Parenthood, Season 5, Episode 6, “The M Word”
Written by Julia Brownell
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC
This week, on Parenthood: Crosby gets ready for corduroys, Zeek builds a fire pit, and Julia contemplates greener pastures
With so much going on this season on Parenthood, several of the arcs the writers have introduced have been allowed to simmer on the back burner for a few weeks while we focused on the continuing saga of Amber’s wedding, Max’s photographic exploits, and Victor’s reading comprehension. This week, these elements return in a big way, with Kristina in full debate-prep mode and the whole family canvasing for her, Ed popping up to tease problems at home with Julia and Joel, and Crosby struggling to hold on to a shred of his pre-baby life. These threads are balanced with the continuing Amber/Sarah conflict and Camille’s dissatisfaction at her apparent Act III.
It’s remarkable how much story and character the writers are able to cram into an episode of Parenthood without letting a single arc feel underdeveloped or unearned. There’s an impressive economy to the script; Julia Brownell allows the actors to tell much of their characters’ thoughts visually, freeing up airtime and keeping the various narratives focused. It’s not a particularly silent episode though; when appropriate, there’s also a cacophony of sound, which can be among the more stressful aspects of family life and which is portrayed more accurately on this series than anywhere else on television.
As ever, Mae Whitman is fantastic as Amber, even when the character’s horribly wrong. It’s hilarious to watch her protest so vehemently that her engagement is different than her mother’s and then decide to do exactly what her mom did (elope at City Hall), never allowing herself to see the clear parallel. Her final scene with Lauren Graham, where we see Sarah swallow her fears for her daughter and die just a little inside, is both painful and a relief- kudos to everyone involved for managing that balance. As for Camille, hers may be the most interesting and least predictable storyline going at the moment. Zeek steps up this week and goes to see the condo, but it’s clear Zeek won’t be happy moving downtown and equally clear Camille won’t be happy if nothing changes (and a firepit, however well-intentioned and sweet, doesn’t cut it). The two have built their lives together for forever- will Camille leave (for more than a month)? It seems like a stretch, but they’re in a difficult position and something has to give.
Kristina’s campaign returns in a big way, bringing with it Jurnee Smollet-Bell, who is once again a welcome presence as Heather. It’s clear Kristina needs someone like Heather to push her- if this episode demonstrates anything, it’s that Kristina does not seem suited to politics. She doesn’t have the killer instinct the job requires and there’s a strong sense in her final scene that she didn’t actually think she had a chance- Kristina seems less than thrilled with the idea of actually getting elected, as passionate as she may be about education in Berkeley. This promises a much more interesting next few weeks as we ramp up to episode nine, “Election Night”. Much like Sarah, Kristina compromises her morals when she brings Max up in the debate, no matter how honest and non-exploitative she is in her statement, and neither seem too happy with their choices, though the show may disagree with them. Max shouldn’t experience blowback from Kristina’s remarks, but we’ll see what off-limits line, if any, she crosses next.
Less exciting is the return of David Denman as Ed, due to what it means for Julia’s arc. The moment Ed’s wife returns, it’s clear the two have been enjoying their opportunity to play house, that things are rocky between Ed and his wife, and that Julia’s feeling guilty about her emotional dalliance and, once again, all of this is conveyed through performance rather than dialogue. The specifics are rather convenient (of course Joel happens to be preparing a beautiful dinner for Julia and the kids at home at the same moment she’s bemoaning her lack of adult food), but Erika Christensen’s performance carries the scenes. What might be more interesting, though, would be to actually see what Julia’s days look like. Going from a busy office to an empty house full of chores is a drastic change. Rather than hear her talk about how much she misses work, why not show us why she misses it?
Taking the lighter beats this week is once again Crosby, who has become the show’s most reliable source of comedy. The maturity shown on Parenthood is often refreshing and Crosby in this episode is yet another example. He freaks out about losing his car, as we’ve seen so many characters in his situation do, but he’s reminded of why he’s made that sacrifice almost immediately and handles the transition with surprising grace. It’s nice to see Adventure Time get another shoutout on the show (we saw Jabbar watching it earlier this season while Crosby tried to keep down the noise for Aida- Lemongrab was featured in each clip, fwiw) and Crosby’s outrage at being unable to slam the minivan door may be the single best moment of the entire episode. Crosby and, to a lesser extent, Jasmine’s narratives have benefited hugely from the arrival of Aida this season. Whatever comes next, it should be a lot of fun.
What did you think of this episode? Anyone else want to see an episode comprised of DrunkJoel shopping with DrunkCrosby? Where are you at with Julia’s storyline? What’s next for Zeek and Camille, and when is Hank coming back? Post your thoughts below!