August 04, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

No matter what you may think of the choices the young people in Teen Mom have made, you can’t accuse the series of taking the easy way out: As the Tuesday-night season premiere proved once again, everyone has his or her reasons, and we all, as viewers, worry about those babies, don’t we?

In following up the documentary story-lines of Maci, Farrah, Amber, and Catelynn, each of them seemed trapped in distinctly different ways. Maci had to seek legal action to get her boyfriend Ryan to pony up some child-support. Catelyn and Tyler are practically zombies after giving their child up for adoption—that is, when they’re not fighting, him calling her a “leech” and enlisting his mother to get Catelyn to move out of his house. Farrah proved to be more grown up than her own mother, who didn’t want to discuss the court-ordered restraint the woman brought upon herself after hitting Farrah. And Amber agonized through much of the opening hour thinking she might be pregnant again.

It would be foolish to think that some of these narratives aren’t manipulated a bit for the cameras. That pregnancy scare was drawn out too long, and I get the feeling that Tyler plays up his tragic-hero mopiness when he knows the camera crew will come upon him looking at photo albums of his now-adopted infant. But that doesn’t mean all of these stories don’t pull at your heart and your mind: Don’t you find it almost impossible to fathom how any of these people are going to pull themselves out of their complex, vexed situations?

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