By Ken Tucker
Updated June 02, 2009 at 06:31 AM EDT

Those of you who’ve started watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 only since the scandals erupted probably don’t understand the kind of disappointment we longtime fans are experiencing. Once upon a time, we tuned in to see how Jon and Kate bounced off each other, and for the way their differing parenting styles (his: laid-back; hers: drill-sergeant strict) collided, with often amusing, chaotic, and, yes, affectionate results.

But this week’s double-shot of two new episodes kept the couple apart, doubtless by choice. In the first episode, Jon snow-boarded in Park City, Utah, while Kate stayed home in Pennsylvania with the kids… on her birthday! That sort of thing never would have happened if there wasn’t trouble in marital/parenting paradise. The producers clearly tried to make Jon look like a good guy by having him do some volunteer work with local Utah disabled children on the ski slopes, but Jon gave away his true feelings by saying he loved being “totally alone” and away from “reality and TV world.” Kate, meanwhile, said Jon’s absence was “a little depressing… it’s kind of sad.” The show arranged for her to go to the set of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes bakery, where she and the kids made sweets including a birthday cake for Kate, but the whole thing was indeed pretty glum. The half-hour even ended with Jon and Kate on their home sofa, reunited — but at far ends of the furniture, not touching, giving each other wary glances. Bummer.

In the second episode, the separate activities continued. Kate took Mady to San Diego for a spa vacation while Jon stayed home and took care of the other seven. There was some drama here: little Alexis fell while outdoors and bit through her lip — blood, tears, a doctor visit. One of the boys was reduced to talking to the cameraman during a walk in the woods: “I smell poop. Do you smell poop?” He wasn’t referring to the present state of Jon & Kate Plus 8. At least I don’t think he was.

Did you watch? Do you agree the life is draining out of the show a bit? Or, in the words of Kate, was your love-cup filled?