Parenthood Season 4, Episode 4: Crosby Learns that Race Exists

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Photo courtesy of NBC.com
Sarah helps Hank connect with his daughter.
In this week's episode, "The Talk," we open with Zeek dragging Camille outside early in the morning to listen to a phantom hissing sound in the sprinkler system. Camille tells him he needs a hobby and then goes back inside, which is a really nice way of telling your husband: "You do this again, and I'm going to slowly start poisoning your dinners."

Zeek reluctantly agrees to take Camille's suggestion of volunteering at the local VA. He arrives there with the enthusiasm of a court-mandated DUI offender and the volunteer coordinator sticks him on coffee duty for being so insufferable. A young vet named Ryan (Friday Night Lights alum Matt Lauria) strikes up a conversation with him by mentioning how terrible the coffee is. Oh, Zeek. You couldn't even muster up enough motivation to brew a decent pot of coffee. Why not just pee in it next time? We learn that Zeek served in Vietnam and that Ryan has just recently returned from Afghanistan. After serving as an irrigation specialist in the Army, he now faces a bright future of shipping boxes all day. Because his transformation into an irascible old coot is almost complete, Zeek asks Ryan to help him with his sprinkler problem.

Ryan identifies the sprinkler issue right away and then finally gets Zeek to offer him some kind of guidance on adjusting to life back home. Ryan asks how long it will take for him to feel normal again and Zeek says he wasn't normal when he returned from Vietnam, but with time he became a new person. Ryan says that even though Zeek came home to angry protesters, it's better than feeling unacknowledged and invisible like the current servicemen and women returning now. This heartbreaking admission shifts around the priorities in Zeek's heart: 75 percent is still devoted to crazy and 25 percent is now earmarked for helping Ryan and other veterans. He asks the volunteer coordinator for another chance and says he can offer a lot more than putrid coffee. One would hope so.

At Julia and Joel's, our over-earnest adoptive parents try to steer Victor's attention away from his iPad and toward joining a sports team of his choosing. Victor says he "chooses nothing" and Joel gives him an ultimatum that he has to choose a sport or the violin. You see, that's a punishment because learning music is for total pansies! Victor begrudgingly chooses baseball to Joel's delight. Joel gets excited/nervous as he watches Victor up at bat for the first time and talks shop with the other dads. Joel used to be a pitcher and now that he has a son, it's the perfect opportunity for him to project his unfulfilled aspirations onto a young boy.

So imagine his horror as Victor strikes out repeatedly (no one apparently told him that he doesn't have to swing at every pitch) and finally throws his bat in frustration and walks away. The coach chastises him for throwing the bat and Victor tells him to screw himself. When Joel tries to stop him, Victor pulls his "You're not my real dad" card which was just burning a hole in his pocket.

At home, Joel explains that he was really proud of Victor for even trying something unfamiliar, that he forgot how scary it is to be the new kid. He says he won't force Victor to do anything he doesn't want to do, but should he want to pick up baseball again, Joel would be happy to help him out. This wins Victor over and he later asks Joel to play catch with him while Julia looks on happily. They will make this kid a Braverman if it kills them. Or the kid.

Adam and Kristina return to the grumpy breast cancer specialist's office and Kristina wants to push back her surgery so she can help Max with his student council campaign. The doctor shows tremendous restraint by saying Kristina needs to put her own health first, rather than saying what we're all thinking: "Is you crazy?"

But Kristina asks for the later surgery anyway and dives into the Max Braverman student council campaign. Max brings home his petition to run which requires 25 student signatures. Kristina is so proud that Max approached his classmates but is then crestfallen to see that the signatures are riddled with epithets like "retard." If we needed further reminding, kids are assholes. Adam wants to pull Max from the race to avoid being socially slaughtered by his peers. When they try to tell Max that he can't run -- they even offer him a vending machine's worth of Skittles -- he calls them fascists and says he's reporting them to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Adam futilely tries to argue that HUAC is no longer in existence, because apparently he likes testing the limits of the bulging vein in his forehead.

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