'Parenthood' review: Crosby and Jasmine, Adam and Crosby, Julia and that baby: What happened here?!

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Image Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

Talk about loading up an episode with character epiphanies: As it hurtles to a season ending, Parenthood piled on twists, revelations, and betrayals this week. So, right off the bat: Crosby and Jasmine? In a tent? Together with Jabbar? I kept looking around for that irritating cellist, lugging her instrument into the tent to spoon with Crosby…

Really, if there’s one thing the often-subtle Parenthood has really forced down its audience’s throat, it’s the unending love of Crosby for Jasmine. This, even after she’s proven to be a self-centered twit who, in the guise of wanting Crosby to grow up (and who in this show doesn’t, much as we who watch do not want him to grow up, it’s why we love the maddening fellow), has flitted off to be with Doctor Joe, whose similar degree of high self-regard would seem to make him ideal for her.

But, no, Parenthood is determined to get Crosby and Jasmine back together again — for the sake of the child, the show’s producers and a (small?) portion of the audience might tell you, but really because… well, there’s no good reason, actually. As much as Parenthood tried to bring Jasmine into the Braverman fold (inviting her to parties, trips, etc.), Jasmine really never fit in. Granted, Courtney Ford’s needy cellist would not exactly have proven a big hit with, say, Zeek (I can imagine his cutting remarks about her flighty artiness), but the Jasmine-Crosby union, now inevitable with the proposal offered and accepted, will make Jabbar very happy but to me is an underwhelming anti-climax.

Similarly: The idea of Sarah moving to New York with Mark? And/or having a baby with him? How could Sarah — whom we love for being so self-absorbed; self-absorption is what Lauren Graham has managed to turn into a charming art — not see that this would be upsetting to Drew? Again, for the purposes of drama, it’s a tempting avenue to explore, and logical if a bit loony given Sarah’s dramatist past with the unreliable character Richard Dreyfuss played so well, but it strains credulity that, once poor Drew actually articulated his fear and pain, Sarah did not respond to her son more feelingly.

It sounds as though I’m knocking Parenthood for these plot developments, and I am to some extent, but of course it’s also a measure of how much I have invested in this series that I feel so strongly about this week’s developments, which is, you know, a good thing, right?

Which brings us, inevitably, to what became the biggest drag on the season: The adoption/scheme to adopt/why was Zoe living with them a good idea? subplot about Julia and Joel’s attempt to have another child. Oh my lord, did any character in this show not see that once that baby was born that Zoe was going to bond with that baby and Julia was going to Do The Agonizing Right Thing and let it go? Yes, we were sort of signaled that Parenthood knew what it was doing when Joel told Zoe that she really had to commit to giving up her child because he couldn’t bear to see his wife go through the pain she would if this arrangement fell through. But the inevitability of the scenario as it played out — even for a blinkered control-freak like Julia (and I say that with affection, Julia), the notion of that baby becoming a Braver-boy and Zoe receding from the series always seemed untenable.

I guess the overarching point I’d make about this season of Parenthood is that it set up a number of story-lines (the ones cited above, plus Zeek’s health scare) that, while paying off week-to-week as self-contained dramatic scenes and showcases for the excellent cast, have done little to add up to satisfying, fundamental forward momentum for the series. If I had to guess, I’d say that Parenthood’s dodgy ratings may lead NBC to decline to renew it next season. Combine that with word that producer Jason Katims is working on a pilot for Jason Ritter, and suddenly Sarah’s frustrating I-can-be-a-mom-and-a-NYC-playwright seems like an exit strategy. So does wrapping up Crosby’s romantic saga in a neat Jasmine bow.

I’ve left out what has become the show’s most intriguing plot line, though. Peter Krause has been great this season in guiding the arc of Adam’s unemployment and subsequent partnership with Crosby in the Luncheonette recording studio — indeed, it’s his entire wing of the family (Monica Potter’s Kristina getting back into the work-force; Haddie’s meticulously detailed growing pains; Max’s difficulties in finding a friend and a place in his new school) that has been most satisfying and heart-wrenching in the best possible way.

And so this week, I really admired the way the offer to buy out the Luncheonette from Adam and Crosby was presented. When a character on a TV show writes down the monetary figure for a business deal, you rarely see the dollar amount, so I was pleased to see Parenthood go for it: By revealing that the brothers had been offered a million bucks, viewers could take sides — was Crosby a noble idealist for turning it down? was Adam realistic in believing they really should accept? (I’ll reveal my predilection: Sell, sell, sell, guys!)

Alas, Parenthood didn’t quite go all-in on full transparency: We didn’t see the second offer Adam was shown, the one that prompted the handshake deal and guaranteed future strife with Crosby. But for now, the fact that this element of the show is so fraught and poignant, because in agreeing to sell, Adam is also selling out his own idealism along with Crosby’s, that it reminds us all over again why we feel so strongly about Parenthood. Because it’s damn good at getting at the gray areas of not just parenthood, but also adulthood, and hopes, and dreams.

On to the season finale! But first, let me know what you think of this week’s many developments.

Twitter: @kentucker

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