Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Small Victories

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 13 – “Small Victories” [Original air date: Jan. 8, 2013]

Last week NBC announced the show Parenthood had been picked up for a fifth season. This time around the Braverman’s get a full 22-episodes; unlike the 15-episode season viewers had to deal with during season four. Our favorite family drama is coming back; now there is a reason to celebrate.

Season four of Parenthood has been dominated by Kristina’s cancer storyline, and rightfully so; when cancer strikes it effects everyone the cancer patient interacts with, and just like the decision to have a child makes all future decisions somehow related to that child, cancer does the same thing, but cancer is never a decision, but rather an unwanted and unwelcomed visitor. Regardless, it was nice to pause and take a break from the cancer storyline and have an episode focused on some of the other Braverman’s. This episode had overarching themes of dealing with others’ decisions and working through major life changes.

The Braverman writers are pretty brave, willing to tackle large and often heated topics such as puberty, teenage pregnancy, job search, and child behavioral problems. Max is hitting puberty, which can be a scary and confusing time period. Words and phrases like menstruating, ejaculation, public hair, and wet dreams, which could cause some to get awkward and embarrassed, are used as if it is no big deal (Well, is it a big deal?). There is definitely a time and place to talk about this stuff, but it is healthy for parents and children to be able to discuss these topics openly. Not looking to preach, but from personal experience I would say it is better to be educated than to be naïve, especially when it comes to your body and sexual related changes and issues you may face. Max’s refusal to shower more than twice a week causes Adam to have the “the talk” with him. Adam attempts to start a conversation about emotional versus sexual feelings. Max’s response: “Dad, I’m not ready to talk about this yet.” Not the typical answer one would expect from a kid, but then again it could be argued Max is not your “typical” kid. Getting max to shower was considered a “small victory” according to Kristina, and Max’s post-shower scene in slow motion to the song “Feeling Good” was just the right amount of comic relief needed to get viewers to laugh out loud.

Amy tells Drew she’s pregnant. Amy wants an abortion: “If I have this baby my life is over.” Drew wants to talk about other options: “There are plenty of people that would be willing to help us. I love you and that’s all that matters.” This seems to be the teenage pregnancy dilemma: keep it or abort it, and if we keep do we put it up for adoption? How realistic is it for a teenager to have a baby in today’s world and still live a “normal” life? Not really realistic at all – you can no longer live your life the way you were or the way you want to, as your life must not revolve around the life of your child. This debate reminds me of an actual debate that took place at Fordham University two years ago: “Pro Life versus Pro Lives,” regarding not saying “no” to life, but saying “yes” to the lives already in existence. It’s almost odd that Drew is against the abortion, as stereotypically it is often the girl in the relationship who wants to discuss other options. This makes me feel that Drew is more into Amy than Amy is into Drew. “I’m going to support you no matter what. I don’t want you to think I’m not here for you if you decide to keep it,” Drew tells Amy. It’s a little strange how conversations between Drew and Amy seem to only take place in Drew’s car, and there is usually much more awkward silence than there is talking. But perhaps this is realistic, as many high school hookups and sexual relations tend to take place in vehicles outside the house where the parents are usually to be found.

It was nice to see Drew’s storyline take center stage in this episode. Drew finally showed some character development, going from being somewhat of an emotionless cardboard box to showing he is a real person with thoughts and feelings. Yet, he is still a teenage boy and he embodies all the awkwardness and disinterest most teenage boys embody. I found it odd that Drew went to Amber for advice, money, and comfort since I have not gotten the close sibling vibe from Drew and Amber; the two do not usually interact much. Maybe this situation will bring about more sibling love down the road. Talking to a sibling about these kinds of situations can be less intimidating that talking to a parent. Is there a correct or easy way for teenagers to talk to their parents about being pregnant? “You may not believe it, but no matter what happens it’s all going to be fine,” Sarah tells Drew. Though Sarah was referring to Drew supposedly stressing over college applications, her words can really be applied to just about any life situation.

Mark expresses his concern for Drew and Amy on separate occasions, completely unaware of the pregnancy. Mark even visits Sarah at Hank’s photography shop. If Mark and Sarah were really over I would think the writers of Parenthood would have written Mark’s character out of the show the way they did with Ryan (Spoiler Alert: there is talk of Friday Night Lights’ actor Matt Lauria coming back to Parenthood during season five. Perhaps Amber and Ryan can rekindle their love affair). The fact that Mark’s character is still around makes me think there may still be more to come for the love triangle between Sarah, Mark, and Hank. Hank did say a line in this episode about how he still feels threatened by Mark, and Mark and Sarah discuss “fake excuses” for seeing each other. Mark to Sarah: “I feel like I gave up too easily; I should have fought for you.”

Crosby and Jasmine were kind enough to open their home to Jasmine’s mom Renee, but from a third-party point of view I do not know how to feel towards Renee. She’s living in someone else’s house because she lost her job. She landed a job, but turned it down because it was not exactly what she was looking for. Am I supposed to feel bad for her, or am I supposed to side with her? Is Renee being too picky given her situation, or is she justified to act the way she is acting? She tried playing the guilty card towards Crosby which did not settle well with me, but from experience I know job searching is never easy and it is important to be happy and comfortable with your career decisions. The Renee situation leaves me with more questions than answers.

Victor is the epitome of a behavior problem. He is rude, physically violent, unappreciative, disrespectful, and out of line regarding how he acts, what he expects, and the language he uses. I understand he did not have the easiest childhood prior to Joel and Julia deciding to adopt him, but somewhere he has to see that he is loved, wanted, and very fortunate to have what he now has. Victor seems to just be looking for attention with his “hunger-strike,” and his 911 call reporting child abuse was out of line. For some reason which is unclear, Victor is a rebel child, a bit of a wild child as some may call it, and a royal troublemaker. I believe he understands right from wrong, but that he has inner feelings he does not know how to express. Does he need therapy, counseling, or medication? It is unclear what will fix his behavior, but it is clear he most likely needs help. Though her and Joel are doing everything right – they are trying, which is all we can ask of them – it has gotten to the point where Julia admits to the social worker she is thinking of not going through with the adoption. Is Julia just giving up, or is the Victor situation really just a lost cause?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Keep On Rowing

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 12 – “Keep On Rowing” [Original air date: Jan. 1, 2013]

It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words. How many words then would a scene from a television show be worth? Perhaps it depends on the scene. Kristina starts losing her hair in this episode thanks to her chemotherapy, a reality we all knew was coming, and one which many cancer patients are forced to face. Kristina makes a bold move and shaves her head once she starts losing her blonde locks. The scene where Kristina decides to shave her head is pure emotion, as it includes no spoken words. It is said that 93% of our communication is nonverbal, and anyone who watches this scene would have a hard time denying this fact. Happiness, sadness, reflection, empowerment, and anxiety are all expressed as Kristina shows us that bald is beautiful. This wasn’t the message which was first expressed, however: “Everywhere I went today everybody looked at me like I was a freak show,” Kristina told Adam. “I thought this whole thing would be so transforming and liberating and I would feel this sense of freedom.” Kristina and Adam fight throughout the first half of this episode with fighting which seemed almost too real to be scripted television.

I am lead to believe the relationship difficulties between Adam and Kristina is a very real portrayal of what families dealing with cancer must go through: not feeling beautiful, thinking people hate the fact that you look sick, and taking gestures which were intended to be kind the wrong way. Kristina’s apology to Adam seemed to be taken right out of a Hollywood movie, which helpless romantics (myself included) just melt over. It incorporated a rented limo, fancy hotel reservations, and nice clothes: “If you’ll have me, I would like to go on a date with you.” It’s refreshing to think that adults in committed relationships can still ask each other out on dates in cute teenage ways. Comic relief came when 27-year-old salesman Luke tried hitting on Kristina in the hotel lobby. Kristina pretended she was a 27-year-old successful businesswoman named Jennifer working in management. When Adam and Kristina do not make it to “Funky Town,” viewers see that showing you care and love can be expressed in other ways other than having sex; staying by each other’s side and accepting one another are attractive, powerful, and uplifting characters all romantics should learn to embody (Adam and Kristina’s storyline in this episode reminded me of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”).

It’s official: Hank and Sarah are good for each other, at least for the time being. The way they acted during their ‘ask me out on a date’ scene was the perfect combination of cute and uncomfortable, like teenagers coming clean about the fact that they have a crush on one another. That innocence continues after the date is planned through genuine conversation that almost appeared to be going in the wrong direction, but made its way back and practically warmed your heart. Like Adam and Kristina, it is refreshing how open Hank and Sarah are with one another: “People get jealous… that’s human nature.” The date moves from the restaurant to Hank’s place, and includes a bottle of red wine and a card game on the floor. The openness continues: “Eye contact is not one of my favorite things, but with you I find it hard not to look in your eyes.” It is at this point where Hank asks Sarah on a second date, as if the two had just met for the first time and they’re still in the ‘getting to know you’ stage (The interactions between Hank and Sarah seem to be right out of The Script’s “For the First Time”).

Can ‘behavior’ and ‘the person’ be separated, or are they a packaged deal? Joel and Julia have a serious conversation about Victor’s actions after he throws a metal baseball bat through a glass door, almost seriously injuring Sydney. Julia says, “You judge people by their actions.” She tells Joel she is not sure if they can continue to live this way. This all stemmed from victor getting an A on his most recent math exam and asking Julia if he can show it to his “real” mom. It appears Victor does not see Julia as his mother, and he does not understand what he cannot see his “real” mom, which he feels it is not fair. The ‘Victor situation’ which has been going on this whole season has stressed Julia out to the point where she has started to take her aggravation out on Sydney. Sydney is no perfect angel though, as it was her instigator attitude and nagging of Victor over his “real” mother possibly being in jail and not loving him which pushed Victors buttons and caused him to take his anger out in a whole new way. In the end, Julia still struggles. No matter what she tries it seems to not be completely effective, which is hard for a perfectionist like herself to accept. And yet, like many parents, she wants to do everything she can for her children, even if her children are not fully appreciative of her efforts.

Brotherly Advice: “This is family; when you married Jasmine you married her family. Now her problems are your problems whether you like it or not.” Jasmine’s mom is in a bind and needed money, so Adam told Crosby, “Do not rock the boat. This is family; it’s the right thing to do.” Even though I believe a line needs to be drawn somewhere so that family members do not just end up advantage of each other, I do agree with Adam that family is important and family members should always have each other’s backs. It turns out Renee’s situation is larger than Jasmine originally thought, and that in order to rectify the situation Renee must move in to the guest room at Jasmine and Crosby ‘s place (a.k.a. Crosby’s man cave). After some fighting, Jasmine telling Crosby to get over himself, and Crosby thinking he took the weak position which allowed Jasmine to take advantage of the situation, I predict this change may be a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What to My Wondering Eyes

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 11 – “What to My Wondering Eyes” [Original air date: Dec. 11, 2012]

Its Christmas time at the Braverman house, but instead of just giving viewers an episode of Santa and gingerbread cookies, Parenthood also brought drama, life reflection, and some really great acting to our television screens.

While Victor and Sydney are snooping for their Christmas gifts, like many kids do leading up to December 25, Victor announces to his sister that Santa isn’t real. Julia and Joel are not sure how to respond. Julia takes the ‘Peter Pan mentality’ when she says, “I want her to have that magical feeling as long as possible.” Joel takes a more realistic approach when he proclaims, “You can’t be innocent forever.” Later in the episode it was Grandpa to the rescue! Zeek steps in when Victor and Max express not believing in Santa. He talks from ‘personal experience,’ and sums up the episode well when he says, “Santa is real, Christmas is magic, Christmas brings miracles.” Victor may still have been skeptical of Santa’s existence after Zeek’s talk, but he believed enough to believe Santa knew what he got for Christmas when the family visits Kristina in the hospital and Santa is there. Seeing is believing, but Victor’s experience proves you don’t have to see it all to truly believe.

Kristina’s white blood cells are down and her immune system is not responding. The doctors at the hospital are not very reassuring to Adam: “We’re going to give her the best care we can, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.” The mother-daughter relationship has long been viewed as a force to be reckoned with, and Hollywood has used this storyline for decades. The father-son relationship however is often placed on the back burner due to society’s view on what it means to be a man. The moment shared between Adam and Zeek at the hospital when Zeek tells Adam, “You need to take cvare of yourself, son,” and Adam breaks down in front of Zeek proclaiming he misses Zeek and needs him now more than ever, is truly a touching moment.

Since Sarah and Mark’s split, Hank and Sarah have rekindled some of their past feelings, some of which Sarah has been trying not to acknowledge. The two of them have a face-off to see which of them are more pathetic; Sarah wins. “I feel good because of you,” Sarah says to Hank, over a poorly made cocktail at the bar at the mall. “I’m not happy. I’m never going to be happy, and I’ve accepted that. But I’m almost happy,” Hank tells Sarah. Hollywood and the media seem to have crafted a sex and hookup mentality for those in their twenties, but the reality is, many people in their thirties have yet to settled down and many people on their forties are divorced and looking to start new. Hank and Sarah end up sleeping together, which is fine, but it makes me question if it is too much too fast. Until this episode, I would not have considered myself a member of the Hank fan club, but Hank is growing on me. I’m still not completely sold on the budding relationship between him and Sarah.

The fight between Amber and Ryan after Ryan comes back drunk from the bar shows some great acting skills from both Matt Lauria and Mae Whitman. However, the award for best acting in this particular episode may have to go to Monica Potter for her portrayal of Kristina. The video Kristina left to her children in the event something happened to her, not allowing her to make it through her battled with breast cancer, was some of the most touching, genuine, and heartfelt moments in Parenthood this season: “I may not always be with you the way that I want to be, but I will never leave your side. I will always be with you.” If anyone doubted Kristina’s love for her children, or Adam’s love for his wife, this scene definitely proved took those doubts away. Perhaps admitting this will make me sound vulnerable, but I could not help but cry while watching this scene.

How many chances should one allow a significant other until it is time to throw in the towel and move on? Baseball fans tend to believe in the ‘three strikes, you’re out’ concept. After Ryan’s drunk episode, Amber is not fully feeling their relationship anymore. It is apparent Amber has bit her tongue in the past and kept things to herself. She has forgiven Ryan’s faults and looked for the positives in their relationship. This time around things might be different. While Ryan may have apologized for feeling ashamed and embarrassed, and he made it clear he wants to fix things, Amber is not ready to just jump back in, and rightfully so. It’ll be interesting to see where the writers of Parenthood take Amber’s and Ryan’s relationship. If Amber and Ryan have taught us anything, it is the importance of open communication. Amber tries to do the right thing when she suggests Ryan should talk to Joel and not let this construction job fiasco go any further than it already has. But as many of us learn in life, even doing the right things doesn’t always work out in our favor.

Jasmine reminds us how short life actually is when thinking about all that Kristina is going through, which makes her realize she would like to have another baby. If Parenthood is picked up for a fifth season (which NBC would be crazy to not give this series another season!), the storyline of Crosby and Jasmine having another baby definitely has the potential to take center stage the way Kristina’s cancer storyline did during season four. Haddie showing up at the hospital at the end of this episode was rather cliché, but it fits the mold of what television/movie goers look for and expect in dramas like Parenthood. Still, “What to My Wondering Eyes” this could be seen as the perfect Parenthood episode, as it included everything one could ask for in a holiday episode (and more). Any good Christmas themed show should make you realize the importance of family, and Parenthood did just that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Trouble in Candyland

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 10 – “Trouble in Candyland” [Original air date: Dec. 4, 2012]

It makes sense that a show called Parenthood would have something to do with parenting. This is the first episode this season where the quest for parenting advice was made obvious and put out there in an “I need some advice” from you because “you’re such a good parent,” kind of way. While Julia may be able to give her siblings all the legal advice they can ask for, Kristina could teach Parenting 101: “When you’re in the trenches as a parent, do not feel guilty about this, ok? You’ve got to do what you got to do, and you’ve got to go with what works.” Kristina was referring to bribing her children into having good behavior, what she likes to refer to as a type of incentive system. This was rather humorous, but pure honesty.

Parenthood has been able to portray Julia’s struggle with assisting Victor in completing his homework in a way the average parent probably struggles with their kids when it comes to children not understanding their schoolwork. Julia wills Victor to ace his math test; she wants him to succeed. But sometimes it’s not enough for you to want someone else to succeed, as you need that person to also personally want to succeed if success is to be reached. It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; success is no different, as we view and define success in a variety of ways. Victor is frustrated, believes he is stupid, and actually thinks he is unable to do his schoolwork. It’s sad, but I would bet we can almost all relate to a time when we felt the exact same way.

The Hank, Sarah, Mark triangle is troublesome. This odd three-way relationship is similar to real-life relationships where a third party gets in the way of the special bond two people may have, or how work can often put a strain on a romance cooking at home. In the case of Hank, Sarah, and Mark, both these scenarios can be used to sum up some of what is happening. Hank is selfish and emotionally unstable. Sarah appears immature and unfocused. Mark tries to be level-headed, but he wants what he used to have (what once was) and does not understand why he cannot get it back. Both Sarah’s relationship with Mark and Hank’s relationship with his ex-wife shows viewers the importance of finding a work-life balance, as well as the need for open communication in all relationships.

Mark practically embodies the lyrics to Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” in this episode of Parenthood: “You know that I love you, so I love you enough to let you go… Someone’s gotta go… so I’m already gone.” Mark’s role throughout this episode is almost a play-by-play of the thought process which occurs when someone realizes they can no longer be with the one they are currently dating. Mark to Sarah: “You’re a great, great employee; you’re just a lousy fiancé.” Almost everyone knows someone who forever fails to see when things are good in life, or when there is no reason to continue pushing opportunities aside. In Parenthood, Sarah is this individual. Being around such a person can be stressful and can cast a negative aura over the lives of others, which may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back: “I really love you, but I can’t do this anymore,” Mark said to Sarah before walking out on their dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Mark does not buy the story that there is nothing happening between Sarah and Hank. Perhaps it has just been a series of unfortunate events which Mark has been confronted with, but the average person has a hard time denying what they see with their own two eyes. At first it appeared Mark was overreacting about a hole Sarah dug herself, but in the end Mark was in line with his thoughts and feelings. Perhaps Sarah dug herself a hole which was too deep to get out of. Sarah’s engagement to Mark had been on the rocks for a while now, thanks to her inability to say “no” and her lack of foreseeing the consequences to her actions. When she is confronted by reality and forced to look at her life she realizes she messed up, but what she does now will only be too little, too late. “It’s not my job to fix you,” Sarah tells Hank. Viewers learn a valuable lesson here: if you get to a point where you are so focused on someone else’s life you fail to focus on your own, you may have to take a step back and reevaluate the circumstances.

In a strange way, Mark is like Amber and Sarah is like Ryan. Amber is the girlfriend most guys dream to find; she is cute, intellectual, and affectionate. And like many of the Braverman family members she wants others to succeed, especially her significant other. Ryan is really trying to do well with his new job, but things just do not appear to be working in his favor. His inexperience, abundance of bad luck, and lack of encouragement from his “colleagues” creates a rather hostile work environment. “It’s a learning curve, sir,” Ryan tries to explain to Joel; learning curve or not, your success rate is going to be rather low if those you are working with (in Ryan’s case, the older and “more experienced” construction men), constantly put you down and poke fun at you in an overly negative way. This idea may have been over-emphasized in this episode of Parenthood, but perhaps this was done in order to get the point across. Regardless, Ryan’s job situation just adds more “trouble in candyland.”

While this episode may have largely been about wanting others to succeed, literarily it had to have been titled “Trouble in Candyalnd” for a reason. Hank used this expression to describe Sarah’s and Mark’s relationship, and Kristina and Julia discuss using actual candy as a way to incentivize kids into following orders. The word trouble is arguably synonymous for “problem” or “struggle.” There are many problems in this episode which the Braverman’s are forced to face: the “crazy homeowner lady” who tried shutting down Adam’s and Crosby’s Luncheonette recording studio, Ryan’s post-military depression, Mark calling off his engagement to Sarah, Hank’s daughter moving away, and Joel and Amber trying to help Ryan through a tough transitional time period. Parenthood has a great deal happening at once and this episode, though it could stand on its own, acts like a steppingstone bridging many storylines together while setting up future aspects to the Braverman journey.

Monday, March 25, 2013

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 9 – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” [Original air date: Nov. 27, 2012]

If we always got what we wanted when we wanted it exactly how we wanted it, there would be very little reason for living. It is the fact that we do not always get what we want which allows us to grow both personally and professionally. This episode of Parenthood stands as a reminder that we become better and stronger individuals by not constantly getting what we want, but by working towards our goals and learning how to overcome the challenges and obstacles life may throw our way.

Time is precious, and it is true that anyone’s time can come to an end at any given moment. “I don’t know how much time there is, none of us do. I don’t want to miss out on any milestones,” Kristina says to Adam in regards to Max not wanting to attend the school dance. We do not want to live life being so cautious and worried we fail to enjoy ourselves, nor do we want to live life so on the edge we put ourselves at risk by making questionable and dangerous decisions, but we do want to live life to the fullest. It is cliché and rather unrealistic to say you should live every moment as if it is your last, but it is crucial to find out what in life is important to you and to live life with those aspects in mind.

Do you. We as humans strive to please everyone around us, but it is impossible to make everyone happy even if we wanted to. We may often find we overbook ourselves or stretch ourselves too thin. At some point we have to learn to say no. Sarah feels obligated to her boss Hank and she often gets guilt tripped by him and his messed up personal situations. She has a hard time letting anyone down, and by having that mentality it only seems she hurts others and lets herself down. Her Fiancé Mark accuses her of putting Hank before him. Still, Sarah, played by actress Lauren Graham, tries to get ahead while keeping it all together (a theme we are to see in Graham’s upcoming novel “Someday, Someday, Maybe,” being released April 30, 2013 – this book has been described as “witty, charming, and hilariously relatable” according to Amazon, much like Graham’s character Sarah in Parenthood).

Do not let yourself lose track of the fact that other people have feelings, wants, and desires too. Keeping other people in mind when making decisions can be difficult, but as Adam says, “It’s part of growing up: doing things for someone else; doing things for other people.” This theme is seen all over this particular episode, from Crosby being forced to see eye-to-eye with the “crazy homeowner lady” who moved in next door to the recording studio, to Julia struggling to accept Joel’s new job and he new role as a homemaker: Julia says, I’m ”overwhelmed or bored out of my mind. I’m not cut out for the stay-at-home mom thing and I’m not fulfilled by it.” Julia and Joel remind us how important it is to respect others. The writers of Parenthood left Julia’s storyline open with room for major potential character growth. Not everyone can accept free time, especially those who never had much free time to begin with. Julia does bring up a good point: life should be fulfilling; if it not, perhaps you should make the necessary changes in order to make it fulfilling.

Veterans have a hard time finding jobs after they get back from being overseas. Ryan’s employment situation shows this reality fairly well. There are certain questions applicants cannot be asked during a job interview such as one’s gender, age, religion, or sexuality. When the Ryan’s interviewer saw he had been in Afghanistan, Ryan was asked, “You were in Afghanistan? You ever kill anybody?” Questions like these may not be illegal to ask, but there has to be some kind of interview etiquette where people should know better than to ask such ignorant, personal, and physiologically damaging questions. While some scenes between Ryan and Amber have recently appeared forced and almost unnatural, Amber’s interaction with Zeek over her worry for Ryan came off as rather genuine. Zeek’s attitude towards what war does to those involved may have been the most real line in this episode: “War is a place where you lose who you are… and you are scared to death of what you might become.” This may also be true for situations outside of war, but it does give viewers a taste of what our military men and women are forced to deal with.

As we go through the motions and live life, it is easy to take the little things for granted. For example, at the end of this episode of Parenthood Kristina puts music on in the living room and attempts to teach Max how to dance. If we get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life we may overlook the little things, or push them away all together. It is the little things that bring so much potential to what life can be; it would be a shame to not give them the time of day. We may not always get what we want, but in the words of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, “If you try, sometimes you just might find, you get what you need."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One More Weekend With You

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 8 – “One More Weekend With You” [Original air date: Nov. 20, 2012]

No one said life was going to be easy. Actually, if no one has told you before, let me be the first to tell you: life is a challenge, it is frustrating, and it is going to require a great deal of give and take. Just as Parenthood shows us, we often look to blame others for our downfalls. It frequently takes learning to accept people for who they are, and situations for how they are presented to us. The two golden words to keep in your back pocket and never be ashamed use: “I’m sorry.”

Too often people keep emotions bottled up inside. Eventually those emotions are going to surface and want to come out, but we cannot always control when this happens. We are only human, after all; we are far from perfect. Though we may think we can control everything, we cannot. Like mother, like daughter – Julia had a breakdown a few episodes ago, and it was time for Sydney to do the same. While Julia and Joel have been trying to support and encourage Victor ever since adopting him into the family, Sydney has felt rather neglected. Some reasons why prove to be out of Julia’s and Joel’s hands, but other time Sydney may have had a point, just going to show the hardships a family can face when expanding the family and adding new family members: “You are not my brother!” Sydney yelled at Victor as she threw a cup of water in his face at the diner. “In case you forgot, I was here first,” she said to her parents as she went to run away from home. We can almost all remember a time when we were younger and made a plan to run away from home for one reason or another.

There really is no good time for death to grace us with its presence. But when death does knock on our front door and we are forced to deal with it, how we deal with it can teach us a lot about our own character. When Ryan has to go to take a road trip to Bakersfield for his friend’s funeral it is obvious he is shaken up about the whole situation. Still, Amber continues to say all the right things at exactly the right time, as she asks if Ryan would like company: “I’d be nice to be together; if you wanted that I’m here.” We soon learn that Ryan’s friend Evan Williams, Private First Class soldier, someone Ryan considered a brother, did not die at war, but committed suicide after making it back to the states alive. Another one of Ryan’s service buddies called Evan’s actions the “coward’s way out,” causing Ryan and him to get into a physical fight. Viewer’s got a look at the side effects of PTSD and how real it actually is. It may be hard, but we need to remember that physical violence is never the answer. The beach scene at sunset between Ryan and Amber was a little cliché, but it gave a good message: life is worth living, so surround yourself with those you love and create your own happiness.

People have sex; it is simply a fact of life. It is usually during our teenage years when we first experiment with sex. This is usually a personal choice and everyone has different views when it comes it such topics. Abstinence can make us naive, so it is probably best to get educated before making any major life decisions. Though Mark was fairly awkward when he caught Drew and Amy in the act, he dealt with the situation like a professional: are you being smart? Are you wearing condoms? Is she on the pill? Do you know about STD’s? Let’s talk about responsibility. Though teenagers experimenting with sex can be scary, it is important to keep open communication about such life choices both with your partner, as well as with those who always have your back (i.e. parents). Sarah feels shut out of her son’s life, and that is a natural feeling, especially given the circumstances. Yet the conversation Mark and Sarah have about opportunity to get closer to Drew, trying to figure out their place in this family, and having a lack of experience, are healthy conversations for anyone to have, ones which should be seem more as a work in progress rather than a find the answers and move on kind of situation.

It has been said, if there were no rainy days we would fail to appreciate the sunny days. In similar thinking, we are able to enjoy happiness because we have been able to get through frustration and hardship. Fighting in a relationship is practically inevitable, and believe it or not it is rather healthy to work through problems and disagreements together. For example, Jasmine calls Crosby a freeloader while Crosby calls Jasmine a dictator as they fight over the cocktail and hor d'oeuvres party they were throwing. In the end though, through a little give and take, the two were able to make it through and understand each other’s differences. Being a support system for one another is important, and Adam and Kristina are the epitome of such a team. Adam is willing to try everything he can to help his wife through the hard times chemotherapy is giving their family. While their house becomes somewhat of a zoo, much like Grand Central Station during rush hour, Adam does his best to keep things under control. Kristina learns that you cannot always expect yourself to be the exception to the rule: “Thought I’d be the one person who wouldn’t get sick from chemo.” This mentality can be quite dangerous, especially when it comes to activates such as trying hard drugs, having unprotected sex, or being a reckless driver. Life is too precious to take such chances.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Parenthood Season 4, Episode 7 – “Together” [Original air date: Nov. 13, 2012]

As much as we sometimes want to forget about our pasts and only focus on our futures, every now and then bits of the past come back and collide with the present day. In this episode of Parenthood the time Ryan spent serving in Afghanistan is affecting his drive to find employment, as well as his ability to be open about his feelings in his new relationship with Amber. Victor’s past living arrangements appear to be holding him back from finding new friends and gaining social acceptance among his peers. Drew’s breakup with Amy earlier this season still has Drew in shambles, and his mom’s decision to have them move in with her fiancé, as well as Drew’s aunt being diagnosed with cancer, has only propelled Drew farther out of his comfort zone.

Frustration seems to be a main theme here, especially in regards to Kristina’s feelings about her cancer situation. No one really knows how to respond or react towards Kristina, so everyone wants to help or live in solidarity with her. However, the insistence on assisting is only making things harder and more overwhelming for the very person everyone seems to be trying to keep claim. How do people really deal with cancer, anyways? Cancer affects so many people, yet we all tend to feel some kind of aggravation, paranoia, and/or vulnerability. Kristina’s phone conversation with Adam really hits the head on the nail: “I feel like a prisoner in own home… I don’t like being taken care of… I feel helpless.” Kristina says she wishes things could just be normal again, but what exactly is normal? We don’t always get to choose what frustration or goodness or hardships get thrown our way. How we deal with it all is really a testament to our character. I can’t help but think of lyrics from Martina McBride’s song “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” when watching Kristina’s and Adam’s storyline unfold on screen: “
The doctor just confirmed her fears; Her husband held it in and held her tight; Cancer don’t discriminate or care if you’re just 38 with three kids who need you in their lives; He said, ‘I know that you’re afraid and I am, too. But you’ll never be alone, I promise you.’

This episode really speaks to the heart about not letting the handicaps society places on us keep us feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with life; life is too short not live everyday to the fullest. The writers of Parenthood tend to intertwine situations and ideas people face on a daily basis into the show. For example, in this episode viewers see the difficulty of searching for a job, the agony of feeling marginalized and excluded, and the awkwardness of romantic relationships and how they can wilt and die just as fast as they bud and blossom. In the end it is often the little things in life that mean the most or have the greatest impact. As humans we tend to take risks, want to try new things, and have the drive to learn more about ourselves and others. Watching Victor and Miguel speak Spanish while playing basketball inspires Julia to try and learn Spanish. Kristina is starting chemotherapy treatment in an effort to overcome the cancer which has infected her body. Ryan and Amber take their relationship to the next level, getting physical for the first time, but hint at the fact that sex changes everything. Zeek and Amy find out information they didn’t know earlier, which causes them to rethink the relationships they have with others. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to making it through life. Parenthood makes it clear that cookie cutter life expectations are a characteristic found more often in fairytales than reality.