Crosby and Amber have an adventure that teaches them it may be time to grow up, and Max and Ruby go through growing pains of their own.
Credit: NBC
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Listen carefully, because I’m about to angrily say something I don’t say very often: ARE YOU KIDDING ME, PARENTHOOD? After last week’s cliffhanger, which had Joel standing at Julia’s door professing his love for her (and all of us shouting “TAKE HIM BACK!” or “SLAM THE DOOR!”) you come back this week with an episode completely Joel-and-Julia-free? And to make matters worse, fill the hour with a Ruby/Hank/Sandy-heavy episode that we had to endure without Sarah there to make it more bearable? With only a handful of episodes left, I hate to fight, but it’s because of the fact that there are only a handful of episodes left that I can’t bear wasting any of the precious time we have left together on these superfluous stories. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Aaron Brownstein.

Max Braverman is a man in love, and he’s ready to profess his feelings to his crush, the belligerent-turned-engaging Dylan. Deciding it’s clearly time to ask her out, he discovers her in a lip-lock with a fellow Chambers Academy student with a fabulous moniker, Aaron Brownstein, and all hell breaks loose. Max is hysterical and begs headmaster Braverman to expel the menace, but Kristina seems confused as to which hat she’s wearing and tries to reason with him like her son, not her pupil. When Max passes out flyers detailing Aaron’s offenses (“excessive PDA” being one of them), Aaron calls him a “little bitch” (who else felt guilty for wanting to applaud after that line?). There’s a fight (which Max starts), and Kristina is once again torn as to whom she’s supposed to be—headmaster or mom—when disciplining Max. She obviously chooses “mom” as she tries to get Max to talk about his feelings for Dylan and then allows him to return to class without consequence for the fight, just like usual.

But we haven’t heard the last of Aaron Brownstein, because later Dylan comes over to tell Kristina that she feels badly for what happened and that she’s never going to like Max the same way he likes her. She likes Aaron Brownstein (sorry, I can’t help repeating that fantastic name, which, due to the fact that it’s this episode’s title, tells me the Parenthood writers must like it, too). Dylan, who when we met her was a completely different person, is nothing but respectful and kind in her admission to Kristina. Maybe Chambers Academy is helping some of its students become better people, after all.

But Max won’t let Aaron Brownstein win, and the next day presents Dylan with a poster collage of photos of her—”an incredibly thoughtful and romantic gift” as he calls it—in the middle of the lunch room. When her friends laugh at him, he decides to profess his feelings verbally, in a very Max-like manner (i.e., loudly, incessantly, and in great detail). With the lunch room laughing, Dylan begs him to stop (which he, of course, doesn’t do). Finally she can’t take it anymore. “I WILL NEVER LOVE YOU! PLEASE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!” she screams out in frustration. Awkward love speech or not—ouch. And what follows is something that’s happened many, many times over the course of the past five and a half seasons. I start to ugly cry? Well, sure, but what I’m talking about is one of Kristina’s “buddy, you are amazing” speeches she’s often had to give to Max in times of crisis. But this time it’s different, because while it’s not Max’s first public humiliation, it is his first broken heart. Telling him he’s brave and how he’ll find a girl one day who likes him back in the same way might seem predictable, but it resonates with Max, who actually lets his mom hug him. Tissue, please, and now let’s please put this story to rest.

NEXT: Animal House

When Ruby blew into Hank’s studio bitching at her mother and then at Hank, I actually paused to search for synonyms I could use when writing about her, and then considered fast-forwarding to the other story lines so I didn’t have to. In the interest of your time and mine, let’s make this as quick and painless as possible:

-Ruby wants to stay home alone while Sandy goes out of town. Sandy objects, Hank agrees. (Let’s all please remember, she is 15.)

-Hank tells her not to have a party and is suspicious when he calls and hears voices. Ruby is insolent (thank you, when responding that he doesn’t trust her.

-Ruby is having a major party. Like, Delta House kind of a party. (Let’s all please remember, she is 15.)

-Hank investigates (by spying from his car) and discovers kegs and “marijuana paraphernalia” but does not want to go in to break up the party because he’s a wimp worried that Ruby won’t trust him or love him anymore.

-Hank eventually goes in and breaks the party up (“Let’s go Breakfast Club,” he tells one dude) and calmly helps Ruby clean up.

-Ruby freaks out when she discovers Hank already told her mom about the party. Yells at him that she hates him and stomps away.

-Hank and Sandy sigh and get drunk on blackberry brandy. Parenting is hard.

-The next day, Sandy brings a sheepish and suddenly agreeable Ruby over to Hank’s, and he teaches her to play poker because she’s grounded and they laugh and smile and everything is hunky-dory.

-The kegs and marijuana paraphernalia (she is 15) seem all but forgotten.

The end.

Seriously, it boggles my mind as to why so much of this final season is spent on this story line. Not on my watch, though! We’re moving on.

Let’s talk about the only real story line of this episode. It seems Crosby is still feeling the weight of the world. Since The Luncheonette is suffering, Jasmine has taken a boring filing job at her insufferable and meddling mom Renee’s (Tina Lifford) office, and despite the fact she’s making $30 an hour, Crosby feels like a failure. Again. Instead of detailing everything that happened, let’s try to get in Crosby’s—and Amber’s—head.

Crosby and Amber are the Braverman dreamers, aren’t they? She even tells him as much after he’s frustrated that The Luncheonette is selling out (and a reduced hourly rate, thanks to Adam) to commercial jingles (“demoralizing” is how Crosby put it). Amber and Crosby’s Big Adventure to go see the new band is about much more than saving The Luncheonette, it’s about saving the dreamers inside of them; the dreamers that are quickly getting their faces slapped with reality and responsibility. Crosby is weighed down by it, and it’s starting to show. He’s a man coming undone, isn’t he? When he tells Jasmine that “there are four people I’m failing right now” and storms out (with his dime-bag of pot, thankyouverymuch), it’s clear he’s in a bad place and there might not be anyone to help him out of it. After Amber’s Braxton-Hicks scare, he seems to start to realize that it’s time to think rationally; time to let the dreams go. When he confesses to Jasmine that he should’ve never taken the risk with The Luncheonette, it almost seems like Jasmine—in her wildly supportive and loving way—might be getting through to him. “I believe in you,” she tells him. But the vacant and sad look in his eyes tells me he doesn’t believe in himself.

As for Amber? She’s still hanging on hope that The Luncheonette will survive, and encourages Drew—who continues to be inspiring and mature, not to mention adorable—to stop wasting time on something that he doesn’t love (Economics) even though he tells her he’s doing it for her (because someone has to be responsible). Hey, maybe Renee can find Amber a boring filing job!

I can’t end this recap without mentioning what’s to come next week, which will be Parenthood‘s fall finale. Looks like our favorite Bravermans are back, and Julia might be ready to break a heart. Joel’s or Chris’s? It’s unclear, but another heart that might be literally breaking? Zeek’s. Oh, say it isn’t so. My heart can’t take it.

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