Written by David Oliver
Plot: Amber (Mae Whitman) is, in fact, pregnant, and struggles with telling relatives. Meanwhile, Sarah (Lauren Graham) surprises Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) with a birthday trip to Las Vegas, only for him to collapse unexpectedly, causing the family to take stock of their lives. All this, plus Kristina (Monica Potter) and Adam (Peter Krause) open up Chambers Academy.
“That’s your baby, Amber.”
Well, it’s official folks, if NBC’s promos couldn’t tell you before. Amber’s pregnant and hasn’t told a soul yet, but it’s decision time because the doctor says it’s safe to start telling people. This felt a little anti-climactic to start off the season because of the all-too-revealing promos, to be honest.
In the Julia (Erika Christensen) -verse, we see her hot and heavy with someone – but it isn’t Joel (Sam Jaeger)! It’s apparently someone from work. This went unexplained, but Julia appears to be a working lawyer again. Thank goodness, because it didn’t feel true to the character to have her out of work for so long.
Hank (Ray Romano) and Sarah are officially dating, but Hank hasn’t told ex Sandy (Betsy Brandt) and their daughter Ruby (Courtney Grosbeck) just yet. The two are moving back to town and Ruby is staying with Hank for the weekend while Sarah surprises Zeek with a birthday getaway to Las Vegas. Ruby finds Sarah’s underwear in a drawer, leaving Sandy pissed and is glad to hear they haven’t moved in together. Sandy wants to split custody of Ruby with Hank because she started falling in with the wrong crowd in Minnesota. Ooh, some drama is afoot for Sarah and Hank this season already – my money has the two sticking through it, though.
Kristina and Adam are opening Chambers Academy in two days, but it needs some serious work before it’s ready for 39 students – err, 38, since Max (Max Burkholder) is refusing to attend, citing homeschooling as his best option. This really bothers me: how do you just open up a school? It all fell into place a little too easily. But hey, this is TV, so I’m going with it.
The whole family pitches in with the school – even Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is in town, discussing her study abroad plans, but Amber totally shuts her out. Haddie later confronts Amber, who blurts out – for the first time – that she’s pregnant. “Is this good or bad?” Haddie asks. “You tell me,” Amber says. The two bond over tea, and they bring up how “old” they’ve gotten and remember their fight from season one over Steve (Asher Book). Amber asks Haddie about her sexuality, a discussion this show was brave enough to treat as not a huge deal. Haddie liked Steve, loved Alex (Michael B. Jordan) and is now with Lauren (Tavi Gevinson). It’s a testament to how realistic the show is to how people feel and think, and how no one should ever be afraid to be themselves.
Zeek collapses while gambling with Sarah in Vegas and causes a ruckus at the hospital. Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) calls Julia and she rushes right over, leaving the kids with Joel. This was a very realistic response – when a crisis happens, family picks up and goes to each other.
It turns out it’s not a heart attack, but the doctor wants to run more tests. Zeek insists on an AMA (Against Medical Advice) form despite Sarah’s pleading. Adam and Crosby (Dax Shepard) head to Vegas to help Sarah with their dad, only to watch him gamble – Adam reluctantly doing so. I loved when Adam referred to Sarah as his least qualified sibling, then corrected to second least qualified in reference to Crosby. Very strong sibling-like banter that this show does so well.
Zeke and Camille visit Zeke’s regular doctor only to find out that his results are inconclusive, so they will need to do more tests. Gulp. This can’t be good.
Kristina and Adam explain to Max that Chambers Academy won’t be like his old school and do everything they can – Kristina even sits with him and they ltierally watch paint dry. “I don’t like metaphors,” Max says, but it isn’t actually a metaphor. This was cute. Adam gets through to Max by telling him to do this for his mother, so he does show up with the other kids when school opens.
Julia appreciates Joel’s watching the kids and the two embrace. He hugs her tight as she breaks down a bit about her dad, then kisses her, but she pulls back. Her work boy-toy later tells her he likes her and wants to be something, and she says OK. It’s only a matter of time before Julia and Joel get back together, right? RIGHT?!
The episode closes with Amber telling Sarah she’s pregnant. I was expecting a clearer diagnosis for Zeek, but I guess this will have to wait. Overall, the premiere was solid, but for a final season premiere I was expecting a bit more of a gut punch. I have a feeling that’s coming later, though, so I’m still in for the long haul.