Divorce Recap: Lawyering Up


Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating *****
Sarah Jessica Parker as Frances, Thomas Haden Church as Robert. Photo: HBO

We pick up right where last week’s episode left off, in Lawyer Jerry’s office with Robert. He’s pretty small time, dealing mostly with wills and estates, but he downplays his lack of experience with divorces by saying it’s all law. (Even your casual How to Get Away With Murder viewer knows this is not true.) Indeed, Jerry’s “firm” is a husband-and-wife team who run their business out of their home, which he tries to spin with some Zen window dressing: “I don’t need that ego bullshit.” Midtown lawyers charge up to $750 an hour, he tells Robert. And they both know he can’t afford that.

Both Frances and Robert are looking into vacant storefronts and imagining their separate futures, doubling down on the financial stakes of the divorce. Depending on the outcome, presumably, one business will fail and the other will thrive. Robert, in particular, has grand ideas about the layout of Fun Space: There’s Fun Space Food Space, and Fun Space Ball Space, and … well, you get the idea. For the record, if Fun Space ends up being a surprise success and franchising, I will have so much respect for this show.

Frances is packing up Robert’s stuff in neatly labeled boxes when she gets a call from Lawyer Jerry. He fumbles once she lays into him, having seen the firm’s name on her landline phone’s display, and awkwardly insisted it was a prank call. Frances is incensed: She and Robert had agreed to keep things civil, and now he appears to be bringing in the big guns. At least as far as she’s concerned, that is. We know Jerry isn’t the “big guns” by a long shot.

A shaken Frances consults with a more high-rent lawyer, whose office smells of rich mahogany. He’s not afraid of Robert’s counsel. He checked out the guy’s website: “His main area of expertise would appear to be clip art.” He also dodges the question of money, telling her what she’s getting for the price instead of the price itself. She reads between the lines and surmises it’ll be costly. He soon admits as much — but you get what you pay for, right? In the interest of transparency, she warns the lawyer that she had an affair. Once that’s off her chest, the floodgates open: She erased shows she knew he wanted to watch (like Ice Road Truckers), she “fully made out” with a guy at Dallas’s bachelorette party, and she’s never faked an orgasm with Robert. (“That probably sounds impressive, but it’s not. It’s mean.”) Instead, she’d make it clear she didn’t have one, but when he offered to get her there, she’d wave him off and go to bed. “I think I enjoyed making him feel emasculated.” The lawyer says she should really email him all that stuff. Really. Just email him. We’ve already seen that Frances is a classic oversharer — maybe all these years with Robert has made her desperate for any kind of semi-cerebral conversation.

The real-estate agent hands off the keys to Frances’s gallery. Diane gives her a starter list of artists whose work she and Nick have bought — Nick is quite the collector, Diane doesn’t give a shit — and one of them is having a gallery opening the following week. Diane’s enthusiastic about going, but Frances is understandably more hesitant. She just jumped feet-first into something she’s been abstractly dreaming of for a decade.

Meanwhile, Nick and Robert bro out at a Western-themed steakhouse — Robert’s choice, clearly, as he hammers Nick about getting the $4.99 steak despite his recent heart attack. He gives Nick the hard sell about Fun Space with a lame PowerPoint presentation (“Oil prices may rise and fall, the stock market may go to shit … but kids always want to jump on trampolines”). Okay, it’s time to call this: Robert is not a real person. He is a buffoon. He exists in an utterly different show than the other characters. Ninety-nine percent of the time, with the exception of last week’s grace note with his kids, he is the butt of the joke. It’s too easy. We’re looking at a last-minute redemption in the season finale or bust, as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, Nick calls Robert out on inventing these investment opportunities to avoid dealing with the smartest one he ever made: Frances. Nick’s marriage was saved, and Robert’s is saveable, too, despite the fancy attorney Frances just hired. Robert is overly disgruntled about her lawyering up, considering he started it.

At the art opening, Frances tells her friends that it was oddly cathartic to write down all her wifely shortcomings for the lawyer. Diane and Dallas, tellingly, are all too eager to add more to the list: She’s mean to Nick. She took flowers from Dallas’s husband’s funeral. (Dallas was a widow before she was a divorceé, apparently.) Diane hasn’t touched a drop of booze since the accident, but she’s noticeably jittery around the Champagne. Frances, desperate to prove herself as a new upstate gallerist and Woman of Culture, strikes up a conversation with Carson, one of the artists. “Koons’s shallow populism is a fraudulent vulgarity” is one of those sentences that reminds you that some people didn’t get pretension out of their system in college.

Robert, Jerry, and Don are in the car, bickering about the call Jerry made to the Dufresne house and ignoring the delicious-looking cookies Mrs. Jerry made for them. Robert decides they’re both inept and fires them. The next time we see Robert, he’s sitting across a desk from another lawyer, in the dark. This office is a far cry from Jerry’s warm, wood-paneled dad den. No Big Mouth Billy Bass on the wall here. Robert’s uncharacteristically honest with Lawyer No. 2, admitting that his business is tanking and he could get screwed. Lawyer No. 2 — a.k.a. Dean Winters, a.k.a. Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock — empathizes by using the C-word to describe Frances. Robert reminds him she’s the mother of his kids, not realizing that he should be remembering that too.

Meanwhile, Frances is still intellectually tap-dancing for Carson until some drunk dude named Gustav staggers over and starts being belligerent. He and Carson end up in a fistfight on the floor. In the world’s most expensive ride home, she, Diane, and Dallas sum up the night. Diane says it was fun. Dallas and Frances disagree. Frances gets a call on her cell: Lawyer No. 2 is named Tony Silvercreek (Dallas, ominously, gasps at the name) and he is ruthless with Frances. Once Frances is off the call, Dallas informs them that Silvercreek is a star divorce lawyer: ruthless, bloodthirsty, and a misogynist. He refuses to represent women. Awesome.

Diane asks for the dog back. Nick misses it, apparently. Frances explodes at her — it’s the only constant in the children’s lives right now! — and while both women glare at her like she’s a monster, she gets her way. With the dog in tow, she begins to toss Robert’s boxes in the Dumpster.

Other Notes:

  • Dean Winters had a one-episode arc on Sex and the City as a doofy fuck buddy of Carrie’s, but I couldn’t find a clip. Your loss.
  • Aw, I feel bad for Jerry. I hope he and his wife are like the suburban version of Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man.
  • Dallas Facts of the Week: She can’t cry unless someone’s listening (it’s how she used to get her dad’s attention, wooooof), and we finally learn what she does for a living. It’s psychotherapy! Perfection.
  • The best exchange of the episode happens while Frances and Dallas talk about her lawyer:
    Dallas: “He represented that guy on Wall Street whose wife said that he forced her to have group sex with clients.”
    Frances: “Yeah, I remember, that was an awful story.”
    Dallas: “No, I knew her, she liked it.”

Divorce Recap: Lawyering Up