Parenthood Cry-Cap: Love Finds Max Braverman

Episode Title
A Potpourri of Freaks
Editor’s Rating

How many road trips must season six of Parenthood go on before season six of Parenthood can stop taking road trips?

That’s not a lyric from a Bob Dylan song. But it might be the mantra I repeat privately, in my head, when I go on a silent retreat this weekend, one I sincerely hope will not be rudely crashed by Crosby Braverman while being led by Lindsay Weir’s guidance counselor. (Hey, Dave Allen. Sup?)

Seriously, let’s recap, in mid-cry-cap, all the recent Parenthood road-trip madness. During the season-five finale, Drew impetuously drove to Oregon. This season’s first episode featured Crosby and Adam taking that improbably spontaneous trip to Vegas, which followed Sarah and Zeek’s slightly less random trip to Vegas. Last week gave us National Lampoon’s Amber and Drew Go to Wyoming Despite the Fact That It’s a Long-Ass Drive. And this week, we got Crosby heading to Big Sur to talk Oliver Rome out of going solo under new management. At least Big Sur as a destination marked an improvement of sorts, since it’s actually plausible to drive there from San Francisco in a concentrated period of time. As for caring about the outcome of the business relationship between Oliver Rome and Crosby/Adam ... um, let’s just say I left my interest in that in San Francisco ... or possibly season five.

In short, you guys: This was not the best episode of Parenthood. And I hate to say that, since it was an episode directed by Peter Krause. But I don’t think the direction was the problem here. Narratively, the needle just didn’t move forward much, and at times, the characters (Kristina especially) were forced to act like caricatures of themselves rather than the living, breathing, relatable humans that Parenthood usually implies that they are. As I watched this episode, I was left mainly with questions. I mean, sure: I teared up a few times. Well, three, to be specific. Okay, fine: four if you count that damn Whirlpool commercial with the Johnny Cash cover of "You Are My Sunshine" that really gets to me. But mostly what I thought about were things like this:

  • Was the entire story line about Sandy and Sarah and Ruby and Hank really necessary since it (seemingly) got resolved after an uneventful, albeit confrontational, conversation between Hank and Sandy? I mean, I get that Hank announcing to his ex-wife that he’s serious about Sarah counts as progress. But it seemed like the writers devoted a lot of time to something that didn’t need to be, and turned out not to be, that big of a deal.
  • Is Dylan — the new girl at Chambers Academy and possible first love of Max Braverman’s life — a character who just stepped out of a screenplay co-written by Diablo Cody and, posthumously, somehow, John Hughes? It seems that way.
  • Should Kristina have been so actively anti-Dylan when she’s supposed to be the headmaster of a school where many of the students presumably have problems with bluntness and behaving within acceptable social boundaries? Shouldn’t she actively try to avoid showing favoritism of any kind, toward her son and be more patient with kids like Dylan? I have to be honest: I think Kristina is smart and reasonable enough not to call Dylan into her office the way she did. It seemed excessive, even for a lioness like her. In any case, hopefully, Dylan’s mom is nothing like Melody’s mom. If she is, she’ll be marching into the Chambers Academy common room very soon, breathing fire in Kristina’s face and threatening to file a formal complaint with Bob Little’s office.
  • Is Adam still forcing students to make all the damn lunches for THE ENTIRE SCHOOL? (This comment concludes this cry-cap’s installment of the “Weekly Airing of Grievances About Chambers Academy.”)
  • Will Dylan, Ruby, and Sydney soon be starring in Mean Girls 3: Burn Book Bitches? Ruby, at the very least, almost out-Regina’d Regina George with that Forever 21 comment she made to Sarah. Dylan ... well,  I’m not so sure she’s officially mean. Her observation that Chambers Academy is “a potpourri of freaks” was actually kind of funny. It also gave this episode its title, and — fun fact! — came damn close to being the name of this season of American Horror Story. As for Sydney: She’s like Melody’s mom said. She’s out of control. But like Zeek said: She might be like that even if her parents were still living together.
  • Even though Crosby walked away semi-unscathed from last week’s motorcycle accident, is it possible something bad still might happen to him? The focus on his wound, Jasmine’s insistence that he not bike to Big Sur, and the way he hopped on his bike anyway, sans helmet, at the end of the episode sort of shouted FORESHADOWING to me.
  • Does anyone care about the decisions Oliver Rome makes re: his career? No, they do not. But I did enjoy the fact that this goofy plotline provided an excuse for Crosby to make a Pitchfork joke. I’ve said it once, but dammit, I’ll say it again: There are not enough quality Pitchfork jokes on primetime television these days.

In summary: The only two stories I cared about in this episode were the Joel and Julia one, which, of course, still didn’t get resolved, and the one re: Zeek’s recovery. Coincidentally, they also were the only story lines that induced any tears. Wow, that sound like a segue ...

Cry Moment 1: Zeek’s Conversation with Julia. The one-on-one time between Zeek and various family members has felt a bit contrived this season. It’s as if there’s a sign-up sheet for doing very special scenes with Craig T. Nelson. Nevertheless, I thought the scene between Nelson and Erika Christensen worked really nicely because it felt like a real conversation. Every parent at some point admits that she feels like she’s completely screwing up her children. And if she’s lucky, the parent of that parent is there to say that we all screw up and “It’s going to be okay, kid.” The way Nelson winced when Christensen put her head on his shoulder, yet refused to tell her to move it, was a nice touch.
Cry factor, on a scale of one tear to five: two tears.

Cry Moment 2: Camille Worries Zeek is Giving Up. It seemed a bit premature for Camille to be assuming that Zeek was throwing in the towel on life when he had just gotten home from the hospital. But Bonnie Bedelia convincingly sold Camille’s sense of frustration and fear in that scene. The way Krause as director kept panning over to Kristina in the background as she tearfully watched the conversation between her mother-in-law and husband made it that much more emotional.
Cry factor, on a scale of one tear to five: three tears.

Cry Moment 3: Julia Talks to Syd. After the conversation earlier in this episode in which Julia seemed ready to start drawing up divorce papers, it seemed like she might finally tell Sydney that things between her mom and dad are totally over. But instead, she told the truth, or at least the version of the truth that doesn’t involve Not-Joel: that she and Joel don’t know what they’re doing. What got to me about this scene was the way that Julia acknowledged that she’s a lot like her daughter. “I hate uncertainty,” she said, while clearly trying to keep it together for her weeping daughter. Look, Syd kind of drives me nuts. But watching that kid cry — Savannah Paige Rae really is a pro at the crying — genuinely makes me upset. Also, I was relieved that there’s still a ray of hope for that marriage and that it hasn’t disintegrated entirely into ashes. And when I refer to ashes, I can only refer to one type of ashes. That would be the ashes ...

Wait for it ...

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