Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Review of Brothers And Sisters 4x03: "Almost Normal"

Written by Jennifer Levin And Sherri Cooper-Landsman
Directed by Michael Schultz

Nora (re Kitty): “Kevin, aggressive could kill her.”
Robert: “Cancer could kill her.”

Okay because this desperately needs to be asked, but what are some online viewers problems with this season because right now, apart from one particularly boring plot with Ojai, I’m on the verge of thinking this season could be the show’s best since the first year?

If it’s down to Kitty having lymphoma, then shame on everyone. Shame on you all. Clichéd or not, I’m actually finding this plot very absorbing and difficult to watch and a lot of it is down to some family experiences with an unfortunate outcome. The writing and the acting overall so far has been fantastic and it doesn’t stop here.

In fact there are plenty of harrowing scenes in this episode. In particular the first one involved Robert and Nora with Kitty when Dr Avadon told her that there was nothing in Kitty’s bone marrow but that it had spread to other areas. The most harrowing part during those scenes were Kitty’s muted silences as her options were being explained to her.

Chemotherapy was the obvious option but it’s not always a successful one, though Kitty would probably have the best of luck with it due to her age and the fact that she was at Stage 3 with her lymphoma. The other option that was being discussed was the R-Chop, which I’m gonna be honest with was something I had never heard about until watching this episode.

It’s one of those experimental procedures, mixing chemotherapy with drugs aggressively and also the one with the higher risks for Kitty in spite of some of the success it’s generated in other cases. Naturally it was also the option that Robert seemed the keenest on and yes, it would be the one that would lead him and Nora into conflict.

A lot of viewers on TWOP complained about Nora and Robert’s fighting in this episode and while both of them should’ve come to a compromise earlier, this was one of those moments where I got their fighting. It wasn’t over the top and neither of them were technically wrong. Both of them wanted Kitty to get the best treatment but they just went about it the wrong way.

Nora had something of a point when she highlighted Robert hadn’t been the best of husbands to Kitty in the last few months but there was also a degree of truth when he cited the Walkers mob mentality as well. Luckily for us, even after the disaster of the first dinner, it was nice that Nora and Robert were able to put their differences and focus on Kitty.

As for Kitty’s choice in going with the R-Chop treatment, I don’t know what to really say because it still is an experimental treatment and I can understand the opposition it generated from the likes of Nora, Saul and even Scotty during the dinner debacle but if it actually works for Kitty, then it’s worth it. Only time will tell, though it’s safe to assume that Kitty won’t be dying on us anytime soon.

As for Kitty trying to avoid getting into it and making a choice, I think I would have a similar reaction. It’s pretty organic and throwing herself into trying to pick a wedding dress for Rebecca might not have been the wisest thing but could anyone really say that they wouldn’t behave similarly in Kitty’s circumstances?

Kitty having to tell the rest of her family about her lymphoma was heartbreaking, especially given the circumstances in which Kevin found out. I’ve no idea how Travis got a hold of the information but the fact that he promised he wouldn’t use it against Robert’s campaign is definitely the least he can do.

Kevin’s reaction was absolutely gut wrenching and I can relate to it a lot. I’ve found out some pretty horrid stuff myself in relation to family from outsiders like Travis and it’s not the nicest thing in the world. Kevin assumed that Travis was making it up at first but when Kitty admitted it, it was really hard not to feel for the guy.

And then there was telling Scotty, Justin and Rebecca. Justin seemed restrained compared to other people and Rebecca herself felt guilty about the wedding shopping that she and Kitty had been doing during the day. Scotty won me over (not the hardest thing in the world) with his offering to cook for Kitty. Plus it made sense that Justin and Rebecca would postpone their wedding until Kitty had gone through her treatment.

Because of that it also made sense for Kitty to insist that they continued with their wedding plans as well. I’m not shipping Justin and Rebecca but in a lot of ways, this was one of their best episodes both as a couple and as individual characters. Just the way Rebecca was with Kitty as well nicely strengthened their bond.

One thing I also loved about this episode was that after one disastrous dinner, we got one that actually went off well. Even better was the return of Sarah at the end of the episode. With Rachel Griffiths on maternity, I thought it would be another week or two before Sarah reappeared but it was nice seeing her at the end. There are times when no words need to be spoken to convey a lot of feelings. Kitty and Sarah’s hug at the end did that in spades.

Kitty’s illness also caused ripples in other plots. Not only did Robert rightfully make her his number on priority but Kevin and Scotty wisely decided that it would be better to wait a while before having a child. It was this episode that actually made Scotty consider parenthood for him and Kevin. I’m still not totally sure about it but it’s nice to see them on the same page on the issue that I won’t deny.

For Justin it also seemed to get his backside in gear when dealing with a cadaver. It would’ve been so easy for him to freak out over seeing the dead, so it was a relief that it was his child prodigy lab partner who got the jitters instead.

Some people thought that Justin was too harsh with the guy but I actually think under the circumstances that Justin wasn’t. He gave the guy the right push without coming across as a dick. That’s good writing in my book. Plus I like the lab partner. There could be some good storylines there and Justin could use someone to interact with that he isn’t related to.

As for the segment of the episode that didn’t work – Dennis. I couldn’t care less about William screwing you over and I have little interest in whatever little scheme you have to try and tank Ojai. I did however like Saul taking charge of Holly trying to meet up with the guy and telling Dennis to get lost. Too bad with Ryan on the payroll that Dennis won’t do that.

Also in “Almost Normal”

Another opening scene with Justin and Rebecca, so can we have one with Kevin and Scotty even if we did see them in bed in this episode?

Kevin (re computer): “It’s not a baby.”
Travis: “Whatever it is, deal with it. I’m glad we settled this issue.”

Scotty using a computer programme as a dress rehearsal for parenthood? He would’ve been better off getting the doll in my opinion.

Nora: “Honey, you heard the doctor. You have to make a decision now.”
Kitty: “I will but we’re going shopping and I need to help Rebecca find a wedding dress.”

Nora: “Listen to me, Robert, I don’t care if you’re the senator or governor or king of Siam, you’ve not shown me that her life is safe in your hands. You don’t get to call the shots.”

With Sarah’s return, it was odd not to see Tommy, though I don’t doubt we will see him soon enough.

Kitty: “How do you feel about feathers?”
Rebecca: “That they belong on birds.”

Kevin: “Kit, it’s me; it’s your little brother. Please talk to me.”
Kitty: “Yeah, yeah.”
Kevin: “Please tell me, what you have, where is it? How long have you known?”
Kitty: “It’s lymphoma and Kevin, I’m so sorry you had to find out this way.”

Kitty and Rebecca were in the same bridal shop that we saw in “Vows” and “Something New”.

Scotty: “I don’t wanna wait for the right time to have a baby. There is no right time.”
Kevin: “But there is a wrong time. All I can do right now is think about Kitty and that wouldn’t be fair to a baby or to me or to you.”

Nora: “I don’t think we’ll ever be on the same page.”
Robert: “Well we both love Kitty. I don’t think we’d be fighting if we didn’t.”

Ryan was a no show in this episode. It isn’t exactly a bad thing but it does make me wonder why they made Luke Grimes a regular as well.

Robert: “I don’t wanna fight.”
Nora: “Good because I think we’re gonna need each other.”

Justin (to his lab partner): “I was really intimidated by you but right now, you’re in the foetal position.”

Standout music: Gregory Alan Isakov’s “3AM” and Michael Franti’s “Have A Little Faith” which was the last song of the episode.

Robert (to Kitty): “Cancer isn’t some magical reset button and I just wanna make sure we’re still working on our marriage, whether you’re sick or not.”

Chronology: A few days since “Breaking The News”.

Could this be the show’s best season yet? I know we’re nowhere near a fraction of the season yet but apart from the Ojai stuff, I think this show is on top of it’s game. “Almost Normal” was drama at it’s finest. This show can be intelligent and thought provoking and episodes like this one (and undoubtedly following ones) highlight that.

Rating: 9 out of 10.


Nat said...

Great review. The only reason I can think off that people don't seem to like this season is that it gets worse from here? Otherwise I don't know because this episode was excellent. Hugely emotional, especially at the end with the family dinner and Sarah's return. Very glad to see her.

I think Nora and Roberts fighting was understandable; they are people who both have very strong opinions and the research to back them up. Its hardly surprising that in the aftermath of finding out this awful news that they would clash. Glad they made up though and will work together.

Loved Justin's storyline, it made total sense that he would be ok with the dead body and the 16 year old wouldn't be. I think he gave him just the right amount of encouragement to get going; people need harsher words sometimes rather than molly-coddling.

Wasn't a fan of the Ojai stuff, especially as I can never tell what Saul is thinking with regards to the company. Makes it hard to know whats really going on.

shawnlunn2002 said...

A lot of stuff in this episode did make sense, with the character's reaction to Kitty's illness. Have you heard about Calista Flockhart's decision to reduce her screentime on the series?

Nat said...

Yeah, just blogged about it, really not great news.