Talia Balsam as Dallas, Sarah Jessica Parker as Frances.
Let’s jump right into this week’s episode, shall we? The Dufresnes are facing off, flanked by their lawyers, and we learn that Robert’s been MIA for a while. He tells Frances that he slept for 48 hours because he was “prescribed the wrong medication,” but he’s fine now. Is that the end of the steroid plotline? Really?
They soon hit a new low: discussing who gets custody of the family snake, Maureen. Robert finally relents and takes the reptile full-time, snarking that she’d end up dead in Frances’s care anyway. This leads us to the crux of the episode: Robert is the primary caretaker for the children on a day-to-day basis. He’s the parent who picks them up from school, the one who takes them to the doctor and the dentist. Divorce has downplayed this element up until now — perhaps because its sympathies still rest primarily with Frances — instead painting a “female breadwinner/male deadbeat” narrative. It turns out Robert wasn’t exclusively chasing his dream contracting job and saddling Frances with domestic duties; he was also a stay-at-home dad. Being a headhunter is stressful and hard, but being there for your kids every day is stressful and hard too.
Naturally, Frances is outraged at Silverlake (and, by extension, Robert). She paints her as a negligent mother, pointing out that the kids can only go to doctors and dentists because she works. Nevertheless, Max advises her to be more visibly involved with the kids, saying, “It’s less about truth and more about perception.”
This leads Frances to drop in on a meeting of PTA moms — one of whom is Janice, the nice lady who banged it out with Robert on last week’s episode — as they plan for a school spring carnival. What follows is a scene that teeters on the edge of the reductive “vapid housewives treat intelligent working mom like leper” trope, although this is a little different because Frances’s ideas kind of suck. Save old kitchen sponges and hang them up as decorations? No. Just no. Also, they did it last year.
Post-meeting, Frances stops Janice in the hall and babbles about how totally okay it is that she fucked Robert. (This must be especially confusing from Janice’s perspective, because babbling would usually indicate that it is utterly not okay, but it’s been made clear multiple times that Frances feels no lingering sexual possessiveness at all.) Janice says nothing, even though it’s extremely weird and adolescent that Robert told Frances they slept together in the first place.
In an attempt to stretch out time with the kids, Frances brings Tom and Lila to an ostensibly grown-up party at Nick and Diane’s. If there’s ever been a strict no-kids-allowed rule, it’s at that house. (They don’t even keep their firearms in a safe!) Dallas, who’s already there, sums up the available men at the party succinctly: “There’s only one guy here who doesn’t look like he cries when he comes.” That guy? It’s SILVERCREEK, dressed like Shelly Pfefferman in the video intro for “To Shell and Back.” Robert invited him. They’re bros now. (Silvercreek may not cry, but there’s a good chance he’ll do this.)
Dallas and Silvercreek have the best (only?) borderline-disgusting, sexually charged banter seen on this show. Him: “I would love to know what your panties smell like. And what your favorite movie is.” Her: “I’m not wearing panties. And The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio.” Later, she tells off a nebbish guy who starts introducing himself, even though they’ve met before many times. One episode ago, she might’ve rolled with it, then whispered something denigrating to Frances. Silvercreek’s advances, as gross as they were (and he is), reminded her not to settle for scraps.
Across the party, Nick approaches Robert and asks him how he got such a low quote from the vendors. He’s actually reading the Fun Space proposal, which surprises and pleases Robert.
At the table, Nick and Diane each make speeches to celebrate their “recommitment party.” (She’s clearly still uncomfortable with her new teetotaler status. I feel you, girl.) “Getting married is easy,” Nick says. “Staying married is hard. Staying happily married is damn near impossible.” Diane apologizes again for hurting him, but she’s glad it brought them together. They’re about to toast when she calls for a glass of apple juice — you know, since it’s bad luck to toast with water. She and Nick immediately bicker over toast etiquette, and finally Diane grabs a glass of Champagne. Noooo!
Meanwhile, Silvercreek and Dallas mutually masturbate in an empty parking lot, an act I thought was reserved exclusively for dirt-bag teens and Wendy from Breaking Bad. Afterward, she accidentally drops Tums on the floor of his car and he freaks the fuck out. He leaves her at the party, demands, “Get my number from Robert” and peels off. Ahh, romance.
Meanwhile, Diane watches morosely, drink in hand, as Nick gets a massage from a hot young partygoer. Looks like they’re back to square one. Frances suggests gently that she stop having parties, which is good advice.
Robert offers to drive the kids home so that Frances can spend more time with her friends, and she yells at him about the negligent mom stuff. Robert, who’s been surprisingly mature and diplomatic recently, replies that Max needs to cool it with the fake stroke symptoms. (Although we’re still not sure how much of it is fake.) They agree to tell their respective lawyers that no more dirty tricks are allowed.
Ultimately, Frances decides that Max is the wrong lawyer for her. To her surprise, he agrees, saying he wanted to dump her as a client anyway. He refers her to Elaine Campbell, an attack dog with a Southern belle twang. Campbell once represented “a certain piano player from Long Island” in a similar divorce case, and tells Frances she needs to send Robert formal divorce papers ASAP. Frances replies that since she was the instigator, the plan was to let him file for the sake of his dignity. Campbell’s not having it. “It’s no longer your job to make Robert feel good,” she says. Well, yeah … except the Dufresnes just agreed to take it easier on each other. Frances, as predicted, is becoming the asshole of the show.
Cut to Robert coaching Lila’s basketball game, with Tom and Frances cheering from the stands — and then he gets served with papers. In front of everyone. Yikes.
Next week’s season finale is called “Detente,” defined as the easing of hostility and strained relations. Unless I’m nuts, this episode offers some clues that Frances might be having second thoughts about finalizing the split. Notice how she cornered Janice at the school, and the way she fondly watched Robert dance with their kids through the window at Diane’s party? Perhaps she’s found herself in that situation where dumping your partner makes them grow emotionally and evolve into the exact person you always wanted them to be, which is really fucking annoying.
- Diane on her stepson: “Why don’t you go downstairs and talk to Nick Jr.? He’s talking to the caterers about the NSA.”
- There should be more fondue at parties.