Once, when I was in junior high, my mother, my sister, and I were the only people riding a Tilt-a-Whirl, and the operator played with its speed to give our car maximum spinning action. At first, I was laughing so hard that I couldn't catch my breath. Then, I just literally could not breathe. As I sat with my lungs pinned to the back of the car, my mother defied centrifugal force and leaned in to me. ''Breathe!'' she yelled. ''Breathe!'' There was a look of fear and fight on her face that I'd never seen before. It's the first moment I felt how much a mother loves a child. Sally Field wears that look on Brothers & Sisters as matriarch Nora Walker, wondering whether her son in Iraq is still breathing — and it's more affecting than anything Field could've said in her Emmy acceptance speech last month.
The season 2 premiere picked up with Nora recording a v-mail to Justin, who left for his second tour of duty in May's two-hanky first-season finale. The video was a clever way to make sure he (and we) knew what the California-based Walkers did last summer. In brief: Sarah and Joe stayed separated; Kevin worshiped his ''Reverend Boyfriend''; Kitty grew frustrated with her role as First Fiancée; and Tommy, for reasons I don't quite understand, didn't tell anyone that Julia hadn't left the house since they brought their newborn daughter, Lizzie, home. (As Tommy himself said this episode, ''Since when are we not allowed to blab?'')
Let's deal with the Tommy (Balthazar Getty) story line first. I can't begin to imagine what it's like to give birth to twins and lose one, but I do know that I don't want to waste valuable screen time showing Julia (Sarah Jane Morris) lying on a bed reading magazines or saying things like ''Tell [Nora] to call me when Justin dies. Then we'll have something to talk about.'' (You're right, Julia: This woman, who lost her husband and then found out that he'd had a lifetime affair and an illegitimate daughter, couldn't possibly understand grief.) Apparently the writers agreed with me, because Julia snapped out of it by episode's end. Let's keep her happy, and in the background, until the next family dinner, folks.
I am not a fan of Joe (John Pyper-Ferguson), but I will admit that he looked better than ever in this episode. Like well rested or something. The best part about him and Sarah (Rachel Griffiths) having sex on the washing machine was her telling Tommy about it. The worst part: Joe later telling Sarah, ''I was confused.'' What does that even mean? Sarah should divorce him and bond with Nora over being suddenly single. Fingers crossed she goes on dates that have her calling Kevin and saying things like ''If you don't talk to me, I might murder someone.''
Speaking of my favorite Walker, Kevin (Matthew Rhys), I'm so happy that Wicked has become a running joke and that he likes Mexican food. (Because in my mind, we go for margaritas all the time and end up talking dirty about Reverend Boyfriend. Who didn't have a Thorn Birds thing?) Kevin thought it cruel that RB will be sent to Malaysia for a few months or a year (!) on a mission, and after watching RB exit the shower, I agree with him. Mercy! This means that lovesick Kevin will likely be sexually frustrated and, perhaps, frequently drunk — two scenarios that we, no doubt, will all enjoy. Since Kevin's own social life is on hold, he may also be free to help Uncle Saul (Ron Rifkin) come out of the closet. As much as I want to know more about his Brokeback backstory, I respect that the writers aren't rushing into it. Saul has struggled with his identity for at least 20 years; he wouldn't find himself overnight (or in one episode).
NEXT: What happened to Justin?