‘Parenthood’ – ‘Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist’: Baby, please don’t go

A review of last night’s “Parenthood” coming up just as soon as I try to squelch your spirit…

I had a realization watching the wonderfully-titled “Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist” last night:

“Parenthood” is like the Hulk: the madder it gets, the stronger it gets.

There are some shows that become more unpleasant as the characters get angry and yell at each other. (One of the reasons I cut the cord with “Brothers & Sisters” was that I tired of the weekly Walker dinner party screamfest.) But because of the caliber of the actors on hand here, because of the way those scenes are shot, and because of how much time the show also invests in the quiet moments leading up to the yelling, those angry moments pack one hell of a punch.

And “Do Not Sleep…” was just full of devastating haymakers:

• Amber unloading on Seth, followed by Drew venting to his mom, caught in the middle of two kids who want two very different things from their absentee dad;

• Max tantruming at Kristina, who can’t handle him without the buffer that Gaby has created;

• Jasmine calling Crosby an asshole and announcing that she’ll never forgive him; and, of course

• Adam tearing into Crosby about his son having Asperger’s – not realizing that Max is within earshot.

Just tremendous stuff from all the actors involved – in my notes on the Amber scene, I wrote that moments like that make me not care at all how much shorter Mae Whitman is than her TV parents – and brought a bunch of storylines to full boil.

As I said last week, the Max stuff always resonates with me, so even though I don’t particularly care about Crosby and Gaby together, the inevitable consequences of his actions played out devastatingly, leaving Adam and Kristina and Max not only without the services of Gaby, but with Adam now having to have a conversation with Max that he’d expected to put off for years.

At the same time, I feel bad for Jabbar – if not for Crosby or Jasmine (who, as I’ve written, had become really unpleasant this season) – and how he’s likely to be pulled away from the father he’s just gotten to know and become used to. Jasmine can’t keep Crosby away from him altogether, but between the fundamental “I didn’t tell you about our son for five years” issue and now Crosby’s one-nighter with Gaby, I don’t think this particular family is living happily ever after. I think that’s a potentially interesting path, too. To this point, we’ve seen all the grandkids being raised in unified family units (for Drew and Amber, Seth was so absent as to be a non-issue), and it could make a strong contrast to the other families to see Crosby and Jasmine having to reluctantly share Jabbar.

On the Seth storyline, I remain ambivalent about the way that it’s turning away from a story about the kids and into one about Sarah’s unresolved feelings for her ex. By running away on his mini-tour, Seth has just confirmed everything that Amber said about him in that rant, and while I can respect the idea that he realized he was hurting his daughter by trying to spend time with her, he hurt his son just as much by running. There could have been some kind of compromise, but instead he bails, and yet Sarah is still willing to leave the kids behind with just a note to chase after this guy? Blech. I know good drama often comes from characters we like making choices we don’t – again, see all the fallout from Crosby/Gaby – but this not only makes me respect Sarah a lot less, it takes a complicated and well-done storyline about parents and kids (which is what the show is about) and instead heads in a more predictable direction about romance.

(NOTE: Others in the comments disagreed on my take about that scene, but the presence of the suitcase and the way it intercut between Sarah and Seth suggested that’s what she was doing. We’ll find out next week, I suppose.)

With all the yelling going on, the battle over Sydney’s newfound vegetarianism was there mainly for comic relief, but also to signal something of a turning point in Camille and Zeek’s relationship, which has been icy for a lot of the series. That was some very passionate smooching going on after she backed him in front of Julia – not only by the standards of this show, but for actors of a certain age on TV in general. The grandparents tend to get storylines only every 3 or 4 episodes, so it may be a while before we get much follow-up on it, but a good scene for Nelson and Bedelia, as part of a terrific overall hour.

What did everybody else think?