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Parenthood Cry-Cap: Let Joel Eat Cake

Parenthood -- "Let's Be Mad Together"

After last week’s light-on-tears episode, this week’s episode of Parenthood got the waterworks flowing again. A plumber’s snake works wonders in that regard. Now, this was by no means an all-out sob-athon, but by my count, it still delivered four cry-friendly moments, otherwise known as moments of verklemption. (Definition of verklemption: what happens when Parenthood redeems itself by making its viewers feel cry-y again.)

In addition to the verklemptions, this week’s hour also gave us one near-cry: Crosby’s speech to the members of Ashes of Rome, in which he convinced them they might be able to record an album as good as Nirvana’s Bleach or Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. That scene mainly was moving because Adam looked so happy to finally have Crosby’s support in his admittedly cockamamie idea to turn the Luncheonette into a record label. It definitely was not moving because of Ashes of Rome, who, frankly, I am not sure have what it takes to record an album of novelty Christmas-carol covers. But enough about that silly band, their pretentious front man, and his desire to put a splish of Kanye West and a splash of Daft Punk on everything. Let’s get to the cryin’.

1. Hank’s defense of Max’s photography skills.
One of the things I love about Parenthood is the show’s capacity to make us see an issue from two sides that are equally legitimate. The whole plot involving Max’s demotion from his role as yearbook photographer worked exactly on that level. On one hand, it was completely understandable that the teacher who oversees yearbook felt that Max shouldn’t be taking photos anymore. He did intrude on that girl’s space by snapping a photo of her when she asked him not to, and he probably had been overstepping his bounds in a variety of other ways, all for the sake of a good shot. But it’s also completely reasonable to advocate for him to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s got talent, photography brings him out of his shell, and besides, the school yearbook should be about candid moments, not just happy, pre-posed images. Still, both the faculty and the principal have to do what’s best for the majority, and that’s why parenting a kid like Max is so hard. He can’t understand why his needs and desires don’t always come first.

What made my cry in all this wasn’t how hard Max took it when Kristina told him he couldn’t be yearbook photographer anymore, or even the look on Kristina’s face when she heard about the impact that Max’s behavior had on other students, including the kids on the student council with him during his time as president. What got to me was how passionately Hank came to Max’s defense, pointing out the strong composition and perfect use of light in the kid’s picture of the crying girl. “That kid is a photographer,” Hank said, sounding as if Max were practically his son. It was really touching. What can I say? Sometimes Ray Romano gets to me.

Cry factor (on a scale of one tear to five): 1.5 tears

2. Camille losing her voice.
Camille remained frustrated with Zeek for not even trying to discuss the possibility of selling the house or make plans for their third act. Once again, she noted that she’s never gotten to travel or even leave the country and wants to do that while she still can. And once again, just as it did when she expressed the same sentiment two episodes ago, I got a trifle teary. “Somewhere along the way, I lost my voice in the relationship,” she told Julia, “and I don’t know how to get it back.” That comment, of course, was just as relevant to Julia and Joel as it was to Zeek and Camille — just mentioning that in case the parallelism weren’t already screaming in your face.

Cry factor: 1.5 tears

3. Julia advocating for her mother while crying.
The Joel and Julia marriage hit additional bumps this week when the spouses butted heads over Joel’s business (and martini-drinking) relationship with Peet. Once again, you could see both sides of this. With Julia not working, she’s extra-invested in making sure that Joel makes as much money as he can from this deal to build houses for Peet. But she definitely got a bit micro-managey and overbearing when she told Joel he was being taken advantage of by his supervisor. Julia, just let Joel eat cake, will ya? No, I mean, like, literally. Joel got drunk and bought that whole kid-birthday sheet cake and only ate a third of it. Julia really should let him finish that.

Seriously, what I like about this Joel-Julia dynamic is that there’s precedent in the relationship for it. On more than one occasion in the past, when Julia was still at the firm, she implied that her job was more important than Joel’s. He’s sensitive to his wife acting like she’s more competent than he is, which is what it felt, to him, like she was doing with all her suggestions about how he should handle billable hours. Meanwhile, Julia is extra-sensitive to being heard because the only place right now for her to be heard is at home. Which brings us to the moment when she laid into Zeek about not listening to Camille. When Zeek said she was intruding — sort of the same way Max intruded by pointing his camera lens where it didn’t belong — this time the girl who wound up crying was Julia. I have a feeling that won’t be the last time Julia sheds a tear this season because of Joel.

Cry factor: 2 tears

4. Ryan explains it all for Sarah Braverman.
After finding out that Amber and Sarah had a big argument about Amber’s decision to get married, Ryan dealt with the whole situation directly — well, after he helped Sarah fix Karl’s condom-clogged toilet. He knocked on Sarah’s door, then proceeded to explain his father’s death, his mother’s remarriage, and why he doesn’t want his family at the wedding. He then expressed his commitment to Amber: “I want to be worthy of your family. I want to be worthy of her.” Between Matt Lauria’s sturdy American-military jawline and the tears in Lauren Graham’s eyes during his speech, it was hard not to be moved. But as next week’s teaser suggests, even after all that, Sarah Braverman still may not be willing to drop her concerns about her daughter’s wedding plans. Which is fine. The longer this drags out, the more opportunities there will be for Graham and Mae Whitman to elicit cathartic cries from the Parenthood audience.

Cry factor: 2.5 tears

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC