Parenthood Recap: A Heartbreaking Twist, Forbidden Feelings and a Surprise Return

MaePhoodThis week’s Parenthood finds Amber and Ryan at a heartbreaking crossroads, while Julia juggles her feelings for two men, Sarah enjoys a hot hook-up and Drew is treated to a blast from the past.

Here, we break down the seven key takeaways from the NBC weepfest’s latest installment:

Post-election Adam is better than pre-election Adam. Where the heck was this man when Kristina was in the midst of that cutthroat campaign?! Adam spends the days after his wife’s loss attempting to lift her sagging spirits, whether it be through eating a giant cake with her face on it or egging a giant billboard with Bob Little’s face on it!

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Space heaters and a power outage make for a dream date — who knew?! Sarah and her sexy tenant Carl (Josh Stamberg) make the most of a chilly night in by finally acting on their obvious mutual attraction. Afterward, Sarah sets some strange boundaries with her hot hookup — but that’s OK because it’s kind of more fun to watch this duo tip-toe around each other anyway.

Ryan finally opens up… to Zeke.
After an emotional conversation with Amber — in which she asks for some time to figure things out — the vet retreats to his fiancee’s grandfather and makes a startling revelation: Life was easier when he was at war. He hated being in Afghanistan, sure, but at least it made sense and he was comfortable in his surroundings. Here with Amber? Not so much.

Crosby and Drew are magical on-screen together. Why don’t we see this uncle/nephew odd couple more often? (Check out this epic scene for proof.)

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Julia doesn’t grasp the concept of staying away from someone. After learning that Ed and his wife are separating, Julia pays him a visit… to tell him she can no longer pay him visits. Ed reluctantly obliges, but then, after teeing up a sob story about how it’s better to be miserable than to fake being happy, he kisses her — and she kisses him back! Back at home, Julia is getting ready for a date night with Joel. Her husband. Who has just agreed to work on their relationship.

Amy returns and all is right with the world. We’re tired of seeing our sweet Drew get jerked around by his “friend with benefits” Natalie, so imagine our relief when the co-ed opens his dormroom door and finds his sweet ex waiting for him.

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Particularly, in this case, for Ryan and Amber’s romantic future. Having soul searched to her heart’s content, Amber returns home to tell Ryan that none of this matters; she love him and is in it for the long haul. He, however, has made other plans, and announces that he’s reenlisted in the Army. It’s a gut-wrenching moment that upends the lives of both characters, and Mae Whitman and Matt Lauria executed every beat of it beautifully.

What were your favorite moments from Thursday’s Parenthood?

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38 Comments
  1. neha says:

    I hope this means that Ryan is gone permanently from the show. Sorry if that’s harsh, but I really couldn’t stand Amber/Ryan and thought that they had no chemistry and just had the same conversation over and over again. I was also a little disappointed that Ryan showed no remorse for beating someone to a point where they couldn’t function for a whole week. I know that PTSD messes with your mind, but it was still weird.

    • mmakelin says:

      OMG yes. although i think my issue is mostly with amber. yes, mae is a great actor, but every episode seems to include 1 scene where amber/ryan completely miscommunicate with each other and 1 scene where she doesn’t know whether or not to confide in her mother, but in the end of course does, leading to an emotional breakdown where either both or just amber cries.
      maybe my issue is with the writing? talk about recycling!

      • Lilly says:

        You know, I guess you’re right. But I think the reason I have been patient with this story line is because we care about Ryan as he potentially represents so many young men right now who similarly served our country and have had problems after returning from the Afghanistan or Iraq. I sure hope they DON’T do that story line the disservice of just ending it (even for an extended period) with Ryan leaving and Amber “moving on” – only to have Ryan return just as Amber has fallen in love again. Lame. And a discredit to that story and what it could represent. I’ve LOVED Zeke’s brief interactions with Ryan, too.

    • Meredith says:

      I agree with your first sentence totally. I actually think they’re both great actors, and I liked their chemistry in the beginning, but they’re just spinning their wheels now. I work with people experiencing PTSD (after being deliberately injured by another person, as in a shooting, stabbing, or assault, not in war, so I have limited hands-on experience with veterans), and the inability to regulate emotions is way up on the list of problematic symptoms. Ryan’s secretiveness and violent outbursts make him a safety concern, big time. It’s not the time I’d want to see anyone making big life decisions.

  2. Paul J. Reedy says:

    Parenthood is firing on all cylinders. It is an embarrassment of riches in the acting and execution.

  3. schu says:

    Was TOTALLY caught off guard by Amy’s return! Great writing! Although I hated how things ended with her and Drew, I was a fan of her performance and am excited to see her back. I’m not happy with the route they’ve taken Julia’s character, but I understand it’s the one obstacle the show really hasn’t faced head on (let’s be real we all knew Adam would never actually cheat on Kristina with that slutty secretary a couple seasons ago.) Overall I still love and appreciate every episode of this show, and still SUPER psyched for Monica Potter’s Golden Globe nom!

  4. Andy says:

    Mae Whitman’s performance tonight was devastating. Glad they’re giving her lots of time to showcase her talent this season!

    • Lilly says:

      She is really an amazing actor!

      • Anglophile says:

        So amazing…I saw her the other day in a really cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie. She looked about 10-11 years old and even at that age, she was just so unbelievably good. She stole every scene.

      • Kim R says:

        When I saw her in Hope Floats as a young girl I thought then that she had something special. Crying for her dad as he drove away…it broke my heart.

  5. JJM says:

    I liked Ryan and Amber, but I’m still glad they broke up. Last thing I wanted was Amber to suffer the same fate as Sarah…

  6. Lilly says:

    I have loved Parenthood since the first episode. And since that first episode, I have been wringing my hands waiting for the writers to screw it up. Why? Because it’s “not allowed” for tv characters to be GOOD examples of how to negotiate the struggles in everyday life. Somehow, our tv characters are more “real” if they are flawed.
    Now, if anyone reads this, I know I’m gonna get criticized for wanting “Pollyanna” or “Father Knows Best”-type characters or story lines. Well, then convict me. Because – as you may recall – people weren’t perfect in those shows, but when they made mistakes they learned from them. And they aspired to act with integrity and decency. It’s too easy to give us examples of people who settle for screwing up.
    I knew eventually one or more of the marriages on Parenthood would end in divorce. And I figured it would involve something along the lines of an affair. That’s reality, right? Well, it took them four years, but they finally succumbed to the easy route of destroying a relationship.
    The writing on Parenthood that has brought tears to my eyes for the last four years is the writing that shows the brighter side to the human spirit. The overcoming with decency. Something that gives me something to aspire to.
    Oh well…. I’m far from perfect, but I would have stayed AWAY from Ed, not gone over to visit him.

    • neha says:

      But, the “affair” (which hasn’t even started) isn’t the root of the problem. It’s the fact that Julia has significant issues being a SAHM, raising an adopted child who doesn’t respect her, and dealing with the fact that Joel doesn’t talk to her. Even in this episode, Joel really only spent time with her and the kids. They didn’t really TALK about their real issues. And, you might have forgotten, but two male characters on the show have already cheated. Not a 30 second kiss like Julia, but full on affairs and ONS’s. And, their wives just magically forgave them. Someone you didn’t feel like that was lacking in “integrity and decency”. Seems a little sexist.

      • Lilly says:

        Oh please, don’t slap a label on me just because I’m not happy with how Julia handled her situation. (Besides, they still have time for Crosby to screw up, and I promise I’ll be just as irate.)
        I do agree with you the basis of Julia/Joel’s problems were not Ed, especially in the beginning. But she MADE it part of the problem by kissing Ed.
        And okay, Crosby “cheated” earlier – but he wasn’t married yet. In principle, that’s no better, but I was referring to those couples who had entered into a sacred and binding vow via marriage. But who else cheated?

        • neha says:

          Zeke. He had an full-blown affair.

          • Lilly says:

            Oh yea, but wasn’t that him admitting something that happened in the past? For the record, I disapprove of ANYone cheating on a spouse – a person they took a vow with in front of witnesses. My point was that I didn’t want them to destroy a relationship by making us witness an affair.
            As for Zeke and Camille, that relationship is fascinating to me. I fear they won’t resolve that correctly, and Camille will wind up leaving her bone-headed husband. But what I WISH would happen is for us to see Zeke’s love for his wife make him change – however slowly he’s capable of – to learn to show his feelings. I happen to like Zeke’s old-fashioned, patriarchal character and what he contributes to the family structure. But I’m anxious for him to do what is necessary to save his own marriage before it’s too late.
            Yet again – that’s me wanting these characters to be examples of HOW to change what’s wrong with us. Not succumb to the easy, lazy way of handling things by saying “that’s just the way I am” or “that’s the way most people would handle that”.
            Just my opinion, I admit.

          • tp says:

            I don’t think it’s fair to call Zeke bone-headed. The man has worked hard all his life and his dream was to retire, tinker around the house and enjoy his entire family. Nothing wrong with that. I see Camille’s side of it too. She was a stay at mom. Her dream was to get the kids out of the house and travel. Get the hell out of the house. They just want different things. Sadly it’s how people, who have been married for decades, end up divorcing.

          • Lilly says:

            Totally agree with you, TP. Calling Zeke bone-headed was just my way of summarizing some of the missteps he’s made with his wife (like I reeeeally wanted him to go to Italy after a week without her!). But you made my point. Zeke and Camille are two unique, wonderful people with flaws who COULD (and hopefully will) show us a beautiful example of individual and joint growth by doing whatever is necessary to work things out – for themselves and for the family. They have so far, but it’s looking more and more like Camille’s had enough. I just hope the writers take the high road with them, and don’t do to them what is typical. Saving a marriage is doable (I speak from extreme experience) – but I admit it takes BOTH partners to want to make it happen.
            But, hey – I was a huge fan of the perfection that was the Huxtables! :)

          • uh huh says:

            Actually, in Hollywood, making the long-married retired couple stay together would by “typical.” Having them decide to separate after 40 years would be surprising.

          • Meg says:

            I thought Camille was the one that had the affair, not Zeke.

      • Jennifer says:

        Ed wasn’t a problem at first but then she started to look at him differently. Even though she hasn’t cheated “physically”, she already has “emotionally”. Do you remember how she kept playing his voice mail a few weeks ago? And today ok he first kissed her, but she was really into the kiss. Joel can’t be all positive right away and pretend nothing has happened the past few weeks, but he was trying here!

  7. Michael says:

    Amber’s crying is starting to get on my last nerve! The wind blows from the wrong direction and this girl springs a leak!

    The sound of children laughing when Amy showed up, I am not sure if that was more brilliant or disgusting.

  8. aschmahl says:

    Another incredible show –Parenthood never disappoints. Each of the characters is so rich and real. The writing is outstanding and they deal with issues sensitively and realistically. I am sooo hoping Joel and Julia work it out — don’t do it, Julia! And I love that Amy is back, Drew deserves so much better than Natalie. Kristina and Adam are such a great couple — it’s nice to see a married couple that’s not berating each other, keeping secrets, or cracking jokes behind their spouse’s back. Tonight the show was all Mae Whitman’s, though – -she’s incredible! Thrilled Monica Potter got a GG nomination — here’s to getting the whole cast and the writers some recognition for this wonderful, intelligent series!

  9. missvci says:

    I understand that Ryan’s storyline had to end, but why did him re-enlisting have to be the official reason. There are many army wives. Women are in relationships with men who are deployed. Granted they wouldn’t be able to work on his issues when he’s away, but he definitely used enlisting as an excuse to break up.

    And I really believed the writers when they told me Sarah was going to focus on herself this year. I know a girl has needs, but don’t want another love triangle or relationship her main storyline. Ugh.

    Still love parenthood because it deals with such real issues in earnest way.

    • uh huh says:

      There are millions of women in the world who have no idea who they are except in relation to a man. Sarah is clearly one of those women.

  10. kate says:

    so mae whitman performer of the week.. she was gut-wrenchingly beautiful

  11. Arien says:

    I liked Amber & Ryan last season, but it never got me excited in season 5. From the moment he got down on one knee we knew there was trouble ahead and the story between Amber/Ryan/Sarah has been a constant tear-stained back and forth. Mae does a brilliant job, but I couldn’t work up the emotion in their final scene after seeing Amber cry in basically every episode so far.

    Sarah/Carl: They broke Sarah and Hank up for THAT? I just don’t get it. why do they keep putting Lauren Graham through the same storyline over and over again?

    I wonder what brings Amy back. Probably giving Natalie a reason to change her opinion and wanting Drew as a steady BF.

    • Lilly says:

      Totally agree. And I was liking the Sarah role this season – her being an adult and all, moving out of daddy’s house and getting her life together. Now they through another booty call into the mix…. Seriously? What, is she 25 years old? I do love they way they had Sarah handle Amber, though. Being the parent of a 22-year-old right now who’s learning how much to speak up and – even more – how much to butt out, they’ve nailed that this season.

    • uh huh says:

      Because too many women in this world are Sarahs–no idea who they are except in relation to a man. She makes this decision to “work on herself,” but she doesn’t know what that is, and has no idea how to find out. She defines herself within her relationships. No relationship, no “self.”

    • misery chick says:

      I lost my sweet mother 2 years ago this week, so when Sarah and Amber were having that amazing talk and Amber asked Sarah ‘What would you say to me as a mother?’ and then ‘What would you say to me as a friend?’ I was GUTTED. I’m 53 and really, really REALLY miss my mom’s friendship, advice and private jokes. I do have many great memories, but sometimes it is not enough.

      ‘Parenthood’ is the first shoe since ‘thirtysomething’ in the 80′s (yup, I’m really OLD!!!) where I feel completely emotionally satisfied after each episode ends. The acting and writing are so beautiful, funny and heartbreaking that it makes my stomach hurt!

      As for Sarah, I’m pretty annoyed about her storyline. She should just GROW THE H*LL UP and go back to Hank who has the maturity and life experience that would allow them both to grow together both as partners & individuals.

      AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THAT CUTE LITTLE***BOY***MARK CYR-ARRRGH!

  12. jessieboy says:

    I missed Jasmine and her adorable little boy, other then that, the episode was ok.

  13. Tran 2.0 says:

    This season’s Parenthood keeps getting better and better and better and congrats to Monica Potter on her Golden Globe nomination. She deserves it better after being snubbed by the Emmys. I feel Amber’s pain so far but where does she go from here and her future?

  14. scadden says:

    I can relate to the strugglse of Julia seeking to rediscover who she is after walking away from her work, but I think the far better story wrapped up in here is her mental health. Rather than focus on the affair stuff in the back half I hope they address counseling, perhaps medication if need be if she is struggling with anxiety or depression. They have set the groundwork for anxiety with her previously. This is an area seldom confronted in an authentic way where spouses go through mental health concerns together, where we have seen affairs or fidelity concerns a lot on other shows.

    • Lilly says:

      Excellent point, Scadden. As I’ve said, I love it when this show goes in unusual directions to help its characters OVERCOME their flaws and problems. I don’t want them to all be perfect with fake smiles on their faces, but I like to see them defeat their problems without the writers succumbing to the easy way out (like an affair). The think about the problem between Julia and Joel (aside from the cheap kiss) is that BOTH of them have a point. But it’s the lack of communication that’s put them where they are.

  15. KConn says:

    I loved the scene with Sarah and Amber, “Tell me as my friend”, “Now tell me as my Mom…” I love these actresses together – they radiate so much love for each other on camera. It’s a great depiction of a non-typical mother/daughter relationship. There is so much parent/child flipping, and in some ways, Amber’s the parent and Sarah’s the child…