Written by Duana
There comes a time in every TV program’s life where, despite your crossing your fingers, they do the thing that you wish they hadn’t. They betray you in a way that is painful, and hurts, because you keep hoping they’re tricking you, and going to a place that you weren’t fully sure you knew of.
In short, I wish this episode of Parenthood had gone down differently. As such, there may be a little less hilarity.
So we start on a really nicely shot, scored, and edited scene of Haddie and Alex, backlit, about to make love. It’s gorgeous, there’s no denying that.
Amber, meanwhile, is hanging out at the law firm, smoking a joint with Cappie after hours and pretending to golf. I would have appreciated this scene being set at the Braverman compound. Anyway, all you need to do is note that they are wayward youth.
Kristina and Adam are driving back from groceries, and did Max stay home alone? In the first of many situations that makes me want to kill myself in this episode, the phone rings and they answer it over the car stereo system, and guess what? It’s Haddie, having sex. She pocket-dialed them. The sounds aren’t super-loud moans but they are pretty typical. And, in some foreshadowing, (sorry, but you’ve seen the episode) Adam, not paying enough attention, skids into the intersection before he puts on the brakes.
Okay. We’re doing this teen sexuality episode, huh? I’ve expressed some of my frustration with Adam’s cookie-cutter paternal obnoxiousness in the previous episode. But let me just spoil it further for you by saying that the way in which he overreacts in this episode doesn’t seem to me to resemble the kind of upbringing he would have had. Kristina maybe, but she finds some normalcy in this episode, God Bless her.
So we’re back in, and Adam and Kristina are ‘hilariously’ standing in the kitchen, failing to unpack their grocery bags. They discuss whether they heard what they heard, because they can’t believe this plot device actually happened. This is also the point where I have to say that unfortunately the show begs a lot of comparisons to Friday Night Lights (season 5 episode 1 tomorrow night!) and it is, let’s say, paler.
Anyway, Haddie comes in all sunshine and light and more animated than we’ve ever seen her, which is not good for her. Anyway, she gets grilled about her evening but points out that her parents are freaks and leaves.
Joel is helping Crosby redo his home. Crosby needs all kinds of things done, including ripping out ‘wainscotting’, which he pronounces “coating” and I always thought was “cotting”. Anyway, Joel asks how long he has for this job and correctly assesses that it’s going to be a pain in his ass. Julia observes.
Sarah and Richard Dreyfuss. They’re working on ‘boyfriends of the past’ being the same guy echoing….what? Anyway, Dreyfuss is sexist about ‘her breasts’ being useful, because they’re going to the party of a guy who can get her play in a reading series.
Adam at the shoe company. This plot seems to only be foreshadowing for next week, so all you need to know is his childlike boss hates some stuff going on, and complains that an ad ‘looks like an ad’. It’s as riveting as it sounds.
Julia finds Amber asleep at work on her couch. She quits her job. Then, convincing herself that “I don’t want this” she yammers about the lack of sunlight or life in the hallways of a law firm. Julia has nothing to say, because why would she? Also, her cast is pretty much non-existent this episode, so you would think they didn’t need to make such a big deal before.
This is the first in a series of scenes of Amber acting obnoxious without you really knowing where they’re coming from. Getting high once or twice is one thing. Slipping into wake-and-baking is a lot more dramatic than I think we’ve seen a level-headed kid like Amber jump straight into.
Kristina walks into Haddie’s room, and is so deferential and apologetic it’s a wonder Haddie respects her as much as she does. Which may not be that much, but you get the idea. Kristina is vaguely direct about asking whether they’re having sex, and apparently closing my eyes and smiling when I lie is not working, because damn does Haddie look guilty as she denies it, and that is totally what I do when I’m asked something I don’t want to answer! Gross!
Anyway, after Haddie doesn’t convince Kristina but Kristina wants to believe her, she deflects with “why, were you my age or something?” Kristina also lies, more effectively, and says she was ’22. At college’. Kristina and her diaphanous pants say she wants to talk to Haddie if Haddie wants to talk.
Okay. So far, this counts as dealing with your teen’s sexuality and not freaking out. But wait!
Over in alternative teenage parenting, Sarah chases Amber up the stairs, irritated that ‘nothing has sunk in’. Amber can’t do this right now, and when Sarah tries to follow her into the bathroom, Amber is all “I’m just trying to figure out my life, and I’m sorry I was mean but I just wanted to say what I felt.” Sarah tells her she can’t, and that she has to figure out her life, and then, adorably, they say they have no choice but to go eat pasta. Amber agrees pasta is the only solution.
I don’t care if the only thing Lauren Graham is known for is relating to her onscreen teenage daughters in a way that makes them feel loved. She’s good at it. Bill Cosby didn’t have a whole lot of range either, but we loved him. Whitman and Graham are saving this episode, together.
Crosby and Joel. Joes has tiles, because he is a boy. Crosby doesn’t like them. This escalates to a fight wherein Joel tells him tiles are not going to make the difference in whether Jasmine forgives him or not. Incidentally, the wainscoting is gone.
Haddie comes into her mom’s room to confess that ‘Alex and I have had sex’. Kristina is without words, Haddie is biting her tongue, and so red in the face, and Sarah Ramos doesn’t get a lot of credit but she’s quite consistent with Haddie’s reaction, like when she realizes her dad has been talking and thinking about this. For all Kristina asked her to talk about it, she seems so disappointed. She asks if Alex is pressuring Haddie, and then if they’re using ‘some sort of protection’. I’d like to point out that when I was in this situation with my own mother (Hi Mom!) she not only asked about protection, but demanded to know exactly what and would not rest until I’d shown her the BC pills in question. Too much?
Anyway, Kristina and Haddie stare at each other, they’ve always looked a lot like mother and daughter, and they both avoid the truth, again, when Haddie asks how they knew and Kristina lied.
Cocktail party. This plot is completely dumb and goes nowhere, so all you need to know is that Steven Weber doesn’t want to talk to Richard Dreyfuss (and, by association, Sarah and Zeek) because Dreyfuss once said he was incompetent. The conversation does Not Go Well and he does not agree to read Sarah’s play.
Sarah runs after him, flirts a bit, and asks him to read her play. He tries to blow her off, she perseveres a bit, it’s not that hard, she says she’s inexperienced, he agrees to read her play. She is happy. Happiness must be punished.
Kristina tells Adam, while he brushes his teeth, that “The thing we thought was happening is happening”. Adam is thunderstruck. He asks a couple of cursory questions about whether she’s being pressured, etc. Then he says ‘well, that’s it then’, tests whether Kristina said all the things she should have, and walks away. So Kristina gets to feel bad too. How is he this much of a dick?
I Am Not A Parent: A sidebar
You guys, please explain it to me. I am not the parent of a teenager. Or even a toddler. I hope to be someday. Please explain what the average family’s hopes and expectations for their childrens’ sexuality is? We know that teens have been having sex since the beginning of time. We know that ‘marriage’, as in ‘saving it for’ used to happen at 16 and now regularly happens after 30. We know, because we’ve all been there, the power of hormones. We know that children grow up and become sexual beings….don’t we?
What is this frantic freaking out? Why is it always portrayed, on television, as though it’s a shocking development that people never thought would happen? Is the liberated parent’s version of ‘wait ‘til you’re married’ “wait ‘til you’re in the dorms, so I don’t have to acknowledge it?”
I just don’t know. We know teens are going to have sex and, on shows like this and the supreme ‘Friday Night Lights’ which also dealt with this, head on, parents have had problems with the concept. I get that a child always looks like a baby. But as sure as you know that they’re going to lose their teeth at five and go through puberty at 12, they’re going to be thinking about sex in their teens. Why is this such a surprise? Why can’t we know this and have them be prepared and happy for it? Is it because there’s no regulatory body, like there is with driving? Parents are also terrified to see their baby infants driving off in cars, but they deal, proudly and with tears in their eyes. Have we ever considered that the freaked-out method with which most teens see adults react to sex is the reason they’re not more open about needing birth control?
None of this is rocket science, obviously. But some reactions I’ve read toward this episode – people wanting Alex accused of statutory rape, for crying out loud – make me wonder what it is the plan is supposed to be, when bringing up humans.
Let me know.
Back to our episode – except that it’s Adam’s annoying boss showing off some creative artwork that advertises shoes, in my opinion, neither better or worse than the first art did. Adam is Out Of Place in the office that includes a ‘floor skateboard’ and one of Adam’s formerly well-behaved employees eating a weed lollipop.
Julia and Jasmine laugh about how well Sydney and Jabbar get along. When Julia drops the bomb that Crosby is ‘really grown up all of a sudden’, Jasmine point-blank tells her she might never not be angry with him. It’s definitive. Julia’s sad.
Dinner at Adam’s, and as he freezes out his daughter for having a normal, healthy libido, Max picks up on the word ‘score’ and talks incessantly about how Haddie scored so many times, and Adam has trouble chewing.
SPEAKING OF SCORING (I’m sorry, it’s the show, not me) Amber is about to have sex in Julia’s office, even though I don’t know what the allure of this office is to these two kids, and suddenly Amber bails to go have dinner with her mom. Even though Cappie seems as messed up as Amber, he drives her.
Amber heads into the pasta restaurant, and Sarah is waiting for her and mad, and when Amber tells a story about running into a Quincenera, Sarah’s laughing along with her, so happy her daughter is actually laughting –
And then her face falls. Slowly, as the realization sets in. Even though she’s disappointed in herself for not seeing it coming, she’s also laughing a bit, because how could she not have seen this coming? How stupid is she? How could she not have known that her daughter wasn’t going to fall so far from her father’s tree? You can watch Sarah’s shame spiral start up again, but it will have to wait because she is righteously angry with her daughter as she asks ‘what kind of high are you? It’s not just pot.’ Amber isn’t able to take this seriously, and Sarah, exceedingly quietly, tells her she’s in trouble, and then storms out, demanding Amber join her in the car. The only thing wrong with that scene is that Amber should have been sober enough to see that disappointed look on Sarah’s face – because it’s usually a trigger for even more reactive behavior because of course, all of this is about Amber having disappointed Sarah, as she sees it, yet again.
Haddie gets to run into her father in a towel, he is irritated with her, and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not just that he’s worried about her. He’s MAD at her for growing up. When are we going to teach fathers not to dump this sh*t on their teenage girls who don’t know what they’ve done wrong?
Kristina goes in to try and paper over the hurt that Adam has caused, Kristina lies that Adam isn’t judging her, which is not true, and then – then – Kristina says “we wish that you would have waited, that’s all”. This is where the comparisons to Tami Taylor become inevitable, because I can hear her Texas lilt in my ears. When she told Julie she wished she’d waited, she immediately put it on herself. “I wish you would have waited because I get scared, but I know that he loves you, etc.” Kristina just seems – sorry, but judgy, here. Why does she wish Haddie would have waited? Waited for what? Until we give our kids these answers, how the hell can we expect them to do anything but figure it out for themselves?
Kristina promises Adam will come around, then admits to Haddie that she lied, that in fact she was 15 when she had sex. She thought she loved him, and then he told everyone. She’s glad that didn’t happen to Haddie.
House. Crosby, interrogating Julia while taking away shutters a lot of people would love. Julia is trying to let Crosby down easily, he’s not hearing it. Julia drops her bomb. It’s not going to happen. Crosby’s all “yeah, I know. This is a Hail Mary pass”. This dialogue is a bit beleaguered, but I sort of buy that Crosby would be bullheaded in this way.
Kitchen. Kristina grows a backbone and tells Adam he needs to sack up and talk to Haddie. He complains that he ‘didn’t know this day would come so fast’ and what was he supposed to say to her? He leaves. Kristina is, justifiably, frustrated and mad.
Sarah is GOING THROUGH AMBER’S PURSE. Yes, dammit. You don’t get privacy if you’ve betrayed trust. She is also interrogating Drew, who’s only partially reluctant, for information about what drugs Amber is doing. Gary (Cappie) calls, and Drew tries to hang up on him, when Amber comes in and is straight up horrified that her mother and brother are colluding like this. She screams, and in a nice but small moment, Sarah seems horrified by Amber’s cigarettes as much as anything else.
Amber tries to run away, Sarah tries to pull her back by the strap of the purse. Yes, dammit. This is the stuff Lainey always talks about. Your mother needs to physically restrain you from doing something stupid, and if you succeed in getting away, as Amber does, you will regret it forever. In fact, Amber pushes her back and Sarah falls down, crushed, in the garden. This is mildly unfeasible because of the heights of the actresses – but I buy it. And, in the third or fourth echo of Tami and Julie this episode (remember Tami tearing her from the van containing the Swede?), this is the only one where I understand the mother, both times, trying desperately to save her daughter. It’s real, rather than the problems Adam and Kristina convince themselves they have.
Sarah is pacing, leaving a message for Amber for the 15th time. Dreyfuss bustles in to tell Sarah she’s into the play-reading-staging thing. It’s a really, really small moment of something washing over her, because all she can think about is her daughter, out there and alone…
Adam is listening to Sarah worry about whether Amber will come back. He starts in on ‘the crap that Haddie’s pulled this year’. He points out that she is having sex, because it’s SUCH A PANIC, and Sarah points out that she loves Alex and she’s being honest with him. Instead of recognizing this and then turning around and reassuring Sarah that Amber is a good kid who will come home, he complains that he misses his little girl. Anyway, Adam says he’s going to back off Haddie, Sarah the Wise says he needs to be there more. “That’s when you need to show up”. That’s also when Lainey burst into cackles at the dialogue in this scene. Even Graham couldn’t save that one.
Soccer. Haddie is adorably pleased that her dad is there to pick her up – and when he sees she skinned her elbow, he wants to clean it off, like she’s a little girl. He says he doesn’t want her to get hurt, she smiles in understanding, and I guess that’s the last we’re ever going to hear about it? No practical conversations about how to prevent that? Apparently not.
Amber, in a car, with Cappie Gary. Same old ‘college-ain’t-for-everyone’ conversation. Same old joint and flask. Same old “we should go to Europe”. Same old getting completely smashed in the side of the car because Gary ran a red light. Cynical though I may be, Amber’s arms flying up in the last shot look pretty terrifying.
Sorry if I offended some of you here. I look forward to your angry letters. Thanks for reading. Next week is the finale.
You’re No Tami Taylor
Written by Duana