Natalie Zea (left), Jason Jones

The Parker family is cursed.

Technically, it’s only really Nate Parker who is cursed; he’s the one lying about this entire family vacation in the first place. But because he won’t just come clean to Robin about everything, the rest of the family must suffer for his “good guy” crusade over what’s “right.” While there has been plenty of outside interference to mess with Nate, Robin, and the kids’ world as a result of this pretty big lie, “The Road” proves those interferences aren’t the only problem by removing those detours from the equation for some alone time in traffic.

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“The Road” is the the episode that puts The Detour’s approach to “unconventional” storytelling to best use, making the most complete episode of the series so far while also working in the form of an actual How I Met Your Mother-based (the show to blame for too many failed attempts at the “unconventional” storytelling) plot. Obviously, The Detour has the interrogation framing device that serves as the show’s previouslies, but “The Road” plays around with the narrative much more than the show does there or in its typical flashbacks to places Nate’s work or Lilith Fair. Here, the audience is given the story of how Nate and Robin met, fell in love, and started a family, complete with the issues of perception versus reality, memory, and the basic concept of whether or not to tell the truth. Robin of course prefers that to Nate’s over-romanticizing of the entire imperfect situation, but at least she doesn’t have to call him out on spending an absurd amount of time talking about all the women he slept with before he met her.

Just the part about Vanessa sticking her finger up his butt, a detail that he makes sure to include.

This episode obviously doesn’t change Nate and Robin’s habit of being brutally honest—sometimes upsettingly so—with the kids, and while that’s often at a level of too much information, the story they’re telling really falls in line with the idea that they’re not actually ruining the kids’ lives by telling them this. In theory, it should smarten them up and give them some perspective, though Jared (or “Jareb”) may be completely lost on that one. Nate and Robin aren’t even telling the kids things they can’t handle. They have a right to know their aunt’s a shit show; hockey goon may actually be the only thing Jared can realistically do as a future career; and the sex stuff is much easier and understandable to include post-sex talk in the pilot.

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Plus, the kids’ interactions with the story itself make it far more interesting than a simple “and then this happened” situation, as they’re literally entering this world of their parents before their existence, right down to the sonograms. Robin drawing the honesty line at the story of her considering an abortion (or “trip to Europe”) during her unplanned pregnancy makes sense and works as a touching dramatic moment in an episode that follows that all up with shit show Vanessa going on about her (month-long) lesbian phase. And even a ridiculous scene like that is centered around Nate’s failed attempts to propose to Robin at a bowling alley, which is far more romantic than it has any right to be.

All of this works as well as it does because there’s something about the Parker family that feels like they’ve been around a lot longer than seven episodes, which has been the case since the pilot. The Detour, despite its newness and the fact that its premise can take it in so many different places, already feels very lived-in. The show even does pretty well in using Vanessa, a character who could be “toomuch” with more screen time, when it needs to, especially in this episode. Here, she’s technically the reason Nate and Robin get together—thanks to the funeral “party” of Beckanny Something-Or-Other—but she’s also the reason they don’t get engaged. But not everything is Vanessa’s fault, as “The Road” is a perfect example of how these characters (well, Nate) can be the architects of their own undoing even without a wave of extenuating circumstances pushing their buttons. All they need is a four-car pile-up and some alone time in Blue Thunder.

By this point, there really shouldn’t be a question why Nate and Robin are still together, as they clearly complement each other in ways no one else probably could. But based on their origin story, Robin also sees something in Nate that his entire quest for Fort Lauderdale basically challenges: She sees him as a stable guy who won’t ruin her life. That’s technically what she ended up with, but at the same time, he sees himself as this moral compass who is plagued by everyone else’s fuck-ups. I’ve said multiple times that Nate and Robin are hangout sitcom characters who just ended up having kids, and that’s exactly what their story to the kids proves. Nate was a bro (with a six-pack, before he became a “fat douche”) who thought he was going to become a professional hockey player, and Robin was the relatively mature one who was just looking for stability in between having to clean up her shit show sister’s messes. They got together because they were both two attractive people who were high on cocaine, but Nate was already dropping the l-word two days in and Robin was already “settling” for him, all bro-ness aside. That was before they accidentally got pregnant.

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Literally all Robin asks of Nate is that he doesn’t lie to her and that he doesn’t tell her to relax. It’s something that she addressed in the pilot, but this episode confirms that they’re the ground rules of their relationship and possibly the only ones they have, given how liberal they are. Robin can only take so much of Nate clearly breaking one of those rules, and “The Road” has him deliberately break both right to her face, after five days of road trip chaos. Nate may be surprised Robin finally walks away with the kids after all this, but it’s difficult to see anyone else be surprised by her reaction. As much as he wanted to believe otherwise, there was never going to be a happy ending to Nate lying to Robin about the reason behind the family road trip, even before Vanessa changed things so he has to make a stop in Orlando. Robin still doesn’t know the real reason for any of this, but that’s not the point, and even with wacky funeral and hockey stories, that doesn’t change that.

So as terrible as it is, Nate deserves to be walked out on for his tunnel vision. It’s just twisting the knife that he also can’t Fonzi his way back into Blue Thunder, Vanessa and her new boys cruise right by him, and the unintelligible guy from the pilot is somewhere nearby to ask: “WHACHADARNAR?”

Stray observations

  • One of my favorite things about TBS’ new slate of shows is the synopses, as Angie Tribeca had a running joke about the Lieutenant’s health throughout, while the upcoming show Wrecked’s synopses also has a similar runner. The Detour’s official synopses fit the show’s tone perfectly. though I’ve only seen them on the press site, not TV Guide or anything like that: “Blue Thunder is stuck in traffic. Nate and Robin take a stroll down memory lane about how they met and the kids learn an important lesson in ‘too much information’. Seriously. Too much. Stop telling us all this.”
  • When are we going to hear a Sacrificial Jam… jam? It has to be coming, right?
  • As a Chris Jericho fan, Nate’s line about work being “a stupid idiot” gave me the biggest smile of the episode.
  • “Beckanny Something-Or-Other” is the new “Blah Blah,” as far as I’m concerned. Bonus points if the show can also get Abigail Spencer in a future episode, not necessarily as Beckanny.
  • In “The B & B,” there’s obviously the moment where Nate just unloads on the “bear,” to the point of it being excessive (though, given the later pedophile reveal, it’s perfect). In the same episode, Dr. Rob makes the comment that Robin’s “making [Nate] sound like some dumb goon.” Also, in “The Tank,” we see the footage of him in just wrecking the room at his former place and improvement. Fastforward to this episode, where we learn Nate absolutely was a goon, and everything about that and his residual alpha male status comes into focus. As for his stance on bears, costumed pedophiles or not…
  • Nate: “Wait, you’re not a Bruins fan, are you?”
    Robin: “What’s a Bruin?”
    Nate: “It’s a bear.”
  • The flash of “Nate’s” abs is honestly so aggressively stupid, but for some reason, it surprised me into laughing.
  • Delilah: “Who the hell is Carlos?”
    Jared: “He’s our real dad. Keep up.” For once, Jared thinks he’s completely following along with the plot, which makes it even funnier that he’s still so far behind everyone.
  • By the way, is “Jareb” going to stick? Because I’m fine calling him that for the rest of the series, but I just need to know.

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