…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!
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.
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.
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?”