Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6: Can We Cut Kristina a Break?

Categories: Comedy, TV
parenthoodep6.jpg
Photo courtesy of NBC.com.
Crosby gives a creepy brother-on-brother back massage as Adam stresses about Kristina's surgery.

In "I'll Be Right Here," the Bravermans prepare for Kristina's surgery and damn it if the Parenthood team doesn't do an excellent job of recreating the tense and fearful albeit loving atmosphere of a family bracing for a potentially life-altering event. How tense is it? Haddie is ready to bail from her first semester of college (though she'll have her Cornell-emblazoned t-shirts/hats/toothpaste/toilet paper to remind her of campus), and Crosby actually wants to help out.

See also:

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 5: Prepare to Cry

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

Adam is trying to complete a flurry of paperwork at The Luncheonette before taking off. He tells Crosby that, literally, all he has to do is put papers in the clients' hands when they come in. Crosby has the same responsibility as a desk printer or an automatic hand sanitizer dispenser. This makes last week's salary disparity argument between the brothers extra poignant; Adam shouldn't have yielded! Crosby tries to ease Adam's stress in the worst way possible which is a creepy "Hey, Brother" back massage which prompts Adam to state: "Never touch me again." Because of Mae Whitman, I will assume every possible Arrested Development reference was made purposefully.

After being rebuffed as a masseuse, Crosby coerces Adam into giving him a meaningful task to help him and Kristina before surgery. Crosby's not initially appeased by the chore of taking their dog Otis to the dog park so he throws in picking up take-out from Kristina's favorite restaurant and feels very satisfied with himself. It's shortlived since he manages to let Otis run away at the park. He's also late for dinner drop-off which is a problem since Kristina can't eat after 8 p.m. Max astutely points out that it's because she could vomit into her breathing tube during surgery and then inhale the vomit into her lungs. Max has the best zingers. When Crosby finally arrives with the food, Otis is wearing the plastic cone of shame after needing a few unexplained stitches. To make up for his incompetence, the writers have him hug Kristina and tell her to do "a good job" tomorrow and at home, he asks Jabbar to teach him how to pray for her. You can never hate Crosby for an entire episode, but man, do I try.

Afghanistan vet Ryan shows up at The Luncheonette to boldly ask Amber out on a date. She comments on his straightforwardness but he admits that he's really nervous and is trying to spit out the invitation before he chickens out. It's quite endearing and it reminds me that I'm pro-Friday Night Lights alumni as Parenthood love interests, minus the morally compromising Minky Kelly guest arc. Now, if they'd only get Jurnee Smollett and Zach Gilford, I'd be set.

During their date, Amber talks about her previous job with the city council election and starts tearing up over Kristina. Ryan initially thinks she's having a bad time on the date (as if!) but she assures him that she's just worried about her aunt and doesn't want to make the date completely depressing by talking about it. I suppose it's a legitimate concern; discussions of terminal illness on the first date can be quite the boner killer. But Ryan says he'd love to buy Amber a burrito and listen to her talk about her aunt. I'm gonna throw in my own Arrested Development reference: "Marry me!"

At the end of the night, Amber invites Ryan in to her warehouse cave apartment but he politely declines and gives her a firm handshake. Amber interprets this as the kiss of death and retreats to her cave looking a bit glum. But later in the week, Ryan stops by with flowers that he had planned to drop off while Amber was out. He admits feeling creepy when he realizes Amber is actually home and even creepier when he says he thinks about her a lot. Amber is confused because he declined her invite to come in the other night (call me a prude, but I don't think it's that bizarre for a guy who fixes your grandpa's sprinklers to wait a few dates before coming in), but he says he doesn't want to screw this up and wants to take it slow. He says he'll call before he skulks around her apartment next time and kisses her on the cheek.

At Zeek and Camille's, Sarah is panicking because Drew is not packed for their completely last-minute move to Mark's place. I'm pretty sure that refugees from a zombie apocalypse are given more notice to grab their shit than what was afforded to poor Drew. He's upset, naturally, that he was given no say in the move and that the move is taking place in the middle of his senior year, meaning he'll just be packing up again for college in about six months.

To add to Sarah's frantic-ness, Hank shows up at the house because Sarah has called in sick and he thinks she's just discreetly preparing to leave her job because of what happened in The Dark Room. Sarah says she just needed the day to move and on cue, Mark rolls up in a U-Haul, all smiles and sweet naivete. Hank has an expression on his face like he's about to be the one who inhales vomit into his lungs but graciously offers to help with the moving process. Helping people move is already pretty dreadful, but helping the love of your life move into her young, cute fiance's house with the fiance present is just all kinds of terrible. Plus, Zeek cracks an age joke about Hank just to make sure that wound stays nice and exposed.

At work, Hank asks Sarah if she accelerated the moving process because of The Dark Room but she says no. Later when she's keeping Adam company in the hospital waiting room, Sarah tells Adam that she doesn't have feelings for Hank but that the kiss has stirred something up in her.

At the new digs, Drew is shocked (well, as shocked as Drew can be) that Mark doesn't have cable because he, like, reads and stuff. Mark asks Drew if there's anything he can do to make him feel more comfortable at the place and Drew says more privacy would be great. Ouch. But later, Drew heads out for school and sees that Mark is still home, having skipped his morning classes to wait for the new cable to be installed. I hope Drew realizes that offering to wait for Comcast to arrive is like currency in any loving relationship. Don't squander it, son. Sarah eventually tells Drew that if he wants to move back to his grandparents' house they can discuss it, but for the time being they need to help Mark navigate the cable channels. They join Mark on the couch, who says that he's never reading another book again.

Finally, we get to Adam and Kristina's branch of the Bravermans. Max's student council election happens to fall on the same day as Kristina's surgery so Haddie has offered to be at Max's school for support. She has also been making discreet phone calls to Cornell and manages to get them to offer up a refund of her fall semester because of Kristina's medical condition. Adam and Kristina immediately veto it saying they'll be fine and that Haddie has to go back to school.

Max has not written down a speech (which worries Kristina) and before he hits the stage, Haddie tries to give him a pep talk, calling him tenacious and saying that if he gets nervous he can look at her and she'll give him a thumbs up. Is a thumbs up like a Xanax for kids? Max gets up to the podium and after some awkward futzing with the mic, he announces his name and delivers a single line about bringing back the vending machine, which is met with total silence. Max looks to Haddie, gets his sedating thumbs up, and then freestyles it, explaining that he has Asperger's which makes it hard for him to do things like look people in the eye, but it makes it easy for him to remember things and keep promises. He says that Asperger's is his greatest strength because it makes him tenacious and that he'll be tenacious about getting the vending machines back. The vending machine line is what made this speech fantastic and kept it from straying into sappy "slow-clap inducing" territory. A kid in the audience cheers for the return of vending machines (it's the hot button issue for pre-teens) and soon there's thunderous applause for Max.

At the hospital, Adam (after sitting in the waiting room and having each of his siblings ask him if he wants tea) sits by Kristina's side as she gets out of surgery. The night before she had tenderly said goodnight or checked in on each of her kids (and Otis) and you really appreciate how good Monica Potter is at crying. To make it look so genuine, to do it with such frequency, and to not let it look like ugly crying is truly impressive. When she wakes up from surgery, she immediately asks "How did it go?" but is referring to Max's speech. Adam informs her that their son is the new student council president of his middle school and Kristina responds: "These drugs are good." Like "thumbs up" good.

The episode ends with a sobering moment as the specialist tells Kristina that while the cancer from her breast has been totally removed, it has spread to one lymph node and is a more aggressive kind of cancer than they had initially thought. This means Kristina will have to start chemotherapy. When Adam and Kristina get home, they tell Haddie that the cancer is gone and are practically firing up Expedia on the spot to book a ticket for her back to Ithaca on Cornell Airlines. I assume lying to your children is 75 percent of parenting, so I'm glad the writers are taking this arc and evading television cliches of the terminal illness storyline. Though, by the looks of next week's episode, some ugly crying may be unavoidable.

Parenthood airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. PST on NBC.

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