Sarah Jessica Parker, Becki Newton (Photos: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

There’s a great Lynda Barry cartoon that I’ve never forgotten. The moral of it is that if you’re with the wrong person, there’s nothing you can do, and if you’re with the right person, there’s nothing you can’t. The top frame has a woman rattling off various ways she could change herself (“maybe if I got implants; maybe if I dyed my hair”) while the guy across from her snores. The bottom frame has a woman sneezing, and the guy across from her says something like, “I’ve always adored women with allergies.”

Relationships consist of not just who we are, but who we are when we’re with different people. And how differently we are viewed by various people. It’s how Robert can journey from jilted husband to fiftysomething hottie in the space of a season on Divorce. (Although let’s face it, that mustache did have a lot to do with it.) With Frances, he was forced to listen to his classic rock in hiding, and even used it as an annoyance weapon against her. But Jackie doesn’t just want him to listen to Yes; she wants him to turn it up. The stuff that bugged Frances so much about Robert, Jackie finds wonderfully endearing.

There’s also a perception shift on Frances’ side, as Robert goes from the guy she couldn’t wait to get away from to the only guy she’s slept with recently. One of the great things about Divorce is that it shows how non-cut-and-dried a situation like this one is, how Frances and Robert can go from throwing bricks through windows and calling the cops on each other one season, and work toward an armistice the next. Frances was already spurred on by the closeness the two shared last week in “Ohio,” but seeing Robert with basically a younger, blonder version of herself may be enough to turn the tide on her Robert feelings. Her trash is now Jackie’s treasure, and while it’s a little irrational for Frances to seem as invested as she is, and to have his new dating status make Robert more attractive, since when are human emotions ever rational? On the other hand, why would Frances stalk Diane and Nick’s house and send her friends over there to get a glimpse of Jackie if she wasn’t having feelings for him again?

Becki Newton plays Jackie perfectly: a solid single mom who’s been out there a while and knows that Robert, as an actual good guy, is a catch. She also is quick to stand her ground with Frances by declaring that she knows about what happened in Ohio, and that Robert said it didn’t mean anything. I suspect this will propel Frances into a relationship of some sort with Andrew/DoctorHands.

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At least Frances’ professional life is on an upswing, as Sylvia comes through with some paintings that will likely help put the gallery on the map. She and Lila appear to have made amends and seemed closer than ever at the birthday party. And yet, you can’t help but feel for her (and Sarah Jessica Parker makes the most of these devastated wordless reactions) as she looks up over her daughter’s birthday cake and sees her daughter, her ex-husband, and his new girlfriend looking like a family that she’s no longer a part of. Then they all go off together, leaving her alone, holding a bag of party trash. After everything that’s gone on these past two episodes, you get the feeling that Frances is wondering why she was in such a rush to escape her marriage in the first place.

Stray observations

  • Not a fan of this subplot about Tom hooking up with Jackie’s daughter.
  • Classic Diane: “I am the unofficial docent of Sky Range 4.” Also, “If you can’t make up a mean name about your ex’s new girlfriend then what’s the point of anything.”
  • Failed internet searches for Robert’s new girlfriend: “Jackie Hastings NY” and “Jacqui Tesla.”
  • “I need to pull my dough.” Nick even makes pizza un-fun.
  • This week’s closing song: Number-one single “Sad Eyes” by Robert John. It’s definitely a breakup song, but it’s a kiss-off to the person in the middle, not the central relationship: “We knew I couldn’t stay / She’s coming home today.” Maybe it’s a nod to the temporary status of Jackie in Robert’s life compared to the longevity of Frances? Or, as usual, I may be reading too much into 1970s rock radio. Story of my life, really.

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