Everyone needs a bit of “Tough Love” once in a while, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. Parenthood often manages to take every day family situations and explore them in ways other TV dramas might not even consider. Just about every conflict raised in this episode was handled completely differently to how I expected, resulting in more than a few tears.
I was waiting to see how long it would take for Zeek’s medical secret to be discovered by the rest of the Bravermans, and it turned out that Crosby was the first one to stumble across the news (by accident). I predicted that he’d go straight to Adam to spark an all-in sibling panic party, but instead Crosby played it cool. It’s a harsh reality that even the strongest pillars of the family are not invincible, and for Zeek’s youngest son to be so protective and sincere… This moment of mutual respect and support between Zeek and Crosby certainly tugged at the heart strings.
Bob and Amber’s heated relationship was another that didn’t play out as I’d hoped it would. It was obvious that as soon as Kristina found out about the two of them she would explode, but it’s hard to say whether she was justified in interfering the way she did. I much preferred watching Kristina and Adam’s struggle with Max ,who was using his disability as an excuse to sit out of basketball even though his real problem was being picked last. Max has encountered bullies before but we’re yet to see him overcome his social difficulties and make a real friend, so I absolutely felt Adam and Kristina’s pride at the unexpected visit from Micah and his equally elated parents.
The tension between Zoe and overbearing Julia has been building for weeks, so it was only a matter of time before it all spilled over. These characters are at opposite ends of the spectrum in so many fields, however they’re equally stubborn and determined. It took a lot for Julia to admit she doesn’t know how not to involve herself in Zoe’s life, and it took just as much for Zoe to let Julia in. It would have been very easy for the writers to use this as Zoe’s cue to leave, but I’m glad they didn’t. There may be a lot of critics who’ve resented this storyline from the beginning, labeling it unrealistic and frustrating, but to spend an entire season developing this complicated relationship only to abandon it at the eleventh hour would have been a waste.
The standout performance of the episode was from Miles Heizer, who absolutely floored me in his painfully powerful scenes with both Jason Ritter and Lauren Graham. What made this situation so emotional was how true to life everyone’s reactions were. As I’ve said so many times before, Parenthood works because it’s so relatable and honest. To come to terms with your parent starting another family with a new partner is one of the most difficult changes for children of divorce, especially so for an awkward sensitive teenage boy like Drew. It was just as tough for Sarah to learn how upset Drew was to watch her choosing happiness.
If the season finale is anywhere near as emotional as “Tough Love”, (which I’ve no doubt it will be) I’m going to need an industrial sized box of tissues on stand by.