If ever an episode of Mob Wives exemplified the show’s mission statement, which is to prove how hard it is to be a family member of someone in “the lifestyle,” this is it. We’ve been privy to the dramatic moments and emotional breakdowns of these women in the past, but it all pales now compared to Renee Graziano‘s situation which has unfolded before the world’s eyes.
After learning that her ex-husband and her father both went into Federal custody (one voluntarily, the other very much not), Renee has been living in isolation. She won’t see her friends or family, and the only person she’s been around is her son AJ, who just lost his father and grandfather.
“What else could you possibly take from me?” Renee says to her friend Nikole during a devastating phone conversation where Renee admits that as much as she tries to keep it together when AJ is around, as soon as he leaves home, her cries “sound like lambs being slaughtered.”
Big Ang hasn’t been able to reach Renee up to this point, and when Ramona comes to the Drunken Monkey she fills her in on all the details. “She’s going into depression,” Big Ang worries, and her goal is to get Renee out of the house. In real life, it’s November, just before Thanksgiving, and what no one can understand is why Junior didn’t want to just wait out the holiday to spend that much more time with his family before turning himself in. Thanksgiving will likely be bittersweet for Renee from now on, as it is for Ramona, whose grandfather actually died on Thanksgiving day.
“He died of cancer,” Ramona tells Big Ang. “That stupid Donnie Brasco movie, they had him killed, shot up, the whole nine sent for, and he died of cancer.” Lefty Guns Ruggiero was part of the old generation of real gangsters, Ramona says. Loyal till the very end, never giving anyone up to the Feds. The new generation, not so much.
Carla and Drita also meet up to have a pow wow about Renee. Drita hasn’t spoken to Renee since the Poconos trip where Renee felt betrayed by Drita for claiming Ramona said some bad things about Junior, but at this point, whatever Renee is going through right now trumps all of that pettiness. Drita knew Junior turned himself in, but from the look on her face, she apparently had no idea what happened with Renee’s father.
“It’s like weird,” Carla says when they talk about Junior leaving Renee a letter without saying goodbye. “I can’t believe he left a letter,” Drita says. “He might as well write ‘You’re a jerkoff.’ What the f— is that?”
It also motivates Drita to bring the kids to see Lee, who she hasn’t visited in jail for almost a full year. “Guys in jail, there’s something about then, they seem to be very hot,” Big Ang warns Drita that maybe she’s going to want a little somethin’-somethin’ on this road trip to prison. “They look good in those little jail outfits and they’re all diesel.” Big Ang’s trips to jail all seem to go like this:
Unfortunately for Drita, her youngest, Gizelle, has no real understanding of who her dad is, so when Drita asks her to come on the visit, Gizelle tells her no, which devastates Drita.
Carla’s also inspired to have quality family time, so she and Joe bring the kids to the roller rink for Xanadu night on Mob Wives.
Between the tight corduroy pants Carla allegedly used to wear for Joe to the ease with which they have mastered their skating, I wish they’d call me for a double date one of these days because who wouldn’t want to hang out with them??
Ramona finally gets Renee out of the house for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner and gets Renee to open up about how she’s feeling about Junior.
At this point, Renee (and everyone else) still haven’t made any connection between Junior turning himself in and her father’s arrest, so Renee is actually able to joke about Junior, telling Ramona that no mater what, she’s sticking by him. “I’m like herpes, I’m never gonna go away.” But when Karen shows up and proposes, the joking stops and for some reason, Renee retreats from conversational to confrontational and upset. She’s no longer in the mood to be anywhere but her own bed, and when Karen proposes a toast to celebrate that they all still have each other, Renee flips out on her.
“I can’t celebrate. My kid is at the edge!” Renee tells Karen, and just as they sit down for dinner, Rene tells them, “I can’t sit here and cheers and pretend to celebrate. I would like to leave,” and she walks out.
“The girls are pretty much sick of me being sick and tired,” Renee says, so eventually she is convinced (by Big Ang, of course) to go out (to a place called Lips, of course) for a drag show. “I love drag shows, I think they’re hysterical, I love when they talk with their voices. Kinda sounds like my voice a little,” Big Ang says.
Finally, Renee seems to be having fun!
“Thank you, God,” Karen says.
“Thank you, LORD!” Big Ang says.
“Any god that anybody believes in, I owe a thank you,” Ramona says.
“I’ll be okay,” Renee says. “My father has been in jail before, so has Junior, I can do this again.”
But on the other side of town where Drita and Carla are, things aren’t looking so optimistic…
“I’ve heard some s— about Junior,” Drita says.
And this is about where things fall apart.
“Look, I don’t think this is true,” Drita says, “but word on the street and what everybody’s saying is that Junior flipped.” That’s not an accusation to be taken lightly, because as Drita explains, anytime anyone on Staten Island suspects someone of flipping, it’s always been true. But the real problem is not that people are murmuring about the situation, it’s that it was actually posted on Gangland News, which is like the mafia bible. If Gangland says something happened, it happened, Carla explains with her most serious face ever.
“They’re saying that when Renee’s father was talking and Junior was with him, Junior was wired and taping it,” Drita says, shocked by the words that are coming out of her own mouth.
Drita’s feelings on criminals who turn are simple and beautifully put:
“All I know is that if he did this, Renee is done. DONE. She is going to lose her mind and end up in a f—ing crazy home,” Drita says.
Karen says that when she read the article, she thought it was dead on. “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure it out.” Karen can relate to the situation because of her own father’s history cooperating with the government, but it was different, because “he did a year in jail, he felt John [Gotti] double-crossed him, and he was just done. He walked away from that lifestyle and he put everything out there. To wear a wire is probably one of the scummiest low-life things you could ever do.”
Everyone is concerned for Renee and in absolute disbelief over the rumors, but at this point, she doesn’t even believe the rumors are true. “It’s easier for me to believe that this is bulls— right now,” she says, and that’s what she tells Karen and Ramona when they stop by to check on her. They’re feeling differently, and Karen especially is feeling a certain sort of empathy and dread that comes with experience. “If this rumor is proven to be true, Renee Graziano’s life from this point on will be forever different,” Karen says.
“You are re-living your life, and I’m sorry you have to re-live it,” Renee cries to Karen, and at this moment, her emotions and apologies to Karen are a breakthrough, the moment she stops denying what she knows to be true. Karen, who also breaks down, embraces her.
“No matter what, Renee, you have people that love you,” Karen tells her. “That’s what got me through it.”
“I know why God placed you with me,” Renee tells Karen, asking forgiveness for how she treated Karen upon her return to Staten Island last year. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.”
But Karen, who always had Ramona’s support when she went through this situation with her own father, knows that loyalty is the forgiveness that Renee seeks, and Karen will always be loyal to her.
The next day, while Renee goes to chapel to pray,
Big Ang goes to her sister’s store to show her the paper, which confirms everyone’s biggest fear.
“I feel responsible for all of this,” Renee weeps. “This is the ultimate, ultimate betrayal.”