‘Life Unexpected’: Hit the road, dad

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Monday night, the show partook in the time-honored tradition of the road trip episode, complete with a cabin in the woods, awkward sleeping arrangements and, of course, many emotional reveals. There’s something about the road trip episode that brings out the feelings. I think it’s a combination of the enclosed space of the car, not being to escape one’s company and the sense of adventure that gets the characters out of their comfort zone and into close proximity with someone else’s personal bubble. I couldn’t help but think of “Stolen Kisses,” the “Dawson’s Creek” episode in which Dawson invites his friends to his Aunt Gwen’s (a very pre-“Modern Family” Julie Bowen) home in the mountains.

Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) is aware of his feelings for Cate (Shiri Appleby). He likes her so much, he asks Bug (Rafi Gavron), who’s replaced Math (Austin Basis) as his Cate sounding board, if it’s “weird to want to smell someone.” Yes, but not as weirdly awkward as it gets when Baze joins Cate and Lux (Brittany Robertson) on a road trip. After discovering a stack of birthday cards from her father that her mother hid from her – why does the other parent always hold onto these things if they don’t want them found? -- Cate decides to go visit him in Tahoe. Ryan’s (Kerr Smith) face reads, “Oh, crap, I’m going to have to deal with all of the wedding planning on my own.”


Meanwhile, Bug’s friend Gavin (Rhys Williams) has returned as a grade A jerk and thrashes the bar. To give Bug time to clean up, Lux guilts Baze into coming on the trip with her and Cate. She’s never had a family road trip experience before, she says. Well played, Lux. And off they go, leaving Ryan and Bug at home. Who else hoped we might see the two of them exchange some words after the car drove away? Maybe the understanding Ryan could have even helped Bug clean up the bar. After seeing Baze attempt to form a relationship with his daughter’s boyfriend, it would have been nice to see Ryan do the same as her soon-to-be stepfather.

On the road, Baze smells Cate’s hair. It’s every bit as awkward as it sounds. He tries to play it off by telling her he smelled feet and that she should keep her distance. Cate wants to know where she should go. The trunk? Good luck with that. They’ve brought along so much stuff – a beach ball, really? -- for this little trip, she couldn’t sit in the trunk even if she wanted to. But the trip is not just full of bickering. A stop at a corn dog stand makes for the most photogenic family photos. Seriously, these three should be on a brochure for young adults who’ve just been reunited with the kid they gave up. It can work out for you too!

No road trip would be complete without car trouble, which forces Cate, Baze and Lux to spend an unplanned night at a bed and breakfast. Lux is a kicker, so Cate gets into bed with Baze after constructing a pillow wall. There was a similar tension-filled bed arrangement between Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Joey (Katie Holmes) in that “Dawson’s” episode. Cate admits that she had a lot of fun on the road and that the reason she wants to see her dad so badly is because she sees the relationship that Baze has with Lux. It’s an uncharacteristically soft, tender moment. With his newly discovered feelings for Cate, it’s almost too much for Baze to handle, so he fakes snoring. While the emotional walls are still up somewhat, the pillow wall comes down by morning and the two wake up cuddling each other.

Baze’s relationship with Lux is growing, but Cate’s dad, Grant (Peter Horton), is more like the early Baze who didn’t want to be a father. Cate is happy to be reunited with her dad and even wants him to walk her down the aisle, but Grant reveals to Baze that kids are “a lot of work when they’re little.” That’s when my “this guy is bad news” meter goes into overdrive. Baze gets a bad vibe from him too and warns Cate that she’s “looking for something that’s not there.” Cate gets made at Baze, who storms off in his truck back to Portland. When Grant doesn’t show up the next day to meet Cate and Lux, Cate doesn’t just go home. Instead, she goes to confront Grant, who says he married her mom because she was pregnant. Basically, he just wants to be a free man living alone in the woods. Unlike Baze, who immediately took responsibility for Lux when she reentered his life, Grant doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone but himself. Cate realizes that she’s been blaming Baze for abandoning her and wrecking her, but really, it was her father who wrecked her. I was impressed with how stoic she remained as she walked away from him, but then she turned the corner and saw that Baze hadn’t left. He slept in his truck all night. Baze finally gets to be there for Cate and she lets him as she breaks down in his arms.

“We felt like a family for the first time. It felt really good,” Baze later tells Lux when she asks about his feelings for Cate. Baze looks so hopeful and happy in this moment.

The road trip leads Lux to realize her true feelings too. She loves Cate and Baze and she’s ready for them to officially become her parents. I’m glad we’ve finally crossed this bridge.

Readers, what did you think of the show’s first family trip? Creator Liz Tigelaar told me it’s a new feel for the show and one they’re moving toward. I quite liked seeing the family unit bonding over corn dogs and old music, although I did miss Ryan. What did you think of Cate’s dad, who I think made Baze look like Parent of the Year. For all his faults, Baze wants to know his daughter and he’s trying. And what do you think Baze will do about his feelings during next week’s big wedding episode?

-- Vlada Gelman (Follow my TV musings on Twitter: @stayingin)


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