Jason Katims wrote last night’s episode, so that’s how you know it’s one of those Very Special Episodes. Katims wants another Emmy and he might well be on his way. Katims is so good at bringing storylines together – both humorous and dramatic – that this felt like the messiest, sappiest, best episode ever. Way to bring it, Katims.

Parenthood “What to my Wondering Eyes” Review

After taking a few weeks off, Kristina’s cancer became the main focus tonight. But you know what? It included everyone, all 14 members of the Braverman clan. Can we talk about Peter Krause and Monica Potter for a moment? What a performance they are giving us this season. It’s such a pleasure to watch week in and week out. Due to her chemo, Kristina’s white blood count is low, so when she contracts a fever it puts her in a state of sepsis shock. Adam sits by her bedside not knowing what to do. After he watches her farewell video to the kids, he grabs her hand and there was this moment on Adam’s face where he had no clue what to do next. All he can do is grab her hand and pray to God – any god will do – to not take his wife. Knowing how nonreligious the Bravermans are, and their lack of overall dogmatic principles, it still seemed in character for Adam to pray, whether or not he actually believes in what he’s saying. He’s at his wit’s end and the prayer is his last piece of hope. It’s such an open and honest moment, one we never get to see from Adam. He opened himself to whoever wanted to listen and it was Peter Krause’s finest moment.

Kristina’s cancer has taken a much needed backseat to make room for other storylines, a wise move since the show was becoming too maudlin. But Monica Potter has impressed each week, and tonight she brought it. Because she doesn’t know how much time she has left, she makes a video for her kids. She talks about Haddie growing into a beautiful young woman and how proud she is of her. She talks about Max and how she wants him to reach out and try new things. But when she gets to baby Nora she can’t keep up the façade and loses it. She tells her she has a wonderful daddy who will always be there to take care of her. And man, Potter was gorgeous during that scene. Katims sure does know how to bring out the best in his actors.

Let’s not give Krause and Potter all the glory, though. Craig T. Nelson definitely deserves a mention. He was on fire tonight and in true dad mode. He came into the hospital all frantic and worried, and when Adam needed him he stayed. And he even had time to make a sandwich for Adam. Zeek Braverman, making me cry. His “tell her I love her” to Adam is when I started to lose it. And then Adam asking him to stay just a little bit longer pushed me over the edge as the two embraced in a heavy, giant, emotional hug. Man. So absolutely fantastic.

It wasn’t all serious, however. What kind of Christmas episode would that be? Plus, we also got Zeek in granddad mode, which is my favorite. Victor for some reason thought it would be cool to tell his younger cousins that Santa doesn’t exist, but Zeek won’t stand for that. He tells a great story about meeting Santa and Santa winking at him. It’s so convincing that even Victor can’t help but be impressed. So cute. When I think of family I think of the Bravermans tonight: all gathered around the fireplace surrounded by wrapping paper and chaos. I don’t think Zeek and Camille would have it any other way.

At the end, when the whole family goes to the hospital, Zeek again stole the show. “There are 14 members of the Braverman clan, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t see what you’re seeing right now” he tells the nurse as the ENTIRE Braverman tribe sneaks into the hospital.

A few weeks ago Ryan and Amber had their Noah and Allie moment by swimming in the ocean at sunset and I fell in love with the two. I wanted them to make it and I wanted Ryan’s PTSD to not be a factor. As Bob Dylan said, the times they are a changin’. Last week Ryan quit his job and this week he’s driving Amber’s car while drunk. It’s hard to really root for him right now, honestly. Matt Lauria and Mae Whitman have incredibly chemistry, and their fight in the parking lot was as good as a fight can be. After, when Ryan apologizes to her, old Amber would have forgiven him and invited him into the house to spend time together. Instead she breaks up with him because she sees the mistakes her mom made and doesn’t want a repeat. She’s absolutely in love with Ryan but makes the mature decision — and the right one — to let him go until he sorts out his life. Who would have thought that the person making the best decisions this season would be Amber?

Someone who is making terrible decisions, however, is Sarah. It’s not out of character for her, but her jumping into bed with Hank after ending a long term serious relationship is. I don’t think Sarah would have done that a year ago, to be honest. Also, last week Sarah was visibly annoyed and perturbed at Hank and this week she’s all “oh, you make me happy” as they drunkenly fall into bed together. What happened, Sarah? I’m sorry, Hank, but you’re the rebound guy. It’s never going to work. But Ray Romano was very enjoyable this week, and, okay I’ll admit it, he’s pretty adorable. I’m not sure what’s happening, but all these Ray Romano feels are new and surprising. Finally, does a mall Santa photographer really make enough money during the holidays to pay rent for the whole year? Lauren Graham in that elf costume brought back all sorts of “Bad Santa” flashbacks, which is never a bad thing.

I hate how the show got rid of Mark, but Hank is really growing on me. His speech at the mall with Max was pretty great, even if Max all but ignored him: “You’re my favorite from that whole tribe of yours. Let me give you some advice: it’s not cool to be the cynical one.” Again I need to complain about Max. His mom is laying in the hospital on Christmas Eve and all he can think about is who is going to take him to the mall. I understand it’s a tradition him and Adam do every year, but come on.

Crosby and Jasmine are taking care of Nora and Max while Kristina is the hospital, and after spending the day with Nora they want to have another kid. Which is pretty cute. Also, who waits until Christmas Eve to put up a tree? Is this a TV thing or is it normal? Because 95% of my family and friends already have their trees up.

Overall a very nice, positive episode to finish up a very strong year. But one complaint: Haddie still doesn’t know the severity of her mom’s condition, right? She didn’t think it was odd to meet them at the hospital on her way in from college? Good luck getting her to go back to school, Adam and Kristina. ‘

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. (@jordan_hickman)

Photo Credit: NBC