Post Mortems
Ray Donovan Season 5 Premiere

Ray Donovan Boss Explains That 'Painful' Premiere Twist: 'I Didn't Personally Want to Do It'

The following story contains gargantuan spoilers from Ray Donovan‘s fifth-season premiere — proceed at your own peril.

Ray Donovan kicked off its fifth season on Sunday with a twist that was as game-changey as it was heartbreaking: Abby is no longer among the living. 

Early into the time-tripping episode, it was revealed that Paula Malcomson’s cancer-battling matriarch passed away during the intervening 10 months between seasons. The tragedy sent her surviving kin on dramatically divergent new paths, with son Connor enrolling in military school, daughter Bridget fleeing to Chicago presumably in search of closure (in the form of a boy whose connection to her late mother remains something of a mystery) and widower Ray attending court-ordered therapy sessions as penance for a violent, grief-fueled altercation involving his dad and brothers.

Below, showrunner David Hollander reveals when and why he decided to kill off his leading lady, and sheds light on how this season’s twisty timeline will ensure Malcomson — and Abby — get the sendoff they both richly deserve.

TVLINE | When did you decide that Abby would die?
Between Seasons 4 and 5.

TVLINE | Why did you decide to kill her off?
It was a narrative decision. It was about finding the best story to tell to get deeper into the character of Ray. And I thought it would give the show a chance to explore how important she is in a way that we’ve never been able to do.

TVLINE | So by killing Abby, she can reach her true potential?
One hundred percent. And because of the non-linear way the story is structured, she is the lead this year in many ways. She and Ray share that.

TVLINE | So Paula will remain a big part of the show throughout the season? She remains a series regular and not a recurring guest star?
That’s right. She is absolutely integral to the show this year.

TVLINE | This is Abby’s farewell season, though, right? If the show gets renewed, it’s not like Paula will continue to play an integral role via flashbacks, right?
That is very fair to say.

TVLINE | What was Paula’s reaction when you told her this was happening?
It’s always painful. It’s painful because we’re a family, and it’s painful because we care deeply about each other as artists. So initially it was hard for everybody, including myself. It was a compelling thing to do creatively, but I didn’t personally want to do it. However, the story always comes first. We don’t make the show to keep everyone around all of the time. We’re telling a grand story that’s bigger than we are. But it’s hard. Paul is an incredibly talented actor and one of my favorite people. And, to her credit, she got a hold [of the material] and turned in a performance that’s just extraordinary.

TVLINE | Did you get any pushback from anyone at first? Showtime? Liev Schreiber? Paula herself? Did anyone attempt to talk you out of it?

TVLINE | How much time has lapsed between seasons?
About 10 months.

TVLINE | Are you intentionally creating an air of mystery surrounding the circumstances of her death? At first I assumed her cancer had returned, but then she was in that car accident with Ray, which she appeared to walk away from…
There’s mystery in the sense of us telling the story in a non-linear way. It’s not so much a sleight of hand, it’s more of us saying to the audience, “There’s a much bigger story here than you think.” And we’re spending a lot of time this season devoted to it.

TVLINE | The half-naked girl Ray swerved to avoid hitting — safe to say she becomes integral to the present-day storyline?
Yes. She is the centerpiece of the Hollywood story.

TVLINE | Bridget’s new friend Smitty — I assume we’ll gradually learn what his tie to Abby is? We know there’s a Sloan Kettering connection, but that’s about it.
Yes, they know each other from Sloan Kettering. The story of Smitty and Bridget is another integral piece of what happened to Abby. There’s nothing in that first hour that isn’t a beginning, or the middle or the end of a very large story that will play out over the course of the year.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Vee Bee says:

    Um. Wow. That’s … that’s about all I’ve got until I wrap my brain around this.That might take awhile.

    • Ray says:

      It was either she die or become Ray’s enemy. She has been built as to strong a character to keep getting cheated on and all the lying was getting crazy. She was starting to be the type that stays around because of time served more than love.

    • Sacile says:

      abby is alive…. she is really bunjy girl but with a fake face

    • CitizenX says:

      Me too. Confused as hell. If she had to die it shouldn’t be some badly wrought mystery. I was looking forward to a STRONG female character supporting Ray as he recovered from the previous setbacks and faced increasingly harder challenges in his life. That to me would have been much more compelling.

      • SHWZ says:

        I thought so too. He is so complex, adding a new romance to his character is just uncomfortable. It is almost a side no one wants to see, because if he moves on it will still be like him cheating in her.

  2. Joanne says:

    Did not like first episode
    Did not like it
    Why doesn’t bungy have any money
    What happened in Nevada
    Liked Abby shhould not have died her off
    Had all kinds of flashbacks

    • Walter Freeman says:

      My guess is Terry helped Abby commit suicide.

    • Jazzyros says:

      I feel the same…About Abby part done away with. Nothing about this Episode had that Ray Donovan feel. It was boring, everyone seemed out of place. The editing was horrible. So many great things could have been done with her character…..But not death.

      • Sallie says:

        Agree it was boring, hope it gets better everything seemed odd.I even re-watched the last episode of season 4 to see if I had missed something. But killing off Abby wrong move.

        • james says:

          I must admit that’s the feeling I had. Like I had missed something. They aren’t going to reveal everything in the first episode, so we will find out all the answers in time. Abby is a massive part of the show and I cant help but feel if they were going to kill her off it should have been nearer the end of the series

    • Monteo says:

      The first episode was horrible. It was like a different show. I will give it a second chance. If it’s as bad as the premier, I will no longer watch.
      Ray Donovan was my FAVORITE show. Now it stinks!

      • Matt Beauchamp says:

        AMEN. It sucked. So did episode 2. I’m done. Boring.

      • Janice says:

        Abby was one of the most annoying characters in all TV. Please have her die and go away completely. The endless flashbacks are awful. The whole Donovan family are a distraction. Dump the kids too. The Mexican wrestling sub plot with Bunchy is ridiculous. Let’s get back to Ray the fixer and womanizer.

  3. Domenick S Reda says:

    Surprising, sad episode. The start of season 5 feels so much different than any of the past ones. The family is disjointed. Many questions will be answered in future episodes. Any predictions now would be hypothesis.

  4. marie says:

    That was not the right say to go by killing Abby, lost a fan … not watching the show anymkre…I’m done …. bad move!

    • Israel says:

      Same here. Abby was a unique character. Made the show special. Lost a fan.

      • Steini Pe says:

        You guys are idiots. She will remain a part of the show throughout 5th season which could be the last who knows. Dexter lasted 5 season. Its good to end it while its good.. She will be in a big story arch this season. I cannot wait!

        • db says:

          Some would say they should have ended it after 5 but Dexter lasted 8 seasons.

          • Rob says:

            Dexter, great show. I caught on to it after it’s last season. I was told when I was on season ,5 how horrible the ending was. Felt cheated, stopped watching mid Fifth season.

    • Billy Bob Johnson says:

      AFTER this season, right? She’s going to be in the entire season this year.

    • Mary says:

      It’s going to get deep from her….Abby dying is going to bring a lot to the surface.
      I think the kid the Bridgette met is possibly a 1/2 brother.
      We are going to learn a lot with Abby’s death.
      Stay tuned.

      • JOHN says:

        Abby is an emotionally intense member of the Donovan family and will be missed.
        Paula Malcomson is a great actress.

        • Ellie says:

          Yes, I cried so many time watching this episode. It looks like a very intense and sad season. Abby is my favorite character, along with Ray. I am sad she died.

      • Ellie says:

        I don’t think she would be naked in a tub with him (as it showed in next weeks preview) if they were half siblings. I think he was meant to get an organ donated by her, perhaps?

        • Ellie says:

          I was replying to the person guessing that Smitty might be Bridget’s half brother. I hope not. They were in the tub together which would be gross if they are siblings. Besides, the show already played that storyline (with Hector and Marisol) last season. I can’t see the writers bringing that storyline in with Bridget. I hope not anyway.

        • Jazzyros says:

          Yeah, I thought he received some organ from Abby, also. Bridget is being reckless again.

          • That’s what thought about the organ donation. Then in the clip of the next episode Bridgette ask the kid about going to court. I think she’s going to kill him and Ray will have to clean it up!

          • SHWZ says:

            Supposed to, what ever ii was did not happen, because he was sick or something. Maybe it was bone marrow.

        • Jazzyros says:

          I thought this New season, would show Abby evolving and growing, from her new found truths. Her killing someone in self defense. Her over coming her breast cancer issue. Coming to the realization of what Ray does and how it effects the family. Ray’s in ability to be honest with her. So many good episodes from that and still Ray doing Ray.

    • Zor Allebas says:

      I felt they killed off the strongest character Abby The Matriarch. Ray is nothing without her. Just murder and mayhem now. Susan Sarandon won’t even be able to pull off the new strongman in the series. Don’t ever get shut out. I felt really disappointed in the direction the show took.. Also as a breast cancer survivor, this is a dark turn of events. You know it will be the cancer that kills her after a traumatic car accident. Come on this is a repeat of the Nashville character Rayna James. Do something better hollywood. I could write a better script. Maybe Paula was sick of playing Abby and wanted out of the show.

  5. Cathy says:

    Do not want abby to die ! That sucks!

  6. marie says:

    I couldn’t wait for tonight and it finally came. Very very disappointed, Abby should have never been killed off. She was ghe glue that held that family together. She stood by Ray no matter what. Abby and Ray were a team no matter their ups and downs. This show made me sick to my stomach. I will not watch it anymore … BAD move! Why???

    • Linda says:

      I totally agree! I think there is a twist in here somewhere since Abby said she would want to travel back in time. She is such an integral part of the show. I’m just so sad.

      • Chris Johnson says:

        The name of the show is Ray Donovan, not Abby Donovan. They also explain their reasons above. Does it suck yes but just like real life people die, people evolve. It brought a different dynamic to mix in with the usual story line. The Ray gets a job, Ray cheats, Abby is mad was getting to routine, predictable, and boring. Smart move by the writers, it’s called a plot twist. Also with all the dirty Ray and his dad has done I’m surprised it’s only her dead. Great writing I just hate I’ll have to wait 11 episodes to find out how it happened.

    • Brian says:

      I also hate that she died. As messed up as their marriage was, she helped bring a balance to Ray’s character. And loved how she was always there to help his brothers.

  7. Linda says:

    Please tell us that it’s not true! Abby said to Ray if she could choose anything that she would choose to travel back in time. I’m hoping hoping hoping that this is what’s going on. Can’t imagine this show without Abby, and I have never missed an episode.

    • marie says:

      She is supposed to be in the show the entire season, but all flashbacks and Ray thinking about her. Maybe there eill be another twist and sbe’ll be alive! Please let that be it! I don’t like this, I feel sick!

      • Pete says:

        Get over it. It’s a TV show. If you get sick over that, you need a real life.

        • Domenick S Reda says:

          They won’t bring her “back to life”
          The show would lose credibility
          Google “‘Dallas’ jumps the shark”

        • Mary says:

          Lol Pete

        • Ellie says:

          Eff you! Everyone feels differently. Saying “get over it” and that “if you get sick because Abby died, you need a real life” is simply wrong. Just because people react differently than you doesn’t mean you should same them by saying “you need a real life”. Everyone on this planet does have their own real life. You’re a total jerk. Bet you’re a good friend to have….NOT!!!!

  8. marie says:

    I thought Ray was going to wake up from a dream at the end of the show and Abby was going to be alive! Don’t want to believe this! Don’t like this move at all!

  9. Sharon says:

    I was so confused because I have followed every season and thought why did she die, did she die, how did she die. I rewound to see if I. Issued something. So now the storyline will let us in on it,

  10. Crystal says:

    I’m truly disappointed but i understand it’s a show and time must move on and you gotta keep it moving and interesting but it still stings that’s my Donovan Family and I don’t like it and there have been so many women for Ray already Abby deserved to to be there until the end come on one for us the women with cancer (I know it’s a story)we deserve to be standing in the end even if no one else is

  11. Gypsy Spiderman says:

    Heartbreaker on Ray Donovan show🤣

  12. Lydia Gray says:

    I’m a true fan of the show but tonight was so confusing and disturbing whoever thought of this bright idea needs to be fired. You need to bring Abby and the son back or the show will not be number one in the ratings

  13. Perri Morais says:

    I was very confused I even went back to the finale to see if I missed something why did you kill off Abby. I will keep watching because I’m a big fan of Liev but I was so disappointed Abiut Abby. The flashbacks was driving me nuts. I guess some how it will tie in to future episodes.

  14. Susann m chartrand says:

    U though it was boring I love ray donavon He’s great. But toghter abbey n ray are awesome toghter. This was a bad move. Not happy

  15. Tina Smith says:

    First you add immensely disliked Susan Sarandon and now you kill Abby!!! I may not continue watching this show which I truly loved.

    • LT says:

      Immensely disliked? Speak for yourself.

      • Carl Beasra says:

        She has great rack for an old lady but I hate her politix.

        • Ellie says:

          Me too. Susan Sarandon tries to push her political agenda to everyone just because her job is actress! I hate that “Hollywood” thinks they are so important that they think its ok to school the general public and their fans with their political opinions. I.E.: Meryl Streep, Leo DiCaprio, SNL, etc etc etc.

          • StudioTodd says:

            Don’t forget that 2 of the favorite presidents of your kind have come from the “Hollywood” community. You only hate it when the actors have the nerve to express an opinion that is different from yours.

  16. Beezer says:

    Never kill off a beloved main character unless the show is GOT

  17. Mary A Sanneman says:

    Abby was a very important central character in Ray Donovan. I always looked forward to seeing her strength and her way of handling all the problems the Donovans constantly brought to her life. I always wanted Ray to appreciate her and be loving and faithful to her. That being said I am truly sad to see her go, and I will truly miss her.

    • Trish says:

      I agree, but with Abby gone I think it’s going to give her the recognition she deserves. Ray going to therapy is something he would never had done on his own… being mandated is going to really now open up his damaged life. Look how Abby set up Mickey moving into the house…watching Mickey and Ray living together is so not what you thought would happen, yet there he and ray are, together alone and with Abby’s dog. I think ray living with Mickey is actually kinda healing because their past together was so messed up and maybe Mickey is finally going to be that father to him he so missed out on. It sucks they killed her off…. but now Ray is forced to face his demons now! Can’t wait for this season!

  18. Mary C says:

    I’m not crazy about the mystery. Abby is a very important character and beloved. I don’t like having to guess what happened to her. I don’t like how it slowly is revealed that she’s gone. I’m not happy at all with this episode and the direction the show is going without Abby in it.

  19. Nelson says:

    Noooooo, whyyyyy!!!!!!

    I hate ho they have done this, its like i cant even grieve Abby

  20. Mar says:

    I am literally feeling a sense of loss and mourning over Abby’s passing. So sad and very unexpected.

  21. Eileen Lion says:

    Episode one season five definitely delivered a few punches. It’s always great to see Ray He carries the show no matter what. Disappointed to see Susan Sarandon. Over rated and boring actress

  22. Maggie says:

    The Ray Donovan première left me aching to know:
    1. How did Abby die?
    2. When did Terry have his surgery?
    3. What happened in Nevada?
    4. What is Smitty’s involvement?
    I don’t know how I can wait for the answers!!!

    • brad lee says:

      1) Of breast cancer
      2) In the 10 mo. between seasons
      3) Don’t know
      4) Don’t know

    • Kim says:

      I think Ray did something to get Smitty’s spot in the trial for Abby. Somehow he got the kid knocked out of his spot so Abby could be in the trial. It’s classic Ray. Bridget called Ray and said she found the kid and hung up. She didn’t seem too pleased with Ray.

    • Sadie says:

      Maggie, I am having the same feelings! I loved the character of Abby and her strong will. I was totally in shock last night & have re-watched the tape over twice this morning. Totally confused! I will not stop watching the series though!

  23. Jeff A says:

    While many of you are disappointed with the episode, I fright it was awesome. Sad? yes, but it sure gave a topic to the “water cooler” talk on Monday

  24. Rosemary says:

    Very poor season premier. Had to google to confirm what I thought happened. Hate those kind of plots!!! Should not have killed Abby off. And not knowing how. We loved her

    • Donna Malkin says:

      The tension between ray’ s wanting to be good and his career and draw to evil is lost with Abby’s demise and if there were no financial contract disputes behind the scenes it was short sighted and a dimension has been lost. Perhaps the writer’s never realized what was special in the first place.

  25. Rhonda Lucas says:

    Love Abby she’s so part of the show, please some how bring her back. Now matter what you have coming up something will always be missing with out her, the show is my favorite and I know ray is complexed (and gorgeous ) . I was very disappointed in the first show of season 5 , due to the fact abby’s gone 😓

  26. Bill says:

    I’m thinking she committed suicide to be an organ donor for the kid since that is an integral part of the season…

  27. Carol says:

    Very disappointed! He stinks without her. Finished watching but done with this show. She was the backbone of that family. The rest of them are screwed up people.

    • Trish says:

      Ray was screwed up before Abby fell in love with him. Her dying is just another way to show how tormented and messed up his life is…. abby is yet another woman important to the donovan men and is gone. If anyone deserves love it’s poor Terry! He had been shafted the most!

  28. Sharon says:

    How could you take our Abby!!!

  29. Carla says:

    It sucks that you killed off Abby, but, if it’s telling a much bigger picture and she will still be a part of it…that would be great…because Abby and Ray were just starting to fall in love all over again

  30. TW says:

    I think the car accident sent her to the hospital where they discovered her cancer had returned/spread. She was trying to participate in a clinical trial, but somehow that kid Schmitty, got her spot. Whether by lying or some other means. As a result Abby passed away. Bridget somehow knew something was fishy so she tracked him down to get answers/revenge.

  31. sante diantoni says:

    everybody had an abby secret–too much to develop in 40 min.–keep trying

  32. T-Nasty says:

    It wasn’t something I’d wanted…bit it made the storyline authentic, & painful.
    Ray is now haunted by the woman he truly loved. I’m assuming the new story will become increasingly conveluted, as ray grieves.
    This IS great entertainment. Its worth the wait.

  33. Hotwheels1714 says:

    My fiancée and I are no longer watching the show. It’s just stupid. I can see about getting to understand Ray more at a deeper level. There are other ways to make that happen. Plus, she passed away within ten months of stage 0 breast cancer. Just dumb. I’m guessing that terry went to vegas with Mickey and Bunchy and got busted. I’m sure the kid Bridget met will probably not be in the show long. Wish terry would get back with Maureen, I hope he took Damon in. Hoping that this was ray in a therapist office getting hypnotized or something. I watched the show until my fiancée came home. As soon as he heard Abby died he walked away from the tv. Later he said no more ray Donovan and I agreed. Hope they bring her back.

  34. Marilyn says:

    Why couldn’t Abby have had chemo and been in remission. Very shocking! One of my very favorite series. Another route would have been as entertaining. Unhappy viewer!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Cesar Pinedo says:

    I love this show, and love is an understatement. Ray, Micky and the brothers are the show.

    I’m glad, ecstatic and elated that Abby is gone.
    Connor is still a useless kid of a character.
    Bridget is a easy lay to any guy that gives her attention and she needs to die too.

    • Bobbi says:

      Cesar…I’m sure you didn’t mean what you just said…entirely…
      I can understand why you said the things you said…but the minor characters are important to any good television show.

  36. Barbara Engel says:

    You can’t just eliminate a main character!!!!! Ahhhhh. My husband is devistated. Ok, me too. ABBY!!!!!!

  37. James Hall says:

    After four years I was/am really sick of the family phone calls interrupting Ray’s work. The best action has always been work related and not the whiny family drama. With Abby at least their will be one less whiny crying needy family member desperately needing Ray to immediately stop whatever dangerous and interesting work he’s must do right now to go handhold another helpless tormented Donovan family member. No real breadwinner you or I know would ever put up with another goddam family problem interrupting work every 15 minutes. Gawd I hope the Abby flashbacks end soon so Ray can do some goddam work.

  38. Robin says:

    can anyone tell me did Abby know he was a hitman?/ what he did for a living

  39. JS says:

    Too may Wizard of Oz References. Will see if Ray wakes from his alternate reality. Ray and the kids aren’t doing too good but everybody else seems to be doing better. Ray is Dorthy. Ray is probably in a coma from the car crash. Just seems to be stunt writing. Ray Donovan doesn’t need stunt writing. I guess we will see. I could be wrong but it just seems to weird.

    • Hotwheels1714 says:

      That’s a good idea, coma. I suggested hypnotized. That would be a good idea and bring Abby back. We could see what happened during the ten months.

  40. James Rogers says:

    As always Ray Donovan captivates with it’s story line there is always a twist you don’t see coming and this season’s start was just that. It’s sad that Abby is gone her character was the glue that held the Donovan’s together and it was obvious to see the effect it is having on everyone through out the episode. Even with the loss of Abby I think this season will be one of the best with all the new directions being taken and I hope it will continue on.

  41. Minica says:

    Not happy with this first episode. Really was hoping for a twist and that Abby was not dead but when off to seek treatment. Can’t imagine the show without her. Will watch until I get bored😏😏

  42. Eric says:

    Should have killed Conor instead. Nobody likes him. Abby is too perfect a character.

  43. Buddy says:

    Do not like the confusing 9 month loss of reality and continuity between season 4 and season 5. If you never saw the series it may seem to be logical, yet missing 9 months is illogical after 4 seasons of watching. Thumbs down to season 5, a bad begining.

  44. Bobby says:

    As per your article, Bridget didn’t flee to Chicago.

    She’s on the F train in the borough of Brooklyn in New York…

    You can clearly see the Freedom Tower in the Manhattan skyline.

    • Ellie says:

      Exactly, Bobby! And Sloan Kettering is in NY, not Chicago.

      • Trish says:

        Agree…. I am a New Yorker and Sloan Kettering is the most well known cancer institute in NY. Abby came there because they are one of the best cancer institutes in the USA. The storyline is going in the direction that Sloan Kettering took care of her…. I don’t think cancer killed Abby.

        • Melly says:

          I agree. I think she committed suicide. I am obviously in the minority though, as I feel that Abby needed to go. She was stifling Ray. He will’become’ now.

    • Brian says:

      And probably attending NYU. She announced her acceptance there in Season 4.

    • Ken says:

      And that station is Smith & 9th Street (Redhook Bklyn)

  45. TV Gord says:

    That was a trippy ride. I liked it. I’m anxious to see where the season goes. I’m along for the ride, wherever it takes us.

  46. Mary says:

    I love Abby bring her back she is such a good mom

  47. Carolyn Dunaway says:

    I had read that this was the last season for the show. I really can’t figure out what Abby died from (they seem to be setting up for something besides cancer). She left the gift for for Terry’s girlfriend and I’m pretty sure that she was an organ donor for Smitty, that’s why Bridget tracked him down. I have watched from the beginning and will continue to watch.

    • Bobby says:

      I believe it will be revealed that she had a CT scan after the car accident due to the contusion she suffered and they found that her breast cancer metastasized to her brain.

  48. Daniel says:

    Hm, I don’t believe this ‘it-was-a-creative-decision’ explanation. TVline asked a very good and straight question: “What was Paula’s reaction when you told her this was happening?” on which Hollander talked about creativity and storyline and that it wasn’t basicly his whish to do it “but” (you know, another one of these “but” answers that try to justify an otherwise nonsensical decision) – and he closes with a lot of praise for Malcomson. Or in other words: He didn’t answer the question and he surely have his reasons of saying a lot but answering nothing. It’s just speculation, but I suspect something happened – either on Hollanders side or on Malcomson’s side, or something in between; something that lead to a break from the show for Malcomson.

    As someone said before me in this comments thread: Exploring the deeper depths of Rays character could have been establised in any other way; it’s not a plausible reason for this elimination of a beloved lead character. Killing off Abby in the show is extremly risky (because it most definitelly will anger a lot of fans), a total break with basic continutiy and as a creative decision it makes no sense.

    As I speculated above: I suspect something happened that made Malcomson break up with the show and they had to make up for it…

    … the season 5 premiere episode is the result (for the better or the worse depends on your personal preferences in regard to this show).

    • Pete-J says:

      Ratings. Her storyline & the kids were dragging the chain by the end of Season 3. There was enough of us fans begging for there arcs to be less! You are correct Daniel – actually you said better than I did – I put his reply into the nonsense bin.

  49. daisy says:

    wtf ray? the writers and director of this show should be canned asap. not happy at all that they killed off abby . they’ve ruined the show with this half ass look at me i’m creative b.s. . is it just me or does it appear most of what is coming out of hollywood the last few years is just canned crap . you’d think after 100 years of the movie biz hollywood would produce better quality works of film art not worse .

  50. I wish they would have killed off the daughter instead. She’s so insufferable and obnoxious.