The Sad End of 'Jon & Kate': Separate Boats, Different Directions

The final episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8 opens to instrumental music, with a screen shot of the now-famous sign tacked up at Jon's residence: "No film crew or production staff from TLC is permitted on this property under penalty of trespass." The sign is old news: We learned of Jon's dramatic withdrawal from filming two months ago. But this initial image is clearly a statement -- a jarring one -- and we hear it loud and clear. Our usual, carte blanche entry into this family's home has been revoked. And it's Jon who has revoked it.

Jon and Kate didn't reunite for a final interview. Filmed separately, the camera cuts back and forth between them. Here's Kate on a white loveseat, poised, cross-legged and neatly dressed. And here's Jon, in a gray concert T-shirt and faded jeans, reclining on a bachelor-like, brown leather chair. The juxtaposition is striking.

Early on, Kate acknowledges that some people think she and Jon are in the same boat. She corrects that notion. "Actually, the truth is, I'm in a completely different boat, going in a completely different direction," she says. "And my heart, and my choices, and my end goal have not changed … I want the best for my kids."

Jon reminds us about the freedom he lost by marrying at 22 and having eight children by 27. "I just did kids my whole twenties," he says. Now, living part time in New York City and referencing his girlfriend, he says, "I've got the best of both worlds … When I get sick of the city and all of the press and the media, I go back to my country place and I'm chill." He also admits he's made some mistakes in the last several months. "I gotta stop being a kid," he says. "I gotta grow up one day and take initiative and be a man." Perhaps it's the way the episode is edited (TLC is no friend to Jon right now, battling him in court, after all), but it's Kate who appears to be the grown-up here.

In her solitary interviews, Kate expresses regret about ending the show ("I feel like it's been taken from us") and the marriage ("I never wanted him to be absent"). But she also seems dejectedly resigned to the new reality between them, and she gives the impression that she is concentrating on the kids. "They don't know about [his] girlfriends," she says. "That's too warped for them right now, too unhealthy …They're learning what it's like to be an adult by watching us, and that's the last thing I want them to know."

As the rest of the episode plays out, we see what life is like for the Gosselin kids, going forward as children of divorce. Parenting alone, Jon loses his temper with Cara and the ever-saucy Mady. (The last straw is Mady's comment: "I like stuff that we do with Mommy.") Without Kate to help discipline or diffuse the situation, Jon reacts by leaving the twins home with a babysitter while the sextuplets visit the fire station.

Once there, Jon mans a lemonade stand to raise money for the station, leaving the kids to stand around, bored. Finally, the volunteer firefighters step in and offer to help keep the kids busy. Trying on fire hats, climbing on the truck, the Gosselin children seem happy. But we watch, knowing the heart palpitations this will cause Kate when she discovers that Jon was busy selling lemonade. Do the volunteers continually count heads and keep everybody from running in the street?

The farm visit, anchored by Kate, is most like old times. The children, now five, are adorable as ever. "I wish I could be a cow, so I could just chew away," says Aaden. "It's looks like they're waving goodbye with their tails!" says Alexis. Colin refers to the cow's utter as "his privacy," and Aaden corrects him. "That's his milker," he says. Still precious.

But watching the kids be kids (feeding calves, playing with kittens) is a different experience than it used to be, and not just because the paparazzi now follow them everywhere. Sadly, the overall effect of the show is shaped by everything you would rather not know about their tabloid-baiting parents. (News from just a few days ago: During an arbitration hearing, Jon agreed to give Kate primary custody of the kids.)

Naturally, the show ends with a montage of clips from over the years, set to an upbeat song. We see the warp speed with which the kids have grown from babies to five year olds. That fact alone is heart-wrenching enough -- why do kids grow so darn fast? -- but the final message is even sadder. These times together as a family are now over. They will have more good times, of course, but they will be in separate boats.

Read about why Kate was so relatable as a mom. 

Did you find the finale of Jon & Kate Plus 8 sad or were you ready for the show to go? Chime in below!

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