TV Diary | Parenthood: “Just Smile”
TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.13 – “Just Smile” – Original Airdate: 1/10/12
Episode Grade: B+
Coming off of a very strong kickoff to 2012 with its third season’s 12th episode, “Road Trip,” I was hoping that Parenthood was going to be able to sustain its newfound momentum even as I realized that replicating a one-off episode like “Road Trip” was going to be nearly impossible to pull off. And for the most part? “Just Smile” was successful, bringing to an end some storylines that had been developing for a while at the same time putting into motion some new ones, particularly with regard to some potential new relationships. With the show focusing on so many different members of a large family, it makes sense for the show to stagger its storylines so that one sibling’s arc is coming to a conclusion while another’s may just be beginning or be in the middle of its ongoing story. “Just Smile” brought a resolution to the “Are Joel And Julia Going To Have A Problem With Zoe’s Dickhead Boyfriend” storyline as Zoe – who is now living with them seemingly for the duration of the pregnancy – got her prickish boyfriend to finally sign off on adoption papers thus removing the final obstacle in the way of Joel and Julia having their second child. Though the storyline had its fits and starts, I agree with the critical consensus that Rosa Salazar has done some great work as Zoe  and it’s going to be a shame to see her (likely) go. Hopefully she lands on some other show in quick order. While the adoption story seems to be heading to its conclusion, ”Just Smile” also seemed to hint at the beginnings of some new relationships for a couple of Bravermans. Since a good chunk of “Just Smile” was spent at The Luncheonette with Crosby and Adam, let’s handle that first. From the moment that a reporter showed up to do a story for a San Francisco business magazine about the fledgling studio, it was clear that the focus of the piece would shift to Adam’s story about losing his previous job and jumping head-on into a venture in unfamiliar territory with his brother and, indeed, that’s what happened. Crosby – in staying true to the character – acts immaturely and is immediately jealous of the attention given to Adam over him, and the two brothers passive/aggressively bicker for the majority of the episode before coming to an agreement , but more than anything else what this plotline did was introduce a potential new love interest for Crosby in the form of Courtney Ford’s (Dexter) driven cellist Lily, who initially clashes with Crosby over his lack of professionalism while he’s sulking over the magazine article  only to later come to an understanding with him over how driven and passionate they are for the music industry. When Crosby offers the use of one of the studio’s extra rooms for her practice sessions – after she tells him that her neighbors aren’t too enamored of her constant practicing – and she takes him up on the offer, it’s clear that this is the beginning of…  something between the two. I was also impressed by Ford and she’d be a nice addition to the cast for however long she sticks around. While I liked the beginnings of this relationship, I can’t say the same for the other nascent coupling that seems to be developing out of “Just Smile” between Amber and the politician (Jonathan Tucker, The Black Donnellys) that she’s working for. During scenes set at the political office, it’s clear that Bobby Little (the politician) has surrounded himself with interns who are all too willing to play a sycophantic role. Since that’s not the Amber we’ve seen in Parenthood’s two-and-a-half seasons, it’s no surprise that she speaks her mind when Little asks for honest feedback on a campaign advertisement while the other interns suck up to Little by offering empty praise for the ad. When he later shows up at the coffee shop where Amber is also working and commends her for honesty and Amber allows herself a little smile, it’s pretty clear where this storyline is headed and it’s nowhere good. Amber screwing up despite her best efforts is something we’ve seen too often on Parenthood. Let’s not do it again guys. Still, “Just Smile” had some nice forward momentum, even if it wasn’t up to the caliber of an all-time great like “Road Trip.”
 She was particularly impressive in the scene where she returned from breaking up with her boyfriend and getting him to sign the papers. It was clear that she was wrecked by the situation but didn’t want to betray her feelings to Joel and Julia and was thus barely holding things together. The struggle with her emotions was very nicely played by Salazar.
 In fine Parenthood fashion, Crosby informs Adam that he’s angry that Adam hijacked the attention that should have gone to him since opening the studio was his dream and that he’s the one with the passion for the music business, while Adam tells Crosby that he was enjoying the attention the article afforded him, particularly when Max tells him that it’s cool to have his dad on the cover of a magazine. He also tells him that he knows how important the business is to Crosby and that Crosby, in effect, saved his life by getting him to jump into it with him. They’re both right and are able to come to an agreement on it, which just adds to the feel that the characters on this show are actual people and not just two-dimensional television characters.
 Which is a small point of contention I have with “Just Smile”: I get that Crosby would be pissed and everything, but to act as childish as he does in front of Lily – one of the few clients we’ve seen for his small start-up business – doesn’t seem to ring true and paints Crosby like an idiot. True, the rest of the storyline saves things but that one scene bothered me more than a little.
 Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna make some clichéd “beautiful music” pun. Because I’m above that, you see. I mean… clearly.
*Didn’t get to mention Lauren Graham much this week but she again did some great work in the Sarah/Mark storyline as Sarah began to fear that Mark’s blurting out about having a kid was something that he’d regretted since he avoided any attempt by her to engage him in conversation about the topic. After subtly hinting about kids during a shopping outing and then placing major importance on Mark joining her brothers’ poker game, she finally confronted him – while drunk – and they finally had the conversation the next day with Mark confirming that the baby talk freaked him out, but in a good way. The combination of relief and fear and uncertainty on Graham’s face was a marvel – again – to behold. Plus, drunk Lauren Graham is pretty damned funny.
*Liked how Adam, Crosby, and Joel were initially reluctant to include Mark in their game because of Sarah’s spotty romantic history. It added a sibling dynamic that rang satisfyingly true.
*Random thought that popped into my head as I was watching this episode: Didn’t Amber and Haddie used to be very close? Have they even shared a scene together this year that didn’t include the entire family? Food for thought.
*Not much Kristina this week. But she’s still THE WORST.
*”I thought 40 was the new 30.” “Not for your ovaries, no.”
*”Thank you for coming for eggs. Let’s talk about my eggs.” | Sarah
*”I brought biscotti. Just kidding – they’re Philly cheesesteaks.” *
*Also, no one calls them “Philly cheesesteaks.” I’m from just outside of Philly. They’re “cheesesteaks.” Just… “cheesesteaks.”
*Episode below via Hulu as usual for your viewing pleasure.