It's always a bit difficult to review this show as a whole, because often the differing plot lines vary in quality. Some of them I loved, others I wasn't too crazy about. I guess we shall take them one by one.
Starting with my least favorite, I have to say I wasn't thrilled with the Sarah and Amber plot. Don't get me wrong - in terms of acting, it was great, as always. Mae Whitman and Lauren Graham do an amazing job of portraying the relationship between these two characters. But honestly, I think this plot is just wearing me out. Last week, we saw Ryan confront Sarah about some of her concerns. But instead of propelling the plot forward, we got more of the same. Sarah and Amber have another confrontation about the wedding, but in the end Sarah apologizes and they decide they're going to plan the wedding together. I just anticipate a lot of going back and forth on this one, and I'm still not sure whether we're supposed to think that Ryan and Amber will be endgame or not. I did like seeing Drew in this one. It was really sweet that Amber wanted Drew to come with them when they eloped, but I thought it was very true to Drew's character that he wouldn't let Amber get married without their mom. This plot thread wasn't awful by any means, but it wasn't my favorite.
Then we've got Kristina's campaign. I'm still not a fan of the entire concept, and I think this episode really cemented why. Basically, initial reports show that Kristina is way down in the polls. Big surprise, right? Anyways, she enlists the family's help going door to door, which results in some funny moments such as Crosby running across an old girlfriend (or, more probably, a one night stand). Despite how far behind Kristina is, Heather won't let her give up hope. She helps Kristina prepare for a big debate, pushing her hard and shooting down a lot of her responses. Heather even suggests that Kristina talk about Max's mental disability as a way to garner sympathy with voters, but Kristina shoots that down and says that her son is off limits. Then, we get to the debate. At first, it seems like Bob Little is wiping the floor with Kristina. But then, when a woman with a deaf son comes up to address problems with the school system, Kristina steps forward. She gives an impassioned speech about Max, and then leaves the stage to offer the woman her phone number and ask her to call any time. This turns the tide in Kristina's favor, and she wins the debate. Although she still has a long uphill climb ahead of her, it now looks like Kristina has a chance to win.
So, the first part of this thread I really enjoyed. The campaign was clearly going badly - people weren't receptive to the door-to-door stuff, and nobody was really paying any attention to Kristina at a booth they had set up. Heather's harsh coaching of Kristina during debate practice also showed how difficult all of this is on the family. I really think it could have been interesting if Kristina did badly at the debate and then dropped out of the race. The implications of such a failure could have made for a much more focused story moving forward. Instead, we get this big sweeping inspirational moment in the campaign. While emotionally poignant, it was a bit too cheesy for me to take seriously.
Crosby's plot wins for comedic value. Jasmine has decided that the family needs a minivan, and Crosby is vehemently against such a plan. He thinks it's too "girly." Things get even worse when he finds out that Jasmine plans to sell his car, not hers. Then, the two cars his family owns will be a VW Bug and a minivan. Although not pleased, he concedes. Later at the Luncheonette, he ends up partying with the guys from the band as a way to overcompensate for his unmanly cars, having completely forgot that he was supposed to have dinner with Jasmine's mother. Since he can't drive, he calls Jasmine, who comes to pick him up in the minivan with all of the drunk band members. They go out for takeout and then Jasmine drops them off. At the end of the episode, we see Jasmine and Crosby sitting in the minivan together, as Crosby accepts the new car.
What a freakin' adorable plot line. At first, I was worried they were going to go back to the "Jasmine is a bitch" story line that they used to love giving us. Instead, we see her desire for a minivan comes from her devotion to her family. The episode showed Crosby's growth and how he really has come to embrace responsibility for his family. When he makes a mistake and gets drunk at work, Jasmine doesn't yell at him for it. In fact, she's extremely nice about the whole thing. I've always been a bit on the fence about Jasmine as a character, but here I really enjoyed her.
Zeek and Camille continue on from where they left off, with Zeek heeding Julia's advice and agreeing to go look at a condo with Camille. After they take a look, Zeek makes Camille a fire pit at the house, which of course is his taciturn way of saying that he doesn't want to move. Camille tells Zeek that she understands, and Zeek seems apologetic, saying that he really did try. I enjoyed this little plot thread quite a lot, but I do hope it continues. If this is the end of that story arc, I'll feel cheated. Camille is now going away to Italy with her art class, which I like, and I'm hoping that the time apart will add another dimension to their relationship.
Okay, I saved the Julia and Joel plot for the end because I have a lot to say about it. While campaigning for Kristina, Joel keeps getting calls from work, and Julia says it's okay for him to go. Julia then brings the kids with her door to door, but she coincidentally comes across Ed's house. He invites her in, and Sydney and Victor go off to play with Ed's kids. Julia and Ed talk about their dissatisfaction with being stay-at-home parents, and Ed decides to make dinner for everyone. The kids get fish sticks, while Ed and Julia make some nice normal grownup food. Everything seems to be going well, but then Ed's wife comes home, and Julia freaks out. Her, Sydney and Victor leave in a rush. When they get home, Joel has prepared a fancy home cooked meal. He's doing this to apologize for how busy work has been getting and for being so occupied by it. Julia feels guilty about Ed, but doesn't say anything, and has dinner with her husband.
First of all, I love this Ed character. I love him a lot. In fact, I might love him a bit too much, because I find myself rooting for him and Julia to spend more time together. Clearly, the show is setting up the fact that Julia feels uncomfortable with how much she enjoys Ed's company. When Ed's wife comes home, Julia's extreme reaction can attest to that. She rushes out of there like she'd just been caught in bed with him, or something. This could all be very interesting. However, there's also Joel.
Now, for years of Joel's life, he was a stay-at-home father while Julia was a high powered career woman. He did everything for his daughter and wife. And now that he has a job that keeps him busy and Julia has to stay at home with the kids? Well, he feels so guilty about this that he actually makes a nice home cooked dinner and is constantly reaffirming in his love and devotion to his family. Is it just me, or is this guy too good to be true? I'm serious, I love Joel Graham. He's pretty much perfect. As we set up this tension with Julia and Ed vs. Joel and Peet, and I'm not entirely sure what to expect. That can be a very good thing, since I like not knowing where a story is going to take me, but there's also the possibility that it goes a rather cliched route and one of them ends up kissing the wrong person. I would be pretty irritated by that turn of events, to say the least. Still, I think for now the Graham-Braverman family is winning for most captivating story.
What do I think of the episode overall? That's a good question. As I mentioned before, I thought that Sarah and Amber's plot this week was more of the same, and I'm still not grabbed by Kristina's campaign. Still, I found myself thoroughly grabbed by the episode unfolding before me.