Parenthood: “Missing”
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Parenthood: “Missing”

Every week, you guys in comments do the yeoman’s work of pointing out some of the stupid shit this show has been doing this season, and I have to nod and agree. And yet every week, I find that this stuff doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does some of you. That could be because I’m a homer for this show, or it could be because I view the show as a family conflict resolution delivery system, a way to get my nice weekly dosage of people having an earnest fight about something, then resolving it quietly and lovingly. What I’m trying to say is that, yeah, I had some issues with “Missing,” but it was all worth it for a bunch of scenes where the characters were honest with each other about their disappointments. This is all another way of saying that the “Max goes missing after hopping a bus to Oakland accidentally” plot was a little dumb and seemed too interested in making Kristina (of all people) feel guilty for going back to work, but I didn’t care because when Haddie erupted at her brother, it was awesome.

Let’s get this out of the way first: No matter how much the episode tried to conclude with heartfelt scenes where Kristina and Adam told each other how much they meant to each other or where Kristina called up Rachel to let her know they were at least somewhat cool, the whole storyline where Max disappeared and Adam and Haddie couldn’t get a hold of Kristina seemed specifically designed to guilt her for being a working mom. I’m fairly certain the Katims Kontingent didn’t intend for this to be the case, but that’s how it ended up playing, and no amount of late-in-episode scenes designed to combat this appearance could get away from the fact that there were lots of moments where Adam and Haddie needed to get her on the phone and they just couldn’t because she was off having a high old time at work, working, and not thinking of the children because she was off WORKING in her WORK CLOTHES. 

Again, this probably wasn’t the intention, but it was how everything played, and it once again made Kristina unfortunately seem like the villain when she’d been nothing but reasonable all this time. (Indeed, one of the strengths of this season compared to last has been the show turning Kristina into something more than the impatient bitch she often seemed to be last season.) And I’m sure this sort of thing has happened at least once in every parent’s life—something’s wrong with one of the kids, and the other parent can’t be found right that second. Still, it rubbed me the wrong way, and it probably made the stuff where Max got on the wrong bus feel more contrived than it actually should have been. I bought everybody being too busy to take Max to the museum and even him jumping on the bus unaccompanied (to a degree), but not figuring out that he was in the wrong place and figuring out a way to call home? That seemed off to me.

Anyway, the other storylines were better. (I’m pretending Joel and Julia don’t exist for now, but we’ll get to that.) Sarah and Mark took care of Nora for a day, and Mark, in particular, seemed to quite enjoy the experience, even if it wore him out. There wasn’t a lot to this storyline, really, but it was worth it all for the look on Lauren Graham’s face when Mark tells Sarah that maybe he’d kinda be interested in having a kid with her possibly someday. We’re expecting this to be the thing to drive the two apart—since they’ve skirted so many other relationship killers already—perhaps because Sarah will slowly come to realize that Mark and she are just at different points of their lives. But it doesn’t scare her! And the wonderful thing about it is the way Graham’s face rotates from “He wants to have more kids?!” to “Doesn’t that terrify me?!” to “It doesn’t terrify me?!” to “Should I be terrified it doesn’t terrify me?!” to “It doesn’t terrify me!” It’s practically perfect silent acting, and it adds to Graham’s highlight reel in an already stacked season for her.

Next up on the docket is the Jasmine and Crosby business, which I thought was a nice examination of the remorse someone in a relationship feels after cheating from another perspective. Earlier this year, Crosby was the one feeling like shit after he slept with Gaby, and here, Jasmine was the one who realized how she was capable of hurting somebody else terribly. Granted, Jasmine doesn’t need this shit piled on top of her, what with the way she already feels terrible about a bunch of other things. And also granted, in this episode, Dr. Joe (whom I will continue to refer to as Dr. Joe Prestige, even though that was just an NBC press site typo) was just about the nicest guy who’s ever existed, even if he kind of smugly had to rub it in our faces. (It’s okay, Dr. Joe. Your mother was a vampire slayer!) In particular, I loved the scene where Crosby tried to convince Jasmine that Dr. Joe was better for her than he was and that she shouldn’t tell. I loved the brief moment of self-awareness where he apologized for being in her life, for constantly dragging her down into the shit with him. It was great and heartfelt and it was too little, too late. But that’s how Crosby operates. He only does the right thing when it’s convenient, not when it’s right.

Anyway, that brings us back around to Joel and Julia, who found themselves confronted with Zoe’s refusal to kick Troy in the nuts until he signed the baby release papers. At first, she was all, “Oh, Troy’s not so bad. Why don’t we just talk about this?” and Julia was all, “What’s to talk about?” and the show lit Erika Christensen like she was in The Godfather or something and filmed her in extreme close-up. It was kind of terrifying! Later, Zoe dropped by and had the gall to talk to Sydney while Julia was being angry, and after Zoe again pitched that maybe Troy was an extortionist, sure, but a really nice extortionist, Julia got to say, “I would have been a great mother to your baby.” She added, silently, “And nobody’s going to want your baby now!” which isn’t true but was probably what she was thinking. 

I had hoped that maybe this was all over at this point, that the storyline had ended in a surprisingly dark fashion. It wouldn’t have been exactly realistic, but things work out a little too often on this show, and it wasn’t like the show was going to have Max get taken into the night by Oakland street toughs and turn into the frank examination of the dissolution of a family after the death of one of its members. Putting Joel and Julia through this might have been an interesting way to examine just how strong their desire to adopt another baby actually was. Instead, we’re going to get the slightly neutered version of that, where Troy still won’t sign, but Zoe is on Joel and Julia’s side, now, and she’s an amazing lawyer, so it’ll get sorted out. This storyline has been hurt by being completely unrealistic about the whole adoption process, but even forgiving that, it hasn’t had a lot of stakes. I was hoping the show had found an interesting way out, but I guess we’re going forward with this for the foreseeable. Sigh.

But none of that matters because this show is worth it for those little scenes, for the look on Sarah’s face when Mark talks about babies, or for the glee the family gets from seeing Zeek’s commercial on the TV, or for the bit where Haddie loses it on her brother, and he still doesn’t seem to give a shit. So long as Parenthood keeps nailing those moments, I’m willing to forgive it the weird contrivances and bad storylines that get it to the point where things fall apart and everybody starts yelling. Because those are the moments that almost always work.

Stray observations:

  • Braverman of the week: Sarah, who not only found a job for her daughter but also babysat for Kristina and realized that she would be totally cool with having a baby with her younger boyfriend. Good times, Sarah!
  • Speaking of Amber, she took something of a backseat this week, but she’ll be working as Kristina’s assistant going forward. I’m fine with this giving Amber something to do, but it is sort of bizarre that this city council race in Berkeley has apparently unlimited funds.
  • All that said, seeing the Bravermans in the museum at the end as the nice hipster folk played reminded me of the reason I like this show and why I’ll forgive it its occasional lapses into unfortunate Mat Kearney music-scored “Mark and Sarah play with a baby” scenes that seemed like they were out of a jeans commercial.
  • “Your dad wants to give a speech here?”
  • “So speaking of Amber trying to get a job, I slept with Jasmine the other day.” 

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