Photo: HBO

Divorce splits up this week, as our usually gold Robert/Frances interaction is limited to one very funny phone call. But as the point of Divorce is to split these two up, anyway, it’s interesting to see how Frances and Robert will fare on their own. Not very well, judging from the hijinks this episode.

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And there are hijinks galore, especially with Robert and his continuing band of low-rent helpers and his quest to make FunSpace happen. Forgot to toss out a shoutout to Geoffrey Owens, former Cosby Show son-in-law, as Robert’s first lawyer, Gerald Watkins Mayfield. It’s a sign of the unfamiliar straits that Robert finds himself in that something like “It’s all law” would actually make sense to him. But as he tries to cobble together the “FunSpace” plan, his PowerPoint slide show with the earbuds is hilarious, and even keeps in with the show’s retro music theme, with the unheard .38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely”: ”No matter how bad the economy gets, children always want to jump on trampolines.” While he may not be able to convince Nick, at least he has a downright hilarious firing scene in Don’s car, when he finally unloads poor Jerry and ineffectual Don. It makes his hiring of Tony Silvercreek not as surprising as it would be otherwise, although Dean Winters’ performance is, as it’s meant to be, completely jarring, calling Frances a “cock-sucking cunt.” (And you can’t help but add more points to Robert’s likability column when he tries to get Tony to take the language down a notch.) Tony Silvercreek has effect of recharging this whole lawyer war in only the final minutes of the episode, so that again, we can’t wait to see how this plays out.

It’s interesting that Nick calls out Frances as the best decision Robert has ever made in his life, and is about only person, at this point, who thinks these two still have a fighting chance, calling the marriage “savable.” But it isn’t over until it’s over, and since Nick’s marriage has survived his wife waving a gun at him alongside a massive heart attack, it’s not that surprising that he would be pulling for Robert to get himself out of this mess. Divorce has a way of building on its own momentum—we’ve seem counseling snowball into mediation, which has now descended into lawyering up—and Robert and Frances both appear to be caught up in the labyrinthine world of lawyers and the listing of assets and terrible acts from the past. But all it would take at this point is for them to just stop, take a moment, and put a hold on the proceedings. What about just being separated for awhile?

Sarah Jessica Parker also has an amazing episode, baring too much in front of the hotshot lawyer (“I think I enjoyed making him feel inadequate.” “Oof.”), officially moving into her gallery, and having a SATC-esque escapade into a douchey art gallery. Frances nodding to her girls to leave after a fight breaks out was classic Carrie Bradshaw, which is not that surprising, since this episode is the first Divorce episode written by Sex And The City vet Cindy Chupack. The biggest switch is how generally unkind Frances’ friends are, although they appear to be close: Diane has her business manager make up a list of artists she’s purchased for Frances, and Dallas refers Frances to the super-lawyer. But they also throw shade at her for taking flowers after Dallas’ husband’s funeral, and try to take her dog away. The looks they give her in the cab make it seem like Frances is the selfish one, but she’s right: She took that dog when no one else would, and since Nick really only saw it once, why should she give it back?

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In both instances, the worlds that Frances and Robert are escaping to don’t seem to be a marked improvement over their current ones: Robert’s FunSpace plan, even with PowerPoint and lots of white paint, appears tenuous at best, and Frances’ art scene is filled with a whole lot of jerks. And with formidable legal forces lining up on either side, it looks like things are going to get a whole lot uglier before they get better. But at least, as far as this episode goes, they’re also really, really funny.

Because there’s a nice look of shock on Frances’ face when her lawyer tells her that she actually deserves happiness. Divorce is, as Robert pointed out to the kids last week, nothing but awful, and as we’re seeing this episode, so grueling and painful, you kind of wonder why anyone would go through that process. The reason why, of course, is that they feel like the result will be better than where they are now. As tough as it is, people go through divorce because they’re so tired of being unhappy in the first place.

Stray observations

  • Cheers to Random Roles vet Frank Whaley, who’s having a really good year: As a detective on Luke Cage and a pretentious artist (with another mustache!) who gets Frances a drink at the gallery.
  • “It depends on your definition of cost.”
  • “Holy fuck! Who’s got that kind of green?”
  • This week in retro music: April Wine’s “Say Hello” as Frances nicely packs up Robert’s things, only to toss them all out at the end to the tune of Todd Rundgren’s “Cold Morning Light”: “We are close / We are friends / And our love / Never ends / But in the cold morning light I see / That you won’t be back for me.”
  • Next week: Is my favorite episode of the series so far. And I have an interview with Thomas Haden Church—in which we talk about almost nothing but this show—running right after that, so don’t miss it. He offers some interesting insights on these musical selections I’m loving. Also, mustache notes.

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