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'Parenthood': Welcome to the Bravermans, Nora!

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I was starting to worry about Parenthood, PopWatchers. The first few episodes of the third season of NBC’s typically underrated dramedy felt lackluster out of the gate. Besides the wonderful, long-overdue romantic reunion of Sarah and Mark (Jason Ritter), the remaining Bravermans and Co. didn’t have as much to work with: Haddie’s split from Alex (Michael B. Jordan), while sad, was inevitable, Zeke almost starred in a impotence commercial, scarring us indefinitely, and they finally gave poor Drew…a bad first date. (Quick thought, PopWatchers: What if one day Drew has a son named Steve? Steve Holt! Ah, the Arrested Development circle of life.) And, lest we forget, Amber’s new hairstyle. Shudder.

Alas, I shall worry no more. Not only was this week’s Parenthood the best so far this season, I’d argue it was one of the best of the series. The perfect blend of heart and humor that got so many of us invested in the first place shone through in the latest episode titled, “Nora.” Even though Drew was, once again, nowhere to be found. Poor, poor Drew.

Speaking of oft-neglected Parenthood characters, the show checked back in with Joel and Sydney after Julia brought home Zoe (Rosa Salazar), the girl at her job whose baby she’s been trying steal adopt. After Zoe, whose spawn seems to be growing at record speed, experiences Braxton Hicks contractions, Julia spent time with her in the hospital and offered to let her stay at their home, as it was obvious she had no one terribly dependable in her life. With Kristina expecting any day now (more on that in a bit) I feared this might turn into some sort of Nine Months scenario where they’d have their babies side-by-side and wacky antics (and thus, Robin Williams) would ensue. Thankfully, we were spared, and instead it was a touching storyline in which Zoe realized the Braverman-Graham household would be ideal for her son. In the greatest and most giving gesture of all, Zoe offered Joel and Julia the opportunity to be the parents of her child. They, of course, accepted.

While Joel and Julia awaited the arrival of their son, a very, very pregnant Kristina awaited the arrival of her daughter. Luckily, for Kristina, she had nothing to worry about besides being super pregnant. Well, not unless you count dealing with the heartbreak of watching her son with Asperger’s learn tough life lessons like having to eat lunch alone and write a letter of apology to Jabar for their schoolyard brawl (does Monica Potter not have the best crestfallen Mom cry on all of television, or what?) or watching her husband Adam “hip it up” (i.e. dressing like a monk and/or a character from Malibu’s Most Wanted) to impress a possible client for his business venture with his reliably lug nut of a bother, Crosby. Easy peasy, lemon squeeze-y!

In fact, things only got easier for Kristina when, in the midst of a fight with the aforementioned lovable human disaster that is Crosby (I mean, c’mon, he’s dating a lady named Tough) over the fact that she’d hired Dr. Joe, Jasmine’s sexy new doctor boyfriend, as her pediatrician, she went into labor. And just as luck would have it, Adam, looking like he was dressed for the world’s worst midlife crisis, was in the middle of a terribly awkward meeting with the studio’s first possible client, a rapper named Mista Ray. (I still don’t understand why Adam didn’t just use his cool-guy voice to say “Mista Ray” the way he did to Crosby or bother to show them his classic Braverman disco moves. If that doesn’t win over the hearts of gangster rappers, nothing will!)

Even though it was obvious from the beginning of their feud that Kristina was going to go into labor when Crosby was there, it still made for a truly lovely couple of scenes. Even the fight itself, as tense as it was, was a reminder about the fact that Parenthood has some of the best acting on TV. (Dax Shepard could go down as one of the all-time Emmy snubs if he doesn’t ever get recognition for this show.) When no one could reach Adam to tell him that Kristina was in labor (probably for the best as no child should be introduced to her father wearing such an absurd ensemble), Crosby was there in the delivery room for her. With Kristina welcoming her beautiful baby girl Nora (joining the pantheon of gigantic TV newborns) to the world, Crosby (despite being a father) getting to experience the miracle of birth for the first time, and the nice, albeit manipulative choice Iron & Wine’s “Such Great Heights” in the background, it was a doozy of a classic weepy Parenthood moment.

But, Crosby wasn’t the only one to help Kristina. After he pleaded with Egg Bland Ann Amber to stay with Max during his lunch detention and help him write his apology letter to Jabar, Kristina’s niece agreed. Amber, who finally realized she had the worst haircut in history and did something about it, continued to redeem herself by not only keeping Max company, but teaching how to give a sincere apology. Who cares if she trained him with Tootsie Roll treats? It worked! Max apologized to Jabar and they were back to being buddies in no time. (Must be nice to be a kid, eh?) Anybody else think Amber could find her true calling by helping Max? Not only would it get Amber out of her rat-infested apartment, but she’d also save Kristina and Adam the hassle of finding a new Gaby. She’s clearly got a knack for it and she no longer has that offensive haircut, deeming her a worthy person again. Just a thought.

Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could really do about the unannounced return of Sarah’s unstable ex-husband Seth (it’s so unfair to cast John Corbett as someone we’re not supposed to like), who is off the wagon and was kicked out of his band. Zeke wanted to kick his ass (if Monica Potter is the queen of mom cries, than Craig T. Nelson is the king of defensive dad yells) and called bluff on his alcoholism; Mark wanted to let it not get in the way of his relationship with Sarah (despite Seth’s hilariously accurate zinger than he looks like Captain Morgan); and Sarah, well, she’s now in a tough spot. She clearly can’t turn her back on Seth, despite what he’s done in the past, and when she found him bleeding and bloated behind the dumpster of a seedy motel, it was clear she’s going to try and help fix him all over again, despite getting over his last visit and having a good thing going with Mark. Hey, the Bravermans are a great bunch, but good timing has never really been their strongest suit.

What did you think of “Nora,” PopWatchers? Which line was your favorite of the night? Mine is a toss-up between Mark’s sincere query (“You don’t think I look like Captain Morgan, do you?”) and Amber’s explanation to Max about Bill Clinton’s apology (“The details aren’t really important.”) Did this feel like a classic Parenthood episode to you, too? Which moment brought a bigger tear to your eye, witnessing Kristina kiss her newborn baby for the first time or watching Adam hike up his hilarious baggy pants? Are you as relieved as I am that Amber has changed her hair? Will Haddie, mercifully, follow suit? Share all your thoughts on this week’s episode in the comments!

Read more:

‘Parenthood’ season premiere review: Haddie’s bad hair and other bad decisions, plus: Happy birthday, Sarah!

NBC extends run of ‘Parenthood’ this season

‘Parenthood’: Is it too real for its own good? Or just mine?

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