Thursday, October 9, 2014

REVIEW: 'Parenthood' - Zeek Heads Into Surgery, Amber & Drew Go On a Trip & Hank Gets a Wake Up Call in 'The Waiting Room'

NBC's Parenthood - Episode 6.03 "The Waiting Room"

Camile and the kids anxiously await news about Zeek. Julia confronts Joel about their relationship status. Amber decides to face her future and Drew supports her. Sarah tries to bond with Ruby and finds herself in a sticky blended family situation. When the Luncheonette gets some unfortunate news, Adam is in worst-case-scenario mode and Crosby seeks an escape.

Parenthood spends the majority of its latest episode at the hospital while Zeek is waiting to go into surgery and the waiting around that comes as he is in there. It's a wonderfully emotional hour - including the four siblings and Amber gathering for one final night of normalcy, Zeek and Camille's final conversation before the surgery and everyone's reaction while they are awaiting news. It's an extremely focused episode that deals with the reactions of the immediate people in this family as well as subplots including Amber going to tell Ryan she is pregnant and Hank learning about the trouble his daughter is getting into. Not all of it worked - Crosby's motorcycle accident felt a little unnecessary. But so much of it did that this is the most satisfying episode of Parenthood's final season so far.

Zeek's heart issues have been a unifying force for this season. It effects everyone on this show because they are all family. Even someone like Joel who is no longer a part of this clan has a personal stake in the outcome. But it's especially hard on Zeek and Camille. This is the strongest material either of them have ever received on the show and it is powerful stuff. They have had a lifetime together. They've had their ups and downs. But facing the potential loss is devastating. Zeek is a stubborn and proud man. But he is terrified of what may happen during this surgery. The odds are in his favor but there is always a risk. He's heading into the surgery with happy thoughts about what his life could be in the future. He's celebrating Amber's big news and thinking about the baseball game of the day. But underneath all of that, he is scared. Scared of losing everything he has in life. Camille is scared too. Scared of losing her partner in life. She doesn't know if she can handle it if he were to die. The not knowing is what is tearing them apart. That makes this the hardest moment they've ever faced together.

The entire family gathers to be there when Zeek wakes up from the surgery. And yet, they all have their personal issues to deal with as well. They are important. Sarah is navigating a new family dynamic with Hank; Julia is torn between two men; and Adam and Crosby are dealing with the latest Oliver Rome drama. But comparatively speaking, none of them feel as important as being there for their father in his time of need. Sure, they disagree about the trivial stuff while in the waiting room or try to divert their attention elsewhere. But ultimately, they are all where they should be.

And then, there are the two minor subplots of the hour. Amber going to tell Ryan about her pregnancy - with Drew showing some wise sibling support - is a necessary part of this ongoing story. He is a part of this child's life as much as she is. Now, I'm a big Ryan-Amber shipper. And yet, I'm also able to recognize that Ryan is a damaged person with problems. The two do love each other. But in their last encounter Ryan left with the promise that he'll get better for her. And now, she pops up with this sudden news and it doesn't appear that he has changed all that much. He is excited but he's continuing to mask the larger problem. Even Amber is willing to look past all of it again for the love and support he promises and the feeling that she could fix him. Drew is the one to knock some sense into her. That sibling dynamic is so strong. He is able to tell this stuff to her even though she doesn't want to hear it and then have it register. He is there to give her the support she needs - even the kind that she doesn't know she needs.

The stuff going on with Hank was unusually distracting. His struggles have been a surprise for the show and his relationship with Sarah is really good. Now, they are adding more family problems for him. It just didn't connect that strongly with the rest of the hour - which was unifying around Zeek. He was ultimately just realizing how troubled his daughter, Ruby, has become. And then, his ex-wife Sandy gets to deliver the cliche line about him being with Ruby when it's his time with her - and not just dropping her off on Sarah. Now, Sarah is a veteran of dealing with teenage drama. Remember when Amber was a handful at the start of the series? But Sandy doesn't know that. Things on this side of the show are only going to get more awkward. But in this episode the delicate balance was off just because of its introductory plot beats.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Waiting Room" was written by Jessica Goldberg and directed by Patrick Norris.
  • Even though Julia's new office fling gets more details this week, I'm still rooting for Joel just because he's making the effort to personally ask and be there for Zeek. The other guy is just sending stuff to Julia. Yes, it makes her smile and that's something she desperately needed. But Joel offers a much stronger emotional support.
  • I wasn't that fond of Adam focusing on the negative during the surgery. And yet, him recognize that good news comes in the waiting room and bad news comes in a private room was an incredibly strong and simple moment.
  • Will there be any residual problems for Crosby following that accident? I sure hope so even though it was somewhat awkwardly shown.
  • Amber and Zeek are always a strongly emotional pairing. And their one interaction this week is just as perfect as they've always been.
  • However, Zeek knew Amber's pregnancy was a big secret and yet he spoke about it like everyone in the family knew. At least the secret is out now.
  • That is one impressive wedding ring Zeek!