Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jon and Kate: A heartbreaking premiere

It's taken me a whole 24 hours and two viewings of the season premiere of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" to figure out what I thought about it.

The premiere is an hour-long episode that centers around the sextuplet's fifth birthday party. While the Gosselins in seasons past were always interviewed together on a love seat, this episode (as shown in the trailers) featured the Gosselins in separate interviews that were surprisingly raw and at times emotional (mostly on Kate's part). Much media criticism has been heaped on the couple since the show aired for their failure to address directly the allegations of infidelity against Jon (with a third grade teacher) and Kate (with her bodyguard). There is at least an acknowledgement on Jon's part that "something" happened, he again apologizes for "not thinking clearly enough". At one point he goes so far as to say that he "did not cheat on Kate". He also says he would "like to apologize to my family for my actions".

My overall impression based on Jon's demeanor and tone is that he is a man who wants nothing so much as to run like hell away from Kate, his family, and The Situation (Kate says Jon feels this way during her interview). "I did not sign up for public scrutiny of everything and neither did Kate", Jon says. Though I'm not sure what he thinks it means to star in a reality show based on his life? Is that not the very definition of signing up for that?

For her part, Kate sums it up with "I have a lot of anger" and, "Jon has made some very poor decisions and we all have to live with them." She indirectly denies an affair with the bodyguard by saying she necessarily must travel for "her job" (promoting her book) and heatedly states, "I'll be darned if they're going to take me down with that." My overall impression of Kate is that she is hurt, sorry for the situation, pissed off as hell, but willing to work on it for the sake of the family.

Meanwhile, as a disembodied voice off camera states, Kate must plan for the sextuplets birthday party. And with that the episode kicks off. Kate pointedly explains that Jon "needed the weekend off" and so she is, alone, dealing with the planning and organizing of the party. We follow Kate as she takes all eight children to the store to pick up party supplies (quite an ordeal on a good day). There the group, to Kate's dismay, is photographed in the parking lot by the waiting paparazzi (another first: TLC actually showing the paparazzi in action). The party supplies gotten, Kate returns home, unloads the eight kids, returns to the van to retrieve the sacks of party goodies, walks back to the house, arms loaded, to find...the front door locked.

And right then? My heart started to break for Kate a little. Because as a woman who spent many years as a single parent (with only one child) I could so feel and see that freight train of lonely responsibility chugging, almost inevitably, toward Kate. Say what you will, it's almost always the mother left "holding the bag" one way or another. And here the metaphor happens before our very eyes. Only Kate? Has eight kids. Eight.

On to the birthday party, held at an outdoor park complete with, again, paparazzi that TLC films lurking in the distance. The sextuplets, delightful pixies in matching outfits, enjoy jumping in rented giant "jumpy things" (what are those called? moon bounces?) whacking away at pinatas, playing with friends, eating birthday cake (a snarky Jon remarks he had to go back to the house to retrieve the cakes and Kate's cell phone because Kate forgot them.) It is evident during the party that Jon and Kate are estranged though both parents try with varying degrees of success to focus on the event.

The most poignant moment of the episode happens when sextuplet Alexis shares a moment alone with her father. The two hug and Alexis says, "I love you." Jon asks, "Do you miss me?" and Alexis says, "Daddy, I don't want you to leave any more." An emotional (but trying his best to shrug it off) Jon halfheartedly replies, "Sometimes Daddy's gotta do work."

The party culminates with Jon and Kate posing with the children (him on one end, her on the other) for a family photograph. In the wrap-up interview, Kate tearfully wonders if it will be the the group's last family picture. The "opposite end" theme was one that carried over to the only interview when Jon and Kate finally did end up on the couch together albeit briefly. As each seemed to actually press their bodies away from each other and against their respective end of the (ironically) "love" seat Kate says,

"I can only speak for myself. I'm here. I'm here every minute that working does not require me to be away."

Jon adds a blunt (and to my mind pointed),

"I'm here for my kids."

While both Jon and Kate repeatedly reiterate that they are both there "for the kids" the unspoken truth hangs like a pall over everything: the best thing Jon and Kate can do for their kids is to continue to be a couple and a family. But, like so many of us, they just don't seem to be able to to that anymore. Sad for them, yes, but saddest of all for the eight innocent products of their broken union.

What did I think about it? I think I'm not sure I want to see how it ends (though I doubt I'll be able to look away). I think it makes my stomach hurt. I think I'm surprised at what they did share in the episode--apologies to the media--but it's way more than I expected. Painful as divorce is, I cannot imagine how they're going through it with a thousand cameras pointed at them and their eight kids, even if they did ask for it.

One thing is for sure: this is unprecedented reality television. I'll stay tuned.

But I think it's going to hurt.


Anonymous said...

I didn't see it, so I appreciate the recap. I think I would've cried. Nope. I know I would have.

Kristin said...

I don't know how I feel about it except more like a voyeur. I kept wondering, "how much money do they need?" Surely they've bankrolled a lot of what they have made. Regular jobs for the sanctity of their family might be the answer. I actually felt more sorry for Jon. I don't see her as the forgive and forget type even if they do reconcile. An interesting comment from one reviewer was that perhaps they are doing this to increase the ratings. Horrible thought, but the ratings have increased.

Suzanne said...

Yes, Jeanna, I cried, I'll admit it.

I realize I'm in the vast minority as far as being sympathetic to Kate. I know how she comes off, how she IS, and how she regularly treats Jon. I just can't help but admire her energy, her parenting philosophy, and the ability she has to share both how difficult and rewarding her situation is. (For the record, I especially hate how she doesn't allow the kids to get dirty. Kids get dirty. Get over it.)

I agree that it's likely time they give up the show for the sake of the family; however, they seem too far gone to save the marriage. As for ratings...it's possible. But they certainly act, for all the world, like two people really and truly going through this for real.

Annette said...

I also have sympathy and actually admiration for Kate but for the past couple of years as I watched I would wince when she would express her exasperation with Jon in such demeaning terms. In my experience men will finally figure out that they can find a woman who will appreciate them even if there isn't much to appreciate. (Actually, I only observed this behavior since the man I have been appreciating is still around after 36 years of marriage.) I wish I could tell both of them to stick it out because sometimes there are not just days but sometimes years of putting up with each other's crap but if you both agree to stay you can have some pretty great years too.

met said...

Kate has to have lots of resentment because she was ALWAYS there whereas Jon at least got to get out of the hous to go to work. Unfortunately, she vented her resentment by talking down to Jon and making snide remarks whenever she got the chance. I feel for both of them and wonder where it will end.

Monica said...

Oh my, just reading your review is sad. Glug, my stomach hurts too. I don't think I can watch. I'll have to let you continue to preview all my viewing.

Sandi said...

I am glad I was not the only one to feel heart broken for Kate. Sure, she has not been a perfect wife. But she has been a damn good mother to 8 kids! She is tired and stressed (even those of us with only 2 feel that way) and she dealt with her stress and frustration by speaking harshly to her husband. Jon seemed like a great husband and father - always doing what she asked (or demanded) with very little complain (only when she embarrassed him).

My question is... why when things aren't perfect do people walk away without talking about or trying to fix the problems - before they become unfixable? Why do people forget why they fell in love? Why do people keep thinking the grass is greener on the other side? And how can 2 parents who seem to love their kids so much do anything to screw up the kids' lives? (Okay so this is more than one question!)

Jon and Kate should watch their episode from Hawaii when they renewed their vows. Didn't they renew them to show the kids that they were a family who would be together forever? I watched and thought, "how lucky Kate is to know her husband will always be there and never let her down!"

Well, maybe I only feel this way because my husband left his kids and broke their hearts. How could any parent do that to their kid?!?