Divorce Recap: Meet the Parents


Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****
Charlie Kilgore as Tom, Thomas Haden Church as Robert, Sterling Jerins as Lila. Photo: HBO

When we last left the DuFresnes, Robert had just hired a misogynist shark of an attorney to shred Frances to pieces. But as Robert drops the kids back off at the house, it’s clear they’re still playing nice — until Frances mentions she’s taking the kids to her parents’ place for Christmas.

Turns out Frances hasn’t worked up the nerve to tell her parents about the split yet, which appalls Robert. “I called my parents an hour after you told me you were jacking off that French guy,” he says. (Let’s hope he didn’t use that language.) After reminding Robert that he went fishing last Christmas, Frances relents. As they drive over to her parents’ house, they fumble to tell the kids that Grandma and Grandpa still don’t know about their newly broken home. The plan is not to lie, but to find a way to tell them gently, because, as Robert puts it, “Older people are on shitloads of medication.”

Although Frances’s friends aren’t huge fans of Robert, he gets along swimmingly with her parents. Her dad thinks he’s a riot. Frances can’t help but zing Robert when he mentions this — “The hardest I’ve ever seen him laugh was at the Budweiser frog” — but it’s clear that her (soon-to-be-ex-) husband’s rapport with them is one of the reasons she’s stalling. The ruse culminates in an awkward sleeping situation that night: They bicker over who gets to sleep in the bed before finally deciding there’s no harm in two more sexless nights, side by side.

“I spent so many hours lying in this bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering what my grown-up life would be,” Frances muses. (Dang, she had that luxurious king-size bed all to herself as a kid? No wonder she’s disappointed with her life.) “And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world,” she finishes. Does she actually mean that? Either way, it sends them on a nostalgia trip about their kids’ early years. “I just wanna say I always try to do the best for our family. But no matter how hard you try, mistakes get made,” he says, cryptically. Funny how Robert is always more honest in the dark. Is this his way of saying he forgives her? Or that he’ll call off Silvercreek the lawyer?

The holidays are a loaded time for everyone. At Nick and Diane’s Christmas dinner party, Nick’s ex-wife, Carolyn, immediately begins to needle them with unnecessary jokes. Sorry, Diane, but you deserve it. Who invites her husband’s first wife to a dinner party, if not to rub her nose in it? Diane gives as good as she gets, passive-aggressively bragging about an indoor pool for Nick’s recovery. “Just burn through the kids’ inheritance in one fell swoop,” Carolyn says with a clenched smile. The “kids” are Carolyn and Nick’s adult children, of course. They are at the table and they look like duds.

Across town, Dallas is watching an old movie with her teenage son and his girlfriend. She tries to ignore it as the girlfriend possibly jerks off her son under a blanket. Bleak. Very bleak. We even catch a glimpse of Julian’s Christmas with his mom and brother, which is idyllic and rustic until a man — the husband of yet another woman Julian slept with — appears at the door and punches him in the stomach. So, married women are his Thing. Perhaps this knowledge will come into play later. Also: Julian and the very unmarried Dallas would make a great couple.

As they prepare for their own family festivities, Robert’s pissy with Frances for making him lie to her parents … just as her mom delivers homemade hummus to the table. Yep, it would suck to lose these in-laws. But Robert does his best to act like himself at the party, tossing off typical lines like, “You gotta spend money to make money, to me that’s Rule No. 1 of business. Rule No 2. is repeat Rule No. 1 until you get rich.”

A tipsy Robert makes a pointed toast about the virtue of honesty that meanders from Wall Street to the Bible, and it goes so off the rails that Frances reluctantly takes over. She winds up telling everyone things aren’t so okay after all: The two of them are getting a divorce. But it turns out Frances misread Robert’s intentions — he hisses that he was just going to sing “Little Drummer Boy.” She tries to recover by awkwardly asking if anyone wants Bundt cake, which nobody does, because they are crazy. (Other people’s emotional drama < Bundt cake. It’s basic math, people.) The Band-Aid has been ripped off. Afterwards, Frances tries to talk to her parents about the divorce. Her mom’s not having it, and tries to assure Frances that her marriage will get over this “little bump.” Her dad practically covers his ears and starts humming.

In an attempt to explain things, the four of them sit down for a postmortem on the marriage. Frances felt like things were going bad for a while, and when Robert didn’t notice, things got even worse. In an unexpectedly mature move, Robert takes the heat. He lies and says that he had the affair, which gets Frances off the hook for disappointing her parents and makes it easier for them to write him out of their lives. And that’s that. “I hope you two find a fair and equitable way to move forward,” Frances’s dad says. Haha, sure.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Frances says to Robert in bed later. “Why not?” “Why did you?” “Merry Christmas.” Frances stares at the ceiling, wondering what her future will be … again.

The next day, the men assemble Tom’s present in the tool shed. Frances’s dad gives Robert the stern talking-to you’d expect from a guy who just found out his son-in-law cheated on his daughter. (It includes the use of “pecker” for penis. Gotta love the boomers!) Across the yard, Frances’s mom asks if she’s considered forgiving him. Frances replies, rather snappishly, that a more constructive question would be a plain old, “Are you okay?” Does she resent that her parents seem warmer and more emotionally available to Robert than to her? Almost definitely.

Frances tries to explain that the affair wasn’t the cause of her rift with Robert, but a symptom: “People have affairs because they’re unhappy.” Frances’s mom considers this, then shrugs. “Sometimes I think people have affairs because it’s fun. Then they get tired of it and hope nobody ever finds out. Doesn’t always mean it’s a bad marriage.” Her mom waves at her dad and smiles cheerfully. Frances is shocked by the implication of infidelity between her parents, but her mom flees to check on the food before she can inquire further.

On the way home, Robert milks his valor for “falling on the grenade,” but his true motivations slip out in no time: “The truth isn’t something I’m dying to be associated with.” It’s an offense to his masculinity that everyone knows his wife cheated on him with “a French douchebag.” (Julian is still not French.) That’s when Tom pipes up from the backseat. His headphones are on, he tells his dad, but they’re not plugged into anything. Oops.

Divorce Recap: Meet the Parents