Ken Tucker
May 26, 2009 AT 06:47 AM EDT

“This could be our last family picture,” said Kate Gosselin during the extra-long fifth-season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8. Jon and Kate came together for the sextuplets’ fifth-birthday party, but they could barely stay in the same camera-frame. Poker-faced, rarely speaking to each other as the kids plus the two older daughters played in a park near their Pennsylvania home, Jon and Kate looked miserable. And that may mean a miserable season ahead for those of us who used to really enjoy watching those kids bounce off each other and their stern but loving parents.

In this expanded 73-minute episode, however, some of the time was spent grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, but most of the time the producers were grilling Jon and Kate, who for the first time in the history of the show were filmed most of the time in separate home-sofa sessions. “It kills me,” Kate said of the rumors (and truth?) of Jon’s infidelity… and perhaps, allegedly, her own. “I have a lot of anger.” As for Jon, he said, “I’d like to apologize to my family for my actions.” Um, what actions, Jon? “Everybody knows what I’m talking about,” he said sullenly. Gee, I guess it’s this.

The show had new cast members: “It’s the paparazzi!” one of the kids squealed. “Sshhh — don’t say a word,” commanded Kate. “I make [the children] call them the ‘p-people,'” Kate told us, explaining she didn’t want the kids yammering at school about the photographers that now follow the Gosselins’ every move. I guess she thinks it’s better to have the kids say, “The P-People chased us!” and really scare their friends.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the series settles back into its weekly half-hours of family outings and squabbles — to see if that’s even possible. Because Kate is more willing than Jon to talk, and to let the TLC cameras follow her to places such as her book signings, she came off (as she often does) slightly worse. She made a big deal over the fact that she was organizing the birthday party “alone” — she said “alone” about six times — because “Jon decided he needed a weekend off.”

You just wanted to say, “We get it! You feel you’re the Wronged Woman! Aren’t you savvy enough by now to know you’re not winning us over?” This was especially true when she noted that “all of a sudden, your kids are calling you your babysitter’s name.” I could almost hear millions of viewers shouting, “So stay home!” I certainly felt sympathy for the woman, though; when she teared up during a solo-sofa taping, her exhaustion and grief was palpable.

Some things never change, of course. The kids are adorable. One of them kept calling the birthday pinatas, “tinatas.” And, ever the problem-child, Maddie said sulkily when it was time to take a family photo that she’d sit for “one picture, exactly.”

And your heart broke a bit when one of the girls hugged Jon and said, “Daddy, I don’t want you to leave anymore.” It looks as though Jon’s going to be in the proverbial doghouse all season.

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