'Parenthood's Joel & Julia (Almost) Come To A Head In "Promises"

Parenthood is back, you guys, and Joel and Julia are stressing me out just as much as last time. It's really quite impressive! It makes one's countdown to sweeps all the more tension-filled, really, to witness just how slowly this show is willing to let this Joel and Julia storyline burn. It's actually pretty interesting, and realistic, and painful, and probably everything it should be in its depiction of the marital troubles of these two people. But god damn I just want these people to be happy, and it seems like they are very bad at that. Also Mae Whitman wasn't even in this episode, so what even is the point?

Still, here's what went down in the various Braverfactions this episode.


Max blows up at Hank for breaking a promise and once again the impact of his Aspergers comes to the forefront. Hank, who has always had a special connection with Max because of his own social ineptitudes, takes it better than most.

In fact, Adam hands Hank a book on Aspergers, and it leads to Hank identifying with it to the point where he self-diagnoses himself with the disorder. "I'm seeing my life here, everything... why stuff happens." It's something that the audience has seen in Hank all along, but the speaking of it — the acknowledgement that this might be something behind the dissolution of his past big relationships — is powerful stuff.


Zeek's feeling the loneliness of Camille frolicking around Europe without him (and she extended her trip!). Then an old man in a diner tells him he's got Alzheimers and it seems like things are about to get weird. Really, though, the dude just assumes Zeek's a widow (I'm sincerely hoping he was just trying to hit on him), and it all helps Zeek (somehow) to realize that he just needs to continue to let Camille get on with her bad self, as she's much hipper than he is.

Drew and the Ladies

Amy is back in town, which means that new hookup College Lady is a bit jealous. Amy and Drew prove that, for severely tertiary characters, they do indeed work well together, so they might as well keep going at that.

Sarah/Carl Fletcher

Some quality Sarah/Jasmine bonding time, which I don't think has ever happened before. But such is the power of the Bravermans — even the ones you've rarely seen speak to each other have this energy of family and this easy chemistry that's undeniable.

Sarah finds out her one night stand/tenant Carl is in fact a doctor who saves babies as the head of a nonprofit for a living, and so goes to a fancy thing with him because why the hell not. As is expected, flirtings and burgeoning crushes abound.

Joel/Julia (And Crosby/Adam In Relation)

God, these two. These two. The stress.

Julia finally opens up about her marital issues to someone. "He doesn't look at me," she says to Adam of her husband. "And so Ed, he sees me, you know?"

What works so well about Parenthood — what worked so well in Katims' Friday Night Lights before it and what's made this Julia and Joel thing so crushingly effective — is the reality of these marriages, the fact that what Julia and Joel are facing is so realistic. Resentments build up, barriers grow between couples, and maybe you find yourself connecting with another person as a proxy.

Crosby and Adam, for their part, intervene in it all immediately, concerned for their little sister. We see a big brother side of them we've rarely seen before, and it's kinda cute. Unfortunately for everyone, everything's already been set into motion at this point.

A parent's event bring them all (save Adam) into the same place, and a drunk Ed corners Julia to talk in veiled terms about feelings, etc. Joel is having none of this and shoves Ed to the ground with a terse "stay away from my wife," and you can just sense the word affair on the tip of his tongue, which is stressful for everyone involved, including me.

And then it drops: "Are you having an affair with Ed," Joel asks. He asks her to tell him if anything's going on, and she promises that there isn't, and he doesn't believe her, and everything seems so broken. Like most Joel and Julia scenes this season, it makes me think of that scene in Season 2, after Crosby's slept with Gabby and decimated his relationship with Jasime, and wherein Joel promises Julia, sweetly and sincerely, that he will never, ever cheat on her. It's one of the sweetest scenes in the whole series, and one of the most romantically intimate marriage scenes I've ever seen, and it makes you wonder how we got from there to here.

And that's where they leave it for this episode. What?! Give me something more, Parenthood! Give me marriage counseling, give me tearful confession, give me a decision to separate that will ultimately culminate in a decision to stay together forever!

Ugh. Fine. I will respect your creative decision. In the meantime, anyone know of any good fix-it Julia/Joel fanfic a lady might indulge in?

Next episode certainly looks cheerful, eh?

Image: NBC