As the series nears its final episode, the Bravermans experience some heartbreaking realizations—as well as some joyous events.
The next to last episode is upon us, my fellow members of Team Braverman, and as much as we hate to admit it, things are wrapping up. As we learned by the end of episode 11, Joel and Julia are officially back together; Sarah has accepted Hank’s proposal; Adam has given in to everyone’s wishes but his own; Crosby has his spunk back; Sydney seems tolerable; Zeek is standing upright—not strong, but upright just the same. Just when we think the Parenthood roller coaster is heading toward that last, flat stretch before screeching to a halt and we are instructed to remove our seat belts and disembark, there’s one more hill we have to get over: Amber. (No pun intended.) Grab your industrial-sized box of tissues, and let’s have a baby.
But before we get to the baby—which we won’t get to for a while, so settle in—let’s drop in on Joel and Julia, who are telling Sydney and Victor the happy news that Joel is moving back into the family home. Sydney, as expected, is thrilled, and we get to see a glimpse of cute Sydney that we’ve seen far too little of over the past six seasons. Victor, on the other hand, is instantly skeptical, and wonders what will happen the next time his parents have a problem. Smart kid. They could save a lot on therapy sitting across the couch from him. Joel and Julia assure him that they love each other, and that they always have. Victor doesn’t look convinced (me neither, kid), and his fears are proven to be real later in the episode.
Millie is taking Zeek on a hike in the hills of San Francisco—BECAUSE THAT’S A GOOD IDEA—and, as you’d expect a man who just had a major heart attack to do, he’s trailing behind her, having to stop and take rests. Is she trying to kill him right now so we have time to recover before next week’s finale? Zeek holds her back and tells her that he’s been thinking about the operation, and he’s decided that he doesn’t want to go through it again. He looks so weary as he tells her that he just wants to enjoy every moment of the life he has left. He wants to live his life, and thinks it’s what is best for them. “Are you with me?” he asks her. Millie rests her hand on his shoulder, and with tears in her eyes tells him, “Of course I’m with you. I’m always with you.” (Except for that month she ditched him to go paint in Italy, I’m sure she means.)
While Amber is helping Sarah and Hank plan their wedding (with all three of them doing a fantastic job of the ever-popular and ever-annoying Parenthood overspeak), Amber suddenly has a major contraction. Hank and Sarah instantly become the Two Stooges, running around and bumping into each other trying to cover Amber with a blanket (“You’re always cold when you’re in labor,” Sarah yells) and offer her ice-chips, while, of course, trying to find the always-missing-at-a-time-like-this car keys. Seriously, I kept expecting one of them to poke the other one in the eye. N’yuck, n’yuck.
When they finally make it to the hospital (after more wackiness in the car) they discover most of the Bravermans already there (of course they are). While the boys are in the gift shop searching for decent cigars (they settle for the bubblegum variety), Jasmine mentions to Kristina that she’s happy that Crosby and Adam worked everything out regarding The Luncheonette. Kristina, nose firmly planted in her magazine, can’t even look Jasmine in the eyes as she responds in a bitchy tone that it’s “great, so great.” When Jasmine calls her out, Kristina explodes and accuses Jasmine of guilting Adam into changing his mind. Oh no you di’int. While the ladies go at it (I’m guessing much of that argument was unscripted, which made it even more fantastic to listen to) the rest of the family—Zeek included—walks in and overhears. Crosby, obviously having been left out of the loop about Jasmine’s little visit to Kristina, is furious at Jasmine and at Adam, whom he now realizes stayed in business with him because of Jasmine. “Do you pity me?” he spits at Adam. “You got what you wanted,” Adam tells him (which, again, begs the question of when Adam will ever allow himself to get what he wants.) Crosby ends up yelling that he quits, and storms out. So much for the grown-up Crosby we saw glimpses of last week.
In the midst of all the yelling, Amber walks out, without a baby. False alarm, just gas, she tells them. Man, that was some bad gas.
NEXT: By “people,” do you mean more than one?
Meanwhile, Joel is moving back in, and discovers a drawer full of Julia’s sexy lingerie, which he’s never seen before. As in, she didn’t buy it for him. As in, she bought it for a different dude (or dudes, as he’s about to find out). That’ll certainly take the salute out of the soldier. When he asks her about it, Julia brushes him off, but it’s clear that they’re both realizing there will be a lot more to this reconciliation than hot sex and ice skating.
The next morning, Julia gets a call from “work” (read: Chris) while the kids are eating a gigantic breakfast that Joel is cooking for them before school: chocolate-chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, and freshly cut melons and assorted fruits. They are sitting down eating this feast. Having a relaxed, jovial conversation. Eating with utensils. Before school. TIME OUT. Are you the parent of a school-aged child? Because this is how breakfast typically goes down before school: In the midst of a mad rush to find a matching shoe, a math folder, the permission slip that is due today, all while quizzing someone on their multiplication facts and yelling at someone to stop yelling, you find maybe four minutes to either throw a silver-foiled bag of Pop-Tarts at your kid, or, if they’re lucky, an under-toasted Eggo. Honestly, what time do the Graham children start school? 3:00?
Julia takes her call outside, and Joel follows her, obviously not happy that she’s talking to “work” and wanting to get into it with her about Chris. Julia, who is running late for a briefing (wouldn’t have been late with a Pop-Tart—just sayin’), tells Joel she doesn’t have time to get into this argument right now. “I slept with people, you slept with people…” she begins. SCREEECH. Joel looks stricken. “What do you mean, ‘people’? How many?” he asks, probably thinking about that drawer stuffed full of lingerie and imagining a different outfit for each conquest. “For the record, I didn’t sleep with ‘people,'” he tells her. I was actually expecting him to add, “I didn’t sleep with anyone,” but he didn’t. By my count, the score is probably Julia-2 (Mr. Knight, Chris), Joel-1 (Pete?). I mean, it’s not too lopsided. By the way, both Sydney and Victor watch the entire confrontation from the other side of the sliding glass door, their feast forgotten.
While Joel and Julia are ruining their children’s appetites, Millie is painting Zeek’s portrait and making him look like he’s about 30-years-old. It’s as if that’s how she’ll always remember him, and it breaks my heart. Zeek looks weary. Defeated. Totally the opposite of how she’s painting him. He tells Millie in a somber voice that he wants to tell the kids about his decision to forego the surgery, and he wants it to be just “the original six” when he tells them. You can tell he doesn’t want to call the game, but knows he has to. Again, heartbreaking.
When the kids come over for dinner, the scene is exactly what you’d expect. Everyone is trying to make it normal, and the Braverman kids are all reliving childhood memories and laughing about old times. When the conversation escalates into a heated argument between Crosby and Adam, Zeek can’t take it (the fighting, or the fact that the fighting is precisely what he’s going to miss?) and walks away into the bedroom. Sarah follows and tells him she’s getting married. Zeek starts to cry, and through his tears, he tells her how proud he is of her and that he can’t wait to walk her down the aisle. Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye. Like half an onion. Later Sarah tells Hank that she wants to get married next week, so her dad can be there. Damn onion, now it’s in the other eye.
When Julia returns home, she wants to talk to Joel about Chris and “our stuff.” The old, closed-up Joel makes a surprise appearance and doesn’t want to talk about it. “I’m too scared to argue,” he admits. Honest, but stupid. “I’m too scared not to,” Julia responds. If only they could’ve talked like this a year and a half ago. Not wanting to upset the kids, they take their argument out to the car, where they yell at each other about Julia’s job and Julia’s men and all their adjustments. Plus, I’m betting there was an agreement to toss the drawer full of lingerie other men had touched. Etcetera.
NEXT: The Circle Game, and other observations
Late that night, Amber goes into labor for real and calls Sarah in a panic. Why she’s been left alone when she’s literally about to pop is a mystery to me. This time, Sarah goes alone, without the other Stooge and without the madness of the Bravermans, and Amber has what looks to be a quick, painful (but I’ve seen worse), delivery.
And while we see Joel and Julia canoodling in bed, and Adam doing what looks to be like clearing his things out of The Luncheonette, we also see Amber euphorically holding her new son, and we see that she’s instantly become a mother.
Zeek and Millie walk into the hospital room, and Amber holds the tiny, blue-capped bundle over to Zeek. “I want you to meet your great-grandson, Zeek,” she tells him. Full circle. Just like we hoped.
Is our roller coaster ride really over? Are we now on the final, flat stretch where we can catch our breath? Or will there be a surprise bump next week as we near the end? Stock up on tissues, my friends. Because however it will end, there’s one thing we can’t avoid—it will end.
– Amber and Sarah share a sweet conversation when Amber admits (yet again) that she’s worried having the baby is a mistake (um, a bit too late for that). Sarah assures her that once she holds the baby something will shift and she won’t feel that way. “You’re my hero,” Amber tells her mother. Sarah takes Amber’s guitar and plays “their” song (Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game”), which they sing together. It’s beautiful.
– Hank opens up to Sarah about not knowing what it’s like to worry about losing your father, since his left when he was a kid. He tells her that Zeek must be a really good guy, because she’s so good. He tells her she’s a beautiful person, and that he knows her dad gave her that. It’s probably the most heartfelt thing we’ve ever heard Hank say, and, while not eloquent, it’s incredibly touching, and it’s evident how much he loves her.
– Adam plays mentor to a student at Chambers Academy, and at first I wrote it off as a superfluous story line, but by the end it’s clear that by helping the boy with autism realize his passion (to make a soufflé) it helps him realize that he needs to strive to fulfill his own.