Abby and Jake's divorce papers are ready to be signed—but are they ready to sign them?

By Jodi Walker
February 25, 2015 at 02:49 AM EST
Eike Schroter/Bravo
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In every recap I start for Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, the first thing I write is, “Divorce is really hard.” And then I delete it because I realize I write some variation of that same thing every single week. But if there’s one thing that Bravo’s first scripted series has driven home over these 13 episodes in far more than 13 ways, it’s that divorce is really hard. Tonight, Abby found out that a “happy divorce” is just as difficult as an unhappy divorce, because it makes it easier to forget why you wanted to get divorced in the first place.

The first season of Girlfriends’ Guide hasn’t been perfect: There have been characters who didn’t pop, characters who left in the middle of the season without much explanation, a few dead-end story lines and—my own personal irritant—characters who often say pretty hateful things with little repercussion. In between those flaws though, the variety of relationships the series has been able to showcase is impressive. Because that’s what this show has ended up being about: The relationships that define our lives and how they don’t stop defining our lives when they end. Abby and Jake will always care about each other; Delia has been deeply scarred by her father’s betrayals throughout her childhood; Phoebe is holding onto the pain of what a bad person did to her 20 years ago because, well, it still hurts.

In this one show we have the good, the bad, the parental, the friendly, the hostile, the romantic, the platonic… complicated relationships all intertwined, and in the season finale, they all came together in a series of slow-moving explosions. In that way, I’d also congratulate GGTD on the pacing of Abby and Jake’s story—it’s the one relationship they have most nailed and it has been worth it. I don’t know if I want those two to get back together or stay apart, either. I’m just as torn as Abby: up when she’s up, down when she’s looking at a wedding dress covered in paint in the cold, harsh light of day. When is it time to move on from a relationship? The answer lady might finally be out of answers…

Things are really falling into place for Abby these days. She’s got a hot, young boyfriend who is back from Nepal and planning to take her to a private beach in Baja this weekend; she just found out there’s a bidding war for her book proposal, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce; and that titular divorce is all but finalized with just a few more signatures. With Phoebe single, Delia confusingly in possession of an engagement ring, and Abby on the precipice of a legally-Jake-less life, Jo decides it’s time for a Ditch the Deadbeats Divorce party. Abby is less than enthused.

Delia, however, is feeling right chipper. She’s holding off on handling Gordon’s marriage proposal (I… guess that’s what it was?) until her final meeting about with the partners at her firm. When we see the big moment, it’s champagne toasts all around and, of course, the “pitbull in Manolos” is getting the partner offer. Delia is thrilled but when they start going over the terms, things come to a screeching halt—they’re only offering her non-equity partnership, along with a three year non-compete even though a man who had been there three years less than her and isn’t near comparable in billable hours got full equity to start last year. Delia tells all the stunned male partners that another firm has been trying to poach her with a full equity partner offer for years and they “have 24 hours to either take this girl seriously or [she’s] done.” Preach! Judging by the comments, not everyone is into Delia’s storyline, but I love to watch that woman at work. Add “relationship with your career” to the list—it’s a thing.

Of course, the other half of Delia’s plot is nearly intolerable because I simply can’t see what a woman like Delia would want with a man like Gordon. I guess she likes that he’s powerful, but I don’t believe for a second that he likes that about her in return. And yet, in bed, one hour away from finding out if her power move at the law firm has worked or not, she tells him that even though she has a hard time trusting her emotions, she knows that her emotions are telling her she’s in love with him. But she wants to counter his marriage offer; yes, she wants to spend her life with him, her home with him, and maybe even have kids, but she thinks marriage leads to apathy, and she doesn’t want that. Gordon tells her that’s a no-go. He’s old fashioned and he wants marriage—which makes them two people who want different things. It also makes them two people who seem to barely know each other at all.

NEXT: Never take pictures of other people’s kids…

Speaking of mysterious connections, Phoebe walks into the school to discover Kori taking photos of her kids’ class. Phoebe asks her what she thinks she’s doing and tells her she can’t take pictures of other people’s kids. Kori tells her the school asked her to, but Phoebe says she doesn’t have her permission. Kori goes back to taking pictures but Phoebe keeps demanding her to stop and when she doesn’t listen she pushes her, Kori pushes her back, and Kori’s camera drops and breaks as she asks Phoebe what her problem is. “You’re my problem! Don’t you get that?” Phoebe yells before taking her kids and storming out. So… that doesn’t seem like it was just about taking pictures

Phoebe can be grating, but I found tonight to be the most realistic performance Beau Garrett has given all season, making the arrival of Phoebe finally breaking down and showing some emotion a welcome change in an often stagnant character. For that reason, I’ve never totally bought the connection between Phoebe and Marco, but I guess they do share tortured pasts, even more so than originally revealed a few weeks ago. He comes over to her house to check on her and Phoebe apologizes for taking things out on him last week that weren’t about him. So she tells him what they were about… She prefaces the story with “It’s not a big deal, it happens to women all the time,” and then proceeds to tell how after she left home to pursue modeling she found out that if a photographer liked you, you needed to party with them to book jobs. She was 14 when Kori decided she “liked” her and started taking teenage Phoebe to parties; Phoebe was shy, so Kori fed her pills to loosen her up, and she wouldn’t even remember what happened or where Kori had taken her the next day. Afterward she would see the photos. Photos like the one Kori auctioned off last week.

Oof—it’s sick and really upsetting, and it explains a lot about the way Phoebe hides from pain… there’s a lot of pain to hide from.

Much less traumatizing, but still on her way to a troubled childhood, is sweet, perfect Zoey, who was caught shoplifting last week. Abby recommends Jo take her to therapy, and as you could imagine, Jo does not flourish in that calm environment. Every time the therapist asks Zoey a question, Jo cuts in, generally with a snide remark about Zoey’s father. When Zoey finally starts to open up about how she’s been feeling a little invisible lately and Jo interrupts her with, “Don’t tell me this is one of those blame the parents thing. You know what that makes? Victims,” the therapist has had it. She tells Jo, “When we pretend we don’t have [feelings], these feelings express themselves anyway, like in the form of a cry for help… like shoplifting.” When she tells Jo to leave her to talk alone with Zoey, I wanted to stand up and clap.

I’ve enjoyed the Odd Couple dynamic between Abby and Jo immensely, but the upping of Jo’s already enhanced selfishness was pretty frustrating for a character that is already constantly daring the audience not to like her. After Zoey decides that she wants to go see her dad and his new family they get in a fight in front of Abby and Will, and Jo storms out telling Abby that this is all her fault for telling her to take Zoey to counseling. That ludicrous accusation never gets resolved—a few scenes later, Jo is still throwing Abby a party… apparently this is just the relationship that they have. With Zoey, however, Jo gives a little and eventually says she can go see her father after Zoey tells her she just needs to see what he left them for. This kid, I tell ya.

NEXT: Jake + Abby = 4eva?

Jake and Abby are having just as much trouble coming to terms with leaving each other for good. When the big ol’ pile of divorce papers makes it to Abby’s house, she can’t bring herself to sign them on her own so she asks him if he wants to go on a divorce date of sorts to do the deed together. On the evening of the divorce party she doesn’t want, Abby goes to sign the divorce papers she doesn’t want to sign with the almost-ex-husband she doesn’t want to leave. They meet at one of their old downtown bars and drink vodka sodas and talk about the time that Jake pretended he lost his keys so he didn’t have to take Abby home when they first started dating in L.A. But, as it turns out, Abby knew he had the keys all along… she just didn’t want to leave him either.

They finally both sign the papers and while Jake walks out, he tells her that the movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt finally came through, and if she’s okay with it, he’s going to shoot in the Ukraine for four months. Pride shines in Abby’s eyes for her husband, and you can’t blame Jake for going for it here: He asks her what if they didn’t file the papers? What if they didn’t have a happy divorce, but a happy marriage, part two?

And all of a sudden, Abby is livid. She says she begged him to stay with her, she wanted to stay married, and he told the kids they were getting a divorce. Something we’ve never been totally clear on is when these two really turned the corner toward separating; by the time we made it into Abby and Jake’s life, he was already dating Becca. As Abby tells it, Jake was one who made the call, and now he’s trying to go back on it because he’s being impulsive, as usual. He pleads, “All I know is that I am still—and screw me, I probably always will be—in love with you.” But she’s got a divorce party to get to… so the divorce is happening.

Abby, Delia, and Phoebe all arrive at the party with plenty of feelings to get out; luckily, Jo actually came through on that “paintball the old wedding dress gag.” With a little liquid courage, Abby takes the first shot and everyone follows suit, covering every inch of the puffy-sleeved ’90s number in multicolored paint. And as Abby looks at the finished product—a whole new technicolored dress—she gets that Abby-look in her eye: “It’s so beautiful. It’s better. I mean, nobody can live up to the all-white, happily-ever-after wedding gown. Because ultimately it’s you, the one you love, a lot of hard work, and a gamble… better odds than Vegas.” Delia—with a Delia-look in her eye—asks Abby if she really thinks that’s true. And Abby takes off to go tell Jake she really does.

The final scene of this series’ first season is perfect, in that completely painful and flawed Girlfriends’ Guide way. Just when you think you have all the answers, just when you think the clouds have parted to shine total clarity on a relationship, the sun comes up to shine its more honest light on all the cracks in the foundation. Jake and Abby meet back where they left each other and wake up in bed together the next morning, ready to challenge themselves to make another go at things; Delia wakes up in bed with Gordon, wearing the engagement ring and in agreement to marry him; and Phoebe fixes breakfast with Marco, feeling some sense of calm after 20 years of running from her feelings. Then Phoebe gets a call that Kori is pressing charges against her; and Gordon starts talking about how it would only makes sense if Delia changed her last name to Beach; and Abby gets home from her blissful night to find reality in the form of Will, ready take her to Baja with Mexican hot chocolate.

And then, in perhaps the most plot developments per minute in all of Bravo programming, Jake goes outside to find Becca, who’s been trying to get in touch with him all week, outside his gate: “So, I was late; and I peed on a stick.” The weight of reality settles in on Jake in those 10 words—though, to be fair, Becca doesn’t officially say she’s pregnant—and it hits Abby as she stares at that paint-splattered wedding dress, crying in the L.A. sun, and realizes… it doesn’t really look that pretty at all.

Divorce—even a happy divorce—is really hard.

What did you think of the first season of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce? Are you eager to find out what happens to Abby, Jake, Phoebe, and the gang in season 2? Have you found yourself connecting with some of the relationships more than others? And do you kind of wish you lived in this world just a little bit after seeing Phoebe’s kitchen?

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