The Duggars are moving and Counting On.
After their family’s tumultuous year, sisters Jill (Duggar) Dillard and Jessa (Duggar) Seewald made their return to television on Sunday night, in the first episode of their new TLC special Jill & Jessa: Counting On.
“You always think in the beginning of the year what the year will hold and it hasn’t been what we thought,” Jill, 24, says early on in the hour-and-a-half long show, which began with scenes of her and Jessa tending to their own budding families.
After discussing Jill and husband Derick’s move to South America and Jessa and Ben preparing for the baby, the siblings soon delve into the first scandal that rocked their family, when reports were released this past May exposing that as a teen, their older brother Josh had inappropriately touched five underaged girls, including sisters Jill and Jessa.
“We had moved on from there,” Jill says of the news getting out years after the family had healed. “To be thrown under the bus was really really hard.” She adds that as a victim, “You don’t want that rubbed in your face all the time, for everyone else to see … That wasn’t right whoever released that. It shouldn’t have happened.”
In her own interview segment, Jessa, 23, agrees. “There’s an expectation that this family doesn’t have any problems,” she says. “People go digging up old bones. It was so frustrating.”
Still, they moved on and thought the dark days were behind them. “There was a period of time in our family where Josh was not to be trusted,” says Jessa. But after the family sought counseling, “That relationship was restored between all of us siblings and our parents.”
Jill gets emotional during her interview discussing how she was blindsided by Josh’s second scandal: news that he’d been living a secret life of pornography addiction and extramarital affairs.
“Knowing now what Joshua was hiding … it wasn’t right for him to let us speak our words without having the full knowledge of what he was hiding,” she says, thinking back to when she and Jessa spoke out in support of Josh following the first scandal.
Says Jessa, “We were devastated. Over the years Josh had worked really hard to repair our trust in him.”
Later in the episode, Josh’s other siblings break their silence on his actions. “It’s probably the toughest time in our life by far,” said Jinger through tears. Second eldest brother John-David adds that “One of the toughest things I had to tell my older brother was, I don’t want to be like you anymore.”
Now, though the family’s trust in Josh is all but lost, “Jessa and I can say that we’ve chosen to forgive Josh,” says Jill. “That’s an important part of our healing. If you don’t forgive you can ‘t move on.”
And moving on was a big part of the episode, with then-still pregnant Jessa closely guarding the secret of baby Spurgeon‘s sex and counting down the days to his arrival. “We’re still in the honeymoon phase,” says her husband Ben during the couple’s interview. He adds that the Duggars’ tough year, “helped me and Jessa’s marriage get stronger.”
During a visit from Jill, Derick and baby Israel, she and Ben got some creative parenting advice. “It’s mutually beneficial,” Derick tells Ben of his workouts with Israel as he lifts the baby up and down repeatedly. “You get your workout in. It’s good reps.”
The episode includes happy scenes of Jessa and her sisters shopping for baby items. At one point asked by a producer whether the year’s trials tempered her pregnancy joy, Jessa answers resolutely, “Of course not.”
Says younger sister Joy during her interview, “I think that there is hope for our family. There’s going to be a new normal.”
The next episode of Jill & Jessa: Counting On airs Sunday Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. ET on TLC.