The Bravermans are back tackling brand new challenges, but it's possible Zeek may be facing the biggest one yet.
Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC
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Watching the final season premiere of Parenthood is something that many of us surrogate Bravermans have been both looking forward to and dreading since learning of its fate last spring. While overjoyed to have “our” family back on Thursday nights, we’re consumed with sadness at the thought of having to say goodbye to them in just 13 episodes (first tissue, please). “It’s overwhelming,” Amber says as the sixth and final season opens and she hears her baby’s heartbeat for the first time (that’s right, folks, Amber is pregnant, but more on that later). I couldn’t have said it better myself. We’ve spent the past five years being overwhelmed with the Bravermans and all that life has thrown at them. To all of us who feel like we’re part of this loud, funny, crazy family, it’s not going to be easy to let them go (second tissue, please and thanks).

Season 6 starts with short vignettes catching us up on what’s transpired since we last saw the family. It turns out that pregnancy test we saw Amber shopping for at the end of season 5 was positive (hospital bed sex for the win!), and she’s already seeing and hearing the heartbeat via ultrasound. It also turns out that neither baby-daddy Ryan or grandma-to-be Sarah know about the pregnancy. Overwhelming, indeed. When her doctor asks if she wants this pregnancy, Amber hesitates, but the look on her face when she takes a second look at the ultrasound screen makes her answer obvious. Throw out the vodka in that freezer, Amber, looks you’re gonna need room in there for breast milk.

Holy Cinemax! Julia is having hot sex with someone who is not estranged husband Joel or former fling Mr. Knight, but apparently a coworker (although what they’re doing is definitely NSFW). Looks like Julia’s a working woman again (and yes, I do mean that in more than one way). Guess that tender moment that Julia and Joel shared at the end of season 5 (after telling Sydney the bedtime story and grasping hands) didn’t lead anywhere. Anywhere but to a hot lawyer’s bedroom, I mean.

Sarah and Hank are still (awkwardly) dating, and Hank is worried about teenage daughter, Ruby, moving back to San Francisco. Turns out, neither she nor his ex-wife, Sandy, knows about his relationship with Sarah. Although a bit surprised that he hasn’t told them yet, Sarah just laughs about it—while sitting at a table surrounded by red flags.

Chambers Academy, Adam and Kristina’s new charter school, is days away from opening yet is nowhere near ready. There’s problems with the plumbing, the walls haven’t been painted, and oh, yeah, there’s one important member of the incoming class that is refusing to attend: Max. Adam and Kristina try to sell Max on the school by letting him choose paint colors, but their son isn’t buying it. He tells them he likes being homeschooled because he doesn’t have to worry about the other kids slowing him down. And by “slowing him down” I’m quite sure he means “peeing in his canteen.”(Remember the heartbreaking bullying incident last season that set this charter school domino chain in motion?)

Millie and Zeek are busy in the backyard of their new house—Millie painting on the deck instead of in her former, lovelier backyard, and Zeek now tending to a garden of cucumbers instead of tinkering on old Pontiacs—when Sarah arrives to whisk Zeek off on a surprise father/daughter birthday weekend to Vegas. “We’re going to Vegas! This is great!” Zeek shouts as he throws down his gardening trowel. I agree. Blackjack beats the crap(s) out of cucumbers any day.

NEXT: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

Hank’s 15-year-old daughter Ruby arrives and is every bit a clichéd, belligerent teenager who is packing a lot of attitude in those bags. “Where do I put my crap?” she spits at her father. “She’s a joy,” mumbles her mom. Took the words right out of my mouth, sister. Sandy later admits to Hank that they moved back to San Francisco because Ruby had gotten involved with the wrong group of friends in Minnesota and she wants to share custody so Hank can help out. All I can think about is poor Sarah. With all she went through with Amber during her troublesome teen years (let’s forget about this new, pesky pregnancy thing for a moment), it seems cruel that she has to experience it all over again. Hank is totally worth it, though. (That was sarcasm.)

Meanwhile, Joel shows up at Chambers Academy to drop the kids with Julia (they’ve got this co-parenting thing down), and from the way Millie and Kristina fawn all over him, it’s obvious he hasn’t been around the family much. Kristina convinces him to stay and help with the construction needs and he’s quick to jump in. Looks like someone wants back on Team Braverman.

In Vegas, Sarah and Zeek are bonding over slots and shots and working the tables. You know, just your typical father/daughter weekend. Sarah asks Zeek if he misses the old house (“I DO!” I scream) when suddenly Zeek freezes, stands up, and collapses. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my heart stopped right along with Zeek’s in that moment. Seriously, I felt my stomach drop to my feet. It was a visceral reaction. Thankfully, Zeek is immediately (or at least in the time it takes for a quick commercial break) back to his old self, arguing with the hospital staff and insisting he just “stood up too fast” and calling his topple “a dizzy spell.” When the young doctor orders an echocardiogram after ruling out a heart attack, Zeek refuses to be admitted and continues ranting and yelling. He’s there to celebrate his birthday, dammit, not spend the weekend in the hospital! [Sidenote: The showgirl hobbling by Zeek’s bed on crutches? Awesome.]

Back in Berkeley, Millie has called the rest of Team B and Julia is quick to go comfort her mama (seriously, how close must they all live to each other?). Crosby and Adam, however, are beside themselves with worry—about their dad, sure, but even more so that Sarah is the one there in charge. After some typical—and fabulously witty—Crosby/Adam banter, the boys decide there’s only one thing they can do. They’re goin’ to Vegas, baby.

By either immediately catching a flight or driving the 10 hours from Berkeley to Vegas in warp speed, the Braverman boys arrive at the hotel to discover Zeek’s room is empty, and Sarah—who is staying in another room—has no idea where he is (um, wouldn’t you insist on staying in the same room with your dad after that experience?). After finding him back at the Blackjack table, Zeek convinces his kids he’s fine and bankrolls each of them $500 to get them to stop pestering him and just play with him, which they do. Isn’t it so easy for your dad to convince you he’s fine, even when your gut tells you differently? I mean, maybe the $500 had a little bit to do with it, but there’s nothing scarier than your own parent admitting fear for his own health or mortality, and it’s much easier and less frightening to have faith in what he says to be true. After all, he’s Zeek. He’s their dad. He’s never steered them wrong before. Only one thing to do in that moment: Split your eights and double down! “This family is sick. SICK,” Adam grumbles.

Next: Confusing feelings!

Back in Berkeley, Julia returns home to find Joel cleaning up (he’d stayed with the kids while she went to Millie’s). When she gets a text with a goofy photo of Zeek and her siblings partying in Vegas proving that her dad is indeed fine, she breaks down, and Joel is there to comfort her… with his lips. Julia kisses him back for a brief moment before pulling away. Confusing feelings! Later, hot lawyer lover visits Julia in her office and tells her he wants to “make a go of it” with her. Julia agrees—with her lips—before looking a little sad, remembering Joel’s kiss the night before. More confusing feelings! She’d told Millie earlier (when Millie expressed hope that things with Joel were on the mend) that Joel may have waited too long—that she had to wait too long—and that she’s now trying to live her life. Fair point, especially after the way Joel went off the deep end of the mean pool last season. Interesting turn of events, but really, didn’t we all see that one coming?

Hey! Haddie is still in California! Remember Haddie? Adam and Kristina’s daughter who completely disappeared to Cornell for two seasons? No? Well, it might not matter because it sounds like she’s about to take off for Europe. Regardless of how long she’ll be around, she’s the first recipient of Amber’s baby news (looks like brother-slash-confidante Drew has been replaced, but that’s probably okay with him because new-love Natalie is still around), and the two cousins take a blanket out to their old high school football field in the middle of the night to have a heart to heart about lesbian love, old boyfriends, and hiding your pregnancy from your mother. Aw, they grow up so fast, don’t they?

It’s the first day of school at Chambers Academy, and although Adam has bribed made Max his favorite lunch he’s still refusing to attend. Time for an Adam-ter-vention. Adam lays it out: Kristina has worked her butt off to make this dream happen, and Max is going to go; not for him but for his mother. The impossible to refuse mother-card! The card we’ve seen Max fold for many times! Well played, Adam, well played. As Kristina greets each new student individually, Max shows up and sticks out his hand. “Max Braverman, welcome to Chambers Academy,” Kristina says through tears. (My tears, not hers.) Chambers Academy might very well be just another item on the list of “Kristina Krazy” ideas, but this one feels the most right, and I’m rooting for its success. BTW, what happened to headmaster Mr. Knight?

But back to our beloved Zeek. The captain of our team knows something isn’t right with his heart. You can feel it, can’t you? When Millie takes him to his own doctor, Zeek tunes him out, obviously worried and realizing that he didn’t just have a “dizzy spell.” He knew it even in Vegas, don’t you think? It’s unsettling and it’s frightening. Seeing his fear, our fear becomes real. BRB, I need to go to Costco and stock up on tissues for what I fear is coming in the weeks ahead.

Braverman quips:

“Are you counting cards, Dad? Ben Affleck got in a lot of trouble for that.” —Sarah to Zeek at the Blackjack table

Max: “What are we doing?”

Kristina: “Watching paint dry.”

Max: “You know I don’t like metaphors.”

Kristina: “Not a metaphor, Max. We are literally watching paint dry.”

“…I had some body glitter caught in my eye…” — Crosby, telling Adam why he’d once been hospitalized in Vegas

Episode Recaps

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