“Jimmy Five is Alive” indicates that, in addition to tracking Adam’s external changes, The Goldbergs will be exploring some internal ones as well. As it has done in previous installments, the creative team uses a popular ‘80s artifact (in this case, the beloved robot movie Short Circuit and its less-beloved follow-up Short Circuit 2) as a vessel for deeper emotional conflicts. In this case, the episode is initially presented as Murray and Adam arguing about what kind of robot they should design. Adam, ever the imaginative movie-buff, wants to design a sentient robot in the vein of Johnny Five, whereas Murray desires a practical item to help predict the weather (much like his beloved Weather Channel).
Eventually, after a blow-up argument and a sit-down with Erica, Adam is left to question whether it’s time to let go of his own boyish interests in toy robots and start becoming “an adult.” It’s a question I know all too well, as the hordes of Power Rangers Zords in my bedroom back home indicate. It goes without saying, but being a teenager is a confusing time. It’s a time where you still have an affinity for childish pursuits, but you’re also suddenly pressured to move on to more adult activities, lest you end up becoming the stereotypical nerd who lives in his parents’ basement and only emerges to attend conventions catered to your particular interests.
In response, Adam promptly overcorrects and begins staring blindly at the Weather Channel. It’s a sad sight that even Murray can recognize. They two finally decide to meet each other halfway and set up an experiment to see whether or not their Johnny Five figure will come to life after being hit by lightning. Of course, this never comes to pass but, as the older Adam conveys, the two made some nice memories talking and joking with each other in the rain-drenched car.
The episode’s other plotline, meanwhile, comes about when Barry realizes he’s accidentally taped over his mother’s video of his fifth birthday in favor of putting together a compilation of his basketball slam-dunks (or “the jampilation”). In a desperate attempt to cover his tracks, Barry begins showering his mother with the kind of love and attention she thrives on. At school, he ends up going to Coach Mellor for advice, as he runs the AV Club. Bryan Callen never ceases to be a welcome presence on the show, as he’s probably the only other character that can equal Barry in terms of utter cluelessness (despite interacting with Adam multiple times, he can only identify him as “that weird kid with the Muppet voice”). After an ill-conceived attempt at un-erasing the tape by pressing rewind and record at the same time (“no one really knows how VHS technology works,” Mellor says after the machine short-circuits and catches fire), Barry subsequently records over the tape with The Phil Donahue Show to make his mother believe she was the one who accidentally recorded over the tape. He also tries to edit together a montage (or “Momtage”) honoring Beverly, but only succeeds in erasing another tape.
Eventually, Barry cops to his deception. In turn, Beverly lets him know that his dunk compilations don’t really mean much since the hoop has been lowered way below traditional regulations (a point his fellow JTPers readily acknowledge despite their cheering him on previously).
A despondent Barry prepares to throw out his 76ers attire, dismayed that he’ll be slumming it as merely a “lowly rap mogul.” Just as he did before, however, Beverly offers up her own compilation of all the times Barry has been his Barry self (entitled “the Schmoopilation”). Again, it’s the sort of ending the show has pulled before, but what works is just how well Wendi McLendon-Covey sells it, especially when Barry asks her if she would like to watch him dunk and she replies with a near-tearful, “I’d love to, baby.”
The episode continues the show’s consistent streak, with its final few minutes hitting me especially hard via the (albeit on-the-nose) use of Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young,”a song that is very near and dear to my heart in spite of its schmaltzy packaging. It’s a bit like the show itself—sure, it may be a tad corny at times, but it’s something that never fails to make me smile.