7th Heaven
Season 5, Episode 16
Air date February 26th, 2001
Written by Sue Tenney
Directed by Tony Mordente
Episode Guide

Parents is the sixteenth episode of the 5th season and the 104th episode overall of 7th Heaven. On its original airing, this episode scored 7.95 million viewers, leading the WB and earning 70th place for the week nationally.[1]


Robbie is ecstatic when his long-lost father, who is a dead-beat dad appears out of the blue. Although, Eric and Annie distrust the dead-beat dad's motives. He also convinces Robbie to move out with him; against Eric's wishes. Meanwhile, Ruthie turns to Mary for advice on how to get around their parents rules when wanting to buy a makeup kit that they said 'no' to. Also, a very convinced Annie worries when Lucy starts having a relationship with her friend's freewheeling "unmotherlike" mom. Also, Simon develops a bad attitude with his mother when not wanting to do his school work, but wants to hang out with his friends.


Lucy is in her bedroom chatting with her friend's mother on the phone, sharing her frustration that her new boyfriend, Jeremy, had to move back east due to his father's job. Her friend playfully enters the room, teasing her mother for monopolizing her friends. The mother suggests they play some pool to take Lucy's mind off Jeremy, and Lucy agrees. After she leaves, Lucy tells her friend that her mother's behavior is quite untraditional and not motherlike. Meanwhile, Simon is in his room with a friend, enjoying loud music. Eric enters, and questions Simon about his school paper due on Monday. Simon assures him that he's got it covered and mentions that his friend Keith is helping. He also mentions that Keith recently obtained his driver's license, prompting Eric to leave as Simon turns the music back on. Eric crosses paths with Ruthie, who asks if she can have a makeup kit that's on sale. He firmly asserts that she's too young for makeup, even though she mentions her friend's mother doesn't share the same view. Eric enters the kitchen and shares a kiss with Annie. However, their moment is interrupted by a knock on the back door. A man named Ed Palmer is looking for Eric, and he introduces himself as Robbie's father, surprising both Annie and Eric.

Annie is in the kitchen preparing some refreshments and cookies to bring to Eric and Ed. Ruthie enters and asks about Ed. She explains that visitors usually have problems when they show up at their house late at night. Annie explains that Ed is looking for Robbie, as he is Robbie's father and has come to see him. Ruthie subtly shifts the conversation to a makeup kit, and Annie reiterates that she and her father are in total agreement that she's not old enough for makeup. Eric walks in, and Annie informs him about Ruthie's request for makeup, mentioning that it's because her friend Rachel has some. They briefly discuss Robbie, and Eric reveals that he hadn't informed Robbie about his father's visit because he wasn't sure how Robbie would react. He confesses his lack of trust in Ed, as he abandoned Robbie and his family when Robbie was just a child, and Eric doesn't like him. Annie agrees, and they move into the living room. Eric informs Ed that he's spoken to Robbie and that he's on his way home. Ed expresses concern about how Robbie will react, mentioning that he had to leave town when Robbie was very young due to his parents' needs. Ed keeps talking and talks about how in the 70s, he was in the Peace Corps in France However, Annie is quick to spot inconsistencies in Ed's story. She points out that the 70s were 30 years ago, making Ed very young at the time. Ed corrects himself, saying he meant the 80s. Annie questions the Peace Corps being stationed in developed countries like France, but Ed dodges the topic. Ed asks if there's anything to go with the cookies and coffee, like a sandwich and Annie then goes back to the kitchen. Simon enters, and Annie asks him about his school paper. Simon doesn't respond but shares that Keith's parents never pressured him about his homework and even gave him a car when he turned 16. Annie advises him to finish his paper, but Simon appears despondent as he heads upstairs. The doorbell rings again, and a lady comes looking for Lucy. Lucy soon comes down, and they hug each other. Lucy notices the woman wearing one of her old shirts and she says that she borrowed it from her daughter and Lucy's friend, Ashley. Lucy introduces the woman as Ashley's mother, Serena, and explains that they're heading to the pool hall to take her mind off Jeremy. Annie seems perplexed as Lucy hadn't mentioned that Jeremy had moved away. Ashley walks in and tries to rush them, and Eric walks in and joins the conversation. Eric and Serena exchange greetings and to Eric's surprise, they reveal that Serena is Ashley's mother, and Serena jokes that people often mistake them for sisters. Ashley remarks that they only think that because she tells them, and they leave for the pool hall. Meanwhile, in her bedroom, Ruthie is dialing Mary's number who is in Buffalo. Mary is awakened by the phone ringing and asks why Ruthie is whispering. Ruthie explains that she needs help acquiring the makeup kit because her parents won't allow it. Mary, echoing Eric and Annie's sentiments, tells Ruthie she's too young for makeup. Ruthie mentions that she has the money but no one to take her, urging Mary to come up with a plan. Mary questions what she means by "a plan", and Ruthie clarifies that she needs to obtain something her parents disapprove of, something Mary has experience with. Mary advises against defying her parents and refuses to help because it's wrong, and she knows it. A upset Ruthie hangs up. Matt enters, and Ruthie has a lightbulb idea feeling on her face. She asks Matt to shut the door so they can talk. At Eddie's Pool Hall, Ashley and Lucy are playing pool together. Lucy is fascinated by how Serena managed to strike up a conversation with an attractive guy. Ashley is less impressed and more annoyed, noting that Serena does this often, picking up guys much too young for her. Serena approaches them and invites them to a guy's party the following night, mentioning that he has friends who would like them to come. Ashley agrees reluctantly, while Lucy seems excited. Ashley questions whether Lucy's parents will allow her to attend a party hosted by someone they don't know. Serena suggests telling them that Lucy will be out with her, a sane, rational, responsible adult. Lucy tells Ashley she has a cool mom. Back at the house, Robbie returns, and when he notices Ed, they immediately hug each other. Ed asks if Robbie received his letters, as he always took the time to write to him no matter where he was. Robbie reveals that he never received any letters, and Ed blames the post office. Eric and Annie exchange knowing looks. Robbie asks why Ed is here, and he explains that he's come to see him. Ed mentions that he only had the chance to stay one night and hopes that Robbie will drive him downtown to find a cheap hotel once they've had a chance to talk. Robbie doesn't want him in a cheap hotel, and Ed argues that there's no need to spend money on a nice hotel for just one night. He then "confesses" that he's currently without a job and a home, having spent his last savings on a bus ticket to GlenOak. Eric offers him a one-night stay at the house, and both Robbie and Ed express their gratitude before Robbie shows Ed to his room. The next morning, Annie encounters Matt and Ruthie in the hallway and asks where they're headed. Matt starts to answer, but Ruthie kicks his leg. Annie notes that she has a feeling they're keeping something from her but she trusts them because Matt is with Ruthie and tells them they can go. Ruthie kicks Matt again after Annie walks away, reminding him to keep it a surprise. Matt apologizes and asks why she's getting a present at the mall for Annie and what's the special occasion, hinting that Ruthie lied about her mall visit's purpose. Ruthie simply replies that she loves her and wants to show it.

Downstairs, Simon abruptly informs Annie that he's going out with Keith, but his lack of manners catches her off guard. He quickly corrects himself and properly asks if he can go out with Keith. Annie, however, asks if he has finished his school paper, making it clear that he won't be going anywhere until it's completed. Simon asks whether that means he can go out, and Annie responds that he should complete his assignment first, after which they can talk. Eric enters and notices Annie cleaning up a mess in the living room. He correctly assumes that it was Ed who made the mess, and Annie instructs him to ensure that Ed is on the bus that night. She expresses her lack of trust in Ed and her concern for Robbie's well-being and doesn't want to see him get hurt. Eric reassures her and explains that Robbie and Ed will be spending the day together before Robbie drives Ed to the bus station. Meanwhile, Robbie and Ed are having a conversation at a café. Robbie asks Ed why he left when he was younger and reminisces about their visit to the zoo, where he bought him nuts for the monkeys, and they rode the train. Ed tells him that he left to take care of his sick parents, returning home to look after them until their passing. He clarifies that he never took anything from the family. In fact, he sent money home, but Robbie's mother didn't believe him, leading to their divorce and a court order that prevented him from seeing Robbie and his brothers. All he could do was write letters, which Robbie apparently never received. Ed reveals that he's not just there for a visit; he wants to make amends with Robbie and his brothers and rebuild their family. He expresses his desire to stay in town for a while and explains that he'll need some help like any family would. Robbie appears enthusiastic about this idea. Back at the house, Lucy discusses her previous night at the pool hall with Annie. She then asks if she can go to a party with Ashley and Serena, reassuring Annie that she'll be with an adult the whole time. Annie questions the logic of Lucy attending a party with her friend's mother. Lucy points out that Ashley will be there too and mentions that Serena isn't like most moms, though she doesn't mean it as an insult. She elaborates that Serena doesn't bake pies, participate in church activities, or make lunches like other moms. Annie explains that Serena's fun factor isn't the issue but reminds Lucy that she'll be going to college soon and won't have Annie to guide her. She suggests that Lucy should start making her own decisions, including whether to attend the party that night. Lucy asserts that if it's her decision, she's going, to which Annie simply shrugs. Upstairs, Ruthie is on the phone with Mary and tells her that she has the makeup kit, thanks to Matt. Mary advises her to confess and return it, but Ruthie is reluctant. She confidently believes she won't get caught, as she told Matt it was a gift for Annie and when Matt was distracted, acquired a different present to give to her when she got home. Mary warns her that Eric and Annie always find out and that Matt will be furious when he discovers she used him to obtain makeup. Ruthie doesn't seem to care and dismissively suggests that no one will notice. She hangs up on Mary, stating that she was more fun when she was messing up her life, and then continues to play with her makeup. In the kitchen, Annie is doing laundry and tells Lucy to be careful before she leaves. Simon also comes downstairs, and Annie inquires about his plans. Simon claims that she said he could go out, but Annie denies ever saying that. There's a knock on the door, and it's a group of Simon's friends. Simon insists he's almost finished with his paper, but Annie informs his friends that he won't be joining them tonight. His friends leave without him, and Simon becomes upset with Annie. He accuses her of humiliating him in front of his friends and refuses to show her his paper. Annie suggests he go upstairs to finish it, adjust his attitude, and warns him that she will ground him until his high school graduation.

Eric is in his church office when the phone rings. To his surprise, it's Sally Palmer, Robbie's mother, on the line. She asks about Robbie's well-being, and Eric shares that Robbie is doing great—he's popular at the daycare center, working part-time at the grocery store, and excelling in school. Sally expresses her gratitude for Eric taking care of Robbie and then asks about Ed. This piques Eric's curiosity, and he presses Sally for more information. Sally confides that Ed came to visit her in Florida, and she's worried about Robbie. She tells Eric that with Ed, he's always there when you don't want him, and he's never there when you need him. Back at the house, Annie is shocked and bewildered when Robbie arrives—with Ed with him. She questions why he's there, as he might miss his bus. Robbie explains that he and his dad decided they wanted to spend more time together, rented an apartment, and plan to move in tomorrow. Annie doesn't respond but appears taken aback. A bit later, Eric returns home, and Annie informs him that it's been a rough night, so she ordered pizza for the kids and a salad for him. Eric questions her description of a rough night, and Annie shares the evening's events. Lucy is out with her best friend and Serena, whom she describes as acting like she's 40 going on 17. Simon didn't finish his paper, so she didn't allow him to go out with his friends, Ed never left and secured an apartment, and Robbie is moving with him. Eric tells her about the phone call with Sally and how Ed is no good, but they already knew it was old news at that point. Eric says that the tricky part is to convince Robbie that Ed is not a good influence, but when he returns, he'll try to talk to Robbie to persuade him that Ed is not the right choice. Annie wonders when Robbie became one of their children, to which Eric responds that he's not sure, but he has, and he can't stand by and watch Ed potentially ruin Robbie's life. Meanwhile, Lucy and Ashley are sitting down alone at the party, feeling unenthusiastic, while Serna engages in conversation with some guy. They become annoyed when two guys keep staring at them, and Lucy suggests they leave, but Ashley doesn't want to leave her mother alone. Ashley suggests they go to the bathroom to avoid the two guys and they leave as the guys approach them. Back at the house, Annie tells Simon that she believes they should talk. She expresses that he wants her to treat him like a man but still acts like a child. However, Simon ignores her and gives her the silent treatment. Annie requests his paper and insists on reading it, even if it's incomplete. Simon hands over the paper, and Annie exits the room. In the hallway, she encounters Ruthie, who appears sad and shows Annie the makeup on her cheeks, which she can't remove despite her attempts with soap and water. Tearfully, Ruthie confesses that Matt took her to the store, and she bought the makeup kit they had told her she couldn't have. Annie informs her that she's in trouble and that they'll have a serious discussion when Matt returns from the library. Robbie enters Eric's home office, asking if he heard the good news of moving in with his dad. Eric tells him that he spoke to his mother and that Ed abandoned both her and Robbie. Robbie vehemently disagrees, asserting that his mother hates him and has kept them apart for years. Eric tries to explain that they're trying to protect him, but Robbie isn't receptive. He tells Eric that he knows his dad isn't perfect, but neither is he. Eric attempts to reveal some concerning information about Ed, but Robbie counters by saying that Ed already told him that the New York police are looking for him due to writing bad checks. Robbie mentions that he didn't have to tell him about this but wanted to be honest. Eric suggests that he call his mother, but Robbie declines, saying that he's leaving soon and that he and his father will take care of each other. Robbie exits, unaware that Ed was secretly eavesdropping behind a longcase clock.

Ashley offers an apology to Lucy while they're hiding in the bathroom, acknowledging her mother's unconventional behavior. She confesses that Lucy wouldn't understand because she has a real, caring mother, and sometimes she wishes she had a true mother as well. She even goes as far as saying that she'd rather have someone like Lucy's mother than just a friend who goes to parties with her. Ashley confides that her mother hasn't been the same since her parents divorced, and her mother stopped wanting to be a mother. This revelation takes Lucy by surprise as she thought Ashley viewed her mother as cool. Back at the house, Annie is reading Simon's papers and is clearly disappointed with it. Matt enters and inquires about dinner leftovers. Annie asks him if he took Ruthie to the store earlier. Matt, unaware of Ruthie's scheme to obtain makeup, asks if she likes the makeup kit Ruthie got for her. Annie clarifies that the kit wasn't for her and explains that Ruthie deceived him to help her acquire it, despite Eric and Annie's refusal. She indicates they were waiting for him to discuss the matter with Ruthie, but Matt offers to talk to her alone since Ruthie was his responsibility. Eric heads outside to speak with Ed. Ed is already aware of the impending conversation because he recognizes the familiar talk people have with him to leave town. Eric brings up that he knows everything and has already talked to Robbie about it. Ed tries to deflect blame by criticizing his ex-partner, claiming she's no saint, and insinuating that Eric shouldn't believe everything she says. Eric firmly counters this by pointing out that she did her best raising three sons on her own. As the conversation continues, Ed mentions that he had to take care of his parents, but Eric calls him out, asserting that he didn't leave to care for his sick parents; rather, he left because he wasn't keen on the responsibilities of being a father. Ed is confronted with the fact that he had no qualms about making children but didn't want to take on the responsibility of raising them. Eric goes on to highlight Robbie's past struggles, mentioning that he was homeless not long ago and is now excelling in school. He expresses his concern that Robbie could jeopardize his progress by moving in with Ed. In response, Ed asserts that he can't stop Robbie from renting an apartment with his son. Eric, however, issues a warning, alluding to the legal issues raised earlier, saying he's prepared to call the police if necessary, even though he doesn't want to resort to such measures. He emphasizes his love for Robbie and believes that Robbie will never reach his full potential if he continues down this path with Ed. While Matt addresses Ruthie in her room, he expresses his deep disappointment and asks for a sincere apology. Although Ruthie reluctantly apologizes, Matt insists that she must genuinely mean it. He clarifies that he's not trying to be mean, but Ruthie needs to understand the gravity of her actions and how they could hurt others, just as they hurt him. Matt acknowledges that he knows Ruthie may not fully comprehend what he means, but he'll explain further when he drives her to return the makeup kit the next day before leaving her room. Soon after, Mary calls Ruthie and asks if Annie and Eric have discovered her misdeed. Ruthie humorously implies that she might be psychic. Mary explains she called for two reasons. First, she knew Ruthie would get caught and yelled at, and having experienced that herself, she wanted to make sure Ruthie was okay. Second, Mary wanted to ensure that Ruthie learned her lesson to avoid ending up like her in Buffalo. Ruthie conveys her understanding of the situation, and Mary affirms that it's good before ending the call. Meanwhile, Annie approaches Simon's room and straightforwardly asks what happened with his school paper. She points out that he had months to work on it, and it's far from his best work. Annie suggests that if the paper truly represents his best effort, he could turn it in and likely receive a passing grade. However, she emphasizes that if all Simon aims for is a passing grade, he won't realize his full potential and true happiness. Annie asserts that she'd prefer to have Simon mad at her for the rest of his life than to see him not reaching his potential. Shortly afterward, the phone rings, and it's Lucy, asking Annie to pick her up. Before leaving, Annie tells Simon that she's made notes on his paper and proposes that they work on it together when she returns.

In the meantime, Robbie calls his mother, waking her up. He inquires about his younger years and who took him to the zoo. His mother explains that it was his uncle because Ed wasn't around much. Her brother believed they needed a positive male figure to look up to, and Robbie loved going to the zoo to see the monkeys. Robbie sighs in response. Ashley and Lucy exit the house party, with Serena following in an attempt to stop them. Ashley becomes upset and advises Serena to grow up and act her age. Serena attempts to leverage her maternal authority, but Ashley retorts, questioning whether Serena wants to be a friend or a mother. Serena asks if she can be both, but Ashley firmly declines. She expresses her desire for a mom who can pick her up when she's having a rough time at a party and one who scolds her for being late. Serena approaches Annie and voices her perspective, suggesting that baking cookies and making lunches doesn't make her superior. Annie asserts that the issue isn't about them; it's about Serena behaving like an adult. Serena conveys that she never realized Ashley felt this way and offers to return home for a conversation. While acknowledging that they won't resolve everything in a single night, it's a promising start. Ashley informs Annie and Lucy that they can leave and that she'll contact them the next day. As they leave, Annie tells Lucy that she's welcome, and they share a hug. Upon Eric arriving at the house, Robbie tells him that he figured he was putting his dad on the bus and asks if he got off fine. He mentions that he spoke with his mother and had a lengthy conversation with her. Eric apologizes, but Robbie insists there's no need for apologies. Robbie details what his mother told him – that Ed had shown up in Florida, stolen money from her, and taken his underage brothers to a bar to pick up women. He admits that he recognizes his father's flaws but still wants to believe he's like any other dad. Robbie shares his longing for a father and expresses his incredulity at his current situation, including the mention of their shared apartment. Eric makes a lighthearted comment, noting that he dated Mary, to which Robbie queries if Eric does this for all his daughters' ex-boyfriends. Eric quips that it's reserved for the special ones. They share their first-ever hug together.


  • Alan Thicke, renowned for his role on the beloved ABC family series Growing Pains, plays the part of Ed Palmer, Robbie's father, in this episode.


  • This episode is the start of Jane A. Rogers' recurring character, Serena, who will later attempt to disrupt Eric's and Annie's marriage in subsequent episodes later in the season.

Goofs & Errors[]

  • While Annie is in the kitchen, she places a thermos on the countertop as she prepares a snack for Ed. However, in the next scene when she carries a tray loaded with other various items, such as cups and cookies, to the living room, the thermos has seemingly reappeared on the tray without her ever putting it back on the tray.
  • When Matt goes to have a talk with Ruthie upon discovering her lie, she's in her room, sitting on her bed and playing with the makeup kit she had bought secretly. It's very weird that Annie had already caught her with the kit, but didn't confiscate it right away. Instead, Ruthie was indirectly allowed to continue using it, even though she was meant to be disciplined and sent to her room.


Main Cast[]

Featured in the opening credits are:

Guest Stars[]

  • Alan Thicke as Ed Palmer
  • Caroline Aaron as Sally Palmer
  • Jane A. Rogers as Serena
  • Krystee Clark as Ashley


  • Glenn Kennedy as Alan (Serena's friend)
  • Josh Wolford as Keith