Ever since Carole Radziwill announced her exit from The Real Housewives Of New York in late July, it’s been impossible to shake Ramona Singer’s appearance on Watch What Happens Live that same day. During her time on Andy Cohen’s late night show, the Turtle Timer said, “[Bravo] brings somebody on who some of the girls [of the cast] know. I know I brought some girls to Bravo’s attention.” Immediately, possibilities of who might take the vacant spot left by Bethenny Frankel’s former BFF began to dance in fans' heads. Could it be Jill Zarin, OG cast member, longtime friend of Ramona Singer, and general RHONY specter? Certainly, the “girls” know Jill Zarin.
Well, Wednesday night’s episode, “There's No Place Like Home,” started setting the table for New York’s prodigal gossip queen to return… along with another long-exited cast member, Heather Thompson.
Jill has evolved into a Friend Of The Housewives since she left the series after season 4, which aired in 2011. Last year, she appeared for a gossipy, fabulous lunch with Dorinda Medley, Luann de Lessps, and Luann’s now-ex, Tom D’Agostino. This season, sadly, Jill returned in front of the New York cameras for a heartbreaking detente with former enemy Bethenny. The reason for Jill’s season 10 appearance was the truly upsetting funeral for her universally beloved husband Bobby Zarin, who died in January 2018 following a lengthy cancer battle.
So, hypothetically, a mention of Jill should feel pretty casual at this point. Yet it doesn’t in “Home.” Instead, the reference comes off as a purposeful reminder Jill is still an integral part of many cast members’ lives whether we see her or not. She doesn’t merely appear at random for boozy lunches and teary heart-to-hearts.
At the top of the episode, Ramona invites Luann, Dorinda, and Sonja Morgan to her Southhampton home, which she has famously been remodeling, for an unveiling. The first thing Ramona tells Dorinda — who arrives first — about her new rugs is, “These are from Jill Zarin.” All of sudden, the showing turns into a Zarin Fabrics commercial, as Ramona adds, “They look super expensive, [but] they’re under $1,000.” Then, when the entire quartet is together and goes upstairs, Dorinda asks, “Are these Jill Zarin’s too?” This is all before “Home” even enters the five-minute mark.
Then, just after the midway point of the episode, former Housewives star Heather Thompson, who appeared for three seasons between 2012 and 2015, pops back up. Heather is a longtime, real-life friend of Carole who, like Jill, has served as a Friend Of The Housewives since her exit. While Jill’s prospective season 11 storyline would likely follow her reunion with Bethenny, Heather’s possible Housewives future would serve as the opposite. Heather might be the only person prepared to go head-to-head with Bethenny.
“Maybe it needs to be about you once in a while, not about…” she tells Carole, making a hand gesture at an invisible person. The invisible person is, of course, Bethenny, the ghost looming over every conversation Carole has. Heather adds, “People who are very self-absorbed sometimes don’t realize it. But sometimes there are people who can’t be told either.” Clearly, she is still talking about Bethenny.
Now imagine Heather, a fellow business woman obsessed with remaining “real,” saying as much to Bethenny. That is TV magic. Not Ramona attempting to needle her longtime frenemy. As Carole says in a confessional interview of Heather, “She probably understood Bethenny quicker than any of us.”
Although Heather has often talked about remembering the “bad parts” of filming RHONY, she is one alum who has both kept up with the series and continued dropping the kinds of drama-inducing bon mots needed to keep the reality show running. In April, she appeared on the Housewives-obsessed podcast Andy’s Girls, hosted by Sarah Galli, and didn’t hold back. Heather said Sonja and Ramona are “catty, dumb bitches” for the camera (and only for the camera) and called out Luann’s on-screen “authenticity.” In that same interview, Heather, who liked quite a few tweets demanding her RHONY return during “Home,” confirmed she “stays in touch” with executive producer Andy Cohen and is on “great terms” with both Bravo and NBC Universal, which owns the cable network.
Get ready RHONY fans, because someone new will be holding a golden apple next year, and it just might be Jill Zarin or Heather Thompson. Or, maybe, just maybe, both.
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