"Any 'Tre Hugger' should be yelling timber at this point," Margaret cracks to ET, referencing the nickname Teresa Giudice's superfans bestowed upon themselves. "I feel [the other Housewives] are disappointed in her. I think we saw a side of her that wasn't very... she's not the Teresa we all knew and loved, let's put it that way."
RHONJ viewers got a first look at the three-part special on Monday, when Bravo debuted a two-minute trailer of nearly non-stop shouting that seemingly pushed host (and executive producer) Andy Cohen to the brink.
"It was really dreadful," Margaret recalls of the taping. "It was really draining -- draining, dreadful. I mean, it was the longest reunion we've ever filmed. I've never seen Andy so frustrated, disenchanted. I mean, he was just as irritated as some of us. It was really the longest reunion I've ever had, and the most insane."
"I think we were just all in shock," she adds. "I mean, we were reprimanded [by Andy] a lot."
Margaret and Teresa fell out over the course of season 12, with Teresa believing Margaret to be the source of leaks to "the blogs" about her then-boyfriend (now-fiancé) Louie Ruelas' romantic and legal history, but with no proof to back up her claims. An Instagram account that posted a much-discussed video of a shirtless Louie pleading for an ex's forgiveness (amongst other Louie stories) came out and said, Margaret is not the source of its information. Same goes for a podcast host linked to both Margaret and Louie's ex.
"[Teresa] just can't take responsibility that all this stuff came out," Margaret says, suggesting her co-star needed a scapegoat. "This was out last year. Andy had asked her stuff about it last year, before we even knew Louie. You know, it's unfortunate. This stuff is all public record. As soon as you're dating someone, the media, bloggers, everybody else is going to look up anything public record."
"My divorce papers had come out when I first got on the show," she notes. "Every lawsuit I've ever had, anything that's public record will come out. So unfortunately, she thinks that I am talking to the bloggers or whatever else it is. We all know it's not true. She just wants to portray me in a bad light because she's upset about it -- and she could say whatever she wants. Anybody with half a brain knows it's not true. No one needs me to put it out in the media."
The women's issues reached a head on the all-cast trip to Nashville, which wraps up on the season 12 finale airing this week. Teresa cleared the contents of a dinner table onto Margaret after the Macbeth Collection owner declared the RHONJ OG to be a "sick, disgusting liar" for continuing to insinuate that Margaret was out to take down Louie in the blogs.
"Watching it back, I actually think it's worse than I remember," Margaret admits. "I was so caught up in the moment and, you know, watching her come back to threaten me, that she was going to beat the crap out of me? And see how many times she called me 'white trash' and all of this? You know, it's pretty shocking. I think it's actually worse than I remember."
"What I had said to her, calling her a liar, did not warrant that reaction," Margaret declares.
Margaret's been called hypocritical by some viewers -- and even fellow Housewife Jennifer -- for being upset by Teresa's explosive reaction. Jennifer compared it to her own altercation with Margaret, in which Margaret exposed Jennifer's husband, Bill's, decade-old affair after feeling "pushed" by Jennifer's behavior.
"I think that's absolutely ridiculous," Margaret fires back. "You can't even compare. I think this show has a very hard time with analogies. I think people don't know how to make proper comparisons."
"I did not do anything to Teresa except ask her questions that were out there everywhere, literally all over the internet," she goes on to explain. "I actually gave her and Louie an opportunity to explain themselves on a platform and explain it to the world, and just make it easy and go away, and that's really what I was doing. Like I had said numerous times, we wanted him to win. There was no way that I wanted her to ever look bad or feel bad. And she does just a good job of doing that on her own."
Jennifer also made comparisons between Margaret's past behaviors and Teresa's outburst, calling out three instances where Margaret crossed a line: when she threw wine at Danielle Staub, when she poured water on Danielle, and when she and her husband, Joe Benigno, pushed Danielle's then-husband, Marty Caffrey, in a pool.
"I also think that is absolutely ridiculous," Margaret retorts. "I'm going to just give an analogy, even though it doesn't work on Jersey, but I know it'll work on you: There's different levels, OK? There's car accidents, there's something called a fender bender and there's something called totaling your car."
"There's a little something that's acceptable," she continues. "People getting wet, you can recover from it. It's not going to physically harm somebody. But... Teresa's rage and attacks are a different level. Those were glasses, things flying. It could have cut my face. It got to a level, threatening to hurt me; coming back, trying to beat me up. You know, getting wet is one thing. You could go to the dry cleaner. It's a fender bender. What she does is to total the car."
Margaret suggests Teresa showed little to no remorse at reunion, noting that "she's not really one to apologize." On the most recent episode of RHONJ, Teresa offered an apology to the group for getting physical in Nashville, but did not say anything to Margaret personally. Instead, she made a comment about Margaret never skipping meals. It's the second body-shaming remark about Margaret that Teresa issued this season; the first was during a charity softball game, in which Teresa commented on Margaret's backside jiggling too much in her leggings. This came only after Margaret refused to change into Teresa's brand of athletic wear.
"I think it's pretty horrific," Margaret says of the comments. "It's not acceptable. And to do something like that, it is just a very low blow. She just doesn't even know that it's not even politically correct. You don't do that to women. Every behavior of hers has set women back and it's unfortunate, but I was not going to even engage in it. Thank God I'm tough. That's all I have to say. I'm tough and I can handle it. It doesn't emotionally cripple me, but imagine [if] I was someone else that it did?"
Margaret points out the extra weight those comments carry in this season specifically, seeing as Jackie's battle with anorexia has been a through-line.
"She knows that Jackie has an issue," Margaret declares. "It hasn't been a secret that Jackie has struggled with an eating disorder, and to say that in front of Jackie? Listen, she doesn't think before she speaks. I mean, I can't even say what she was thinking. It's indefensible."
"And also to be promoting a workout line, that should be about body positivity at any size, and inclusivity," she rattles off. "And to insult a friend -- truthfully, we were friends and I did love her, and all I [did] before this was support her and make excuses for her, and do all these things -- and to take a pot shot about [that]? And I do love to eat -- I'm not going to lie! I don't ever miss a meal. I mean, that's a fact. But to take a pot shot like that is just, it's actually, it's so low. It's really just low and uncalled for."
Judging by Margaret's description of the day, Teresa only doubles down on that sort of rhetoric at reunion.
"The reunion really impacted our relationship," she shares. "I think she said some things that were very, very hurtful, where I really tried very hard to reason with her, be understanding, be empathetic. And I just don't feel that's what I got back from her."
At this point, Margaret says the reunion challenged her "eternal optimism." She's not sure there's a path back to friendship with Teresa.
"I always thought there was a road back," she says. "Clearly, she doesn't follow the yellow brick road, like I do... [Now] I don't know if there's a road back. I'm very much a forgiving type of person -- and I've forgiven her many times -- and she's behaving in a way [as if] I did something horrible to her, and truthfully, she's the one who really did horrible things to me."
Ultimately, Margaret says reunion featured more "backward movement" than forward, though she did walk away with some resolution with Louie. "I think Louie is very rational," she explains. "I think he did a much better job at the reunion than he did on the season. Listen, I'd take Louie over Teresa any day of the week!"
Margaret is also under the impression that only Teresa believes her to be the villain in this story. "I don't believe that Louie thinks that," she says. "I don't believe that Louie believes that, no. I think Louie believes in reason. He understands the way things work. He doesn't dial into conspiracy theories."
A theory that pops up about RHONJ every season is this notion that the show is Teresa's show (Teresa even calls it as much), with viewers shaming the cast for either talking about Teresa or inserting themselves into Teresa's life. Margaret says that's a convenient narrative "that's actually not true at all."
"Whatever's going on in anybody's life, everybody talks about whatever's happening," she says. "Last year, we weren't talking about Teresa's life. Last year, it was all about Jackie. We've talked about me. When people say, 'Margaret, you have no story,' that is absolute nonsense. I have talked about my lawsuits. I've talked about my estrangement, when I first came on the show, from my children. I talked about how I met my husband. I wrote a book on the show. I talked about my difficult relationship with my mother. Unfortunately, people like to focus on negative stories on this show, and that's what they dial into."
"It's much more fun to talk about train-wrecks," she quips. At the end of the day, though, Margaret says she just wants her friend back.
"I just feel like [Teresa] is different and I don't know what's going on there, truthfully, and it's sad," she laments. "It's actually sad because I don't know. I wish I could put my finger on it, but I'm not sure what it is."
"She says it's because she's 'protecting' Louie. There's nothing to protect Louie from!" Margaret adds. "No one wants to hurt him. Everybody just wanted to protect you. It had nothing to do with him as much as the stuff that was out there, and anybody -- anybody -- would be concerned. Even Andy was like, 'Sign a prenup.' I mean, everybody! It was about her and not about him and to make excuses... there's nothing to protect him from. No one's trying to hurt him. And I think that's, it's a weird thing. I don't know."
For now, Margaret is "glad the season's over" and ready for a little respite before cameras go back up for season 13.
"I felt like I was in the hot seat a lot," she reflects. "I was in the midst of it all and you know, I could use a break. I could use one more vacation. I'm glad it's over. I'm glad the reunion's over. I mean, I think that aged me; I might need another facelift... and a cheeseburger."
The Real Housewives of New Jersey season finale airs Tuesday, April 26, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo; the reunion kicks off the next Tuesday, May 3, at the same time, with parts 2 and 3 premiering on May 10 and May 17, respectively.