Mae Whitman, Craig T. Nelson
[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday's episode of Parenthood. Read at your own risk (and preferably with tissues handy!)]
After a relatively calm beginning to Parenthood's fourth season, emotions kicked into high gear on Thursday's episode. There were tears of sadness, when Ryan (Matt Lauria) wound up in jail after violently attacking one of the members of Ashes of Rome. There were tears of anger, when Joel (Sam Jaeger) walked away from Julia (Erika Christensen) during a heated discussion after she made a scene at his work in front of Peet (Sonya Walger). And there were tears of happiness, when, although Kristina (Monica Potter) lost the election for Mayor of Berkeley, she discovered she had helped change the life of a young deaf girl who had been struggling in school and, in typical Kristina fashion, gave her a huge hug. But what comes next after Thursday's pivotal episode? Will Amber (Mae Whitman) leave Ryan after he put her job, and their future, in jeopardy? Can Joel and Julia save their struggling marriage? And what will Kristina devote her time to now that the campaign is over? TVGuide.com jumped on the phone with series boss Jason Katims to ask those burning questions.
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Amber and Ryan: Their sudden engagement had already hit several bumps primarily because of Sarah's (Lauren Graham) concerns. However, discord between the young lovers first heated up last week after Ryan spent his entire combat pay on an engagement ring for Amber — a ring that she eventually made him return. "One of the things that complicates their love story is that Amber is at a time in her life where so many things are happening for her. I think for the first time, she has a job that is really meaningful to her," Katims says. "Ryan doesn't have as many fulfilling things going on in his life as Amber does so in a way I think he's a little bit dependent on that relationship. To me, spending all that money on that ring was a symbol of that, that the relationship has such huge importance to Ryan." The real turning point came this week, obviously, when Ryan suddenly turned extremely violent, just like he did last year when he took Amber to his friend's funeral shortly after they started getting serious. "We wanted to remind the audience that this is sort of an ongoing struggle for him ... There are still things brewing inside of him," Katims says. "We thought it was sort of important just on a story level, to remind Amber that, if she's going to get married to Ryan, she has to go into it with her eyes wide open."
But considering it was one of the members of Ashes of Rome, Adam (Peter Krause) and Crosby's (Dax Shepard) first signed act on their new label, where does Amber's job at The Luncheonette stand? "Obviously this not only puts that job in danger but it has the added discomfort that they're her family as well. That's something that is dealt with in the next episode as well as her, in a way, needing to figure out she can talk to about this," Katims says. "In a way, the obvious choice is her mom, but it's complicated by the fact that she and Sarah have butted heads this particular issue over the course of the season." Grandpa Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), who was the one to go down to the police station after Ryan's arrest, will play a big role as well. "Zeek obviously has a history with Ryan, and they share a past in the military so I think Zeek also plays a role over the next few episodes in the story," Katims says. But the biggest question of all is: Will Amber even stay by Ryan's side? And what will she do to help Ryan, who also lied to her about using anti-anxiety medication, if she does remain by his side? "It puts everything in question and that's what she's sort of grappling with," Katims says. "Definitely you feel like their engagement is in jeopardy."
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Joel and Julia: Unlike Amber and Ryan's relationship, which hit more of a sudden stop in this week's episode, Julia and Joel's troubles have been building up for quite awhile. "I think they've really been going through a role reversal this year and I think it's been a lot harder for her than it has been for Joel," Katims says. "I think that, to me, what pushed her over the edge in that particular moment where she felt like Joel was not there for her when she not only needed him to help with Victor but she also really needed support herself."
"They are in a tough spot in their marriage, and I think that it's going to continue to be something that they need to fight for," Katims says. "What makes it increasingly difficult is that Julia is feeling Joel slipping away from her a little bit and maybe not being really in the frame of mind of wanting to repair their relationship right now, which makes things more challenging between them and also makes the possibility of Julia leaning on Ed more likely." So does the same hold true for Joel and his boss, Peet? "Our intention with Joel and Peet was to never necessarily be moving in that direction, but I think it is going to reveal itself over time depending on what happens between Joel and Julia," Katims says. "The next few episodes are really critical in terms of their relationship." But is there still something left to save between Joel and Julia? After having seen the two overcome so many other obstacles in the show's first four seasons, Katims is optimistic. "We've all seen what a great connection they have with each other and what great love there is between them and what a great family they are. But right now, I don't think that's on the forefront of either of their minds," Katims says. "Even if things don't go well for them immediately, I do think that there's hope for them."
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Kristina: As Kristina's friend from chemo, Gwen, so eloquently put it in the episode, Kristina already won even though she won't be the next Mayor of Berkeley. "On one hand, you can say that she's had a big loss. On the other hand, you can say that she threw her hat in the ring and almost won this election. I think there were so many positives that have come out of it for her," Katims says. "Because she's been so incredibly busy and preoccupied with the campaign, this is a time for her to catch up on time with her kids and her family." However, it sounds like Kristina won't stay idle for long. "There are new challenges ahead for her and Adam with Max over the second-half of the season which Adam and Kristina will have to deal with which also might start to inspire what Kristina winds up doing next with her life."
Parenthood airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC. What do you think will happen to Amber and Ryan, and Joel and Julia? Are you sad Kristina lost the election? What do you think she should do next? Weigh in below!