This week, the Bravermans confront their most terrifying foe yet: chairs. Yes, the anti-chair lobby has come to Berkeley, spearheaded by its champion, Zachary Knighton, and though chairs won’t go down without a fight, chairs are going to lose. It is as foretold as the end of Armageddon. Even chairs will bow before the mighty ability of Adam and Kristina to irritate anyone they meet into submission, and now that Zachary Knighton is on their side (as Mr. Knight, the new head of their charter school, because of course his name is Mr. Knight), no one will stand before them. I hope the rest of this season is just Peter Krause knocking over chairs, then going, “YEAH. SUCK IT, CHAIRS.”
In all seriousness, “The Enchanting Mr. Knight” was a thoroughly pleasant hour of television. This means both that I never yelled, “Come on!” at the TV, but neither did I find myself particularly excited or moved by it. This was very much a bridge episode, one that comes between and connects larger things and bigger moments, and on that level, it was pretty solid. Parenthood has to do some of these, but there are times when I feel like the entirety of the show this season has been bridge episodes, getting us from the awesomeness of season four to whatever season six is supposed to be about. There have been storylines and even story arcs that have worked. There have been whole episodes that were great, great Parenthood. But the season as a whole has lacked direction, and everything the show has tried to give it direction has been a bit of a bust.
You’re tired of hearing about that, though, so let’s just figure out who the biggest jerk was in this episode.
It was Crosby. That was easy.
The places where “The Enchanting Mr. Knight” shines the most are the places where Camille gets a chance to tell off her youngest son about how much of a nitwit he’s being over the thought of his parents selling their house. I mean, God forbid that somebody do something for Camille for once! Crosby tells his mom that he thinks she’s being selfish, and she lays into him, hauling out all of the times she’s saved his ass from being destitute or having to wear dirty clothes. And now he’s going to waltz into her life and try and reverse a decision she worked so hard to get Zeek to make, just because he’s feeling nostalgic? (This is actually one of the more subtle character development things the show has always done with Crosby that I appreciate: He has trouble letting go of the past.) He’s the most selfish one in the family, she says, and she means it. Then she goes and asks Zeek about just why he’s using their son to get her to reverse their decision.
Crosby’s been kind of stranded in a lot of storylines where he’s whined about having to grow up and be a responsible human being this season, so it’s nice to see one rebound on him. (Really, this episode feels like it’s calling a lot of the characters on their self-involved shit.) The best thing about this is when Crosby tells his wife that his mom said he was the most selfish one in the family, with a “Can you believe that?!” sort of tone, and she just rolls her eyes. If anybody’s going to know about Crosby’s selfishness that’s not his mom, it’s Jasmine, who’s been putting up with it just as much since she decided to come back into his life and tell him he had a son. I’ve often said that Parenthood is at its best when the characters are acting like awful people, but in a way where you can recognize them as someone in your own family, whom you have to love anyway. And everybody has a Crosby in their family. The show doesn’t always know what to do with him this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still a lot of fun when he’s having people yell at him.
Really, this episode seemed kind of self-aware about a lot of things that have been problems this season, giving me some small hope that things will turn around in the weeks to come. One half of the Joel/Julia never-ending dissolution realized that, yes, she has to take responsibility for her mistakes, and she can’t keep blaming Ed, who may not win any awards for World’s Greatest Guy, but is not solely responsible for her marriage falling apart. (Joel, however, is still stuck off in grumpy town.) The Joel and Julia storyline, so good for so many weeks, has kind of been flailing lately because it keeps asking the characters to behave less like human beings and more like fairy tale characters. That’s not really the case in this episode, where Julia, at least, seems to hit rock bottom and starts to come to grips with what she’s done. Also, she has dinner alone with Ed at episode’s end. It’s just dinner!
In other “self-awareness” news, we have Sarah, who tells Carl that she doesn’t want to go to Africa. At first, this seems like it’s going to be because she’s finally realized Hank loves her and, aw, but then the show turns it around and makes this scene all about how Sarah herself has realized that all of her storylines revolve around her love interests and that’s why she continues to be the least interesting Braveman sibling this season. Carl is gracious enough to accept this, and Sarah ends the episode hanging out with Hank, not as lovers or even co-workers, but as friends. It’s a nice moment to end on, and though I’m all but certain this is going to spiral into another thing where she and Hank fall in love all over again, it’s nice to see the show at least acknowledge what so many of us have been saying about Sarah all along.
Finally, we have the one storyline I wasn’t too excited about, which had Drew renewing his flirtations with Natalie and struggling mightily to hook up with some chick, right after delivering his clinically depressed girlfriend—whom he did not break up with—to her parents. Look: I don’t think Drew should be in a long-term relationship right now. He should be 19 and fuck around and fuck up and just generally learn some crazy life lessons. But this story felt like it was coming after a completely different episode than the one we just watched, where the two pledged what felt like their everlasting troth to each other. Anyway, the storyline is mostly an excuse to have Drew’s roommate try and make out with Amber, who races away because it’s so gross. Amber, too, has been in danger of being defined solely by her romantic choices this season, so it’s sort of fun to see both mother and daughter realize they can control their own destinies just as handily, be that by gently letting a man off the hook or by repeatedly telling him “No,” like he’s a very bad dog indeed.
- The unlikely clarity of Adam and Kristina Braverman #1: The two of them talk about how they’re always running toward impossible tasks in bed. “Remember how you ran for mayor?” Adam asks, and Kristina does, indeed, remember. It’s almost as if they’re confused by the endless reboot of their own lives.
- Braverman of the week: Surprise win for Ed, who gets treated like a monster but reveals his inner human decency. He’s still kind of a skeeve, but he’s a skeeve you can sort of buy Julia half-falling for if you squint.
- Bonnie Bedelia spends her time: Was this the most Bonnie Bedelia has had to do in an episode since season one? I think it might have been, and all it took was getting in a fight with her son. I understand that Zeek and Camille are supporting adjuncts to the true stars of Parenthood, who are their four children and, occasionally, their spouses (and, okay, always Kristina), but it’s nice to have the show remember what a great actress Bedelia is and give her some shit to do.
- The unlikely clarity of Adam and Kristina Braverman #2: Mr. Knight tells them that he’s never had parents show up at his house before, when they go to talk to him about their charter school. They immediately begin apologizing for what assholes they are. Mr. Knight seems intrigued.
- Also, Kristina’s cancer hasn’t returned, so Adam and Kristina, who were worried, because they saw last week’s “next week on Parenthood” preview, can breathe a sigh of relief. Off at college, Haddie’s all, “Wait. Mom never told me her cancer had gone into remission!”
- After this season is over, I want to see a series of webisodes where Dr. Pelikan is constantly having to deal with Hank interrupting the important moments of his life. Tom Amandes would make an excellent Bob Hartley.
- The frat party Drew, Amber, Drew’s roommate, and Natalie all go to is at 10:30 on a Thursday. Guys, you’re going to miss Parenthood if you go!