Lynette Rice
May 29, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Their home life may be in ruins, but Jon and Kate Gosselin still know how to throw a party: The fifth-season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus Eight attracted a staggering 9.8 million viewers on May 25, setting new records for TLC’s highly publicized show and beating the broadcast networks. The hour-plus episode — mainly focusing on the sextuplets’ fifth-birthday bash — more than doubled the 4.6 million who caught the show’s season 4 finale in March, as scandal-loving rubberneckers tuned in to hear the couple address tabloid reports of infidelity and divorce. And the reality stars did not disappoint: Tough-loving Kate, 34, talked about having ”a lot of anger,” and how ”we very swiftly turned into two different people,” while weary-looking Jon, 32, reiterated that he didn’t cheat on his wife and insisted, ”I did not sign up for the public scrutiny.” Too late. The family’s contracted for at least 39 more episodes on TLC this season, which means their rapidly growing fan base will get a front-row seat if — or when? — the couple’s marriage falters under the relentless media glare. ”We are navigating a very difficult time,” they said in a statement issued after the premiere. ”We keep our faith that we will make the right decisions for our family.”

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