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Parenthood: The Best and Worst Braverman Pairings in “Speaking of Baggage”

Terrible double-meaning title aside (get it, because there was literal and metaphorical baggage), "Speaking of Baggage" was a much-needed jolt of adrenaline for this season of Parenthood. Because, believe it or not, things actually happened in this episode to lay the ground work for bigger drama ahead. Julia, at long last, became an interesting (read: flawed) person as she loses her sense of self, while Amber's doubts about her impending nuptials bubbled to the surface. There were, as expected, some filler story lines (do we really care about Hank and Sarah's status anymore or whether Drew continues to hook up with that floozy Natalie?) but this was an episode that actually grabbed my attention. Probably because Kristina's running-for-mayor plot line was nowhere in sight, but mostly because of the fascinating unraveling of both Julia and Amber. Here now are the best and worst pairings of the Bravermans from last night's episode "Speaking of Baggage":

Best: Julia and Her Meltdown
I have never been a fan of Julia. She's always seemed too whiny and vanilla and she raised the demon spawn that is Sydney. But now that she's losing that identity -- and in the process, her marbles -- she's actually become the most interesting character on this show. She's undoubtedly tempted by the fruit of another (she giddily plays back a voice mail from Ed and then later calls him for solace), trying to save her marriage (she shows up for a quickie at Joel's office and looks more desperate than turned on) and she's taking her frustration out on her kids (in her defense, her kids are terrible). I never believed the show would have her cheat on the perfect Joel, let alone have it make sense, but her growing interest in Ed (and his in hers, clearly, as he told her that her phone call made his day better) feels authentic and fits the circumstances. I love Joel and all, but for a show and some characters in desperate need of some shaking up, this inevitable train wreck is on the right track.

Best: Camille and Zeek
This hasn't been my favorite story line, but I liked how this one wrapped up. I liked that Zeek finally admitted to Adam that he wasn't being a stick in the mud for not going to Italy, he simply was not invited. I don't think these two will split up, nor do I think they'll move out of that house, but they still have a rough road ahead. But what really made this weeks-long storyline feel worthwhile was Camille passionately giving her husband a kiss goodbye before she took off to the airport for her adventure. Well, that and the sheer comedy of Zeek setting off the house alarm by accident after Camille was gone for approximately 13 seconds.

Best: Crosby and Oliver
Oliver (All-American Rejects front man Tyson Ritter, no relation to Mr. Cyr, Jason Ritter) has had more screen time than Jasmine, Jabbar and Aida combined this season, so he and Crosby are pretty much a pair at this point. A pair that constantly squabbles and rarely sees eye to eye, so yeah, he's in a Braverman relationship, alright. Yet again, Oliver and Crosby are fighting about recording when Amber has the bright idea to have them put a live audience in the room with them, and wouldn't you know it, Oliver, the egomaniac that he is, gets off on that. He was happy, Crosby was happy, we all were happy.

Worst: Amber and Ryan
This one breaks my heart. Amber may have had a professional victory at work, but even without Sarah harping on and on in her ear, she's had a moment to step back and really look at her relationship. Or, at least see that she and Ryan are on totally different wavelengths right now. Ryan looks jealous and concerned when he sees Amber hanging out with the band (in his defense, they were a little too handsy for my liking) and Amber has pangs about the rushed proposal in and of itself. Even after Ryan gives her a proper engagement and engagement ring (and this happened without him even knowing about Kristina talking wistfully to Amber about Adam's romantic, simple proposal to her), Amber's face tells us that something is wrong. That, unlike her Aunt Kristina and Uncle Adam, it "just made sense." I hope this is all merely wedding planning jitters and a communication rut, though, because I really want Amber and Ryan to make it work. If only to prove Sarah wrong.

Worst: Hank and Sarah
Oh god, are we really back on these two? What happened to Sarah's sexy neighbor? Do we care if they are cordial or if Hank is probably still in love with her despite the fact that she is a self-centered jerk? No, no we do not. After Max finds a picture of Sarah in Hank's studio and relentlessly grills him about it and accuses him of having serial killer-like tendencies, word gets back to Sarah that Hank thinks she is "flaky." Of course, rather than let this go or simply realize that Max has no filter, Sarah storms over there and makes a scene. Hank threatens to stop hanging out with Max, but then that is resolved and Sarah gets to walk away by stomping all over Hank's heart again. What a gal.

Worst: Drew and Natalie
What we really should be talking about here is how Drew is starting to grow in a creepy mustache, but instead we are back to the girl that likes one Joni Mitchell song: Natalie. Natalie shows up to Drew's dorm drunk, hooks up with him and acts aloof the next day. This hurts our young mustachioed fawn Drew. He later invites her to the Luncheonette for the band's recording session and she shows up with a gaggle of her girlfriends, and then later tells Drew she's only looking for a hookup. He obliges her again in his dorm room even though she is not girlfriend material and, let's be honest, she's not good enough for Drew anyway. But what really bothers me about this storyline isn't that Drew is setting himself up for heartache with this girl, it's that he's doing exactly what his crappy roommate was doing just a few weeks ago that he freaked out about. Sorry, Drew, you can't get all up in arms about hooking up in dorm rooms, practically chase your roommate out and then do the same thing. Uncool, man, uncool.

Watch the entire episode here, courtesy of Hulu.com:

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