In case you’ve been living under a rock these past few months, tonight marked the start of the fifth season of “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” A more fitting title? “Jon & Kate Plus Hate.”
America might need a collective chiropractic session after that first episode, given the incredible amount of tension that suffused the hour. While the premiere episode ostensibly centered around the 5th birthday party of the sextuplets, what was really in display was the he said/she said between the titular couple.
Promos prominently displayed the two giving solo confessionals, so it was hardly a surprise to see each person alone as they alluded to the scandal-plagued months in between seasons. As a way of further pushing back the curtain on the meta-lives this family now leads, the show chose to consciously address the paparazzi that have made these ten people possibly the most talked about family in popular culture. While you can talk yourself blue in the face arguing the specifics about the allegations spread across the tabloids these past few months, three things are abundantly clear.
- As of the taping of this particular episode, Jon and Kate are in a marriage of inconvenience. That can all change over the coming months/years, but for now, they only agree on being anywhere near each other for the sake of their eight children. If they made eye contact more than twice in the entire episode, I missed it.
- The kids already sense something’s afoot. Not only are the oldest two instinctively rushing to Kate’s side to fill the void left by Jon, but the younger kids understand on a fundamental level that something’s wrong in the state of Denmark. The weight on Jon and Kate’s shoulders has spilled onto theirs, taking a twinkle out of everyone’s eyes.
- Kate will only stop filming when TLC pries the cameras away from her cold, dead hands. She’s the freakin’ Terminator of reality television. I’m 99% convinced that her controversial new hair-cut is made from the same metallic polymer used to construct the T-1000. All of her confusion over the complete chaos of her life stems from the fact that life not spent in the public eye is not worth living.
Does the latter point excuse Jon’s supposed actions? Hardly. But it’s clear Kate and TLC will ride this gravy train until ratings go down or Mady dies of an overdose in the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Kate needs to follow her own advice to her children: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” As for Jon, he’s stoic to the point where I wonder if he’s pharmacologically unable to be upset at this point. Win win for the kids, all around.
Rather than dwell on hearsay, let’s actually hear what they both had to say in tonight’s episode. I’ll type out their quotes, and then immediately type out what they meant in italics.
“One day my kids are gonna Google me, and I’m gonna have to explain myself.” Jon
“Sometimes, when a Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, but the Mommy berates Daddy to the point that he wants to beat her to death with one of her hardcover books, he needs get his swerve on.”
“I did not sign up for public scrutiny of everything. And neither did Kate.” Jon
“At least, that’s what I thought until TLC’s lawyers showed us the contract again.”
“Now we’ve just gone up a level.” Kate
“Move over, Susan Boyle: we’re totally above you on Google Trends!”
“I have a lot of anger. I always say that so blandly, but I just have a lot of anger. Because this is not where we were supposed to be. This is not what I envisioned for us. Not what I envisioned for him. He’s made some very poor decisions, and we all have to live with them.” Kate
“Flames, on the side of my face, breathing-breath-heaving breaths. Heaving breath…Course, I never did ask him what he envisioned for himself, but why ask a mouth breather something like that?”
“Day before the kids’ 5th birthday party. Taking them to the store to get party decorations. By myself. Jon decided he needed a weekend off.” Kate
“I think he got inspired by a commercial for ‘I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Outta Here!’ on television last night. It told him Applebee’s was the best place to pull impressionable teachers on a Thursday, and I haven’t seen him since.”
“I am very grateful to my fans…even the naysayers. They keep me where I need to be.” Kate
“We had a lot of conversations prior to all this erratic behavior that doesn’t remind me at all of the Jon that I know…I think he’s really wanting to just bust out of here and make it all go away, which, newsflash? It’s not going to.” Kate
“I’m hoping you’re thinking I’m talking about our family and not the television show. Although it’s totally the latter. I have six words for you, Mr. Gosselin: page nineteen, paragraph five, sentence three. Plus, there’s the GPS-enabled device I installed in your kidney one night during Season 3.”
“We originally did the show to document our kids’ lives, and it’s become a business. Just like anything else.” Jon
“Page nineteen, paragraph five, sentence three. Damnit.”
About if the roles were reversed: “Since I can’t write, that would probably wouldn’t happen. Some people say I can’t talk either, or breathe right. I love being home with my kids, don’t get me wrong…but it’s not what I chose. It was chosen for me.” Jon
"I have a secret I’d like to share with you. Somewhere in this house, this beautiful, large house, is a jar. In some part of in this lushly appointed abode, replete with furniture either purchased by the network or provided to us by companies looking to exploit our fame, lies a simple glass jar. And in this jar, hidden somewhere amidst a manor well beyond our possible means of ever owning without the death grip of this television program, are my genitals. Twenty bucks to the first person that finds this jar and brings it to me so that I might finally live in peace."
“The more I am here alone taking care of the kids, the more Mady and Cara step up to help willingly.” Kate
“Mama didn’t raise no dummies. Mama more than likely married one, but she didn’t raise none.”
Alexis: “Daddy, I don’t want you to leave anymore.”
Jon: “Well, sometimes Daddy needs to do work.”
Yea, I got nothing. This made me cry more than a little.
“The irony of piñatas is this: So you love your characters, you have this little character birthday party, and you get the cute little backyardigans, and then you beat ’em to death. It’s so violent, if you think about it.” Kate
“And yet, not nearly as ironic as the fact that I’m completely unaware that I just constructed an apt metaphor about my relationship with Jon.”
“Very swiftly we turned into two different people, and it’s just hard. I’ve tried for six months to figure out what the problem is, or remedy to the problem…I don’t know. It’s so complicated.” Kate
“Of course, had I watched the end of Season 4 of my own show and saw my husband clearly crying for help over the monster we unwittingly created, this wouldn’t be complicated at all. Jon made a stupid choice, but I refuse to make the one standing right in front of my nose. So we all lose. Except TLC, currently counting its gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.”
“As long as our kids are safe and happy here, they’ll be well taken care of and loved, and that’s really our business. That’s the way it is.” Jon
“But for now, I’m letting Colin take first sip of all my drinks. Just in case Kate slipped something in there.”
You might think it’s uncool to mock this family, but it’s hard to feel bad for a couple on television complaining about the attention they get…from being on television. It’s hard to muster up any more sympathy for the Gosselins versus the Osbornes for this problem, because let’s face it, in this day and age, there’s little difference between the two. Fame is fame is fame, as Getrude Stein would have said had she ever hung out with Andy Warhol.
How did you watch tonight’s premiere: on the edge of your seat or through your fingers? Is this show helping or hurting the family both parents claim to care about above everything? And do you think the tension on-air is genuine or just a way to lengthen their fifteen minutes?
Ryan writes about television and popular culture over at Boob Tube Dude.