TV Recap: Parenthood, “Limbo” (5.17)


Parenthood Limbo

3/13/14, 10 PM, NBC

After last week’s middle of the road episode, “Limbo” is an episode that points the remainder of the season back in the right direction. We see the tensions from the individual plotlines that have been running through the latter half of the season start to coalesce, or at least bump up against each other, as well as a turning point in one of the bigger plotlines of this season that would have been powerful if the NBC promo department didn’t feel the need to spoil it. Tonight’s episode was written by Jessica Goldberg, a playwright who is one of the new writers who joined this season. Between this episode, as well as “Let’s Be Mad Together” and “Jump Ball”, it’s clear that she’s the best new addition to the writing staff and a key writer should the series get a sixth season.

We start off with Crosby and Jasmine telling Renee, Jasmine’s mom, about Julia and Joel’s separation. This poses a problem, seeing as how they were the ones that Crosby and Jasmine picked to be Aida’s godparents at her baptism, which Crosby himself has reservations about. Renee, being the steadfast Christian woman she is, insists that the baptism still occur the upcoming Sunday and that she should be the one hosting the post-baptism brunch. We then go over to Sarah dealing with Hank and Max as she’s trying to finish up the photography project she’s been working on. But after the opening credits, Max barges in and forces himself onto the computer to use the special printer that they only have for the week, going so far as to actually sit on Sarah and steamroll over her. This leads to Sarah actually taking Max home and being a little put off that Adam and Kristina are miffed at her for saying no to Max. We then go to Drew as he goes to Natalie’s dorm room and sees his roomie answer the door post-sex. This pisses Drew off so much that he takes refuge at Amber’s place, with her still hung up on Ryan’s departure, which they deal with via ice cream and weed.

The big development though is Crosby having to tell Joel that he can’t be the godfather and Joel accepting. This upsets Julia, since this to her is a sign that Joel is giving up on their family. This lead’s her to call Joel to more or less ask him why he’s not fighting for them. Over with Crosby, he goes to ask Adam if he could be Aida’s godfather. Adam reacts so positively to this that Crosby can’t bring himself to tell him that he’s filling in for Joel. If it feels like I’m giving an exposition dump, it’s because it’s needed to understand the mastery that is the dinner scene at the center of the episode. Camille, wanting to not be left out of Aida’s baptism festivities decides to throw a family dinner the night before said baptism as a morale booster of sorts. “This family could really use a celebration right now.”

But we all know the show and there is no way someone isn’t walking away unscathed. We start with Camille and Sarah looking nervously at Zeek as he starts up a conversation with Pastor Jones. We then seamlessly transition between Crosby and Heday (Jasmine’s brother) to Max and Kristina avoiding Sarah, Sarah inferring to Adam that they should say no to Max more, Julia thanking Adam for filling in for Joel (which is news to Adam) and a stoned Amber and Drew arriving via cab trying to hide the fact they’re really high. This then leads into one of the best dinner scenes the show has ever done where we have seven, count em’, SEVEN plotlines all ricocheting off of each other. And it flows smoothly, nothing gets lost in the mix, every character gets one good line or moment or look and you get the sense that this is not only a family dinner but also that all seven plotlines are reaching a boiling point. It’s like the dinner scene in August: Osage County only done with subtlety and characters you actually like.

The dinner is so powerful that it leads to Zeek to go over to Joel’s place and to confront Joel about what the Hell he’s doing. And after another grandfatherly monologue from Zeek, we see Hank being the rare voice of reason to Sarah in regards to Max, Drew agreeing to move in with Amber and then the baptism where Sarah apologizes to Adam and Kristina and Joel shows up to take a seat at the back of the church.

The Roundup

  • -Best Line of the Night: “You don’t need a man.” A high Amber telling Sarah that amidst the well executed chaos of the dinner scene. Also serves as a meta commentary of the fans on the state of Sarah’s go to plotline for not just the season but the entire series.
  • -Stray Observations: I love that stoned Drew thought that Sartre borrowed the “Hell is other people” concept from Star Trek. Given that Klingon Hell is a place that one can get to in the Star Trek mythos, it’s an understandable mistake to make.
  • -Drew is not only upset at his roomie for sleeping with Natalie, but also for drinking his Gatorade and eating his cashew butter. When the only thing about a plotline that grabs your interest is the revelation of cashew butter existing, you know it’s time to end it.
  • -Amber keeps her weed in her freezer. I’ve never handled pot in my life, but wouldn’t putting weed in a freezer be like putting coffee beans in a freezer? I know the latter is a huge no-no, so I’m wondering if the former works under the same principle.
  • -Seeing Victor, Sydney, Jabbar and Max at the kid’s table in the background during the dinner scene makes me wish that the show would break format and do an episode purely focusing on the kids. I even have the perfect episode title. “Kid’s Table” That one’s a freebie, Katims.
[notification type=star]86/100 ~ GREAT. This episode (and the dinner scene in particular) was a much needed step up from last week’s lackluster episode, as well as a signpost to point the remainder of the season towards a satisfying conclusion to an uneven season. [/notification]

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Film geek, podcaster and newly minted IATSE member from Regina, Saskatchewan. I met Don McKellar once, and he told me that Quentin Tarantino is exactly like me.