Parenthood, Season 6, Episode 2, “Happy Birthday Zeke”
October 2, 2014, 10:00 PM, NBC
Despite literally picking up where the last episode left off with Sarah and Amber processing the news of Amber’s pregnancy, “Happy Birthday, Zeek” (directed again by Trilling, but written by one of the star writers of the show Sarah Watson) was a breather of an episode. While it didn’t have the “bursting out of the gate” energy that last week’s premiere had, the episode continued on with the pace established for the final season. New developments occurred while the big events of the previous episode was dealt with in a low key fashion. Hank only showed up in one scene and Drew was completely M.I.A., although the less we see of Drew and Natalie the better IMHO. Overall, the episode sustained the momentum of the previous episode while taking a moment to collect itself before moving onto the next episode which looks to be a major one.
As Sarah stands there stunned into silence over Amber’s news, the biggest response that Sarah can give to her daughter is “Oh”, which she confesses to Hank later on that she regrets, as well as realizing that it doesn’t matter what she feels and that Amber needs her. Later on, she tries again with Amber, only to say aloud that while she doesn’t wish that Amber wasn’t pregnant, she wishes that she wasn’t doing it now since she still has a lot to go through before becoming a parent. And that having done it herself, Sarah knows what Amber is going to go through more than what Amber realizes at this point. But by the end, after addressing Amber’s literal open door policy, Sarah shows Amber her baby pictures and remembers to tell her about all the good stuff, as well as concluding with both parties being scared.
Over at Chamber’s Academy, the latest hiccup with the school involves the food vendor quitting on the spot over having to make 40 specialized meals a day for the students. After a wallet hurting emergency food run, Adam suggests that they kill two birds with one stone (the other bird being a new arts elective for the kids) and have him pick up the food from Costco and he’ll cook it along with four other kids as a culinary (or CUE-linary, depending on either Adam or Kristina) arts elective. And despite dealing with varying kids on the spectrum (one of which who gets a bit too friendly with the matches and knives), the plan actually works when one of the kids parents calls to say that the experience helped her son to open up.
With Joel and Julia this week, they’re called in to talk to one of Sydney’s teachers and finds out that Sydney has been bullying a new girl at school. The only ones surprised by this news are Joel and Julia themselves, who see Sydney’s bullying as her acting out in relation to their separation. As they walk away, Julia finally lets her anger and frustration with Joel out about the last year. “Are you kidding me? I begged you for a year just to talk to me and to tell me what the Hell was going on. And you refused to do that and it broke me. And I’m almost OK. So you can’t come over and talk to me about my Dad. You can’t kiss me, OK! You can’t pretend like you didn’t destroy me. Because you did! You destroyed us!!! All of us!” While I never saw last year’s dissolution of Julia and Joel’s marriage as character assassination or the writer’s screwing up, it is getting to the tipping point of the audience and characters not knowing why Joel gave up on their marriage being a major plot hole. And as we go from Sydney yelling at them when they confront her about it and them not knowing what to do by the end of the episode, here’s hoping that at some point in the final season we get Joel finally opening up on why he gave up on them.
And finally we get to the main plotline of the season and where we get the title of the episode. Upon hearing that the medical test results were not good and that Zeke needs surgery, Zeke goes into denial mode as Adam tries upon Camille’s request to talk some sense into Zeke. Crosby, upset about hearing about Zeke’s surgery news secondhand, volunteers to talk to Zeke about it, which predictably fails since Zeke knows how to talk around Crosby and get him on his side. This culminates at the birthday party at Adam’s place where a three way argument between Adam, Crosby and Julia gets interrupted by Zeke, thus throwing cold water on the party. Cold water that Sarah is oblivious to when she arrives late with the party favors in the funniest scene of the night. Later on as the family chokes down the lentil based food and the sugar and gluten free tart cake, Adam confronts Zeke about whether or not he should do the surgery and actually chokes up in front of his father. And while it chips away at Zeke’s exterior, it’s when he evades the party and finds a crying Amber on the porch who tells him that she’s pregnant that Zeke finally considers what’s on the line that he agrees to do the surgery. And given just how heartwarming it was to see Zeke give Amber the response she’s been wanting from this news and the “I’m going to be a great-grandfather.” line, I recommend stocking up on the tissues for next week, folks.
- Best Line of the Night: “Wow. Wait a minute, that’s ridiculous. Amber can’t be pregnant. Sarah was just pregnant with Amber.” Camille upon Zeke telling her about Amber. As I’ve said before, I absolutely love the journey that Camille and Zeke went on last season. And moments like this that remind us just how fast life can go drives home the emotional power of the series.
- Stray Observations:
- By the way, despite the spelling of his name in the title, I’m still going to spell it as Zeke seeing as how it’s short for Ezekiel.
- 2nd Best Line of the Night: “Wait till you see my review on Yelp!” Kristina to the food vendor who rips up the contract in front of her. Never has a threat sounded so hilariously ineffective.
- And in a 1st for the series, toddler Nora finally gets a line. “No.”
- I like that Hank in this episode is the audience surrogate and asks Sarah how Amber and Ryan were able to do it with him in a full body cast and in traction.
- As a 72nd birthday gift for Zeke, Crosby gets the kids to sing a Bob Marley song and record it for Zeke. During this, we find out that Sydney doesn’t know who Janis Joplin is (which Crosby blames Julia for) and that autotune is the Secret Oliver Rome Sauce that he’s unaware of.
- In the “I’m calling it!” category, Kiara from Season 5 was one of the kids in the kitchen. Having read the episode descriptions of the next two episodes, I’m pretty sure she’s going to be the one Max becomes more attached to than his parents. And with Zeke’s request of having his ashes scattered at center field in Marine Park and a game of baseball played over them, I’m calling it in that the final scene of the series is them doing just that, which would make for a great callback to the pilot.
- In unrelated Parenthood news, Sam Jaeger pops up for a brief second in the finally released trailer for Inherent Vice. And here I was thinking Dax Shepherd had won the “movie hiatus” lottery of the cast.
"Happy Birthday, Zeek" takes a breather for everyone after the premiere before picking up in what is certainly going to be the first big tearjerker of the season.