For the Brown family, the holidays aren't a time of togetherness, but a reminder of their fractured family unit. The latest episode of "Sister Wives," which aired Aug. 27, shows the Brown family's Thanksgiving separations as the once polygamous family deals with multiple breakups.
At the time of the episode's filming, Christine and Kody Brown were separated and Janelle and Kody Brown were experiencing marital issues.
In the episode, Janelle Brown spends Thanksgiving with her daughter Maddie Brown Brush and Christine Brown heads to her daughter Aspyn Brown's house, while Meri, Robyn and Kody Brown celebrate together.
In a self-filmed video, Kody Brown reflects on how this is the second Thanksgiving in a row that the family has celebrated separately.
“I wish we would’ve gotten things straightened out before now. There’s been a lot of offense, a lot of struggle, a lot of heartache, and I don’t know what to do about it," he says. "I hope that over the next month or over the next year I can get these things straightened out and just find peace and love with my family."
The father of 18 acknowledges that "everything's changing" but notes that he's "at peace" since he's "surrounded by people who are not offended by me right now."
Kody Brown's four wives, present and former, all grapple with the family conflict separately.
Meri Brown notes that the holiday dynamics are noticeably different this year.
"I’m just sad that this is what our family has turned into. Our holidays are not the big family function that they used to be," she says in a confessional.
Robyn Brown says her three kids “dealt with feelings of rejection and hurt” when they found out they would be celebrating the holidays without Janelle and Christine Brown. “The question was asked, ‘Why don’t they care?’”
"They've dealt with that heartbreak before. So just reminding them that it's not necessarily personal. Apologizing to them for being the innocent parties in this. They're getting hurt by this."
“This represents a really big break in our family tradition. I mean I had all these mixed thoughts going on. But I really was happy to be here,” she says in a confessional.
Christine Brown echoes her statement in her own private interview and says the family has been "hurting for a long time."
"We've done our best to be as OK as possible, but there's still hurt feelings from 12 years ago. It's just everything's been accumulating (and) accumulating for years. It's at a breaking point," she says.
Kody Brown then addresses his ex-wife's statement in his confessional.
“The big shakeup (in the family) wasn’t caused by Robyn. It was caused by the fallout of going public (with our polygamous lifestyle) and that decision was made my our family before we met Robyn," he says.
Back in her confessional, Janelle Brown says she was prepared to have Thanksgiving per usual with the rest of her family but the ongoing tension in her family made that difficult.
"There's this huge, looming problem. I basically told the kids what their dad was requiring of them in order to come to Thanksgiving (have a conversation about their ongoing feud and apologize for offending Robyn Brown). That's what I did: I delivered the facts, I delivered what he said," she says. "He needs to do something here. He's the head of the family. He wants to be the patriarch. This is part of that role."
The scene then shifts to Kody Brown, who acknowledges his own role in the family's problems.
“I made the mistake of not managing my family properly and Christine has left and Janelle has decided because we're not in the greatest place that she’d rather hang out with Christine. We’re not working like a family. We’re not a family. We’re acting like enemies," he says.
Later in the episode, Janelle and Kody Brown's son Logan Brown suggests doing a sibling gift exchange for Christmas and Robyn Brown offers up the idea of a sibling Zoom call. Upon receiving what she calls "pushback," Robyn Brown attempted to back out of the conversation.
"I was like, ‘Fine I’m out, this is an effort in futility," she says in a confessional.
“I was pushing for the video chat for the sake of the kids,” she continues. “I just finally went, ‘Why am I trying here?’ … Here it is, just another reaffirmation of all the messages that we’re getting that we’re the outsiders and we’re on the other side. We're not. We refuse to be."
Christine Brown also recalls the family fight in her own interview and offers the following insight.
"Even at one point (Robyn) said, 'My kids don't even remember who their siblings are' and Hunter (Janelle and Kody's son) was like, 'One video call is not gonna help that.' And it got blown out of proportion that they didn't wanna hang out and then suddenly no one wanted to hang out. And then all of these hurt feelings about when Robyn first came into the family came out," she says.
Robyn Brown goes on to say that the text message exchange started "this whole big kind of squabble between my kids and a bunch of the other kids."
"It’s just another example of them not wanting to be a family with us its been like this from the beginning," she says in a confessional.
While reflecting on the family drama, Janelle Brown says she doesn't know "if we ever come back from" the fight.
Christine Brown agrees that the heated discussion was significant.
"Once again, I feel like our family is just dividing. I think we are looking at a permanent (family) separation," she says.
Christine Brown comes back to the topic of the "favorite" among Kody Brown's four wives and how that led to more trouble. She believes Robyn Brown is his preferred wife, an idea he has pushed back against.
"I left Kody because I could see he had favorites. When you have a wife who is a favorite, your other kids are going to see, and they're going to have a hard time with that," Christine Brown says.