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.”

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