Six months after the tragic death of their parents in a car accident, the five orphans of the Salinger family are trying to keep the family together and make amends meet. The eldest, 24-year-old, immature Charlie feels saddled by his parental responsibilities, but the other siblings don't see him as an authority figure. But Charlie has other problems after he reveals to have lost $12,000 of the family's life savings as a result of a foolhardy business investment. So Charlie gets two jobs of bartender by day and carpenter by night in the restaurant 'Salingers' which is now run by their father's business partner, Joe Magnus. The emotionally troubled, 16-year-old Bailey has problems of his own in looking for a new nanny for baby Owen and finally finds one; a grad student named Kirsten Bennett, whom he develops a crush on. The selfish 15-year-old Julia abandons her household responsibilities and looks for romance at her high school with an outcast student named P.K. The eccentric, but gifted 11-year-old Claudia looks to raise money by pawning one of her prized violins which her personal violin coach, Ross Werkman, tries to talk her out of doing so.
Bailey has the hots for Owen's babysitter Kirsten Bennett and brilliantly (over)plays the seduction tip -establishing a common interest- Charlie gave him before either brother realized both are interested in her. Charlie is the one who gets her interest, even though a handyman client offers him another project where the sex primes over work. A school genealogy project inspires Claudia to go looking for the kids' only possibly surviving grandparent, who left their (grand-mother twenty years ago, but Bailey establishes the Jack Gordon she befriends is just a namesake. Julia risks her friendship with fellow A-nerd Libby Dwyer by giving priority to parties over a Shakespeare assignment, yet spends the night on a crucial poetry paper love-sick Bailey just can't concentrate on.
Bailey finally scores for his long-ailing school football team and forces a tie, but players from the other team, upset by having their winning streak broken, start a fight which leads to vandalism on his school's grounds. Coach and principal demand that Bailey name his teammate who was fighting or be suspended from the team. Seeking legal advice from Kirsten's other boyfriend, Charlie discovers George Lewis only pretends to be a lawyer, yet Kirsten dumps both of them. Although Charlie warns orphans can't afford to throw away scholarship chances and he won't sacrifice his whole future, Bailey sticks by his mates, however ungrateful, but immensely enjoys an unhoped-for consolation. The Salinger home is turning into a rat hole of debauchery until the siblings make Julia call a halt to her older 'friends' invading it for rude parties.
Bailey's hope to be asked back on the ailing football team are crushed when buddy Will reports his successor as quarterback made a smashing start. Bailey resolves to concentrate on his sports shop job instead, but chucks it when inflexible hours restrict his moves on a hot elder customer, only to find she has an adult boyfriend. Charlie meanwhile got Bailey's generous blessing to go all the way with Kirsten, but she feels an affair inappropriate while she babysits Owen. Jealous of dating classmates, Julia meanly gives admirer Justin Thompson false hope.
Bailey tries again to win elder Kate by getting and using concert tickets together, but she keeps bringing in her unsuspecting boyfriend Tom, who actually establishes a friendship with Bailey, who nevertheless decides for once not to be the nice gay, steals a kiss and demands she makes up her mind. After Charlie's now married old friends Mike and Nina Mayor invite him for dinner, she implicitly seduces him to car sex, yet blames him for warning her not to break up for his sake, while she already gave up on Mike. Sanctiminious Julie fakes documents to steal a waitress job for adults but uses cost and faked age to improve chances as excuses to refuse signing Claudia's entry form for the conservatory's violin competition, then scolds her tutor Ross Werkman for paying and singing himself, but changes her mind realizing it's also a tribute to their late mother.
Bailey studies for a new job, as San Francisco tour guide. Now Kate has dumped Tom for him, they try to get her wealthy father Elliott Bishop's approval, but the conservative city official clearly disapproves of the not ruthlessly ambitious, rather free-spirited commoner orphan knave. Bailey's attempt to portray Charlie as ideal father figure backfires when the Nishops come dine in the restaurant. There part-time barman Charlie resists manager Joe's efforts to train him as assistant manager, a discussion complicated by financial problems dating back to father Salinger's supposedly exemplar management. The Salingers happily provide sanctuary to Julia's rowdyish classmate Peter 'P.K.' Strickler, whose face is bruised after more abuse from his impossible to please stepfather, but when his inexcusably 'blind' mother sends the police to retrieve the minor, the siblings have no choice then ask the victim to leave before social services break them up.
Bailey and his sisters scold Charlie for scaring off another good babysitter by confessing his stillborn affair with Rebecca to Kirsten. Charlie is furious to find out Julia lied and took an illegal waitress job, bitterly calling her an incorrigible ingrate. All fighting is interrupted when little Owen must be hospitalized with symptoms that suggest meningitis, luckily not the case. Claudia's violin tutor, Ross Werkman, is amused by her view-sex messes relationships up-when the others bail out on the Salinger family dinner she invited him to, whom finds out about her traumatic hospital-phobia and helps her by staying by her side all night til the early morn'.
Bailey was happy to grant Kate indefinite time to get ready for sexual intimacy, but when she demands he should 'forget about it', that blatant no spoils everything for him. Bruce Curran offers Charlie a one-shot opportunity to prove himself as master-carpenter. Having committed to a giveaway price and murderous deadline, a sander-breakdown means he must mobilize his siblings for back-breaking nocturnal toil against the clock. A newspaper listing her among the Bay's most promising musicians, Claudia assumes a grotesque lazy diva attitude, at home and even with tutor Ross. Flatteringly told by Charie that she should never stop writing, even she were to not be a straight-A student any more, Julia enjoys the challenge of writing pop lyrics.
Bailey hopes to cure his heart, broken by Kate, when mother Salinger's mature, sophisticated friend Greer Erikson pays a surprise visit and seems to desire him. She also sets up a modeling career launch photo-shoot with 'friendly photographer' Ed Brighton, but Charlie finds that's one of her many untruthful stunts, which makes Bailey doubt too, especially when she moves out. Charlie finally finds a new babysitter for Owen he can't fall in love with and manages to make Claudia realize Ross coming out as gay should not affect their fine tutoring and friendship.
Only nine months after their parents' fatal accident, Charlie decides the siblings aren't ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. To their shock, the drunk driver Walter Alcott already makes parole for good behavior. Claudia breaks the agreement not to go see him and finds a rather charming book store owner. Bailey then consults a lawyer, goes to vent his complex frustrations at the Alcott home and seeks comfort with Kate, who tells how her divorced mother's life was poisoned until she chose to accept her father's adultery. After Walter's adult daughter Annie is turned down offering a piece pie by Julia, she visits heir home, returns in a most forgiving mood and cooks a Thanksgiving dinner. Charlie is not inclined to join in but ultimately discusses his own guilt issue with Walter.
Bailey was looking forward to a forest camping trip to be alone with Kate, until he finds out from her mother that the plan to attend a Connecticut boarding school she blames on her domineering father is her own, as she admits to have a life of her own. Bailey is persuaded to go camping the last weekend she's in San Francisco after a promise of intimacy, but when the moment arrives her confession that was only a lure spoils it for the true romantic. When Charlie angrily calls a halt to Kirsten's mixed signals, she confesses to have put them on hold because of cancer risk examinations. Charlie stands by her through the infertility diagnosis. Artie, Claudia's music friend, responds adversely to her ridiculously clumsy attempts to win him over with tricks like mystery and jealousy-making with Will, which she overhears from Julia and Nina, but honesty saves the day. Julia now dates her former club boss Morgan Lathem, never mind his drug past, suspects him of 'infidelity' without grounds, learns he has a kid daughter and is found out as a legal age liar.
Bailey, left behind by Kate, is quickly seduced by schoolmate Jill Holbrook, his waitress, but quickly finds 'no strings' sex with her too meaningless. Charlie impulsively decides to propose to Kirsten, but her bossy, self-inviting sister calls that crazy and convinces her to visit their Chicago home and possibly move there. Morgan Lathem is all but amused that immature Julia, whose age lie cost him his liquor license and probably the club, keeps bursting in and meddling. Fired club employee Loren claims she was just an excuse, not the reason for Morgan to relapse in alcoholism. Bailey finds helping out with Claudia's milestone woman's problem miserable for both of them.
The siblings are not amused when Charlie announces, without consultation, that Kirsten is moving in as his fiancée, so she's insecure, especially in the squeaking parental bed. Bailey is lured to repay immature lover Jill's 'favor' by shoplifting a return present for her, but gets caught and angrily dismisses Charlie's lecture. Bailey brings Jill along to the family dinner, scolding Charlie's objections absurdly sanctimonious given Kirsten's presence. She proves a welcome mother figure for Claudia, but that makes Julia jealous, leading to an absurd fight over her theoretical conversion to Judaism, inspired by Artie's devout preparations for his bar mitzvah. A diary in mother Salinger's commode inspires Julia to presume an adulterous affair and seek out the suspect, cellist Avery Baltus, her musical recording partner.
Bailey breaks up with best mate Will just for losing his patience with fickle Jill always leading him astray, as from joint study, and changing their plans without consultation, the last straw being a school test cheating offer. Charlie's suspicions about Kirtsen's new academic adviser Ben are scolded as 'mistrusting jealousy' even after they turn out to be correct and he resists temptation when a new waitress asks for a ride home. Artie gets the lead in 'Oliver!' which eternal understudy Claudia expected to be hers when the regular actor gets the 'flu; she acts like a jealous shrew and overdoes remorse when he ends up sick too as a result. Justin Thompson resents having to do driving school with Julia, who can't handle the instructor. However, he accepts to give her private lessons, but furiously cancels those when she makes a pass at him to cheat on his girlfriend, her unsuspecting buddy Libby.
Even a sensitive earthquake can't out-stage the bickering at the Salinger home, except for Claudia, who gets frustrated to a paranoid degree after her siblings ignore her 'emergency plan'. Bailey is furious at Charlie for bursting in to stop his sex with Jill and warning she shows all the signs of drug addiction, but after finding it true and she systematically lies about it, Bailey is prepared to dump her but agrees to help her try rehab. Charlie looses his patience with Kirsten's meddling, not only in the carpentry business offer project she insisted to give him a private loan for but even to choose a new refrigerator, yet lust wins out. Justin is not amused when Julia, having seduced him to dump Libby, now sanctimoniously makes him lie to her until she accidentally finds out.
Bailey finds out Jill's drug dealer still supplies her and seeks help with her mother, nurse Holbrook, who is rather inclined to believe her story he's a stalker. Artie Baum first tries to hide out, somewhat overstaying his welcome in the Salinger home, then admits he can't stand his parents fighting. Claudia convinces him to try getting the together, but that fails. Insecure Charlie builds up and comes to trust his fathering skills when pushed by Kristen to take a more active part in bringing up baby Owen, rewarded with his first 'dada' cries. Justin is not amused when Julia keeps turning to his busybody mother Helene Thompson, who obsesses about their common childhood. Julia even lets her drag them to a soup kitchen and, worst, shows her a love poem he wrote for her.
Angrily rejecting Charlie's advice, Bailey misses school to travel after Jill to retrieve her from LA. She keeps tempting him to turn the journey back along the coast into an adventurous holiday, but at the end she leaves him, claiming he turns boring and bothersome all over. Charlie is overstretched after his new carpentry partner commits them to a daring deadline. Danny presses Julia to write songs to render him immoral before AIDS kills him, but she can't handle the time pressure. Artie speculates with Claudia over her birthday presents, but nobody seems to have time even to plan a party at all.
Bailey's LA trip made him fall behind in geometry badly enough to be temporarily assigned to Julia's (younger) class. Worse, her lazy teacher simply makes her his tutor, but all she can think about is Justin, a recipe for bickering. Charlie and his carpentry partner Gwen sign a dream contract. Only afterward he realizes it means moving to Seattle, a sacrifice none of his siblings is prepared to make. Julia's plan to move in with Justin falls trough. For Claudia it could be a way out of Ross insisting she needs a more qualified violin teacher, but she sabotages that. Ultimately, Charlie sacrifices his dream.
Bailey hopes to keep his affair with Jill secret when Kate arrives unannounced, but Jill sudden reemerges too and Kate, who already has an east Coast admirer, senses their log distance relationship can't be maintained exclusively. Bailey promises model nanny Bill the three months early raise he needs, yet Charlie explicitly refused, to pay his suddenly raised rent. Julia's teacher entered a short story of hers in a magazine contest, which she wins, but that means publication and exposing her mean caricatures of every sibling, and bribery to keep it hidden at least from Charlie soon fails. Claudia's utter disrespect in attitude and disobedience is the last straw for Charlie, who feels the only breadwinner gets no appreciation or loyalty and is the only one not allowed anything to be in control of any aspect f his life despite endless sacrifices, so he announces moving out.
After a painstaking apartment hunt, Charlie finds a spot with his former party buddy, Dudly 'Dud', but Kirsten acts as party-pooper and having to get up not so young anymore changes things anyhow. Bailey finds Jill blindly hostile to all his sensible help when she flippantly accepts 'on therapy independence advice' organizing a school library benefit dance marathon, even after it goes wrong worse then he feared, finally bringing him to berate her inconsistent ingratitude. Will finds cheerleader Kiki as bad a date as Bailey warned. Artie enjoys their hero role after witnessing a store robbery with Claudia, but she gets nightmares and bothers Charlie and Kirsten. Charlie decides to move back in, resigned to his paternal role.
Bailey is god-struck when Jill's mother sends word his lover unexpectedly died of a cocaine overdose, even refuses to attend her funeral, as the pain is way beyond bearable, only Charlie can come close enough to offer some comfort after even Will wasn't allowed to stop Bailey getting drunk and driving as life seemed hopeless. Julia makes a pest of herself to Jill's poor brother Griffin, bugging him to accept the coat Jill wanted him to have as replacement for one she lost when stoned. Julian is far from pleased with her gift-masked meddling with his supposed lack of fashion taste, yet ends up grinning and baring it. Ross fears his application to adopt a baby girls is lost after a suspicious reaction on his implicit admission to be gay, but after a glowing plea from Bailey he's approved. Charlie and Kirsten resolve to get married and propose.
Charlie is shocked and furious when his ex from four years ago Pamela Rush turns up as swears her adorable son is his. Seeing traits of himself in the boy, Charlie is quickly delighted with paternal prospects, but Pamela already left San Francisco again. Bailey can't appreciate Will's efforts to arrange a date for him, feeling it's too soon after his Jill trauma, yet discovers he has a lot in common with clearly interested campus waitress Sarah Reeves. Julia discovers Jill's brother Griffin, whom she dated all summer while Justin was in London with his father, knows about her infidelity and feels free to see others. Justin returns and rebukes her hypocrisy for bugging him about an innocent companion from his youth, still ignorant about Griffin.
Will's trip to Perry, the college his father recommends, surprises Bailey, but he accepts to fly along to their orientation days in sir's place. Charmed by tour guide Keri, a med student, Bailey enjoys flirting with her, until Will accidentally betrays his life story is a fake to escape his frustrated life. Justin leads the successful mass kissing protest against the prudish principal's backward rules, but Julia deserts his cause and secretly kisses Griffin instead. Charlie spares not effort to track down Pamela Rush, only to be told Spencer isn't really his son. Kirsten questions if they should get married despite his obvious child wish and her infertility, but they agree to adopt Owen.
Bailey accepts running for school body vice president only because Sarah keeps pushing him and promises to manage 'his' campaign, only to be blamed for letting her and later Will do the leg work, her real purpose being quality time with him. Charlie loves his siblings chipping in ideas to make his wedding affordable, notably in the family restaurant, but after a frustrating round of maternal meddling Kirsten is too defensive. The kids are furious when they find a note 'eloped to Reno', but the happy couple reconsiders. After absurdly blaming Griffin for not being jealous of her official boyfriend, Julia is found out unfaithful with him because Charlie's best man Dudley invited both to his engagement party.
Bailey is finally back on his high school football team, but accidentally knocks over teammate Andy Hughes, who is hospitalized and ultimately promised a complete recovery. During practice, Bailey allows several teammates to rough him up due to his guilt torment, until he loses his nerve to play. Finding out family restaurant manager Joe Mangus made light of his congestive cardiac problems, Charlie decides to take over, but Joe can't just hand over his life's work. Julia lets Griffin stay over, is relieved when he doesn't suggest sex, but feels insecure for him not even seeming to want it. Despite verbal indignation, Sarah commits to now miserable Bailey again.
Bailey now enjoys dating Sarah, but his public affection and general spontaneity make her feel like a Jill substitute. Justin already has another girlfriend and free-spirited Griffin tires of Julia's meddling in his life, like lies to both parties to make him take a waiter's job Charlie wouldn't otherwise consider him for, leading to mutual frustration and getting fired, like at the bike shop. Charlie grudgingly agrees to Kirsten's dancing lessons but takes offense at her accepting as silly aunt's wedding gift a fortune telling which names a Rob as her true love. A lounge night at the restaurant proves a major loss. Ross starts a fuss about Claudia's bowing arm after a skating rink fall.
Bailey does badly on his SAT test and grudgingly accepts private home tutoring from young new teacher Maggie Beaton. Griffin finally overcomes Claudia's hostility to any rival to Justin, by playing the big brother, only to find jealous Julia upset about being neglected. Kirsten's parents arrive for a pre-wedding weekend, but while about-to-retire dreamer Gene Bennett quickly bonds with Charlie, his wife Ellie must explain to Kirsten how her practical attitude balances out their happy marriage.
Bailey cheerfully gives his blessing to Will dating his latest ex Sarah, but that feels all wrong even when they go out together. Salinger's is struck by disaster -a fire- and theft from the payroll. The insurance inspector refuses to pay and even suspects Charlie, who is furious when his fiancee's ineffective cover up-story shows him that she too thinks he may be guilty. Major Chase W. Holbrook makes sure that his own son, Griffin, often abused and neglected since sister Jill's death, confesses and is sent to court, yet ends up arranging a military alternative.
Bailey takes over organizing the bachelor party after Dudley has to promise Kirsten to keep it boringly safe. A power-cut prevents the boys and stripper Honey from reaching Charlie, who met his hotel neighbor and colleague groom's partner Monica and agreed to comfort her, yet the ultimate temptation is cured by her offering herself, only that doesn't end his doubts about lifelong commitment. Bailey fears big brother relapsed into serial infidelity. Justin refuses needless contact with clingy Julia, who tricks him with concert tickets and ends up witnessing how he accidentally finds out his father cheating on his mother.
Charlie's wedding jitters grow as Kirsten obsesses about every futile detail until he decides he can't completely hand over control over the last part of his life not sacrificed to his siblings and the Salinger restaurant. So the in-laws first suspend the ceremony, then advise an ultimatum, but that ends up making Kirsten realize she expects more then he can guarantee. Bailey and Sara realize they love each-other more then she Will, who ends up graciously stepping aside. Justin, still shocked by his father's adultery, gets drunk on bottles Julia stole from the wedding and ends up in bed with her.
Bailey joins Sarah in her grandmother Sarah's annual posthumous anniversary celebration. There they find out, from a letter, that his lover was named after a third Sarah, a wartime affair, and adopted. Bailey tries in vain to make her realize parents are whoever lovingly raises you, but she finds it hard to accept, even from him. In need of time away, Charlie uses his honeymoon tickets to Mexico with Claudia, who alas only berates him. Both find a holiday partner, but neither relationship can last afterward and now Claudia reproaches Charlie not to mourn. Justin is happy being just sex-partners with Julia, as agreed, but she soon realises that she does not fell happy about their arrangement. His father catches them in bed, but Justin bites back that he takes no lessons in sexual ethics from an adulterer.
Bailey is increasingly uncomfortable with Sarah's shameless credit-card overuse for her 16th birthday and tries to convince her there's no reason to question her adoptive parents' commitment after the Reeves' 16 year record. Her stubbornness makes her miss a grand surprise party. Charlie practically invites himself to join his restaurant staff going out after work. A clumsy waitress asks him for a private favour, but when she declines his advances, Charlie then discriminates against her at work, but eventually sees the light. Only Justin dares turn on their English teacher when Julia tells him he made an unwanted pass at her, yet she worries about how she may have sent misleading signals. Justin and Charlie assure her that it is the adult teacher's responsibility.
Bailey and Justin are almost amused to bump into each-other with their partners in the cellar. Julia complains over lack of privacy and wants to turn the attic into her room. Bailey however lays a separate claim, being older and having shared his room with Owen. Julia and Bailey fight, and Bailey tells Sarah about a band singer audition that he knew Julia hoped for which Sarah then wins. In revenge, Julie convinces soon less than amused Justin to successfully apply for the TV studio job Bailey that hoped would pay his college fees. Charlie cheerfully accepts helping out Kirsten with her babysitter income taxes and is delighted they end up in bed, but she maintains that changes nothing. Ross expected Claudia to resume violin lessons swiftly now her cast is off, but she fakes pain and ultimately confesses she chose to give up music to have a 'normal life', actually still under Jody's wayward influence. Only Bailey respects her decision, the other siblings' nagging only infuriates her. A letter from Boston accepting Bailey as student makes Julia see her priorities differently.
After bumping into a woman who might be Sarah's birth mother, she wonders whether to look her up. Bailey does, but is told she's not in the least maternal, so he pretends the name Robin Merrin was adopted later. Charlie realizes Kirsten neglected to get Owen enrolled in a good pre-school, which is urgent now Bill can't help out whole days any more. His last chance depends on a rule children must be potty trained, and Charlie simply can't pull that off. Justin sort of expected Julia to be jealous when his parents accept to host his English friend Allison 'Allie', but the girls soon become firm friends. Julia however feels awkward when Allie admits a lesbian interest in her and is then forced into telling about it to protect Allie from a possibly dangerous situation. Kirsten is far from amused by Claudia's impertinent tricks to lure her to the Salinger house, even after meeting her new date Michael and his daughter about her age.
Bailey and Sara don't enjoy double dating with Will and his new girlfriend Gina, an opinionated, bossy type whose taste is opposite to theirs. This leads to Will dumping her after fights, but he's miserable, scolds 'wonder boy' Bailey and crawls back to her. Charlie offers Claudia a reasonable bribe after her teacher Emily Schrader, in detox herself, caught her. But she demands he doesn't date her, which goes wrong after he saves her from a Titanic-obsessed blind date at the restaurant. Justin finally confronts his father over his adultery after Julia happened to notice his ma's morning sickness, but both sides inconsistently ignore good advice and Charlie discards Helene's impertinent demand to forbid the couple having sex in the Salinger home, realizing that would drive them to unsafe surroundings.
Bailey is delighted that a Mr. Wiliams founded a college scholarship at his high-school and personally picked him as first benefactor a four time $10,000 annually. Yethe doesn't trust it, especially after elaborate questions about his mother during the dinner to meet his benefactor. Then he finds out Williams is an alias for his maternal grandfather Jack Gordon and confronts him. The man admits, but refuses to have anything to do with his four siblings. Catering for glamorous TV producer Kathleen Ishley's birthday party gets Charlie her generous favors, but he keeps her at distance for boring Emily until she makes a scene about waiting for it. Justin offers to help hopeless Julia with programming, but she immediately assumes malice and prefers a tutor. Computer nerd Miller West volunteers, but prefers payment of a more romantic kind, to improve his social position.
Now Bailey's attitude has convinced grandpa Jake to present himself to the five siblings, his New Hampshire scholarship is on again and Sarah feels betrayed when she finds out. Jake becomes a regular guest, mostly to Claudia's joy, but Julia is viciously hostile, claiming he betrayed mother unforgivably. Sarah's birth mother Robin Merrin suddenly turns up to meet her and seems her only interest now, but announces after a weekend she's off on tour for months. Only after Bailey offers to turn sown the scholarship for her she realizes his love is truly noble and gives her blessing. When Emily finds out about Kathleen at the movie theatre, she dumps Charlie, who can't handle Kathleen seeing an ex, yet has no real answer how that is half as unfaithful as his own behavior.
Bailey's idea for Valenetine's day, which he calls a commercial invention anyhow, a double date with Will to the Monster Truck show, doesn't register as romantic with the girls. When Sarah decides to instead spend the evening with her surprise-visiting, hunky old friend Sean, Bailey gets jealous and follows them, only to make a scene by using his fists when Sean publicly reads a romantic poem which turns out to be for his present girl, Clara.To Justin's horror, Julia agrees to give shelter to her unruly ex Griffin, who 'escaped' after his home visit for Louisiana military academy and now needs Justin's help too to recuperate his motorbike and flee to Canada. Spending time with Julia, Griffin tells her he is still in love with her and decides to return to bayou country. Charlie reluctantly lets lover Kathleen, who can't handle her 'demotion' to a less popular TV news time and is sick of his lack of ambition, hire a renowned chef Terrell for Salinger's, and finds he needs to lay down the law.
Julia confirms she is pregnant, and Justin feels ignored while she torments herself over her options. Sarah declines giving her view, being adopted herself. Grandpa Jacob is left in the dark. Ultimately, Julia makes the decision, and nature ensuring it does not change that for her.
Charlie reacts negatively when Kathleen decides on her own to enter the other half of his life, mainly the family, rejecting even a Hawaiian family holiday offer. When he declares he can't fully love her, that brings her close to suicide. Bailey can cope ever less with Sarah's flirtatious attitude on stage and with her band mates, increasing the strain on their relationship. Worried about Julia's despondence, Charlie sends her back to school. Justin drags her through classes, but she runs the last period, pretending to Justin she'll spend the weekend with Charlie at Lake Taho and vice-versa, while she surprises Griffin in New Orléans. He dodges military academy to spend time with her, which only confuses him further.
Bailey discovers that grandpa Jake, one of whose mysterious Arizona trips was extended for days, has another family, yet his graduating daughter Lauren is as unsure about him, so he decides such an unreliable element doesn't belong in the close Salinger family, and asks him to move out, yet not break up completely. Unable to commit to Kathleen, Charlie intends to let her off easily by pretending Kirsten wants him back, but she finds out and bitterly threatens to wreck the restaurant. A writing assignment about relationships starts Justin romanticizing, only to find Julia can't even properly dance with him anymore.
After a minor incident with Sara's band, Bailey comes up with excessive precautions, which she rudely calls meddling, claiming she needs to become independent before he goes to college. Only after band singer Matt steals a kiss, Sara remembers loving only Bailey. Joe is back in Frisco and bitterly blames Charlie, soon followed by his siblings, for wrecking the restaurant's future by his Kathleen adventure so badly, it must close next month. Ignoring Justin's long-announced plans, Julia joins alone a photography course she hoped could bring them closer together. She eagerly accepts help from a man who clearly has a romantic interest, which she doesn't resist.
Bailey tells Sarah he doesn't feel their relationship satisfies either of them truly, yet she pleads it's true love. The siblings prepare gloomily for Salinger's farewell dinner. Against hope, Charlie asks grandfather Jake if his experienced business eye still sees a way out. He does, but only if Bailey forsakes his college fund for the cause. Justin refuses to stay with Julia after their mutual infidelity and without true love just because parting feels so hard. With Kirsten's wedding to Michael impending, Charlie not only declares his love and readiness to commit but persists right until she gives in on her second aborted wedding day.
Charlie, now back together with Kirsten, is trying to get on with his life until Kirsten's mother unexpectedly shows up and tells them that she has left her husband. Meanwhile, Claudia returns from summer camp with stories about meeting a boy named Byron, whom everyone thinks she made up. Julia's ex-flame, Griffin Holbrook, having graduated from high school, arrives in town during a leave he has with the merchant marines to try to reconcile with her. Also, Bailey and Will decide to take an end-of-the-summer road trip to Mexico. But Sarah and Will's girlfriend, Gina, spoil the fun by insisting they come along. Things get even worse for the guys when Bailey's jeep breaks down, the girls desert them, and their jeep gets stolen.
Kirsten gets a teaching job at California State Monterey. But the commute and long hours begin to take its toll on her and Charlie's relationship. As Julia takes a stressful receptionist job in a busy law firm, Griffin, temporarily living at the house until he finds an apartment, doesn't measure up to Julia's expectation of responsibility, forcing him to leave. Meanwhile, Claudia becomes angry and jealous when Byron apparently develops a crush on Julia. Bailey fears his friendship with Will is ending as Will prepares to leave town to go to college back east with his new outgoing roommate, Tucker.
Bailey starts college at San Francisco State University and meets a new friend, named Cooper, who already has him taking not-so-ethical short cuts his first few days on campus. Meanwhile, Julia, Justin, and Sarah are grouped together when they enter an essay contest hoping that by winning the prize they will boost their chances of getting into a good college next year. Also, Kirsten's professor discovers that she has unintentionally plagiarized part of her dissertation, and risks losing her teaching position and everything else.
Bailey's friend, Cooper, and Julia are attracted to each other, but Bailey forbids them to date. Bailey then moves out of the Salinger household and into an apartment with a new attractive roommate named Callie Martel, an older woman whom Sarah doesn't approve of. Meanwhile, Claudia takes over the household repairs herself and must deal with leaky pipes. Also, Charlie realizes that Kirsten's depression over losing her job is much serious than he thought.
Bailey finds himself playing rescuer for Callie who has gotten herself in a mess with a boyfriend wanting her, and who turns out to be one of his college professors. Meanwhile, Cooper wants his relationship with Julia to become more intimate, but Julia apparently isn't ready to sleep with anyone yet for she is still affected by her recent miscarriage, which leads to their breakup. As Claudia moves into Julia's old bedroom, Jody confides in her about her troubled home life that her mother's new boyfriend has made sexual advances towards her. When Kirsten tries a new anti-depressant medication, she becomes compulsive about neatness and Charlie tries to convince her to stick with it.
Kirsten's parents arrive in town after Claudia had told them about Kirsten's worsened mental condition and they immediately quarrel with Charlie after they decide to take her back to Chicago to have her committed to a mental hospital, with a court order if possible. Meanwhile, Bailey and Callie start to confide in each other about their past history; Callie about her relationship with her distant father who is having a 60th birthday party this weekend, and Bailey about his strained relationship with Charlie. Also, Julia and Sarah fly east to interview at Dartmouth in hopes of going to college there, but Sarah becomes worried and homesick almost immediately.
As Halloween approaches, Claudia is convinced that a curse is the cause of all the bad things that have happened to the family over the past few years. So, she hires an exorcist to "cleanse" the family dwelling. Meanwhile, Bailey is beginning to feel the constants of his celibate relationship with Sarah and goes to seek some intimacy with Callie. While organizing Grant High's annual Halloween costume dance, Julia has to deal with the fact that Justin is now dating another girl. Also, Charlie puts his trust in a shady handyman, named Earl, who claims to be an old friend of his father's. Charlie also comes across a woman named Grace Wilcox, who runs a local charity that feeds the homeless.
In the aftermath of having sex with Callie, Bailey feels guilty and decides to break up with Sarah. But Bailey falls ill with chicken pox in which Sarah becomes his personal servant. After approaching a resident novelist at Stanford to read her admission essay, Julia receives an unexpected scathing critique which shakes her confidence in going to college. Meanwhile, Claudia meets once again with Avery, her mother's old musician colleague, who wants to enroll her in a school for gifted children, in which Charlie objects to Claudia making a rash decision that's way over his head.
The local press publishes Charlie as a bad guy when he mishandles an incident with a belligerent homeless man at Salingers during a feed-the-homeless fund, and Grace too disavows Charlie leading to her organizing a boycott of the restaurant at it leads to everyone, including Charlie's employees and neighbors shunning him. After being rejected to get on the college hockey team, Bailey tries out for the wrestling team and deals with his coach's lenient methods and his own inexperience. Meanwhile, Julia is disturbed by the loud noise of a construction crew fixing the roof of the house while she trying to finish her college application paper, and befriends the two construction workers, foreman Sam and his spaced out brother Alec.
Bailey rescues Callie from an attempted date-rape and she becomes more dependent on him, in which he breaks a date with Sarah to be with her. Meanwhile, Julia's attraction for Sam grows and she tries keeping him at the house to finish fixing the roof. Claudia is asked to be a writer of the "Love Lorn" column for her school's paper to write about problems with people's love lives and begins to analyze everyone's problems around her, while she herself becomes oblivious to advances from a student named Stuart. Also, Charlie finds himself in an awkward position when Grace wants to be more than friends.
Bailey is on a downward spiral when his relationship with Callie intensifies while Sarah becomes increasingly resentful of him. So, Sarah tries to set Callie up with her cousin Paul to keep her away from Bailey. Meanwhile, Charlie is beginning to feel an attraction to Grace when his former restaurant partner, Joe, arrives in town and announces that he is getting married to a younger woman and wants the wedding held in the restaurant. Also, Julia's crush on Sam grows which prompts him to quit working on the roof of the house to stay away from her.
Charlie flies to Chicago to visit Kirsten and is surprised to see her doing good with her life. When Charlie asks Kirsten to come back with him to San Francesco, without telling her mother, he soon realizes that her manic depression is something not easily fixable. Back in San Francisco, Julia takes over the household responsibilities by herself and takes them so lightly in order to spend more time with Sam, and as a result, she and everyone else doesn't notice when Claudia is admitted to the hospital with appendicitis. Also, a guilty Bailey, going downward on his relationship with Sarah while trying to stay away from Callie as well as balancing time with his wrestling practice, finally confesses to Sarah that he slept with Callie who surprisingly reacts hurt, but understanding.
The Salinger's grandfather, Jacob Gordon, returns and tells the Salingers that he just wants to spend the holidays with his family and nothing more. But Julia, as usual, suspects there's something more going on with him and that he's hiding some health problems. Meanwhile, Charlie is attempting to overcome his depression about losing Kirsten for good by working more on Grace's feed the homeless project where meets a homeless man he tries to help out, but whom Charlie later finds out that the man too suffers from a mental illness. Bailey is alone when both Callie and Sarah leave town to be with their families. Not wanting to be around his own family, the alienated Bailey seeks a bond with his wrestling coach, Russ Petrocelli. Also, Claudia is still being pursued by Stuart who has a massive crush on her. When Claudia tries to show Stuart that he's nothing more than a friend by giving him a lame gift of trick candles, it backfires when it turns out to be something he wanted.
Julia, Justin and the rest of Grant High School is shocked when Julia's long-time friend, Libby, suddenly commits suicide and Julia tries to find out why Libby would want to end her life when it looked so promising. Meanwhile, Charlie attends his 10-year high school reunion where he becomes reacquainted with two old school basketball teammates and his old girlfriend, which leads Charlie to think that the best time of his life, which was in high school, and is behind him for good. Also, Sarah becomes increasingly cold and resentful towards Bailey who tries too hard to please her, which leads Sarah finally deciding to let Bailey go his own way.
In an attempt to overcome his pain after breaking up with Sarah, as well as to get away from Callie who wants to evict him from the apartment, Bailey throws himself into a grueling practice to qualify for a spot on the wrestling team. Here, Bailey shows his first serious signs of his already strong alcohol consumption he has been having for the past few months. Meanwhile, Grace accepts a date with a politically connected man from the mayor's office which arouses jealousy in Charlie. Also, Sam becomes more tentative to Julia after encountering his former girlfriend, Karen, who's tells him that she's marrying someone else.
Charlie and Grace finally go out on a date, but they agree to take things slowly. The next time they see each other to paint the interior of a house, Charlie brings over toddler Owen and Grace brings her grandmother in order to curb any temptation. Meanwhile, the family is excited when Julia announces that she has been accepted to Stanford, but she is conflicted about this turn of her life. Sarah resents Julia's reluctance to send in her letter of intent because Sarah did not get into Stanford. Bailey tries to resist alcoholic beverages after learning that his grades are low, but he is sidetracked by Callie's disruptive presence and an angry landlord trying to evict them by turning off the heating in their apartment. Also, Claudia's outing of a gay teacher at her school affects her violin teacher Ross' personal life too for he happens to be dating the man.
Bailey's friend Will arrives in town for a visit during a break from college, and is surprised to see how frequently (and how much) that Bailey drinks on a regular basis. Will tells Bailey to take it easy with drinking, but Baily snaps at Will to mind his own business. Suspecting that Bailey has a drinking problem, as well as having extremely low self-esteem, Will turns to Sarah to try to get her to talk to Bailey. Meanwhile, Grace moves into the Salinger house after a fire destroys her apartment, and not everyone is happy to have her there. Also, Julia decides that she can no longer live under Charlie's rules after she tells him about not going to Stanford and she moves into Sam's apartment, upsetting the quiet life Sam had going for himself.
Grace beings to think that moving in with Charlie and his siblings wasn't a good idea after during a food shopping outing, Grace has an encounter with a woman whom makes a casual, but stereotypical, comment to Grace about her watching over Owen. Claudia, sensing tension at home between Grace and the family, offers to volunteer at Grace's office in a way for the two of them to get better acquainted, only to see Grace's true bossy attitude towards her which drives a further wedge between them. Meanwhile, Sam is looking for an extra guy for his construction crew and Julia recommends Bailey, which turns out to be a bad idea when he steals some liquor from the site. Also, Sarah confides in a skeptical Julia about Bailey's ever increasing drinking who continues his self-destructive lifestyle while denying to everyone (as well as to himself) that he has a drinking problem. Bailey becomes more and more out of control when he resorts to stealing all of Callie's rent money as well as pilfering items from his apartment and the Salinger house and pawning them to get more money for beer and hard liquor.
Charlie refuses to believe Julia or Sarah about Bailey's drinking problem. When Bailey steals and squanders all the money Charlie gives him to hire a clown for Owen's 3rd birthday party, Charlie and the rest of the siblings finally realize the enormity of Bailey's alcoholism after witnessing him doing embarrassing actions at Owen's party. Meanwhile, Grace is disturbed by a surprise visit from her parents who seem warm to Charlie. Julia decides to plan a summer trip to Europe with Sam, until she realizes that they hold different views toward certain people where Julia sees little amusement in Sam's racism and stereotyping of others, which leads to their breakup. Also, Claudia becomes reacquainted with Avery who introduces her to his visiting son Marcus, a withdrawn, unsure-of-himself, troubled teen.
Grace and Sarah join Charlie, Julia and Claudia for a family intervention to Bailey about his drinking. They lure Bailey to the house about a family emergency with baby Owen to confront him about his self-destructive lifestyle. Only the self-serving Callie refuses to associate herself with the rest of the family for Bailey's intervention. But Bailey (still lying to everyone, and to himself, that he's an alcoholic) is stunned by what he sees as everyone against him and goes out on the attack, cruelly singling out serious faults of their own. As the day wears on into the evening, Joe joins the group and reveals a surprising revelation: Nick, the Salinger's late father, was also an alcoholic.
In the aftermath of the family's failed intervention, Bailey escalates his drinking, totally not caring about himself, anyone or anything. But Bailey's increasingly erratic behavior alienates both Callie and Coach Petrocelli after Callie gets angry at him after he has literally emptied out her entire liquor cabinet, and finally discovers that Bailey's now spending hundreds of dollars every night at local bars by stealing money out of her own purse, while Coach Petrocelli finally learns that he cannot rely on his star player anymore after a drunk Bailey misses a championship wrestling match which costs his team from winning. Feeling rejected by everyone, a drunken Bailey kidnaps Owen from day care and keeps him out all day. Later that night, Bailey gets behind the wheel of his jeep and gets into an accident which injures Sarah who's riding with him. Meanwhile, Claudia directs her anger toward her late father for Bailey's drinking, after Avery tells her stories about her late parents troubles. Also, Julia's former boyfriend, Griffin Holbrook, arrives in town for a visit while he has some legal matters of his to deal with over suing the merchant marines for an accident he got into on board a freighter.
After a long night of a guilt drinking binge over injuring Sarah, Bailey appears on the doorstep of the Salinger house where he finally admits that he needs help. He attends his first AA meeting where he discovers Walter Alcott, the man who was responsible for his parents death three years ago, is a member and a big participator at the meetings which prompts Bailey to quit after revealing his still deep-rooted hatred for Alcott. Meanwhile, Griffin is trying to find a way to spend the $100,000 settlement he got for his knee injury and Julia tells him to help his long-estranged father who is having financial problems. But Julia becomes suspicious when she suspects Griffin's father only wants to bond with him over the money. Also, Grace is approached by some associates to run for a local office seat, making Charlie feel left out.
Sarah tries to move on with her life by dating an attractive medical student named Drew. But her efforts to remain supportive for Bailey's recovery are met with disapproval from Callie who feels left out. When Bailey realizes that Callie's presence is one of the causes of his compulsion to drink, he moves out of her apartment and back into the Salinger house, thus leaving Callie all on her own as before when he first met her. Meanwhile, Claudia tries to show Charlie that Grace is too self-absorbed with running for an office seat and is also too obsessed with publicity than to care about the family when she turns the entire Salinger household into her campaign office. Also, Griffin voices his concern with Julia who's slacking off in school and skipping classes to be with him.
On Spring Break, Sarah goes away with her parents and Bailey volunteers himself to chaperon Claudia on a trip to Los Angeles for a violin concert in order to distract himself in her absence. Bailey then falls off the wagon, but learns a valuable lesson of his problem from Joe and his young wife, Fran, living there over Bailey's drinking being not only psychological, but physical in nature as well. Bailey finally decides to start attending AA meetings. Meanwhile, Julia and Griffin's motorcycle trip through California hits a snag when their motorcycle breaks down, where Griffin decides to buy the shop where it gets fixed with his insurance settlement money which upsets Julia's spontaneous plans. Also, Grace has a pregnancy scare, which turns out to be a false alarm, but brings up an issue on kids to Charlie.
Bailey tries to make peace to all the people that he hurt while he was drinking including Coach Petrocelli. Although Bailey takes it hard when Sarah breaks up with Drew, she makes it clear that she only wants to be friends. Meanwhile, Julia's former boyfriend, Justin Thompson, tells her that he has been accepted to Yale and invites Julia to spend the summer with him in Europe. When she brings this news to Griffin, he tells her to put her love for him to the real test: by getting married. On the eve of Grace's election results, Charlie realizes that although he loves Grace, he tells her that she cannot love his siblings or any children like Kirsten did and tells her that his job as the legal guardian for his brothers and sisters must come first.
After returning from a two-month trip to Europe with a new look and shorted hairstyle, Julia finds herself in uncharted territory with her new husband, Griffin, who in his opinion realizes that "absence definitely makes the heart grow weirder." Meanwhile, Bailey is facing the consequences of the drunk-driving accident that put Sarah in the hospital when he's arrested after Sarah's powerful, revenge-seeking parents officially charge him with drunk driving. Claudia decides to try out for a cheerleader during her first day at Grant High School, but ends up becoming the school mascot instead. Also, Charlie finds some complications when he finds Owen dressing in girls clothing fearing that Owen is developing a bond with his pre-school teacher Jenny.
Bailey's trial for D.U.I. begins with him preparing for the worst, the rest of the family ready to mortgage their house for their legal defense, and Sarah telling Bailey that she's willing to lie on the witness stand for him. Meanwhile, Charlie deals with vicious rumors about Owen's teacher abusing her students which are running among the parents of Owen's classmates. Griffin's visiting sailor friend, Shuyler, arrives at his and Julia's apartment and almost immediately causes tension between all of them. Also, Claudia develops a crush on Reed, a school football player whose affections she tries to win with D.H. Lawrence's poetry.
Sarah finds herself on her own after walking away from her parents over what they did to Bailey who finds himself constantly haunted by his past when word of his criminal record spreads and keeps him from getting any job. Claudia also worries about being an outcast in school after a speech Bailey has to give. Meanwhile, Griffin begins having cash-flow problems at the garage, but keeps them to himself knowing of his long reputation as a loser. While Charlie tries dating again, he gets angry at Julia over her and Griffin's presence.
Bailey and Sarah settle down as platonic roommates and building managers in their new apartment, and they almost immediately get complaints from an irate tenant named Annie, a recently divorced single mother who's also a recovering alcoholic. At her new job, enthusiasm over working as a history museum's curator gets Julia in a complex situation with the museum director, Daniel, when Julia makes the mistake of giving him the wrong signals. Meanwhile, Charlie becomes smitten with Nina, a zoo cage animal feeder whom he meets at the local supermarket, but a sudden bout of the flu from Charlie puts a damper on their evening. Also, school mascot Claudia practically knocks herself out to please Reed during football practice.
Julia thinks her on-the-job troubles are the result of her admittance to Daniel that she is married. But later, more troubles ensues when Griffin pays an unexpected visit to the museum and learns from Daniel about Julia's flirtation with him. Meanwhile, Bailey's attention to Annie leaves Sarah feeling alone and abandoned when he gives Annie part of their rent money. Also, Charlie can't seem to find anything good with his life, despite his blossoming relationship with Nina. When the restaurant is closed down for repairs, Charlie sulks about it.
As Charlie prepares the restaurant for a grand reopening, he's hit with a big surprise when his former girlfriend, Kirsten, suddenly shows up which causes some friction with Nina. Meanwhile, Bailey's AA sponsor tells him that he may be heading for a fall as he looks to Annie for companionship. Griffin tries to feel like part of the Salinger family by repairing the restaurant jukebox. Also, Claudia gets Reed a job at Griffin's garage, but he continues to remain oblivious to her crush on him.
During planning for Julia's long-put-off wedding party, Charlie, despite claiming that he's all right, collapses on a racquetball court in which he goes to the hospital where he is diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Meanwhile, Kirsten's husband Paul, a medical grad student, clashes with Charlie who becomes jealous about his past with her. Griffin continues to keep his financial problems from Julia when the opening of a new repair shop on the block throws a rock into his business plans which bring threats from his silent partner/loan shark, Howie, over not paying up for a loan. Also, Sarah's dating plans with her new boyfriend, Elliott, don't set well with a lonely Bailey which makes him look to Annie once again.
Julia and Griffin's wedding celebration at the house is fraught with disaster and doubts which include Griffin's unexplained absence, and Annie's seven-year-old daughter, Natalie, eating part of the wedding cake and getting stuck in the bathroom, while Claudia videotapes each crisis for her amusement. Meanwhile, Charlie confides in Nina about his health. But Nina soon reveals her denial about Charlie's illness in which he finally breaks up with her, leaving him feeling more frightened and alone than ever. As the long day comes to a close, Julia is left with more uncertainty about her marriage after Griffin finally tells her about his business troubles and his shady business dealings. Also, Bailey wonders if Annie is the right woman for him while observing Sarah with her date.
Charlie finally tells, individually, the rest of his siblings about his illness. But he turns to Kirsten as he begins to feel increasingly sick, angry and frightened and unable to cope with Claudia's inquisitiveness, Bailey's awkward effort to bond, and Julia's selfishness. Meanwhile, Griffin's financial problems begin to take its toll on him and Julia in which they are evicted from their apartment over late rent payments.
Charlie begins radiation treatment and soon experiences unusual and accompanying side effects. But he won't hear of others trying to offer him a hand with daily tasks. Meanwhile, Bailey's gestures to help Annie find a more decent job only upsets her because she doesn't feel comfortable with someone running her life. Julia gets a new job as a $200-a-week intern at a magazine agency which does little to improve her and Griffin's financial problems after they decide to move into the Salinger garage. Also, Claudia tries becoming more close to Reed during an outing for groceries.
At Christmas time, Sarah and Bailey host a tree-trimming party at their apartment where Bailey's friend, Will, arrives for a visit and discovers that he and Bailey now live in separate lives due to Baily being with an older woman and his lack of party spirit. Julia's former boyfriend, Justin Thompson, also arrives for a visit where he tells her about his Ivy League college life, which prompts Julia to lie to him about her so-called successful life. Meanwhile, Charlie, at his doctor's advice to "recharge," accompanies Kirsten on a long-distance road trip.
Charlie continues to feel weaker from chemotherapy, and when at a point of total weakness, he asks help at home and at the restaurant, putting Bailey in charge of Salingers. But a hapless Julia, taking charge of the household chores while working her new job as a waitress at the restaurant, has a miserable time, in which Bailey has to let her go from the restaurant. Meanwhile, Claudia seeks companionship with Reed to get away from the household problems, but when she finally tells him her true feelings for him, he coldly pushes her away. Also, Charlie decides to help Sarah with a college project in building a miniature theater set.
With Kirsten's help, an ever increasing sickly Charlie meets with an herbalist and even tries out meditation which seems to help his state of mind, but not his cancer. Julia and Griffin, unable to help each other during crises, come to realize the distance between them due to Julia's busy work schedule and Griffin's continuing back luck at his bike shop over loss of business and confiscation of his property over not paying up on the rent. Meanwhile, Bailey tries to seek more time to be with Annie, while she ponders whether or not to tell her seven-year-old daughter, Natalie, about her and Bailey. Also, Claudia tries more than ever to get Reed to like her, but to no avail for he clearly states that he's not interested in her, leaving her more alone and sad than ever when no one else at home wants to listen to her problems.
Inspired by his friendship with Kevin, a fellow cancer patient, Charlie embraces a new attitude and adds some adventure to his life by going with Kevin to a batting cage and planning a fishing trip and hand-gliding which takes both Julia and Claudia by surprise. Meanwhile, Julia becomes friendly with a co-worker, name Jennie, at her new typist temp job, while her marital difficulties with Griffin become a battle zone. Sarah also has problems with her boyfriend, Elliot, whom she fears that he's losing interest in her. Also, Bailey tries to bond with Annie's daughter, Natalie, even though the youngster wants nothing to do with him.
Kevin's joyous reaction to his latest news about his cancer in remission does nothing to quiet Charlie's fears. Meanwhile, Griffin's pipe dreams over saving his failing bike shop leaves Julia with a lot of doubts about putting on a TV commercial with her as the spokes person. Elliot soon regrets revealing his true feelings to Bailey that he may be gay, which leaves him in a dilemma over whether or not to tell Sarah. Also, Claudia is hard-pressed to complete a school assignment on a time capsule that requires her to look to the future.
Charlie prepares himself for the worst after he's hospitalized for pneumonia and begins to lose hope in his will to live. Kirsten then tells her husband, Paul, that she cannot go away on a vacation with him and must be by Charlie's side. Bailey, overwhelmed by responsibilities to Annie, managing the restaurant, and going to college, comes to a major decision when he decides to quit school. Meanwhile, Claudia begins to retreat into a world of truancy as a result of being ignored by her siblings who are giving all their attention to the sickly Charlie. Also, Griffin finally cuts his losses and decides to sell his bike shop to get rid of his and Julia's debts.
With Charlie still in the hospital, Bailey and Julia continue to remain oblivious to what's happening on the home front due to their continuing life problems and daily visits to the hospital to be with Charlie. As a result, Claudia and Owen end up what most people consider neglected. When a visiting Social Services man makes a routine visit and finds Claudia and Owen alone, and the house in a drastic state of disarray, he has them removed to the state services. Meanwhile, Charlie makes out a living will and asks Kirsten a major favor: to care for Claudia and Owen if he dies when she agrees to look after them for Social Services. But Paul tells Kirsten that he's against the idea of raising someone else's children. Griffin begins his new job at his former bike shop, now an auto repair garage, and tries to help the attractive manager, Rosalie, make a deadline to repair one motorcycle.
Bailey slowly discovers Annie's relapse into alcoholism on the 2nd anniversary of her sobriety, which also threatens his sobriety as well. Julie rediscovers the academic world in a college literature class she begins taking to cover for Bailey. With Julia away, Griffin discovers he can no longer fight his growing attraction to Rosalie and caves into her advances towards him. But Julia later becomes more angry than ever when she discovers a love note that Rosalie wrote to Griffin. Meanwhile, Claudia gets help from a psychologist over her depression and uncertainty which leads her to ask Charlie to spend more time with her in teaching her how to drive a car.
Bailey and Julia accompany an anxious Charlie on a trip to their parents winter cabin as he awaits important test results. Back at home, Sarah tries to reach out to Annie and Kirsten finds out Claudia has applied for a school 3000 miles away.
After recieving good news about his condition, Charlie wants to to throw a party, but everyone is too busy to attend. Julia tries to salvage her marriage. Bailey and Sarah are snowed under looking after Natalie.
Ownership of the restaurant is up for grabs, dividing Charlie and the other Salinger siblings on what to do. Julia and Griffin see a marriage counsellor. A visiting prep school student shows an interest in Claudia.
Bailey and Annie re-evaluate their relationship after Annie gets out of rehab. Justin's reappearance causes trouble for Julia and Griffin. Charlie makes his stage debut in Daphne's charity musical show. Claudia begins to feel suffocated by Jamie.
Bailey and Annie are thrown for a loop when Annie's ex-husband reappears. Uneasy about Daphne's line of work, Charlie follows her to a job. Griffin wins a trip for two to Los Angeles and invites Julia.
Charlie delights in learning the sex of his unborn child, but Daphne has no interest in anything about the baby. Meanwhile, Julia seems incapable of interacting with Josh, especially after finding out that Griffin is trying to move on with his life without her when he moves into the Salinger house while looking for a new place to live, and pretends to have a new girlfriend. Sarah tries reconnecting with her birth mother, much to Bailey's chagrin. But after Sarah learns of her birth mother's sudden death in an accident, she instead tries seeking out the woman's parents. In Massachusetts, Claudia takes little interest in rebelling at her school with her more outgoing classmates.
Charlie and Kirsten are nothing but supportive of Daphne when her doctor orders her to bed rest for some time. Meanwhile, Julia hopes to avoid Ned at a Halloween party, but realizes that she can't get him out of her mind, while she continues to avoid Maggie. Bailey's old friend, Will, pays an unexpected visit to him and Sarah's loft and brings a lot of excess emotional baggage with him over running away from college, and a pregnant girlfriend named Hannah following him there. In Massacusetts, Claudia's former boyfriend, Jamie Burke, arrives at her school for a visit, but she wants to leave him in the past in order to fit in more with her new friends.
Charlie struggles to remain strong for Daphne, whose complications with her pregnancy has landed her in the hospital and jeopardized her life and that of the baby. Meanwhile, Julia and Ned decide to tell Maggie about their blossoming relationship, but they are delayed by her announcement of her dead pet dog. Bailey helps Hannah make an important decision about her future with or without her baby, or Will in her life. In Massacusets, Claudia hits every imaginable delay while waiting to catch a plane back to San Francisco to be with Charlie in his time of need.
While Charlie, Kirsten, Bailey, Julia and their friends take turns for a bedside vigil for Daphne who's still in the hospital, Claudia delays returning home to her boarding school to help Charlie around the house. Meanwhile, Maggie's anger overflows at both Ned and Julia after she learns from her visit to the Salinger home about their affair. Also, Sarah begins to have second thoughts about intimacy with Bailey over the pregnancies of Daphne and Hannah.
Fearing that little Owen has been abducted grips Charlie to a point to panic, who lost the youngster at a mall on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, Daphne tries to prepare the dinner for everybody... alone at the house. In Massachusetts, Claudia feels alone at not being able to travel back to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, and fears something's wrong due to Daphne's tone of voice over the phone. Bailey tries to ease Sarah's fears over missing Owen, while Griffin and Ned verbally square off against each other over Julia. Also, Kirsten and Paul have a minor argument over them staying with the Salingers for Thanksgiving.
As a new father to Daphne's baby, Charlie is afforded little quality time with Owen, which brings out jealousy in the five-year-old. Meanwhile, a would-be-competitor has Bailey running scared with threats to open a trendy new eatery across the street from Salingers. So Bailey resorts to an all-out war to prevent the restaurant from opening near Salingers, much to Sarah's and the former restaurant owner, Joe's chagrin. Julia thinks that Ned is not all he says he is after catching him in a lie, and discovers that he's trying to prevent her from meeting his visiting parents and autistic older brother, Richie, all of whom make a good impression on Julia, but not to Ned. In Massacusetts, a homesick and lonely Claudia resorts to drastic measures at her school after a curfew is imposed.
Kirsten steps in once again when Daphne seems unable to handle the tasks of motherhood in responding to the baby's constant crying fits and Charlie's demands. But Paul finally puts his foot down after Kirsten misses a few too many nights of them together to be with the Salingers. Meanwhile, Julia's efforts to get to know Ned's autistic brother, Richie, upsets not only Ned but Richie as well. Griffin flies to Boston to come to Claudia's rescue when the rest of her siblings won't. Also, Bailey goes on a wild spending spree after receiving a large tax refund check. But his generosity to Sarah makes her feel like a kept woman.
The week before Christmas, Daphne's routine of quiet desperation is interrupted by an unannounced visit from her inattentive and obnoxious mother along with her boyfriend. Although Daphne is dubious, Charlie insists that the visitors stay. But Charlie has other things on his mind when he gets angry at Claudia and Griffin after he brings her home for the holidays and she refuses to go back to her school. Meanwhile, a dejected Owen stays with Bailey and Sarah which leads to an incident when Owen is suspected of stealing a baby doll from a nativity scene over his growing resentment over Daphne's baby. Also, Julia tries helping Ned with a term paper due before the holidays. But Julia later finds out that Ned only wants her around as company since he does not want to spend Christmas with his dysfunctional family.
Daphne, upset with herself for ignoring baby Diana, pays a visit to a priest for answers when she sees her own sanity beginning to crack over her maternal responsibilities, while her puzzling behavior begins to worry Charlie. Meanwhile, Bailey tries to find common ground with Owen by taking him out on a camping trip which doesn't go well as all. Julia begins to see a new side of Ned when he begins acting moody and angry over his former girlfriend, Maggie, having a new boyfriend and starts taking it out on Julia. Also, Kirsten volunteers herself as a supervisor to the children's ward at Paul's hospital and becomes acquainted with a rambunctious, disabled boy.
Charlie must cope with the fact that he's now alone and raising baby Diana on his own after Daphne leaves. Meanwhile, Sarah becomes traumatized after being attacked at knife point by a robber at the restaurant which requires her to seek therapy and Bailey feels helpless about the incident and takes out his frustration by investing in high-tech security systems. Julia moves back into the Salinger house to escape from Ned's sudden outbursts. But a sudden visit from Ned, who appears very apologetic, makes Julia wondering if she really knows him. Paul tells Kirsten about his idea of adopting a child for themselves. Also, Griffin and Claudia find a common musical connection with each other with her violin and his guitar which leads him to ask her to perform in a band his is forming with some friends.
A courthouse confrontation between Sarah and her assailant spooks her, but it changes when decides not to testify much to Bailey's chagrin. Meanwhile, Julia decides to make up with Ned and tries to forget about his abuse. But Griffin gets bad vibes from Ned over Julia when he learns about Ned's short temper. Claudia decides to shed her naive image and walk on the wild side with some advice from Griffin's band mate Cody. Also, Charlie seems oblivious to his effect on women when three of them mistaken his kind gestures for advances. Paul's news to Kirsten about trying to adopt a baby lifts her spirits, but only temporarily when he backs out.
The arrival of Julia's former boyfriend, Justin, fuels Ned's jealousy and anger during an anniversary party for Justin's parents. Despite Bailey's objections, Sarah insists on seeking a bond with her attacker, and soon regrets it when the man robs several apartments in the building. Meanwhile, Kirsten makes a major decision in her life on ending her marriage with Paul, and turning to Charlie for help. Also, jealousy prompts a creative performance from Claudia during her first gig with Griffin's band when a new lead singer, named Melanie, turns out to be an old girlfriend of Cody's.
A recently rediscovered file on Daphne about her troubled childhood sends Charlie to Los Angeles to find her which arouses jealousy and fear in Kirsten. Meanwhile, Griffin gets no help at all from Bailey or Charlie who refuse to believe that Julia is being abused and controlled by Ned, especially when Julia convinces them that Griffin is the problem. So, Griffin takes matters into his own hands by beating up Ned and ends up in jail for it. Bailey considers a risky partnership concerning the restaurant with a sleazy entrepreneur who wants to open a chain of restaurants statewide, while at the same time Bailey tries to balance time to Owen's kindergarten basketball practice meets. Also, Claudia begins to have doubts about seeing Cody after their first date goes bad.
Julia goes into therapy, with Ned in tow, after she vows to remain with him if he agrees to get help. But when the psychiatrist tries probing into the source of Ned's anger, he backs out while at the same time, he also manipulates Julia into moving with him into an apartment in order to keep his abuse a secret. Meanwhile, Owen's kindergarten teacher tells Bailey about a suspected learning disability Owen may have, which leads Bailey to consider raising Owen by himself. In Los Angeles, Charlie urges Daphne to return home with him to get psychiatric help to overcome damage done by Daphne's own neglectful mother. But Charlie discovers that he too could use some help in raising baby Diana as well as Owen and Claudia. Also, Kirsten moves out of the Salinger house after thinking that Charlie is still committed to Daphne, and Griffin prepares to do the same.
All of the Salingers come to mean frustration that threatens to tear the family apart starting when Bailey and Charlie begin to verbally quarrel over custody of Owen since both brothers do not want to back down on trying to raise Owen by themselves. Meanwhile, Julia feels left out when Bailey and Charlie take out their frustration on her. But due to Claudia's suspicious, and after a meeting with Maggie, both Bailey and Charlie confront Julia on an alarming truth about Ned's abuse. For Sarah, family means something new about which she doesn't see eye to eye with her adoptive mother who has decided to get married again.
With a little of Maggie's help, Griffin whisks Julia away to try to talk some sense into her about her relationship with the abusive Ned. Julia still won't listen to Griffin or anyone. But upon returning to San Francisco, Ned's words may later ring true for her. Meanwhile, Claudia feels pressured to take sides when Bailey tells her to support him in his custody battle for the dyslexic Owen, and Kirsten feels the same after a visit from Bailey. The events lead the family gathering under trouble circumstances at the hospital when Owen is admitted with a broken arm after falling off his new bicycle which only strengthens Bailey's determination to get custody of Owen.
The Salingers become more anxious than ever to end the dispute between Charlie and Bailey over proper care for Owen. But Bailey remains a holdout when Charlie refuses to hand over Owen's guardianship to him which takes them to verbally fighting in a family court with everyone in their lives testifying for and against them. Meanwhile, Julia makes yet another telling observation about Ned when he begins stalking her after she moves out of his place. Also, both Kirsten and Griffin try to make a clean break from the Salingers and they accidentally lease an apartment that each other wants.
A city-wide power failure traps Julia and Griffin alone in an elevator where feelings for each other resurface. At the same time, Charlie goes to the hospital to help baby Diana where he has a chance meeting with Kirsten's husband Paul. The blackout increases tension between Bailey and his new restaurant manager, Lauren, over how to manage Salingers due to the blackout and Lauren's domineering management techniques. Meanwhile, Claudia frets about some of the boys at her 16th birthday party that Sarah throws for her at the loft while she also tries to calm Claudia down by explaining the pleasures and pain of life and love.
Both Charlie and Julia express different thoughts on a second chance with their former mates, Kirsten and Griffin respectively: whereas Julia wants to keep her relationship with Griffin a secret, Charlie has conflicts about staring over with Kirsten. Meanwhile, Bailey senses unrest in Owen over living conditions at the loft, and may even have some within himself stemming from Lauren over feelings towards her. Charlie makes some confusing moves around Kirsten which takes a sudden turn when he finds out she is likely to be accepted into a foreign study program in Tonga that could last 2 years. Also, Claudia confides in her former violin coach, Ross, about her conflicting life problems, and Griffin eventually tells Julia he does not want to get back together with her in fear of failing again.
Bailey rejects Lauren's resignation as restaurant manager and asks her to stay, while continuing to avoid her. Sarah takes a nervous Claudia for her first visit to a gynecologist. Afterwards, Claudia's band mate, Melanie, tries to reunite her with Cody at a concert where the band R.E.M. is performing. Meanwhile, Perry Marks, a visiting English professor and well noted alumna of Julia's writing class, critiques her work as well as comforts and quarrels with Julia about her own writing. While Bailey and Sarah move back into the Salinger house, Charlie sees a gift for himself in Bailey's compulsion for control when he decides to move out to be with Kirsten.
Bailey asks Sarah to co-host a formal dinner party to promote the restaurant while she tries balancing her time with her human rights activist group planning to stage a campus protest on that day. Meanwhile, Perry and Julia exchange favors of going to social parties as well as helping each other with their literary work, which takes a sudden turn when an intimate moment happens between them. Claudia begins to avoid being alone with Cody fearing that he wants something more, which leads her to throwing a house party for her friends. Also, Charlie hesitates to stay with Kirsten when she gets a great job offer for a teaching position in Chicago.
Charlie's romance and possible future with Kirsten is put in a dilemma when Daphne suddenly returns to town after the death of her mother and wants to see baby Diana. Meanwhile, Claudia adopts a new look to shed her good girl image to fit more in with Cody, much to Bailey's chagrin. Bailey is left by himself when Sarah goes away to write an introspective essay, but cannot get away from the stress and worry of her daily life. Julia, seeking to reevaluate her life, goes on a date with Josh, which gets disrupted when Julia lets a comment from Perry about her status quickly ending the evening. This leads Julia to learn from Perry about the pros and cons about being independent from others in one's life.
Both Charlie and Bailey make plans to propose marriage to Kirsten and Sarah respectively. But with Kirsten still wary over Daphne's return, and Sarah coping with schoolwork and scholarship pressures, only Bailey finds the right time to propose, but when it comes to the decision, only Kirsten says "yes." Time with baby Diana makes Daphne think about demanding custody of her baby. Meanwhile, a final biochemistry exam that's critical to her scholarship chances weighs heavily on Julia, who rejects her visiting former boyfriend Justin's tempting offer of help because she's determined to succeed or fail on her own. Also, Claudia tries too hard to fit in with Cody's wild and crazy friends with partying and drinking, and gets a hard lesson in the difference between being yourself, and being who others want you to be, in the process.
Charlie and Kirsten hit a snag involving the site for their coming wedding which throws planner (and control-freak) Bailey into overdrive. Sarah, who turned down Bailey's own marriage proposal, can't say anything without getting a snappish response from him. A modicum of support comes from Kirsten's visiting parents, with her mother playing the peacemaker as her father does little to mask his disapproval of the event knowing of the first fiasco marriage attempt years before. Meanwhile, Julia is offered a great opportunity to write a book by her academic editor Evan. Also, Claudia's relationship with Cody takes a turn when she finds him kissing someone else.
Julia hits writers block while trying to meet a deadline for her book and none of her friends, nor her editor Evan, are willing or able to help her. Meanwhile, Claudia gets support from Alexia, a cheerleader classmate and leader of Grant's High School elite clique, in rejecting Cody who does not take rejection lightly. While on their honeymoon in Mexico, Kirsten and Charlie can't compete with their neighbors' passion in the suite next door when Kirsten gets food poisoning and Charlie gets sunburned. Back in San Francisco, Bailey balks at sharing his feelings with Sarah and instead tries to drown their subjects with sex. Also, Daphne is conflicted at leaving baby Diana for the first time at a day care center.
Sarah meets a former friend of her birth mother who tells her that her natural birth father, whom was in fact briefly married to her mother, lives in New York City, which prompts the troubled Sarah to consider traveling to New York to find him, and leaving Bailey. Meanwhile, Claudia's new clique of friends is criticized on a on-line web page, and Claudia suspects the school's disgruntled star basketball player and Alexa's boyfriend, Cameron, is the culprit. At her editor Evan's advice, Julia looks for her present place now in her late parents past as part of a chapter in her work. Daphne reveals that she got fired and asks Kirsten to give her a job at the family clinic, while she also hires a babysitter, named Victor, to watch baby Diana. Charlie deals with Myra, a rebellious girl in the wood shop class he teaches.
Bailey is reunited with his old friend, Will McCorkle, and accompanies him on Will's job assignment as a chauffeur of a pro wrestler which turns into a comedy of epic proportions when the wrestler forces the guys to drive to his estranged wife's house. Meanwhile, Julia hears rumors about her and Evan being romantically involved as a result of their spending time together. But during a Halloween costume party, Julia thinks that her feelings for Evan run deeper than she thought especially when she sees her friend, Isabella, trying to get chummy with him. Charlie and Kirsten visit a fertility doctor to see if there is still a chance for her to get pregnant which brings up more worry and complications. Also, Victor, Owen, and Griffin decorate the Salinger house for a Halloween party which gets too much for them to handle. Claudia sees that Cameron has feelings for her when he tells her about his decision to break up with Alexia.
Cameron's covert kisses confuse Claudia who thinks that getting involved with him may not be right while she deals with a clueless Alexia. Meanwhile, Evan becomes more mindful of Julia who tries to set some ground rules to their newfound romance. The fertility changes dictates life for both Charlie and Kirsten when she has to take fertility injections with her lithium, and he has to take a second job to pay for the medical costs. Griffin and Will accompany Bailey on a 3,000-mile drive to New York in an old truck to drop off some of Sarah's belongings. When the guys truck breaks down in a small town, Bailey reveals his obsession to get to New York and bring Sarah back with him. Also, Charlie pairs Myra with Claudia for a studying time despite the fact that they both can't stand each other. But when Myra discovers Claudia's secret involvement with Cameron, it gives Myra some leverage against Claudia who uses this info to intimidate Claudia to talk to Charlie to back off his discipline of her.
Myra turns to Charlie instead of her oblivious mother for help in her troubled, neglected home life. After Myra gets arrested for being drunk and disorderly, Charlie intervenes by reporting her to Social Services and the angry Myra decides to seek revenge. Kirsten begins seeing another fertility doctor to get pregnant. Meanwhile, Julia wants to introduce a reluctant Evan to the rest of the family as her new boyfriend. Bailey, feeling that he has lost Sarah for good, meets a sexually aggressive, fun-loving woman, named Tracy, in a bar while he fights his sudden urge to drink again, only to learn later that Tracy is married. After breaking up with Cameron, Claudia attracts a new admirer, a guy named Derek who is in her in her photography class through Alexia, and soon gets in over her head after she defends herself against a sexual assault by the guy during a party. Also, Griffin runs into Daphne who's working at a strip club, and Bailey asks Will to move in at the Salinger house after his parents threaten to throw him out.
After Myra's mother accuses Charlie of abusing her daughter, he is given the offer to resign from the school, quietly. Charlie decides to quit, but an encouragement from Kirsten convinces him to make a stand. Meanwhile, Julia meets Evan's angry and rebellious teenage son, Brian, while at the same time, she also encourages Claudia to report Derek after she confides in her about the incident. Bailey ponders a future with the married Tracy, while Joe, Victor, and Will help plan a Thanksgiving dinner at the house. Also, Griffin and Daphne have a lot to be thankful for when they discover their own primal passions for each other.
Julia reacts to Evan's lack of reaction when he hears about Brian's kiss with her. Meanwhile, Claudia has a little too much tequila to drink at Grant High's Homecoming dance and it makes her give the slip about Derek and her contempt for the clique. Bailey believes it's fate when an attractive British immigrant and struggling medical intern, named Holly, rings his doorbell by accident and he becomes stricken with her almost immediately. Charlie thinks about his future as he prepares to celebrate his 30th birthday. Also, Daphne and Griffin have an auto accident when he teaches her how to ride his motorcycle and everyone must come together for them after they both land in the hospital, especially Griffin who has the most injuries.
Charlie and Kirsten cut corners in cutting back electricity, heating and other utilities while seeking more fertility drugs as they and the rest of the family pitches in to help pay for Griffin's hospital costs from the motorcycle accident. But things get only worse when a tip leads them to a shady man who claims to have cheap drugs for them to buy. Meanwhile, Bailey doesn't waste another chance to be with Holly by setting up a picnic in the 49ers stadium which leads to a heated meeting. Seeking to relive her childhood days, Claudia enters a violin competition with her former violin coach Ross tutoring her, but soon has an inner conflict about playing again after a long hiatus. When Griffin learns from Daphne that the Salingers are paying for his medical costs, he angrily leaves the hospital and states to Julia that he does not want to be a burden on the family due to his pride and self-reliance.
On New Year's Eve, Holly takes Bailey to a family wedding where Bailey's fears and uncertainty about commitment reveal themselves. Meanwhile, Griffin and Julia track down her elusive new editor which leads to a party where Julia learns from her editor that her book may not get published due to another story similar to hers. A promotion at the factory holds little advantage for Charlie after his boss, Gus, tells him about his reluctance to use his ideas for a new furniture line. Claudia and the rest of the Salingers come together when they must decide what to do about their bulldog Thurber who gets sick and the suggestion is that he be put to sleep. Also, Daphne shows off her new boyfriend Luke, an army reservist from her home town in Texas, to Charlie and Kirsten during a dinner out.
Julia accompanies Claudia on a trip to Yale University for a college tour and to visit Justin Thompson where they meet his new girlfriend Laura. At the same time, Claudia becomes acquainted with a fellow student, named Carl, assigned to show her around the campus. Back in San Francisco, Victor steps in when Owen comes home every day claiming to be bullied at school. Meanwhile, Bailey questions himself on how casual he wants to be with Holly when they spend almost every day together which changes when she tells that its all too much for her. Also, Charlie becomes wary about Daphne's boyfriend, Luke, in handling baby Diana, but learns that his parenting is not all perfect either since he has to make a deadline with his new furniture designs and be with Kirsten for a surgery.
Julia becomes intrigued by a writer in her writing class with no apparent block. Julia then discovers that the writer, Adam, is a lonely troubled person who pretends to be a student at CFA and uses writing to channel his personal feelings. Meanwhile, Owen's friend's father makes disparaging remarks about Victor since he happens to be gay. While dating and sleeping with a number of different women in an attempt to purge his pain after breaking up with Holly, Bailey betrays Will's trust when he sleeps with Will's new girlfriend's sister. Charlie gives Daphne a job at the furniture factory as the consultant while Kirsten has her own hands full with her busy schedule. Also, Claudia reconnects with another musician, named Todd, who inspires her to go with her instincts when it comes to music.
Bailey has a full plate to deal when he starts drinking again and then discovers money missing from the restaurant and learns that Joe is responsible. Meanwhile, Charlie and his foreman, Gun, clash on cost cutting for the new furniture line. After some incidents with the workers, Gus decides to let Charlie run the business all by himself. Bailey's love life takes yet another turn when he meets a young woman, named Evvie, at an AA meeting who asks him to be her sponsor. Adam takes Julia out for a time on the town where she curbs his romantic ideas for her in which he suspects that she doesn't like him. Also, Daphne announces that she and her Army boyfriend, Luke, have decided to move back to Texas and she wants to take baby Diana with her in order to take her off Charlie and Kirsten's full hands.
Justin Thompson arrives in San Francisco for his engagement party where Julia tries to remain supportive of his coming marriage to Laura. But when Adam notes to Julia that Justin and Laura lack a link between them, Julia tries to tell Justin not to get married which alienates him and Laura. Meanwhile, Daphne objects to Charlie's control over her and baby Diana. But when Charlie realizes that he doesn't want to fight another ugly court battle and let Daphne be unhappy, he eventually tells her that she can leave town with their daughter and Luke. Also, Bailey tells Evvie that they should start living up their lives by going to a party and drinking, where as Bailey drinks in moderation Evvie ends up collapsing from alcohol poisoning and is rushed to the hospital. With his AA sponsor and members against him, rejected by both Evvie and Holly, feeling abandoned by Sarah, and that everyone is against him, Bailey gets drunk and takes his jeep out with the intent to crash it and kill himself.
After a drunken Bailey crashes his jeep into a stoplight post, he blacks out and has a vision of an alternate reality of what life what life would be like if his parents never died. In this world, set during a weekend of planning Nick and Diana's 31st anniversary party, all of the siblings are unsettled with their parents whom they cannot stand up to. Claudia is a somewhat uptight, mature-for-her-age, traveling violinist where she tells her mentor/manager Ross her thoughts about quitting touring. Bailey is an immature, irresponsible, bleached-blond, hard-drinking punk who works as a roadie for a heavy metal punk band and living with an equally outgoing Will who's uncertain about a path in his life after dropping out of college. Charlie is a clean-cut, shaved, outgoing womanizer who works as an architect for a large San Francisco company, and has a crisis when one of his many girlfriends, Felica, reveals that she's pregnant. When Charlie and Felica travel to the local clinic for Felica to get an abortion, the attending physician happens to be a single, sad but wise, Kirsten. Julia is a naive, long-haired young woman whom is engaged to Justin which takes a turn when she meets Griffin for the first time who works as an auto mechanic a local garage, and she learns why the wrong man is always irresistible.
After spending a few weeks in rehab, Bailey doesn't feel as good as he looks to others and is beside himself over his life troubles. Meanwhile, Claudia and Todd accompany Julia and Adam on a drive to Las Vegas when Justin decides to elope with Laura where Julia must decided on where she stands with Adam while the troubled Todd doesn't know how to make his move on Claudia. Tensions between Charlie and Joe over managing the restaurant come to a head when Charlie states that he does not trust Joe because of the embezzlement incident. Also, an unusually moody Kirsten thinks she's going through withdrawal since she quit taking her anti-depressant pills, only to get an even bigger surprise that will change her life and Charlie's.
Unable to find his calling, Bailey becomes reacquainted with Holly where he attempts to help her older, pie-in-the-sky sister, Fiona, find her calling as a costume designer. Meanwhile, Claudia gets the violin position Todd coveted in which leads to some hostility and competition for both of them. An order for a hotel chain may be more than Charlie can handle due to his lack of funds and manpower to build the chairs, while Kirsten deals with morning sickness during her first trimester of her pregnancy. Also, Julia seeks to cure her writers block with frequent sex with Adam as their relationship heats up, which unwittingly creates a writers block for him.
Charlie looks into buying the furniture factory when Gus decides to sell it to a major corporation. But Charlie learns more about owning it when he must come up with some collateral for a bank to give him a loan. Meanwhile, Bailey's lack of education and no college degree sets him back on his un-chosen career, until he learns more about a college business education while accompanying Holly on her pre-med lectures. Julia begins to resent Adam when he challenges criticism from his writing instructor in which he responds frustrated at himself and everything and leaves town. Also, Claudia discovers that Victor is hiding a secret about his past involving his former one-time girlfriend while she deals with Todd going away to New York for a violin concert.
Just as Bailey begins taking business college classes, Holly's student visa is revoked which means that she must return to England. After considering every option, Bailey then tries to convince Holly to marry him, in order for her to get her green card, before Will steps in to help. Meanwhile, a discontented Daphne returns to town with baby Diana and reveals to Charlie and Kirsten about her difficulties and doubts about Luke, which Kirsten sees as parallel to her own life with Charlie over his busy hours at the furniture factory. Despite Griffin's objections, Julia confronts her former boyfriend, Ned, after spotting him in town which leads Julia to re-examine her own troubled life. Also, Victor rejects Claudia's matchmaking for him and Ross.
Will panics after a meeting with an INS agent asking about the authenticity of his and Holly's "marriage," while Bailey grows with discomfort after Will and Holly pretend to act intimate in public. Meanwhile, Adam arrives back in San Francisco and asks Julia to join him and his artist friends living at a camp in Mexico. Kirsten frets about her pregnancy and fear of losing her baby by miscarriage. Claudia lets the "love" word slip to Todd after telling him about a romantic dream about him. Also, a foreman named Mitch opposes Charlie's assembly-line plan when production gets slowed down due to shortage of labor.
Claudia is tempted by an academic shortcut of plagiarizing a term paper while trying to balance her time between school and seeing Todd. Meanwhile, Will's discomfort grows after he moves in with Holly to continue his and Bailey's charade of Will's marriage to her. Justin arrives back in town after having left his wife with ironic timing for Julia who is giving an interview to Phoebe, a young writer researching Julia's life story. Also, Kirsten goes out on the town with Daphne's and her former free-spirited friends who inspire Kirsten not to be afraid to be spontaneous and take a chance in her life.
Charlie and Bailey decide to increase production of the furniture assembly line sales when a big client offers a generous fee. But Charlie is forced to cut production after the foreman, Mitch, has an accident when he is hospitalized for a heart condition. Meanwhile, Holly gets wind of Will's feelings and growing attraction to her which leads her to think that Bailey's marriage plan was not a good idea after all. So, Holly leaves town to go back to England and Will tells Bailey that he has decided to return to college back east. A women's magazine offers Julia a column to write and a possible job opportunity while she rekindles her romance with Justin. Also, Claudia contemplates consummating her growing romance with Todd, and after a romantic dinner at his house, two of them finally have sex.
Bailey considers moving to Philadelphia to go back to college following Joe's advice, but has some complications when Owen does not want to go with him and Charlie tells Bailey about keeping their parental responsibilities. Meanwhile, Julia ponders a choice to moving to Washington D.C. for a magazine internship job and being away from Justin and the rest of the family. Claudia ponders going to Julliard Academy of Music in New York or staying near Todd in San Francisco, where Ross persuades Claudia to take the scholarship and not pass up an opportunity like this. Also, Daphne confides in Charlie about her problems with Luke who wants a job in Texas and leaves no time for her to be with little Diana.
During a family dinner at the restaurant, Bailey, Julia and Claudia all announce their plans to leave town to start over, it starts a wave of tension and arguments over ones priorities. But later, Charlie has a surprising revelation of his own when he tells them that he has decided to sell the house and split the money between them to peruse their own dreams. After thinking about it, the rest of siblings agree and decide to move on and let go of their past for good. Griffin also decides that it's time for him to move out of the Salinger garage and into a place of his own. With everyone leaving town, Charlie makes Luke the new partner in his furniture factory to give him support and to Daphne and little Diana while Charlie and Kirsten, expecting their first child, move into a new house with Owen to start anew and set the next stage for their new lives together.