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“Parenthood’s” Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) is a cranky enigma, showing up for approximately five minutes each episode to berate his progeny, hand out cash and advice to his grandchildren, and, occasionally, star in commercials for erectile dysfunction medication. Tuesday’s mid-season premiere, “Road Trip” shed some light on the Braverman patriarch’s behavior, as the entire family caravaned on an extremely slow trip to Bakersfield to pay a birthday visit to his mother.
It’s about a five hour drive from the Braverman’s hometown of Berkeley to Bakersfield, but the family managed to turn it into such a long, arduous trip that it involved not only an understandable lunch break but an overnight stay in a motel. One can only assume that the maps Zeek handed out before the road trip were from before California’s freeways were constructed. The slow pace allowed for the development of several subplots. Drew (Miles Heizer) is understandably freaked out after walking in on Sarah (Lauren Graham) having sex with Mark (Jason Ritter). Adam (Peter Krause) is annoyed that Haddie (Sarah Ramos) seems more interested in texting her friends than talking to him. Perhaps if Adam could come up with something more interesting to talk about than whether her friends know where they are going to college next year she would be chattier. Crosby (Dax Shepard) manages to fail at his task of keeping an eye on the recliner that Zeek plans to give his mother, and it is stolen by a dastardly chair thief. At the motel where they are inexplicably spending the night, Zeek, stressed about seeing his mother, snaps and tells his children they all suck because they are unenthusiastic about the trip. They decide to head home, though predictably they feel guilty and return.
Kristina (Monica Potter) and Max (Max Burkolder) are MIA because when she turned off Max’s video game, he called her a bitch. Awesome Kick Ass Kristina was back again, as she decided to finally punish Max for his bad behavior, and forbid him to go on the trip. Max, the only character who was actually looking forward to the trip, was devastated. Kristina’s lesson that his actions have consequences finally sunk in; he cleaned his room, and attempted to make her a dinner that appeared to be an enormous bowl of carrots. When Kristina discovers that he made a card for his grandmother she decides that he has learned his lesson and they fly down to meet the rest of the family, something that is only possible because the rest of the Bravermans have decided to travel via covered wagon.
Zeek’s mother, Blanche (Frances Sternhagen) proves to be a real piece of work, criticizing Crosby for not knowing she has given up eating eggs and Zeek for the replacement gift that he bought. In other words, she is the passive aggressive version of Zeek. Crosby stands up for his father, taking responsibility for the chair theft. It would be awesome if the next episode was all about the Bravermans becoming vigilantes and tracking down the missing recliner. Zeek finally has a heart-to-heart with his mother, telling her that though he may not be a perfect parent, he told his kids that he loved them every day because he did not want them to have the doubts that he had. It’s a great scene, that again proves that Zeek is one of the most interesting characters on the show. Maybe the writers will see fit to give him more to do for the rest of the season.