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‘Jon & Kate’ share tense moments

Jon and Kate Gosselin shared some scenes as their TLC show returned, but the show also focused on Kate and the kids off on their own in North Carolina.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

Welcome back, J&K fans! It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen the Gosselins and as we all know (and by we I mean anyone in the vicinity of a tabloid magazine) things are, to say the very least, different. The last episode before this summer’s hiatus saw the kiddies (remember those guys?) getting “Crooked Houses” while Jon and Kate officially announced the news that everyone already knew: they were separating. Last night's two new episodes spanned from pre-split January to more recent post-split days.

In the first of the two episodes, entitled “Renovations and Vacations,” we heard Kate tell us that she is now trying to find “a sense of peace” for her family. First order of business in achieving familial peace? Getting a new, renovated kitchen! Yes, the Gosselins are once again given a luxurious freebie. On the list of things I was hoping not to see in the newer episodes, freebies and promotional tie-ins was pretty high up there. But hey, no one from HGTV showed up, so at least there’s that.

With the kids nowhere in sight yet, Jon and Kate share some obviously tense moments while deciding how to remodel their kitchen. Kate, with arms crossed, asks Jon what planet he’s from when he makes a suggestion (which she would soon find out, was not the worst idea after all.) Ah, just like the good ol’ days. I went into tonight on Kate’s side, albeit reluctantly, in large part thanks to Jon's Ed Hardy-wearing/moving to New York City/partying with Michael Lohan new life. Once she called a centerpiece of flowers “distracting and ugly,” I was pretty much back to thinking I don’t want to be on anyone’s side anymore.

Much to our, as Kate might say, “horrification” the kitchen segment continued. Jon stayed behind in their Pennsylvania home while it was being worked on, and Kate took her wee brood down to the North Carolina shores. Of course, we’ve been to the beach with the Gosselins before, but this time it was sans Jon, which will be par for the course from here on out.

Kate hits the beachLuckily, the beach trip provided some much needed time away for Kate (even with the pesky paparazzi in the way, but more on them later) and gave viewers more time with the kids. Alexis boasted she would find frogs, dolphins, bugs, and crabs at the beach, while Aaden enthusiastically cried, “I been wishin’ about the beach!” And while moments like these are cute, it’s hard not to feel like watching is adding fuel to the fire these days.

After all, as soon as the gang hit the beach (with a mystery helper in tow), we knew we were going to once again see shots of Kate in that infamous orange bikini. We knew this family had traveled for the first time without their dad (who was back at home donning, horror of horrors, a popped collar shirt) and we knew the paparazzi were hounding them the entire time. Kate, now a tabloid mainstay, explained, “I’m not going to keep (the kids) inside.” Yes, but you could pull them out of the public eye entirely.

From David Letterman’s bizarre confession to Jon and Kate’s divorce to Tiger Woods’ spectacular crash.

It was pretty sad to hear Kate tell us the kids mentioned missing their dad (let’s give kudos to TLC for at least having the good taste to NOT interview the kids on this subject) but it was nice to see them enjoying themselves despite what was going on.

The drama had all but dissipated in the second episode, “Camping Out,” which was as wholesome and harmless as the series has been in quite a while. In Kate’s “first official turn with the kids,” she granted their wish for a backyard campout. For longtime fans, it was pretty jarring to see the very indoors-y Kate put together a tent (even if a PA does help with the second one) and inform us that she installed her first window screen. Not a changed woman, but as What About Bob's Dr. Leo Marvin might suggest, she’s taking baby steps.

The newly self-proclaimed “good sport” Ma Gosselin didn’t get much love from her peanut gallery initially as Leah chirped to a struggling Kate that “Daddy knows everything about camping.” That cuts deep, Leah, real deep. But Kate still allowed the kids to do some real skewering, of the far more delicious s’mores variety.

Again, Kate struggled to get a fire going as she explained, “I don’t get the principles of fire because I’m not a pyromaniac.” Uh, Kate, knowing how to start a small bonfire does not a pyromaniac make. Either way, her kids finally got on Team Kate and cheered her on with a chorus of “You can do it, Mommy!” while Aaden surveyed the scene, noting, “The whole world’s gonna have smoke in it.”

But, the most pleasant surprise to come out of tonight’s episode wasn’t Kate’s transition to can-do Mom, it was the kids having actual, non-corporate sponsored fun (okay, so Coleman and Hershey may have gotten a little bump). Mady (yes, that Mady) and Cara were in uncharacteristically good spirits and rather than having to watch more painfully awkward couch confessionals from Jon and Kate, we watched the kids give us their loud, giggly commentary instead. My favorite moment was when Alexis bragged “I had this many (s’mores)” while holding up all ten fingers, while her sister Leah, without missing a beat, responded “I had too many!”

You’ve gotta admit, even if it was for the cameras, Kate seemed a whole lot less shrill without Jon around and despite all my reservations, she did throw an awfully cool backyard campout. While the twins shared their own tent, Kate slept with the sextuplets and told us it was “nice to be surrounded by my babies.” If this is the direction the show plans to go in, and not the way of “Renovations and Vacations” I may just be willing to stay on board.