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.