All That’s Left Is the Hugging
Adam warily watches a seemingly fine Kristina dig into the cake ordered in the event that she had actually won the election. Despite losing, Kristina insists she's just fine and is looking forward to baking, family dinners, and activities she couldn't do while campaigning. Later, Heather and Kristina share a goodbye hug - losing this race stung more than other campaigns on which Heather's worked.
It's like salt rubbed in an open wound when a "concerned citizen" passive-aggressively suggests Kristina fix a slide at the playground so Nora doesn't hurt herself. Even Gwen questions Kristina's cool-calm-and-collected demeanor - it's got to sting that she lost by only 947 votes. Kristina's true feelings finally come pouring out when she confides in Gwen that she thinks she could've won the election if she'd stooped to Bob Little's mudslinging level. Instead of a typical date night, Adam helps Kristina "get dirty," since she remained pure throughout the election. Like two teenagers, they chuck eggs and insults at a prominent Bob Little billboard. Kristina can't hold back a big grin.
With the power out, nasty, upset tenants cause Sarah to slip quietly into Carl's apartment to "fix something." As they giggle about Sarah's escape, the building's lights go out. Carl goes in for the kill, locking Sarah in a passionate kiss... The next morning, Sarah is awkwardly trying to duck back into her apartment when she sees Carl in the hallway. Her decision made, she knocks on Carl's door to inform him that she's 40 and can't have lovely evenings like that again. Maybe one day she'll find a perfect guy, one with the exact same positive attributes Carl has to offer.
Drew's flabbergasted to hear that his not-girlfriend, Natalie, was macking on a frat guy last weekend. He's a one-girl kind of guy, but Crosby encourages him to live it up and experiment. Once this free love period of his life is over, it's over for good! Natalie's "no rules, no strings attached" sex doesn't fully appeal to Drew, so he tries to insert some rules: frat parties are her hook-up zone; his is yet to be determined. Realization washes over Natalie and she apologizes for hurting him because that was never her intention; she places Drew back in the friend zone. But the next day like clockwork, there's a booty call knock on Drew's door... Much to his surprise, it's Amy.
Joel sleeping on the couch is the last straw for Julia. They need to fix their marriage for the kids, for them. Joel unenthusiastically agrees, proving he's turned a corner by leaving work early the next day to set up a family night pizza party. The kids are clearly a higher priority for him than his marriage, because he refuses to engage with Julia after learning Ed and his wife split up.
Ed's blowing up Julia's phone with texts - where's she been? Having learned that Ed split up with his wife, Julia shows up at his house. He has to stop contacting her - it's inappropriate and not fair to her or Joel. Guilt weighs heavily on Julia, though, and she awkwardly asks whether she was the reason his marriage ended. Ed assures her it's on him; he lost himself a long time ago. After putting on a happy face for years, he's finally getting the chance to wallow in his life mistakes. Julia goes in for a long, lingering goodbye hug - both pull back and stare into each other's eyes. Ed leans in slowly for a kiss and Julia lets it happen. The kiss starts to steam up, but Julia suddenly realizes the gravity of the situation and runs out crying. Guilt and sadness wrack Julia as she prepares for a fancy date night with Joel...
Amber's first day back at The Luncheonette is just awful. Zack can't play drums with his busted hand and his face looks horrible. Crosby and Adam have a serious talk with Amber about domestic violence; Amber must tell Sarah about the fight. Ryan waits for her at home, having called in sick to work. All the pent-up frustration and anger boils out of Amber: he's ruining the dream job she's worked so hard to get and he lied about taking the anxiety pills... Amber needs time to consider whether their relationship will work in the real world.
Shaken, Ryan spills the beans to Zeek over beer and a bonfire. The band has been baiting him - and Zack has no idea what's important in life! Zeek agrees, but what happened between the guys was important to Amber. Ryan miserably comments he often thinks he's not cut out for civilian life. As much as he hated Afghanistan, everything made sense and mattered over there - he can't seem to disconnect from that life. Zeek advises Ryan to decide in which world he belongs: alone in Afghanistan or married to Amber in Berkeley.
Amber finally turns up at Sarah's apartment to tell her all about Ryan's fight with Zack. Only after Amber asks does Sarah offer her precious daughter some advice: even though Amber's tough enough to stay with Ryan, it doesn't mean she's meant to.
Pondering her mom's words, a tearful Amber asks Ryan if they can talk... Unexpectedly, she passionately affirms that their differences are what make them work. She wants to be his wife and have his children! Ryan dissolves into tears - he can't do this life. He reenlisted. He signed papers. It's done, it's over. Ryan's going back to Afghanistan.