TV Diary | Parenthood: “Politics”
TV Diary | Parenthood – Episode 3.15 – “Politics” – Original Airdate: 2/7/12
Episode Grade: B-
“Politics” was the weakest of Parenthood’s 2012 episodes by a fairly large margin so my thoughts are going to be somewhat brief in part because there really isn’t a whole lot to say about it and also in part because Parenthood has been so good lately that I have no real desire to slag on it too much despite a feeble effort such as this. Torpedoing relationships was the theme that ran though much of “Politics.” From Amber moving forward romantically with her boss, Bob, to Zoe’s living situation with Joel and Julia becoming untenable, to Crosby betraying his feelings for Jasmine to Lily, to Sarah realizing that the age difference between she and Mark may be as insurmountable as the mountains he’d dreamed of one day climbing, “Politics” was marked by these types of difficult decisions/realizations and perhaps it’s the uneasy mood of much of the episode that made it so much lesser than the rest of Parenthood’s 2012 outings. The most prominent of these is Amber’s seemingly inevitable hookup with Bob. From the moment that she’s promoted to be his new assistant early in the episode, it was evident that Parenthood was going to go down the Amber/Bob road after all . Bob tasks her with deciphering and organizing his crazy notetaking system on the people he’s met, a request that gives him the opening to throw out the ultra-cheesy line that she’s not in his notes because his system is only used for people he’d otherwise forget before going into a detailed recollection of the first time they met. A kiss, of course, follows as does no small amount of my concern about where this storyline is headed. While I can appreciate the fact that Sarah ended up getting involved  and that Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall points out that Parenthood’s creator Jason Katims has an up-and-down history of pairing teenaged characters such as Amber with older partners, too much of this Amber/Bob coupling feels a little too skeevy to me. While I enjoy the shading it’s given Amber – she wonders whether she got her promotion on merit or whether it’s simply because Bob wants to bump uglies with her – the only way that I see this ultimately playing out is with Amber either screwing up a good situation or with Bob doing a 180 into complete ass-jerk territory. I don’t have a desire to see either of those. True, here Bob plays things expertly when Amber confronts him about her suspicions on the promotion  but ultimately I can’t see this ending up anywhere in the neighborhood of good. Maybe I should have more faith since Parenthood seems to have turned a corner from “frequently good” to “frequently excellent” late in this third season but I just can’t shake the feeling that this is going to end in a very bad way. Just as troublesome is the latest development in the “Joel And Julia Buy A Baby” storyline. Zoe has frequently looked like the most human and realistic person in this thread of the show and I’ve praised – and will continue to praise – Rosa Salazar’s work as Zoe. Realistically, the setup at Joel and Julia’s house isn’t ideal for Zoe’s mental health, what with the constant reminders of the child that she’s going to be giving up haunting her at every turn, but having cute/annoying little Sydney ask her about her “baby brother” seems to be the final straw as Zoe abruptly quits her job and bails on the Graham household for her old cramped, roommate-laden apartment. Julia is understandably shaken about what these developments mean for the chances of the adoption going through while Joel attempts to remain more zen about them, although he does ultimately confront Zoe at her apartment for an explanation only to have Zoe (unconvincingly) tell him that she’s just looking for space and emptily reiterates (again) that everything is going to be OK. Much like the Amber/Bob thread, I can’t help but feel this is headed down a bad road. Again, 2012 has been very strong thus far for Parenthood so it’s possible that “Politics” was nothing more than a blip. However, with three episodes left, my hope is that the show is able to shake off this bump in the road so that it can end its season in strong fashion.
 Although, I’ve been warning of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such a move for the past few episodes.
 Via an admittedly nice fakeout where she sends flowers to Amber post-Bob kiss (to display her pride in Amber doing well at her job) only to have Kristina see them first and trick Amber by initially saying they were from Bob. There was also a nice phone call scene later between Sarah and Amber, if I recall correctly. Too many of Parenthood‘s storylines have seemed an island unto themselves this season so it was nice to see some logical co-mingling in “Politics.”
 And Bob’s measured and understanding response to said suspicions shows that he’s either the world’s greatest guy (doubtful) or he just a really, really good politician (more likely).
*Another cause for concern? More headway in the ill-advised possibility of Crosby and Jasmine ending up together yet again. Dr. Joe pushes things forward with Jasmine by asking her to move in with him after showing her photos of a house he’s planning to purchase, telling her that he doesn’t intend to move there alone. Beyond proving that perhaps he’s not as self-aware as I first thought during “It Is What It Is” when it appeared he’d noticed Jasmine’s wistful look in Crosby’s direction during the concert in the park, it shows Jasmine as initially reluctant but she later takes the grown-up step of discussing the potential move with Crosby before committing to Joe’s request. Jasmine and Crosby seem to flip-flop fairly regularly between one being the adult and one being the child in their relationship so since Jasmine was the one taking the mature tack, Crosby is left to be the immature one during the talk by pointing out that although she’s “asking” him, there’s already a house picked out which suggests a final decision has already been made regardless of what he says. He later makes the bigger mistake of drunkenly lamenting the development to Lily – dumb move, that – but in the end ends up giving Jasmine the OK by telling her that if things are serious with Joe, he trusts her. However, unable to let it end there, he gives Jasmine a ballet bar which was a remnant from the house that he bought for her last season. Judging by Jasmine’s reaction to the gesture, there’s every chance that these two are back together by the end of the season which would be a huge shame since DB Woodside and Courtney Ford have added so much in such a short time to the show.
*In a plotline telegraphed from a mile away, the final example of sabotaging relationships came as Sarah began to notice the unmistakable age difference between she and Mark after attending a get-together between Mark and some of his high-school friends, including his former (and apparently only other) girlfriend. Not only did the night draw attention to the gap in their ages but also called into question how little Sarah actually knows about Mark after his old girlfriend off-handedly mentions something about Mark’s old dreams of mountain-climbing. On the way home, Sarah has a panic attack thinking that Mark’s never going to want to have a baby when there are still dreams he hasn’t realized and places he’s yet to visit but he calms her by saying that if they need to have a baby now, then they should do it now because he loves her and doesn’t care about anything else. Although she’s initially pacified, methinks the uneasy tone of Mark’s declaration is going to prove to be trouble before too long. Lauren Graham, pro that she is, did what she could to salvage the material but too much of it seemed gimmicky and convenient and, as I mentioned, it was too easy to tell where this was going from the get-go.
*However, Lauren Graham making fun of Jason Ritter’s ridiculous facial hair at one point? Spot. On.
*Peter Krause was busy directing this episode – not to cast stones but since this was his first directorial effort, was that maybe part of the problem with “Politics”? – so Adam was largely sidelined but was around for an embarrassing storyline where Adam and Crosby attempted to land the band Dawes as a client for the Luncheonette. Frankly, it was pathetically obvious that the only reason for this plot thread was for Parenthood to pander in order to seem hip by booking a band with a little indie cache and then beating said band into the ground by mentioning their name over and over and over ad nauseum. Again, the less that’s said about this, the better.
*They have milkshakes at The Luncheonette? This has to be the only recording studio in the country to offer that amenity, right?
*”It’s a shame about her face… it’s not… pretty.”
*”Is she paying for the time?” “In a sense, she’s paying for the time.”
*”And if we have to have a baby now, then let’s do it.”
*Episode below via Hulu as usual.