I'm am going to write this review so quickly! Seriously! I have a time limit because I have a life other than writing these things! Go go go!
So! The comic relief goes to Crosby and his family tonight. Oliver is having a hard time getting along with his band, and they kick him out. He comes to stay with Crosby and Jasmine for a while, and he teaches bad habits to Jabbar and is generally an unsatisfactory house guest. Jasmine sits down and talks with him about what's really going on, and Oliver admits that he's nervous to finish the album because he's afraid of being mediocre. As a thank you for talking through his problems, Oliver writes a song for Jasmine.
This was a cute little thread. It didn't have a lot of substance but it did have a lot of humor and a few genuinely touching moments. I like the way this plot thread resisted simple answers - Oliver is a stereotype. He's a stoner and he keeps talking all about art and destiny and all that. But, he has a genuinely good time hanging out with Jabbar, and it turns out he and Jasmine have something in common. Jasmine too resists her earlier role as just the stuck up girl who stops Crosby from having fun. I think lately the show has been compensating for earlier dislike of the character by making Jasmine a lot more understanding. It certainly showed here. Her conversation with Oliver was one of the episode's highlights for me.
Max and Micah's friendship is over, and Adam and Kristina want to find out why. Max eventually admits to Adam that he told Micah that basketball was stupid, and that he couldn't play because he was in a wheelchair. In order to patch up the boys' friendship, Adam tells Max to apologize, but this doesn't work. Micah has moved on and has made new friends. Adam and Kristina are devastated to see how alone Max is, but Max at least has Hank. If their alienating personalities make relationships difficult, at least they have each other!
I always like stories about Max, because that kid is seriously a phenomenal actor and all that, but I'll be honest, some of this felt a bit like a rehash. We know that Max has trouble with friends at school, and we know that Adam and Kristina feel helpless. However, the great acting by everyone involved still made this a good thread to watch.
Hank was involved in another of the plot threads, too. Sarah gets an interview with a big client for photography, thanks to Carl, who sets it up. Hank is also interviewing for the same position, but Sarah gets the job. Of course, she's rather out of her depth, since she lacks the equipment and the experience to really take on something like this. She asks Hank if they can do the job together.
I liked this a lot. I like how Carl seems like the perfect guy, but there's just the hint that maybe he heavily influenced the client to hire Sarah, which makes him sneaky, if still well-meaning. And Hank's disbelief that Sarah could get that interview was handled very well. He was rude to her, but she didn't take his crap, and she also understood where the rudeness was coming from. In all, it may have been a slightly contrived way to get them to work together, but I'm still looking forward to it.
And then we've got Amber. Ryan is leaving soon, and Amber doesn't want to talk to him. Ryan and Zeek have a final conversation, wherein Ryan thanks Zeek for everything he's done for him. Zeek goes to Amber and tells her that Ryan deserves a goodbye, but Amber gets upset and tells Zeek that this isn't any of his business. However, her grandfather's words seem to stick, and she does go and tell Ryan goodbye. Later, she apologizes to Zeek for her freak out.
Obviously the acting was stunning, because Mae Whitman never delivers anything but the best. Beyond that, I liked to see the bonding between Zeek and Amber. It's an interesting character dynamic. I'm sad to see Ryan go, honestly. He was a very interesting character. I am curious as to what's going to be next for Amber. I hope we can focus on her work for a bit. I always liked seeing her interact with Ashes of Rome, even though it was obviously problematic because of her relationship with Ryan.
Again, I've saved Julia and Joel's plot for last. Not a lot actually happened in this one. Julia spoke up and told Joel the truth - well, sort of. She told Joel that she's been unhappy since she left work, and that since Ed was going through the same thing, they became friends over that. Then she admits to the kiss. However, Julia makes it seem like it's all way more one-sided than it actually was. Joel is understandably furious. He's distracted about it at work, but gets no sympathy from Peet. Later, Julia asks Joel if he wants to go see a marriage counselor, but Joel says he doesn't think their problems can be fixed.
See, now I firmly believe Julia is in the wrong. Did you notice how she gave that little spiel to Joel? She didn't really apologize, she just made excuses and tried to downplay how bad it was. Joel has every reason to be pissed. I really like where this is going, because I think it's interesting to push Julia in such a dark direction. Peet's dismissive attitude of Joel's personal problems was also the perfect way to parallel his situation with Julia's. While Julia and Ed's relationship only had the illusion of professionalism (the sustainability committee), Joel and Peet's relationship really is entirely professional. Sorry Julia, but you're the bad guy here.
As you can probably tell from my breakdown of the different plots, I think this one was pretty strong. Sure, there were moments here or there that were a bit weaker, but overall, I really enjoyed it!