Divorce Recap: A Tough Time

Thomas Haden Church as Robert, Sarah Jessica Parker as Frances. Photo: HBO


Next Day Season 1 Episode 2
Editor's Rating 4 stars

“Projection” is not one of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, but tonight’s episode of Divorce is all about passing the buck: Frances’s insistence that she shouldn’t open her gallery until Robert’s business improves, both Frances and Robert bringing up the kids as the ultimate trump card, even the literal passing of Diane’s new dog, Hannah, between the three women.

Frances is locked out of the house, with Robert still fuming about her affair. (Unsolved mystery: Why don’t these people carry keys with them?) Frances is ultimately let into the house by her confused daughter. Instead of saying, “Dad locked me out of the house because I banged the more famous guy from Flight of the Conchords,” she makes up a G-rated story about a devious raccoon. Lila doesn’t buy it, but also doesn’t care enough to inquire further. Tweens!

“What if I’d been shitting?” Robert demands when Frances confronts him in the bathroom. Somewhat reluctantly, she replies that he never “does that” in the morning. He finally says he’s willing to talk about it, but they should go out on the porch so as not to upset the kids. She steps outside first — and he locks her out again: “At this particular time this is the only way I’m comfortable communicating with you. Through a door.”

Frances cops to making a lot of big mistakes, starting with Julian, but insists she still wants to be with him. He’s still set on punishing her. Robert is undoubtedly boorish, and way more comic as a character than Frances, but you see how their relationship would have pushed his personality in that extreme direction. This is hardly a revelation, but bad relationships turn people into the worst, least-charitable caricatures of themselves, and Frances is the worst kind of person to fight with — the kind who does sneaky, fucked-up shit and then immediately folds and self-flagellates when she’s caught. You don’t even get any real satisfaction from yelling at people like her.

Frances explains to the kids that she stayed at Dallas’s last night because it was late and she didn’t want to wake the house up. Lila counters that Robert told them she was “tying one on” with Dallas and didn’t want to drive drunk. The real issue here is that these kids are way too old to be walked to the bus.

When she gets home, she finds her bags packed on the porch. She’s forced to ask a neighbor if she could use her landline (“Oh, what a lovely old phone!” Frances backhand-compliments). Robert’s supervising some workers, pretending to be too busy to talk about it. Oh, and he threw out her purse. “Why are you being a complete fucking asshole about this?” Frances hisses, but he’s already hung up. Naturally, the neighbor’s perfect family, complete with sons in matching sweaters, has heard her breakdown. This is Westchester! People don’t fight here! An easy joke, one we’ve seen replicated many times since American Beauty, but whatever. Frances flees.

As she digs through the trash to find her purse, she gets a call from Carla, her real-estate agent, about a potential space for the art gallery Frances has been wanting to open for years. (Also: Has anyone else noticed that the real-estate-lady haircut is a close cousin of the mom haircut?) When Frances gets wishy-washy — as she has before, we’re told, citing “tough times” and extenuating circumstances — Carla calls her out on being a dilettante: “My lap band migrated, and it grew into my stomach. That is a tough time.”

Speaking of tough times, Nick is in a medically induced coma. On the bright side, Diane is wearing more fantastic tweed! When Diane asks how Frances is doing, in a cursory way, she admits she’s going through a hard time, then backtracks awkwardly: “Obviously you’re going through a much harder time.” Diane legally can’t be alone with Nick, so her lawyer’s associate is sitting in. Every time Diane expresses remorse for the gunshot that caused Nick’s heart attack, the associate interjects with statements like, “It’s not an issue of fault,” and “It could have happened to anyone.” Hello, embodiment of this episode’s theme!

Robert appears with some flowers and pointed remarks, carrying on a one-sided — and misogynistic! — conversation with Nick. “Seems like it’s open season for men around here.” A moment later, he calls the women in the room “clucking hens.” He’s under the impression that Dallas and Diane both knew about Julian (Dallas did, Diane didn’t), and proceeds to perform a dopey version of this scene from Closer. “She tell you about his lovemaking technique? About how deeply he thrusted? She tell you ’bout how his load tasted?” It’s obviously supposed to be horrible and cringey and gross, but I’m still allowed to be mad at Sharon Horgan and Thomas Haden Church for making me never want to have sex again, right?

Robert then turns on Dallas, saying it’s no wonder that her husband “pretended to be gay” (?!) to get away from her. “Wow,” she gasps, before stepping back and taking the high road. “You’re gonna feel a lot of shame about that someday.” Robert says he’s going to pick the kids up and tell them that Frances is divorcing him. Back in the hospital room, Diane’s upset that Frances told Dallas about the affair and not her. Frances stops just short of rolling her eyes. Never mind the fact that Diane’s critically injured husband means nothing to Frances but a personal epiphany. Frances, you are a bad friend.

Dallas, who knows the joy divorce can bring when you’re trapped in a marital hellscape, offers some advice: “Get him the fuck out of your life.” She then foists Hannah, the designer birthday dog, onto Frances because she’s exacerbating her son’s allergies. Dallas is queen.

Frances races to her kids’ school with Hannah in tow to get there before Robert does. He’s already there when she arrives, prompting the kids to ask what’s going on. Fortunately, they’re distracted by the dog, mistakenly believing it’s a gift for them. They ask his name. “Guillermo,” Robert says, at the same time that Frances replies, “Hannah.”

Robert and Frances finally sit down to talk like adults. She eats some more shit and compulsively insists that she loves him. “Interesting,” he notes, “It’s almost like you’re trying to convince yourself of that.” He says he doesn’t want to use the kids as pawns in their vindictive game — funny, coming from the guy who said he was going to make them hate their mom for sport just one episode ago — then accuses Frances of buying the kids the dog to curry favor. She reminds him it’s Diane’s birthday dog. “I’m not completely convinced that’s the same dog,” he says, “but let’s move on.”

Frances tells him the fling with Julian meant nothing, but Robert counters that if their marriage was better she wouldn’t have cheated. It’s the first time in this episode that someone doesn’t try to shift blame. He needs to think about what he wants, he says. Frances sleeps in the bed with her daughter, and Robert sleeps in Lila’s room. Again, guys, this enforced closeness is way less normal than a divorce.

Other Notes:

  • Robert: “I packed your essentials.” Frances: “You packed a mini-suitcase and a grocery bag full of bras.”
  • Best one-liner of the episode goes to Carla: “If you’re just dabbling, please let me know, so I can stop wasting your time! And when I say your time, I’m being extremely passive-aggressive.”
  • This is not the first time Sarah Jessica Parker has thrown pebbles at a window to win back a borderline-ridiculous man after an indiscretion!

Divorce Recap: A Tough Time