Parenthood, Season Five, Episode Nineteen, “Fraud Alert
3/27/14, 10 PM, NBC
I’ve always liked it when shows give their episode titles double meanings. That rather than just be generic placeholders or puns/inside jokes for the writers, that they actually mean something in relation to the plot, as well as any subtle themes that are going on in the episode. Parenthood straddles that. Most often the episode titles are either a phrase uttered in the episode or in one case in season 2 a flat out spoiler, but often we get a title that plays as a tip to the subtle themes in play. Tonight’s episode, written by Katims himself, is one of those. “Fraud Alert” not only plays into the ongoing crumbling of Julia and Joel’s marriage, but also to the rest of the plotlines as the various characters deal with fraudulence in one way or another.
Starting off with the plotline that gives the episode said title, Julia receives a call in the dead of night from the credit card company informing her that their card had just been used to pay for a $468 dollar dinner. That dinner was paid for by Joel who was celebrating with Peet over selling their first house. And after getting some words of encouragement from Sarah, Julia finally confronts Joel not only about the dinner, but also whether or not if they’re even working towards getting back together or if they’re dating other people. But all Joel can do is throw Julia’s actions with Ed back in her face (he even calls it an “affair”, even if it only consisted of Ed kissing her) and repeat the same things that we’ve heard over and over. That he supported her and her career by staying home with the kids and when it was his turn to do the same, she couldn’t support him. That he thought their marriage was based on mutual respect for each other. But despite Julia telling him that she respects him more than anyone she’s ever known and that he hates living in a crappy apartment and putting on a good front for the kids, he does not want to work on their marriage right now. There’s been a lot of fan chatter about this plotline and how they feel that Katims and Co. are basically doing character assassination on Joel, who up until this point has been the most perfect husband/father you could imagine. That he would throw away his marriage over one kiss, as well as be a hypocrite due to season one. While I do agree a bit with the calls of hypocrisy, I do think that Joel being unreasonably stubborn speaks to a deeply buried pain and resentment that’s kept hidden within him. During the talk, we find out what’s probably the first bit of backstory to Joel in the shows history: That his father was unfaithful to their mother. While it doesn’t completely explain away Joel’s behaviour, it does give us insight into why such a small indiscretion means so much to him.
Following up with Max’s traumatic event last week (which was clarified this week in that one of the kids actually peed into Max’s canteen), Max interrupts Adam and Kristina’s alone time by telling them that he’s not going back to the school. And after a terse meeting at the school (with Mr. Knight in attendance), the principal and dean tell Adam and Kristina that since Max only has a month left & that it’s a graduating year, that it would be for the best that Max take the rest of the classes and schoolwork at home. As a fan, after that scene, I am all for Kristina setting up a charter school if it meant sticking it to the joke that these administrators are. After seeing Max and Amber bond at the Luncheonette over their awful middle school experiences, Adam decides to play hookey again with Max. Only instead of the amusement park, he takes Max to the beach to teach him how to surf. And while Max is predictably reluctant to give it a try, he ends up standing up on his board the first day & giving Adam a desperately needed smile. And the next time they head out, Max actually asks Kristina to come along.
“Fraud Alert” not only plays into the ongoing crumbling of Julia and Joel’s marriage, but also to the rest of the plotlines as the various characters deal with fraudulence in one way or another.
Proving that barging in on couples getting their freak on is a hereditary trait, we start off Zeke’s plotline of the episode with him interrupting Crosby and Jasmine’s increasingly rare alone time to tell Crosby of the grill for the 65 Pontiac GTO that’s the last piece of the puzzle for the car and extremely hard to find. Unfortunately, it’s 500 miles away in Eugene, Oregon and the guy Zeke talked to is “crazy in the head”, so shipping is out of the question. Therefore, Crosby goes with him on an impromptu road trip. And after a quick detour for some ATV driving, they finally get to the junkyard that has the holy grill. Unfortunately, the guy that Zeke talked to on the phone isn’t there. And the owner Ernie (played by character actor Barry Corbin, who most recently played Cam’s dad on Modern Family) will not part with it for the agreed upon price of $450. After the stand-off between Zeke and Ernie, Zeke admits to Crosby that he’s feeling old and that selling the house mean’s that he’s cashing his chips in and that it’s the end. But he can’t back out on selling the house, since that would make him as bad a welcher as Ernie. And so to help out his father, Crosby goes back to the junkyard and gets Ernie to sell the grill to Zeke for the agreed upon price by probably overpaying for a motorcycle that Crosby noticed when they arrived.
Over with Sarah, we finally get the much touted and highly anticipated return of fan favorite Mark Cyr. After running into Amber and finding out about what Sarah’s been up to, Mark called Sarah to see if she’d like to have dinner with him. She says yes and at said dinner, he tells her that not only is he finally a published writer (in a literary magazine that has a circulation of 37) but that he’s engaged and that he wanted her to hear it from him and not through the grapevine. And thus millions of women’s hearts across Twitter were crushed and Jason’s Ritter’s on again/off again relationship with the show was finally put to rest. And finally, we get to Amber, Drew, Sydney and Victor. After Amber ropes Drew into babysitting Sydney and Victor for Joel, Drew sees how much of a wreck Sydney and Victor are. After telling Amber about that and remembering how bad they were during their parents’ divorce, Amber and Drew get Sydney and Victor out of Joel’s apartment and takes them to a roller rink. And despite Sydney and Victor’s snotty reaction to their surroundings, Amber tells them about how she and Drew went there a lot when they were little and that they understand what they’re going through and that Sydney and Victor at least have each other, so they don’t have to go through it alone. This leads to a final montage set to Joshua Radin‘s “Underwater” of the various victories the characters have. Of Adam, Kristina, Max and Nora on the beach with Max actually happy. Of Crosby riding ahead on his new motorbike and Zeke behind him in the truck with the grill on the passenger seat and a cigar in his teeth. Of Amber, Drew, Sydney and Victor rollerskating and having a great time. Of Zeke and Crosby arriving home and Zeke telling Camille that he’s ready to accept the offer. And of Julia meeting up with Ed for a drink.
- Best Line of the Night: “I think it’s the most depressing $40 I’ve ever made.” Drew to Amber after the disastrous babysit of their cousins.
- Stray Observations:
- Amber has a “Damn Fine Coffee” coffee mug in her kitchen. The horrible dinosaur sweater last week lost me, but the Twin Peaks mug is a bit of hipster decor I can get behind.
- Between Adam calling a kid an asshole last week, and Kristina using the word “pissed” as a verb and not an adjective, part of me was hoping she’d flip off the principal and dean for basically giving up on Max.
- According to Zeke’s mix tape, selections of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” climbed the charts in 1962. Either that or Zeke is a closet opera fan.
- “I’m blowing my nose.” Hank to Dr. Pelican when he finally takes a tissue from the ever handy tissue box.”
- “I’m not a beach person. I’m from Cleveland.” And thus we finally have a location for Kristina’s ever tantalizing backstory.
[notification type="star"]87/100 ~ GREAT. “Fraud Alert” touches slightly on themes of fraudulence and how the various characters react to it. The crumbling of Joel and Julia’s marriage is put into focus as we approach the rubicon while everyone else, except Sarah, experiences their own personal victories.[/notification]