Parenthood is a show that functions under the assumption that We’ve All Been There. For parents who watch the show, I imagine that likely rings true, at least in some small way, each episode. But for those of us non-parents who find ourselves tangled up in the familial dynamics of the Braverman crew, that firsthand relatability is slightly rarer. And this week’s episode, “The Waiting Room,” captured it perfectly.
As the title suggests, Zeek goes in for heart surgery, while his children and wife cope with his potentially impending mortality in different ways. Adam negs out, crafting worst-case scenario emails to his siblings. Crosby, in his first substantial appearance of the season, attempts to block Adam out with baseball, work, and reckless behavior on his motorcycle, which leads to the world’s most foreshadowed accident (seriously, that was unoriginal and unnecessary). Sarah… well, we don’t really get to know how she’s handling all this, as she’s just her usual neurotic self. The biggest spike in her emotions comes when Twizzlers magically appear, which seems a little more like a Lorelai Gilmore move than a Sarah Braverman one. (Also, her plotline with Hank’s daughter this episode was pretty cliched, and Betsy Brandt’s reaction to it was even more so.)
Julia seems to be handling all this in the healthiest way, really feeeeeling her feelings and processing her attachment (or lack thereof) to both Joel and her new beau. I’m torn because this new guy seems to really see Julia for who she is (and always has been), but Joel is really trying. When Julia finally tells Joel that she’s seeing someone else and he needs to lay off, he is clearly wounded — but he gets this look in his eye like he’s not just going to let some schmuck take his wife. I feel like they may end up reconciling way down the line in the season, after her new relationship gets hard.
I found myself most concerned about Camille throughout the episode, in part because I understood her reactions. They felt like How Strong People Cope: the staying “together” for Zeek, the restrained falling apart at the mere thought of him dying, the numb daze she sort of meditates within while in the waiting room. Death is an understandable beast in that it makes no sense to anyone while they’re watching their loved ones rail against it. The writing in this episode fundamentally understood what that feels like. Some things I could have done without, like Zeek really letting the nurse have it about having to remove his wedding ring. I understand the symbolism, but it was a little overdramatic and difficult to watch, particularly after his screaming fit at the hospital in Vegas. But overall, a lovely execution of what we knew was coming: Zeek would be just fine… for now. (Gulp.)
(Photo by: Ben Cohen/NBC)
“The Waiting Room” was cleanly split into matters of life and death. Holding down the “life” category was Amber, whose pregnancy is finally revealed to the family on accident by Zeek. The opening scene, in which Amber and Zeek have a heart-to-heart about Ryan and the baby, made me cry big tears of happiness. There aren’t many portrayals of young female characters and their old male relatives that feel this natural, this special and unconcerned with generational gaps. On top of that, the conversation seemed to inspire Amber to finally tell Ryan about the baby.
Now Amber is, as Parenthood fans know, one of the series’ most dramatic characters, which is really saying something. So she gets this idea in her head to drive out to Wyoming to tell Ryan in person, specifically with the goal of raising the child by herself. Drew, also in his first prevalent appearance of season six, is adorably brother-ish and refuses to let her go alone. I don’t know how realistic it is to just hop in the convertible and drive to Wyoming like some sibling reboot of Thelma and Louise, but it’s TV so here they are in Ryan’s pill-strewn living room. Being high on pain meds, low on hope, and in love with Amber proves to be a killer combo for Ryan: he’s thrilled about being a daddy. Amber’s got a constipated look on her face — from the mixed emotions, you weirdo — and she eventually comes to her senses, after a damn-fine monologue from Drew Boy Tell ‘Em. She demands Ryan get his shit together first, on his own, and leaves.[Insert clapping hands emojis.]
This is character development, people. Thanks for finally raising the game on Amber “Hot Mess” Braverman. Ryan will be back, and it will be an epic reunion while Amber’s, like, giving birth or something climactic. And I can’t wait.