By David Hiltbrand
The Philadelphia Inquirer
In the fifth-season debut of “Jon & Kate Plus 8” on TLC on Monday night, the first part of the equation had dramatically shifted to Kate Minus Jon.
After months of tabloid rumors of infidelity, the tension in the Gosselin marriage was palpable. The media frenzy may have turbo-boosted ratings (the 1 hour, 13 minute debut claimed an astounding 9.8 million viewers, more than double the show’s previous apex), but the schism between Jon and Kate clearly was not a publicity stunt.
In a departure from previous seasons, the couple were by and large interviewed separately. They rarely even appeared in the same frame, and when they did, they studiously avoided eye contact. The atmosphere was frostier than a Zamboni’s tires.
Looking sullen and defensive, Jon expressed remorse while denying that he had been unfaithful. “I take full blame,” he said. “I just didn’t think it would escalate into what it’s become.”
Kate, as is her wont, didn’t spare the rod. “I have a lot of anger,” she said. “… He’s made some very poor decisions and we all have to live with them.”
She groused constantly about his recent lack of involvement in running the household.
The situation may be more dire than the premiere made it seem. At a certain point, one of the sextuplets pleaded with her father, “Daddy, I don’t want you to leave anymore.”
Monday night was primarily about Kate’s driven attempt to be absolute mistress of her domain. She has become the Martha Stewart of maternity, juggling a book tour with organizing the perfect birthday party for her six 5-year-olds.
In the meantime, you can see the 9-year-old twins, Mady and Kara, being drawn into disturbingly adult roles as supplementary caregivers to their younger siblings. Say hello to mother’s little helpers.
Fans of the show know that Kate has always been domineering. In fact, hers is a rather appropriate name for such a shrewish woman.
She acknowledged her bossiness on Monday night, saying: “Have I been hard on him over the past 10 years we’ve been married? Absolutely! You have it on tape.”
But until now, Kate’s henpecking of Jon was a shared ritual, part of their marital dynamic.
At this point, the two seem to be coexisting, uneasily at that, in the same house, staying together, not for the kids, but for the sake of the show.
The Jon & Kate phenomenon has taken on a startling momentum of its own. How weird is it that the biggest tabloid stars of late have been the Octomom and the Gosselins?
For his part, Jon is unhappy with the hand he’s been dealt. “It’s become a business,” he said ruefully on Monday’s debut. Kate is obviously more enthralled with her new lot in life.
What you don’t see as the Gosselins conduct their “everyday” lives are the bustling squadrons of camera crews, sound men, producers and assistants constantly hovering just out of camera range.
The situation has reached new levels of absurdity as the omnipresent TV camera crews are now surrounded by a wider ring of paparazzi snapping away feverishly with their zoom lenses.
While the couple complained repeatedly on Monday about the intrusion on their privacy, that hasn’t stopped them from taking advantage of every material possession their newfound notoriety has provided.
You can’t blame them for capitalizing on their opportunities, but it seems churlish to carp about conditions that they signed up for, circumstances that have so richly rewarded them.
At the end of the episode, Jon and Kate are forced to sit on the same couch to address their current marital status. Not since “Citizen Kane” have we seen two people so divided by a single piece of furniture.

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