The Real Housewives of New York City are back, and while they've lost a cast member, they've gained another who may well emerge as one of the best in the history of the franchise.
It wouldn't be The Real Housewives without some shade being thrown, but I didn't expect much of the early shade to be hurled at Bethenny Frankel, who was no longer on the show.
Indeed, The Real Housewives of New York City Season 12 Episode 1 was a solid opener, but it was just par for the course for Luann to act as though Bethenny's loss will not be felt on the show.
If you watch The Real Housewives of New York City online, you know Luann has become self-absorbed over the last few seasons, to the point that the entire cast almost turned their backs on her.
Even though Bethenny stuck her nose where it didn't belong at the best of times, she was the first person to call Luann out and actually to try to help her through the myriad of things they were going through.
That's not to say Bethenny was an angel, but her heart was in the right place on many occasions when she looked out for her co-star, so to have Luann flippantly hurl an insult about the show going on without her left a bad taste in my mouth.
Luann rebuilding a connection with Sonja felt needed. They were once BFFs, but they drifted away because of Luann acting as though her show was the most important thing in the world.
Producer: How do you feel about her leaving the show?
Luann: Hmm. It's really hard for me to say that I'll miss her all that much. But as they say on Broadway, the show must go on without you.
It's easy to understand why Sonja was so forgiving: Her daughter had just left for college, and she felt in a vulnerable state. Had Sonja not been struggling, she would have probably been harder with Luann.
Hopefully, Luann realizes that friendships are a two-way street and that there's more to life than yelling about a show every other scene.
Understandably, Luann is thrilled about completing probation. She can now put that horrid chapter behind her and look to the future. It was mature of her to refrain from hitting the drink instantly.
She knows what she did had severe ramifications, and she doesn't want to be on the wrong side of the law again. We'll see if she continues to practice what she preaches, but this is Luann we're talking about.
Tinsley: She never said anything about not being back.
Ramona: To me that's an F you. I'm sorry, it's an F you.
Ramona's meltdown about being in her sixties and single was a rare moment of vulnerability for this long-serving cast member. It's been evident for a while now that her snarky comments and scheming stem from her masking something.
Now that she's confronting her loneliness, it would be great if she managed to find some semblance of peace. Many of us worry about where we're going to land in life, but Ramona has gone from living her best life to being genuinely concerned about waking up alone.
Having people like William in her life is not helping. He may be easy on the eyes and have "magic in his jeans," as Sonja so elegantly put it, but he comes across as nothing more than an opportunist.
He would have flirted with a plant if there were a camera crew around just to get his face on TV, at least, that's how he was portrayed.
Sonja: Oh my god.
Luann: It's been hell.
Sonja: Oh, my god, Lu.
Luann: It's finally over.
Sonja: I don't feel great right now. That was scary.
Luann: I feel pretty damn good, I gotta tell you that. I mean, I would kiss the ground, but it's cement.
We need to remember that we're only seeing a few minutes of a party that probably lasted closer to 8 hours. What I loved about the exchange between Sonja and William was the way Leah chimed in speaking the truth.
This was Leah's first big event as a housewife, and boy, she did not hold back. Housewives come and go, but Leah is already a keeper.
She's not shy about opening up about her life, has no filter, and is open about loving her daughter. In many aspects, it's like Bethenny never went away. There are so many similarities in the way they act.
My worries about the show going down the drain after Frankel's exit were washed away with "Back in the New York Groove."
Introducing Leah as Tinsley's friend was a natural way to bring her into the mix. Tinsley herself emerged as a critical player when Sonja introduced her, but Tinsley may be gearing up to exit the series.
Leah: I'm single and it's great.
Tinsley: You're single! Wait, because the last time we chatted, you had a boyfriend.
Leah: I know, but. We went to France, we had a great vacation, on the light home, I was like 'what's going on with your divorce?'
Tinsley: Oh, he's not divorced?
Leah: He was like 'It's on hold.' And I was like, 'My pussy's on hold, too.'
The rumors have been out there for months, with Tinsley seemingly confirming the news. More on that HERE.
But the show is setting up a mighty feud between Dorinda and Tinsley, and it could actually have legs to stand on. The two women have entirely different personalities, and that's mostly why they're clashing.
Tinsley pulling Dorinda aside at her own party was clearly her way of forcing Dorinda to bury the hatchet with her. Ambushing someone at the party they're hosting is not classy in the slightest, but you could tell this feud was getting Tinsley down.
Tinsley may have moved on with some dude named Bruce -- at least in the show's timeline -- but it's clear she's still in communication with Scott, even if she wants to tell everyone she isn't.
This might be the best way to have children. Now, I don't have to deal with diapers, I can, you know, be with them a little bit, and send them back. So, that's perfect for me.Tinsley
The argument at the party was comical, and it highlighted that Leah would go to bat for Tinsley. That's probably why their relationship will continue to flourish.
However, it's also good that Leah is building connections with the other ladies because when Tinsley inevitably does exit, Leah is going to want to feel like she has other friendships.
All things considered, this was one of the best premieres in years. We got arguments, genuine progression for some of the women, and a wonderful new cast member.
What did you think of Leah? Do you think she's a suitable replacement for Bethenny? Do you think Tinsley should have reached out to Dorinda before or after the party?
Hit the comments below.
The Real Housewives of New York airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Bravo.
Wondering what's on tap for the rest of the season? Here's the full trailer:
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.