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'The Goldbergs' season finale recap: 'Livin' on a Prayer'

Season 1 | Episode 23 | “Livin’ on a Prayer” | Aired May 13, 2014

Narrator Adam waxes nostalgic about what an enigma his dad can be. Seemingly simple on the outside, Murray occasionally drops some random fact about himself on his offspring — was in the Army, was in a plane crash, waited tables with Lou Reed — that keeps them guessing as to who their father really is and if they know him at all. When Bev tells Murray and the kids that someone broke Murray’s high school basketball free-throw record and the school wants to honor him at a banquet, the kids are surprised, and Barry bugs his dad for pointers on how to be good at basketball and popular in high school.

Murray wants nothing to do with any of it.

In the cafeteria, Barry tries to get the attention of his dream girl, Lexy Bloom, who mistakes him for the Swedish exchange student. His solution: Have a party when his parents are at the banquet on Saturday and invite the whole school. As he plans the high jinks that will ensue — really, if you’re planning high jinks, there will likely be no high jinks — Pops emerges and chimes in that he’s down for the cause. “Really?” Barry can’t believe his grandfather would condone a party thrown without his parents’ knowledge. Normally Pops wouldn’t, but, Pops says, “I’ve been tracking your highs and lows this year and, frankly, you need this.” It’s a sad state of affairs when a grandparent goes rogue to help improve your social life.

The Goldbergs: season 1, episode 23, MurrayThe night arrives and Barry nearly implodes his party plans by acting suspiciously with Bev. Good thing Pops is there to reassure her that all is well.

At the game, the entire school fetes Murray with applause and back-patting. Just as he starts to enjoy the attention, the principal offers him a basketball signed by the team in honor of his 25-year-old record. The crowd chants for him to “shoot that ball,” Murray steps to the line, he shoots — aaaannnndddd he misses. Much humiliation follows.

Meanwhile Barry’s party couldn’t be more flaccid. Pops recruits Erica to invite her friends over. One call, and the house runneth over with the high school’s in-crowd, including one Lexy Bloom. When the frat guys show up, Erica begins losing her cool. They’ve raided her mom’s closet and rechristened the occasion a “sweater party.” The Goldbergs: season 1, episode 23, EricaErica: “That’s not a thing!” Pops tasks her with shutting down the event. She, in turn, passes that duty off to Barry, who refuses and plans to “party on till the break of dawn.” Erica points out that it’s her world, and he’s just living in it — these are all her friends. She crosses the line when she directs Barry’s attention to Lexy Bloom making out with some guy in the corner.

Murray and Bev have a heart-to-heart in the car, in which Murray confesses that the reason he doesn’t talk about the past is because it was great, and these days — not so much.

Erica’s best friend, Lainey Lewis, pulls up and gives Barry a pep talk about what a great year he’s had, saying that there’s really no one else like him. He’s encouraged enough to brave the party again, until his parents drive up. “Run! Ruuuunnnn!” wails young Adam, skittering off into the house. Bev, Murray and Barry collectively freak out — especially when Bev sees that her sweaters are now donned by teenage boys. Barry calms down long enough to give his parents the full sob story of his high school experience. This night, this party is the best he will ever have — “This is my moment!” Murray gives Barry 10 minutes to make a memory. Bev disapproves. Barry grabs his full rapper kit and hits the dance floor. His moves inspire awe and attract Lexy’s notice. Lainey dashes up to let Barry know, and in an effort to help make Lexy jealous, kisses Barry. Sparks unexpectedly fly — surprising, dismaying and enthralling them both simultaneously.

Murray and Bev bust in and break up the revelry. Barry is grounded for the entire summer — but basks in the glory of that one brief moment when he was a legend.

Murray starts to open up to his kids a bit more and even hits the court with his family. Narrator Adam offers a final thought: “When it comes to my childhood, I may not always remember exactly when something happened or exactly who was there, but I do know that it was 1980-something, and it was awesome.”

’80s music watch (in which I note the show’s aural indulgences): Bon Jovi, “Livin’ on a Prayer”

The Goldbergs airs on ABC.

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