I finally got around to watching this week’s episode of Parenthood (thank you DVR) featuring Max Braverman and his family and their struggle when he goes missing. Now, this was my first time even watching Parenthood but I was able to get a fairly decent grasp of the plot line; with one exception that required a phone call to my mother but she explained it to me so I’m all set! Overall I think they did a nice job with the story of Max going missing but I had a few issues with it. I’d love to hear what you all though about the episode especially if you are a parent of someone diagnosed with aspergers or autism.
Max’s parents, Kristina and Adam, begin this episode hardly speaking to each other. As the episode goes on I realize that Adam cheated on Kristina with his receptionist who he hasn’t fired and doesn’t plan on it. Yikes! Kristina decides she needs space and purpose in her life so she starts working for a campaign to elect Bob Little. This mother of three – Haddie Braverman – 17, Max Braverman (diagnosed with aspergers) – 11, and infant Nora Braverman – heads out Friday to meet her new coworkers.
When Kristina’s new boss tells her he expects her at a meeting the next day (Saturday) she pauses realizing that she is supposed to take Max to the museum to see the dinosaurs but since it’s her first day and this man is pretty much expecting her to be there she agrees. Naturally, given the state of their relationship, she doesn’t tell Adam this until he gets home from work that night after he says he is working Saturday. At this point, Max is sitting at his iPad researching the museum and determining when the best time to go is and how to avoid crowds. Max does not notice or care that his parents are trying to speak and work things out, but continues to rattle off facts and ideas for the museum. As his parents get more annoyed with each other’s lack of communication Max begins to hear what they’re saying which is that neither of them can take him to the museum. I thought Max Burkholder (the actor who plays Max) did an excellent job in this scene portraying a child diagnosed with aspergers. He was believably obsessive about the museum and when he found out he couldn’t go, he threw a tantrum and stormed out of the kitchen because his plans had been changed.
With no options left, Adam and Kristina ask their oldest daughter, Haddie, to watch Max while they’re at work on Saturday. Obviously frustrated with always having to babysit her younger brother and be their fallback, she resists but eventually is given no choice. I think we can all see where this is going… When Max comes in Haddie’s room rattling off detailed directions to the museum via public transportation, Haddie repeatedly tells him to leave and let her study. Clearly annoyed with the situation she is in and not wanting to deal with Max’s obsessive need to go to the museum, she keeps speaking over him and telling him to leave until finally he gives up and does. An hour goes by and she decides it’s time to see what Max is up to. Big surprise, the house is empty. Cut to Max boarding a bus presumably to the museum.
Haddie calls the police and her father, Adam, who promptly leaves work. While speeding through town, Adam is on the phone with Haddie reminding her to tell the police that Max is autistic and will react erratically when approached. He is on the way to the museum and tells Haddie to stay home in case Max shows up there or calls. Adam comes up empty handed after a considerable search of the museum and the area around it. Kristina is still in her meeting and has her phone on silent.
Meanwhile, Max is alone downtown trying to ask for help to get to the museum. No one cares and bumps into him as he walks down the streets alone. As Max gets more and more anxious, the sounds of the traffic and people talking are elevated to emulate what he is feeling. I thought the directors did a nice job with this scene.
Kristina misses 26 of Adam’s calls by the time the meeting is over. Realizing something must be wrong she immediately calls him without listening to her voicemails. Adam tells her to not worry, the police found him and you can imagine her astonishment when she had no idea Max was even missing. During the time he’s missing, Haddie seems extremely complacent to me. I don’t know if it just came across that way to me or if it was intentional. Not knowing what it’s like to be in that situation, I can’t say for sure how I would react but I would think I would be more concerned and frantic.
When Max Braverman is brought home in a police car, he is obvious to the fact that he has just caused an unimaginable amount of stress and fear for his family. He continues walking toward the house and tells them he got to ride in a cop car. His parents understand that there’s no reasoning with him, there’s no way they can get him to understand what happened today but Haddie is frustrated and probably anxious from the day. She stops Max and asks him if he understands what happened today. He is only concerned that he never made it to the museum. Haddie loses it and sobs as she reminds her parents that it’s not fair that he gets to leave like that and not get punished; that he doesn’t understand that what he did was wrong. She is sick of her brother only thinking about himself (in this case that he never made it to the museum). Max simply waits for her to finish then asks his parents if she’ll get in trouble for yelling at him and says he’s going to feed his lizard.
This was a pretty important part of the episode. It really highlighted what Max feels as someone with aspergers and what the family goes through. Again, not living this situation, I cannot speak to its full accuracy but I felt it was well written and well acted. What did you all think? By the way, you can watch the full episode here: http://www.nbc.com/parenthood/video/missing/1370967/
Haddie and her father have a moment after all of this where she apologizes and he reminds her that she handles a lot having a brother with aspergers. She then says, “I know it’s not his fault but it just sucks a little” and Adam responds “yeah, it does”. So this felt like a moment that many parents and siblings of children with autism go through. Another important scene.
The episode ends with Adam and Kristina semi resolving their relationship and starting to move on. Then the entire family goes to the museum with
Max. In this last scene, Max is describing everything about the dinosaur to his sister Haddie while Kristina tries to put her hands on his shoulders. He shrugs them off most likely due to a sensory issue and she makes a face of disappointment presumably for not being able to embrace her own child. Adam, Nora, and Kristina hold each other behind Haddie and Max while Max, oblivious to this family moment, continues on about the dinosaurs.
Accuracy of the Character
Overall I felt like Max Burkholder did an amazing job with Max’s character. He played with his hands and became more frantic and uncomfortable as he realized he wouldn’t be able to go the museum. He continued speaking over his parents and Haddie when they were trying to get through to him with the exception of the scene where Haddie freaks out at the end. Max is obsessed with the dinosaurs and the idea of going to the museum. These are all characteristics of someone diagnosed with aspergers. I have read in a few places that Max and the actors that have scenes with him meet with specialists and doctors every few tapings to go over the scenes and make sure they are accurate. I imagine this episode relied heavily on that expertise.
Please share your thoughts on this episode with us in the comments below.