A few hours before Thursday’s episode aired, a tweet went out warning viewers they’d be moved to tears at some point. The Twitter account was not wrong. This was one heavy episode.
Let’s start with the lighter plot line, shall we? Ashes of Rome is still trying to record their album (this has been a season-long process), and their lead singer, Oliver Rome, is on the outs with the band. He lands on Crosby’s couch, much to Jasmine’s dismay. While Jabbar loves their new housemate, Jasmine is not amused. When a Braverman intervention doesn’t shift Oliver into gear, Jasmine does. She talks to Oliver honestly about her dancing career, and in return, he moves out and writes a song for her.
The other not-depressing story is that Carl’s friend hires Sarah for a big photo shoot. Hank is annoyed when he hears that he lost the job to Sarah. He is pleased, however, when Sarah comes knocking, and asks for his help. They are splitting her fee, but she says she will be the boss. This will make for an interesting next episode or two.
Meanwhile, Max is struggling more than usual with social interactions at school. He’s alienated his friend Micah, and has taken to calling Hank his best friend. Adam reminds Max that Hank is an adult, and suggests ways for Max to make amends with Micah. Sadly for Max, Micah’s been accepted by other kids and doesn’t show much interest in being Max’s friend. Adam and Kristina struggle with how to handle the situation, and in the end, they decide not to intervene too much. When Micah declines Max’s invitation to a basketball game, the three of them go together. It would be good television if Max can find a peer group and make another friend.
Ryan is getting ready to leave again for the Army, and Amber is still distraught. In an out-of-character moment for Zeek, he steps in to attempt to smooth the waters between them before Ryan deploys. Amber is resistant at first, but eventually follows his advice and goes to say goodbye. She shares a moment with Zeek after Ryan leaves, and we are left to wonder how Amber will pick up these pieces.
The most troubling part of this episode, in my opinion, is the path Julia and Joel are heading down. Julia finally tells Joel about Ed kissing her, and it goes south from there. He’s angry and distracted at work, and when Julia suggests they go to counseling, he shuts her down. Joel tells her that it isn’t the marriage that’s the problem, the problem is her. In some ways, this Joel is a total stranger — the Joel we’ve seen so far doesn’t get angry, and he is typically quick to forgive. In other ways, it makes sense that he’s taken this betrayal hard because he is so loyal. I’ve often wondered if Parenthood would ever tackle the issue of divorce more directly than Sarah’s past, but I wasn’t counting on Julia and Joel to be the couple that goes down.