Marriage, Divorce and 'Parenthood:' Come ON, Joel and Julia
**Spoiler Alert: You might not want to read this if you aren’t current with Parenthood episodes**
What’s happening on the show: So from what we, the Loyal Viewing Audience can gather given the age of their daughter Sydney, Joel (once-SAHD supreme) and Julia (once partner in a law firm supreme) became wed a decade or so ago. Their relationship has endured many challenges including: secondary infertility, losing a baby to an ethically-questionable private adoption gone wrong (Damn you, Coffee Cart Girl for keeping your baby!), and disagreements over how to handle Victor’s falling behind in school. Oh, they adopted 10-year-old Victor after he got dropped off in the driveway couple seasons ago.
Distracted and grieving Julia gets fired from her high-powered firm, leaving Joel to step-down as uber-SAHD. Conveniently, he snags a plum bid on a massive new development with sexy architect Pete—a female Pete. The current plot might make a lot more sense if Pete was a man and Joel was questioning. Maybe.
Regardless, ARE YOU WITH ME?? So, Julia, suddenly and awkwardly a SAHM, befriends another recently-canned SAHP named Ed as co-volunteers on the school “sustainability” committee. Together they lecture kids on not using juice boxes at lunch time, and spout awkward little PSAs on the environment, while forging a bond over mutual malaise and not very much else that is outwardly apparent.
Nearly as lacking in charisma but less chiseled than Joel, Ed’s marriage is failing. Ed begins crushing Julia, and she kind of crushes him back on a subterranean level she won’t acknowledge even to herself. They text about their problems, and this anti-sexting culminates in a tepid kiss that Julia doesn’t exactly pull away from.
Fast forward to a wine-drunken Ed embarrassing himself at the PTA fund-raiser auction, And now, obviously, Joel is moving out.
What is happening in my mind:
Joel: Julia, quit existentialist-whining all day long and call a headhunter. You are miserable and therefore I am miserable. While you’re at it, how about you talk to me about our problems instead of Sad-sack Yet Affable Ed.
Julia: Screw you, Joel. That’s a total oversimplification of the stress our marriage has endured over the past few seasons, and at least Ed sees me when he looks at me.
Joel: What’s that supposed to mean?
Julia: You seem like you hate me and everyone else on this set. I MEAN YOU WALKED OUT ON BROTHER BRAVERMAN POKER NIGHT. Have our writers forgotten to reveal one of our gambling addictions or sexual issues or multiple personalities? Because people don’t turn into complete weenies overnight, Joel, not even here in Berkeley.
Joel: See Julia, I’m not sure I like you anymore.
Julia: So that’s why you don’t look at me like you like me anymore. And that’s why Sad-sack Yet Affable Ed looks sooooo semi-appealing. He likes me. He wants to make-out! And let’s face it, in real-life that one.single.questionably-reciprocated kiss would’ve at least been a make out session. I could still call it “one kiss,” because how do we count kisses? Breaths? Head shifts? Minutes? And then when I told you “nothing happened,” it would’ve been more obviously minimizing to the viewers, and you would’ve been even more suspicious of the nutritious breakfast I’m preparing for your homecoming, while you’re gallivanting with God-Knows-Who-Pete around God-Knows-Where-Berkeley.
Joel: Interesting. And when I stayed out all night I probably would’ve at least made up some lame excuse about where I was, so you didn’t start freaking out and calling hospitals and calling Pete which you totally would’ve done in real life. I will admit, however, that we’re always cooking up something delicious on the griddle.
Julia: Right? Balanced breakfast high-fives all around! Anyway, you don’t really like me anymore. I still love you. Because people at least usually have this “Don’t you still love me” conversation when they’ve spent a decade together and had kids, yes? Isn’t this kind of the requisite pre-break up conversation?
Joel: But you can’t possibly like me anymore either right? What with my constant frowny-face and stick/butt.
Julia: OMG, I think you’re right. I don’t even like you that much!!
Joel. But I do still love you, which kind of blows. Suddenly this conflict feels real and so much more complex and interesting for our viewers. What do we do when we love each other and don’t like each other, and we have kids and we’re legally bound and looking at decades more life together?
Julia: Whoa, you’re starting to sound like Ed. This is getting kind of hot, what with the analysis and actually talking about our problems. Are you sure you want to move out?
Joel: You know what? When we actually exchange parts of speech with our mouths, I don’t automatically turn the dial from “Mad at Julia Who Kiss-Forsaketh Me” directly to “Move out immediately.”
Julia: Let’s go see a marriage counselor.
Joel: No, I’m pretty sure I’m still a bastard that refuses therapy, but I have a sneaking suspicion you will go on your own and get some helpful tools we can use “together.”
Julia: That’s exactly what I’m going to do, Ed. I mean Joel.
Joel: Now I’m going back to work to point at blueprints and flirt with Pete. Anyway, maybe this week you can stop brow-furrowing and stay awake past nine and we can role-play that Swimfan scene again.
Julia: If you can unclench and look me in the eye, it’s possible! I’m going to go take a Briggs-Meyers assessment online. I was a high powered attorney. Surely I’m qualified to do something besides faux-fail at stay-at-home mothering. But first I’m going to finish flipping these perfectly-formed pancakes.
Joel: Atta girl!