Parenthood – Episode 3-16 Review – “Friends and Feelings”
by Jill Mader on February 20, 2012

It is incredibly unfair that there are now only two episodes of Parenthood left. That’s not enough! My Tuesday nights will not be nearly as enjoyable without this show to watch.

That said, since Parenthood is in the home stretch of the season that means the episodes tend to me more dramatic, with bigger plot developments and heightened emotions. And that’s fun to watch.

Oh, Baby

Sarah’s storyline was the most emotional this week, and I’ve really got to hand it to Miles Heizer for really delivering in his scenes. Drew is a character that can go unnoticed at times, which is partly the nature of the show (it’s a large cast, and he’s not a main character) and partly the nature of the character. Drew is shy, quiet and sensitive, so we don’t see him interacting with the other characters that much or having big, emotional scenes like, say, Sarah would have with Amber. That’s not the nature of her relationship with Drew.

But this week Drew was pushed to open up, and he did. But he did it in a way that felt so true to his character. He slowly broke down, he cried, and then he was humiliated by the fact that he had. He immediately withdrew, he was hurt and sad. It was painful, but fascinating, to watch.

Drew accidentally saw what he thought was a pregnancy test in her bathroom, but it was actually an ovulation test. For when people are trying to have a baby. Once Sarah and Mark made the decision to try and have a baby right now, while Sarah still can, she really should have talked to her kids before taking another step. That was a mistake. What bothered me the most was that Sarah told Drew that having a baby was the “next, natural step” in her and Mark’s relationship, since they were serious. That’s not necessarily true. I know that plenty of people decide to have a kid together when they’re not married. But Sarah and Mark have not been together that long. They are not married or engaged. They don’t even live together. Is anyone supposed to believe that having a baby RIGHT NOW is a natural step right now? No. This is news that would come as a surprise to a lot of people, a step that might feel rushed to many. And it seems natural that Drew would be completely thrown upon getting that news. My issue with this storyline is that I can’t quite tell if this is a mistake Sarah made in handling the situation, or if it’s a mistake the writers made in depicting it.

Mark developing a relationship with Drew is only half of the equation. Yes, it would be nice if they could get to know each other more. But Sarah also needed to talk to Drew, to tell him what’s going on and what will change and, more importantly, what won’t change. And she dropped the ball there.

Mark took Drew out for a burger, and he pushed him to just be honest. I think Mark was expecting Drew to say he didn’t like him, but that wasn’t really the problem. Yeah, Drew was right – it’s a weird situation when your mom is having a baby with your teacher, who is significantly younger than she is. But it was deeper than that, and Drew broke down and told Mark it felt like his mom was trying to have a whole new family. He didn’t feel included, because no one has really made an effort to include him so far. Later, when Sarah tried to talk to Drew, he told her that he had always thought maybe she’d be with Seth again once he was sober. It was heartbreaking in a lot of ways. It was sad that Drew had that idea in his head, and that Sarah had done nothing to let him know that wasn’t going to be a possibility. It was sad that Drew feels to differently than Amber – after all, Amber’s the one who told Seth he needed to move on and let their mother be.

Sarah called Seth, talked to him, and told him Drew really needed to hear from him. It was a nice moment, seeing the character again and knowing he was doing OK. Seth was clearly shaken by Sarah’s news, but he acted supportive. He’s probably crushed. I liked that this storyline was complicated and messy, just like this situation would be in real life. I’m looking forward to seeing where we leave it when the season ends.

Push

The second big storyline of the episode continued exploring Julia and Zoey’s complicated relationship. As I’ve said before, despite its questionable origins I’ve come to really like this storyline. I don’t think there’s a chance that Zoey will change her mind about the baby. I feel that this storyline is Jason Katims’ way of examining the complicated emotions, relationships and fears that come with trying to adopt a baby.

Julia has always wanted Zoey’s baby, and her longing for a second child will always be a factor in their relationship. But Julia also really cares about Zoey, and that’s the motivation in this storyline. Think about it – Zoey has been living with them, Julia was kind to Zoey even when she didn’t think she’d be adopting the baby, and they’ve come to have somewhat of a friendship. Zoey is trying to maintain some independence because she won’t have Julia and Joel to lean on after the adoption has gone through, and Julia is just trying to help set Zoey up for a better life that what she has when that happens.

Yet, Julia knows so little about Zoey. She didn’t know that Zoey doesn’t have a high school diploma, so she pushed her to apply for a job as a paralegal and was disappointed when Zoey didn’t follow through on a situation that had been, Julia thought, set up perfectly for her. But Julia is equal parts stubborn and kind. Even though she and Zoey had a fight, she didn’t back away. Instead she dropped off some GED flashcards, and Zoey agreed to let Julia help her study. Their argument also revealed Zoey’s feelings of inferiority and low
self-worth, as she accused Julia of thinking that the baby will come out
dumb, just like Zoey.

I know the show has made it clear that Zoey wants a closed adoption, but I really wouldn’t mind if Parenthood allowed her to go back on that, and kept Zoey has a recurring character on the series. But if not, I really hope we get to see Zoey find some kind of path in life before we say goodbye to her.

What About Bob?

The third major storyline this week involved Bob and Amber, as well as Kristina and, to a smaller degree, Haddie. I knew Kristina would have to find out about Bob and Amber at some point so that Amber could disappoint yet another aunt, but I was surprised the show went there so quickly.

Bob asked Amber to accompany him on a trip that would obviously be used for both business and pleasure, and Haddie read between the lines when she saw Amber packing sexy shoes and clothes. Innocent, naive, Haddie. She tossed around the idea that Bob is cute and young, and Amber snapped at her in a way that could only indicate that there’s something there. So when Amber took off for the trip, stripper shoes in tow, Haddie asked her mom what the deal is with Bob, and Kristina freaked out. No, she seriously freaked out, as in she drove all the way to Sacramento to bring Amber home.

I like several things about this storyline. First of all, I like that it’s still a little unclear if Bob is actually a good guy or if he’s taking advantage of Amber. What he’s doing is sort of foolish, and Kristina knows if it got out it could kill their whole campaign. If he’s doing it because he really likes Amber, you could say he’s blinded by emotion. Or, he’s a scumbag. We still don’t know for sure.

I also like that Amber’s being forced into a situation where she has to decide if she’s ready to be an adult and stand up for herself. She could have refused to go home with Kristina – after all, as Bob pointed out, they’re both adults. (I’m glad Kristina revealed the age difference – Amber’s 19, Bob is 28.) She tried to handle the situation maturely, but you could also tell she wanted to avoid a lot of drama. Going with Kristina seemed like the easiest option, since Kristina was not calming down. But then what? Tell Kristina that she’s doing a good job, and that what she and Bob do privately is none of her business? Apologize for making a mistake?

Friends

The other two storylines were minor, since there was already a lot packed into this episode. Crosby was accidentally given Zeek’s prescriptions at the pharmacy, so he knows about the heart condition now. There’s not a lot to say about this storyline, but it made for some nice moments between Crosby and his parents, and we also got to see him and Lily being a cute couple.

I have more to say about Max’s storyline, which I found quite interesting even though it was minor. Max likes basketball, but he doesn’t want to play at school anymore because the other kids don’t really include him. It was pretty heartbreaking to see, but it was also interesting to see Max clue in to the idea that he can get out of something by saying his has a disability. The kid in the wheelchair gets to play video games during gym class? OK then, thinks Max, I have Asperger’s, I should get to sit out too.

I think it’s a really interesting concept to explore. On the one hand, Max is being put in an unfair situation at school since the other kids are mean to him. It’s hard not to sympathize with that. But on the other hand, it was important for Adam and Kristina to stress that Max is good at basketball, and while Asperger’s makes some things difficult for him (like teamwork), he can’t sit out every time he’s faced with a challenge like that. My one problem with this storyline was that I think that aspect was sort of glossed over. Max was permitted to sit out for one class, and that gave him the opportuntiy to befriend the kid in the wheelchair. It was very sweet. He invited the kid over to play, and that kid’s parents were very much like Adam and Kristina.

I understand why Max and this kid would bond. They both face challenges, they both like video games, they’re both rather serious. But at some point, I’d like to see the show address the idea of Max saying “I have Asperger’s” every time he wants to avoid something he doesn’t like.

I feel like there’s a lot to discuss from this episode, so take to the comments section and tell me what you think!



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