Parenthood "Left Field" Review: Two Minutes Can Change Everything

Parenthood S04E02: "Left Field"

"For the next 12 months, I want you to behold the breast of knowledge, thrust yourself upon it, and SUCK."

This episode was dirrrrrrrrrrty.

After reading (and agreeing) with Cory Barker's assessment of Parenthood in his feature on shows that deserve better timeslots, this week I couldn't help but notice the characters taking advantage of being on at 10pm by sexing it up a little. And a little on this show means a lot.

It all started with that quote from Zeek about leaping onto breasts and sucking. Without context, it's a statement that could be more maternal than sexual and maybe I just have a mind descended from pilgrims who think breasts are dirty. But, starting with the last year's season finale, Drew is a sexual being, as we saw with his awkward-but-effective moves to bed Amy. Combine that with the Now-Distant Amy issue hanging over him like a dark cloud, the episode opening with Crosby and Jasmine doing it on the kitchen floor, and the creepy old man tone in which Zeek delivered that line (Sarah even addressed it as gross); everything points to it being sexual. And, therefore, out of place.

In fact, a lot of the innuendo (and not so subtle mentioning of sex) was weirdly out of place in the episode. It wasn't terribly explicit, but this is not a show that deals flippantly with sex. Unless it's "lovemaking" between consensual, married adults, it's usually a big deal and often leads to drama/catastrophe. Let's review:

– Sarah sleeps with an old high school boyfriend (Drew is crushed)
– Sarah sleeps with Amber's high school teacher (Amber is crushed)
– Haddie (eventually) sleeps with the slightly older, African-American counselor at the homeless shelter (Adam and Kristina are crushed)
– Crosby sleeps with Max's behavior therapist (essentially a Braverman apocalypse)
– Adam gets kissed by a hot receptionist (Kristina is crushed—you have to grade them on a curve)
– Adam and Kristina sleep together (a child is born)

But this season has made it a point to bring up sex as a less destructive force. In the premiere, Amber slept with that guy from American Idol and Adam went into freak-out mode. That was business as usual. But Amber spun sex differently for him later, saying that she's mature enough to handle it and that not every dalliance with grown-up naked time needs to end in emotional destruction. It was an awkward conversation where she dropped the phrase "very willing" but important all the same.

I applaud the show for being more open and realistic about sex, particularly among the kids that are becoming all growns up. It's one of the show's strengths that we actually see the teenagers grow into adults (sometimes maturing faster than their parents) and become fuller, more realized characters.

That being said, sex brought up by a Braverman seems dirtier than sex brought up by anyone else. Drew said he got a spam text about penis enlargement and I was like WHOA. Did Drew just say penis? PENIS? In front of God and everyone? It's a word that would be pedestrian on any other show but, because we deal so infrequently with Parenthood working blue, smaller forays into even the most banal adult situations feel racy.

Another example is the deal Adam and Kristina struck when agreeing to get the purebreed retriever. (I want to note here that I'm not often on Adam's side, but I was squarely with him on the matter of getting a $1,200 dog from those psychopaths; that would never be a good idea or investment, particularly when the dog would be for an autistic prima donna and a soon-to-be toddler. Toddlers are world-renowned as adorable dog torturers.) Kristina made the rookie mistake of saying "anything" was on the table for her end of the bargain, which Adam quickly related to Funkytown (their unsubtle name for scheduled doing-it). She agreed to his demand, but with the condition that "anything" does not include that "thing you like to do." What thing is so offensive that Kristina can't even bring herself to perform it? What kind of fetish is Adam into? Is it feet? Is that why he worked at the shoe place? It's all coming together.

Maybe Crosby and Jasmine having sex everywhere isn't a big deal (though his randiness seems to be turned up to 11 in this episode), and Amber saying she really likes "Funkytown" isn't weird (it's a catchy song), but Adam being into something so kinky, so depraved, that Kristina not only can't name it but also refuses to do it—you have to admit that it's a pretty smutty in a series dealing mostly with principle, loyalty, family, and modern morality.

But here's where things gets interesting. The entire episode was, more or less, lighthearted. While the dog thing caused some drama and Drew's break-up was sad, both were rather small in the long run (Hank made sure that Drew was okay—because he's the best). Julia and Joel's storyline was sweet but filler. Crosby's storyline was like a drawn-out episode of King of Queens except the characters were better looking. But the lighthearted fare was a red herring. In what could have been just a breather episode after the season premiere, Kristina got a breast exam and, like you would expect from a mammogram that happens two minutes before the end of an episode, received some bad news.

From such a light installment that literally had "Funkytown" in its soundtrack, this episode ended with some surprising darkness that came out of left field (OMG that's the title!). Just like how blue language on this show is shocking, an episode where everything is nonchalant and wraps up so neatly has the making of a story arc that could be long-running and emotionally devastating. It's jarring.

I'm not sure if I think this is an interesting place to take Kristina or if this is just Emmy bait, but how it arrived is at least interesting, no?


NOTES


– The whole Victor storyline is sweet. It's good to humanize Julia in a way that she isn't a sadsack. I was a little disappointed with her during the Zoe saga. I very much enjoyed her finding the right solution as a mother instead of relying on Joel's vagina to figure it out for her. Julia's face when Joel told her she was amazing: priceless reaction.

– Along those same lines, Victor obviously has no respect for Joel. Kid is straight-up playing video games all day, not even lying down with his poor tummy, and then gets on the phone with Julia like she's a shift boss at the factory, fake sick voice and everything. Joel is supposed to be his dad, right? Where's his control in that situation?

– So Amy went away to summer camp and hooked up with another dude in a "nothing serious" kind of way. I feel bad for Drew since that's pretty slutacious behavior. Mostly because I'm not entirely sure what that would mean on this show (specifically this episode). Between The CW and ABC Family, I understand that "nothing serious" could be anything from chaste pining to BDSM.

– Hank continues to be the best thing that ever happened to this show. He's like a logical voice that has been mistakenly cast on The Real World. In this world of chaos, he's the only person who has any kind of perspective. "It's okay to be sad." How great is that for Drew? What troubles me is that his advice throughout, particularly with respect to sleeping with Amy's best friend to do it to her before she does it to him, means that there are cracks starting to form. Cracks of sensitivity. Cracks of being a sadsack. Remember how Zoe used to be awesome before she started hanging out with a Braverman? They're going to ruin Hank, too. But until then, we're going to get gold like when Hank tries the brownies and denies Sarah's Lorelai-like eyebrow flicks with an, "Honestly? Mediocre. Almost. But the thought, you had the thought in there." It's gold, you guys. GOLD.

Comments (20)
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I cry in every episode..I don't know..it's a thing that I haven't done in a long time and since parenthood I cry every time!!! Love love love it!!



I like Hank he's great!! but I don't like the suggestion of him and sarah..I love Mark, and I lover their relationship and I think they want to add some drama with hank, but lets hope it's stays that way and they won't break them for good...I want them married and I want him to last on the family photo...
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rt? ray romano in it is the best thing ever! i hope he stays forever? will it really be the last season or that's still undefined?
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I love this show so much. It's just so...real and fun. On one hand I watch tv for a bit of escapism from life, on the other I like some things to have a realistic tone to them as well. Parenthood does that. Parenthood nails that. Every time.

- I didn't think I'd enjoy the Victor story line but I do. Initially the kid was getting on my nerves, but once I put that aside and looked at this for what it was, it's a great story line for her. I found that so moving, watching her of all people take time out of her schedule and call off of work just to sit in a parking lot and let him know that she was there, and she wasn't leaving him. Who knows how many times he was dropped off somewhere by someone and never seen them again.

- I don't think it's a disrespect thing. For one, kids are far more perceptive than adults ever give them credit for. A kid who has gone through the things that Victor has, is even more so. He figured out the nature of things in that household and he's adapting to it. He knows that Julia is the heavy. Joel can be more passive at times...until he reaches his breaking point, so to speak. I also think that given his past, he may be a bit more distrustful of men than women, and the best way to deal with that is to keep a bit of distance emotionally but still be aware of his surroundings. Hence being in the living room playing video games with Joel in his line of sight rather then hidden away in his room trying to sleep. Or not. I could be wrong.

- The sex thing was just another aspect of this show that is just so realistic. No telling what Amy did, but poor Drew. I think of all the Braverman characters he is the most understated, and of all of them, he's the one I probably identify with the most. I felt for the kid

- LOVE Hank! He's awesome. A great addition for sure. I too hope he doesn't get Braverized by the clan too much, because he's awesome as is. But I look forward to seeing him interact more with the others. Loved his bit with Drew and the brownie thing had me in stitches.

- Yeah, the dog thing. I was Team Adam on that. Although when it comes to their tiffs I tend to lean more towards Adam then Kristina. I cannot lie. I don't like Kristina. Which brings me to the Breast Cancer thing. Remarkable timing with Breast Cancer Awareness coming up too. I appreciate that, but I just didn't want to see something like this happen and certainly not to them. Kristina and Adam juggle too many storylines as is...if they had to go that route I'd rather they have made it work for someone else. I mean they already have had the Aspergers thing, the unemployment thing, the financial thing, the daughter dating a recovering alcoholic thing, the trying to send the daughter to college thing, the unexpected baby thing...My point being, I love the Bravermans as a group, they tend to balance things out nicely for the most part, but if I had to nitpick, Adam and Kristina have the most stuff going on and tend to require more screen time. I for one could use more of Zeek for example and of his wife. I'd love to see Joel step out a bit more. Spread the wealth a little. A Breast Cancer storyline for Kristina will be moving...from my own experiences I know I'll respect that and anything to contribute to more awareness, but I'll be forced to actually like Kristina during that journey and I fear it may detract from other characters who could use some more development and screen time of their own.
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I love the idea of creating a new word based on "Braverman" to mean "to make one a sobbing husk of his or her former self." Braverizing is a good stab at it. Bravermanificate? You've been Braverman'd?
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This season seems better so far than all the rest put together. Don't know why, there's just a different feel to it.
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Kristina said "because it hurts" when Adam was saying "anything?" but it got drowned out by his dialogue. I think there's really only one thing that could imply and I'm pretty surprised Parenthood would go there but that's part of what makes it so great.
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Yup, we now know 2 things: (1) Adam likes butt sex and (2) Kristina has given it up more than once. I don't think this tells us anything new about Adam, but Kristina? Big character moment I think.
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Great episode. And the pacing and tone of this show constantly surprises me. It's awesome.



-Loved the Victor bit. And I could see a foster/adopted child as behaving EXACTLY like that, too. This could possibly be the first time in his life where someone would be dropping him off and he could actually EXPECT them to pick him up. That's something that he might not believe yet and thus would actually need to get talked into getting out of the car.

-I think that goes back to other aspects of this child's foster care life that we'll find out more about in the future. I hope. Because Joel is pretty awesome.

-I am hoping that it means that she did not cheat on him, but rather has lost her affection for him because it has been supplanted onto another man. Young love is a weird thing and I could easily see that happening. But I would like to see this show keep it respectful if possible.

-I am thoroughly enjoying Hank and looking forward to learning more about him. He's got that whole deal where his interactions with people are odd and awesome. No complaints.
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Much better than last week. I quite enjoyed it.



That being said, as soon as Christina went for her exam I was like, "really? Cancer? I expect more creativity frm this show"



O well, I guess it does open up some storylines, I just expected more I guess
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I've been really disappointed in this season, so far. I know its just started, but I expected more. The cancer scare at the end of the episode bothered me...there's no way she'd get results so quickly. She'd go in for the scan, schedule a follow up, schedule a biopsy, then schedule a follow up, then if necessary a mastectomy and then if necessary radiation. Parenthood is supposed to be a realistic drama...not so realistic.
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I haven't really been to impressed with this show either. Seems like everyone is talking over each other and aruging all the time. When Kristina got the results just after getting exmained that was too fast. It's take a week to get the results back. Now I feel like the show is going to get depressing. I don't know how much longer I will be watching. That Max kid gets on my nerves I know he has a disability but he acts more like a spoiled brat. I know just two episodes so hopefully it will get better. I'll give it anohter 2 episodes or so.
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if im not mistaken i don't think it happened in the same instance...i believe the cutaways was over a certain length of time...also the storyline comes from Katims own experience with his wife ending up with Breast Cancer so it is steeped in some reality.
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BTW even if we all know its breast cancer, no one said it, it could be that she got news only that there was an anomaly and it could be a tumor and knowing Kristina she would think of the worst. Like you mentioned they need to do a biopsy, results comes back, follow up then removal of tumor and finally radiotherapy and in some cases chemotherapy. Funny how you just went and all said its not realistic and bla bla bla, you should know by now how Kristina reacts to the possibility of something not good.
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I did, however, happen to read a Next Week On blurb before watching this episode, and as soon as I read "Kristina gets some bad news" or something similar, I groaned, knowing immediately there was going to be a cancer plot-line. I guess it had to happen eventually.
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"Between The CW and ABC Family, I understand that "nothing serious" could be anything from chaste pining to BDSM."



I just wanted to remark that this nearly made me crack a rib.



I adore Parenthood. Can't believe it's still going this strong.
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How good is this show?



If you answered 'Very'. You are correct. 'Extremely' is also an acceptable answer.
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If you've never been to camp, you don't know how easy it is to end up in a relationship there. Girl didn't have a chance. It used to just be a summer thing. Facebook has come to popularity since I was at camp so I guess it's easier to stay in touch with your summer flings.
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I'll admit I wasn't happy when I read that Ray Romano would be on Parenthood but I have to say that his character is a great addition (that will only be around for 5 eps).
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First episode I've ever seen! Pretty good, so far. The characters all seem pretty relatable, and the struggles really seem relatable to everyday life. Anyway, for this episode, I don't know how a usual episode is, but it does seem like a show that would shy away from "bluer" material that we got into tonight. Ray Ramono did a good job of being the "smutty" worker who gives Amy's kid a bad time. The kid with asperger's not getting a dog was a bit gritting, as the kid was very annoying about not getting the dog. It really did come out of "left field" learning about the mom having breast cancer. Overall, a pretty good show, don't know if I will continue watching or not.
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hmm... i agree they seem to be spinning the soap-suds on sex a bit more.
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