Photo: Craig Blankenhorn (HBO)
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.  

Divorce is one of those shows that has flown under the radar a bit, which is a shame. Especially since I doubt that even this particular episode will get the traction it deserves. If you’re just clicking on this review because you’re curious about the “A” rating, go find it on HBO Go or something and watch it, I beg of you. You will not regret it.

Advertisement

Granted, Amy Sedaris is a goddamned national treasure who ignites any series just by showing up (for example: Any Mimi Kanassis episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). But her role as Cathy, Robert’s bitch-on-wheels sister, is an amazing opportunity for her to just dive-bomb into awfulness.

We all have that relative—in-law, distant cousin, or otherwise—who destroys every holiday gathering and uses the forced closeness of family to their own ends. Robert is stuck dealing with Cathy because she’s essentially taking care of their father—otherwise, she’s not a person he would keep in contact with in a million years. But Cathy’s unbridled inhibition plays so well against Robert’s sullenness. This shot alone, of the present Cathy and Larry got Robert on the road, made me laugh for a full minute.

Advertisement

Screenshot: Divorce

Credit must be given not just to Sedaris’ frantic delivery, but to the words she’s spewing, written by Adam Resnick (Cabin Boy, The Larry Sanders Show). Resnick also wrote Sedaris’ previous Divorce appearance (“Ohio”), and just has an amazing appeal for the character. I know I would have been as riveted as Jackie by Cathy’s neverending sagas, swindled out of jobs and plagued by a caustic uterus (“Nature in its infinite wisdom,” Robert sagely notes.). Arrested for stalking Tom Wopat at a dinner theater? I am all ears, and especially appreciative of a nostalgic jolt like the mention of Wopat, one of the original Dukes Of Hazzard brothers—I even love how Cathy kicks off the story by talking about “halftime” instead of intermission.

Advertisement

As usual, Sedaris lacks any prohibitive vanity, fearlessly throwing herself in a role to make Cathy as bitingly caustic as possible, her shrill, nasal, one-note voice threatening to work Robert’s last nerve. But the wrench Cathy throws into the domestic proceedings also makes it very clear where loyalties actually lie. Frances hightails it over to Robert’s in the first place (with some nice tension-building direction by Ryan Case) because Jackie inadvertently gave Tom some academic advice: a friendly, harmless conversation from Jackie’s perspective, and about the worst move imaginable from Frances’ side. For Jackie, she’s within her rights to discuss such things with her stepson, but Frances, knowing Tom’s fragile state, fails to make Jackie see how she’s derailed the whole thing.

As Divorce comes all the way back around in season three, the message appears to be that Divorce in not the end. After all, Diane divorced Nick and she’s still miserable, stuck back in her old life as a shopgirl, bonding with a shoplifter over the difficulty of acting cheerful when you’re still miserable. And if you have kids, your ex-spouse is always going to be in your life somehow, and as Dallas points out, post-divorce co-parenting is a crock. If you could barely get on the same page regarding child-rearing when you were married, how are you supposed to be on the same team when you don’t live together anymore? So of course Frances caves just about the second she’s alone with Tom. And to Robert’s credit, he doesn’t even really get that upset about it, as he knew the caving was inevitable.

Advertisement

But although Frances tries to make the case that Cathy is no longer her problem, as long as she’s still in Robert’s life, we know that’s not true. As Frances herself points out, Cathy still has the ability to make Frances feel like shit. The fact that Robert immediately rises to Frances’ defense, and not Jackie’s, is extremely telling. In the heat of family conflict, real feelings rise to the surface no matter which ring is on whose finger and what the custody papers say. Last time Cathy was around, Frances defended Robert, bringing the two closer than they’d been since the divorce. Now Robert does the same for Frances, right in front of his new wife. Jackie’s right to be pissed because she’s smart enough to see what this signifies, and also that his following silence, does in fact, speak volumes.

Stray observations

  • I am dying to know the backstory behind “the balloon-twisting idiot at Casino Night.” Just one of so many throwaway lines tonight that was spot-on perfect.
  • Frances’ look to Robert after he chided, “you should have called first” was also incredible.
  • Robert’s latest contribution to parenting: “I’ve been yelling at him a lot.”
  • The only misstep in an otherwise stellar episode: the weird obsession with parking.
  • Love Delroy and his romance novels, and his Sweet Greens disappointment.
  • For the record, I also loved being pregnant. And I also had a sit-upon (not at the same time).
  • What is it with the rando New York people yelling out stuff for the second episode in a row?
  • Magnetic index cards?
  • “Now do your job. This isn’t Marshall’s.”
  • As a longtime Sex And The City watcher, I definitely got some fashion gratification out of SJP wearing mismatched gym socks.
  • Grand Thief Bloodbath is a much more appropriate name for Grand Theft Auto.
  • Next week: Frances and Henry and Robert and Jackie double-date, with predictably disastrous results.

Advertisement