Joel and Julia are forced to make some non-decisions about their marriage, and the Bravermans rally around Zeek when he refuses to work on his rehabilitation.

By Michelle Newman
October 17, 2014 at 05:26 AM EDT
NBC
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We’re almost a third of the way through the final season of Parenthood (let’s pretend I didn’t just say that), and it seems like every episode thus far has viewers more invested in wondering who is going to bite the dust than in the actual story lines. While it’s true that showrunner Jason Katims suggested that the Braverman family would be dealing with mortality in season 6, he never guaranteed one of them would actually die. But it seems the idea of the potential loss is distracting viewers from the actual show each week and making us second guess everything that happens.

Most of us started the season speculating that it would be Zeek who would perish. After all, he has a bum heart and it would make sense for the patriarch of the family to die as Amber’s child is about to be born (you know, the whole “circle of life” thing). Then, after his collapse and heart surgery, that became almost too obvious. Maybe Kristina’s cancer would return? Or perhaps Millie would have a stroke when we were all watching Zeek so carefully. After Crosby’s pointless motorcycle accident last week, some were convinced that he would develop internal bleeding or a brain hemorrhage and drop dead à la Gary’s sudden and shocking death on thirtysomething (which—23 years later—I still haven’t entirely gotten over). But while it’s easy to make everything a red herring, we’re wasting the precious time we have left with the Bravermans if we continue to do it. Let’s not forget, for now, everyone is alive. So whaddya say we enjoy them while we still can? Now pass the tissues, and let’s talk about the Potpourri of Freaks that are our beloved Bravermans.

Crosby and Adam are still butting heads over the fact that Oliver Rome is apparently about to sign with a different record label. Adam is furious and blames Crosby, ordering him to go to the spiritual healing center Rome is at in Big Sur to talk some sense into him. Jasmine has found out about Crosby’s mysterious motorcycle accident (thanks to Jabbar for body slamming his bruised ribs) and refuses to allow him to ride to Big Sur and orders him to take the minivan instead. “There’s no world in which I’m driving that minivan,” he declares, but we all know who wears the pants in that family, don’t we? Sure enough, the next day Crosby is cruising down the PCH in the minivan, where he confronts Oliver Rome at the healing center (the shenanigans that ensue are borderline ridiculous) and discovers that Rome has already signed with the other label. Furious, Crosby returns home late, and much to Jasmine’s typical disappointment, gets on his motorcycle and zooms off without wearing his helmet (I won’t think it… I won’t think it).

Over at Chambers Academy, headmaster Braverman (yep, that’d be Kristina—wonder what ever became of Mr. Knight?) is showing around a sullen new student who has been kicked out of four schools and is packing a hefty attitude along with her book bag. She immediately zeros in on Max, calling him “Asperger’s” and “freak” and tells him that because his parents run the school he should demand special privileges. Dylan also instructs Max to cut his hair, which sets Kristina off into a tirade on bullying. Uh-oh. We’ve seen where this could lead. Prepare yourself for a petition or a campaign, or at the very least, a slap down. When Kristina calls Dylan into her office, the girl is immediately contentious and disrespectful; trading barbs with Kristina in rapid-fire return. For the first time in possibly ever, Kristina is left speechless. But Max, on the other hand, is left smitten, and asks Adam for advice on how to act when you like a girl.

Meanwhile, Joel and Julia have apparently decided to hop aboard the parenting train and take Sydney to apologize to the girl she’s been bullying. When Sydney gives a halfhearted apology (complete with eye-rolls) and stalks away after Joel asks her to apologize again, the little girl’s parents do what we’ve all been dying to do for five seasons and call Sydney out. Julia gives her standard, “We’ll talk to her” with her standard sad, concerned face that we all know really means “We’ll talk at her and then forget it ever happened.” The other mother then does more parenting than we’ve seen in five seasons where Sydney is concerned. “You’ll talk to her so I’ll get another bogus apology? What I want is assurance that this will never happen again!” she spits. When the girl’s father points out the obvious (“Your daughter is out of control!”) Joel tries to explain it away. “She’s going through a tough time,” he says, and Julia apologizes yet again. “Maybe you need to stop being sorry and do something about it,” the girl’s mother snaps. Who else paused their TV to give that mother a slow-clap, standing O?

NEXT: Time to grab the tissues

Later, Julia admits to Joel that Sydney is out of control, “because we’re out of control. The uncertainty of us is too much for her.” Joel thinks they’re doing the best they can, but Julia is firm that the kids need clarity. “It’s time to tell the kids we’re not getting back together,” she admits. Joel is shocked. He can’t believe Julia is ready to say that. Hold on just a minute. Wasn’t he the one who abruptly moved out without discussing how it would affect the kids with Julia? Wasn’t he the one who wouldn’t go to counseling to try to save the marriage when the marriage could have been saved? Huh, seems like someone’s made his bed but now doesn’t want to sleep in it. When Joel later shows up at Julia’s with some sports gear that Victor left in his car (those kids leave an awful lot of stuff at Joel’s, don’t they?) and Sydney wants to know when he’s going to stay, Julia finally tells her despondent daughter that she and Joel just don’t know what will happen. Sydney, as usual, tries to flee the scene, but Julia catches her and tells her it’s okay to be mad at them. Yeah, that’s telling her, alright. (Shaking my head.)

Moving over to the dysfunction that is Hank and Sarah (and Sandy and Ruby). Sarah convinces Hank to talk to Sandy about the status of their relationship after she discovers that Sandy doesn’t want Ruby hanging around her. Surprisingly, Hank does, and surprisingly, Sandy listens (that almost seemed too easy, didn’t it?). But be careful what you wish for, Sarah, because when Ruby comes over later she immediately ridicules Sarah’s outfit. What is it with belligerent children and teenagers on this show lately?

I’ve saved the best for last, because the last scene of this episode might very well be one of my most favorite Braverman moments to date. Zeek is home from the hospital and as you’d expect, is stubbornly refusing to work on his rehabilitation. It doesn’t help that Millie is getting on his last nerve with her badgering and smothering. After various Braverman children and grandchildren come over to help—to no avail—Millie turns to Adam and confesses she’s worried about Zeek. She’s worried he’s afraid. She’s worried he’s given up. (Sidenote: Wasn’t it nice to see Millie show emotion?) Kristina, having overheard Millie and Adam’s conversation, shows up at Zeek’s house. “Boy, do you look like crap,” she says bluntly. “I had cancer, so I get a free pass.” Kristina sits with Zeek and opens up about her similar experience, telling him how much everyone else pissed her off when she had cancer, how hard it was being sick, and how scared she was. “You don’t have to pretend to be stronger than you feel, but you have to get better,” she tells him. They both start to cry. “A lot of people are counting on you,” she reminds him and leads him up off the sofa to take a walk around the block. (Amazing how he was basically unable to get off the couch one day and the next was trucking up a San Francisco hill, isn’t it?) The unexpectedness of that pairing, and the obvious connection between them in that moment, was heartrending, wasn’t it? Darn. I almost—almost—made it through an episode without the ugly cry.

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