Team Julia? Team Joel? 'Parenthood' exec begs, 'Just wait'

In a scene from "Parenthood,"  (L-R), Erika Christensen as Julia, Xolo Mariduena as Victor, Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney, and Sam Jaeger as Joel.
In a scene from "Parenthood," (L-R), Erika Christensen as Julia, Xolo Mariduena as Victor, Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney, and Sam Jaeger.Colleen Hayes / Today

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By Maria Elena Fernandez and Phil Helsel

Peter Krause and Lauren Graham have their Braverman thing down. Ask the "Parenthood" actors to pick a side—Team Julia or Team Joel—and neither of them misses a beat:

Krause: "She’s my sister, right?"

Graham: "I have to be there for my sister!"

In a scene from "Parenthood," (L-R), Erika Christensen as Julia, Xolo Mariduena as Victor, Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney, and Sam Jaeger.Colleen Hayes / Today

The fifth season of "Parenthood" has been laced with marital strife for Julia Braverman (Erika Christensen) and Joel Graham (Sam Jaeger), splitting fans over the producers' decision to have the show's youngest couple separate. Yes, there were many stressors on the family: adopting a pre-teen boy, Joel starting a new business, Julia transitioning from working-mom to a stay-at-home mom to two kids. But when they each started turning to someone else for emotional support and Julia confessed she had kissed another man, Joel moved out.

Like Joel's father-in-law Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), many fans have been wondering, "Joel, what are you doing?" Others are angry with Julia for ruining everything. And others switch allegiances every time someone acts like a jerk.

But not the 12-year-old daughter of executive producer Jason Katims. She's consistent. "She hates Joel!" he told TODAY at an NBC press event in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Katims said he encounters members of both Team Joel and Team Julia on a daily basis. So TODAY asked him why he chose to put the seemingly in love couple through the ringer.

"I really felt like we wanted to explore this story this year because I felt it was something we hadn’t explored yet on the show," Katims said. "I’m not either on one person’s side or the other. I think people tend to be more with Julia for a couple of reasons—he’s clearly the one who chose to leave, but the other reason we tend to be with her is because it’s the Braverman show. You tend to have more scenes with her. She has more people to talk to than Joel does. I think the challenging part of the story is that once he left, it was hard to get into his head and get his perspective on things."

That's fair. So TODAY asked Krause, who attended the event, to size it up and he had an insightful take.

"I think women get over hurt faster," Krause said. "Part of it is that men don’t like to admit that their feelings are hurt. It takes them a much longer time to come around. I have found in my life, anyway, that women are much quicker to get over it. Process it, get over it, forgive. We hang onto it a little bit longer. And it’s not like you can snap your fingers and wave a magic wand over a guy and think it’s done. It is what it is."

Joel is so hurt, in fact, that in Thursday's promo, he holds hands with his boss over an intimate dinner. But don't make any assumptions, Katims warned.

"Just wait," Katims said. "There's definitely a twist."

No one is saying how it all plays out, but Katims said fans will see a direction for the marriage by the end of the season.

"I won’t say it’s the end of the story but I think there’s some sort of clarity for the audience about what it is," Katims said. "I think these last four episodes are a little bit of a roller coaster ride for that relationship and what happens and how Julia responds to what’s been going on with Joel. I think she gets to a place where she needs to figure out, what am I doing here? She gets really frustrated living in limbo and she pushes the issue with Joel and that leads to the roller coaster ride of the next four episodes."

As a viewer, Graham says she sees how complicated the relationship is.

"If your sister is going through a tough time in a marriage, you don’t take a side because, like, what if they get back together and you've told her you hate him?" she said. "But I think that was a very real issue to handle because it’s a show about family so it’s going to handle every family issue we all might have. And that’s a very real one. And I don’t know exactly where that ends up, either."

No matter what side fans are on, most agree that they want Joel and Julia to find their way back to each other. 

"I think in the universe of the show that you hope they get back together," Krause agreed. "We’ve already seen Sarah (Graham) in a failed marriage. So hopefully this is one where they get to go through some sort of a healing process. That would be interesting for the audience to see—it’s something you don’t see often on TV, people working through their problems and growing and getting better for it."

"Parenthood" airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on NBC; the season finale airs on April 17. NBC has not announced if the show will return next fall.