Parenthood, Season 6, Episode 5, “The Scale of Affection is Fluid”
October 23, 2014, 10 PM, NBC
After the last few weeks of heavy episodes, “The Scale of Affection Is Fluid”, which was written by newcomer Jesse Zwick and directed by TV vet Bethany Rooney, is a return to form for the series in that there was an even balance of drama with actual humor in the mix. There are at least two “hide behind something and peer out to see what’s going on” moments that are played for laughs. Lauren Graham and Ray Romano drew the “MIA” short straws this week (explained away as a photo shoot in Santa Cruz), while everyone else progressed with their plotlines from previous episodes with one unexpectedly going well and another one making a beloved character the Charlie Brown of the Braverman family. I’ll give you three guesses as to who it is and the 1st two don’t count.
We begin tonight’s episode with Max peering from behind a column at his paramour Dylan as she sketches something in her notebook across the way before ripping it out and throwing it away. Immediately Max springs into action and fishes her drawing of a horse out of the trash. This grabs Kristina’s attention as she walks by. “Hey bud. What’cha doing?” “Studying.” “The trash?” “That’s ridiculous. Why would I be studying the trash? I’m studying Dylan.” This of course raises another red flag for Kristina in regards to Max. And after overhearing Adam, Zeke and Crosby at the barbeque talk to Max about “rounding the bases”, Kristina tells Adam about the stalkerish behaviour Max is doing and that he needs to temper Max’s enthusiasm. After the two talk to Max about the 1 to 5 “scale of affection” and how one person in a friendship can like the other person more than the other and that it is indeed fluid (thus getting our episode title), Max sits down with Dylan and explains the scale to her and that he is at a 5 towards her. But rather than be the slow, oncoming train wreck that we’ve been expecting, Dylan takes Max’s blunt declaration of affection well and goes from a 2 to a 2.5 towards him. Encouraged by this, Max gets a few pick-up books from the library in an attempt to double that number. After talking him out of them, Kristina admonishes Adam for telling him that he was 2 when they first met. Adam saw it as encouragement and when he gets to the bottom of why this is upsetting Kristina, he asks why not Max? “I need to believe this is possible.” Thus we end the plotline with Max and Adam going over what Dylan’s likes are, where their common interests lay and Max’s strongest attributes, which Kristina joins in with. This to me is without a doubt the best plotline of the episode and is fast becoming my favorite plotline of the season. Like I’ve said before, the story of Adam and Kristina dealing with Max and his Aspbergers has always been, IMHO, the heart of the series. The ups and the numerous downs that came with Max and his condition is the stuff that I’ve always latched onto the most. And going into the final season, for me the goal of Adam and Kristina was never to “cure” Max, but to finally let go of him. To know that they can step back from Max, secure in the knowledge that he can stand on his own two feet and that any setback or disappointment won’t crush him. With this episode we see that Adam is rushing to get to this moment while Kristina is dug into her constant fear over Max’s well being. All I hope is that once they see Max and Dylan together and that they can in fact be good together, that they balance each other out and that Max will truly be all right.
Next up, we have Crosby and Zeke being grounded in different ways. Zeke is being driven to his physical therapy sessions by Camille who drives well below the speed limit while Jasmine has taken the liberty of putting a boot on the front wheel of Crosby’s motorcycle. Stewing in their shared misery at the family barbeque, Crosby offers to drive Zeke to his physical therapy sessions in their minivan. After rocketing down the streets, Crosby decides to stick around nearby and pick Zeke up after his session. Peering into his dad’s therapy session, he sees Zeke stumble on the treadmill. Afterwards, Crosby asks Zeke if they want to hit the bar for some drinks with Crosby drinking for the both of them. After reminiscing about a trip to Yosemite when they were kids and how Zeke scared off a black bear, Crosby finally opens up to Zeke about what’s going on in his life with no money coming into The Luncheonette, Jasmine monitoring his every move and Jabbar constantly asking him to do things with him. And in a moment that shows just how far Crosby’s gone, Zeke actually shows concern over Crosby’s motorcycle injury. Understanding what Crosby’s going through, he tells him to try to enjoy it, have a little fun and “scare the bear. It just goes by fast.” And after a night of drinking, Jasmine comes with the minivan to pick them up and as Crosby sleeps it off in the backseat, Jasmine and Zeke tell each other they’re worried about Crosby.
Moving over to Amber, after literally bumping into Griffin, a guy at the coffeeshop, the two exchange numbers and go out on a first date at a dog park, even though neither of them own a dog. As happy as Drew and Natalie are that Amber is seeing someone else (who happens to be the complete opposite of Ryan BTW), Drew pushes her to tell him that she’s pregnant. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Amber finally tells him right before they enter her apartment. Predictably, he bails. And after giving Drew a care package of all the alcohol and drug paraphernalia in her apartment, Amber realizes just how much her decision to keep the baby and go at it alone is really going to impact her.
And finally, we come to the continuing saga of Julia and Joel. After stopping off at the Braverman BBQ to get some forms signed, Chris is roped in by Adam to come in, have a burger and play some basketball. Sydney and Victor are then introduced to Chris and take a shining to him. This is all in good fun, until Joel comes in, sees the new man in his family’s life and in his mind the Vince Guaraldi Trio starts playing the instrumental version of “Christmas Time Is Here.” Later on, Joel’s soul crushing misery turns to passive-aggressive stewing as Sydney and Victor start using the “Chris says” phrase when talking about Julia’s new boyfriend and how he says that basketball will eventually surpass baseball as the national sport. After expounding the “subtle beauty” of baseball to Victor, Joel goes to Julia’s office for in a barely concealed rage. And while he agrees that she has the right to see someone else and not feel bad about it, “What you do not have a right to do is to go around introducing our kids to whoever it is you feel like sleeping with that week.” And while she concedes that this was an accident and not the way she would have liked to have handled it, it’s clear that she’s getting more pissed off at Joel as her relationship with Chris develops. While Joel is clearly the villain this week in terms of their separation, it’s getting to the point that in terms of their separation, both of them are right and both of them are wrong and all that’s left to do is to try to figure out how all of this is going to work. Our episode ends with Chris coming with three bags of groceries to cook French cuisine for Julia. Touched by this gesture and his willingness to pursue their relationship at her speed, Julia decides to go out, gossipy shcool moms be damned.
- Best Line of the Night: “There could be moms at the French place.” The final line of the episode that’s a call back to a prologue scene I forgot to mention. I love the “To Hell with it.” tone the line has as its repeated between the two of them. While a lot of people are still clamoring for Joel and Julia to get back together, honestly this Chris guy has won me over and I wouldn’t mind seeing him inducted into the Braverman clan in the series finale.
- Stray Observations:
- Tonight’s episode was dedicated to Franco Georgianna, who was a propmaster on the show who passed away unexpectedly during the shooting of the episode. Not sure why the show wasn’t listed on his IMDB page along with There Will Be Blood and Up in the Air, but it should. Currently, there is a GoFundMe campaign going on to help out his kids.
- Adam’s “Proprietary Spice Blend” for the burgers at the BBQ is just salt, pepper and Worchester’s Sauce. As a barbequer myself, Worchester’s Sauce on burgers is an odd combo. Next time I have access to a BBQ, I’ll be sure to try it out.
- Looking ahead to the schedule for new episodes, we’ve got new episode till November 20th and then a month off for Thanksgiving, the live Peter Pan musical and then the holidays with the final 4 episodes airing in January. Personally I would have liked for the whole thing to have aired in 2014 so that the show would have a chance at going higher on my Best TV of 2014 list, but it could also open the door for the show to be on my Best of 2015 list.
- The “Next Week on Parenthood” bumper over the credits promises “This is Parenthood at its best”. Way to put yourself out on front street. Crosby saying “I’ve made a mistake” has fans on Twitter speculating that he’s going to cheat on Jasmine yet again, but they’ve already done that in season 2, so I highly doubt that they’ll double dip a specific plotline for a character again. I think it’s just going to be Crosby telling Jasmine that they lost Oliver Rome and that the Luncheonette is going under. But it looks like Ruby might end up getting rufied and date raped. Bit of a dark turn for the series, but if you’re going to go dark, might as well do it when you’re at the halfway point for the final season.
~ "The Scale of Affection is Fluid" is a return to form for the show in that it was equal parts drama, comedy and "Awwww."