstanding reality series?
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For anyone who’s watched the earlier seasons of New Jersey, particularly from the moment that Melissa and her husband Joe Gorga came onto the series, the family ties between the Giudices and the Gorgas have taken up plot line after plot line. Close siblings from the moment they were born, Giudice and Joe Gorga were best friends throughout their lives into young adulthood – that is – as Giudice claims, until Melissa came along. From the moment her brother started dating his now wife, Giudice says that they’ve grown further and further apart, something that broke the hearts of their parents who both passed over the last few years. With one of Bravo’s most cherished franchises bursting at the seams, could it be time for one of these ladies to take a bow from the lineup? The tension runs deep, and after a tumultuous Season 13, their attempt at making true peace but be over for good.
The Gorgas and Giudices: A History of the Drama
From the moment that audiences first met Giudice and her family, we knew that we had reality gold on our hands. To be fair, the first two seasons of New Jersey were nothing short of chaotic. From tacky clothes and home decor to the thick accents that the Garden State is known for, these women really had it all. Unlike their predecessors in The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and The Real Housewives of New York, there was just something about the Jersey women that wouldn’t allow them to have a calm conversation, even if it was about the weather. By the end of the first season, Bravo history was made when, during a tense dinner, Giudice flipped a table after yelling at another cast member, making certain that she’d be asked back for another season.
Fast-forward to Season 3 and Giudice as well as her husband Joe and their tiny army of daughters were fan-favorite personalities. Always a show about family dynamics and friendships that existed long before the series premiered, the Giudices were joined by the sprawling Manzo family who, through marriage, made up most of the cast. The opening of the show’s junior season also saw the introduction of Kathy Wakile and her family. A cousin to Gorga and Giudice, Wakile added that extra layer of family dynamics to the stew. We met Wakile and the rest of the newbies at a christening for the Gorga’s son, Joe Jr. – an event that was plagued with more drama than one could imagine, with multiple scandals exposed.
After a battle of words and insults played out between the Gorgas and Giudices, things became physical when both of the Joes came to blows during the reception. Separated by Gorga and Giudice’s father, Giacinto Gorga, it was at this moment that we discovered that the trauma cut deep with Joe Gorga feeling as though Joe Giudice was taking his parents away from him.
Things only got worse from here with both families arguing continuously over the next several seasons, with new Housewives sprinkling in adding fuel to the fire. Just when you thought they had buried the hatchet, something new would come up to stir the pot all over again. From sprinkle cookies to extramarital affairs, no topic was too petty or too far for both families to push. Perhaps the saddest part of all was that the children of both sides got pulled into the arguments, oftentimes finding themselves in the crosshairs of their parent’s beef. Close at first, it’s been heartbreaking to see the bonds between the cousins break apart the longer the series has gone on, with Season 13 being one of the hardest to watch.
Through therapists, friends, and family members, the Giudices and Gorgas tried time after time to pull themselves together but nothing seemed to help. And then, in 2013, the unthinkable happened when the Giudices were indicted on federal fraud charges stemming from the years leading up to their appearance on the hit Bravo show. Up until this time, we saw the family go into several different business ventures as well as give their daughters a taste of the high life with their expenses getting out of control, and many of us at home scratching our heads as to how they could afford this lifestyle.
As it would turn out, they couldn’t and the past cutting barb of “your house is under foreclosure” echoed in all of our heads. According to E! News, the couple was charged with 39 counts of fraud — which included hiding assets and income during a bankruptcy case and attempting to defraud lenders and illegally obtain mortgages and other loans. By 2014, both of the Giudices plead guilty to their allegations with Joe being sentenced to 41 months in prison and Teresa receiving a sentence of 15 months.
Luckily for the Giudice’s, the court granted them a separate time in prison, meaning that Teresa would go in first with Joe at home to take care of the girls and then vice versa. It was early 2015 when the former’s sentence began and less than a year later, she was released, just in time for the holidays. When she arrived home, the family rallied around her with her brother and sister-in-law stepping in to help their nieces and support their extended family in any way possible – at least that’s the idea that we as the viewers got. Unfortunately, by this time both of Giudice’s parents’ health had taken a downhill turn, something that Joe Gorga always blamed on Joe Giudice for putting his parents through the stress of seeing their children sentenced to jail.
For a long time on the show, it appeared that the Gorgas and Giudices could sort it out if it wasn’t for Joe Giudice’s interference and controlling attitude towards his family. When the Italian native was deported following his stint in jail, healing seemed to finally be on the way. But, even with Joe Giudice out of the country, things remained tumultuous between the two families, and – skipping over a few years – Teresa Giudice would eventually meet a new man – Luis Ruelas.
Teresa Giudice’s Road to Romantic Happiness Causes More Family Strife
The couple met where any Jersey couple meets – down the shore. Both were vacationing separately at the end of the summer in 2020 when they ran into one another and sparks began to fly. Things between the pair moved really fast with an engagement happening just a little over one year later in October 2021. The wedge between Giudice and the Gorgas only grew during this time after the former’s concerned brother (along with several other friends and cast mates) questioned Giudice about troubling allegations surrounding her fiancé. It isn’t hard to go back through Ruelas’s past and find red flags showing up everywhere. In 2018, he was involved in an ugly road rage incident that saw him striking a man in his vehicle after a disagreement between the two drivers. While this report was troubling enough, it was when Ruelas’s exes began to step forward that things got very dicey.
When you’ve been tuning in to a reality show for over 10 years, it’s understandable to say that you get attached to the cast. Audiences, friends, and family were all worried when allegations of abuse began to surface with Ruelas’s ex-wife, Marisa DiMartino, claiming back in 2012 that during an argument, he pushed her into a metal pole. There were also allegations of mental and emotional abuse but the real kicker and talk of Season 12 was a surfaced videotape of Ruelas that showed him at some sort of men’s retreat where he was seen running on the beach and apologizing to his ex for the harm that he caused her.
Unfazed and without pause, Giudice would move forward with her relationship with Ruelas, marching all the way to the altar in the final episode of Season 13. During the show’s latest season, viewers watched as the gap between the Gorgas and Giudices only grew deeper with the cousins, all practically grown, getting involved in the drama. Things got so bad that by the end, the Gorgas turned down Giudice’s invitation to her wedding, something that will likely never be forgiven by a woman who can absolutely hold a grudge. Meanwhile, the season also skewed things more in Ruelas and Giudice’s favor, painting them as the peacekeepers. But so far, the reunion has shown us that this wasn’t necessarily the case.
The Season 13 reunion has shown audiences thus far that things are far from being resolved, with Gorga and Giudice holding court next to Cohen on their respective sides. New Jersey reunions have long held a special place in our hearts as an off-the-rails experience with hair extensions and nails flying. While the first part did its best to turn the focus onto other wives (particularly newcomers Danielle Cabral and Rachel Fuda), there were plenty of jabs thrown back and forth between Gorga and Giudice.
Giudice came to the reunion locked and loaded, prepared to blame the Gorgas for her imprisonment – a charge that she previously hurled at ex-wife Caroline Manzo. With Ruelas’s explosive part in the finale during which he said that he had hired a private investigator (a man named Bo Dietl nonetheless…) to look into everyone’s backgrounds, there will be plenty of fireworks when the men of Jersey take their seats behind the ladies. As of the time of this article, there’s still too much up in the air for us to speculate on which woman is more in the wrong – although the outlandish allegation that the Gorgas called the FBI on the Giudices is certainly pointing us in one direction more.
Will ‘RHONJ’ continue with the ongoing Gorga/Giudice Divide?
With contracts waiting to be signed and bad blood still boiling between the Giudices and Gorgas, it’s hard to say what will happen next with the show. Each party wants the other one kicked off the series. And while it would be absolutely insane for Bravo to cut Giudice, there’s a chance that there’s more of her story that could be told in a setting apart from the drama between the ladies. What if the network took a page from other spin-offs like The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kim Zolciak’s Don’t Be Tardy — and fellow The Real Housewives of New Jersey star, Manzo’s, Manzo’d With Children?
Each series performed well, with Don’t Be Tardy following through with 8 seasons — while Manzo’d with Children accomplished three before it was canceled. Seeing as how we’ve followed the mini Giudices since they were children, and one even before she was born, watching them on a solo project could be a good way to give both families what they want – the absence of the other. For the Giudices, it would be a great opportunity to showcase the family dynamics as the girls are older and less involved than they were in the early seasons with gymnastic competitions and rap performances.
It would also give Ruelas and his two sons a chance to stand in the spotlight with viewers possibly better understanding the connection between the newlyweds – for better or for worse. Depending on which way the pendulum swung, both Giudice and Ruelas’ reputations could be cleared and audiences could find themselves siding with the couple – something that seems unlikely as long as their time on New Jersey continues.
Known by many as the first family of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Manzo and her husband, two sons, and daughter were a staple during the first several seasons of the series. Unlike the Giudices and Gorgas, the Manzos remained a strong unit, running a well-known event space in Paterson, New Jersey. We saw each of the adult children struggle in their own ways but, with their parents’ help, they always managed to come out on top. After five seasons on New Jersey, the Manzos embarked on their own journey via Manzo’d with Children, giving them the opportunity to have all eyes on them and their story alone, instead of the non-stop drama with the other cast members, specifically Gorga and Giudice. Running for three seasons, the show was a success for the network just as a Giudice-centered spinoff could be.
We’ve tuned in for thirteen years to watch the Giudice girls go from aspiring toddler models and rappers to young women with a story of their own. Each daughter still makes appearances during filming and their views of the dynamic between their mom and aunt and uncle gives it a more nuanced appeal than just the adults yelling at one another. This season we watched as the girls, specifically Gia and Milania, rushed to the aid of their mother and father when their character was pulled into question by the Gorgas. Likewise, they’ve been fierce protectors of their mother’s new relationship with Ruelas, with each of them stepping forward at the couple’s wedding to give speeches. As Manzo’d with Children was able to accomplish with the Manzo family, a Giudice-centered spinoff could do the same for the girls, giving them opportunities beyond their current status on the series.
What Would Happen to ‘RHONJ’ Without Teresa Giudice?
While to some fans, the Gorga and Giudice drama is what keeps us glued to the screen even if it has been somewhat played out over the last decade, there are plenty of other strong personalities on the show, namely Jennifer Aydin. First appearing during the show’s ninth season, Aydin has delivered some absolutely wild antics and knows how to turn it up when a scene calls for it. She’s clashed with just about every wife over the pettiest of infractions, and we know that she’ll bring the heat should the Gorga and Giudice drama fizzle with one of the women leaving. There’s also Dolores Catania who, despite being the Giudice whisperer, is a no-nonsense gal prepared to put any of the ladies in their place. Out of the entire lineup, these two women would most likely carry the show on their backs, alongside Gorga should Giudice receive her own spinoff. There’s also a possibility that production would see the worth in bringing in a blast from the past like Jacqueline Laurita or – dare we say – Danielle Staub to keep audiences coming back for those familiar faces.
While fans would love to see the Gorgas and Giudices come together and make amends for the sake of their family, it seems unlikely at this point. The disconnect between the two units has made for some terrific TV over the last decade, but many are wondering if it’s gone too far and with Giudice telling Gorga numerous times at the reunion that she’d never have to see her face again after filming was over. It seems that she’s dead set on making Bravo choose between them. A spin-off series could be just what the doctor ordered, giving Giudice’s family a time to shine. However, this certainly isn’t the first time that Giudice has wanted the Gorgas gone, so there’s still a chance that both families will continue to film once the contracts are prepared to their liking.