March 20, 2014, 10 PM, NBC
Like the mysterious buyer wanting to buy Zeke and Camille’s house, tonight’s episode “The Offer” upped the ante in terms of the stakes of each of the plots that have been going on in the latter half of the season. As we head toward the final four episodes of the season, we see the various storylines if not reach a climax, then at least get close to a boiling point. One climax in particular actually accomplishes something the show hasn’t done since Adam watched Kristina’s video to the kids on her laptop in the ICU back in season 4, but we’ll get to that later.
Going from least to most important storylines, we see Drew has settled in at Amber’s apartment to the point that Amber has to play the parent and force Drew to actually go to his classes, which he’s been avoiding due to Natalie and Berto, the roomie. Eventually Natalie catches up to him after his one non-Natalie class and calls him out on his extreme reaction to what had happened. After that, Amber finally breaks through to Drew and he confesses to the heartbreak he’s feeling over the whole thing, which having gone through her own painful break-up Amber completely relates to. And we end on them with Drew playing the song we saw him working on the guitar with and Amber doing back-up. As for their mother, we see her stressing out over the project she’s been working on and waiting for Alec, the client to call back. As she’s worrying alongside Hank, Hank finally expresses his thoughts and feeling about Sarah to her. And after she finally gets a text to meet with Alec, Hank admits that he can’t be around her anymore, despite showing up later on the street in front of where Sarah’s meeting takes place to give her moral support. And from the smile and hug she gives him afterwards, I’d say that went well.
What is clearly not going well is Julia and Joel’s separation and how its impacting Victor in particular. After reading Victor’s baseball schedule wrong and picking him up late after practice, Joel overcompensates by getting Victor a cell phone, which he did not clear with Julia. This leads to another argument between Joel and Julia which veers into the sensitive territory of Victor’s abandonment issues. This spills over into Julia’s night where Sydney blames Victor for tearing their family apart. And as the sound drops out and Julia pulls Sydney away to her room, Victor just sits in silence. He eventually returns the phone to Joel and asks if he was the reason they split up. Joel tells him that it was absolutely not the case and that Victor didn’t just move in with them. That he is now and forever their son and they will never stop loving him.
Moving over to Zeke and Camille’s, we see Karen coming over to tell them about a very interested buyer, even though they haven’t put the place on the market yet or done any fixing renovations. And despite looking unimpressed, especially after Zeke boasts about the oak banisters he made himself (possibly from the tree he cut down years ago to make room for the barn), Karen tells them that he’s willing to pay most of their offer in cash up front. This leads to one of the sweetest moments between Zeke and Camille so far this season as they sit by the bonfire, Zeke admits to making up a bogus oak tree disease just so that he could cut down said tree for said barn and Camille admitting that while she still wants to sell the house, that this is moving way too fast and that they should wait the three or four months they gave themselves to prepare. Well, that window get’s shrunk to three days as Jack, the buyer, comes back with an offer that’s “a record for this neighborhood” that gives Zeke a rare stunned silence.
And then we finally get to the plotline that delivers the most emotionally devastating moment since Adam watched Kristina’s video to her children on her laptop in the ICU at Christmas. As Max is packing for an overnight class field trip to Sacramento, Max tells Kristina that he doesn’t want her to come along as a chaperone. While Kristina predictably freaks out, Adam talks her down, telling her that he’s not a child anymore and that he needs to be doing this on his own. He’s grown up, he wants his independence, so they need to respect that. But after seeing Max off, they get a call from Mr. Knight, telling them that Max had a meltdown and that they need to come and get him. As they drive home, they find out through a very reluctant Max that the class more or less ganged up on him. And while Max can usually brush it off, this time it gets to him. “I think I am a freak. I try to understand them, but I can’t. Asperger’s is supposed to make me smart. But if I’m smart, then why…why don’t I get why they’re laughing at me? They all do it, even the nice kids. Even Micah. And I don’t understand why. I don’t understand.” And as Max Burkholder gives one of the best Max moments from the show, the camera wisely focuses on Adam and Kristina and the silent looks of them dying inside. Of their worst fears for their son finally happening and all Kristina can do is get in the back and hug Max, despite his repeated protests of not liking being hugged, which even he can’t do after the third time he says it. This was difficult for me to watch, not only for the emotion that’s completely underplayed, but for how close it hit home for me. While I don’t have Asperger’s, if I could choose one word that described my teen years, I’d go with “spiraling”. As in downward. And it took a long time for me to climb out of that. While some might see what’s supposed to be a passive entertainment like a TV show dreg up painful memories in the eye of the viewers as a negative, I see this as a huge plus and why this show deserves to be in the current pantheon of great television.
- Best Line of the Night: “No, he’s an asshole.” Adam as Max says that maybe he is a freak after Pete, one of the kids, calls him that. Usually the go to word for the Braverman’s is “jackass”, which as a Canadian always has a humorous connotation to it due to Oscar on Corner Gas. But here, this along with the under the breath “I’m gonna kill them” comment, shows just how Adam’s rage has gone from the external venting of earlier seasons to an internal coldness. I know this is network TV, so they can’t swear like their cable brethren, but “asshole” being spoken in the 10 PM primetime slot had to have some strings be pulled in order for it to happen, especially in regards to a child.
- Stray Observations:
- During a close-up of Adam staring ahead during the aforementioned scene, we see a quick flash of green across the screen. Now, this was probably an accident since the scene was obviously shot using a low riding flatbed at night, as opposed the usual fake looking green screen that’s so often used in TV. But I am so glad that this show goes the extra mile and does it live. Not only for the added production value, but also for these happy mistakes. That flicker of green I like to see as symbolic of Adam’s internalized anger briefly crossing his mind.
- In her first scene of the episode, Amber wears a dinosaur sweater. OK, I know she’s always had a bit of a hipster fashion sense, but this is going to far IMHO.
- And after 86 episodes, we finally find out Zeke’s first name is in fact Ezekiel. Jeez, between that and the 3 years in Vietnam, no wonder he’s not religious.