After all the tears, hugging, horseshoe cleaning and Zennis the ladies of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" endured this season, I was fully prepared for them to come completely unhinged in the season finale. Sure, they'd gamely tackled all the New Age ridiculousness Bravo could throw at them, but I never believed they'd actually, you know, buy into all that nutty-twiggy crap. In Jersey, you make good meatballs, you wear lots of mascara, and you FIGHT. Simple. 

But, even though we get the fighting, it's misdirected. When Penny explains that, duh, Teresa is the one behind all of her friends' nasty comments on Twitter, Teresa squawks, eyes wide, like a parrot who's seen too much. "You're full of bleep! You're full of bleep! Squawk! Cracker?"

Joe Gorga tries to interrogate Penny and her husband Johnny calmly… at first. But because Joe never does anything calmly, pretty soon there's yelling and the sound of the camera hitting the floor, and a skewed view of peoples' feet. Fight, fight, fight!

As Joe later explains, Johnny the Greek was simply too disgusting not to fight (and allegedly he was helped by not only Chris but Jacqueline, who supposedly allegedly maybe tried to beat Johnny with a shoe). Sure, Johnny and Penny were telling the truth about Teresa, but why not shoot the messenger? After all, the new directive is all about sticking by one another, even when that means defending your sister for telling people your wife was a mattress back stripper! Thank goodness Joe finally has his priorities straight. 

Admittedly, it's hard to sort out why Penny or Johnny (or Kim D, who also got dragged into this mess) had any desire to do Teresa's dirty work for her, though Penny's blog suggests that this entire battle is entirely manufactured anyway. Still, fake or not, this brouhaha will give Joe and Teresa another shot at healing. Or killing one another. You never know with Joe, right? 

Anyway, there's a lot of lip flapping about what Joe wants Teresa to do and what Teresa should do until Joe and Teresa finally find themselves together in the same room -- conveniently at the tasting party for BLK's flavored waters! Although I would think the reactions to this noxious goo would be problematic from a marketing perspective ("It's sour! Wait, this is good -- it tastes like fruit punch!"), I guess any publicity is good publicity, even when the publicity suggests your product tastes like old Halloween candy. 

Joe sits down with Teresa and stares at her, waiting for her to cough up an apology. And she does... sort of. She may have regrets about things! Joe takes that as a win, so there's soon crying and hugging. Wow, this is so heartwarming! Better enjoy that hug, Joe, because they don't let you touch prisoners during visiting hours!

We move on to a long, goopy monologue from Caroline, in which she talks about how lucky she is and how her house holds so many memories (and we get flashbacks, which only serve to remind me how obnoxious her kids could be) and I start thinking, huh, maybe she's dying? But no, she's getting a spinoff, so we can see how her clueless sons can burn through their dad's money with a so-so restaurant and a bottled water brand that's wrapped in black so YOU CAN'T TELL IF THERE'S ANY CRAP FLOATING AROUND IN THE BOTTLE. Egads.

Finally, because this is the winter (autumn, summer, year) of Teresa's discontent, we have to end with all of the cast gathering at Teresa and Joe's shore house, eating hot dogs and throwing food to seagulls who will likely suffer bloat and die because of it. It's all supposed to be heartwarming and sweet and... wait, what show is this, anyway? Did I accidentally switch to Lifetime? I guess because there's a (rumored) cast purge in the works, the show wanted to end on a happy note just before kicking most of these people to the curb. Aw, so nice!

Because this season has been so ho-hum (Zennis! We saw Zennis, people!), the show producers felt the need to try to goose up the "where are they now" end credits. Jacqueline is expecting… her older kid to come home and go to beauty school! Caroline and Al have split… from the Hoboken apartment! Melissa has killed Teresa… with kindness! That's so crazy!

But the end isn't really the end, because there's no avoiding the elephant in the middle of the show, and it's Teresa and Joe Giudice possibly in handcuffs and matching orange jumpsuits (if that's what they're wearing in Jersey these days, of course). Joe and Teresa stand overlooking the shore and talk about what lies ahead. "At the end of the day, I'm gonna prove myself right about most everything, all right?" So, he'll prove himself right... about what, 15 of the 39 charges? "Most everything" suggests Joe is already Googling "can I bring my own snacks to prison?" and "Conjugal visits?"

Teresa gets the best "where are they now" endcap ever, which lists all the charges she and Joe are facing, then the sunshiney statement, "There is peace in the family and Teresa continues to love, love, love!" Hopefully this is a skill Teresa can use in prison, along with a working knowledge of how to make prison wine. 

Then, the show runs willy-nilly into "Watch What Happens Live" with Andy Cohen, who has a one-on-one with Teresa and Joe who "break their silence" to discuss the charges against them to the extent their lawyers will allow them to. What emerges is that 1) Teresa is taking the "I'm a stupid woman who just did what my husband told me to do" defense, 2) Joe is taking the "I hired people to do that stuff with the numbers and the whatsits" defense, and 3) Joe is also an asshat. 

When Andy asks Joe what might happen to the kids if both he and Teresa end up in jail, he snorts that they ain't going nowhere with Joe and Melissa. Of course, they wouldn't want to, given the things they've heard Uncle Joe and Aunt Melissa say about their parents, right? Snort, snort! You know, I think he could have simply said, "They'll go with my sister" and left it at that. Then, when Teresa marvels that this wretched experience has shown her how strong she is, Joe has to toss in, "I think you're much stronger than your brother" for absolutely no reason. I'm starting to think the other part of Joe's defense is that Joe Gorga bothered him so much he forgot to do his taxes for four years, so it's his fault.
Of course, having read excerpts from Melissa's abuse-tastic book "Love, Italian Style," I can't really say I'm on Team Melissa and Joe these days, either. While Melissa often comes across as semi-reasonable, the fact that she wrote a book in which her husband offers the helpful hint, "If your wife says 'no,' turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated. Women don't realize how easy men are. Just give us what we want," sort of puts a different spin on Joe's tendency to fly off the handle. It also makes me think Melissa's dead-eyed smile in publicity photos makes a lot more sense than it used to, and I'm also putting much better odds on this relationship either ending up in divorce or on a special edition of "48 Hours." 
No matter what happens with Teresa and Joe, "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" that returns next year will likely be a very, very different one than this one. Although if Teresa and her husband are still on the show, Bravo would probably be thrilled that all phone calls are recorded. One less thing to worry about!
Do you think Joe and Teresa are going to jail? Will you watch Caroline's spinoff? Who do you want to see go, and who would you like to come back? 
Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.