Photo: Craig Blankenhorn (HBO)
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After a few weeks of the same old, same old, Divorce was due for a road trip. For it’s second-to-last-ever episode, the show just blows it all out, sending Robert and Frances off on an away-game adventure that has more hotel-room hijinks than a French farce and some of the funniest one-liners of the series.

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It’s also an interesting look at the pair’s different parenting styles. As head basketball coach, Robert shows that he’s more savvy than most parents, instantly clued in to what ne’er-do-wells like Cecily and Jason are up to. Frances is almost embarrassingly clueless in contrast: What was that “Mahogany” solo about? Did she really think that would help?

It’s a painful but brief low point in what is otherwise a sparkling episode. Adam Resnick, who also wrote the hilarious Amy Sedaris episode a few weeks ago, throws in a variety of wonderful oddball characters and wisecracks. Like Agnes, the deadpan outcast who doesn’t even have a seat partner on the bus so Frances has to sit with her, and introduces herself with one hell of an opener (“My uncle’s teaching me the banjo.” “Oh really?” is the only appropriate response.)

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Cecily is the opposite of Agnes on the high school social scale, offering perfectly appropriate pulled faces (just the sarcastic look she gave Frances killed me) and orchestrating teen-appropriate pranks like smuggling alcohol into the away-game trip. Frances and Robert make the right decision, after all; rules don’t mean anything if they’re not enforced, even if it means that the team’s bound to lose the game by swapping Agnes in for Cecily (says Agnes, “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life”).

But even the kids’ shenanigans take a back seat to the grown-up ones, as Frances, Jeremy, and Robert play a kind of hotel-room roulette. Robert didn’t appear to be jealous of Henry last week, but he clearly is of Jeremy, so much so that Frances has to sneak around in the hotel room hallway. But—interestingly without any explanation—Frances can’t go through with her tryst with Jeremy. Who does she feel the most disloyal to? Henry or Robert?

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For his part, Robert is pledging fidelity to the wife, even as he turns down one of the oddest small-screen seductions in recent memory. Is Desk Clerk’s instant Robert fixation a bit far-fetched? Of course. Is it hilarious? Absolutely: “I’m sorry if I’ve misled you in some way, Desk Clerk…”

While Frances and Robert appear to be grappling toward some solid ground, it’s too bad that Diane and Dallas are still so shaky with only one episode left to go. Diane looks like she once again has snagged a wealthy patron via her shopgirl life (most telling comment: “I forgot what the city looks like” as she enjoys that penthouse view). While it would have been nice to see her standing on her own two feet, it also wouldn’t have been that realistic, knowing what we know about the character. She’s currently only couch-surfing between her two friends’ houses, after all. Dallas probably has a better shot, but it’s interesting how all her fellow therapists all seem to have lost touch with their own family members while they were helping clients with their own problems (that guy who slept with his client’s wife definitely crossed a line, though).

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As Frances explains to Diane when she gets home, it was just a fucked-up weekend. The team lost (although, for the right reasons), Agnes didn’t suddenly get struck with self-confidence, and Robert and Jeremy nearly came to blows. You can say it was about the decision to take Cecily out of the game, but Robert’s accusation that Jeremy wasn’t keeping an eye on his niece (implying that he was instead paying too much attention to Frances) speaks volumes. And just as Robert sided with Frances over Jackie in front of his sister Cathy, in the showdown between Robert and Jeremy, it was pretty clear whose side Frances was on.

So Jackie’s suspicions may be right on, and is that how Divorce will wind up, after all Frances and Robert (and the viewers) have been through? If so, that is one crazy, circuitous path, but that’s the thing I’ve always really valued about this show: The relationship with your partner, especially a partner you have children with, is likely to be the most complicated one you’ll ever have. Three seasons in and our main couple is still figuring things out. To me that indicates refreshingly that 1) growing up never really stops and 2) sometimes, divorce is just the beginning.

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Stray observations

  • Things to be avoided on the away game trip, according to Coach Robert: “drinking, smoking, wire fraud…”
  • Also great: The security guards thinking those troublesome stamp collectors were responsible for all the damage.
  • “Anybody up for a complimentary Green Mountain Tea down at the business center?” tells you exactly what kind of hotel this is.
  • Also loved this beatdown by Robert of horrible Jason Campbell: “I want you to picture something, Jason. You. A holding cell. With a couple of fellas who just don’t appreciate your special brand of irreverence.”
  • After shunning her mother (and honestly, somehow still talking to her after that “Mahogany” performance), Lila’s question to her mom about the Lifetime movie about the guy who married a scarecrow was cute. Also, is that movie really a thing? Halloween is only a few months away.
  • Just fyi, I got to talk to Thomas Haden Church again, so look for another interview with him on the site within the next few weeks.
  • Next week: Wah, last episode. Will Diane move into that fab apartment? Will Dallas ever talk to her son again? Will Robert and Frances really get back together? Will Tom get into college? Hopefully we’ll find out everything next week!

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