Divorce Episode 4 Recap: Class Is In Session

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
In episode four, Frances and Robert have agreed to go the mediator route versus going at one another's throats with lawyers. We immediately can tell this is a bad idea, especially based on Robert's history of pettiness, but seeing as the estranged couple cannot hear our screams at the TV screen, we have no choice but to continue watching this speeding train head toward a wreck.

After meeting with said mediator, whom Robert comments makes them feel like they're in "divorce school," Frances and Robert basically get three homework assignments to work on by the end of the week: Get their finances in order, casually mention to their children that they're getting a divorce, and figure out how to make this split happen amicably.

Here's a report card on how the couple did on each of their to-do items:

Get their finances in order:
Up first is Frances, who asks her colleague, Ryan (whom she mistakenly keeps calling Brian) for his help in getting her financial paperwork from payroll. One small problem: Ryan doesn't work in payroll. She then, instead of focusing on getting what she needs, proceeds to unleash on poor Ryan, admitting she cheated on her husband and lamenting about his "musty and damp" mustache — as a huge group of co-workers impatiently wait with a birthday cake outside the glass doors to throw a birthday party. Safe to say Frances is starting to lose it, even at work.

Robert, meanwhile, learns from his financial adviser that he's in a good deal of debt after his recent business ventures — essentially, he bought too many houses to flip, and no one's buying them. But of course, instead of taking his advisor's advice to not spend money, he presents his bed-ridden friend Nick with the grand idea to invest in a nearby vacant warehouse that they'll turn into a children's "fun space" with rock climbing and the like. In other words, he's doing the complete opposite of getting his finances in order.

GRADE: D. Valiant effort on both parties' parts, but in the end, neither of them really makes any progress on their money matters, either together or apart.

Tell their kids they're getting a divorce.
The duo is ashamed to admit to their mediator that they haven't yet had The Talk with their son, Tom, and daughter, Lila. So they finally decide to tell the kids over dinner; Frances tries to butter them up with promises of ice cream sundaes, but a newly-frugal Robert is too distracted over the bill (how dare they charge him extra for a side salad!) to focus on the conversation. It quickly becomes clear that he's not distracted at all, just avoiding the topic. The conversation is so heavy and confusing that the poor bewildered kids are left asking if grandpa died. That didn't go so well.

Finally toward the end of the episode Frances gets Robert to come by the house for a straight-up chat around the kitchen table. Frances begins in her roundabout way, explaining that Mom and Dad are trying to figure out how to be a better family — before Robert interjects.

"Your mother and I are getting a divorce," he says bluntly. "It's awful. If there was any way that we could've figured out how to stay together then we would, but we just can't. But the important thing is that neither of us is going to leave you." Well-said and to the point. Finally, some maturity from Robert's part. (It only took four episodes!) Of course, the kids tell their parents that they basically knew already. "Can we go upstairs now?" asks Tom. "This is awkward."

GRADE: C. They would've gotten an F for that uncomfortable scene in the restaurant, but Frances' earnestness and Robert's straightforward honesty bumped them up. A tad.

Make the split happen amicably.
Things seem to be going rather peacefully between Robert and Frances, but she's a little distracted by the fact that her lover, Julian, keeps calling her. She goes to see him to gently let him know they need to end things. Turns out Julian was only contacting her to see if she can get her husband to stop calling him. Petty Robert is back, and this time his ire is aimed at Julian, whom he's still convinced is French. Evidence? The "Bonjour, fuckface" voicemails he's been leaving, and the photos he's been texting Julian of baguettes with a knife through them. Okay, so Robert is super immature, and Julian isn't even French, but I must admit this was très drôle.

The lack of affability only gets worse when Robert confides in a friend that he's worried about money, considering he's about to lose half of everything in this divorce. His friend advises him to skip the everything-is-equal mediator and see a lawyer, especially since Frances has been the main breadwinner in the last few years. Translation: Robert can go after Frances's money. The episode ends with Frances waiting with the mediator for Robert — who's not there, because he's busy meeting with a lawyer (played by Geoffrey Owens, a.k.a. The Cosby Show's Elvin. Long time, no see, Elvin!). When the lawyer asks Robert if he would describe his divorce as amicable or contentious, Robert hesitates before responding: "Not sure yet...possibly the latter?" Ah, I see here. So these proceedings are only going to get uglier.

GRADE: F. Major F, for major fail. Come on, Robert! Can't we all just get along?
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