Abby embarks on the next step in her career: divorce propoganda.

By Jodi Walker
January 28, 2015 at 05:31 AM EST
Paul Drinkwater/Bravo
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“The disaster is staying miserable because new is scary—that’s a disaster.”

Abby is preaching tonight. Her message? DIVORCE. Not a girlfriends’ guide to it, not how to have a peaceful mediation, or how to talk to your kids about it—Abby is handing out divorce recommendations like Oprah hands out cars. I mean, she wasn’t telling happily married couples to get divorced or anything, but with a title like, “Why Aren’t You Divorced Yet?” her message is pretty clear. Abby hasn’t mastered this new life where she’s divorced; she still screams at her friends from time to time and seemingly sends in writing assignments that are 100 percent not what she pitched, but she’s happy. Abby says she’s happy.

Because Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce has become less about women getting through divorce, and more about women just getting through life, divorce or no. With the exit of Lyla, the percentage of main characters going through a divorce dropped dramatically: Phoebe’s path to figure out how to lead a life as a strong woman who doesn’t rely on everyone else around her is much more interesting than just being hung up on her ex; and yet, her former marriage to Ralph is still a huge part of that journey. Because a divorce is a big deal with big consequences. But sometimes, when you’re in a loveless or hopeless marriage, it’s a necessary deal. That’s Abby “Free as a Bird” McCarthy’s new message, anyway.

And her first convert is Jo. The episode opens on Jo yelling at her husband, (Bob) Frumpkis, who she’s left behind in New York. Jo made vague mentions of “Frumpkis” and “Zoey” last week that made it seem like he was her husband and Zoey was her daughter, but it was hard to tell. Jo is a fast talker—it’s one of the many things to like about her. She brings a totally different energy to the show that I didn’t know it needed until it arrived. L.A. can be tedious… just ask anyone who lives there. Now, I don’t buy into that everyone is medically happy there and chronically unhappy in New York, but I do buy into Jo and her East Coast sass mixing it up a bit with these six-inch-heel wearing moms. And we’re about to see just what kind of mom she is.

Jo’s daughter, Zoey, is on the way to join her mom on the West Coast and arrives by way of grabbing her own cab at LAX, much to Abby’s horror. She’s also probably a little horrified at the Tinder profile Jo showed her moments before Zoey rang the doorbell: “This one put a bow tie on his dick!” You see, Abby has a new assignment—it’s not the assignment she thought it would be, but it is paying, and as Delia just informed her that Jake’s lawyers are asking for $5,000 in child support and $5,000 in spousal support, she’s got some money-making to do. Her agent calls to tell her that everyone in the office is still buzzing about her ballsy pitch, and HuffPost wants her to do an article “playing up the whole disaster angle: ‘10 Dates in Two Days.’” Abby isn’t totally into the idea, but she is into making the money, so she sets out finding herself 10 men who might make for disaster date material.

In one weekend, she goes out with a stuntman who takes her skydiving, a ferret-lover (“meet my ferret and the man who loves him”), a man who pretends to be blind, a father who brings his kids on the date, a father from her kids’ school, a dorky former NYU pal who hits its off more with Jo, and a few more unseen fellas. And you know what? She has a good time with those 10 men…well, not a good time, but an interesting time, and certainly not a disaster. Dating isn’t a disaster; divorce isn’t always a disaster either. Remember that, it’s going to come back up. Because the dad from Abby’s kids’ school—the one who tied a bow tie around his penis for his dating profile picture—is a married dad from Abby’s kids’ school.

Jo has accompanied Abby on this particular date to spy, and spots the man who must match the bow tie penis over Abby’s shoulder. But when Abby spots him, she realizes he’s married and she knows him. She calls him over and even though Jo had sent a picture of the inside of her pants instead of Abby’s actual face, he knows he’s caught. But she still lets him sit down and after he seems terrified at the thought of her telling his wife, they have a pretty frank chat. He says that his wife hates him and they never touch anymore, and Abby asks him, if it’s so bad, then why stay? “Why does anyone stay? Kids.” Abby tells him he has to consider if the kids are better off with two miserable parents—is he better off miserable than divorced? Jo does a lot of very meaningful listening during this conversation and later tells Abby that she thinks she wants to work it out with Frumpkis because, if nothing else, he loves her.

But apparently she reconsiders though, because she and Abby have a complicated little run-in later. As this whole “disaster date” angle is based on Abby’s various disastrous run-ins with Will the “28-year-old,” she gives him a call too. And she has a really good time on that date. Because Will might still look like he’s 40, but he’s also still smoking hot, and good at that (fake) young man sex, which Abby takes him to her house to have copious amounts of. While they’re discussing breakfast plans, they hear a noise, only to discover Jo and NYU having weird sex on Abby’s couch. Abby is furious—already hyped up from observing Jo’s laissez-faire parenting style with Zoey and days of screaming at Frumpkis on the phone—and blows up at Jo about what a wreck Jo’s life is. At first Jo seems to be taking it to heart, but when Abby starts mentioning Zoey, Jo blows up right back: “How about this: You say nothing about my kid ever again… because we all know you give some shitty advice.”

NEXT: And then there are all the non-Abbys…

But shitty or no, there are still a couple of women in Abby’s life who could use some advice that has nothing to do with divorce. Delia is right where we left her, still sleeping with her client Gordon, while handling his divorce from Courtney Beech, who now knows about them. When she divulges this to Gordon, he wants to get even with Courtney, which would put Delia at risk of getting disbarred. She leaves him angry, but gets to work digging up recon on Courtney’s business practices and is able to fire back at her privately that if Courtney tries to expose her relationship with Gordon, she’ll expose Courtney for employing a sweatshop in Bangladesh.

So, all should be good, right? Wrong, because this Gordon character is kind of an oaf, and decides to take it upon himself to sleep with Courtney so that the date of separation will be pushed back (which somehow helps his case). Delia’s furious when she finds out, not only because she already had the problem solved by using her brains, which he very rarely seems to acknowledge that she has, but because he didn’t even think to consult her before he did it. She kicks him out, but when she later emotionally confesses the affair to Abby and Phoebe, they know that there’s another layer to her frustration: She’s in love with him.

Phoebe’s problems are less dramatic, but just as moving in making her an interesting character. After her discovery last week that she’s basically leading a life without substance, she gets a life coach who is working with her on relating with her kids and living a stronger, more substantial life. She’s telling Abby and Jo all of this at a farmer’s market during a particularly hilarious exchange:

Phoebe: “I’m feeling more focused… more grounded… oh my god, where are my children?

Jo: “You have children?!”

Her children have wandered over to a farm stand staffed by a very handsome man named Marco. Even though Phoebe is supposed to be on a “man-cation” she turns on the shoulder-swinging charm and starts asking about his farm, which she finds out is a project to help rehabilitated former addicts. While Marco could not seem less interested in seeing Phoebe again, she’s very wrapped up in his good work, and signs up to volunteer with harvesting. And volunteer, she does! Until she gets tired after an hour and tells him she needs to leave or her back will seize up, but she’ll give him money to pay for the crops she was committed to loading that will now be left behind.

Marco is not happy; he tells her she can give him the money if she promises to never come back again. It’s harsh, but harsh is what she needs, because old Phoebe just wouldn’t have gone back. Old Phoebe would have written it off as just “not for her.” But new Phoebe sees it for what it is: a failure, giving into weakness. And new Phoebe wants to be strong, so she goes back, and even though Marco isn’t happy to see her, she tells him that what they do there is important, and she wants to be a part of it. She isn’t an addict, but she is “in recovery from being a silly, superficial chick,” and she deserves a second chance, too. Phoebe should be in sales.

The couple I continue to be least invested in, Max and Ford, are also looking into some Round 2 opportunities. As he established last week, Ford still feels like he needs to go back to the semi-open relationship that they used to have because he needs more excitement. He promises he would never leave Max, and Max concedes as long as they have strict rules: three degrees of separation, no repeats, and advance notice on all hookups. Shortly after their decision, Ford goes on a business trip leaving behind a nervous looking Max, who later goes out with Jake and strikes up conversation with a Skarsgård-looking fellow—looks like Max might be the first to cash in on those rules.

You know who really needs some rules? Abby and Jo. Because I really like those two as friends, but I just don’t believe that two people can keep recovering from saying such vicious things to each other. Jo told Abby at the end of her fight that she and Zoey would be leaving the next day, and Abby, indeed, finds her packing up her things the next evening (it’s still Jo, after all). Abby apologizes about blowing up, but also tells Jo she’s got some work to do: “I know you’re going through an incredibly hard time, but I promise you there is so much good on the other side of it.”

The “it” she’s referring to is marriage, and this is now the second person in one weekend that Abby has encouraged to get a divorce. Because Abby has seen that light on the other side, and she thinks there are a lot more people out there who need to run toward it: “Once you step into this life you will think, ‘What took me so long?’” Jo agrees to stay in L.A. because Zoey overhears Abby asking her to, and tells her mom that she wants to stay; she may be a put together, mature kid, but she’s not immune to the disaster zone that apparently is Jo and Frumpkis.

So, Jo is staying, and Abby has finally figured out how to write her article about disaster dates that weren’t disasters… she’s just going to write what she thinks people need to read—what she’s been telling everyone who will listen—and hope that they’ll still take it. The combined look of elation and terror as “‘Why Aren’t You Divorced Yet?’ By Abby McCarthy” zooms through the wires from her computer to the HuffPost editors is perfection.

Do you think Abby’s question is a necessary one? Are there too many people holding onto already failed marriages? Is this the next step in the Abby McCarthy advice legacy? Or is Jo right? Is Abby brave, but kind of shitty with advice?

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