Parenthood S05E22: “The Pontiac”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “addressing the big tomato in the room.”

Let’s face it: Parenthood is a perennial bubble show.  Thankfully, its creator, Jason Katims, goes out of his way to wrap up each season with tangible closure; after all, its solid-but-unspectacular ratings could have spelled cancellation on any number of occasions.   The fact that Katims treats each season finale as a potential series finale leaves  us with a sense that–should this be the end–we would feel satisfied.  Sure, dangling plot threads tantalize for future seasons, but each year, we find the majority of the ongoing narratives at least intimating at some kind of definitive resolution.

Fortunately for us, this year proved no different because this ep had it all.  Couples reunited!  Huge life changes transpired!  Crosby and Adam mattress-tobogined down some stairs!  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love everything about the finale (Joel had to stick it to me one last time before the credits rolled, didn’t he?), but the episode’s clear intention, leaving its loyal audience satisfied, helped me overlook some of the more problematic developments.  After all, Parenthood remains my TV blind spot; I’ll never not love this damn show.  I’m sorry I’m not sorry: it just makes me feel all of the feels!

Well what do you say, shall we dive in one final time, for old time’s sake?


Haddie and Lauren

Fantastic news!  Haddie did not fall down a well, meet a clan of CHUDs, and run for mayor of their underground society never to be heard from again!  Actually, she’s been at college this whole time.  Ha!  Classic Haddie!  Turns out, she vanished from the face of the earth because she’s been struggling with her sexuality.  I’m not sure about you, but this was not such a surprising development; I’m no sleuth, but even I was all, “Wait a tick, Missy” when she introduced the delightful young lady clambering out of the taxi as her “good friend” Lauren.

But then even for those of us denser than Adam,** the truth likely became evident when Haddie and Lauren proceeded to make mouth noises with each other while sitting on Haddie’s bed.  “Oh, they’re together!” you likely exclaimed, reality finally dawning on you.  Of course Max is the one to barge in on this intimate moment and essentially out his sister to Kristina while suit shopping because, as Barney Stinson knows, there ain’t no truth telling party like a custom-tailored truth telling party.

**How sweetly pathetic was Haddie’s attempt to come out to her father in the kitchen?  Dude couldn’t see past his own nose for real, just kept droning on about how college friends are the best kind of lifelong friends, blah blah blah.  Such a great, understated scene.  Kitchens were important for Adam throughout this process because it finally occurs to him what Lauren really means when she tells him how much she loves Haddie.  It gave Adam some real food for thought, huh? (#CulinaryPuns)

Inevitably, of course, Haddie’s “very Berkley” parents are supportive and wonderful when she finally does tell them that she is in love with Lauren, and as an added treat we get a vintage Kristina-Haddie bedroom chit chat.  On the one hand, this felt like a fairly abrupt character development for someone who’s been MIA for awhile now.  Even though I do like how Haddie’s coming out wasn’t the “big event” of the episode, I still can’t shake the feeling that this could have been handled with a tad more subtlety and patience.

Still, that brief adorable moment between Haddie and Lauren hanging up lights, followed by Kristina’s happy-my-daughter’s-happy smile?  Perfect.


Hank and Sarah 

It’s time to address the tomato in the room: Hank is totes the best!  I mean, he even stayed overnight in San Diego just to make sure Sarah and Amber were hanging in there.  Aww, shucks, Hank, you big softie you.  It seems perfect that what finally draws Sarah back to him, despite her initial admitted recalcitrance,*** stems from his interaction with Amber; for Sarah, it makes sense that a man who takes an interest in her kids would turn her crank.  She’s totally DILFing all over the place, right?

***What a real, honest conversation during Hank’s car ride home with Sarah, am I right?  How refreshing to see adults acting like adults on television.  You listening, every Chuck Lorre show ever?

I’m not sure anyone found themselves hornswoggled (#BringingItBack) by this turn of events, but YAY!  Not much else to report, but kudos to Parenthood for making Sarah’s journey back to Hank last for the duration of the season; it felt neither rushed nor contrived, thanks to a pair of utterly spectacular performances from Lauren Graham and Ray Romano.  On the heels of that iconic kiss in the photography studio, I’m just going to throw it out there: the thought of Hank becoming a full-fledged member of the Braverman clan delights me to my very core.  Oh man, I think I’m coming down with something…I hope I’m not catching…The fever!

Cue “Burning Down the House” and grab your dancing shoes, Hank.  I love where this is headed!


Julia and Joel

Parenthood has a unique skill: it can sell implausibility with aplomb by encasing it in heart-melting emotions.  Last year, Max defied logic by becoming Student Council President, but who cared?  I was too busy bawling my eyes out to question it.  This time, the unlikely turn of events had a similar emotional heft: Victor wins an essay contest.  Never mind that the boy could barely read early in the season, but sure because aww.  If you didn’t melt into a watery puddle of tears when Victor read his essay about the metaphorical significance of building the Pontiac with Zeek, then you sir or madam have no heart and should donate your heartless body to science.  So there!

Despite this considerable narrative leap, I dug how Victor’s academic success brings Joel and Julia closer together, a nice circular touch since the issue of holding him back was one of the first wedges in their marriage earlier in the season.

After a day of sugar comas and near-normalcy, however, Sydney is not ready to say goodbye to Joel and asks him to stay.  In true Sydney fashion, this initial request soon devolves into bratty caterwauling and arm pulling, leaving Joel with little choice but to acquiesce to his daughter’s emotional manipulation.  Ugh.  The.  Worst.  Joel not only sticks around but also creates the lower bun of a Sydney sandwich: lying in bed with his wife and daughter, he recounts the epic tale of Sydney’s birth, or The Day That Joy Died as its known in some Satanist circles.  It becomes clear, however, that such an account means more to him than the power to order Zeek out of the delivery room–as hinted at previously, Joel’s love for his family defines him.

From a storytelling standpoint, I like that the episode refused to end with a huge declaration of recommitment on Joel’s part.**** On the other hand, the fact that he didn’t means that this aggravating storyline could bleed over into next year.  For a show that takes pride in its self-contained seasons, why–for all that is holy–does this plot still linger?  If next season doesn’t find Joel and Julia working toward making their marriage work, I’ll be so mad, you guys.

****Though, admit it, you wanted him to make an eleventh hour appearance at the family dinner, cliches be damned, didn’t you? 

Let’s put this problematic plot behind us, shall we?  You know I love you Parenthood, but one season of this tried my patience.  But a second season?  I might have to pull a Sydney.  And no one wants that.


Elsewhere, Zeek and Camille move out of The Braverman Homestead but not before sharing a sun-dappled dance through their empty home, Crosby comes clean about a grade school birdhouse, Amber buys a pregnancy test (ahem, immaculate conception much?), Ryan plans to return with his mother to the Wyoming town he abhors, and Drew inherits Zeek’s Pontiac***** and drives to Oregon to reciprocate Natalie’s declaration of love .

*****An absolutely excellent resolution for Zeek to pass it on to his grandson, even if he’s the worst mover of the lot.  Maybe now Drew can drive himself to a barber shop and get an actual haircut.  Sorry, Drew, but #ToughLove.

It’s been a mostly excellent season of Parenthood, wouldn’t you say?  Certainly not perfect, but then again what family is?  Even when Sydney makes me want to punch a puppy or Joel acts decidedly un-Joel, this remains one of the best network dramas for a simple reason: even when the bigger overarching plots don’t fully work, there’s no other show on television that depicts the nuanced minutia of life as well as Parenthood. 

If nothing else, that’s got to land us a sixth season.  Thanks for reading!


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Hank: “Here’s some coffee.”

Sarah: “Thanks.”

Hank: “It tastes like pepper and soap.”

– Adam: “Why are you so uncomfortable with your soft side?  It’s a beautiful birdhouse.  Very feminine.”

– Ryan: “This isn’t for you to fix, okay?”

– Hank: “Yeah, I’m sticking around.”   #BestInLawEver

Parenthood S05E21: “I’m Still Here”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “mold free living at its finest.”

I’m going to go on whatever official record there is right now and admit it, right out loud: this episode ranks amongst my all time favorite Parenthood installments.  I mean, this puppy had it all.  Fantastic character pairings!  An awkward Braverman selfie!  Sweet and sour ham balls!  What else could you want from a television episode?  Well if your answer is “quite a bit more than a recipe for sweet and sour ham balls” I don’t blame you, and “I’m Still Here” would respond in kind by providing one emotional gut-punch after another.  Seriously, Parenthood, leave my fragile heart alone.  It is not your personal punching bag.

Well, ladle yourself a bowl of Julia’s harvest stew and pull up a chair.  Let’s get to it!


Hank and Amber

Parenthood doesn’t have to work any harder to convince us that Hank would be an excellent addition to the Braverman clan bc it’s totes obvi already, but this week devoted a considerable amount of its time showing us  how truly indispensable he has become.  I mean, let’s just say it: the man speaks Max.  When he comes bursting into the studio with a frantic Amber chasing after him, vehemently spouting off about her sudden change to his stringent schedule, it’s clear Sarah’s eldest, for all her patience, feels overwhelmed and frustrated.  One overturned lamp later, Hank talks Max down and gets him to do his homework.  If you didn’t go “awwww” and smile, then you–sir or madam–need to see a doctor bc I fear your heart has atrophied and you may or may not be dead.  For me, this scene spelled #HeartMelting.

But Hank would prove himself even more valuable to Amber later on in the episode.  After dropping off Max for another scheduled photography session the next day, she receives a phone call and, outside of his studio, collapses onto the ground.  Rushing to her aid, Hank learns the contents of the phone call: Ryan has been in an accident and languishes in critical condition at a San Diego hospital.  Amber insists on clambering into the car and driving herself, but Hank offers to drive her, seeing she is in no condition to do so herself**.  Now, I’m no cartographer, but traveling from the Bay Area to San Diego ain’t no hop, skip, and a jump away.  Mark this #HeartMelting incident, number two, shall we?

**In the midst of trying to help Amber, Hank never lost track of Max’s needs.  I loved his insistence that Max get himself home, which spoke both to his affinity for the boy as well as his genuine affection, God help him, for all things Braverman.  Just grab your dancing shoes and join the party already, would ya Hank?  I’d love to see his moves at a Spontaneous Braverman Sibling Dance Off.  Please let the happen.

At the hospital, Hank stays with Amber until Sarah arrives.  He stands in such a beautiful contrast to Seth, functioning as a human pillow for Amber while he himself needs to urinate like a prized race horse.  I laughed so hard when Hank tries to flip a magazine up to himself with his foot so as not to wake Amber.  Classic Hank!  Man’s a saint, let’s just say it.  And, from those googly eyes Sarah tossed in Hank’s direction, I ain’t the only who thinking as much.

Despite her conversation with Adam earlier in the episode about the Spectrum standing in the way of a real relationship with Hank, Sarah clearly sees a different side to this lovable curmudgeon.  Look, I’m just saying that if this were middle school, we’d totally be singing “Hank and Sarah sitting in a tree…”


Joel and Crosby

Great use of Joel this week.  Back when the mold plotline began, I didn’t consider that it would serve as the catalyst for Joel’s reintegration into the Braverman clan.  I mean, we’re still not one hundred percent sure that’s where they’re going, but it seems pretty likely.

Last week, Crosby learned that the mold had spread throughout his house and floorboards needed ripping up, so Joel bops by to offer a second opinion.  It turns out Crosby not only has standing water in his crawlspace (not a euphemism) but also a bad case of “getting ripped off.”  Joel suggests Crosby make like a man and hit up the manliest of man stores, Home Depot, and just #DIY already.  Crosby tries to enlist Joel’s help, but he politely declines.

That Pete is the one to remind Joel that he is a family man felt earned and well-played.  She says there’s a reason he spurned her flirtations over the past several months, and it’s because his family means the most to him.  Thanks, Pete!  You’re still sort of the worst, but, ya know, progress!  Before you can say character revitalization, Joel grabs his tool bag, drops by Crosby’s house, and starts bandying about the pronoun “we” in terms of how to fix the floor.  Joel, you’re back!  You’re a human being again!  We’ve missed you so!

In no time, Joel assists in the removal of Crosby’s spores (not a euphemism), and the two are bonding with a beer and cell phone of family videos.  Crosby openly admits to missing Joel, and it’s clear Joel misses this too.  I mean, he asks after Julia for the first time in, like, a dog’s age.  Hurray for common human decency!  In fact, after leaving Crosby’s, Joel drops by his own home and offers to fix the broken dishwasher.  (#Symbolism) Julia took care of that already, but Joel takes the opportunity to ask how she’s feeling about the impending sale of The Braverman Homestead.

They talk like adults.  Joel doesn’t bring up Ed.  It’s a delight.  There seems to be light at the end of this narrative tunnel, and thank God.  Now I only sort of kind of want to knee Joel in the jellybeans!


Kristina and Gwen

With the recently obtained charter in their pockets, Adam, Kristina, Evan, and Julia congregate to look at a possible space for their school.  Talk about an awkward hug between Julia and Evan, am I right?  Very smooth, you two.  Ray Charles could see something going on between them.  Anyway, Kristina falls in love with the place, but there’s a small problem: the city owns the lease.

Evan suggests calling their school The Braverman Academy, but Adam and Kristina don’t want the name going to Max’s head (ha!) so they table that discussion for a later time.

In an episode filled with heart-crushing phone calls, this one takes the cake: Gwen’s sister calls Kristina to insist she come visit her sick friend.  The implications of that are clear; Gwen is dying.  At her bedside and with tears choking her every word, Kristina tells Gwen about the potential new facility.  Gwen’s eyes flutter open, and the two lock stares.  It’s a beautiful moment.

This also strengthens Kristina’s resolve to obtain the lease for that building, as if she’s doing this for Gwen, so she goes to Bob Little (ugh) and tells him to hand it over not because it’s a financially smart thing to do but, for once, it’s the right thing.  Again, a great scene and Monica Potter nailed it.

Later in the episode, Kristina receives another phone call: Gwen has died.  Wracked with severe survivor’s guilt, Kristina breaks down to Adam, wondering if she was alone?  Scared?  She wonders why Gwen had to die when she herself grew healthier and stronger.  It’s a devastating scene that these two pull off masterfully.

But wait.  I hope you’re not out of tears because the waterworks have no intention of stopping just yet!  Kristina later receives a posthumous package from Gwen.  Inside is a symbolic oak tree sapling and a massive endowment for Kristina’s school venture.  And just like that, the school has a name: Gwen Chambers.



Elsewhere, Drew and Natalie finally get together at some kind of Primal Scream event (oh college), Julia confesses to Sarah about sleeping with Evan***, Zeek and Camille continue packing up their home and lives, and Julia and Evan end things before they really start.

***When was the last time you confessed to boinking a PhD student amidst a chit-chat concerning the nuanced preparation of Harvest Stew and Sweet and Sour Ham Balls?  The answer is every Sunday because duh.

This episode accomplished a great deal in Parenthood’s trademark emotional manner.  A wonderful hour of television and a brilliant set-up for what will no doubt prove an excellent season finale next week.  I don’t look forward to a Braverman-less summer, but I can’t wait to see how this mostly fantastic season wraps up.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Kristina: “I wanna say thank you. I don’t think I could have done any of this without your help.  I don’t want to let you go.  I love you.”

– Joel: “Watching you hold a saw like that offends me.”

– Crosby: “You ever want to record an album, you come see me.  It’s on the house.”

Joel: “Finally.”

– Joel: “Zeek Braverman is selling his house.”

Crosby: “Yeah.  It’s like the foreshadowing of the apocalypse.  Raining frogs or the Cubs winning the World Series.  It’s scary.”

Parenthood S05E20: “Cold Feet”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “being lower on the cool-o’meter.”

One of the many qualities I admire about Parenthood is that, although its storytelling is highly serialized, each season contains a definitive beginning, middle, and end.  That’s not to say significant events from previous seasons do not have lingering effects in future years (Kristina’s grueling battle with cancer in the show’s outstanding fourth season continues to motivate her character in interesting ways, for instance), but this show avoids the temptation to leave us with a cliffhanger.  So, with this mostly stellar fifth season drawing to a close and the end standing clearly in sight, we saw Parenthood take meaningful steps toward providing resolution to its myriad narratives this week.

Before we get to the particular developments of the episode, I wanted to pause and share an observation I found this week.  As we hopped from one plot to the next, one phrase continued to recur: “it’s a _________ thing.”  Various characters filled in that blank in different ways.  Ed said his friendship with Julia was a “good” thing; Evan Knight said that Julia dropping by his house (more on that later) was “a Braverman” thing; Hank chalked up his social awkwardness to “an Aspergers” thing.  The repetition of such phraseology does not seem random.  Rather, the many characters, whether of the Braverman dynasty or simply caught in its orbit, are in the midst of challenging their previous senses of self.  The times, they are a’ changing, and Parenthood being Parenthood, that means the Bravermans reside at the epicenter of it all.

Anyhow, enough of this high-falutin’ analytical nonsense.  Let’s get to it!


Zeek and Camille

It seems like Zeek Braverman was not fooling around when he told Millie last week (after his deeply symbolic Oregon-bound quest with Crosby to obtain a rare grille for his car) that he wanted to accept the buyer’s offer for The Braverman Homestead.  Whoa!  This is really happening, and Camille and Zeek sat down and signed the relevant paperwork to prove it.  That must have been an emotional decision for them.  Boy can I relate because once I bought a flat screen television from Best Buy and did not want to say goodbye to my old one.  But it was so worth it in the end (all those pixels!), and I have a sneaking suspicion that our Braverman patriarch and matriarch will find that out soon enough!

We’ve grown accustomed, over the course of the season, to Zeek’s reticence toward the move, so it felt extra meaningful this week when Camille interrupted Zeek boxing up family valuables** and paused to reflect on the various trinkets acquired over the years.  The sentimentality and ensuing uncertainty that spilled out of Camille felt honest, real, and raw.  I loved how Zeek had to become the one to remind Millie of the soundness of their decision.  What a great reversal.

**Excellent system there.  Um, why were the first things designated to the trash box the sweetly sentimental artifacts given to and created by his children?  No house means the systematic murder of pleasant family memories apparently.  Ha!  Classic Zeek!

Okay, I know I’m not the only one who felt like Zeek’s walk-through of the potential new house was more for my personal benefit than Millie’s.  Right?  With each new space, I found myself nodding.  I could see a spontaneous Braverman dance party breaking out in the living room.  And plenty of heartfelt conversations could take place on the back deck overlooking that breath-taking scenic expanse.  It’s a keeper, Millie!  Plus, that scene between the two of them weaving through the house?  The small character moment that Parenthood nails every single time.

What a great new chapter for these two, not to mention an excellent potential plot for season six.  Yes please!


Julia and Evan

Remember when you threw up in your mouth a little bit at the end of last week’s episode watching Julia met up with Ed for a drink?  Oh, that was just me?   My bad.  Anyway, at the beginning of the episode, Julia seemed interested in perhaps pursuing her dalliance with Ed a tad further and sought out Kristina for a bit of friendly advice vis a vis the horizontal mambo.***  Kristina not only reminds her not to do something that Julia might later regret but also asks her to look over some of the charter school paperwork.

***Turns out Kristina has a slight case of straight up horndogging on strangers.  Girl, you bad!

Donning her lawyer hat once again, Julia finds herself energized, eager to immerse herself in that world, even briefly, again–and nothing gives Julia the glow like reams of paperwork.  But you know what?  It really turns Ed’s crank, who compliments her newfound vibrancy.  But, sorry, Ed.  You can replicate Food Network recipes  for molten lava cake all you want.  Julia’s not ready for a relationship, and your awkward across-the-table hand fondling didn’t help the situation!  Julia flat-out bounces with her belly full of home cooking and a parting thanks for helping out with a spreadsheet.  Hurray Julia!

But amidst all this, Mr. Evan Knight and Julia are introduced because of the ongoing Braverman High School project.  Taking the bull by the proverbial horns, Julia schedules a meeting with the local school board to present the charter proposal.  She thinks their case would be stronger if Evan stepped forward as official headmaster, though the PhD candidate and teaching wunderkind seems unsure.  And then, as is a bizarre pattern of behavior with Bravermans, she drops by his house and tries to pressure him further.

There was then the single most EXPLOSIVE Board of Education meeting montage in the history of television.  I mean, it got real.  Really real.  Fade ins, fade outs, passionate declarations, and Evan stepping forward as headmaster.  Needless to say, the Bravermans received their charter because duh.  They then began to chant “Yes we can.”  So, just to catch you up: after it got real, it got real weird.

But before you could say round of lemon drops at an Ashes of Rome record release party, Julia and Evan are bumping uglies.  ALL.  NIGHT.  LONG.  Sorry Ed!  It’s not that Julia didn’t want to be with you; it’s just that she chose to be with someone not like you.  You see the diff, right?  (#ItsNotMeItsYou)

Side bar.  What is this pattern of behavior of Braverman siblings sleeping with people central to Kristina’s and Adam’s lives?  I think we need to start some kind of group.  Seriously, Julia.  You crazy, girl!  If you eff up Braverman High School, my beans will be steamed.  Steamed, I say!


Hank and Sarah

We knew things with Sarah weren’t going well when she dropped by Amber’s apartment with a Cuisanart as a means of coping with Mark’s recent engagement.****

****Though thanks for basically kicking Drew in the rump and forcing him to return to campus.  Dude was straight up peeing his mom’s money away due to his recent bout of what doctors call Emo Bullsh*t.  Seriously, Drew.  Quit being such a dingleberry.

But Sarah’s plot this week had little to do with Mark, which was refreshing.  Instead, it focused mostly on Hank, who continues to visit Dr. Pelican as therapist.  Dr. Pelican tries to explain to Hank how Aspbergers affects long-term relationships after Hank fails to recognize (at first) how his decision to follow his daughter to Minnesota at the end of last season might have hurt Sarah.

How much did you love Hank’s confession to Sarah in her apartment about his propensity for pushing people away.  He doesn’t want to push Sarah away, and he tells her as much.  Now that’s growth!  You can, Hank!

If these two end up back together (and they should because yes) by the end of the season, I will fully endorse that.  How Sarah and Hank have found themselves back to each other has felt true.  Somebody call Captain Ahab because I’m shipping these two hard!

Elsewhere, Crosby’s mold situation has resulted in torn-up floorboards throughout his house, Oliver Rome gets wooed by boy band 4D (lol because obvi parallel) as an opening act, Drew and Roberto (#LaxBro) bury the hatchet following a botched attempt to heal over cashew butter thanks to an entertaining pastime known as Truth Telling and Beer Chugging, and Adam mentions Haddie which is EXCELLENT news because I had considered sending out a search party out of fear that the earth had swallowed her up.

The end’s in sight for this season of this great show.  I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out, but I have trust in Jason Katims and company that the ending–in whatever form it takes–will be incredibly satisfying.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Sarah: “Mark Cyr got engaged.  I’ve been buying some appliances.  Don’t judge.”

– Crosby: “Oliver likes appletinis.  He’s a lady.”

– Julia: “Sorry to barge in on you like this.”

Evan: “No, it’s okay.  Your brother did this to me already.  I’m starting to think it’s a Braverman thing.”

– Drew: “You have terrible taste in music!  My mom makes better CDs than you!”

– Hank: “I don’t want to push you away.  I like being around you too much.”


Parenthood S05E19: “Fraud Alert”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “not living in limbo.”

I have not been shy about extolling the virtues of this fifth season of Parenthood.  Even when it’s been inconsistent (ahem Joel) or implausible (ahem Mayor Kristina), Parenthood never fails to deliver the proverbial goods on the character-based minutia that truly forms the backbone of this series.  I’m not going to address the Joel and Julia stuff this week because frankly I’m tired of it.

All I will mention is the way that this episode opened: a series of Bravermans being interrupted in the midst of bedroom activities: Max interrupting an impending sojourn to “Funky Town” for Adam and Kristina with a declaration never to return to Cedar Knolls again, Zeek’s awkward coitus-interruptus between Jasmine and Crosby to announce his finding of a grille for his car project, and a braying phone awakening Julia about a $468 charge to her credit card (insert sad trombone noise).  She’s alone, it sucks, Joel sucks.  But let’s move on with life here, shall we?  Julia doesn’t want to be stuck in limbo and the way this plotline has been dragged out, I second that motion.  Preach!

Onward and upward, friends.  Let’s dive in and explore what this episode did very well: pairing off characters.


Crosby and Zeek

In the midst of the seventy-two hour timeline the realtor granted Camille and Zeek to accept or decline last week’s offer on the Braverman homestead, Zeek opts to get out of dodge (#CarPuns) with Crosby to acquire what he termed the Golden Fleece of grilles.  Much like the yarns of Greek mythology, this journey ends in the mystical land of Eugene, Oregon in the den of one colorful gentleman named Bernie because yes.

Along the way, it’s all chili dogs and glass-shattering opera (seriously, Zeek, spare us) until Crosby brings up the looming decision about what to do with the house.  However, Zeek, adept at avoidance at all costs, has an acute bout of ATV ADD and adds an unexpected detour.  It was around this time in the episode that I began to get a SNEAKING suspicion that this impromptu road trip might be about more than a grille?  Kidding.  Of course I knew all along because, like you, I am not an idiot.

By the time our road-weary travelers reach Bernie’s garage, things do not go well.  Patience has never been a particularly noteworthy attribute of Zeek’s, and he really lets the Oregonian have it when he feels as if he’s being taken for a ride (#CarPuns2).**

**I don’t know about you, but this might have been a subtle commentary on the state of diplomacy in the world, or perhaps Zeek just struggles in the find art of GTFO of his own way.  Either way.

But then, the surprise of the episode: Zeek confesses that this road trip was not really about the trip at all!  I know, I gasped and clutched my pearls like the proper Southern belle I am, too!  Say it ain’t so!  Seriously, though, he’s feeling old and selling the house is just another step in that inevitable process, so he’s wary of it.  Makes sense.  Thankfully, Crosby knows what to do: piss off his wife by buying a motorcycle to make sure his dad gets the grille at the heretofore agreed upon $450.  Classic Crosby!

Oh yeah, and tells Camille upon his return that he wants to sell the house.  Aren’t healing road trips to find long lost, symbolic car parts just the best?  You don’t have to answer that because obviously yes they are.


Drew, Victor, and Sydney

This week, we took a break from “The Continuing Journey of Drew, the Pothead Balladeer,” which allowed us to remember that he is actually a delightful and interesting character when not ensnared in a love triangle with an emotionally-wrought ex and a manipulative hell beast.  So hurray!

This really proved a fascinating tangent to pursue in terms of fall out over Julia’s separation from Joel.  Drew has handful of babysitting gigs (that are the #MostDepressingWaysToEarnFortyBucksEver), pairing him off with Sydney and Victor***, his two cousins that he claims hate him.  Maybe they’re listening to his original songs?  Sorry, but probably they were.

***Leave it to Sydney to turn a run-of-the-mill sibling spat over a turn at a video game into an indictment of Victor’s difficulties in school.  Seriously, if ever a character were a hemorrhoid on the underside of Satan’s hindquarters, it’s Sydney.  I don’t care for her ‘tude.  No way, no how.

Until this episode, I never considered how Drew and Amber are very much reflections of Sydney and Victor.  What a perfect opportunity to bond over the crowd-pleasing topic of broken homes!  I’m glad to know roller rinks are still able to bring people together.  I guess clumsily navigating around a slick circle for hours on end will just never get old.

Seriously, this was great stuff, maybe my favorite off-shoot of an overall very drawn out and inconsistent plot.  Not only did it rehabilitate Drew’s character but it also provided us with an insight into the way separation and divorce can both split apart and unite those affected by it.  An excellent paradox handled with subtlety and compassion.  More like this please!  (And a WHOLE lot less of Julia dating Ed because ugh).


Sarah and Mark Cyr (HUH?!?!?!?)

Okay, okay.  I buried the lead a bit here.  Yes, Jason Ritter returned this week as English teacher/former fiancee of Sarah Braverman/sporter of unfortunate facial hair Mark Cyr.  It all (re)begins with an incredibly awkward–but perfectly performed–stop-and-chat between him and Amber.  After muddling through the ideal chitchat and pleasantries expected, Mark asks after Sarah and leaves.

In a nice contrast, the scene cuts to Sarah and Hank hanging up a framed copy of the Surf Sport photo that seems to have launched Sarah’s photo career in earnest, now that she and Hank have a follow up gig for some organic skin cream.  The juxtaposition of this editing is clear: Sarah seems perpetually caught between the two men she left.  A deft touch.

But let’s not forget the true victims of Sarah’s artistic success: her neglected tenants, who have been living in LITERAL darkness, adrift in a sea of discarded catalogue.  Who was that lady and why do I want to smack her with one or possibly all of the catalogues?

Amber arrives with news of her run-in with Mark, visibly affecting Hank, who had recently opened up to Sarah about enjoying their time together.****  Before long, Mark calls up, asking to meet face to face for the purpose of relaying big news.

Anyhow, it turns out Mark’s publication in a literary magazine with a circulation of 37 WHOLE PEOPLE wasn’t the sole reason for their meeting.  Also, he’s engaged.  So, there’s that.  What I found amazing is that, after this truth bomb, the two pick up their menus and actually–it seems–have dinner together?  (#BigBowlofAwkward)

****I’m absolutely loving Hank’s continued therapy sessions with Dr. Pelican.  It gives Ray Romano additional chances to shine and more screen time for the best character on the show (imo), so that’s win-win from my perspective!

Great stuff, but nothing worked as well as that sly smile during the photo shoot when Sarah tells Hank about the engagement.  Drop that anchor ’cause I’m shipping these two hard!


Elsewhere, Kristina and Adam disprove of the school’s handling of Max’s field trip incident, Max takes up (deeply symbolic) surfing because #CedarKnollsSucks, Joel has no interest in fixing his marriage, as he feels Julia disrespected him in their marriage (seriously, wtf and get a grip), and…oh hi, Jabbar!  Glad you’re still around.  Where you been, boy?

Another solid episode of Parenthood, but that’s a foregone conclusion.  If we can just wrap up the Julia-Joel saga one way or the other and keep Drew out of Natalie’s orbit, then this last string of episodes will just improve on what’s come before.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Amber: “Common interests?  It’s not E Harmony.  It’s babysitting.”

– Sarah [to Hank]: “Really, you had a negative outlook on something?  Shocker.”

– Crosby: “I’m going to write a bad review on Yelp about this!”

Parenthood S05E18: “The Offer”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “Defcon wake and bake.”

When it comes to the stacked deck that Parenthood  brings to the table week in and week out, it can’t help but be consistently excellent television.  But a few times every season, this perenially outstanding series manages to one-up itself and turn into something truly transcendent.  For me, that was this week’s brilliant “The Offer.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m still piecing together the tattered remnants of my heart and trying so hard to push through the pain of feeling all of the feels.

Let’s just cut the malarkey, shall we?  Several plots continued to move forward, including the glacially paced saga of Drew’s emo phase and the ongoing quest of Camille and Zeek to sell the Braverman homestead, ** but tonight’s hour belonged to two characters: Max Braverman and Victor Graham.  Considering that Max Burkholder and Xolo Mariduena are two exceptional young actors (and young Mr. Burkholder has reduced me to tears on more than one occasion), it did not surprise me that these two young men were up to the task of carrying the heft of this narrative on their shoulders.  But what did surprise me was the extent of their success.

**I mean, Zeek Braverman traipsing down the stairs to great his realtor in just his unmentionables?  Classic Zeek!  But seriously, put some pants on, old man.  You’re not living in a nudist colony and Jabbar’s all like, “Pants are for suckers!”  Get a grip, Zeek!

I have no interest in splitting tonight’s episode into three parts as I have consistently done in the past.  Like last night’s episode, this recap belongs to two people.  Perhaps it’s better to forego the tip-toeing and just rip off the emotional band-aid.  Oh man, holding back the tears…Shut up!  You’re crying!


Victor Braverman

At this point, my deep-seated animosity toward Sydney is well-documented.  But, several weeks ago, when the Joel-Julia marital crisis hit its apex, I postulated that focusing on Victor–and not, for the love of God and all that is holy, Sydney–seemed far more interesting.  I take it that Mr. Katims is an avid reader of this blog and granted my wish because we had the opportunity to do just that.

Given the unstable domestic situation that defined much of Victor’s life prior to his adoption, it wasn’t long before he began to  view the separation of Julia and Joel as another form of abandonment.  Of course, it didn’t help when Daddy Dearest drove to the wrong baseball field to pick up Victor after practice.  I mean, come on, Joel! You organize the construction of some huge project but find yourself flummoxed by the intricacies of a middle school rec baseball schedule?  (#BizarrePersonalityDeficiency)

However, Joel’s mama didn’t raise but no fools, and he is a lethal quick study when it comes to very obvious things, so he can tell the scheduling snafu has shaken his son.  Therefore, he decides to throw Victor’s entire class into a certifiable tizzy by buying him a cell phone, despite the organized efforts of the class moms from hell to hold off as a collective bargaining unit.***  Not to mention the fact that he didn’t consult Julia.

***Um, what?

On the one hand, I see where Joel’s coming from.  He’s nothing if not tuned into his kids, and this seemed like a simple enough concession if it meant providing his emotionally fragile son with a peace of mind.  On the other hand, Joel has been acting like a complete poo nugget all season, and his indignation toward Julia when she confronted him about his poor unilateral decision-making really steamed by beans.  Joel seeming to play favorites by giving Victor a phone and not Sydney, prompting the little brat to blame everything on her brother because she is a hell-beast borne of the pits of Hades.

Fortunately, Joel realizes that Victor doesn’t want a phone.  He wants his dad to reassure him that he would not disappear, that he would not slip out of his life, that he would not forget about his son.  What a beautiful scene between Joel and Victor at the end of the episode wherein father vowed to stand by his son until the end of time.  Powerful stuff and beautifully portrayed.  In other words, it kicked me directly in my heart-pants.


Max Braverman

From the minute we watched Max methodically pack his belongings for an overnight school trip, I can’t imagine that every single viewer across America didn’t let out a nervous sigh.  This was never going to end well for young Mr. Braverman.  It wasn’t going to go well when Kristina volunteered as a parent chaperone; it certainly wasn’t going to go well when Max insisted his mother withdraw her offer to chaperone; it unquestionably wasn’t going to go well when Adam advocated for his son to get his way as a means of exerting independence.

Did you slap your forehead when Adam said that, or was it just me?  Because, look, he’s right.  Adam and Kristina can’t shelter their son indefinitely; he will need to branch out on his own.  Unfortunately, logic will not help here because Adam neglected to consider the obvious: middle school kids are so terribly cruel to one another.

Donning perhaps the single greatest outfit of all time (replete with laced up wader boots and safari-style sun hat), Max boards the bus without lingering for an emotional goodbye.  I found myself heartened by the presence of Mr. Knight, the Massiah-like educator and potential co-conspirator in Braverman High School.  But don’t we all know one excellent teacher does not a flawless field trip make?

Of course Mr. Knight phones the Bravermans that very night**** because Max has had an absolutely massive meltdown.  He tries to get through to Max, who simply sits in the middle of the hotel lobby, staring vacantly into space.  Kudos to Knight for trying his best to connect with Max despite his palpable disinterest.  OMG guys, is Mr. Knight Jesus?  Btw, the answer is yes because dude is THE.BEST.

****Proving the selflessness of parenting, Adam and Kristina willingly pause their viewing of Top Chef because they have excellent taste in television.  Ha!  (#CulinaryPuns)

I don’t have the ability or skill with words to convey the raw emotional power that Max Burkholder, Monica Potter, and Peter Krause brought to the absolutely brilliant car sequence that followed Max getting picked up from the trip.  Adam and Kristina try to keep it together as Max finally opens up about what prompted his meltdown: a classmate peed into his water canteen.  Adam, choking back tears, calls the bully an asshole (how’d ya like them apples, NBC censors?); Kristina sits stunned as her son continues to pour his soul out.  He can’t understand why his classmates laugh at him, why he can’t understand them.  He calls himself a freak.  And means it.

But the scene had not finished using my bruised heart as speedbag.  How hard did you bawl when Kristina unbuckles her seatbelt and climbs into the backseat, squeezing her son close to her as he first resists (he hates hugs) before relenting and falling into his mother’s arms?  Better question: how hard are you crying right now reliving that scene?  This powerful five-minute television sequence moved me profoundly.  I’ll never forget it, and for my money Mr. Burkholder could win an Emmy if he submits that to the Academy this year.  Could and, folks, should.  Definitely should.


Elsewhere,  an aggressive buyer comes in above Camille and Zeek’s asking price after one rebuff, Drew’s transformation into pot-smoking balladeer worries roomie Amber, and Hank struggles with his emotions for Sarah but ultimately stands by her side in the wake of a positive review from Surf Sport.

A brilliant hour of television, one that will haunt me for the rest of my days in the way that only truly exceptional art or literature can manage.  It’s another example of why Parenthood is such a very special television series.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Hank: “Just don’t ramble.  If you ramble, I’ll punch a bird.”

– Hank: “There’s a million Bravermans out there.  Every corner, there’s a Braverman.  They’re like Starbucks, the Bravermans.  But you come here.  You come to me every time.  Why?  Why?  Why?”

Parenthood S05E17: “Limbo”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “abiding by this concept called time.”

When it comes to television, there are few things I prefer more than a Braverman family gathering.  This could come in any form, be it congregating at the courthouse to recognize Victor’s adoption or meeting at The House that Cancer Beams Built for a rollicking Christmas story about the legitimacy of Santa Clause.  Because, here’s the thing of it, folks: each character is so distinctive, well-drawn, and unique (with the exception of Sydney, who continues to tumble down the black hole of brattiness) that the only thing that could possibly enrich said character would be pairing him or her off with someone else.  And we had plenty of that this week, didn’t we?  Btw, that’s a rhetorical questions because obvs yes we did.

As the episode’s title suggests, we caught several Bravemans in a proverbial limbo, sometimes self-imposed and other times a product of outside influence.  Anyhow, let’s get right on it!



Stuck in a relationship limbo, Joel seemed like an obvious choice of character to explore.  Although I wouldn’t say I was initially thrilled with Aida’s baptism forming the basis of the plot (more on that in a second), some very interesting dramatic material spawned from it.

Most notably an excellent scene between Crosby and Joel resulted in which the former must revoke the latter’s previously established title of godfather.  I love how he ends the conversation with a well-intentioned hope for his marriage, telling him how much he means to the family.  Heart-breaking stuff, and the first of two outstanding Joel-centric scenes this episode.

The second one, between Zeek and Joel, found the Braverman patriarch telling his son-in-law to try harder to make his marriage work.  Speaking on behalf of America, Zeek essentially called him a big puss and lay all of the guilt at his feet about him entrusting his daughter to Joel’s care.  Folks, there ain’t no shame party like a Zeek Braverman hosted shame party.  Seriously, Zeek is like your Italian grandmother provided she also served in ‘Nam and goaded lovely pastors about their life callings.

All fans annoyed with Joel’s behavior over the course of the season, feel free to send Zeek Braverman a cheese basket to thank him for speaking up on behalf of all of us.   Taking the not so subtle hint, Joel shows up at the baptism because Zeek’s confrontation made him poop his pants a little.  Good for you Joel!  I knew you weren’t just a robot with impeccable five o’clock shadow.  There is a beating heart in there somewhere!  I knew it!


Crosby & Jasmine

I don’t want to devolve into hyperbole here, but can’t we agree that Renee is a hell-beast borne of the pits of Tartarus?  Seriously, chica is THE. WORST.  We’re talking Sydney levels of brattiness, except of course for the small distinction that Renee is a grown woman!  Yet, I suppose a lifetime of passive aggressive eye rolls and feigned incredulity have allowed her to hone that tried and true Machiavellian skill known as manipulation.

You see, no one gives your mind an aggressive hump like Renee, whose most recent crusade finds her advocating for nothing less than Aida’s very soul.  (#MartyrComplex)  Renee fears baby Aida is destined for eternal damnation unless Crosby and Jasmine agree to baptize her like STAT.  For real, don’t you know that babies are reputed rascals?  Renee’s all: “Do you want the blood of your child’s mutilated soul on your hands?” Lady is straight-up intense is my point.

Despite personal reservations about organized religion, Crosby suppresses his personal beliefs out of respect for Renee’s (and, to a lesser extent, Jasmine’s) beliefs on the subject.  Fortunately, if I’ve learned one thing from Parenthood, it’s that bottling up emotions is an excellent mechanism for self-preservation.

**Kidding!  I totally fooled you.  It almost never works, you guys!  Duh!

Along the way, Camille hosts a pre-baptism dinner and Renee a post-baptism brunch.  Quick question: do these people ever tire of spending time with one another?  Just saying.  Anyway, I loved how the the pre-baptism dinner devolved into a sibling shouting match: Adam hurt to find out he was Joel’s replacement as godfather after thinking he was the first choice, Julia “apologizing” that she and Joel’s crumbling marriage complicated the day, and Crosby finally venting his animosity for the day in general.  Haha.  Typical Braverman fun times!  Where’s the dance party when you need one?

Of course, the day culminated in a lovely, touching ceremony because the show needs us to feel all the feels all of the times.  And that silently mouthed thank you from Renee?  A perfect capper.  She still sucks, though.


Amber & Drew

Speaking of limbo, Drew is lost.  I mean, the kid’s reading Sartre and is totally that guy quoting him all the time.  Ugh.  But seriously, as if the rantings of a French existentialist weren’t bad enough, Natalie the Great and Terrible had to go and do a whole night’s worth of shirtless hugging with Roberto (#LaxBro).  I mean, Roberto!  And poor, stupid ‘Berto (worst nickname ever, btw) doesn’t get why Drew’s beans are so steamed!  Come on Roberto, wake up and smell the cashew butter already!***  All the shirtless knee slaps in the world won’t get you out of this one, Mr. “I Don’t Have a Sense of Personal Space.”

***I’ve never seen an episode of television devote such time to conversations about cashew butter.  I mean, there might be some symbolism in there, but really it’s probably because cashew butter is damn delicious.  College!

I’ll be honest, this Drew thing has really stretched itself to the breaking point.  I just don’t care about it.  Natalie is the epitome of all stereotypes about millennials, and I hate her.  Go away, Natalie.  No one likes you.  Sorry, that was harsh.  But seriously, go away.

What I do like, however, is the obvious: Drew and Amber are now #WorldsBestRoomies!  That means they can spend so much time talking over one another about their respective exes while attacking some rocky road.  And you know what they say about rocky road: it’s a slippery slope leading to guzzling vodka, getting baked, and showing up to family functions as high as a kite.  But I’m glad they have each other because holy #AsparagusMunchies.


Elsewhere, Hank helps Sarah realize that photography is Max’s life boat in the stormy sea of life, Camille explains putting the house up for sale to Crosby, Julia demands to know why Joel isn’t fighting to save their marriage, and Zeek’s merry band of child slave laborers continue to work on his car.

Another excellent installment of Parenthood, but jettisoning the Drew-Natalie-Roberto-cashew butter quadrangle would certainly be much appreciated.  Just give Ray Romano more screen time.  We’d all be okay with that, right?


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Hank: “Don’t let him run!  He’s fast!”

– Julia: “How are you not fighting for this?  How are you not fighting for me?”

– Drew: “Hell is other people.”

Amber: “What did you just say?”

Drew: “Hell is other people.”

Amber: “What is that?”

Drew: “It’s, uh, Sartre.”

Amber: “Star Trek?”

Drew: “No.  It was a concept from Star Trek, but it’s, um, the book I’ve been reading for school.”

Parenthood S05E16: “The Enchanting Mr. Knight”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “being a dirt connoisseur.”

Let me start off by saying that I am a self-professed sucker for the “theme episode.”  Almost without fail, when a show takes a central idea and refracts it through the lenses of its individual characters, I am right there with it.  What can I say?  I’m a hardcore #MetaphorLover.  But I’m also a hardcore lover of Parenthood, so consider my ivories very much tickled by last week’s installment, which found our beloved characters (or once-beloved and possibly-once-again-beloved, in Joel’s case) grappling with the concept of healing in a way that felt true and distinct to each one of them.

Well enough of this Lit 101 nonsense.  Let’s get to the reviewing!

Drew and Amber

It seems that dropping Amy off at her parents’ house to confront the lingering emotional fallout from last year’s abortion has taken a toll on our favorite Bieber-swooped college student.  For Drew, healing over the decision to kick Amy out (though it benefitted them both) means cuddling up in bed with his favorite emo tunes.  I wonder what that playlist looks like.  Anyhow, I’m glad Parenthood openly acknowledged that Amy’s bizarre tailspin correlated in large part with the traumatic decision to have the abortion.  Very interesting ground to cover.

Amber, in desperate need of healing herself after the tearful dissolution of Ryber earlier in the season, pops by Drew’s dorm.  Thanks to a hot tip about an upcoming frat party from roomie Roberto (#LaxBro), Amber gets Drew to agree to attend, however unwittingly.**  They even forge a make-out pledge to make the night more interesting.  Ew!  Not with each other, pervo.

**Amber’s flummoxed reaction to the party starting at 10:30 pm had me in stitches, a great moment highlighting how college life really is nothing at all like the real world.

Natalie is the worst, the very quintessence of a privileged millennial.  Girl, let me quote the gospel according to JBJ right now: “You give love a bad name.” For serious, her schizoid mind-buggery and transparent passive-aggressiveness make me so glad I’m not in my early twenties anymore.  She shoots down Drew’s invite to the frat party at first, then shows up, then gets cheesed off when she finds about his make-out pact.  Honeybuns, GET. IT. TOGETHER.

I absolutely love watching Amber and Drew interact, and this plot afforded plenty of opportunities for that.  Mae Whitman and Miles Heizer can certainly hold their own against their senior cast members when it comes to depicting authentic sibling relationships.  More please!

Oh, and Roberto put the moves on a very unimpressed Amber, whose reaction reminded me of the scene in The Help when Bryce Dallas Howard realizes what was in that pie she wolfed down.  Epic fail, #LaxBro.  Epic fail.

Sarah & Carl & Hank (oh my)

Sarah, heal thyself!  You guys, I’m so proud of Sarah Braverman! I mean, don’t get me wrong, Carl seems like a pretty decent guy as far as it goes, what with his philanthropic ventures and trips to Zimbabwe to westernize medicine or whatever, but Sarah took a huge step tonight by turning down the chance to travel with him to Africa, thereby leaving Hank in the lurch over the upcoming Surf Sport deadline.

And who would have thought that Hank, spluttering out something he fully intended to sound supportive but ended up resembling an indictment of Sarah’s every life choice, would serve as the catalyst for this change?  Speaking on behalf of America, Hank pointed out Sarah’s tendency to sabotage herself through her relationships with men.***  After all, as that trusty bathroom sticker reminds her, this is #TheYearofSarah.  The time to heal, to grow, to change.  Carl nearly derailed her from that goal.

***Also, Hank: send Max a gift basket filled with many bugs in many jars, and perhaps many photos of bugs.  Because if it weren’t for that little blabbermouth, you wouldn’t have had a chance to rain all over Sarah’s parade!

You go, girl!  Get it!

Kristina & Adam

Obviously, Kristina’s plot dealt most directly with the concept of healing, as she awaited the results of her yearly cancer scan.  She and Adam convinced themselves they were both certain the scan would be clean, but that scene in the kitchen near the episode’s end–when Kristina gets the positive news we’re all hoping for–ripped out my heart, used it as a tetherball in a rather aggressive game, stomped on it, and shoved it forcefully back into my chest.  Point is, it ain’t no party like a Peter-Krause-In-An-Emotional-Wreck-Party.

But in order to avoid the seeming unending wait time for results, the parents Braverman took up a crusade against Max’s English teacher, a Mr. Knight, who took away their son’s seat in his classroom.  Initially hellbent on destroying this “troll” of a teacher (Kristina’s word: hell hath no fury like a Kristina scorned) for failing her son on a human level, she finds that Mr. Knight is a PhD student.  He is also an utter, utter delight of a man. He wasn’t picking on Max at all, simply performing an experiment on him!  #WayOutsideTheBox.

But wait!  It might not just have been the tingling in Kristina’s nethers  that drew her to Mr. Knight.  He’s a creative, passionate educator and the perfect person to lead the upcoming Braverman High School.  After an awkward drop-in at Knight’s house, his curiosity is definitely piqued.

Elsewhere, Crosby’s anger over this parents selling their house has not healed and leads him to accuse Camille of selfishness, Sydney’s separation-inspired wounds have not healed and lead to a meltdown in front of her class,**** and Julia’s anger towards Ed heals itself after he helps diffuse the Sydney bomb, accepting a dinner invite. (Ugh.  Just ugh.)

****Oh man oh man.  If Julia had snatched that carrot that tasted like dirt out of her hands and plugged it right up a nostril, my life would have been made.  But nooooo, she caves to the little tyrant over The Case of the Mandatory Pajama Set.

Man, somebody’s been listening to the doctor’s orders because people got so healed this week.  The theme episode worked so well precisely because each of these characters is in the midst of or still recovering from some form of trauma.  But, let’s be honest, for Sarah’s character revelation alone, this felt like an absolutely quintessential hour of Parenthood.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Karen: “People love floors!”

– Kristina: “You’re stuck with me.” (#CueTheWaterworks)

– Ed: “Oh God, the environment is such a pain in the ass.”

Julia: “It really is.”

Parenthood S05E15: “Just Like Home”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “having an expiration date purge.”

You guys, I loved this episode of Parenthood so much it almost made me forget how much of a fart hammer Joel’s been.  The Olympics-induced hiatus did little to abate my frustration with his character or the way the plot has manipulated him to serve itself.  And yet, having said that, I’m glad that if this is the direction they’re heading in, then at least I give props to Jason Katims and company for embracing it and following this plot down the rabbit hole.  Look, I don’t understand it myself.  Life’s full of contradictions, am I right?

Friends and neighbors, my life has seemed emptier without my weekly dose of Braverman love (#AccidentalInnuendo), so what do you say we just get to it?

Kristina & Adam

It was a big week for the resident Braverman family power couple as they chillaxed during a private weekend getaway.**  We’re talking hot tub shenanigans!  Mud masks!  Hiking!  Two and a half sessions of honest-to-goodness intercourse!  It’s been an atypically plot-heavy season for Kristina and Adam (what with the failed mayoral bid and resulting plan to, ya know, build a school), so I cherished the moments of these two just interacting and being together.

**A “Hurray You Totes Don’t Have Cancer” gift from the Lessings.  Did anyone else find this both utterly charming while also being more than just a tad creepy?  At any point did the Lessings turn to one another as they planned this for Kristina and Adam and say, “Man, I wish we could have a weekend getaway like this.”

So how hard was it for you to choke back tears during Kristina’s heartfelt thanks to her husband for being her rock during the past year?  It felt so real, so authentic, the perfect distillation of everything Parenthood does right: a small moment that speaks volumes.  Also, the mud masks helped temper the emotional wallop with some much needed levity.

But my favorite aspect of this plotline was the way Adam, totally present with his wife, could not shake his big brother urge to protect his younger sister and be there for her during her separation.  He snuck out of the hot tub to give her a quick phone call and to provide Julia the chance to make fun of his swimming trunks (for the record, I’m with Adam on this particularly contentious issue); he even asked his wife to cut their getaway a bit short so he could go be there for her.  That Kristina did not take this as an affront to their marriage but as an expression of his big heart and agreed willingly served as the perfect capper.

Joel, Sidney, and Victor

Apart from the spectral sounds of an unfortunate elevator down the hall, Joel is loving his new single life.  He’s got an X-box, he’s got a pool, he’s got a local pizza joint with pepperoni that JUST. WON’T. QUIT.  Dude is basically ready to send his demo tape to MTV’s Cribs*** and just be done with it already. *Record scratch* Fooled you!  He’s totally wallowing in a pit of despair!  Ha!  Classic Joel!

***Is that show even on anymore?  Because the image of Joel being fast-forwarded around his apartment as he points out the depressing decor of a recently separated man and culminating in him showing off his communal swimming pool with a shirtless eighty-five year old man floating on a raft of pool noodles makes me laugh.  Hard. #MillionDollarIdea

Since they’re going there with the separation, it’s nice to see Joel’s conflicted feelings about the whole thing.  As I remarked in the previous episode, a glimmer of old Joel began to shine through.  The contrast of him acting like the world’s number one dad in front of his kids (BATHING SUITS ON YOUR BEDS) while clearly struggling internally is interesting.  I’ll buy it.

Speaking of buying, guess who just slapped down some cash for an express one-way ticket to AnnoyingAsHellville? That’s right, it’s everyone’s favorite brat #SydneytheTerrible.  Seriously, I’d feel bad for her if she weren’t so manipulative and aggressively whiney.  Look, I’m not in the habit of hating on kids undergoing traumatic family shakeups, but Syd just brings out the worst in me.  I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

But what a cute moment when Victor, freshly wakened by a nightmare and an animalistic elevator, sneaks into Joel’s room, snags his phone, and calls Julia to talk him back to sleep.  A great moment, and–for this viewer–a reminder that the more we can concentrate on how Victor (and not Sydney) will deal with the separation, given his already difficult past, the better.


Julia’s plot line remains, hands down, my favorite of the episode.  And not just because of that ending, though it certainly didn’t hurt (more on that in a second).  I mean, Erika Christensen is killing it now, am I right?  Deft touches highlighted her loneliness: struggling with the deafening silence of an empty home, running out of chores around the house, curling up on Sydney’s bed because the thought of sleeping on her own seemed unthinkable.  Can I be honest?  I hope Julia doesn’t suddenly become an uber-brat after sleeping in her daughter’s bed.  Is brattiness contagious?  Honesty sesh over.

Although I felt her newfound passion for running served as a bit of a ham-fisted metaphor for her inability to outrun her thoughts, this episode changed my opinion on the symbolic functionality of a microwave.  The image of the world’s most lonesome baked potato spinning around endlessly became the perfect microcosm of the shrinking of Julia’s domestic life.  Nifty touch.

But what really revved my engine (dramatically speaking) was the Braverman siblings collectively descending on Casa de Graham, sporting any number of wine varietals and an assortment of Asian cuisine.  Turns out Sarah, Crosby, and Adam (arriving fashionably late because the dude loves making an entrance) didn’t really believe Julia’s insistence on being fine.

ALSO SPONTANEOUS BRAVERMAN DANCE PARTY!  In television terms, when one or more Bravermans catch “the fever” (this time to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”), you’re guaranteed to grin from ear to ear while simultaneously pondering how the joyous, sloppy, and free-spirited dance moves speak perfectly to the quad’s relationship dynamics.  Excellent television.

Elsewhere, Crosby dislikes the new realtor hired to sell the Braverman family homestead, Carl tells Sarah how he feels, Drew still needs both a haircut and some space from Amy, and Hank takes Dr. Pelican’s advice to apologize to Sarah for editing a taco truck out of a Surf Sport photo.****

****Dear Ray Romano: Your performance makes me feel all the feels.  Please don’t ever change.  Thanks a bundle, overstuffeddvr

The elucidation of Joel’s inner struggle, topped off with some beautiful character moments and a Braverman sibling dance party, proved that Parenthood really is one of televisions’s absolute best dramatic hours.


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

-Adam: “I’ve had these trunks forever.  I love these trunks!  Don’t be dissing my trunks!”

– Crosby: “Dad, Dad, Dad. Don’t worry about my wife’s fuel supply.”

– Crosby: “What’re you listening to?  Is this The Kill Yourselves?”

Parenthood S05E14: “You’ve Got Mold”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of  “eradicating cholera in Mumbai.”

Look, I don’t want to cause you any undo panic or create a crisis or whatever, but right now, you and I (all of us, really) are surrounded by a swirling miasma of #CancerBeams.  Leave it to Zeek Braverman to make technophobia positively charming!  Also, what other character on television could make a curmudgeonly acceptance of Italian roast coffee seem like a life-changing breakthrough?

But seriously, imminent death and coffee beans aside, this was a very solid episode of Parenthood.  Each branch of the Braverman family tree found itself weighted with a quality narrative, but even more important, I sensed a shift in the handling of the season’s most problematically inconsistent character: Joel.

But let’s just dispense with the pleasantries and dive right in, shall we?


Sarah and Hank

Hey, quick question: remember Sarah’s dalliance with playwriting a few seasons ago?  For most of us, that plotline has likely faded into something closely resembling a dream,** but doesn’t that speak to this character’s revolving door of haphazard arcs over the years?  Sure, Lauren Graham has always been phenomenal, but wow is it refreshing to see her photography career carry over from last season. Sarah Braverman needs more than a male counterpart as the lynchpin of her character’s continuity, and her recent employment by Surf Sports is a great place to start.  Plus, more Hank!

**Perhaps because, like the best dreams, Richard Dreyfuss had an extended appearance.  But that could totally just be on my end of things.

I just love Hank’s initial disdain over the fact that Sarah beat him out for the gig.  He’s been in the industry for twenty years, but he thinks her feminine wiles and not genuine talent gave her the edge.  His spontaneous decision to quit (after setting up the big starfish and everything) works great for a few reasons: it allows Sarah to contemplate the possibility that she does have a knack for photo and, perhaps more important, Hank can have a candid chat with Max in the darkroom about the finer points of perseverating.  If the entire episode had been these two having a candid chat on the finer points of perseverating, that would have been wonderful.

Of course, Sarah’s decision to shoot the surfing ad on the beach (go figure) rubs the aggressively practical Hank the wrong way initially, but thanks to a firm boot to the rump by #BuddhaMax, he acquiesces and rescinds his resignation.  In a wonderful montage, we see how successful the photo shoot is because Sarah might, as it turns out, know a thing or two about a thing or two.  Also Hank in sunglasses and a wonderful beach hat.  To celebrate (after a reticent concession that Sarah’s idea worked out), the two bop over to the local dive bar for a cocktail.

As refreshing as Sarah’s continued interest in photography is that Hank is not a viable love interest at this point in time.  How wonderful to see two grown adults of the opposite sex share a completely healthy friendship.  It’s clear there’s more than just a professional relationship underlying their interactions (and that’s fine), but kudos to Parenthood for not just forcing these two back into each other’s romantic lives right off the bat.  That kind of writing takes more nuance and deftness, and I for one appreciate it.

What an absolutely fantastic way to rejuvenate Sarah’s character.  With her ex-husband’s interest in being a father on the proverbial table as well, things are looking up for Sarah Braverman, narratively speaking!  Let’s just hope she doesn’t decide to write a play about it.

Joel and Julia

If I were to boil down the single most successful aspect of this episode, then it would be the clear attempt to reestablish Joel as the guy we all knew so well for four seasons.  Was it just me or did I snatch a few glimpses of the old Joel?***

***If your heart didn’t positively tear asunder during Julia’s tear-laden plea for Joel not to give up on her, then you are made of tougher stuff than I am. And then Joel, like, apologizes and wishes they weren’t at this point?  You mean he’s empathizing with his wife even if they’re on separate wavelengths?  And acting like a real human being?  Well golly!  There’s a thought!

I mean, yeah, he ended up moving out and peering back at his house through tear-blurred eyes, but the road to that decision felt so much more real and organic.  How interesting was the irony of Joel and Julia sort of re-bonding over the planning of how to tell Sydney and Victor about the separation?  He even mentioned how excited they were just a year ago for Victor’s adoption!  Watching Victor and Sydney playing videogames as siblings, Joel remembers that was all they wanted and asks to push back the news.  OMG, that is totes something he would do!  Joel, you are in there somewhere!  Follow the sound of my voice!  We’ll find you yet!

Also worth mentioning, for me, is Victor’s look of stoic denial as the words leave Joel’s mouth–absolutely on the nose and gut-wrenching.  That affected me far more deeply than Sydney’s wail of sadness, which I’m sorry to say, sort of annoyed me?  I know, I know.  I’m terrible.  But so are you because you sort of agree with me?

That this plotline then dovetails with Zeek and Camille makes it all the better.  There is a veritable convergence at the house that Cancer Beams built, what with Crosby and Jasmine crashing there due to rampant #MoldHysteria.  Finally, we get to see Julia break the news to her parents!  And perhaps Camille realizes her presence is forever integral to the Braverman clan!

We killed several birds with one very flexible stone here, and it felt so right having it all go down exactly where it did, particularly in light of Zeek’s recent compromise to downsize!


Kristina & Adam

We all knew Kristina would somehow find a way to put her passion for education too good use, but how cool will it be to watch her build a school from the ground up?  I don’t want to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, but this plotline is going to make me cry SO MUCH.  I can see it now.

Her decision comes on the heels of a few revelations.  First off, Max’s history teacher keeps sending him to the library when his passionate interest in history interrupts history class.  I’m no expert, but isn’t that sort of every teacher’s dream?  Oh well, what do I know?  Point is, home girl is none too pleased by this and finds herself up against the realities of the American public education system.  In addition, Kristina serves as an educational advocate for the mother of a special needs high school student named Ciara.****

****By the way, the mother is played by Tina Holmes, who previously worked opposite Peter Krause in the brilliant-beyond-superlative-usage HBO series Six Feet Under as Maggie Sibley, and in that series, she totally stole Peter Krause away from his wife.  So, girl, you best keep your man in check!  Mm-hmm!

This is a great next step for Kristina and so true to her character.  Can’t wait for more!

Call me a sucker for  a handful of #CancerBeams and a dash of #MoldHysteria if you must, but holy cow did this episode go a long way in righting some wrongs plaguing the series in its immediate incarnation (Joel) or as a long-running inconsistency (Sarah).  Keep up the awesome work, Parenthood.  We’ll see you after the Olympics!


Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Zeek: “You’re drinking wine and eating ham.  What a class.”

Camille: “Have some prosciutto.  It’s delicious.”

– Kristina: “I’m going to advocate his ass!”

– Hank: “The boss buys.  It’s like California code.”

Parenthood S05E13: “Jump Ball”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “Bisquick.”

When an episode of Parenthood fires on all cylinders, I can typically attribute its success to a narrative device I have been a sucker for as long as I can remember: pairing two characters who don’t often share a great deal of screen time.  Doing this gives me the equivalent of short-term memory loss; as soon as we cut back to the unlikely duo sharing the screen, I forget about a plot I might not care for otherwise (ahem, Julia and Joel).  What I’m trying to say here is that I love when Parenthood gives me the working memory of a goldfish.

And, fortunately for us, that’s exactly what we had this week!  I found myself rediscovering nooks and crannies of the same fishbowl, so let’s get to it!

Camille & Zeek 

Great news: Camille is back from Italy with a new bohemian haircut!  I loved how the sequence of Camille’s return home uses contrast to show us what’s going on for this couple: Zeek’s palpable excitement smashing up against Camille’s equally palpable ambivalence.  Need proof?  Just check out Zeek’s silly smile spreading across his face as he bounces around to open car doors for his wife, or the fact the he organized a Welcome Home Party with the whole Braverman clan.**

**Sydney, in an effort to perpetuate her bratty image, demands recompense from her grandmother for deigning the party with her saintly presence, demanding gifts as soon as Camille walks through the front door. Ugh.  The worst.

We can tell Camille’s not really feeling the vibe of this party (maybe there’s too much Sydney and not enough pasta fagioli?), but it’s not until later that we learn what’s exactly going on for her.  All we know is that, suddenly, she seems confined at home, darting off to meet fellow artistes at the MoMA within hours of settling back in.  Zeek, in an effort to close a rift he clearly feels, makes reservations at an expensive Italian restaurant so the two of them can reconnect.  Because hasn’t it felt like forever since they have?

At dinner, Camille realizes that life in the Braverman world continued in her absence, what with Kristina’s mayoral bid and Amber’s dissolved engagement.  She claims she’s not needed anymore, which she finds positively liberating.  Is it just me or is Camille totally having a late mid-life crisis?  But instead of buying a bright red sports car, she’s indulging in European art retreats?  Her newest plan, without consulting her husband, is to leave for France in a few months, and Zeeks–clearly angry–applauds his wife for having it all figured out.  Camille either doesn’t care to or outright doesn’t notice her husband’s hurt.

I’m loving this plot and what it will likely force Zeek to do: participate in Camille’s adventures and give him some new experience.  Also, the thought of Zeek donning a beret as he scoffs at a butter-and-brie baguette while sitting alongside the Seine is sort of the greatest image of all time.  Please make that happen!

Adam & Hank

For me, the pairing of these two characters was the most artfully and subtly written.  Take that photo of Bob Dylan that Hank gives Adam to hang in the Luncheonette.  The magic rule of three applies to the photo.  The first time, Hank uses it as an excuse to get Dr. Pelican’s number from Adam.  The second time the picture appears, Adam brings it to Hank’s studio for framing as an excuse to invite Hank to a poker game.  The third time, Hank criticizes (in his very Hank way) the placement of the photo in the studio.  Holy cow, did Katims just use this photograph as a symbol for the burgeoning friendship between these two?  Because that’s incredible.***

***Also, a trash-talking, sunglasses-sporting Hank playing poker, calling Joel a donkey on behalf of viewers across America?  I could watch that for hours.  Seriously.  Where’s the raw footage?

You see, Hank’s convinced he has Aspberger’s syndrome after reading that book about Max.  Ray Romano’s performance blew me away, particularly in the consultation scene with Dr. Pelican.  The combination of Hank’s reticence and certainty comes across with each mumbled word, each dart of the eyes.  Emmy voters, please take note.

But, for me, the entirety of Hank’s arc came down to the word “tenacious.”  He uses it twice in this episode: once with Dr. Pelican to describe how his wife described him and then again with Adam to apologize for his behavior during poker (fun fact: Hank dislikes wild cards).  Doesn’t this seem like an acceptance of a kind, an embracing of who he is?  If he’s accepted this label of tenacious, what’s to stop him from accepting a psuedo-“jump ball” diagnosis of Aspberger’s.  Brilliant writing.

Also, could these two #Besties spend a great deal more time together?  Perhaps join an intramural league of tetherball competitors?  Yes.  I’m sticking with that.  Adam and Hank: tetherball partners.

Amber & Seth

If there’s one thing I learned from college, it’s that binging on a steady musical diet of Joy Division ensures you’re going down a bumpy road.  So, when we first see Amber cleaning her apartment to the wails of Joy Division’s “Isolation,” call me crazy, but I had a sense that Amber was about to embark on a trying emotional journey.

Soon, Amber’s calling out sick and heading on an impromptu road trip.  She pulls over a time or two to stare vacantly out into the abyss, which told me that perhaps she hadn’t entirely gotten over Ryan proposing to and then dumping her?  Go figure.

Before long, Amber’s pulled over in the parking lot of a bar, drinking and smoking and leering out the window at some dude dressed in an apron.  Holy cow, it’s Papa Seth!  When we cut back to Amber, she’s sitting at the bar and on the receiving end of some rather ham-fisted seduction by a delightful gentleman named Jason.****

****Jason, evidently, owns a few shares in the local neighborhood dive Donnie’s around the corner.  Also, he really pushes the mechanical bull, which I thought hurt his prospects with Amber (in addition to his gross demeanor and attitude).  I mean, slow down there Jason!  Save some mystery for the date!

One drink in Jason’s face later, Seth emerges from the back, Amber storms off, and Seth follows her to the parking lot to wrestle the keys out of his daughter’s hands.  I’d like to point out that Mae Whitman is a brilliant actress and is perhaps the best “crier” in the biz.  When she breaks down, blaming her break-up with Ryan on him because she’s afraid she’s just like him, that’s about as compelling a scene as you’re likely to find on television.  A stunner.

John Corbett has never been my favorite actor in the world, but he is fantastic as Seth, and I hope he sticks around to rebuild his relationships with his kids, as he hints to Sarah on the phone in yet another excellent scene.  Hey, he’s off to a good fatherly start: pancakes.  Well played, sir.

Elsewhere, the relationship between Drew and Amy intensifies after she reveals experiencing a (possibly suicidal?) sadness at Tufts following the abortion, Joel moves out after the most aggressively passive aggressive breakfast donut delivery in television history, and Julia seeks advice from Sarah.

While the Julia/Joel plotline continues to frustrate, everything else surrounding it is so good, my goldfish memory will permit the misstep in what is an exceptional season of television so far.

Conversation Around the Dinner Table

– Kristina [on Hank]: “Are we hoping he has Aspberger’s?”

– Hank: “I want to know if there’s a reason I’m blowing it with the people I care most about.  You know?”

– Seth: “Listen, I know my track record isn’t exactly stellar.  I don’t deserve this opportunity, but I’d like to try.”

Sarah: “Try what?”

Seth: “Being her dad.”