Abby and Jake are almost done with their divorce while Phoebe and Delia find themselves haunted by past relationships.

By Jodi Walker
February 18, 2015 at 06:10 AM EST
Bravo
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We are our own worst enemies. A trite saying, sure, but mostly because it’s not universal, only true in specific circumstances. In relationships? It often proves its proverbial worth. You can talk yourself out of something good just as quickly as someone else can lure you into something bad. Self-preservation lives right between self-improvement and self-destruction on an axis that no one else, not even someone you love, can touch. Self-destruction is reparable, but there’s only one person for the job…

That’s why I kind of wanted to rip Gordon Beach’s arm off and slap him around a little with it when he yelled at Delia for what is very clearly a deeply rooted psychological issue without even a hint of understanding or desire to help her through it (originally). But he loves her, so if she could just go ahead and get over her shit, that would make his life a lot easier. Eh, we’ll get to that guy.

This episode had me a bit of an emotional mess, obviously. You have to feel for characters who just can’t help themselves, and the women of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce run the gamut of self-destruction tonight. At its most self-aware is Delia keeping herself guarded from potential future heartbreak, and at its most impulsive is sweet, perfect Zoey, shoplifting. And for what? Attention? Control? A cry for help? We don’t know yet, and most likely, Zoey doesn’t know why either. Impulses are funny that way… they can protect us before we know we need to be protected and hurt us before somebody else has the chance to. The broken Girlfriends in need of Guidance are currently working more in the realm of the latter.

The episode opens on a prophetic mess: In hopes of garnering Zoey some friends at her new school, Jo is trying to get on the good side of the “Momsters” who run the Fundraising Committee. bringing in a huge haul for the school’s auction fundraiser; and it’s currently spread all over Abby’s living room. The theme of the fundraiser is “Orange is the New Black,” and as Marco notes, “Only white people think partying in a prison jumpsuit is a good time.”

*Sidenote* I’m from the opposite of L.A., but I have to wonder how natives of the City of Angels are responding to just how vapidly Abby’s community is portrayed in this series, but especially, this episode. I realize that this show represents a very specific group of people, but the Trayvon Martin comment that came later felt like it was at the expense of everyone—including the audience who had to hear it—except the group it was meant to satirize. These are people who Phoebe and Abby willingly socialize with, after all. It’s to the show’s detriment that I had a pretty hard time feeling any sympathy for whatever emotional turmoil Phoebe was going through at the auction while also knowing that that side comment from another parent hadn’t rocked her beyond an exasperated apology to Marco or spurred her into any real action. It was a complete misfire in what was otherwise quite an emotionally compelling episode. *Sidenote Over*

While Abby, Jo, and Phoebe are dropping all the donated auction pieces at the school, a famous photographer named Cory shows up to donate a portrait of a naked woman whose face is mostly hidden, and by the way Phoebe looks at Cory, you’d have thought she’d seen a ghost. And maybe she is, in the of-the-past variety… she’s certainly something to Phoebe, who bolts out of there after a cold greeting. That leaves Abby to roam around the school—honestly, for such wealthy people, when is anyone making any money?—where she runs into Jake filming cute little interviews with the students. He’s been charged with making the video for the fundraiser this year, an honor that was last bestowed upon ol’ whatshisname, Ben Affleck. They agree they won’t let the fundraiser go the ugly way of Thanksgiving dinner.

NEXT: What does a woman have to do around here to buy a man a suit?

Other than Cory, things are looking sunnier for Phoebe in the current relationship department, waking up in bed with Marco in a bedroom that is more “Phoebe” than Phoebe herself. There must have been upward of 20 tapestries in there and I’m sure an entire nook devoted to hookah that we couldn’t even see. Phoebe shyly asks Marco if he’d like to go with her to the fundraiser, and even though he doesn’t particularly want to rub elbows with the parents, he tells her he’ll do it for her. He’s not up for her trying to buy him a $2,000 suit to wear, though. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched the Miranda/Steve episode of Sex In the City with the same suit-buying plot very recently, but this scene could have been a word for word recreation of it; except for that part where Marco explained that he’s had nice things in his life, she’s not saving him from poverty or anything, and he can buy his own clothes. But clearly wanting to buy his suit is more about Phoebe than it is about Marco.

Speaking of mixed messages, while Delia excitedly prepares for her presentation to become a partner at her firm, her boss comes in wanting to confirm that things had indeed ended well between her and Gordon Beach. Of course, he only knows about their professional relationship, so when Delia tells him that they certainly did, he can’t understand why, then, Gordon would have gone back on his promise to give their firm all his business following the divorce settlement. Delia knows why—probably that time she broke up with him in a text—but again, her boss doesn’t, so he tells her they’re going to dinner with Gordon tonight to try to win back his business. Because without it, her bid for partner is looking grim.

Which is unfair, because Delia is, like, a really good divorce attorney. She has Abby in for a meeting before they go into the final mediation to finalize their divorce to tell her that since Jake is making a lot more money these days, they should reassess the previously agreed upon $10,000/month. Abby is hesitant because she knows Jake will go ballistic, but then I assume she has the same thought I’m having which is, “$10,000 A MONTH TO ANOTHER PERSON, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?” Still, she’s stress-peeling an orange when they meet with Jake and his lawyer and Delia tells them they want to take alimony off the table. But Jake says that’s fine: He’s getting 50 percent of the assets that Abby earned, and he’s fine with making his own money. It’s a win! Or not… suddenly, now that her divorce is ready to be completed, and Jake is being so understanding, Abby starts in on how they haven’t agreed on summer camp, and summer camp is very important to her, and so on. Abby isn’t quite ready to move on…

And neither is Gordon Beach. At dinner with Delia and her boss, Gordon keeps repeating everything her boss says with a sexual lilt in his voice while staring directly at her: “I like personal attention… I like heads-up ball playing.” Come on, man! I think the guy seems like a skeeze in general, but the main thing that has always bothered me about this character is that he seems to completely disregard the one thing that means the most to Delia: her career. That is simply not a match, no matter how much they both fell for each other. So, not only did he take away his business from her company in a plot to see her again, but he’s incredibly obvious about their previous relationship in front of her boss, and then, when it’s clear that she didn’t come there to make up with him, he takes his business away again out of spite.

Now, Delia did Gordon wrong, that is true. As he tells her when she runs out after him, she broke his heart. And he wants to know why. She tells him that she’s a divorce attorney and the love she sees is love that “turns to contempt and betrayal and abandonment… it’s the only story [she] knows.” And upon hearing that very sad take on life, one that he might recommend she talk to someone about, this man who is supposedly in love with her responds, “You’re a one-woman operation… it’s a god damn waste of life.” Gordon Beach is a waste of plot. But we’re not done with him yet.

NEXT: Ring, (engagement?) ring, missing hamburger phone…

Throughout the episode, even though the Head Mom in Charge over on the fundraising committee is still cold as ice to Abby, Jo has worked her way in as a real go-getter, and even gotten Zoey invited to go to The Grove with the other moms’ daughters. That is, until she somehow loses the hamburger phone from Juno that she’d promised. She’s sure that she’ll find it, but when she doesn’t, she just has to tell the nasty mom that Jason Reitman took it back.

That’s really the least of what goes down at the fundraiser, though. Phoebe tells Marco that the suit thing was about her trying to cover up her own background, not his. Her parents grew weed and moved her all around when she was growing up and were happy to ship her off when she was scouted by a modeling agency at 14: “I think spending money is a way for me to shut my mind off and make me feel like I’m somebody.” And even though Marco is really sweet and supportive of her confession (take note, Beach), her impulses rear their ugly head at the auction. She has another awkward run-in with Cory, and then when she sees the nude picture of her go up for auction she bids and bids until she gets it for $10,000. When Marco asks her why she did that, she freaks out at him and tells him this won’t work between them and not just because of the money. “There are so many ways that I’m going to disappoint you. I just can’t live up to your expectations.”

But living up to expectations is all about timing, as Abby is learning with Jake. She spends the evening losing at a bidding war for a diamond necklace that she feels she deserves to gift herself, but the real upset comes when everyone sits down to watch Jake’s short film about the school. It features a lot of cutesy moments and a really sweet bit where Charlie says his mom is his favorite person, but it affects Abby more emotionally than it should. She excuses herself while crying, and when Jake finds her outside, the truth comes out: She was with him “in the trenches” during their marriage, and suddenly, now that he’s not hers anymore, he’s finally utilizing all the talent she always knew he had and finding all this success. Just as Jake is telling her that maybe if everything hadn’t always been about her, he would have had more room to grow a little earlier, Jo storms outside and takes Abby with her to the car because—get this—Zoey has been arrested for shoplifting on her outing with the girls from school.

The episode ends with life chapters opening, closing, and going up in flames all over the place. Phoebe cries while she burns Cory’s photo of her; Delia finds out that Gordon decided to give his business to her firm and finds a bouquet of roses with a note reading, “Time to write a new story,” and what appears to be a Tiffany’s diamond ring; Jake comes over and tells Abby that he understands where she was coming from, and gives her an overdue thank you for all the years she supported him in the form of the diamond necklace that she wanted to so badly, their divorce is all but finalized; and Jo puts Zoey to bed with a lot of unanswered questions about who “put her up to” shoplifting, only to discover the missing hamburger phone among her daughter’s things.

The interspersed scenes are all scored perfectly to Rudimental and Emeli Sande’s “Free”: “Maybe something’s wrong with me/But whoa, at least, I am free, I am free.” Delia’s end carried a positive tone that I have trouble getting on board with, but I’d certainly love to see her be freed from all the walls she’s built up over the years. With her divorce finalized, do you think Abby is setting herself as free? Or is closing this chapter just as scary as opening a new one? And poor Phoebe… Will she ever be able to love herself enough to let herself be loved? For an episode that caused me to rattle off so many clichés, and with just one left before Girlfriends’ Guide’s first season comes to a close, this hour certainly taught us more about these complicated women than I ever expected to learn when this series began.

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