Brothers & Sisters – “An American Family”

“An American Family”

October 7th, 2007

You may have noticed that, until today, Sunday was recap free here at Cultural Learnings. However, based on stats and my own general interest in the shows the night has to offer, Brothers & Sisters has earned a coveted spot in the lineup. Of course, I use a very relative form of “coveted.”

And as far as family activities go, there is nothing more American than a road trip. Considering that the last road trip the Walker family took resulted in the discovery of an incredibly valuable plot of land and roadside bar antics, in spite of Tommy being present. With Justin being transfered to San Diego after his accident in Iraq, the Walker family (A more desirably group including Kevin, Kitty and Nora) descends onto the city in their minivan. And yes: Nora Walker is a total backseat driver. And it is lovely.

But what this episode really represents is a return to the show’s successful formula: faced with a crisis, the Walker family devolves into a mess of neuroses which sends them into a tail spin. It’s a formula that could be hopelessly grating, but the stellar cast always manages to elevate the material. In this case, the road trip ran into a political land mine, Tommy ran into a young and blonde land mine at Ojai, and Sarah ran into an ex-wife/Rebecca related land mine while meeting with Joe.

And do you know what? When a show does these things with this much grace, I can’t possibly complain.

The big story should be the return of Dave Annable’s Justin, back from Iraq with an injured leg. We knew he wouldn’t be gone for long: he stayed in the credits despite his absence. I’m actually a little disappointed that he returns to the show with pretty well the same dilemma as before: refusing narcotics for the pain turns him back into a drug-addled individual. It’s nothing new, and really doesn’t expand his character into any new territory. The knee injury is really just another drug addiction, a barrier to Justin’s normalcy, but they didn’t have to make the correlation for us.

And the show, smartly, does not dwell on Justin being depressed or injured; with the arrival of Senator McAllister, we get a direct view into Justin’s head, and subsequently (hopefully, anyways) avoid multiple episodes of “Justin the Asshole.” And the episode, then, isn’t defined by his state but rather but the rest of its developments.

For Kitty and Nora, the drama arrives in the form of an over-zealous right-wing radio host who baits Kitty into alienating his entire audience from McAllister’s campaign after he insulted her family. Said baiting drives a rift into the impending nuptials, as well as the Walker family dynamic, and provided some lighter moments. It also returns to Nora’s politics, necessary in the future campaign issues sure to follow.

Tommy, meanwhile, continued to feel alienated at home and met a potential new suitor worthy of adultery in the form of his new office assistant brought in by Rebecca. Speaking of the illegitimate sister, she comes clean to Sarah about coming onto Joe just in time for Joe to reveal to Sarah that he’s getting back together with his ex-wife.

And this is really an American family: flawed, complicated, and engaging television experience. The show still has a few storylines to return to (Saul’s sexuality, for one), but in the meantime it’s right on track.

Cultural Observations:

  • You know, the opening of the episode would have been a lot more effective if a Global promo hadn’t ruined the fact that it was clearly not Justin’s funeral minutes earlier.
  • The opening shows the truth: Kitty and Kora good, Kevin and Sarah awesome (But frustrating), Tommy *Snore*…oh, was I saying something? I fell asleep there. Sorry about that.
  • I kind of love that Nora gets upset about her letters being called “strident.” And the entire fight, especially the “gay fandango in the Lincoln Bedroom,” was an early highlight between the show’s most ridiculous individuals.
  • Man, Sarah didn’t deserve to be dumped for the ex-wife. It really turned her into a bitch, too.
  • Tommy’s paramour was, unless I’m mistaken, Emily Rose, who played a similarly seductive character on summer series John from Cincinnati.
  • McAllister: “No. I’m madly in love with her” re: whether he can get out of the wedding. Poor guy, he’s sealed his own fate.
  • The bedside banter was quick-witted, sharp and funny, but then returns to a harsh reality of Justin’s recovery. The show is very good at balancing those elements.

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