Well, that was most certainly worth the wait. After being Parenthood-less for three weeks, the show returned in top form with the genuinely surprising, funny, and unbearably heartbreaking episode "All That's Left is the Hugging." That's an appropriate title, actually, given I desperately needed a hug after Ryan and Amber's inevitable split. (I didn't think it would end like that, I must say). While Ryan and Amber's crash and burn break-up was definitely the drama that anchored the episode, pretty much every storyline worked here. And, hey, congrats on your Golden Globe nomination, Monica Potter! Not only is it long overdue for any Parenthood cast member to be nominated, but she had an especially outstanding year. Here are the best and worst Braverman pairings from last night's episode:
Best: Adam and Kristina
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm relieved the election storyline is over and I'm not all that sad to see Heather go (that said, please keep bringing on as many Friday Night Lights alums as possible, Jason Katims!), but it was nice to see Adam comforting Kristina, even when she tried to play it off like she didn't need it. Cake fights in the house, trips to the playground with Nora and finally, egging Bob Little's billboard, Adam and Kristina were at their most playful and carefree in a long time and it was a lovely reminder as to why they are one of the very best couples on television. And while I love me some Adam, the true pairing here was Kristina's no-nonsense pal Gwen. Their scene was only a few minutes, but these two actresses ran the gamut from funny (they smoked weed!) to devastatingly serious (a shared, knowing look that Gwen won't be around much longer) so effortlessly. There's a reason why Monica Potter is getting awards show love.
Best: Joel and Julia
While I was expecting more explosive fireworks after their huge fight in the last episode, I still think there's plenty of drama to come. Joel, to his credit, tried to make everything right again by spending more time at home with Julia and the kids. Julia, to her credit, apologized to Joel and tried to make everything right again by going to Ed's house to tell him in person that he can't contact her anymore because it's not fair to Joel? Oh, but did I mention that Ed is in the middle of a divorce? Did I also mention that Ed kissed Julia and she definitely kissed him back? Yeah, shit is about to go south again really fast in the Braverman-Graham household.
Best: Sarah and Amber
I haven't been the biggest fan of Sarah this season (or most seasons, to be perfectly honest) but the way she handled Amber's crisis last night -- as both a friend and confidante and as a mother -- was truly wonderful. She wasn't a helicopter parent, she wasn't judgmental, she was simply loving and supportive of her daughter. Where has this Sarah been?! And, oh man, was that last scene with the two of them just a killer.
Best/Worst: Ryan and Amber
The only "best" thing about this was the performances by Mae Whitman and Matt Lauria, everything else was just the worst. Like, straight-up torture for anyone still pulling for Ryan and Amber to work things out. The whole thing just went from bad (Amber feeling the repercussions of Ryan's blow-up at work, Ryan once again lying about his pills) to worse (Ryan breaking up with Amber in maybe the worst way possible) over the course of an hour. After an honest conversation with Zeek about life post-service (I must give tremendous credit to Parenthood for giving a voice to veterans on primetime television) and how he feels disconnected from the world at home, Ryan makes a choice regarding civilian life and a lifetime with Amber. An unknowing Amber makes a heartfelt plea to Ryan to fight for their relationship, telling him "I love every part of you... I wanna marry you and have kids with you." But it's too late, Ryan -- who breaks down and then almost immediately numbs out -- tells Amber he has re-enlisted. It all goes quiet on screen, but you could hear the sound of every Rymber fan's hearts breaking.
Worst: Sarah and Karl
As a viewer, I'm annoyed that I have to watch Sarah bumble her way through another relationship with a perfectly nice guy who she unloads all of her crazy on almost instantly. As a renter, I'm way more annoyed with Sarah as a lax, inattentive, unskilled landlord. Fix their goddamn heat and electricity before shacking up with a tenant! You're toying with people's lives here!
Worst: Drew and Natalie
Natalie, that trollop, is still toying with our baby lamb Drew's emotions and it's just not right, dammit! I don't quite get why he's so hung up on her (other than the whole being unattainable thing) and I'm really ready for Drew to move on. And hey, who conveniently showed up at his door? Why, his ex-girlfriend Amy! So long, Natalie! Don't let the frat door hit you on the way out. Drew and Amy are gonna cuddle and be monogamous and watch hours of House Hunters together!
Worst: Crosby and Limited Screen Time
More Crosby. Always more Crosby, Parenthood. Whether he's doling out sex advice to his nephew Drew (it's less creepy than it sounds, I assure you) or giving tough love/keeping an eye out for his niece Amber…just, always more Crosby.
Watch the full episode here:
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