Last week, I heard someone refer to this show as her guilty pleasure. I realize I have an abnormally high tolerance for shame — like, for instance, I’ll admit that during Robert and Kitty’s post-debate heart-to-heart, I wondered where I’d heard that song, Joshua Radin’s ”What If You,” before, and it was during a love scene in the movie Catch and Release. But I just don’t understand why anyone would feel guilty for enjoying Brothers & Sisters. Especially after an episode as good as this one.
The big news, obviously: Kitty is pregnant. Watching the preview for this episode last week, I would’ve bet $100 that her sudden aversion to ”sea meat” would be a false alarm. (You?) But that’s just because I didn’t stop to think how a pregnancy would further complicate Robert’s bid for the Oval Office. A divorced Republican senator with a gay brother would not be thrilled that he knocked up his pro-choice fiancée and communications director (who has a gay brother and an antiwar mother). At least not initially. That scene where Robert found out Kitty was expecting was the first time that character felt real to me. Robert wasn’t just a man who can wear a suit and always say the right thing. He was a presidential hopeful trailing in five key states who can say the wrong thing, like ”I don’t know what part of me is more furious: the fiancé who was the last person in the room to know, or the candidate who just got sandbagged by one of his senior staffers, who, incidentally, may or may not be getting sick backstage while I try to debate.” Of course, Robert was back to his clearheaded self by the time the Republican debate rolled around and he was (once again) under fire for the fact that Kitty isn’t as far right as some members of the party would like her to be. Each time Robert presents a reasonable, articulate argument for why the GOP needs be more accepting of different viewpoints — this time, he reminded everyone that Lincoln freed the slaves, Teddy Roosevelt established national parks, and Eisenhower desegregated schools — I think of something Bill Clinton said during a 2004 appearance on The Daily Show, discussing negative campaigning. ”The people that I’ve disagreed with,” he said, ”I don’t necessarily think that they’re bad people. I think they see the world differently than I do. And I think, if you’re a Democrat, you win when people think. You win when people think. And so I understood when my adversaries were demonizing me. One of my Republican friends said that he hated that they were so mean to me, but if we fought fair, I’d win all the time. And so if they could convince people that I was no good, then it doesn’t matter how good my policies were.” I’m not trying to start a political debate by bringing this up. I’m saying Robert McCallister asks people to think, so this campaign is gonna get dirty — whether or not Nora can plan a wedding in 48 hours. (You know she’s gonna love that.)
While Kitty’s bun in the oven did provide some lighthearted moments in the episode — like Justin spreading the news to most of the family — there was little to smile about regarding Sarah’s custody battle. (Okay, there was her line ”Well, the only thing more depressing than not having your kids at Halloween is having to feed candy to other people’s kids. I thought the Republican debate would be more fun.”) This situation — a working mother in danger of losing primary custody of her children for her ”inability to balance parenting and career” — isn’t one you see often on TV, and it’s fascinating. On the one hand, the idea that a woman could be punished for having a job that supports her family, for agreeing to work those long hours while her husband stays home with the kids, is infuriating. On the other, isn’t that a scenario a lot of divorced fathers have found themselves in? If you’re annoyed that Sarah would presumably have to support Joe, don’t you have to ask yourself how you feel about alimony?
NEXT: Illicit love