After last season's foreboding ''will they or won't they return?'' season finale, scads of scandal, and the endless enticing ads that have been running on TLC, the highly anticipated Jon & Kate Plus 8 season premiere aired last night. And whether you were a curious first-timer or a loyal viewer, the show's producers made absolutely certain that the big issues on everyone's minds would be addressed right out of the gate.
Within the first seven minutes of the episode (preceded by new, albeit much shorter opening credits), Ma and Pa Gosselin are interviewed separately about the controversy that has been dogging them for weeks. Jon, looking exhausted and barely able to muster the enthusiasm to sit upright on the new couch (can we really call it a loveseat, at this point?), professes he ''did not sign up for public scrutiny'' and obviously referencing tabloid accusations that he had an affair with a young schoolteacher ponders, ''If I paid you $20,000, who knows what you'd say?''
Yowza. Clearly, both the show's producers and its stars weren't planning to dance around trying to hide anything. (At this stage, how could they?) Before we even got to catch up with the cuter-than-ever kids, Kate tells us that the tabloids ''kill'' her (she also asks if anyone ever thinks about the ''human on the cover'' of said magazines) and that rumors of infidelity with a bodyguard make her ''furious.'' She also reveals that Jon ''doesn't feel great about me.''
Let's look at what we learned from Kate, who at her best is anything but happy-go-lucky, and in this episode states repeatedly that she has a lot of anger. She doesn't sugarcoat her views on her husband's growing distance, although she claims it's very confusing. She admits she's been hard on Jon over the years (which, for fans is no major revelation, but it's certainly nice to hear her acknowledge it for a change) but believes everyone's responsible for their own choices. She struck me as genuinely upset that their current predicament ''is not where we're supposed to be.''
In Jon's interviews, he denied cheating on Kate, and said he ''takes full blame'' for his actions. (Sort of negates the whole innocence claim, no?) And just as he did in the media when the affair allegations came to a head, he apologized to his family for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jon also expressed his fear that one day his children will Google him and that he'll be able to explain himself to them. Oof.
I don't know about you, but that statement was the moment when I realized my reluctance to watch this undoubtedly uncomfortable season far exceeds my interest in seeing what these two would say and how this family will reclaim, if they ever can, a ''normal'' life. These kids will have to deal with this nonsense forever, long after the spotlight has faded. And yet, like millions of fans, I braced myself and continued to watch.
In a much-needed departure from talking about all the gossip and hubbub and marital strife, it was a relief to focus on the fact that the sextuplets would soon be having their fifth birthday party, or as Kate calls it, a celebration that ''we made it 5 years.''
Enter finally Aaden, Hannah, Collin, Leah, Alexis, and Joel, as well as the twins Cara and Mady, sitting at the lunch table. If the few minutes prior had you all bummed out, it was difficult not to crack a smile when Aaden (filling our nation's Jonathan Lipnicki void) let out a big burp, which caused his brothers and sisters to erupt in a chorus of giggles and ewwww's. I also enjoyed the fact that Aaden and Joel and Collin, as any proper siblings do, have recently taken to whaling on one another. Papa Jon now refers to his boys as ''The Three Stooges'' for the good humor with which they beat each other up!
NEXT PAGE: Kate warns the kids about paparazzi