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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Parenthood Episode 3: The Bad Thing Is Already Happening

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 12:08 PM

click to enlarge Adam and Kristina wait to see a breast cancer specialist. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NBC.COM
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  • Adam and Kristina wait to see a breast cancer specialist.

Because of last episode's heartbreaking puppies and breast cancer reveal, Parenthood starts on a lighter note this week with Max returning to school with his friend Micah, who was introduced briefly last season. Max's only motivation to even show up to class is to buy Skittles from the campus vending machine. He is in for a world of pain when another kid informs him that the vending machine was removed during the summer. In conjunction with Berkeley Unified School District, Alice Waters personally roundhouse kicked each machine into oblivion before fall semester began. Max has a very public freak-out about not getting his Skittles (hey, it's happened to the best of us) and he gets the major side-eye from his classmates. Micah, who is in a wheelchair, begrudgingly rolls after him, his countenance weary, as if to say: "I'm too old for this shit."

But Micah's a good friend and even tries to save Max from approaching a group of middle school girls to ask about the vending machine, which normally is akin to walking into a rusty bear trap. Micah eventually has enough and ditches a scheduled play-date with Max because he cannot endure one more conversation about the vending machine injustice. He asks Kristina to call his mom to come pick him up and suggests that Kristina put Skittles in Max's lunch to quell his apparent obsession. Getting parenting advice from a 13 year old? Rough. Adam has a talk with Max about monopolizing hang out time with friends but it all comes back to the vending machine. Max's fervor then finds an appropriate outlet: He's decided to run for student council president on a Skittle equity platform. Nearby at Chez Panisse, Alice begins sharpening her knives.

Sarah continues to butt heads with her boss Hank, particularly when he upsets an engaged couple by refusing to shoot their wedding. In his defense, they sound like a nightmare: She's been on the Paleo diet and wants candid shots of her getting ready for the wedding and the doves they will release during the ceremony (I know that some Parenthood writer is totally sniping at their real-life friend/sister/cousin by writing this bit). They need a photographer by Saturday as their original hire came down with West Nile virus, which is eerily prescient. Hank says he doesn't do weddings. Sarah complains about him to Mark and they do this adorable role-playing bit to help her get psyched up to confront him about making bad business decisions. Even when he's sick of hearing about Hank, Mark asks Sarah to change the subject in the nicest way ever imagined. Why isn't Jason Ritter a huge star? Why isn't he here right now to give me a shoulder massage as I finish this post, saying, "You're doing great, kid"?

Sarah asks Hank to speak to her with more respect and wants to know why he insists on tanking his business. Hank says his no-wedding policy stems from weddings generally sucking due to mothers, dove crap, and the Chicken Dance. We really can't argue with him there. Sarah suggests that he's conflicted about taking these commercialized gigs because it makes him feel like an artistic failure. He retorts that that would make Sarah a failure's assistant. Dude, Hank is on roll. But because we can see his gooey spot for Sarah growing each week, he shows up at her place on Saturday and drags her to the wedding. At the reception, they share some wine and learn that they both got married young and both thought incorrectly that those marriages would last forever. Sarah says she knows her marriage to Mark really will last forever and we see the sadness wash over Hank. Kudos to the Parenthood team for letting Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home" play through this entire scene.

Increasingly eccentric Zeek is on grandkid carpool duty, and in addition to swearing, he gets pulled over after doing an illegal U-turn. The officer discovers that Zeek's license expired a year ago and Zeek gets out of the car to argue with him, prompting him to get cuffed and taken to jail. The parents all arrive at the police station to pick up Zeek and the kids and then later hold a private smack-talk session to identify what is wrong with their father. Crosby lets it slip that Zeek is on heart medication and everyone questions his physical and mental health. You know what the means: It's family intervention time!

When they corner Zeek, he is upset about the ambush and he promptly leaves. Camille chastises her children for treating their father like an invalid when he simply forgot to renew his license. [Zeek is later vindicated when gets a 98 percent on his test and even suggests a randy roadside make-out session with Camille.] Adam follows Zeek and says he knows about his heart condition, asking if Zeek will be okay. Zeek says he's gonna be all right but then adds, "But you never know what's gonna happen to you" which hits home with Adam due to Kristina's cancer.

Kristina and Adam wait for hours at the San Francisco Center for Breast Health and Research for their appointment with a regarded breast cancer specialist. Kristina makes a sassy friend in Gwen, a woman who -- judging by her head wrap -- has already gone through chemotherapy and they exchange numbers. Adam mocks her sassiness and stereotypical "tough" East Coast accent and makes Kristina laugh, which is why I love this couple.

In the examination room, their doctor is brusque and straightforward, urging Kristina to take the earliest appointment available with him for a lumpectomy and a test to see if the cancer has spread to her lymphatic system. He also takes several cell phone calls during the examination which Adam, in particular, finds unacceptable. Look, all Bravermans need at least 60 business days to discuss, ruminate, and agree on anything. Scheduling an appointment for an operation that's only a week away completely wreaks havoc on their mental and emotional wiring.

Kristina and Adam go for a second opinion and meet with a doctor who is right up their Berkeley-ized alley. They meet at her home, she asks how Kristina is feeling, and presents a variety of options for treatment. She even gives Kristina a pep talk on beating cancer. It seems like the Bravermans are sold on Dr. Feelgood and initially try to follow her advice on not WebMD'ing the hell out of Kristina's illness on the Internet, but both fail. Kristina meets up with Gwen who tells her that the breast cancer specialist saved her life and that the phone calls he answers during exams are from patients who are allowed to bug him at any time with any question. Kristina tells Gwen that she feels she can't talk to Adam because he's relentlessly positive and is convinced that everything will be okay. Gwen assures her that Adam is a good guy but hasn't realized that "the bad thing is already happening."

Meanwhile at The Luncheonette, Adam takes out his frustrations on Amber whose tentativeness led to losing out on a potential band, whose messiness led to magazines being strewn about the office, and whose poor barista skills led to burnt coffee smell permeating the entire building. And yes, Amber actually used to be employed as a barista. She puts on some rubber gloves and scrubs the place down until Crosby stops her and tells her that Adam frequently gets like this and not to take it personally. He even tells her that she can start learning the recording ropes with him in the booth. Stop being likeable, Crosby; it's really messing with my head. And Amber's anxiety is totally understandable; a student employee burnt popcorn in my office kitchen a few weeks ago and co-workers are still openly shaming her for it. People don't forget. Amber confronts Adam about his attitude and he finally reveals Kristina's illness, though not specifically naming breast cancer. Way to put the burden of knowledge on your young, insecure niece, Adam. Amber is a good sport, though, and helps Adam out by picking Max up from school rather than sitting in with Crosby to learn skills that will make her employable.

At home, Kristina is in the bathroom where she disrobes to take a look at herself in the mirror and begins to cry, thus making all of us cry. Later, she tells Adam that she wants to go see the specialist and that he needs to let her be scared without dousing her with his earnest positivity. Similar to last week's "It's okay to be sad" lesson with Drew's breakup, I love that this show is all about acknowledging feelings. They've saved me quite a bit a money as these weekly episodes have replaced individual therapy.

Parenthood airs on Thursdays at 10:00 pm on NBC.

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