05/26/2009 at 07:40 AM EDT
With mounting pressure on their marriage
and amid intensifying media attention, Jon and Kate Gosselin got back to work on Monday when their hit show, Jon & Kate Plus Eight
, returned to TLC for its season five premiere.
The Gosselins put aside their problems (most of the time) to make sure their 5-year-old sextuplets had a birthday complete with piñatas, cake, ice cream and, yes, paparazzi (or "P-people", as Kate tells the kids to call them). Here's how we rated the show – on a scale of 1 to 8.
Kid Cuteness: 8
Still the stars of the show. Special props go to the twins, Madelyn and Cara, for helping their mom put together gift bags for the party, and to Joel, Leah and Alexis (who displayed a sweet interest in one of the young male guests) for thanking Kate for their birthday fest. But Collin takes the peanut butter-frosted cake for his comic mini-meltdowns: First, he lost a green helium-filled balloon, and then got roughed up while diving for candy beneath the Backyardigans
piñata. The Birthday Party: 7
Despite great odds, it was a success. Cold weather, a swarm of insects, lurking paparazzi – and Jon's decision to take a weekend off, leaving Kate with all the planning – didn't spoil the sextuplets' bash. The birthday boys and girls bounced in an inflated castle and, in a highlight of the afternoon, watched a magician produce a real live bunny from thin air. But the biggest treat, for the kids and their parents, was that they got to invite their friends from school for the first time.
Parenting Skills: 6
The strains were obvious. Except for a moment at the party when it looked like Kate and Jon weren't speaking, the Gosselins kept their marital mess from the kids. Speaking directly to the camera after the party, Kate let her fears show. "This possibly could be, maybe, I don't know, our last family picture," she said of the group portrait taken at the party.
Keeping House: 5
With all the party planning and talk about the marriage, the hour-plus premiere episode left little time to show Kate scrubbing floors and wiping down the kitchen. She did get party decorations up at a chilly park and, with Jon's help, threw together the family's first barbecue in their new home.
Jon's Side of the Story: 6
"I never cheated on Kate and that's the way it is," Jon said, defending himself against allegations
that he was unfaithful. He also said he was sorry. "I'd like to apologize to my family for my actions. Like I said, it was wrong place, wrong time," he said. "I should have thought about more what I did and where I was going." But then he also took off to an unexplained destination during the party prep.
Kate's Side of the Story: 7
Fierce, yet vulnerable, Kate defended herself against reports she had a relationship with her bodyguard
. "The thing that makes me the maddest ... I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing – I'm working and traveling," she said. "Yes, I take security. Yes, I travel here there and everywhere because that's my job. And I'll be darned if they're going to take me down for that."
Will This Marriage Survive?: 5
Brutally honest, the Gosselins acknowledged they don't know what the future holds. "I wish I knew," Kate said when asked where they stand as a couple. But they both agreed they'll be there for their kids. "We will always love our kids," Jon said. "We will come together for our kids." Will the Jon and Kate make it (take our poll here
)? Stay tuned!