Welcome back, Parenthood fans. NBC decided to air tonight’s episode on New Year’s to make room on the schedule for “Smash”, which starts in February. They aren’t necessarily burning off the remaining episodes, though, but I’m optimistic about a renewal.

PARENTHOOD — Season: 4 — Pictured: (l-r) Dax Shepard as Crosby Braverman, Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman, Erika Christensen as Julia Braverman-Graham, Peter Krause as Adam Braverman — Photo by: NBC

I like “Parenthood” because it’s not a challenging show to watch. When I watch “Breaking Bad” I want to just throw up and question life afterwards; when I watch “Mad Men” I spend the rest of the week picking out every little nuance wondering what they all mean; when I watch “Downton Abbey” I question why I love such a soapy show. With “Parenthood” I have no questions – or thoughts, even – after the episode airs. I watch it once (or twice, depending on if I need to rewatch something for the review) and then I’m done. At most I wait patiently until next airing. But you know what? It’s one of the finest dramas on television. I think it’s a testament to the actors and writers for making such a brilliant drama.

Starting late last season, the writers did something unique: instead of giving every actor something to do each week, they chose to focus on a few characters at a time and give the rest the week off. And it has paid off brilliantly since we are getting more focused, fuller storylines. Even though we might go a few weeks without Camille and Zeek, in return we get tighter storytelling, which result in more balanced episodes.

While out with the other Braverman women, Kristina’s hair starts to fall out. Instead of spending months picking up clumps of hair off the pillow and out of the sink, she goes for it and shaves her head. It’s a bold move, and once it’s done she immediately regrets it. She’s insecure so she doesn’t want to leave the house. She doesn’t even want Adam seeing her, so he decides to buy her an ugly wig. He thinks he’s being helpful, but she perceives it as he’s ashamed of her.

Dax Shepard, photo by NBC.

In yet another bold move, Kristina goes out and buys a hideous maroonish-red wig and a sexy dress and picks up Adam for a night out in a hotel, with Amber’s help. She’s more confident than ever as a young guy (Dick Casablancas, you guys! “Veronica Mars” and “Parenthood” collide!) starts chatting her up in the hotel bar. She has a little fun with the guy and we finally see old Kristina start to shine through. Dropping her alternate persona once alone with Adam, Kristina doesn’t have any energy left at the end of the day. The two lay in bed (while drinking a $12 bottle of water) and watch the video Amber took of the two of them earlier in the day. At the end of the episode the two walk out the hotel room, hand in hand, bald head proudly on display. It was beautiful, but it’s super obvious Monica Potter is wearing a wig.

Meanwhile, Hank and Sarah decide to date openly as she asks him to take her out. Sometimes Hank is charming and sweet, and sometimes he is the worst kind of Debbie Downer. Tonight he said all the right things as Sarah sees pictures of Mark on New Year’s with another woman. I still can’t tell if it’s a rebound relationship or something serious to Sarah, but Hank’s croissant gesture (which no doubt was sweet) might have sealed the deal for her. I adore Lauren Graham, but I really tire of Sarah. Her relationship drama gets boring and old. But at least she got a scene with Peter Krause as the two shop for a wig together for Kristina. We only have a few episodes left in the season, so I’m assuming Ray Romano is sticking around, which isn’t a bad thing. Maybe this is the one that sticks, but knowing Sarah’s history I doubt it.

In a move everyone saw coming, Victor wants to see his birth mom. When Joel and Julia tell him they are his parents and he can’t see his mom he spends the rest of the episode angry and sulking. He even throws a bat at Sydney, and while it missed her and shattered a window, it was enough to terrify Julia. Still devoted to Victor, her worst fear is realized as her new son put her daughter in danger. The end of the episode finds Julia back to the beginning, with Victor not talking to Julia. Erika Christensen’s face as Victor says she’s not his real mom was absolutely heartbreaking. I think in every episode I’ve written about this season I’ve mentioned someone’s facial expression. If that’s not a testament to the actors’ abilities then I don’t know what is. To convey such emotion with only a look is true talent at work. It’s beautiful.

Finally, Jasmine’s mother loses her job and needs to move in with her and Crosby. In what I think is a first, Crosby finally takes off his stubborn hat as he allows Jasmine’s mom to move in. While not happy about it, he realizes that he didn’t just marry Jasmine but her whole family in the process. Plus, Jabbar is thrilled. If that’s not growth then I don’t know what is. He even drops his sullen façade and warmly invites his mother-in-law into their home. More than anything this episode I was impressed with Crosby. More fine acting by Dax Shepard, who also makes his “Parenthood” directing debut tonight.

Overall a wonderful, quiet episode. I love that “Parenthood” doesn’t need some big moment every episode, and instead is comfortable enough letting the small moments percolate long enough to become great. Next week’s episode, however, looks to be another Big Moments episode. And being so close to the end of season four, something big has to happen. I’m enjoying our journey together and don’t want it to end. See you next week.

Written by Jordan Hickman. You can read more from her at www.reallylatereviews.com and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jordan_hickman



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