Episode 14: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
By: Carlos Uribe
Parenthood is a show about the Braverman family.
A plot that is proving to be surprisingly entertaining is Renee having moved in with Crosby and Jasmine. Crosby's mother-in-law has created tension in the household simply by being there. She has a tendency to be a nuisance when it comes to the time she spends in the bathroom and she's been picky in her job search. Crosby's complaints about her have been legitimate but he's been able to survive. That is until Renee judges Crosby and Jasmine on their parenting skills. While he might understand her stance on church, he's not happy that she disproves of Jabar's lack of discipline. It doesn't matter if she's in the right or the wrong because she's not the parent. Crosby and Jasmine are the ones raising Jabar and they should be able to do that how they wish, as long as they're not abusing him. Which they aren't. Crosby isn't happy about this judgment and he tries to get Jasmine to stand with him and lay out some boundaries. This falls apart because Jasmine isn't able to confront her own mother on any issue. This simple issue is complicated for multiple reasons. The first is that Crosby is completely right in all of his complaints. It isn't Renee's place to judge their parenting skills and she can be very passive aggressive. He's correct in his assessment that Jasmine doesn't seem to want to stand up to her. He might be right but it's also a fight that's not really worth fighting, which is what Jasmine believes. Renee might judge them but correcting her will only lead to more problems. Which means that Crosby has to be the one to be the bigger man and apologize. Overall, this is a plot that is being handled surprisingly well partly because it takes all sides into account seriously. That it doesn't get resolved means that this tension will go into the season finale.
A plot that seems to largely get resolved in this episode is the Victor adoption story. Julia has been having second thoughts about going through the adoption because she doesn't know if Victor will ever have a positive relationship with her. All she sees from him is hatred or indifference and that has made it difficult to bond with him. Making matters complicated is that Joel doesn't share the same concerns and he's in a completely different page than her. It even comes to the point where he's inadvertently shaming her into trying to go through with the adoption. The person who manages to give Julia the conviction to through with the adoption isn't Joel but Crosby. In the episode's most powerful talk in an episode filled with “talks”, Crosby relates how he use Julia as an example of how to be a good parent and how he hated his own mom when he was Victor's age. It's basically the perfect thing he could have stated. Julia might still not be sure if Victor and her will have a good relationship but at least she has the strength to take the leap and find out. Her entire crisis with the adoption story has been handled rather delicately with the season and it's one that it had been building up to. It makes sense that a character who has gone through with something similar, Crosby arriving late at Jabar's life with no instructions on how to be a dad, was the one who helped her through it. Overall, the highlight of the episode but it' a bit of a surprise that the series largely resolved this very serious story in the episode right before the finale. I mean, the adoption technically has to still go through, but the actual drama it was causing appears to be over.
Ryan returns this episode when he calls Zeek in the middle of the night because he can't sleep. Zeek's advice is to get a task to occupy his mind. This convinces Ryan to go and ask Joel for his job back but Joel refuses it. Joel has every right to refuse considering how Ryan had been a terrible employee who had just walked out on the job. This is when Amber gets involved when she encourages him to try again but this time with a bribe of food and an actual apology. In other words, guilt Joel into giving a job. This manages to work. It's nice that he's back on the show but it seems a bit odd to suddenly reintroduce him in the episode right before the finale. It wouldn't surprise me if Ryan and Amber get back together, especially since Ryan now seems serious about getting his life back together. It's just that his pill addiction remained unreferenced and this seemed more like a mid-season move rather than a late-season one. The reason this is a problem is because I at least know what the other plots are exploring, what they're about, and where they could potentially lead. Kristina's cancer goes away or she dies, Sarah chooses somebody or nobody, Renee moves away or not, Victor is adopted or ditched-those are all the possible outcomes because they are stories that have been moving forward. Who knows what the season finale plans to explore in regards to Ryan.
Sarah's love triangle story is heating up to a hopefully great climax for next week. This week has Mark having coffee with Sarah where he learns that Hank had kissed her while they were still engaged. This frustrates him but he announces his intention to Hank that he's going to try and win Sarah back. Hank's response is to tell Sarah this and that he's not happy with this situation because he's emotionally committed to their relationship. The problem is that Sarah doesn't know if she should pick Hank or Mark. Hank possibly sums up every love triangle when he states that he wants Sarah, Mark wants her, and Sarah doesn't know who she wants. She might be with one person or the other but she needs to make a choice. She has to search her feelings and make up her mind on who she's going to be with. It might have been predictable that she's given this choice but it works because I myself don't know which one she should go with. I really like her with Mark but she seems to be perfect with Hank. It wouldn't surprise me if the choice she makes ended up being neither because it's simply too hard to make.
In the “light” story of the week, we get to resolve the vending machine plot! Max had run for student council president on his promise that he'll bring back vending machines. He has collected the signatures and done his work only to be denied by the PTA. He's angry but he would eventually have gotten over it. He doesn't have to because Kristina decides that Max's cause is just. She goes to the PTA and she manages to convince everyone that the vending machine ban isn't good. It not only cuts the arts program budget but the students are buying more junk food at convenience stores. Rather than making the kids healthier, it's done just the opposite. Kristina's solution is to have a new vending machine that sells healthy snacks. This happens and Max is delighted when his friends show him a vending machine. There's a slow-motion scene where kids throw skittles at him as he's named the savior of the school. Okay, it's a little bit cheesy but it still works because we know how important this is to him and how hard he's fought for this.
We are now nearing the season finale of Parenthood. Kristina's cancer is still there as her bald head reminds us, there might be a last hurdle at Victor's adoption, Sarah's love triangle is coming to an epic climax, and Renee is causing problems at Crosby's home. There is also whatever Ryan's season finale drama is going to be-whether that's his pill addiction, getting back with Amber, or both is difficult to tell. Whatever the case, the penultimate episode of the season is a pretty fantastic one that had a pretty insanely powerful talk between Crosby and Julia. I mean, it made me tear up for some reason it was that good.