Nothing at all, in my head, to say to you
Only the beat of the train I’m on
Nothing I’ve learned all my life on the way to you
One day our love was over and gone
I can’t remember the last time Amber was left out of an episode completely. It can’t be within the last few seasons, certainly, at least since she started becoming a fully realized character rather than simply Sarah’s daughter and Drew’s sister. But last night both her and her human sadness machine of a fiancé were nowhere to be seen and the episode was the better because of it. Almost every subplot succeeded last night and I’m pretty sure if Amber and Ryan were involved in the episode they would overwhelm everything else that was happening with ease. Or, if their storyline was pared back in order to let everything else breathe, it would have been a disservice to the power of their relationship and current problems. “Promises” was one of the strongest installments of the season and included just the right amount of character balance from which to come back from the break, any more stuffing would surely have brought the entire effort down under its weight.
This episode featured easily the highest amount of non-soundtrack music of the season, but only a few songs truly stood out and none that were distinctly cry-related. However, most of the song choices succeeded in complementing what was on screen, as they should. Ray Romano’s work as a whole in this episode was top notch, but the point at which he realized how similar he was to Max while perusing Adam’s suggested reading material was heartbreaking and lovable at the same time. His subsequent visit to Sarah’s apartment and brief but deep rant about his realization was not only a moment that proved how versatile Romano can be in the span of a few minutes, but also an effective way to bring the way Aspergers impacts people’s lives back into the show without it involving only Max and others in his age group. Hank’s life and past slowly unfurling before his eyes in a new light was truly touching, as was he and Max making up with an awkward but moving apology and game of chess. The latter moment, scored with Supernumerary by Vanapresta, is the type of thing that no other show does with quite the same amount of skill as Parenthood can. The way Adam and Kristina, framed by Max’s bed, looked on with pride and love was a nice capper to the entire thing, especially as it served as a complement to the relationship, rather than a relationship starter, between the two.
Elsewhere in the relationship-complementing category, was Drew and his newly assembled harem of college girls. Is there any chance this doesn’t end in a threesome? I mean seriously, that’s exactly where this is headed and there’s nothing you can say or do to convince me otherwise. It’s not like Katims hasn’t gone down that road before, so I guess as long as it turns out to be more satisfying and creatively competent than “Riggins, Street, and Lyla Go to Mexico” I’ll be OK with it. I do think the return of Amy was handled tactfully and realistically as applicable to college students, except for the whole “everyone misses classes at some point”. Yeah hun, that’s technically true, but the excuse is more frequently along the lines of “I had 8 shots last night and if I try to go to my 9 am my head will actually explode” than “I flew across the country to see an ex-boyfriend and now I don’t feel like going back”. Try explaining that one to your professors when you ask to make up assignments in a week. All in all I liked the Drew part of this episode. We had girls being passive aggressively catty to each other in the bathroom, a casual hookup getting all blatantly “I didn’t want him until I couldn’t have him but now BACK OFF” on the quad, and Drew deciding to make good use of his roommate being MIA with Amy (not the smartest decision but this is also Drew so it works). Everything casual college relationships are, all in one place, with the added accuracy of old high school hookups complicating things. Also, the best use of Feist on television since 2007. I don’t thing I would put Feist and Ben Gibbard together for a duet off the top of my head, but man the two of them doing a cover of Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song” (which I somehow hadn’t heard before now) is just perfection.
You know what isn’t perfection? Julia and Joel turning their marriage into a pretty convincing human representation of a front lawn that hasn’t been watered for a while catching on fire in the middle of a dry summer. I get what the show is trying to do here, and I bought almost every character act and the motivations behind them throughout the episode, but I’m not entirely sure if all of them put together works for me at this point. Like I said, I can appreciate what the story seems to be working towards but I don’t completely buy that Julia wouldn’t tell Joel about the kiss when he was begging her to do so or that logical, intelligent Adam would choose to tell Crosby about the mess of a situation instead of confiding in the twice as tactful Jasmine who he also knew would be present. The sibling/in-law combinations deployed in this episode (Julia and Adam, Sarah and Jasmine) were ones we haven’t seen for a while, if ever, so I don’t think more of Adam and Crosby playing Batman and Robin in regards to protecting the family was super necessary. I do buy however, that Joel would defend his wife the way he did in spite of all the trouble they are having in private. Sam Jaeger continues to be amazing with what the writing has given him this season, retroactively making me upset about the first 3 seasons of material he received.
Nothing about Sarah’s storyline was particularly good or outstandingly bad, although Lauren Graham did get to show off her wonderful “silently show emotions with only facial expressions” skills during her time on screen with Ray Romano. Not many women would go from feeling insulted that a guy invited them as a plus one and then proceeded to flirt with half a dozen other people leaving them to fend for themselves, to all of a sudden changing their minds about having feelings about them. Doesn’t mean there are exceptions to this rule, only that the execution of Sarah having feelings about a tenant could have been more well done as far as the transition itself. Zeke pretty much only served as comedic relief this week, what with his diner buddy bonding sessions and the opening montage of him not being able to eat anything in his own home (backing track: Life is Hard by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros). At least we got mention of Camille being 6,000 miles away this episode, seeing as neither her husband nor any of her children have acknowledged that she even left a month ago. Happy to have the show back, and excited to see how all of these story lines proceed during the back half of the season.
Snippets From Next Week’s Episode Synopsis Cry Potential Rundown:
Maybe Something, Probably Nothing – Sarah receives good news about a job
A Few Sniffles – Jasmine is less than thrilled when Crosby opens his home to Oliver Rome
A Tear or Ten – blah blah Zeke and Camille something or other
BRB SOBBING – Amber is faced with a painful reality