Abby finally gets to test out a relationship with Nate, but all is not as it seems in Fantasyland.
“Marriage, it’s messy and it’s hard. It ebbs and flows… and when the fantasy is behind you, you look your spouse in the eye and you say, ‘I do.’ Again and again.”
Marriage is a commitment… it’s a kind of crazy commitment, but one that society stands firmly behind: one person for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you decided at some point that the plan you made for the rest of your life was a really huge mistake that you need to unmake as soon as possible. That’s the conceit that Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce is dealing with. Abby is trying to reenvision a future for herself that she thought she already had planned. Like when you’ve formed your entire Saturday around getting dinner with someone and then they cancel—except, y’know, apply that to your whole life.
Since her separation from Jake, and even during their marriage, Nate has been a crutch for Abby. He was a different future to imagine herself in; a better future where people are spontaneous and creative; where they can have exciting conversations about Sidney Poitier and pooping their pants at important awards shows. It was a smart move (or, more probably, a financial move) to not feature Jake in this episode, because this is what her life might be like once she’s divorced and able to pursue a full relationship with Nate.
Except, spoiler alert, Nate is a bit of a Grade A-tool. He says so himself. Yeah, he can email like a mo-fo, and I guess he’s funny if you’re into that self-obsessed neurotic type, but mostly he’s just always been everything Jake isn’t. And Abby thought that was what she needed, when the truth is, she has no idea what she needs. It’s not Nate. Her future is now wide open, and it’s a good thing, because everyone she loves is in about as much trouble as she is.
Tonight’s visit to Fantasyland kicks off with everyone gearing up for the honoring of perfect married couple, Max and Ford, at the Family Equality Council Gala. I’m not sure it’s intention—I hope it is—but I really enjoy the meta and totally ironic aspect of Girlfriends’ Guide that is it’s tendency to seem like a scripted version of the Real Housewives shows, if we actually got an unscripted account of their lives. Galas are the bread and butter of a Bravo life, and while Ford is thrilled about the upcoming night, Max seems to be dreading even buying a new suit for the occasion (in that annoyed sort of way Max seems to deal with most everything).
Abby, though? Abby is flying high because she and Nate are going to be on cross guard duty at school… it’s the little things, I guess. But her fellow divorcée girlfriends remind her that even though she’s getting a divorce, he’s still married. An interesting theme that this show continues to hit on is how much worse “emotional infidelity” is than a physical affair. I’m not married—I don’t know if this is true (seems like both are pretty terrible), but it’s Abby constantly telling everyone that she and Nate haven’t “done anything,” and Lyla, not about to let Abby get away with anything, informing her that they absolutely have. I’m enjoying how Lyla walks the thin line between wanting her friends to be the best version of themselves, while trying to not be judgmental, and often failing.
She’s a complex little character, and even though she’s not made of character parts to root for, her failures and inability to get out of her own way make her entirely relatable. Sometimes it’s easier to see what everyone else is doing wrong than to just figure your own issues out. That’s why Phoebe offers to send her massage therapist to Lyla’s house, so that she can release some of the anger that’s threatening to help Dave take their children away from her.
NEXT: Not so happy endings…
So, Lyla reluctantly takes Phoebe up on the massage offer and a dashing young gentleman comes to her house and informs her that just about every part of her body is holding stress, from her toes to her fingers: “Yeah, I tend to point a lot and make fists.” He asks how she knows Phoebe and when Lyla says their friends, that is apparently his cue to reach for her no stress zone, so she Krav Magas him right in the nose. And rightly so! I don’t care what kind of free love stuff Phoebe is into, if she’s going to offer it up to someone else, at least notify them first. It’s not the masseuse’s fault that Lyla’s friend sent him with intentions that Lyla hadn’t consented to.
In less assault-y plot points, with Lyla’s condemnation ringing in her ears, Abby shows up to crossing guard duty in four-inch heels, ready to flirt her ass off and then tell Nate that she can’t “do this” because he’s married. She follows through on both, including the flirting, even though Nate seems like a huge dork. (I’d kind of like receipts on these emails that made her fall in emotional love with him.) He’s been holding off on telling her something until she’s finished telling him they have to be through, after which he says, “This is such a great reveal… I left my wife.” A screenwriter/director, it seems Nate is all about the big reveals, and if him revealing that he left his wife in such a giddy manner doesn’t turn you against him, then what’s coming next surely will.
Both spouse-less, Nate and Abby are now free to go on their first non-digital date where we find him telling her what I think is supposed to be a charming story about him not realizing he was winning an Oscar when he was, in fact, winning an Oscar. Did he mention he won an Oscar? There’s one more bit of the story he wants to tell her (that Abby offers to exchange her anecdotes about nearly becoming Oprah’s best friend once), but says it’s less of a first date story and more of a post-first-kiss story, so he swoops her back to his newly acquired bachelor pad where they stand on his porch to test the theory.
Nate was wrong. Their first kiss blows. So does their second kiss following his instructions to Abby: “You go right, I’ll go left. And maybe open your mouth a little bit?” I think this is the moment where Abby will dip out, but no, she allows him to set up a more romantic environment of a first kiss in the rain by way of the yard, a sprinkler, and an umbrella. But just as their going for what promises to be a terrible third kiss, the family that Nate’s son was supposed to be staying with pulls up because his son has gotten sick. Neither one of them are ready for that introduction, so Abby literally runs through a sprinkler and out of his yard.
And even though I wanted Abby to realize at that moment that Nate wasn’t nearly good enough for her, it is a pretty funny moment. Plus, the point is cleared up fairly soon afterward when they get together again and skip straight to the bedroom to figure out if they can have a physical connection as strong as their text-ationship.
They cannot. While Nate asks Abby if he’s too aggressive, not aggressive enough, huge, not huge, and if she orgasmed after he hit the reset button in 15-second flats, why her nipples are warm, and her tongue is cold, Abby quickly tires out and they go to sleep resolving to figure out if they can fix this in the morning. But in the morning, Nate somehow becomes even more of a gross asshole, shushing Abby, telling her, “Mornings aren’t for talking, they’re for contemplating suicide,” and starting what sounds to be a pretty hearty bowel movement with the door open. The man who made Abby realize she didn’t love her husband anymore, ladies and gentlemen…
But losing Nate is healthy for Abby because, really, she’s losing the idea of Nate; losing him as a crutch for figuring out the rest of her future. Getting used to breaking a commitment that you made for the rest of your life is no easy task, just as sticking to that commitment can be an uphill battle itself. Throughout the episode, we’ve seen Max getting more and more flustered every time his husband mentions something to him regarding this gala. It’s easy to write this off as the general petulance Max sometimes displays for anything that at all disrupts his life, but it’s stemming from a real problem he’s having within his marriage that just so happens to bubble over at the very event that is honoring his marriage.
NEXT: The Bravo network has never met a gala it couldn’t ruin…
All of our main characters are at the gala, and while Max gets more and more annoyed about having to be Ford’s arm candy, Lyla gets more and more bitter about the general merriment in the room. Phoebe showing up late as last year’s honoree (played by the always welcome Laverne Cox) makes the introductory statements ends up being the mesh gown that broke the marriage. But for real, Phoebe is wearing what amounts to a bikini with a net over it to this gala. Lyla and Phoebe immediately start in on each other about Lyla punching Phoebe’s masseuse in the face—you know, for that time she sent him to sexually assault her friend—and they make such a scene that Max and Abby have to force them out of the gala, leaving Ford at the table by himself.
In the bathroom, things get pretty heated between Lyla and Phoebe: accusations of home wrecking; accusations of Lyla wrecking her own home; a complete breakdown from Lyla because she’s only angry because everyone always tells her how angry she is. The ruin of a marriage is tough and she’s scared of losing her kids. They don’t exactly hug it out, but Phoebe tells Lyla she just wants her to figure it out: “Figure out a way to take care of yourself so you’re not taking it out on everyone else.”
Outside of the bathroom, things are calmer, but also not good: Ford goes to tell Max that they need to get back in because they’re about to be presented with their award, and Max says no. He’s tired of Ford not taking him seriously: “You just want me to show up and look good…sometimes I feel like you just want to be married. But do you want to be married to me?” That gets Ford’s attention. Max storms off, but these two are going to work it out. They have to work it out, they’re the only representation on this show that a marriage can work. And I’m glad they finally get some focus tonight—the idea that two people have fought so hard to be able to be married that they might have gotten married just to do it is an interesting plot point that I hope continues to be explored.
But it’s not the case for Ford. He goes back in to give his prepared acceptance speech, but when he spots Max watching him from the back he ditches the note cards and turns up the tear ducts (mine, not his). He talks about the dad and husband that Max is, and the vow that he made to him that opened this recap: “I do… always.”
I get all sorts of confused watching this show; it brings up some incredibly complex themes on marriage, and by proxy, divorce, that many (often male-centric) series just don’t. In between enjoying the natural banter between Lisa Edelstein and Janeane Garofalo, there is some pretty dark stuff going on here. I really hate that she’s leaving the show because I find myself most invested in her murky future.
Of course I’m invested in Abby, but people like Abby carry themselves with an air that says they’ll work it out no matter what. Abby will write another successful book, she’ll eventually manage to keep things amicable with Jake, and she’ll be happy again. Things aren’t that clear for characters like Lyla, and that big, dark question mark makes her interesting; her final scene gnocchi meal gives us just that little glimpse of hope. Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, is our resident Samantha, Phoebe, who is revealed to not just be making out with Mr. Euro in the school parking lot, but taking baths with Mr. and Mrs. Euro in their home. Because I guess they’re all in love. Well… maybe someone in this town can work it out.