Photo: Jordin Althaus / NBC

How Long Before Stupid Sarah Gets Back Together With Stupid Hank?

And other not-quite-burning questions sparked by the Season 5 premiere of Parenthood.

Parenthood is back! Since we last saw the Bravermans, months have passed -- not just for us, but for them and all the other people in their orbit who have different last names and stuff. So while the premiere caught us up on events that took place in the gap between seasons, it also set up storylines that will presumably unspool in the episodes to come...which left us with some not-quite-burning, so-far-still-just-smoldering questions.

How's Kristina's political campaign going to pan out?

When Bob (Jonathan Tucker) popped by to see Kristina (Monica Potter) and her pretty new hair and invite her to run his mayoral campaign, I was sure it was to bring him back as a complication for Amber (Mae Whitman), already feeling insecure in her relationship with Ryan (Matt Lauria) now that he's overseas, and seeming, to her, distant emotionally as well as geographically. Presenting Bob's candidacy as the impetus -- coupled with her conversations with her former chemo partner Gwen (Rose Abdoo) -- for Kristina to give free rein to her ambitions and pursue the office herself is so much smarter, and opens up so many other exciting avenues for the season. Like: despite his feminist posturing, Adam (Peter Krause) always seems to me like he'd rather Kristina didn't work outside the home, and definitely doesn't show many signs of being a natural when it comes to sharing the parenting/housekeeping load -- so how well or (more likley) badly will he do when he has to take on some of what have heretofore been her responsibilities? When we know Max (Max Burkholder) has a hard time dealing with even small changes in his life, how will he react to the gigantic one of not having his mother around as much? And does Bob's arguably unethical behaviour with Amber when she was working on his campaign presage a Filner/Weiner reveal yet to come, that will clear the path for a Kristina victory? (And, if so, how obnoxiously will her in-laws try to take advantage of the perks of her position?)

Is Ryan done having PTSD?

Speaking of Ryan: yay, he's back, and he proposed! This was a thrilling moment for me, because Amber was so excited to have misread Ryan's caginess, and she deserves happiness, and the two of them are so goddamn cute together...when he's doing well. But if he was having trouble reintegrating into normal life after his last deployment, should she (and we) be bracing ourselves for him to experience similar challenges this time? Working for Joel (Sam Jaeger) wasn't the panacea Ryan needed last time, but will Joel and Ryan's second attempt go better in order to affirm the show's unofficial thesis -- that there can be perfectly high stakes in stories about good people doing their best -- and demonstrate that loved ones deserve second chances?

What's Pete's deal?

When a married man is evasive about the sex of a person with whom he aspires to have a close working relationship, it usually means that, even if they're not sleeping together, he has at least harboured some impure thoughts. (I've seen TV before!) Usually, this character has a name like "Charlie" or "Alex" so that it's easy to believe that, as long as the guy was careful with his use of pronouns, the guy's wife had no inkling that he's been talking about a lady this whole time, but "Pete"? Don't even with the "short for Petra" bullshit; no actual living woman is or ever has been named Pete. Anyway, I will be pretty disappointed in Joel if the first thing he does after landing this amazing job is sleep with Pete (Sonya Walger), so given that the episode already confounded my TV-trained expectations for how storylines are most likely to go, I hope this one doesn't bear out either. But was I the only one who thinks that Pete's observation about how much Julia (Erika Christensen) is dying to go back to work is going to lead her to (conveniently) offer Julia a job as in-house counsel?

Where's all the talk about Aida's skin tone going?

Yay, Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) had their baby, and it's a girl! Boo, Crosby has to be a dick about whether she's going to be a Braverman or a Trussell-Braverman. I know this is an issue in families in which the spouses both kept their original surnames, and that it makes sense for logistical reasons for all the kids to have the same last name, whatever it is; I also get that this baby arrived a lot earlier than expected (though I would say three weeks is not so early that they wouldn't have had a baby shower at which they would have received the gift of a car seat or at least a couple of damn onesies???), so some important decisions about the new arrival hadn't been made yet. But as far as I'm concerned, the person who has the privilege of gestating the human in her actual body gets to make the final decision on what last name it gets once it's out. Shorter: shut up, Crosby.

Of greater concern to me is why everyone kept commenting on how white the baby (eventually named Aida, like the opera, which I can tell you from experience as someone who has a first name with a non-standard pronunciation, no one will ever get right, so I hope they're fine hearing her called "Ada" or MAYBE "Ida" about once a day) looks. I feel like it's rude for the actual family to say anything about it, but that's how the Bravermans are sometimes. That said, I'm pretty sure that establishing the difference between Jasmine's skin colour and the baby's is that it's setting up some awful thing where Jasmine keeps getting mistaken for Aida's nanny or something -- which I know is a thing (here's just one of the depressingly high number of results when you Google "mother not her nanny"), and which, if any show has to dramatize it, I guess I'm glad it will be this one, increasing the chances that it will be handled thoughtfully and sensitively.

Why bring back Hank???

PSYCH, I know why they brought back Hank (Ray Romano). I'm no less upset about how things ended between Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Mark (Josh Ritter) now than I was at the end of the last season, but holding on to the hope that he will eventually come back means rooting against his new sitcom, and I'm not prepared to do that. And I don't care that they've put this other bro Carl (Josh Stamberg) in Sarah's path, ostensibly so that he can get to know her and realize the benefits of age-appropriate romantic partnerships; the only reason for stupid Hank not to have stayed in Minnesota, near his daughter, is so that he and Sarah can eventually get back together (also: so that he can strike up a friendship with Max that might eventually evolve into Max learning how to express himself as a photographer, which...fine). And that I will not stand for.

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