Thanks to "Keep On Rowing," Parenthood viewers were treated to a wonderful start to 2013.
With a focus on the elder Braverman children, we had glimpses into Kristina's battle with cancer, Julia's relationship with Victor, Crosby's acceptance that a man's house is not his own and Sarah's blossoming romance with Hank.
Kristina and Adam: The only other show I've ever watched where a character with cancer shaved her head and delivered the same emotional one-two punch of both sadness/strength was with Reva Shayne on Guiding Light. I know that may be a strange analogy, but after knowing a character for 30 years, amazing things happen.
The decision to have the the night out feature Kristina so full of life, so spunky and almost more herself than she had been in years culminate in that major change was perfect. As perfect as the pin in her balloon when Adam's reaction wasn't exactly what she expected.
As always, Adam's attempt at follicular replacement for Kristina was taken the wrong way in a moment of stress because of miscommunication, but Kristina pulled out a fantastic save. Her choice to go with a new color wig instead of trying to replace her own hair - an impossible task, really - was another brilliant move.
I disagreed that she looked silly in the wig. She looked lovely. Not that she needed to wear it, but if it made her comfortable to don it under certain circumstances, there shouldn't be any shame in that, just as there shouldn't be any in not wearing one. At least Kristina knows she has options.
Julia and Joel: Did anyone think the situation with Victor and his mom was going to end well? I couldn't even imagine the pain Julia felt when, after all her work, the first person Victor wanted to share his math victory with was his "real" mother. It was even more tragic when Julia's pain flowed over to Sydney, who was just getting her groove back with a new brother in her family.
Things went from bad to worse when Sydney started pushing his buttons and Victor's reaction was to throw his metal baseball bat at her. It was surprising Joel let the move roll off his back like he did. That was attempted assault. Even the most ignorant of parents couldn't think a bat flying yards through the air "slipped," and our Grahams don't fit that bill.
I don't know if they would ever take the road less traveled with adoption, but what if Victor just can't be saved? He's definitely shown progress via lovely moments of growth. But what if his anger issues and violent tendencies overtake it all and something bad happens? As much as I'd hate for it to occur, that would make for very compelling drama, something we rarely see outside of a crime serial.
Crosby and Jasmine: As Crosby and Jasmine struggled with how to handle her mom's rapidly declining financial situation, Crosby reluctantly agreed to her moving in with them. The obligatory marital strife and Parenthood quotes from Crosby resulted, but my favorite part was when he was shouting at work at Adam and Amber about being the creative mind behind The Luncheonette, and he acquiesced Amber might one day be the same. I like that they see Amber there permanently. It's such a small thing, but had great meaning.
Inviting someone into your home is a huge decision, especially someone with whom you've already had so many disagreements about family. Thinking about the challenges Crosby and Jasmine faced with her mother in Parenthood Season 4 Episode 1 about religion alone, this change should make for an interesting time in their lives.
Sarah and Hank: So Sarah and Hank have been going to work and then home to have sex, huh? Oh, the fun things you can learn from a girls' night out! They did find the time for a proper date and, considering their last dinner at the restaurant where they got wasted, I was surprised at Hank's choice. They just don't strike me as a dress up and go out kind of couple.
It turned out they're not that couple, and with some snacks, a bottle of wine, a deck of cards and a blanket on the floor, they found a bit of a groove. Coming from such complicated backgrounds, it's even possible their baggage might not be too much for either one. While I'm still not completely sold on them as an end game couple, their progress is impressive.
With three more episodes to go in Parenthood Season 4, what are your hopes as we wind to a conclusion? Other than a renewal, what must happen for YOU to be happy?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.