Episodes that split up Grace and Frankie usually have a hard time tapping into that delightful flow that makes this show so fun and effortless, but “The Apology” largely succeeds even with its central figures apart. Grace spends the episode with Robert, and the titular apology happens between the two, emotions stirred up in the wake of Robert’s mother’s death. Frankie has a romantic date with Jacob that takes a turn when he announces plans to move to Santa Fe and invites her with him. Even though Grace and Frankie aren’t together in the episode, their separation ends up being significant to Frankie’s internal struggle: Suddenly, she must imagine a life without Grace.
She doesn’t give Jacob an answer right away, and he doesn’t expect one. But he’s the one to raise the big question: Does she really think she will live here in this house with Grace for the rest of her life? The series hinges on this premise, but there are still great stakes to Frankie’s decision, which hangs in the air at the end of the episode, Lily Tomlin effectively conveying Frankie’s difficult contemplation as she talks to Grace on the porch as if everything is normal. This is her normal; Grace is her constant. Especially because they’re sharing a joint in this moment—something Frankie always wants to do with Grace—it’s tough to ever imagine them apart. The scene succinctly but powerfully captures their radiant friendship, even after they’ve spent all episode apart. But things change, and “The Apology” confronts change head on.
Ever since she was introduced, it became clear that Robert’s mother would die this season. It happens off screen, and Robert at first barely reacts. Despite Sol encouraging him to talk through his emotions, that simply isn’t his style. Instead, Robert and Grace go off to buy an outfit for his mother to wear during the funeral. They joke around together, taking jabs at his awful late mother. But suddenly, Robert’s laughter turns into crying. Grace And Frankie thankfully does not go the route of redemption for Barbara Hanson. There is no touching moment of reconciliation, no forgiveness, no catharsis. Instead, the show is starkly real about the fact that she lived and died a hateful, homophobic woman. When Robert cries, he is not mourning her. He’s not even just crying because of his own feelings. He’s crying because he realizes that he knows deeply what it means and how it feels when someone who is supposed to love you does not. He knows that’s how Grace felt when married to him. It’s a huge display of empathy from Robert, who isn’t the feelings guy that his husband is and yet has these tender moments from time to time, much like Grace has become a softer and more empathetic person in the company of Frankie. His apology has been a long time coming, and it plays out beautifully, believable and organic. He buys Grace a scarf, a symbolic gesture meant to undo those years of giving her pre-bought, meaningless gifts. Seeing Grace wear the scarf in the final scene evokes its significance: Grace no longer harbors such strong resentment about her past. In her case, things are changing in a good way.
But “The Apology” succeeds in its portrayal of change as something neither inherently good nor bad, and that’s best seen in how Mallory and Mitch’s storyline unfolds. Mallory and Mitch have struggled in their relationship since season one. This is the first physical appearance of Mitch all season. The character barely appears in the show because he’s barely present in Mallory’s life—something Brianna has made her fair share of jokes about. And now that we finally see them together again, they might as well be on different continents. Neither is fully present with one another. Neither is even capable of expressing their own wants. The dialogue in the scene where they’re getting ready for their weekend getaway is painful in how good it is at capturing the tension, the boredom, the emptiness in their marriage. Their vacation is canceled when Robert’s mother dies, and Mallory leaps at the opportunity to do anything else other than spend one-on-one time with her husband, which finally makes her realize how uninvested she is in making things work. I’ve said it before, but people fight very believably on Grace And Frankie, and Mallory and Mitch in this episode is unlike any other fight we’ve seen on the show: It happens in slow-motion, building on lots of backstory that we haven’t seen on-screen, and revolving more around what’s not being said than what is. In the end, they both acknowledge it isn’t working. Even though they’re in agreement, it’s still a fraught and sad moment. Change will ultimately be good for them, but it won’t be easy.
- “Say what you will about Barbara Hanson, but she always hated Mexican people.”
- “She’d be jealous of me.” - Frankie, on her clone
- “I’m the glue that holds that vintage Barbie together.”
- “Brianna taught me some pot words.”
- Brianna reconnected with Barry this episode, but it looks like he may have already moved on with someone else.