Parenthood: Mistakes, Mistakes

Oh goodness, there sure is a lot of screwing up going on in the Braverman family lately, isn’t there?

Mistake #1

In my blog post last week, I talked about how I was worried that the character of Rachel was merely being used as a vehicle to create drama between Adam and Kristina, and how my boyfriend and I disagreed a little over what went down in that situation. We continued to disagree after the episode was over, about whether Adam should tell Kristina what happened. (Obviously, I knew he would, because the show wanted that tension and drama.)

I strongly believed, and still do, that Adam didn’t need to tell Kristina. Nothing really happened – it was a kiss that lasted for a moment, Adam did the right thing by pushing her away and making it clear that it couldn’t happen again, and it doesn’t seem likely to happen again. Rachel seems humiliated and ashamed of her behavior. So what is gained by “coming clean” to Kristina? Adam has a clear conscience. He avoids the risk of Kristina finding out at a later date and being even more hurt and upset. OK, sure. But what are the chances she’d ever find out? Especially if Adam a) didn’t tell Crosby, or anyone else that it happened and b) told Rachel that she should not bring it up to him, his wife, or anyone at all, but just pretend like it didn’t happen and NEVER DO IT AGAIN. To me, that would have been the correct course of action. To my boyfriend, who apparently is also “Mr. Honesty” (the title of the episode), Adam was obligated to tell Kristina the truth.

But what was lost by Adam telling Kristina this news? She is not emotionally capable of thinking about this rationally in her post-baby fragile state. Adam, as her husband, should know this. For Friday Night Lights fans, remember when Tami’s colleague Glenn kissed her? She told Eric because it was kind of funny and because, yes, they had that kind of open and honest relationship. But they also were in a place where their relationship was so strong that Eric wouldn’t in a million years feel threatened by Glenn. Adam and Kristina are not in that place. When Adam fessed up, Kristina fell down the rabbit hole of whether Adam had kissed Rachel back, if he was attracted to Rachel, if he wasn’t attracted to Kristina anymore. It was sad and painful to watch, and I don’t think it helped either Kristina or Adam.

Adam is also an idiot for not thinking about what the repercussions would be in advance. Did he not think that maybe this would mean Kristina would want him to fire Rachel? It’s easy to understand where Kristina is coming from here. What woman, who is struggling to lose baby weight and feel sexy again, would want their husband working side by side (and working often, which adds to Kristina’s complicated emotions) with a gorgeous woman who’s enamored with her husband? No one. So Adam should have seen that coming and considered whether he was willing to do that. He also should have talked to Crosby about that decision before promising his wife that he’d can the secretary, but the underlying issue there is that Adam has never considered Crosby to be an equal. Adam tried to blame the whole mess on what happened with Crosby and Gaby, and he didn’t even consider Crosby’s thoughts when he decided that Rachel had to be fired. It’s as if he doesn’t realize that The Luncheonette is just as much Crosby’s endeavor as it is his. If I were Crosby, I’d be pissed. Sure, it’s a family business. But it’s a business, and Adam can’t go around firing people just because he wants to “keep the peace at home.” If he truly believed that Rachel deserved to be fired for her actions, then that’s something he should have discussed with Crosby as his business partner. But he didn’t, obviously, because when he tried to fire her he chickened out. And that’s when the major mistake happened.

Ya know what’s worse than not telling your wife about an innocent little kiss that will never happen again? Telling her, letting her freak out about it, promising to fire the kisser, and then LYING ABOUT THAT. When Adam tried to let Rachel go because of the incident, he couldn’t do it. And I understand why – Adam’s a nice dude, Rachel was clearly ashamed of herself, and he knew he didn’t want to fire a great employee over what had happened. So he told her he wouldn’t hesitate to let her go if it happened again. OK, good enough.

He should have gone home and told that to Kristina. Instead, he went home for dinner and told Kristina that, you know, it sucked to fire Rachel and she was kind of upset. And every Parenthood viewer groaned. Such a bad move! Come on, Adam! That was the worst! The next day Kristina called Adam at work, as spouses do, and was floored when Rachel answered the phone. Oops! The worst part was the hurt look on Kristina’s face when Adam said he didn’t want to hurt Rachel’s feelings. Rachel’s feelings were what he was concerned about. Ouch.

Luckily, Parenthood always knows how to prevent storylines from becoming too cliche. Kristina was incredibly upset, yes. But she never talked about leaving Adam, we never heard the “D” word. I’m glad this was never interpreted as something that might actually cause Adam and Kristina’s marriage to crumble, because that’s not them. The closest we came was Kristina worrying that “this is how we become the 80%”, which was a very real thing for her to say. Kristina has always been nervous about the high divorce rate for parents of autistic kids, and it made sense that she’d worry that their marriage might fail, not that she thought their marriage had failed. Instead of going the more cliche route, the incident was used as a catalyst for Kristina to make another decision, a decision about herself. She wants to go back to work.

I think this was very artfully done, because whether or not Kristina should begin working again has long been present as a storyline for this family. It’s something that has come up off and on over the years, and I like that what happened with Adam caused Kristina to look at herself, look at what she wants as an individual instead of what she thinks is best for the family, and decide that she would like to return to work. Kristina has mostly been a stay-at-home mom since we met her, and I’m excited to see where this storyline will go in the latter half of the season.

OK, that’s a lot of words about only one storyline, so let’s move on.

Mistake #2

I’d read an interview earlier on Tuesday with Joy Bryant, where she talked about how she really liked the fact that Parenthood was showing a storyline with parents who aren’t together, and about Jasmine and Crosby breaking the news to Jabbar that they aren’t getting married. So even though it was painfully obvious, as Crosby and Jasmine laughed and drank wine together at her apartment, that they were going to hook up, I didn’t think it was going to happen. I actually thought Jasmine might be about to break some bad news to Crosby, like that Dr. Joe was moving in or something. But of course it did, and it was a huge mistake on both their parts.

I really, really liked this storyline, and I think it’s a great example of just how good Dax Shepard is on this show. Before the series premiered, I didn’t think Shepard seemed to fit in with the rest of the cast. But he’s a really good actor and nails this character week after week. The pained look on his face as he and Jasmine had to tell their son that they won’t ever be getting married was incredibly realistic. Not only were they helping Jabbar understand that they’d never get married, but the conversation forced Crosby to acknowledge that there was no chance for reconciliation as well.

I could relate to this storyline pretty well because I was a kid whose parents divorced when I was very young, and I didn’t always quite get it. I think adults assume that kids pick up on more than they do, but when you’re that little you just kind of roll with it. Jasmine and Crosby assumed that because they weren’t living together anymore Jabbar would realize there wasn’t going to be a wedding either, but they were giving a five year old way too much credit. Kids don’t put two and two together like that. So they sat Jabbar down, and I think the conversation they had could be used as an example for any parents who need to explain that family dynamic to a kid. Some kids have parents who are the same color, some kids have parents who are different colors. Some kids have a mom and a dad, some kids have two mommies or two daddies. And some kids have parents that are married and live in the same house, and some kids have parents who aren’t married but are friends, and live in different houses. They laid it out very well for Jabbar, and he was mostly disappointed that he wasn’t going to get to wear a suit and hold a ring, like he’d been promised.

This storyline was such a good example of how two people co-parent even when they’re not together. Crosby and Jasmine wondered together if they’d really screwed up, they adorable sang “Row Row Row Your Boat” with Jabbar over the phone at bedtime, and then Jasmine invited Crosby in when he stopped by to drop off Jabbar’s teddy bear.

Oh, boy. Such a bad move. I understood why it happened. They were trying to be friends, I think. They were drinking and talking about their kid, and they were both in emotional places because they felt bad about confusing and disappointing their son. Jasmine told Crosby she thought he should go, and next thing we saw they were together in bed. I don’t think this means they’re getting back together, but it’ll sure complicate things for them. Jasmine, obviously, has screwed up way more than Crosby this time. She cheated on Dr. Joe, a guy who cares about her and is serious about her. And clearly, she’s too emotionally conflicted to be in that kind of relationship right now. Crosby is unattached, and I also think he was less over Jasmine than she was him. He was still holding out hope, so I understand what led him into the situation. Unlike the Crosby/Kristina situation, which I feel was a good storyline that came out of a contrived situation, this felt like a situation that wasn’t fabricated at all. But oh man, was it ever a mistake.

Mistake #3

Speaking of contrived situations that yield great results, few people were fans of the Julia Buys A Baby storyline. But I really like where it has led. Zoe is completely on board with letting Julia and Joel adopt her baby, and has signed papers saying that. But her boyfriend gets a say too, and he’s a little harder to woo.

First, it was hard enough for Julia and Joel to just have a simple meal with their baby daddy. After he stood them up for brunch (complete with the largest pile of sausages I have ever seen), Joel did a little Facebook stalking and went to the convenience store where the guy worked. (I loved how he told Julia that it was only half as crazy as asking the coffee cart girl for her baby.) The kid seemed nice enough at first, as he shook Joel’s hand, talked about how much Zoe likes them, and agreed to come over for dinner. But then at dinner, he dropped the bomb that he thinks they should be paying more than just Zoe’s medical expenses. A girl like Zoe can get a lot of money for an egg, let alone a baby.

But here’s the thing. It’s legal to donate eggs and get money in return. (At least I’m pretty sure it is.) It’s not legal to offer money in exchange for a baby, and no matter how much Julia and Joel want to adopt the baby they aren’t going to resort to illegal dealings to do so. I think this twist in the storyline worked because we’ve known all along that Julia and Joel getting their hopes up about such an unconventional adoption was dangerous, and I completely believe that some jackass nineteen year-old kid would try and milk the rich couple who wants their baby for as much money as he can. He knows there are rich people who buy babies. He knows Julia and Joel have money, and he knows they really want his baby. We know he’s not exactly a standup dude because he doesn’t treat his girlfriend all that well. So it’s not a surprise that he’d see this situation as an opportunity and have dollar signs in his eyes.

Mistake #4

Obviously, Amber moving out before she was financially capable of doing so is not a mistake on the same scale as the others we saw this week, but I’m sticking to a theme here, friends. This storyline was small and simple, and therefore the perfect complement to the other stories. Watching Amber work hard at the coffee shop only to have to pour some change into an envelope for rent and still come up short was beautiful, especially because it was done only to music. The car breaking down in the middle of an intersection was the cherry on top. Poor Amber. (Literally.)

Mae Whitman was absolutely perfect in the scene where she asked her grandmother for money, and Bonnie Bedelia nailed it as well. It’s not fun to have to ask for help, and it’s even less fun to realize that the help is only short term and you need another solution asap.

Sarah wasn’t in this episode much, but I liked the scene where she tried to help Amber figure out her budget, and realized that her daughter was drowning more than she even thought. I get it – when a portion of your income relies on tip money, it’s hard to figure out exactly how much you make per month and whether that income is enough to cover your expenses. It’s also hard to get a grip on all that stuff the first time you move out on your own, especially if you’re not numerically inclined. But the best part of this storyline was that it wasn’t just about money, it’s also about Amber’s life overall.

The progression of Amber as a character has been interesting to watch, thanks in large part to how artfully Mae Whitman depicts the character. When we met her she just seemed like another rebellious teenager, but there was more to her than that. She got her grades up, she got incredibly good SAT scores, she got a good alumni recommendation for Berkeley. And then she didn’t get in and went off the rails. It was immature and bratty and self-pitying, and after the car accident happened she knew all that. So she tried to grow up by moving out, but she didn’t realize that wasn’t really the answer. Moving into an apartment and working at a coffee shop was not an answer. So now she’s going to figure something new out, and Sarah’s going to help her with that. We’re watching Amber grow up, slowly, and that comes with screwing up. I think the show has done a great job of showing that in a realistic light. To make yet another Friday Night Lights reference, I feel about Amber the same way I felt about Tyra Collette. Not that their characters are that alike, but that they’re both teenagers who are shown in the process of realizing their potential. They’ve had tough upbringings, are wise beyond their years in some ways, but still sometimes make major mistakes. (Like running away with a painkiller addicted cowboy, or getting into a car with someone who’s been drinking and using drugs.) (In a similar vein, I’d say Haddie is much more like Julie on FNL – raised in a loving family, generally a good girl but also sometimes bratty and selfish.)


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