Self-realization and secret second families—it’s a crazy world out there for the Girlfriends.

By EW Staff
February 04, 2015 at 06:45 AM EST
Katie Yu/Bravo
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A big part of getting through divorce—and a big part of succeeding in life—is not letting fear of what other people think about you get in the way of your happiness. For so long, Abby’s perception of self was wrapped up entirely in other people: Not just her husband or her kids, but a whole other layer of the person her readers perceived her to be. She was confident she was a great mom less because she was a great mom and more because other people perceived her to be so. And now those same people who once played such a large role in her sense of accomplishment think she wants to kill her (ex) husband, gives teenagers vodka-filled tampons, and wants happy couples to get divorced.

None of those things are true about Abby, of course, but if people believe them and see her in that way, how is she supposed to see herself any differently? In a particularly lively episode of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, our main characters are dealing with some pretty heavy, all-consuming issues. How do you better yourself when you’re not even really sure whom you are? For Abby, it’s trying to discover a new side of herself, and figuring how that new self could still be good, when the old (less happy) self was already perceived to be perfect; for Lilly, as for most teenagers, it’s trying to get past the all-consuming need to be liked in order to just be yourself; and for Phoebe, our ever blossoming flower, it’s trying to find yourself when you’re so accustomed to hiding behind walls of sex/men/pick-your-poison.

Girlfriends’ Guide may be about people with incredibly geographically specific lifestyles, but the character work it’s stretched out over the last few episodes has created mirrors that most anyone could relate to. Even someone like Jo—who I noticed seems to be at least slowly adapting her wardrobe to the West coast—who really doesn’t care what other people think of her, can still be jerked around by the ones she lets herself get close to. She and Abby seem to be doing better with each other these days though, banding together when everything else in their lives is blowing up in various ways. Abby’s HuffPost piece comes out, and while we don’t necessarily hear if it’s more hated or revered, it’s quite fun to see Abby’s sheer delight at the news that she’s “trending.” She’s back! Kind of…

When Abby takes Jo to meet the fundraising committee at Lilly’s school so she can rub a few elbows to try and get Zoey in, they find that most of the moms aren’t quite as welcoming of Abby’s advice to ditch their husbands as Jo or Phoebe were; they feel special entitlement to finding out the identity of the father from school with the bow-tie penis that Abby referenced in the HuffPost piece. When they start pressuring her into telling who it is, Jo blows up in her typical speak-before-she-thinks fashion, which is to say her speech starts with “Did we not all see The Vagina Monologues?” and ends with, “If you don’t like it, suck it ladies!” So…not the best lead off for Zoey getting into the school.

But Abby is getting a better reception from the big wigs over at Huffington Post, one of whom takes her out to lunch to tell her that “Ariana” loves this new Abby and wants more: “The good, the bad, the ugly…raw, sexy, uncensored Abby McCarthy.” Abby seems a little nervous probably because she’s only used to people wanting her to be one out of those six things; but when she hears that it’s in the works for her to become the Editor-at-Large of HuffPost Divorce, she’s much more game. That is, until she comes home to a forlorn looking Jake and Lilly to hear that Lilly has been being bullied at school in the form of her inclusion on a “Slut List.” Jake blames the trickle-down of Abby’s article; Abby stands her ground with him, but later asks Jo, “Did my piece put Lilly on the slut list? Am I the slut?”

NEXT: More on the list…. 

It didn’t and she’s not, but try telling that to the angriest of the school moms: Nate’s wife. Remember Nate? The insufferable movie director that Abby had an inappropriate emotional relationship with while she was still with Jake, and a terrible physical relationship with once they both broke it off with their significant others. Well, Nate got back together with his wife, and they’re raising a daughter together who incidentally created the Slut List that included Lilly. So, Jake and Abby take Lilly over there to talk about it with the daughter, Nate, and his wife who makes it very clear through a series of barely veiled movie-making analogies that she knows what went down while she and Nate were separated and she might include Abby on a list of her own, given the chance.

Lilly has seemed pretty unfazed by her place on the list this whole time, and soon, all is revealed in the wash, which in L.A., means an earthquake. Delia, Phoebe, and Jo all show up at Abby’s to discuss the shambles their lives have recently become, only to have Abby’s belongings literally come down in shambles around them while they hide under a table. Delia is still dealing with Gordon pursuing her and being too fearful of her own feelings to commit to him; I might find it all a little more relatable if his character didn’t seem like such a turd, but I did really like that she ultimately let her fear win… everyone can’t grow all the time.

Phoebe, however, is really sticking to her guns on this self-discovery thing, and trying to help handsome urban farmer Marco get some more funding for his program via a creative sponsorship idea with Coke in the process. She swears to Abby that she’s sticking to her man-cation, but then she randomly kisses Marco after they nail the Coke presentation even though he’s showed absolutely no interest in her thus far. She really is having to reprogram her personality to lead with herself rather than sex, but she’s finding “the ‘me’ part to be very allusive.”

And Jo… Jo found out that the husband she’s planning on divorcing, Frumpkis, has, in fact, had a second family in Kentucky for years. Actually, Delia discovers it while looking at Jo’s potential divorce finances for her—it’s no wonder she struggles with commitment. Jo can’t believe that all of his London business trips have actually been trips to Louisville to see “Charlene,” but it ultimately means that she gets to sell three of the horses Frumpkis bought for his other wife to use the money to buy Zoey the spot at school she’d lost her by yelling at all the committee moms. And she’s probably feeling a little more confident about the whole divorce thing right about now, too.

As glad as Abby is that Jo is picking up the divorce talk she’s been putting down as of late, she’s feeling like she can’t take the HuffPost Divorce job with Lilly at such a vulnerable place with friends with parents who would talk about her provocative divorce-y ways. But when Lilly overhears her mom expressing that sentiment, she has to get something off her chest: It wasn’t bullying—she put herself on the Slut List. “Boys like girls who do stuff,” don’t you know? Well, no, that’s not entirely true, Abby tells her, but even if it was, Lilly can’t let wanting boys to like her, especially for reasons that aren’t particularly “her” dictate her life: “What matters is that you make choices for you, not out of fear.” So, Lilly hits her mom with that rubber-glue treatment and tells her if that’s the case, then she can’t not take the HuffPost job just because she’s worried about what the other parents will think…

Or because she can’t believe that anyone could still see her in the perfect way she used to be perceived if she goes all in on the new Abby. Which is how she finds herself at Will’s door, after finally having read his manuscript and realizing that in addition to being younger than her, he’s also super talented, and not understanding what he could possibly want to do with her. She says that when she looks at herself through his eyes, she just wonders, “Why?” And he tells her that she clearly doesn’t see herself through his eyes, then. Then they make out because those two get big ‘ol heart eyes every time they look at each other.

Could Will really be more than a fling for Abby? Is he seeing her for the real her or is she still just being perceived as an idealized version of Abby McCarthy?

Bravo’s first scripted drama follows the life of a self-help guru (Lisa Edelstein) post-divorce.
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