"I feel really far away."
Well, it all came out last night, didn't it?
You wouldn't think anyone in the realm of Braverman would have anything left to get off their chest since it's in their blood to talk about their emotions all the time (the writers probably have the words "I feel" recorded as a macro in Final Draft) but everyone let it out this week, either to themselves, to other people, or to a group. So many bombs to drop, so little time.
It was the second episode this season with a title drawn from something Kristina said when discussing her health and, with wording like that, you'd expect for the biggest bombshell to be hers. And it was. Cancer is still the ultimate in one-upsmanship. But the first volley belonged to Sarah and the slowly eroding Hank.
Hank! It happened in the teaser and I wasn't ready. I'd just slowly recovered from an early powerful scene between the two supernovas of Season 4, Monica Potter and Mae Whitman, when we got what I thought was going to be a breather scene before cutting to some pre-credit cliffhanger. Then I sensed it coming. They were close. Too close. He looked like he wanted to. But he didn't. Then he did! Hank knocked Sarah a kiss, and she didn't immediately pull away or start laughing or even show mild distaste. Not that you'd expect her to.
It seemed sudden but it wasn't. We're five episodes deep in Season 4, which seems like only a handful of installments to draw this thing out but we've also already gone through most of the motions possible for Hank and Sarah. They've met each other's kids, they've spilled about their darkest relationships, they've been vulnerable, and they're clearly in each other's heads. Drawing it out any more than that would feel like overkill. Hank and Sarah aren't supposed to be Sam and Diane, Maddie and David, or even Chuck and Sarah.
And so the dilemma isn't "will they or won't they"—it's "what happens when they do?" From the first episode of the season, everyone knew that Hank would be a player in Sarah's suddenly tenuous romantic life, but the question was more about what she would do with that information once she came to terms with it. Her answer: rededicate herself to her fiance by sending up red flags all over the place. From the look on Mark's face, she's not fooling anyone.
Speaking of people fooling themselves, Julia landed the next big bombshell, though one that's been dormant for a while. The matter of Julia's involvement with her child (and now children) with respect to how much she works was a question in earlier seasons, but it mostly had to do with how Joel feels about being a stay-at-home dad or her connection to Sidney. These things generally worked out for her, where everyone caved and she got to not change at all. Within the span of an episode, though, Julia spun out of control.
The beautiful part of how we watched Julia collapse on herself like a dying star was how honestly it happened in such a short amount of time. She was given the first scene to demonstrate that something was terribly wrong. She had another couple of scenes where she showed how stressed she was and how close she was to breaking before heading into a rare stylized moment for the show. Julia's panic attack marks one of the few times I can recall where the image is anything less than stable, picturesque, and constructed for melodrama or comedy. Chaos is not a popular look for Parenthood. And while I'm not sure it stands up to similar exhibitions of that sentiment (Breaking Bad owns this area these days), it certainly stands out. And that's how you sell a person going from fine last week to disturbed this week.
It obfuscates the fact that we haven't seen Julia struggle at her job until now. The editors made sure to show her all-day parking lot stay from a few weeks ago in the "Previously On..." but that was the only example of Victor putting a real strain on Julia's career. Her late-episode revelation that she is not dedicated to her job anymore came off as honest through some storytelling trickery, but that's good enough.
Then there was the tumble of bombshells from Kristina. The cancer brought Sarah Ramos back (as a couple of you predicted in the comments for "Left Field") as Kristina dropped her burden upon Haddie and Max (the latter of which almost shrugged off the weight). She and Amber had a surprisingly powerful scene in the teaser (or at least I thought it was powerful, but I'm a sucker for those two right now). And then came the admission at the end to all of the adults. Just as she let out the eponymous line, the dialogue went silent and we only saw reactions to the words (which is also how "Left Field" ended).
Though Kristina certainly had the largest bombshell to drop, it wasn't for the audience: The kiss and Julia's resignation were far more intense. It's as if the episode could be broken down to GASP! GASP! Relieved Sigh. We feel for the Bravermans learning that one of their own has a life-threatening disease, but them knowing isn't as course-altering as the other two major events of the episode. Although if the three of them sit down and talk it out, Kristina's "I have breast cancer" still wins. Cancer is the best trump card.
– If only I could just get to the point in my life where I could walk into a Diesel store and drop $400 without even worrying about it.
– Sarah's jogging spur felt like a Lorelai freakout, didn't it?
– The call to Haddie about Kristina's cancer was weird. To paraphrase: "I'm glad you did something that had to do with history class. Listen, I got the cancer. I'm going to be fine! But it's totally the cancer. We'll let that sink in. You're upset? Oh, well. Gotta go." Seemed so un-Braverman to hang up without fully exhausting the cry.
– Julia playing the Victor card when asking for mercy from opposing counsel. It hurts. – Adam may be a jackass, but I can't take him tearing up like he did on the phone with Haddie. Don't make me shed these robot tears, Krause! That's Mae Whitman's job.
– Hank's admission that "it wasn't nothing" and the subsequent "but I know you have somebody" were heartbreaking, both because of the sentiments themselves and because the scene marked the end of curmudgeon Hank. As JD from Scrubs might say, he's a sensy now.
– I like Max when he isn't a prima donna. He's at his best when he just doesn't care about people. Or rattling off statistics and saying things like, "I'm retired." That being said, Max asking about chemotherapy at the game was touching.
– Really? Victor's first at-bat resulted in an in-field grand slam? Kids are stupid when it comes to baseball. There were like 10 errors on that play. One time, the ball made it from the infield back to the outfield. What the heck was that? Did you even want that game, not-Victor's team?
– Amber and Ryan York are about to have all of the sex. I wonder how it'll ruin his life.
– Good to see that Drew isn't dead. Where have you been? I've seen more of Haddie in the last few episodes and she's supposed to be living on the East Coast now. You live in the Braverman family compound. You must move around pretty stealthily, like some emo ninja.
1. How long is Haddie staying for?
2. Do Joel and Julia switch roles now like on Up All Night?
3. What's the funniest moment of the season so far? Does Zeek talking to the coach rank in the top three?
4. Over/Under: Number of episodes before Mark walks out a sad, sad man: 3.