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Emmys 2017
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'Jon & Kate Plus Eight' recap: What a difference a week makes

In two new episodes, family time means time apart for Jon and Kate, while two of the girls get special attention

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Jon & Kate Plus Eight | Once, this was an adorably simple series about the challenges of raising a huge family: saving money, fighting stains, potty training. Then, the mundane squabbles…

Jon & Kate Plus Eight

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season

&publisherDon’t let the headline fool you; all is certainly still not well in the land of the Gosselins, but this week’s set of new episodes were a major (and desperately needed) change of pace from last week’s uncomfortable season premiere. While we’re being bombarded on a daily, nay, hourly basis with a seemingly never ending flood of stories about the troubled couple, I was beyond happy to have no mention of the paparazzi or said media storm in last night’s two new episodes: ”Kate’s Birthday Surprise” and ”Sun, Seashells and Scrapes.” Let’s discuss, shall we?

”Kate’s Birthday” started off by letting us know that Jon and Kate are still doing pretty much everything separately at this point (including celebrating, or rather not celebrating, Kate’s birthday. But more on that later.) In last week’s premiere, Jon mentioned that Kate’s extensive book tour has put a strain on them, but as footage of Kate on said tour rolled, she used her time-tested argument that ”My kids are the reason I do everything. My kids are the reason why I wrote the books.” She even went so far as to mention the elephant in the room and told us ”It looks like it’s about me all the time or whatever.” America, I can hear you scoffing!

Back home Jon was watching the 8 but still admitted to struggling with doing all the work alone: ”Kate and I have always been a team, regardless of what’s going on.” Teamwork be damned because by the next segment we saw Jon in Park City, Utah for some snowboarding, which, as Jon explained, ”just happened to fall on Kate’s birthday.” Riiiiight. While I respect the guy’s need to get away and participate in something he truly enjoys, nothing says ”He’s just not that into you” quite like skipping your spouse’s birthday.

Of course, the trip wasn’t just about escapism for Jon. While there he worked with the National Ability Center helping disabled children experience the slopes. You could tell Jon genuinely cared about the organization, making it slightly more difficult to stay mad at him. Jon and Kate are no strangers to helping out less fortunate kids (their visit to St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital last season springs to mind) and while it was a pre-planned, calculated thing, at least it was something for the greater good.

Back in Pennsylvania, Kate prepared her own birthday cake, but not before a ”surprise” came her way. Allegedly, the kids, Jon, and the show’s producers had whipped up a birthday celebration without telling Kate. It did give us one of the episode’s funniest moments from Leah, who decided after they let Kate in on the ”surprise,” ”then she’ll give us a piece of candy to eat.”

Why all the quotation marks around ”surprise”, you ask? I don’t know about you, but I have a tough time believing Kate, the ultimate control freak, would not only not know about it, but would willingly go without having any time to plan or get herself and the kids ready. Also, the ”surprise” itself, a visit to Ace of Cakes‘ Charm City Cakes (jealous!) seemed like an easy way to get in some cross-promotional television (why do I get the distinct fear the Cake Boss is now going to take out a hit on Duff and crew now?)

NEXT: How about some “delightful chaos”?

That said, there’s a reason why that place has charm in the name. The Ace of Cakes crew is a seriously delightful bunch. While theme episodes are hardly my favorite, it was impossible not to enjoy Duff’s interaction with all the kids. (Seriously, don’t you just want to hug the guy? Hug him and then eat cake.) But, herein lies another reason I find this ”surprise” bogus. Kate, who has had not-so-minor meltdowns when the kids previously made cupcakes, seemed all too calm watching her brood decorate their cakes (Aaden dumped his entire sleeve of blue icing on his. A man after my heart). Heck, she had to look in the other direction when they finger-painted.

Ace of Cakes‘ Mary Alice described the scene as ”delightful chaos” and there couldn’t have been better constructed words about what made me enjoy this show in the first place. Let’s hope that sentiment overrules the dark cloud hanging over this new season. Meanwhile, we got our first glimpse of Jon and Kate actually together (on the infamous couch) talking about the birthday celebration.

And while Kate seemed abnormally subdued in the midst of mess, she did start to get annoyed when the kids were eating (I believe the word she used was ”schnorfelling”). But all was back to cute when the kids’ willingly obeyed Duff’s orders of ”No more yelling!” Oh, Duff, anything for you.

As if on cue, the producers sent us back to Jon who fed us more reminders of how much he enjoys alone time. His reasons (though, to be fair, not his only ones) are ”it’s a solitary sport” and ”I can put on goggles and no one knows who I am.” So long, warm fuzzies of the previous five minute. Welcome back, painful reminder!

What did you think of this episode? Did you also not buy that Kate was oblivious (or will we debate this longer than the Eminem-Bruno spectacle?) Were you mad Jon didn’t stay home for her birthday? Or were you just pleased he was off in Utah doing something for others (and himself)? Think about those, but let’s also chat about the episode that followed, ”Sun, Seashells, and Scrapes.”

The second episode was certainly the more Jon & Kate-esque of the two (but, again, with the parents doing things separately). This one featured both alone time with one child (this time around, Mady) and ensuing madness with the remaining seven.

While Kate and Mady headed to San Diego, (Mady’s idea, apparently) Jon did his best to keep the kids entertained (going so far as to do a happy jig for Leah, who was clearly not amused.) He even took the kids into the woods to seek out deer. It’s clear Jon has either never seen The Blair Witch Project or didn’t remembered what happened the last time he took his youngsters there (stick fight!); just don’t go into the woods.

NEXT: Special treatment

Poor Alexis took a nasty spill on their failed trek, which caused her to bite right through her lip. But, rather than be upset for long, she decided to be even more precocious and handled the idea of getting a needle better than most adults (this writer included.) Jon took her to the pediatrician and Alexis was stoked that the cure for her ailment was popsicles. And who could blame her, really?

After their visit to the doc, Jon got her a vanilla frappuccino (which he insists is decaf, but still, it’s bad news bears if you ask me), which, of course, wreaked havoc on the other kids who were devastated about not getting to partake in Starbuck-y goodness. Trying to one-up their treat-recipient sister, Aaden bragged, ”We got a strawberry in our yogurt! Na na na na na na!” Alexis deadpans, ”That’s not fun.” Quite possibly my all-time favorite moment of this show.

Over in San Diego Mady and Kate did some mother-daughter bonding over pedal carts, finding seashells on the beach, and spa visits. Maybe I’m in the wrong here, but doesn’t a spa visit for an 8-year-old seem a bit much, even for a kid as high-strung as Mady? In the wedding renewal ceremony episode, Kate admitted she had a spa problem and was transferring it onto her kids. Clearly she’s not ready to fully come to grips with it. But during her time in San Diego (Kate told us the crew only taped one of their four days there) Mady decided to buy her siblings presents, though they might be unimpressed with it since back home Jon had set up the swing set.

Before the episode ended we got yet another mini-crisis while Jon is in charge when Aaden, curious about how the back of the toilet works, removed the lid and his tiny little fingers couldn’t grip it, sending it crashing to the floor. Maybe I’m too nostalgic for seasons past (I’m still way too apprehensive about where the show is heading or whether it should still be on in the first place), but I really loved this episode for its little, funny, innocent moments like that.

Did you like this episode as well, or had you had your fill after the Ace of Cakes episode? Were you totally impressed by Alexis’ resilience and all-around sass? Are you thinking the season is looking up now, or is it still heading down a bad path? Let us know below, and while you’re at it, check out this week’s Must List Live featuring EW‘s TV gurus Dalton Ross and Jessica Shaw discussing the speculation that all the Jon and Kate bickering is actually a ploy for better ratings. I’m with the group that thinks the spats are serious, but check out what Dalton and Jessica have to say, and share your feelings with them, too!