There was a lot to savor in the "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" season seven premiere.
After nearly two years off the air, the show had a lot of heavy lifting to do to get us back into the Garden State state of mind. Melissa Gorga and her new entrepreneurial adventure, Jacqueline Laurita's dramatic history with her former cast mates and fresh new faces, Siggy Flicker and Dolores Catania, were featured.
Viewers tuned in to witness the return of Teresa Giudice, making her way home to her family after 11 and a half long months behind bars. Who knew, though, that it would be Teresa's daughters who would steal the show and break hearts in the process?
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Throughout their legal struggles, it's been hard to feel too bad for Giudice and her husband Joe. Yes, it's horrible that they would have to be away from their family, but they did commit crimes. What had gotten lost in the mix, before the premiere, was the toll it all took on their four children. With the final act of the episode dedicated to Teresa's early morning return, we finally saw--with heartbreaking clarity--just what an ordeal this had been for the young girls.
Eldest daughter Gia (somehow just only 14 after seemingly being a teenager for all seven seasons of this show) broke down in tears at the sight of her mother back in their home. It was clear that for the duration of Teresa's time away, Gia was forced to step into a makeshift mother role, caring for her younger sisters Gabriella, Milania, and Audriana. And in that moment, as she watched her younger sisters embrace their mother, you could see that feeling of responsibility wash away with her tears. Gia could simply be a girl again. A girl who needed her mother and finally had her back.
Authentic family drama has always been the bread and butter of RHONJ, something that's helped it stand out from the pack. And while this season sure seems packed to the gills with nasty squabbling among the ladies, it's moments like little Audriana, who certainly doesn't understand the complexities of just why her mom has been gone for nearly a year, announcing with such pure joy, "Mommy, you're home."
Teresa may be home, but the family now faces the even longer imprisonment of their father Joe. While there's no doubt that it will be difficult to watch at times (that clip in the episode-ending supertease of the usually unflappable Milania in tears is something we're already bracing ourselves for), we'll be there with bated breath. Because at this point, it's like they're our family, too. And like one former RHONJ star once said--we're thick as thieves.
Did Teresa's return home have you in tears too? Let us know in the comments below.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Bravo.
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)