Parenthood, Season 6, Episode 1, “Vegas”
9/25/14, 10 PM, NBC
Wow. What a difference it makes to know that the next season you’re going into is the last. Whereas other seasons of Parenthood start off casually and spend their time getting into the groove of things, this time around the show just bursts out of the gate with an extreme close-up of Amber as she sees the ultrasound of her nearly 3 month baby. Not even burying the lead, folks. And from there, as the Chambers Academy is rushing to finish everything within the next 3 days before the grand opening, Sarah takes Zeke on an impromptu trip to Vegas as a birthday gift, which leads to Zeke collapsing on the floor of the casino at the blackjack table. With “Vegas” (written by Katims and directed by series stalwart Lawrence Trilling), the show is not wasting any time in getting things going and while the premiere has the traditional table setting of previous premieres, this time around the dishes and silverware are being slammed down as the roasted turkey is being pulled out of the oven and everyone is just digging in cannibal style.
Usually I talk about the various separate sub-plots that go on within the episode. But with one notable exception, the majority of tonight’s plotlines are fairly intertwined, so it’s best to go chronologically. After Amber’s ultrasound, we get a quick montage of everyone. Baby Aida is taking her first steps (along with a major casting change so that she’s not lily white anymore), Julia is working again at a law firm and having sex with Mr. Jeffries, who I think is a former boyfriend from law school and can now use all five fingers on the “guys I’ve slept with” hand. Sarah and Hank are together and awaiting the return of Ruby, Hank’s daughter back from Minnesota. And as Adam and Kristina are trying to get the contractor off his ass to get the school done in 3 days, Max tells his parents that he’s not going to go to the school.
As Sarah and Zeke hit the strip, the rest of the Braverman’s are recruited to start painting the school and even Joel is roped into fixing the plumbing. As Adam and Kristina try and fail again to get Max interested in coming to the school, a lovesick Haddie notices that Amber is in a mood and that something’s up with her. But as soon as Zeke hits the floor, pretty much everyone springs into action. Sarah deals with Zeke and a doctor who’s far too young to inspire confidence, Julia hears about it from Camille and rushes over to comfort her and Adam and Crosby make an impromptu emergency trip to Vegas. During all this, the only thing on Zeke’s mind is to get out of the hospital and back to the blackjack table, which he inevitable does, while roping three of his four children to join him.
While the medical emergency rages on, Kristina and Max sit in silence and watch paint dry. Literally. And as Kristina tearfully explains why they did this for him and other kids with Aspbergers, Max replies “You should have asked me first.” And while we know that by the end of the episode Max will be enrolled, it’s a sobering moment for Kristina. Much of the criticism that has been raised at Adam and Kristina over the years for their impulsive decisions to take on huge, massive things without thinking of the consequences (recording studio/label, mayoral race, special needs school) is a valid one to a certain degree. And a lot of stress and heartbreak could’ve easily been averted if they simply just asked their children if this is what they wanted. And when Haddie confronts Amber about her attitude, Amber makes Haddie the first person she tells that she’s pregnant. “Is this good or bad?”; “You tell me.” And after a walk and chat on the football field from years ago (and a nice bit of continuity porn), we end our episode with Kristina welcoming Max to Chambers Academy, Zeke and Camille’s doctor ordering more tests, Julia deciding to take her fling with her co-worker to the next level after an emotionally conflicting kiss from Joel and Amber telling Sarah that she’s pregnant.
The one plotline of the episode that remained separate for the most part was of Hank with his now 15 year old daughter Ruby and his ex-wife Sandy (Betsy Brandt) who are at each other’s throats when they get to Hank’s apartment. Upon finding Sarah’s panties in a drawer in her room, Hank and her have the most awkward of dinner conversations, followed by Sandy coming back to tell Hank that Ruby fell in with some bad kids and that she can’t handle Ruby on her own and is willing to give Hank 50% custody in order to help. Now, some people might consider this plotline an unnecessary diversion from the main drama going on with the Bravermans, but I think this is a huge step for Hank’s character. Up until now, he’s just been there mostly as the latest man in Sarah’s life as well as Max’s only friend/role model. But given the title of the series, it’s about time that we see him do some actual parenting and for the show to explore yet another family dynamic before the series wraps up. And while it’ll obviously involve Sarah, it won’t be to the degree that Amber’s pregnancy will.
- Best Line of the Night: “Now we’re like…old. We’re real life grown-ups, dude.” Amber realizing the passage of time from when she and Haddie had the fight over Steve on the same football field from season 1 and can now laugh about it. And that while Haddie obviously loves Lauren, her experience with Alex was still genuine. And that she still liked Steve for what little it’s worth. As intense as the rest of the episode was, this is my favorite scene from the episode.
- Stray Observations:
- Crosby immediately knows which hospital they were taken to in Vegas since he had been there three times in the past. Once for food poisoning, once for body glitter in his eye and once for a weird rash from a “performer’s” perfume. And I’m pretty sure he’s sugarcoating it for Adam.
- And despite being business partner’s with him, Adam still considers Crosby the least
qualified sibling to help in a medical emergency, with Sarah barely edging him out.
- Leave it to Monica Potter to make watching paint dry seem like a meditative and calming exercise.
- Props should be given to Betsy Brandt for her performance as Sandy. After seeing her for the last three months as one of the most repressed and heartbreaking characters on Masters of Sex (which says a lot if you’ve seen the show), to see her as this harsh woman who is at her wits end in regards to her daughter reminds you why she’s one of the most in demand actresses today.
With "Vegas", the show bursts out of the gate with a renewed dramatic intensity that aims to end the series on a high note.