…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: “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.”