After little over a month on hiatus due to the Sochi Winter Olympics, as well as almost 4 years to the day since the show debuted, Parenthood returns with the episode “Just Like At Home”. After Julia’s heartbreaking admission ending the previous episode, this week’s episode deals with the idea of home and what qualifies as one. We open with a scene that any child of divorce will recognize. Of the one parent who had moved out coming to pick up the kids for the weekend, the fleeting awkward interaction between the estranged couple and then the almost deafening silence of Julia alone in a cavernous house with nothing but time on her hands. Over at Joel’s apartment (which is surprisingly not as pathetic as you’d imagine it would be), the situation isn’t much better. Victor keeps hearing the grind and whirring of the elevator, and Sydney is not impressed with Joel’s purchase of a rainbow loom. “I don’t play with that anymore. I’m 10 now.” And even with Adam and Sarah calling Julia to make her feel better, Julia is up all night and has to lay in Sydney’s bed in order to get some sleep. This then leads into two scenes that have the feeling of being bathed in warm sunlight. The first one being first Sarah, then Crosby and then finally Adam coming over to boost Julia’s spirits, complete with Adam and Crosby, two 40-something brothers, break dancing to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House”. The second being the final scene of the episode as Victor wakes up due to the elevator, swipes Joel’s phone, calls Julia and asks her to talk to him. As she tells him about how the creaks in the stairs scared her and Crosby and a childhood trap involving dental floss across the top of the stairs and Zeek breaking his nose, she goes to check on Sarah, Crosby and Adam who are sleeping over and actually tucks them in. Seeing the Braverman siblings together is one of the most joyous things to see on network TV now. And after the emotional turmoil of the season on Julia’s part, it’s these moments that remind us why we love the show in the first place.
Usually I put the best line of the episode at the end of the recap, but in this case, I felt like it needs to be right up front. Because ultimately, I feel that this line, which comes at the end of probably the most stellar episode of the season in quite some time (maybe even since the season started), sums up the appeal and love of this series and why it has such a rabid following. Even if we’re in constant contact with our extended family, even if we have our own struggles were dealing whether they be minor or major ones that we have to deal with by ourselves, no matter what’s come before, we all want to come home. We want to come back to the place that we feel is safe and warm and inviting. Where whatever we’re going through can be left outside and we can just take solace in being with those who love us. The majority of the episode’s plotlines do touch on that in one way or another. But let’s back track.
True to the episodes title, “Stay A Little Longer”, tonight’s episode of Parenthood focused on broken relationships where one party is trying to salvage what’s left of it while the other is either trying to break free of said relationship or is trying to maintain it as well, but can’t for one reason or another. We start off at school, where a gaggle of gossiping moms are talking about whether or not Julia had an affair with Ed. Upon seeing the dirty looks and titters, Julia goes up to the ringleader of the group and calls her out on her gossiping. This leads into the biggest development in the saga of Julia and Joel’s crumbling marriage where Julia finally tells Joel everything. That she’s been unhappy since she’s been out of work, that she bonded with Ed over said unhappiness (she calls it a friendship, Joel calls it an “emotional affair”) and that compounded with Victor being held back another grade, it gave Ed the wrong idea and he kissed her. As expected, Joel does not react well to this. This even affects his work as he’s off his game when he and Peet are showing their client the work they’ve done on the houses. And while she does go on the defensive, she tells Joel later on that he needs to get it together and that she couldn’t care what’s going on in his marriage. This leads to one of the most powerful final scenes of any recent episode where after Julia tells him about a list of couples therapists that they can see a.s.a.p, Joel just flat out tells her that he doesn’t like the person she’s become and that he wants out.
The episodes the show comes back with after the holidays are some of the best episodes of the season. Two years ago, we had “Road Trip” a stand-alone episode that became one of the most beloved episodes of the series. And this time last year, we had “Keep on Rowing”, which had one of the most memorable openings for an episode in which a girls night out ended with Kristina shaving her head due to the chemotherapy. For whatever reason, the show always feels that they need to burst out of the gate with their best stuff in the New Year. And while “Promises” doesn’t quite hit that dramatic high of the previously mentioned episodes, it’s still an incredibly strong episode that hints at what this season will achieve now that the election plotline is in the past, never to be mentioned again.
After a 2 week break between episodes in which The Sound of Music Live crushed it in the ratings, Parenthood came back with “All That’s Left Is The Hugging”, an episode that dealt with the fallout of the election plotline while also giving the biggest development in one of the “trouble in paradise” relationships we’ve been following so far. Behind the scenes, this episode was a return for Oscar winning director Jessica Yu who had directed the famous “Road Trip” episode from season 3. And given the fireworks that happened tonight, it’s clear they needed to bring out the heavy hitters with this one. Hopefully we can see her direct more episodes of the series in the future, rather than having her just do the odd episode here and there.
After last week’s episode going full speed ahead, “Speaking of Baggage” continues on with the momentum of last week’s episode. The various season long plotlines had some big movements within them, the election plotline was once again shunted to the side and a relationship from last season got brought up in an unexpected way. And we also got to see both the entire extended family having dinner together at Zeek/Camille’s place and a quorum of the adult siblings talking about their parents in a single episode. Whatever problems that were going on in the previous episodes have either been worked out or mitigated to a lesser degree.
After two episode of turning the curve, “The M Word” brings what’s been happening on the show to full speed. This is so far my favourite episode of the season so far, with a nice balance of the season long storylines coming to a head along with a couple one off plots to keep things amusing. After taking a break from the mayoral campaign race, the episode opens with the various members of the Braverman family going door to door to get the word out and getting said doors slammed in their face. My favorite of these is Crosby who unknowingly knocks on the door of a former one-night stand and the awkwardness that ensues. But the grassroots campaign needs to get into overtime since Kristina only has 17% public awareness and only 6% of the vote. After that, we see the various sections of the family deal with their own M words in different ways.
“Let’s Be Mad Together” is similar to last week’s episode in that we’re still turning the corner before picking up speed yet again. Whereas the previous episode was peering around the bend, this week’s episode was the cars near the back of the train catching up, and in one case, not even there at all. We begin the episode with Adam telling Crosby that he brokered a sweetheart deal with the record company for the rights of the 3 songs they’ve already recorded in exchange for the 72 billable hours they were owed by the record company. Max was taking impromptu pictures of the kids at school for the yearbook and got in trouble for taking the picture of a kid crying on the steps. And Sarah was not so super with her super duties and turned a plugged toilet into a fountain.
After the steam that had been building up over the last few episodes, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” was when the momentum of the season so far has slowed down a bit, as if to turn a corner without going off the rails. We begin with Sarah joining Amber and Ryan as they show her the spot by a lake where they want their wedding to take place. And while Sarah says that she loves it, the screaming at a spider (no really, that happens), the swatting at mosquitoes and the fact that Grandma Blanche has zero accessibility at this location are just more excuses for Sarah to not feel great about Amber’s decision. As the episode progresses, we find out that Ryan’s family won’t be coming to the wedding at all. And while Amber seems to be initially OK with this, Sarah sees it as a red flag. And Ryan’s reluctance to talk about why he doesn’t want them there is only making things worse between Sarah and Amber as they end on an argument between them with Amber asserting that she is not like Sarah and that Ryan is not like Seth.
As per the title, we start off with Crosby watching Jasmine using what is probably the most insidious torture device ever imagined for the modern mother, the breast pump. While baby Aida isn’t screaming as much in this episode as she was in the last two eps, she is still depriving Jasmine of much needed sleep and Crosby is still trying to connect with Aida on a paternal level. Compared to the last 2 episodes, the Crosby corner of the family is definitely in the backseat as we see Jasmine try to have a relaxing bath and failing and Crosby showing Zeek the different kind of rubber nipples to use for the bottles as they sit in an old 1965 Pontiac GTO that Zeek just bought. I’m pretty sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. By the end of the ep, Aida has finally stopped crying and has latched onto Crosby, both literally and symbolically.