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Parenthood recap: 'Happy Birthday, Zeek'

Amid their personal dramas, the family gathers to celebrate Zeek’s birthday, which forces him to make a big decision about his life.

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Colleen Hayes/NBC


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson

Braverman family get-togethers are always full of chaos, aren’t they? This week, Zeek’s 72nd birthday brings the typical culprits out in full force: Sydney’s sassiness (could somebody puh-leeze put that child in time-out for the next two or 20 years?), Adam and Crosby’s bickering, Sarah’s (hilarious) cluelessness, Julia’s (failed) attempts to please everyone, too much talking over one another, dancing (always dancing), and buckets full of tears (theirs and mine). Causing the tears this time? Adam. And Zeek. And Amber. And Amber and Zeek. But let’s back up, because long before the tears fell at the end of this episode, there was some news to respond—or not respond—to.

“Happy Birthday, Zeek” picks up immediately after episode 1’s abrupt ending when Amber dropped the bomb to Sarah that she was pregnant, which was met with nothing but an expressionless, “Oh.” (Spoiler alert: Sarah does not regain expression for the rest of the episode.) After Sarah asks “who?” (really?), “how?” (valid question), and “are you keeping it?” (ouch), it’s clear Amber is surprised and upset at her mother’s reaction of ambivalence. There’s no comforting hug. No words of support. No yelling or crying. And perhaps most shocking of all? No talking over each other. There’s nothing from Sarah except calmly removing the glass of wine from Amber’s hands and walking away. Sarah’s reaction—or her non-reaction—is out of character. Sure, she’s shocked; that’s understandable. But through all the ups and downs we’ve seen these two go through over the past five seasons, Sarah has always been a supportive mother, and now when Amber needs her more than she’s ever needed her before, she’s checked out.

Over at Adam and Kristina’s, it’s the usual before-school bedlam as Adam makes Max breakfast that he refuses to eat while at the same time admonishing his parents for something he currently finds offensive (this time it’s the fact that the new school doesn’t offer photography as an art elective) and Kristina fields phone calls from the mother of a kid at their new charter school (because of course she gave out their home number). Seems that the boy needs gluten and casein free lunches, and Kristina wants Adam to call the food vendor and make arrangements for that to happen. She’s an adorable ball of altruism, no question, but man can she be demanding. Max is still mumbling about the injustice of the art elective options and how Adam and Kristina are running a fascist institution. Think what you will about his attitude, the kid’s got some pretty great zingers.

Meanwhile, Zeek is back at his doctor’s office, and the news isn’t great. It looks like it’s time to consider open-heart surgery (which his doctor strongly advises) because the next time he collapses, he might not be so lucky. Zeek—in true Zeek form—isn’t taking his doctor’s diagnosis seriously and immediately refutes his advice. Millie—in true Millie form—admonishes him in a monotone voice only snails can hear. Later, after getting a call from his mother urging him to talk some sense into his father, Adam spills the beans about the surgery standoff to Crosby, who is irate to (once again) be left out of any serious family counseling and insists on going to talk to Zeek with Adam.

NEXT: Joel gets lawyered