Parenthood, Season 6, Episode 7, “These Are The Times We Live In”
November 6, 2014, 10:00 p.m., NBC
This week’s episode of Parenthood (written by star staff writer Sarah Watson and directed by the series’ long time second AD Eric Galileo Tignini who directed the Friday Night Lights/Parenthood crossover web series) covers the family members that were mostly absent last week (with Adam and Krstina “off soliciting donations in Sacramento” and Crosby and his family on the bench this week) as they deal with new responsibilities that are thrust upon them and the new forms of communication that comes with it while also bringing the saga of Julia and Joel to a head. While it still has the same low-key approach and slight tension of the previous episode, this time around we’re seeing some actual progress in two of the season long plotlines, which we’ll get to later.
We begin our episode with a low to the ground dolly in the early morning as little Nora goes to her parents room. Only this time, it’s Amber sleeping in their bed. After pulling Nora into bed for scary monsters, Max wakes Amber up some more with a prompt 6 AM wake-up call, listing off exposition and their itinerary for the weekend, which includes a trip to Alcatraz. Amber is watching them over the weekend as a dry run for when she finally becomes a parent. But the episode credits are barely done before their weekend is shot with Amber missing the keys for the minivan and her beater of a car not set-up for the baby seat for Nora. And between Max’s freak-out and Amber’s hormones and fears for the future, the rest of the weekend disintegrates into Max pacing back and forth for missing the ferry and then going on a sugar binge while watching Seed of Chucky. When Sarah comes over to check on them and finds Amber in bed with a sleeping Nora (who is not supposed to be in their bed, per Adam and Kristina’s request), Amber tells Sarah about their day and how she feels overwhelmed about taking care of the two of them. Sarah calms her down by telling her that they don’t start out that big and that babies are considerably easier to handle and more importantly, that’s she’s not alone in all this.
Moving onto Amber’s brother, we see Drew and Zeke going down the highway for a trip to Oakland to go to a Big Top Burger. While Zeke is obviously thrilled at being able to go on an adventure with his grandson as part of the strings attached to giving Drew the GTO (and thank God for that), Drew is miffed that he’s being dragged away from his studies for an impromptu fast food run. And when another one of these trips involves driving 5 hours to a parking lot to shoot cans of creamed corn with an actual handgun (to be fair, Zeke thought the spot was an empty field), Drew finally lets Zeke have it. And as much as I appreciate Drew finally standing up for himself, especially to the closest thing he’s had to a father figure for the entire run of the series, I also appreciated Natalie for pointing out that Zeke was just trying to have an actual bonding experience similar to the one he had with his grandfather at Drew’s age. Thus, Drew becomes the instigator of the Zeke adventure and takes him to an actual firing range to shoot said creamed corn cans. While some might see this scene as a glorification of guns, as both a farm kid who had gun safety drilled into my head before I even handled my first gun by my hunter father and a fan of the show, it’s pretty obvious that this scene was about Zeke and Drew sharing an experience and not the actual gunplay.
Jumping over to Sarah and Hank, we finally get some actual progress regarding Hank, Ruby and Sandy and how Sarah might potentially be on the outs. After storming into Hank’s studio once again, Sarah get’s Ruby to open up about some boy trouble she’s having at school. After taking point on her, the two get on good terms with them watching the tv version of Fast Times At Ridgemont High. And even with Phoebe Cates’s breasts censored, it’s still enough to get Sandy pissed off with Sarah. This, as well as the boy at school, gets them arguing which then leads to Hank bailing on both of them. “Really?” ; “Oh yeah, get used to that.” This leads to the most amusing scene of the episode with Hank joining in with Max pacing back and forth (“I’m just going to walk with you.”) as he realizes just how much he screwed up. “Oh God, why did I walk out?” When Hank get’s back, him and Sarah fight over Sandy’s perceived attempt of Sarah’s to supplant her in Ruby’s life, Hank not understanding the subtext of them arguing over Fast Times and him walking out to get his camera from Max and then him not noticing why Amber was crying. This then lead’s into one of my favorite scenes of the episode with Hank going over to Sandy’s and finally telling her about his therapy and that he has Aspbergers (and that the “jump ball” from last season is now a slam dunk) and that everything that happened that lead to their marriage falling apart was on him and his inability to communicate and process emotions. This leads to a final scene where when Sandy comes to pick Ruby up, she tells him about a yogurt place that has a rare taro root flavor. This pique’s Hank’s interest and the two of them rope him into a day out together while Sarah is out of the picture. Methinks a break-up is in the future.
And finally, we get to the best plotline of the episode. Of Julia and Joel on the precipice of finalizing their divorce. We begin with them finishing up mediation as they decide on what to do with the house. Julia wants to make a clean break and sell the place, make a profit and split the money 50/50. But Joel, knowing how much the place means to her and the kids tells her that the house is hers. And as they get into the elevator, we get one of the more interesting edits I’ve seen on the show. When the elevator doors close, we see Julia take Joel’s hand. And after looking away with pained looks, they then tearfully embrace. But when the doors open, they’re still holding hands, but their facial expressions are still stony. Either the elevator ride was really slow and they had time to steel up, or we’ve just had the first ever fantasy sequence (or shot) of the entire series from I think Joel’s perspective. For a show that’s often very literal, it’s a nice bit of ambiguity to the proceedings. I’m not entirely sure if it’s supposed to be intentional or not, but there it is. The next day at Joel’s apartment, Julia gives him the opportunity to rescind the offer, since it was clear he was making the decision off of emotion. But Joel refuses to see the home they brought their baby daughter home to, that their son felt safe in for the 1st time in his life and that they argued over what color to paint the walls when they first moved in as newlyweds planning their future as an asset to be split. And even if it kills him to walk away from it and the family he has, “If I can’t have you in it, I don’t want it.” Later on, each of them talk it over to their confidants. Her to Chris about how she was ready to sell the house and move on and now she’s just surrounded by memories. And then in the best scene of the episode, Joel goes to Zeke. After talking about baseball and then marveling at how Joel is no longer intimidated by Zeke, Joel tells him that he’s saying goodbye and that Zeke was the role model Joel never had growing up and that he’ll miss him and his family. Zeke then calls him out on him giving up and him leaving with some “dignity” and tells him to fight for her. And in the final moments of the episode, Joel finally stands up and goes to Julia.
- Best Line of the Night: “I’m doing a lot of things I’m not supposed to be doing. The system is broken down, it’s amazing.” Max vegging out in front of the tv surrounded by sugar as Otis the dog is eating ice cream right out of the container.
- Between Seed of Chucky and Fast Times at Ridgemont High this week and To Kill A Mockingbird and The Breakfast Club last week, the show is really raiding the Universal back catalogue. I have a tendency to notice these things, especially when it’s all from the same studio. Here’s hoping for one of the characters watching the final scene of Back to the Future Part III during the series finale.
- Sarah let Amber watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High when she was 15. I’d say that’s about the right age to watch that film. Yeah it gets a bit raunchy, but there’s an emotional honesty and actual realism to it that makes it a cut above the majority of 80’s crap for teens. And aside from Almost Famous, I can’t think of a better introduction to Cameron Crowe.
- Next week: First real hiccup between Max and Dylan (who may or may not be into girls, I’m not entirely sure), Ruby throws a party while Hank is away and Amber has some complications with her pregnancy.
"These Are The Times We Live In" still feels like last week's low key, next to no stakes episode, but the progress made with Hank and Julia/Joel makes it worthwhile.