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Parenthood, Ep. 5.03, “Nipple Confusion” a love letter to communication

Parenthood promo pic S05E03

Parenthood, Season 5, Episode 3: “Nipple Confusion”
Written by Sarah Watson
Directed by Patrick Norris
Airs Thursdays at 10pm (EST) on NBC

This week, on Parenthood: Drew has a terrible roommate, Sarah graduates to people, and Aida finally stops crying (temporarily)

One of the greatest obstacles in relationships, according to popular wisdom, is lack of communication. It doesn’t matter what kind, failing to listen to what someone is saying, verbally or nonverbally, or make yourself heard in return are surefire ways to allow a friendship, business partnership, or marriage dissolve. There’s always drama to be found in people’s inability to communicate, for one reason or another (horror movies would be over much faster if everyone had cell reception, for example), and yet very few TV shows seem particularly interested in exploring this or in prioritizing open, honest discourse among their characters. As demonstrated this week, Parenthood is a beautiful exception to this often frustrating trend.

On most shows, “Let’s talk about it” doesn’t actually mean audiences will see a discussion. It usually means one character will give their thoughts, the other will disagree (and be wrong), and then there’ll either be a longer-term fight or the stronger personality will unilaterally make a decision. Here, we’re treated to truly heartfelt and equally well-reasoned disagreements between Zeek and Camille, Adam and Kristina, and Julia and Joel, only one of which is resolved by episode’s end. Each person wants the best for everyone and each person (eventually) respects the other enough to sit down and listen to what they have to say. It would be easy to spin any one of these characters’ positions out and make them unreasonable, opening up easy avenues to episodes-worth of drama. Instead, Sarah Watson keeps these moments intimate, trusting the cast to convey the depth of each character’s conviction with their performance, rather than melodramatic bombast.

Parenthood promo pic S05E03

This week, Camille and Kristina in particular demonstrate the show’s dedication to character. It’s clear for both that the emotions they express have been working away for a long time, though they’ve gone unannounced until now. It’s great to see Kristina’s recovery brought up again, an admission from the show that her transition from the season four finale to now has been drastic and perhaps a bit hard to swallow. As for Camille, she’s providing a lovely subtextual parallel to Amber, about to get married rather young to a veteran. It’s refreshing to see a show where just because a character seems to brush over their partner’s concerns it doesn’t mean they haven’t heard them and that they don’t, if they’re honest, agree. The whole cast give strong performances this week, but Bonnie Bedelia is a particular standout in her moment with Craig T. Nelson. The two seem to be at somewhat of an impasse, so seeing how Jason Katims and co. move on from here should be interesting.

Elsewhere in the episode, we get another funny and honest conversation with Hank and Sarah. It’s nice to see him actually defend her family’s position on her new career. It’s another example of the show favoring nuance over easier, more heightened reactions. Sometimes in communication, however, subtlety must go out the window, and seeing that represented in Drew’s storyline is a lot of fun. Ryan may have ulterior motives for sorting out Drew’s living situation, but the scenes are entertaining nonetheless and all too familiar for many. The final corner of the episode is Crosby’s continued struggles with Aida. While his final moment may be triumphant and, frankly, adorable, it’s a pleasant surprise that three episodes in, we still haven’t gotten the Everything Clicks and Crosby Loves His Daughter Unconditionally moment. Crosby may be professing his commitment to Aida, but Dax Shepard layers in more duty than connection, at least to this viewer, leaving that moment for later in the season. Hopefully Aida will be a bit less of a crier in the next few weeks- her fussiness has been a good source of material for the show, but it’d be nice to get a break for a while. All in all, this is another excellent installment from one of the most reliable and moving network dramas. Bring on episode four!

What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you with Camille or Zeek? Anyone else glad to see Sarah succeeding for once? How long do you think we’ll go before the ECaCLHDU moment? Post your thoughts below.

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