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.

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