Parenthood Cry-Cap: I’m Here for You

Photo: NBC/2013 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Episode Title
Nipple Confusion
Editor’s Rating

We’ll get to the tears in this week’s Parenthood episode, particularly the tears brought on by the sight of an itty-bitty infant staring into Dax Shepard’s eyes because, oh my God, could you even?

Seriously, I promise we’ll get there. But first we have a more pressing matter to discuss. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that Ryan and Amber broke into Drew’s dorm room and told P-hound/Sid from The Descendants to stop sex-iling Drew and getting his lacrosse stank all over Drew’s sheets. Although that was pretty awesome, especially the part where Ryan insisted on being called Sergeant York.

What must be discussed first, in this recap of an episode wonderfully titled “Nipple Confusion,” is the Joel-Julia argument over whether to send Victor back to fourth grade or keep him in fifth. After some hesitation and a talk with Ed, her sustainability committee muse, Julia concluded that her son must be held back immediately, before any additional educational damage could be done. Joel, on the other hand, thought they should give him some more time, work harder on his reading, and follow the plan they established with Victor’s teacher. Both parents made sound arguments. And based on a quick scan of Twitter — where a few Parenthood tweeters could be heard over the din of people tweeting about Scandal — opinions on this seemed mixed.

Personally, I’m with Joel, with some caveats. As a parent, my reaction would be identical to his. I’d be worried that, as Joel said, moving him back would “absolutely shred his self-confidence,” a factor Joel and Julia must be even more sensitive to considering what this kid has been thorough prior to joining their family. But the problem is that when Joel was “working” with his son, he was clearly not really working with him. He was reading to him and not following up to make sure there was some comprehension on Victor’s part, whereas Julia was forcing the boy to make an independent effort. Joel’s in a little bit of denial, while Julia seemed a little too convinced to send the kid back just because of a pros and cons list she carefully processed with Ed.

Ultimately, in terms of the Parenthood narrative, this isn’t really about Victor. This is about planting the seeds of Joel-Julia marital discord that will most likely grow as this Parenthood season continues. That being said, my vote is this: give Victor a couple of more weeks. Keep pushing to make sure he can read the word village on his own. Then decide what to do next.

Wow, I just butted my nose completely into another couple’s parenting decisions. It’s so much healthier to do that here, in a Parenthood recap, than it is to do it at a PTA meeting or in a grocery store when a girl starts running through aisles with a bottle of red wine in her hands. That last thing actually happened in front of my eyes recently, by the way. But let’s not even talk about it (Random dad! Put down the produce and pay attention!), because we have three very important cry moments to cover, starting with:

1. Dax Shepard talking nipple sense to baby Aida. I rewatched this scene four times. I teared up every time. After all his talk about not connecting with his daughter — not to mention his obsession with the breast pump (“This is the most fascinating contraption I’ve ever seen”) — Crosby finally bonded with his baby girl by convincing her to take a bottle from him. What was most remarkable about this scene was that two-shot, if it’s possible to call an image of a grown actor and a child the size of an edamame pod a two-shot. The camera stayed on both of them as that baby, whose tiny head could barely fill that little cap, just stared, entranced, at Dax Shepard, then finally latched on to that bottle. I have no idea how many takes that must have required but it was just beautiful. The fact that Shepard himself is still a fairly recent first-time dad made it that much more poignant.

Cry factor, on a scale of one tear to five: Four tears.

2. The talk between Zeek and Camille. After avoiding a conversation with his wife the way most old-school men do — by buying 1965 Pontiac GTO convertible coupes that will require several months to restore — the heads of the Braverman family finally talked about whether to sell the homestead. Zeek, not surprisingly, has no interest in a sale. “Everything I want is right here, Millie,” he said. “This is it. This is my third act, with you.” Camille’s response: “I want more.” Zeek: “I’ve seen other places and I didn’t really care for them.” Camille: “Well, I haven’t,” adding that she spent most of her life raising multiple children and not getting the chance to travel. Man, you can see both sides of this. When you get older, you want to hold tight to the things you love, like that beautiful, ragged-chic house. But you also know time’s flying by and that you need to see what there is to see while you still can. That subtext, as well as the performances by the underrated and perfect Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, were what made me a little verklempt during this moment.

But here’s the good news: This is easy to resolve! Keep the property, rent out that sublime guest house, and use that extra income to take some trips to Europe and Belize or wherever. That seems like a diplomatic solution, right? For God’s sake, I’ll rent the damn cottage if that’s what it takes.

Cry factor, on a scale of one tear to five: Two tears.

3. The Sarah-Kristina moment. Kristina Braverman struggled with the idea that her own husband doesn’t believe in her mayoral campaign. Sarah Braverman struggled with the notion that her own family members don’t think she’s a decent photographer. (For the record, Hank was right when he said that Sarah is flighty and that her relatives know that better than anyone. Hence, the understandable but unfair lack of confidence on their part.) Anyway … when Sarah visited Kristina and used pictures of dog tongues to convince the potential mayor of Berkeley that Sarah, her sister-in-law, was the right person to take her campaign photo, it was touching. Not as touching as a baby staring at Dax Shepard. But still pretty touching, especially since Kristina’s agreement was such a wonderful act of sisterhood, and it all worked out in the end.

Cry factor, on a scale of one tear to five: Two tears.