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Girlfriends’ Guide turns to the dark side of divorce

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Sure, divorce is right there in the title, but Girlfriends’ Guide is attempting to show all sides of the complicated process of separating two lives that once were twined together. And honestly, for a show basically devoted to this fairly narrow topic, it’s getting a decent amount of mileage out of it. We’ve seen Abby reinvent herself and her life as the happy new face of divorce for SheShe, while Barbara sloughs along as the actual, painful face of divorce. In this episode, these two worlds finally collide.

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The thing about divorce is: Marriage is fricking hard. It’s hard even for people who still love each other a lot. So when do you cut bait? When do you decide enough is enough? I have friends who grew up with divorce, who say that they were actually relieved when their parents split up. When I was a kid, divorce was still a rarity. Today, many now-adults may be more ready to go to divorce as an option, because they grew up with the pain that staying together “just for the kids” can cause.

It’s a tough question: Is divorce a failure, as Abby hints this episode? Or is it an untenable situation that just didn’t work out? If you’d tried any harder, or stuck it out a little bit longer, would you have been able to make it work? Or would you just be causing yourself and your partner even more pain?

Which is why I liked the episode where Abby and Jake faced unpleasant truths about themselves so much, and why I like Abby’s encounter here with the blonde millennial who broke up with her husband, inspired by Abby’s example. If we make divorce look even more attractive, what’s to keep people in a relationship that may or may not be going anywhere? But on the other hand, if you waste your whole life with someone who’s ultimately not right for you, where’s the glory in that?

So Abby wants to tamp down her shiny message, but faced with an expectant crowd at the Split-Con she and Barbara attend, she defaults into her “Are we divorced yet?” schtick. But she gets another chance when faced with the merchandising guy, who wants to market her sunny divorce self, right down to the cocktail calendars and ex-husband dartboards. Abby, as the face of divorce, realizes she has to realign her own brand. And even though she spends the entire weekend at Split-Con talking about herself and nothing else, she eventually wins Barbara over to her side. Or rather, she’s finally seeing Barbara’s side of things, that divorce is a dangerous thing to sell to people, as it can wreck lives, as well as make them better.

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While Abby’s friends are also standing up for themselves, what’s most compelling about Abby’s story, and Jo’s to an extent, is that they’re focused on how these women are putting their lives together after divorce, how their work and business offers them both a virtual and literal lifeline. The show’s actually turning me around on Jo, as she’s had such a tough time lately, it’s a palpable relief when she catches Scott and Charlene in the kitchen, which could help push custody of her daughter and the bakery over to her side. The revelation that Scott set Charlene up was sweet, but just like with Jake, I hope the show isn’t going the easy route and pushing Scott and Jo together. At this point, it’s more helpful for her to have these male friends in her life. And as grating as Jo’s initial interpretation was this season, this episode offers a nice contrast, as Alanna Ubach’s depiction this week shows Jo with the wind knocked out of her sails.

Less successful: It’s fun to see Phoebe quickly waltz through various worlds of academia and art, but must her entire storylines just be dictated by what man she’s with? Thought she was aiming to find something to do with her life? It took her a little too long to realize what a fraud Joaquin was, but that whole storyline is aided by an unexpected guest star: Aaron Staton, Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove! From Accounts! If the show does a slow build of those two together, all the better. But really, Phoebe, get a job. And find your kids.

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Delia’s sordid affair runs its typical course, as just as she decides to get out she gets blackmailed by some racy pictures. That one wasn’t too hard to figure out: As partners in an L.A. law form, Delia and Albert both likely have cash to fork over to prevent those photos from coming out. Again, it just seems a lot more convoluted than just postponing the wedding, as Delia calls herself out as a commitment-phobe.

Interestingly, that puts her at the polar opposite end of Abby, who realizes that she’s clinging too much to her rebound Harris, asking for relationship definitions. Abby loves relationships, which, as she points out, makes her a fraud at the center of the happy divorce brand. Which may still point to heartache for Abby, because she’s still not over the dissolution of her own marriage. As hard as marriage is, divorce can be even harder.

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Stray observations

  • It’s kind of funny that every time we see Scott, he’s naked with someone in the kitchen.
  • “May divorce be with you.”
  • Best outfit: Abby’s black print dress with the red pumps that she wore for the keynote speech. Runners-up: Delia’s black and yellow print dress at the cocktail tasting, and Barbara’s green and blue wrap dress.
  • Power rankings:
  1. Abby: finally realizes that she can’t just paint divorce as perfect.
  2. Phoebe: waltzes out of the art opening into possible new relationship with Ken Cosgrove. But would still be nice to find her something else to do.
  3. Jo: finally has something positive happen to her when she catches her husband’s new wife in the arms of her baker. Alanna Ubach also nails this line to Jo’s ex: “Didn’t we love each other once?”
  4. Delia: Delia, don’t you know that there’s no way an adulterer on a cable drama gets away scot-free?
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