'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' newcomer Danielle Cabral reflects on surviving her freshman run, including an intense reunion.
"I want to say chaos, but that was the second part of the reunion," she chuckles to ET. "The second part of the reunion is chaos, but I think the first part for me is vindicated."
The reunion picks up with Danielle and her co-stars -- Teresa Giudice, Melissa Gorga, Dolores Catania, Margaret Josephs, Jennifer Aydin, Rachel Fuda and "friends of" the cast Jennifer Fessler and Jackie Goldschneider -- eight months after the events of a game-changing season finale, which resulted in Melissa and her husband, Joe Gorga, skipping his sister, Teresa's, wedding to Louie Ruelas, after Danielle brought up a cheating rumor about Melissa circulating within a sector of the group. She goes back and forth on whether she regrets it.
"Did I really destroy the wedding day?" she wonders. "In a weird way, I think I might have done everybody a favor, you know? I don't know if [Joe and Melissa] really wanted to go, if their heart was really there. Plus, it was a great day -- we had no, no drama. What is the right time to say something like that so somebody? You know? I don't know."
"Never once did I think Teresa would be involved or else why would I want to jeopardize her wedding?" she asks. "If I had any idea that Teresa would get blamed for this, I would have never done it, you know?"
As soon as the words left Danielle's lips, Melissa called it a set-up. She revealed she already knew about the rumor, claiming Teresa and Louie called Joe (and only Joe) to their house before the season started to share it with Joe and, according to Melissa, encourage him to leave her. Teresa says she wanted nothing to do with it, and it was Louie who set up the meeting as a way to give Joe a heads up this might become a conversation on the show. They say they wanted to give Joe and Melissa time to get ahead of it. Melissa blamed Teresa for having it all finally play out on camera, suggesting she used Jennifer and Danielle to carry out her dirty work.
"Never once did we discuss this with Teresa," Danielle promises, noting she's asked Teresa and Jennifer about the supposed plan, and she's certain they never talked through such a thing.
"I don't think that they had it in them to try to get to me to set it up," she says. "I don't see how that narrative can be the truth. It's not."
Danielle heard the rumor from Jennifer, who got it from a woman named Laura Jensen, Margaret's former friend. Laura supposedly shared the allegation with Teresa and Jennifer during an off-camera meeting. According to Jennifer, Margaret's the original source of the rumor, and she's maintained she believes Laura wanted to share the intel as a way to expose Margaret as a liar. Margaret's said, none of it's true and Laura wanted revenge after failing to land a spot on the cast. Whatever the case, as soon as it made its way in front of the cameras, Danielle felt compelled to clue in Melissa.
"I wanted to give Melissa the chance to shoot it down," she explains. "I believed Melissa. I was friends with Melissa. I think that's what everybody kind of forgets is, that I was not coming to tell Melissa to destroy her for Teresa and Jen. I like Melissa. Melissa and I had some really great moments together."
"She was a friend of mine, so that's why I went and told her," Danielle continues. "I could have very easily just let it be, but I wanted her to deny it."
As for Melissa's theory this was a set-up and Joe's claims that his niece, Teresa's daughter, Gia Giudice, called him and told him the family believes he can "do better" than Melissa, Danielle says it all comes to light at reunion.
"You'll find the truth about that at the reunion," she teases. "I think [Teresa and Louie] had a good intention to just let Joe know, give him a heads up that they heard this. Could they have brought Melissa in, all right? But they didn't, you know? It's like... I don't know. I'm really tough with this because I know their intentions, and I know she loves her brother, and I know she's always looking out for her brother, and I think it came from a good place but maybe not the best delivery. We do that a lot on Jersey."
Judging by the trailer, it's a tough reunion for Melissa and Teresa. From where Danielle sees it, they're caught in a losing battle.
"You can't come out victorious, there's two people that are hurt," she shares. "I don't think anybody looked better. If that's what you're trying to get at, like, who demolished who? No, I think it's just a crappy situation for both of them."
The reunion won't be all Teresa vs. Melissa, though; it'll also be a lot of left couch (Rachel, Margaret, Melissa and their spouses) vs. Louie.
"I think there was an agenda to that," Danielle surmises. "I think there was an agenda to come for them really hard, because of questions with what's going on with the show and all that stuff."
Earlier this month, ET learned production for season 14 of RHONJ wouldn't be happening anytime soon, with the network trying to figure out how to move forward with a divided cast at what feels like an impossible crossroads.
"I was very confused and shocked that day with a lot of things that was being said, so there's a lot to unpack there," Danielle offers of reunion, before shutting down nearly everything hurled at Louie. In the sneak peek, Margaret claims Louie called and threatened her child at work, while Dolores' ex-husband, Frank Catania, alleges Louie hired a private investigator to carry out a "smear campaign" against him and Joe.
"When you hear these things for the first time, it's very jarring," she admits, "but ... I know what the truth is, and those are really heavy allegations. There were some massive bombs dropped at this reunion -- like, massive -- and it all eventually plays out, so you'll see the truth behind a lot of them um, but they were coming out guns blazing."
"I don't think Louie would go out of his way to try to destroy somebody," Danielle offers. "And it's so sad to because he is the nicest guy, he is such a nice guy and loves Teresa and -- I say this all the time -- if he turns out to be a complete lunatic, whatever! She loves him. Just let them be happy."
While Teresa's said there's no path forward for her, Joe and Melissa at this point, Danielle is more hopeful.
"There is some light coming out of the darkness," she says, squinting as if it's really hard to see and possibly far away.
"I think we're all big enough and mature enough to exist in the same environment," Danielle adds. "Mingling? Like... I don't know, I don't know! But we can coexist."
"There's other women on the show that can carry this thing, so let’s bank on that," she says, "and if we have to coexist, there's a lot of females that can stand in between and we just maybe tell individual stories."
Danielle joined the show alongside Rachel and Jenn F., three women who, for the most part, have been praised by the viewers for bringing new energy to the show -- and Danielle says she has the receipts to prove she earned her spot on her own, as a former associate attempts to take credit for her casting in the gossip pages. Now, it's rumored RHONJ won't go back into production until this fall or winter, bringing the series back to the filming schedule of its earlier and somewhat lighter seasons.
"That's why I wanted to do the show," Danielle says. "That's why I agreed to come on, 'cause I wanted to bring back why we love Jersey, 'cause Jersey is so fun! You know, like, the drama and the family stuff... but Jersey is a good time and I hope to bring that."
Danielle has family stuff of her own, estranged from her brother for nearly three years over somewhat unexplained circumstances. As far as she knows, he stopped talking to her after she blocked him on Instagram for making fun of her content. She finally saw him the day after taping the reunion in April.
"Nothing happened, really," she laments. "It was a really sad day. My grandmother passed away, so it was not on the best situation, best terms, and it was just... it was sad. It was hard. I probably would want to do 30 reunions compared to feeling the emotions that I felt that day, it was a hard day for me and my husband to go through that."
Danielle's not concerned with history repeating itself, show-wise, either, as in her sister-in-law showing up as a cast member (like Melissa in season 3). She remains adamant that her brother's family wants nothing to do with reality TV.
"I leave the future open," Danielle says. "I am not closing that door or anything, but I have to just move forward from it, you know? I am not going to dwell on it. I don't want to hurt myself, or my children or my husband, anymore, so there's so many good things going on. I want to focus on that."
That includes the relaunch of her brand, Boujie Kidz, as its own line of apparel. Margaret actually helped Danielle redesign a logo for the line before they fell out over drama involving Rachel. Danielle called Rachel a "rat" for making Margaret aware of Teresa and Jennifer's warning to Danielle and Rachel that Margaret may not be trustworthy. They all duke it out at reunion.
"I was very hurt by Rachel," Danielle notes. "There was a lot of digging throughout the whole season. Digging, digging, digging. We film, we wrap the season, now I'm sitting on this for a year, I'm like this..." She begins revving herself up in her chair.
"I gotta get stuff off my chest!" she proclaims. "I tend to go zero to 100, that's the Jersey-Italian in me, what are you going to do? But I was really hurt and affected by what she did, and it came out in that emotion."
"I hope Margaret looks at it and says, wow, you know what? She really didn't come for me, 'cause I did like her a lot," she adds. "I was really hurt by how everything was twisted."
On all accounts, Danielle says she's "going up in the right direction" with her co-stars. "We left a lot out on that stage," she reflects. "We let it all out. It was like a great therapy session."
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.