Amber continues to doubt her parenthood abilities, and with the help and guidance of Zeek, Joel makes a big decision.
Parenthood Recap
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Regardless of which team you happen to have been rooting for over the past year—Team Joel or Team Julia—tonight’s episode was tough to watch. Despite the mistakes both of them made that led to the demise of their once ideal marriage, watching their pain as they faced the end was heartbreaking. Until Julia let her new boyfriend practically move his toothbrush in, that is, and then it was just maddening, but we’ll get to that later.

“These Are the Times We Live In” was all about realizations, wasn’t it? Amber realizing the impending difficulty of being a parent; Hank realizing the limitations his Asperger’s has put on his relationships; Sarah realizing that being involved with Hank is bringing new complications; Drew realizing not to take his grandfather for granted; and Joel and Julia realizing that ending a marriage isn’t as easy as the Kardashians make it look.

While Adam and Kristina are off-contract in Sacramento soliciting donations for Chambers Academy, Amber is babysitting Nora and a very irate Max, who is berating her—loudly and incessantly—for not keeping to his strict schedule, which results in them missing their ferry to Alcatraz. After Amber loses the keys and can’t get Nora’s car seat buckled into her vintage car, Max blows up and yells that she will be “THE WORST MOTHER IN HISTORY!” Harsh, but totally Max.

Meanwhile, Sarah continues to show grace and patience in the face of disaster. And by “disaster,” I mean Ruby. And Hank. And Sandy. After bonding with Ruby over boy trouble and a showing of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (“No one’s as hot as Phoebe Cates. She was like a freak of nature,” Sarah tells Ruby. Word.), Sandy shows up and scolds Sarah when she discovers that she was allowing 15-year-old Ruby to watch a movie that “glorifies sexual promiscuity.” Puh-leeze. So there’s some blow-job practice on vegetables, nude fantasy sequences, and one abortion. Wait. Never mind. Point taken, Sandy. But when Hank walks out without defending Sarah (or at least taking part in the conversation), Sarah is clearly peeved, and so am I. While it’s nice to see Sarah be somebody’s rock, it’s also frustrating to see her be walked over, and it looks like she might start to be realizing that as well.

After walking out, Hank heads over to get his camera from Max and walks right past a visibly upset Amber. Max is still freaking out because of the Alcatraz trip that wasn’t and is pacing furiously doing breathing and relaxation exercises—which are disguised as rants against Amber and that missed ferry boat. Hank talks him through it and instantly identifies with a lot of the same feelings that Max is having. After joining in the pacing, Hank realizes that he shouldn’t have walked out on Sarah when he panicked. They’re like two grumpy old men, what with all their pacing and ranting, and despite what you think about either character, the friendship and connection between Max and Hank continues to be touching. I love it.

Hank runs back to Sarah and apologizes. She’s still kind of pissed, and even more so when she finds out that he saw Amber crying and didn’t bother to ask her why. Another realization for Hank: Ask your girlfriend’s daughter why she’s visibly upset. Duh. Sarah rushes to see Amber only to find Max eating junk food and watching Chucky movies, and Amber laying with Nora in Adam and Kristina’s bed, which apparently is the one thing she wasn’t supposed to do. Huh. I’d think “let her play with matches” might have been at the top of that list, but whatever. After crying to Sarah about how she’s realizing that she can’t do this whole parenting thing, Sarah lets her know that this situation was way different. “They start out tiny and all they do is poo. Eventually you work your way up to insanity,” she tells Amber, before reassuring her that she won’t be doing it alone. And that’s why we love Sarah.

Later, Hank tells his ex-wife about his recently discovered Asperger’s and admits that he was the problem in their marriage. Sandy is speechless, especially when Hank goes on to say how hard it must’ve been to be married to him. When she comes to pick up Ruby the next day and surprises her with a trip to a yogurt shop that has their old family-favorite flavor—taro root… yummy—they convince Hank to tag along, just like old times, and Sarah is left standing on the outside looking in. Run. Run away, now. Oh, wait, did I just say that out loud?

NEXT: Joel (finally) wakes up

The storyline between Zeek and Drew was nothing but sweet, wasn’t it? Zeek trying to make Drew his accomplice and partner in crime against the shackles of his recovery (and his warden)—not to mention create a memory for his grandson (as Natalie so wisely pointed out)—just reinforces how much he cares for his family… and why we love him so much. That fierce love becomes even more evident when he has his little “Come to Jesus” talk with Joel later. But first, let’s talk about those divorce papers, because they’re causing all kinds of feelings. And I may or may not be talking about my own.

At Joel and Julia’s final mediation, Joel gives Julia the house. “It’s the kids’ home. It’s your home. I want you to have it,” he tells her. The hurt in his eyes reminds me of something, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Oh, yeah! It’s THE HURT THAT WAS IN JULIA’S EYES WHEN HE REFUSED TO TALK TO HER ABOUT SAVING THEIR MARRIAGE LAST YEAR. Listen, for reasons I’ve given before, I’ve totally been on Team Julia through all of this (and yes, I do admit she made some mistakes), but watching them grasp hands and hug in that elevator made me forget all team alliances. I swear, I think I went through about three of the five stages of grief in those seven seconds.

Later, when Julia tries to give Joel a chance to change his mind on the house decision and tells him, “it’s an asset” (which I found to be a bit cold—like “below zero” kind of cold), he refuses to see it like that. “We brought our baby girl home to that house. It was the first safe place our son ever spent the night. It’s not an asset, it’s a home,” the old Joel we knew and loved tells her. He goes on to admit that he hurt her. “I don’t want the house. If I can’t have you in it, I don’t want it.” STOP MAKING ME WANT TO SWITCH TEAMS, JOEL.

To confuse matters—or to make them more clear, perhaps?—when Julia is staring at the divorce papers, who should show up on her doorstep but old and new boyfriend, Chris, who, although not having known it was officially D-day, is invited in for the first time ever (really?). After guzzling a goblet of wine and listening to Julia lament the end of her marriage, he discovers she got the house. He’s happy, because “it’s a pretty nice house.” You know he’s already re-decorating in his mind. When Chris slyly suggests staying over (“If I finish this wine I’ll be too drunk to drive home,” WINK WINK), Julia decides it’s best if he leave, although if I were her I’d be checking his pockets for his toothbrush and extra pair of undies.

So don’t move him in quite yet, folks. Because Zeek hasn’t spoken, yet, and we all know that it ain’t over until Zeek says it’s over. When Joel goes to tell his father-in-law and role model goodbye (pause to let everyone blow their noses and wipe their eyes), Zeek realizes Joel is giving up. “So you’re done?” Zeek asks. Joel tells him that he wants to get out with dignity, but Zeek won’t hear of it. “I took you in as a son. You love her, you fight for her,” he insists. (I believe Zeek gave him similar advice last year at Aida’s christening.)

And with music swelling (not really, but it would have been fitting) Joel drives over to what is now just-Julia’s house, marches to the door and bangs on it. “A year ago you asked me to fight for you, and I was too stupid,” Joel tells Julia, who I hope to God is there alone, because it will be so awkward if Chris walks by in Joel’s old bathrobe (he doesn’t). “So I’m here. I don’t want to live another day without you. Not another second. I’m fighting for you, and I’m fighting for our marriage. I want you back.”

It’s a great, emotional, Hail Mary speech, no question. But you know what would’ve made it even more effective?

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