Parenthood, Season 6, Episode 8, “Aaron Brownstein Must Be Stopped”
Thursday, November 13, 2014, 10 PM, NBC
I know what you’re thinking. “Who the Hell is Aaron Brownstein and why must he be stopped?” To answer the first part of that question, he was the kid in the kitchen during the second episode who got a bit too friendly with the wood matches and one of the knives. As to why he must be stopped, it has nothing to do with averting an oncoming apocalypse or anything like that. He’s just the new object of affection for Dylan and Max discovers this the hard way in tonight’s stellar episode, written by the series best new addition in the writing staff Jessica Goldberg and directed by series stalwart Lawrence Trilling. And just to get whose missing out of the way, Adam’s off on business, Sarah is in Napa (presumably drowning her sorrows in Merlot after seeing Hank on good terms with his family), Joel and Julia are still waiting for the cameras to come back to them and are in a holding pattern and Zeke is probably making another break to the nearest greasy spoon or fast food joint. I think this’ll satisfy the “sitting out two episodes” quota of the main cast, thus allowing for the whole family to be in on the final episodes.
Starting off with the plotline that ties into the episode title, we begin with Max interrupting Kristina fixing Nora’s hair to ask her on how to properly ask a girl out. But after seeing Dylan kissing said Aaron Brownstein in the kitchen at Chamber’s Academy, Max goes on the war path, first by demanding Kristina expel him and then distributing flyers to all the students about Aaron. When he finds out about this, a fight between him, Max and Dylan erupts. But even after being pulled into the office, Kristina still doesn’t punish Max for his behaviour. More on that later. That evening, Dylan bikes over to their household and tells Kristina that she just likes Aaron more and that while Max keeps going on about the scale of affection, Dylan’s level of affection for him is never going to change. But despite Max coming in on them and saying that he and Dylan are no longer friends, Max makes one final grand gesture to her in school by declaring his feelings to her in front of her friends, complete with a collage poster of pictures of her and her interests. This finally gets Dylan to tell Max that she doesn’t like him and to more or less eff off and the scene is about as horrible emotionally as you could imagine. So much so that Kristina has to chase Max through traffic. But rather than chastise him, Kristina tells Max that she is so proud of him for finally being able to open up emotionally and put his feelings out there. And that even though right now he feels heartbroken and embarrassed, one day soon he’ll say the same thing to someone else and that someone else will be the right person because she’ll feel the same way. “It doesn’t feel amazing”, Max replies. And then Kristina hugs him and for once he doesn’t protest.
Now, looking online, a lot of fans of the show were upset by this, but not for the reason you think. Basically, they’re upset that Kristina both as a mother and as an administrator of the school she did basically nothing during the whole thing. That she allowed for Max to get away with harassing two students, instigating a fight with one of them and then for letting a precarious situation get out of control emotionally without stepping in. And then on top of that, she basically let Max off the hook for his bad behaviour. As much leeway as I like to give Adam and Kristina for how they’ve been dealing with Max’s Aspbergers during the run of the series (the criticisms lobbied at them by fans has been going on for a while), I have to say that I’m kinda with them on this one. Obviously my heart goes out to Max on this one and of course to Kristina for being there for her son. But given the collateral emotional damage that’s been inflicted on two other students under her watch and the shocking lack of disciplinary action, this is one instance were Kristina and Adam’s passivity towards Max’s behaviour can’t be ignored. Hopefully in next week’s fall finale episode, we see some actual repercussions to this, especially with Adam back from business. I will reserve judgement on this until next week.
Moving onto the one plotline that had absolutely no Braverman involvement whatsoever, Sandy has to go out of town for a conference and asks Hank to watch Ruby. Hank is busy with a shoot and Ruby demands that she can be alone without parental supervision. They acquiesce and Ruby returns her father’s faith in her by throwing a house party. Once Hank finds out, he’s torn between breaking the party up and embarrassing her and being an actual parent. Thankfully he chooses the latter, breaks up the party and then grounds Ruby after the requisit “I hate you” from her. As he’s cleaning up the house, Sandy comes back and the two of them actually bond over how difficult it actually is raising a snotty brat like Ruby is over blackberry brandy. And by the end, even though she’s grounded for three weeks, Ruby is on good terms with Hank as he teaches her Texas Hold-Em. This plotline was without a doubt the most problematic of the episode. Not that it wasn’t well acted or executed. Seeing Ray Romano and Betsy Brandt on the front porch shows that these two have an actual chemistry together and thus you understand why Hank and Sandy were together in the first place. But given that Sarah, our in for this family, is absolutely nowhere near the proceedings and that we have five episodes left in the series, it feels like the show is spinning its wheels, even as they’re racing to the finish line.
And finally, we get to the continuing saga of The Luncheonette and the various minor plotlines involved. We start with Jasmine telling Crosby that she’s taken a part time job at her mom’s office doing filing work for $30/hr (sign me up for that, please!) to help bring in some money as the Luncheonette’s only clients are faux Garfunkel and Oates duos doing commercial jingles at half the usual rate. Crosby is of course less than thrilled by all of this and spends his time dancing around to The Ramones. Amber joins in on the floor with him and suggests that they get out there and woo Corn-fed, a really good band with a terrible name whose looking to record. And after a family dinner where Rene heavily inferences that maybe Crosby could get into real estate, he and Jasmine have an argument about providing for the family. This makes Crosby late for the club, which they end up having to bail anyways when Amber starts feeling pains with her baby. These turn out to be just Braxton Hicks and while Crosby tells Amber not to put the burden of saving the Luncheonette on her shoulders and that he might have to give it up, Amber comes right back and pleads to him not to give up on it just yet. This leads to Crosby and Jamine having a nice talk that continues on the conversation they had in “Too Big To Fail” where Crosby tells her that he hates that she has to do this. “I feel like such a failure.” Crosby confesses as well as that he regrets not selling the business when he had the chance and that pursuing his dream put them at financial risk. Jasmine tells him that it wasn’t s stupid dream to pursue and that while she’s not thrilled with doing filing work alongside her mother, she will one day open that dance studio she wants to do. “We’ll all get our time to shine.”
- We also have Drew tangentially involved with this last plot with Amber finally learning about him majoring in Econ and why he’s doing it for her, despite her protests that he shouldn’t be doing something he’s not that into for her sake.
- Next week promises to be the big climax before we take a break over the holidays and come back with the shows 100th episode. We see the return of Mr. Cyr, Joel making his last ditch effort to save his marriage and Camille needing an ambulance for Zeke.
"Aaron Brownstein Must Be Stopped" was a well acted and executed episode, even if one of the plotlines is irrelevant and the other is bringing up a ton of issues that can no longer be ignored by the characters and the show itself.