First, my apologies for not warning you that watching this week's episode of Parenthood would emotionally ravage you in front of your housemates, domestic partners, and family members. I hope you were able to discreetly conceal your weeping or that your loved ones did not mock you too much.
It's Christmas Eve and we learn that Amber and Ryan are a solid couple when it comes to snuggling and feeding each other homemade holiday cookies but falter when they have to deal with really glaring adult issues in their relationship. Amber hears from Julia that Ryan quit the construction job that Joel had set up for him and Amber suggests that Ryan go over to Joel and Julia's to make amends. She lends Ryan her car but then grows worried when hours pass and he doesn't return or pick up his phone. He finally screeches up to the front of Amber's apartment and drunkenly emerges from the car, which now has a sizable ding in it. He then angrily spouts some "Guys With Low Self-Esteem" platitudes, namely that he'll talk to Joel on his own terms and that Amber is trying to change who he is. He staggers away, yelling at random passersby, making this a truly authentic snapshot of Berkeley.
Ryan then shows up to Braverman Christmas to apologize and ask for another chance. Amber tells him that she loves him but that she saw her mom, Sarah, give everything she had to a man who said he would change (Amber and Drew's dad, Seth) but never did. Amber says she's never letting herself get to that point so her only suggestion is for her and Ryan to take a break. She apologizes and hugs him, making it one of the sweeter Christmas Day breakups you could perform on an army vet who is alone for the holidays. But good for Amber for taking a stand for her life as a woman who won't be dragged down by a dysfunctional partner. Let's hope Ryan can turn it around so Amber can continue washing her delicates on his abdominals.
Speaking of Sarah, she has moved back in with Camille and Zeek after Mark finally decided that her poor, impulsive decisions were not actually quirky but just outright crazy. Can we all agree that "quirky" is just "crazy" with some polish on it? She's not feeling the holiday spirit, getting into fights with three different moms and Santa Claus himself while assisting Hank at a shopping mall photo gig. Hank asks her to calm down, promising that they can get drunk later. They do indeed go for drinks and they decide to compete to see who's more pathetic. Hank says he's sitting in a bar while his daughter Ruby is states away in Minnesota, but Sarah one-ups him by saying she's 42 and moving back in with her parents. No contest, really. Sarah reveals that though her life particularly sucked that day -- dressed as an elf in a mall, throwing shade at suburban moms -- Hank made her feel happy. Hank feels the same, though, clarifies that he's naturally unhappy but that Sarah makes him "almost happy." They end up in bed together and thank all the gods that we don't actually see a Ray Romano/Lauren Graham sex scene. We cut straight to an awkward post-coital scene where Hank is trying to suppress how much he loves Sarah and fearing that she just wanted a one-time shag, even though she's being totally nice and even invites him to Braverman Christmas.
He initially declines but shows up with a gift and tells Sarah that he can accept it if it was a one-time thing but he really wants to be in a beautiful, curmudgeonly relationship with her. And then they make out. Sarah goes back inside and unwraps his gift which turns out to be a gorgeous black and white shot of her with the handwritten caption "Looking Pretty at the Wedding." Hank made something stalker-like seem really romantic. He's got game.
Meanwhile, the various Braverman children are in an existential crisis after Victor, with his urban jadedness, declares that Santa Claus is not real, sending sister Sydney and cousin Jabbar into a tailspin. Julia is upset because she feels like kids should have that innocence and reveals that she believed in Santa until she was 11. Joel responds with a deadpan, "That is not normal," further proving that Braverman spouses are far superior than the actual Braverman clan. Let's think about it: Joel, Kristina, Jasmine, almost Mark? Imagine if the Bravermans married people that were more like them. It'd be a totally unwatchable show.
Anyway, Zeek steps in to tell the kids a cockamamie story about seeing the real Santa Claus when he was young, focusing his attention on non-believer Victor. Likely affected by Kristina's condition, Zeek says that miracles can happen. Later, at the hospital, Victor runs into a Santa while wearing new sneakers that he'd just unwrapped that morning. Santa asks how he's liking the shoes and Victor looks down and asks "How did you know?" When he looks up, Santa is GONE. That means he's real, y'all. And if Santa is real, that means the Krampus is also real. So start repenting, children.
If you read the above paragraph, you may have asked yourself "Hospital? What are the Bravermans doing at the hospital?" Well, get ready. Adam takes Kristina to the ER after a nagging cough won't go away and she wakes up with a fever. He gets Crosby over to the house to watch Max and Nora and makes him promise not to tell anyone where they're going. Adam forgets that Crosby is no match for Max's rapid-fire questions of sheer logic and in mere seconds, Crosby breaks. It's fine until Zeek shows up and Crosby tells him that Adam and Kristina are out running errands. Max immediately points out that Crosby is lying and Zeek heads straight to the hospital.
In the ER, we learn that Kristina is going through septic shock, a condition in which it's hard to pinpoint a person's survival. Adam tensely stays by Kristina's bedside and she lets him know that she left a file on her computer at home that she wants him to see. Adam flips when Zeek arrives, telling him to go home. Zeek comes back later with some clothes, a sandwich, and Kristina's laptop because even despite his rapid descent into kooky old man territory, he's still a stand-up guy. Adam thanks Zeek and apologizes for earlier. As they hug, he tearfully asks Zeek to stay a little while longer.
So that was just a mere warm-up for your tear ducts. When Adam finally opens up the file on Kristina's laptop, he discovers that it's a video she has recorded for Haddie, Max, and Nora. She tells them that she may not always be there with them in the way that she had hoped and then goes down the line to say how proud she is of each of her children. When she gets to Nora, who's still a baby and would remember Kristina the least, she assures her that she has the greatest dad in Adam. Adam watches the video, transfixed and crying, and then begins an impromptu prayer to not have Kristina taken away from him.
This is when we all lose our shit.
Luckily, Kristina emerges from her septic shock, a little bleary-eyed but saying she feels great. Adam tells her that he thought he had almost lost her and she says, "You're not getting rid of me yet." Outside, Zeek has sweet-talked a nurse into ignoring the fact that he's bringing 14 family members into Kristina's room where they give Kristina gifts and celebrate. Haddie, who's been stuck in an East Coast airport during a snow storm, manages to make it in just in time. Kristina's close call has even inspired Crosby and Jasmine to try for a second child. Together. Now my crying has been replaced with scowling. What can I say? The Bravermans are giving you the gift of volatile emotions this year. Accept it gracefully.
Parenthood airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. PST on NBC.