Parenthood 3.03 “Step Right Up” Review

Learning how to put your pride aside and accept help can be pretty hard to do, especially if you’re trying to be independent. Even though we’re all human and nobody can be great at everything, sometimes it takes an extra bit of effort to show vulnerability and to express the fact that you don’t have it all together. It doesn’t make you weak or any less of a person, but the inner perfectionist in all of us just won’t seem to let us budge, at least until things get very hairy.

In “Step Right Up”, Parenthood‘s third episode this season, the Braverman family are leaning on other people and while it may come naturally for some, others aren’t taking it as well. My favorite storyline of the bunch had to be Drew’s and it’s not just because we’ve barely seen him since Seth (John Corbett) disappeared at the end of last season. After meeting a girl from the neighborhood at his family’s garage sale, Drew works with his grandpa Zeek to try and gain the confidence to ask her out. Parenthood’s bread-and-butter may be familial melodrama, but this season, they’ve really knocked the “relationship beginning” ball out of the park; Sarah’s time with Mark has been consistently stellar and now Drew’s burgeoning connection with Amy has gotten the torch while the elder Braverman’s love life was on vacation for the week. Everything involving Drew and Amy was so tender and grounded, from the ache that emanated when their second encounter went poorly to the relief when he “sealed the deal” and asked her to a movie. Not to mention, allowing Zeek a chance to impart some sage grandfatherly advice and further cement his bond with Drew, which began growing around Thanksgiving last season, allowed similarly underused Craig T. Nelson to turn in some typically fine work.

The other three instances of help being offered showcased the fact that even when you know help is necessary, other factors can cloud your judgment. Crosby’s indignation at possibly writing down Jabbar’s food consumption following a revelation of a wheat allergy (who else heard weed allergy and had to turn on closed captions?) was a form of protest against the handsome Dr. Joe (guest star DB Woodside, in his first of five episodes), who was obviously into Jasmine. Crosby’s shown that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to be a good dad and help his son, so I don’t think the resistance was anything to do with parental laziness or disbelief in what the doctor was saying; it’s been clear this season that he still has feelings for Jasmine and the introduction of the doctor is another way to bring that up to the surface again.

Amber’s refusal to accept the help from Sarah is another issue that may seem like one thing on the surface (she doesn’t like her mom that much) and really is another deep down. Amber has spent the end of season two and beginning of season three on a quest for independence, so to her, allowing Sarah to offer any assistance or to have a constant presence in her life would be a sign of regression and of not standing on her own two feet. It may seem a little extreme, abruptly moving out and trying to cut off contact from your family, but it’s in line with the character, in that she’s young, she’s impulsive, and she thinks that accepting help means she’s still dependent on other people. (Her abandonment issues also make it more likely that she turns away from people when they try to help her.) It hurts to watch Sarah fight for her daughter’s attention, but hopefully the rat scene tonight is an indication that they won’t be drifting too far from one another.

After all, Sarah came back, so considering how Amber is basically her carbon copy, she’ll likely return to the fray sooner or later.

Perhaps the biggest payoff came in the Alex/Adam storyline, that featured Adam getting Alex out of his legal trouble. Alex has spent the past few years of his life dragging himself out of the most rock bottom of rock bottoms; he was a homeless teenage boy with an alcohol problem and a criminal record, but now, he’s self-sufficient, sober, and looking at a future much brighter than the one he would have had he not helped himself. It makes sense that he would bristle so much when people try to help him, as once you’ve had too many poor experiences with something, the next time you deal with it, your defenses are heightened and you try to protect yourself. The storyline may be over now, but I have a feeling that the fight in the premiere will linger over much of the rest of the season, particularly when it comes to Haddie. Alex may finally be completely accepted by her family, but judging by his responses to her over the last couple of episodes, it seems like his affection for her may be cooling down as he sees the disparity in life experience between the two of them.

“Step Right Up” introduced a few new storylines while shifting ones we already had into the background. I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the last effects of Julia’s baby desperation or Alex’s legal troubles, but for now, love has moved into the forefront, with Drew and Jasmine both gaining new love interests. “Step Right Up” is another solid addition to Parenthood‘s increasing good third season, taking a look at the issue of accepting help and the role that our past plays in how we interact with people in the present. There hasn’t been a truly knockout moment yet this season, but with another 13 episodes to go (at least), I have a feeling that Parenthood is just getting warmed up.

Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:

  • “I’m going to ask you a very serious medical question, Jabbar. Have you been farting a lot lately?”
  • “Simon and Garfunkel aren’t dead. They’ll live forever.”
  • “Did you take the internet out, too?”
  • “Hi. I was…gardening.”
  • The cartoon-y music when Sarah and Amber found the rat was a bit much, but the scene as a whole was well done.
  • In Braverman pop culture news, Drew likes Fleet Foxes.
  • Dropped plot point alert (?): What happened to Sarah’s writing career? I don’t think it’s been mentioned in the first three episodes and there’s no indication that it’s in the fourth. Alas, Jack Kraft, we hardly knew ye.
  • Zeek wants Adam and Kristina’s daughter to be named Blanche. I always pictured Zeek as a Sophia fan, personally.
  • I’m beyond relieved that the baby black market storyline may be over. It made Julia look ridiculous and I’d rather see her forge a friendship with Zoe than try to buy her baby.
  • Alex’s patronizing “I have real problems” speech seemed like a big chunk of foreshadowing for the downfall of his relationship with Haddie.
  • Sweet victory pose, Zeek.
  • The use of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” not long after the above quote was a nice touch.
  • Next week, Zeek gets to star in a commercial (for erectile dysfunction medication), Drew has his first date with Amy, and two relationships start heading in opposite directions.

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