Nothing could be worse than the sudden death of parents. One day Nick and Diana Salinger were killed in a terrible car crash, and left their five children all alone. Charlie, the oldest, Bailey, the middle brother, Julia, Claudia, and little baby Owen, who was only 6 months old when his parents died. Together, they go through all sorts of problems.
Charlie's ex-girlfriend, Rebecca, visits and turns to him for comfort, due to a failing marriage. They end up sleeping together and now Charlie begins lying to Kirsten and Rebecca. Bailey finds out that Kate's boyfriend, Tom, is too nice and feels bad trying to win Kate over. He eventually succeeds. Julia tries to pass for 18 to get a job waitressing in a club. Claudia pretends to be younger so she can enter a violin competition.
Charlie is angry because Kristen is gone. Grace comes into the restaurant looking for support in her homeless program. She wants the leftovers from Salinger's, but Charlie kicks her out of the place. An old friend of Nick comes looking for a job, and Charlie gives him one because his father used to. Claudia believe that everything bad happening is the house's fault, so she gets an exorcist. Someone opens an account in the name of Nick Salinger, and they think it was the exorcist but actually it was Earl. Bailey tells Callie that the last time he had sex was 2 years ago. She seduces him and they sleep together. Sarah is throwing a Halloween party and Bailey goes so he won't feel so bad for cheating on her. Julia is upset because Justin is dating a new girl and tries to ruin everything, but regrets and get them back together. Bailey has a fight with Sarah and goes to Callie for comfort, but she is with another guy, so Bailey decides to look for comfort in a beer.
Claudia is invited to play in L.A., and nobody can take her there, but Bailey. They go and Claudia kicks him out of the rehearsals because he is distracting her. In the hotel room, Bailey has nothing to do, and he really wants to drink. He calls Sarah, but she isn't at home, he calls Charlie, but he isn't at the restaurant. So he can't resist and drink, and forget to pick up Claudia. Joe shows up and find a drunk Bailey. He and his wife pick up Claudia, who is very disappointed at Bailey. In the way back, they pass by an AA meeting, and Claudia tells Bailey to go and he does. Grace is really sick, and she may be pregnant. But when the results arrive, and she isn't, Charlie is sad, and when they talk, Grace tells him that she doesn't want to have babies. Julia decides to travel with Griffin all the way to Nevada, but the motorcycle breaks and they have to get back to San Francisco to get it fixed. Griffin decides to buy the repair shop.
Will surprises Bailey showing up at his place. Will thinks Bailey drinks too much, and asks Sarah what's going on, but she doesn't want to talk about Bailey. He tries to advice Bailey about his drinking, but Bailey says it's no big deal. Callie asks him to move into her room. Grace's place burned down, so she moves into the house. Charlie doesn't want Julia to turn down Stansford. Julia, angry with Charlie, moves to Sam's so she won't have to listen to him. Charlie doesn't want her there, and they have a big fight. Sam tells Julia she should go back to the house. Claudia tries to get Bailey to help, but he ignores her.
Bailey and Will plan a trip to Mexico, and the girls want to go too. The car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and later the car is stolen. Bailey and Will end up having a fight but they realize that 10 years of friendship is not worth a fight. Kristen's mom is spending a few days with them because her marriage is falling apart. She tells Kristen that Gene discovered about an old affair of hers, and Kristen won't forgive her until she forgives Charlie. Julia runs into Griffin, who got back without telling her. He never answered her letters and she gets mad. He tells her that he's in love with her. Claudia returns from summer camp in love with a boy who everybody thinks it's made up, but he comes to visit Claudia and she gets mad at everybody for not believing in her.
Bailey is sober for a week. Callie gets jealous because Bailey is spending much more time with Sarah than with her, so she tries to help Bailey, but she can't. She goes to Sarah and tries to find out why Sarah is helping Bailey so much. Sarah tells her that she doesn't love Bailey, because she has a new boyfriend. Callie gets drunk and Bailey moves back to the house. Julia starts skipping school in order to hang out with Griffin, and she starts to get F in history, but he tells her to go back to school, and she goes. Claudia is convinced that Grace doesn't care> about her and Owen, so she makes up a story about a reporter just to spend some time with Grace. But she is more concerned about the reporter.
Bailey is very excited with wrestling and wants to tryout for All Stars. Although Coach Petrocelli doesn't think he is able, Bailey gets obsessed to win. He wants someone to be there for him, but Callie is mad at him and wants him to move out, and everybody else is busy, but Claudia, who misses him at home. Bailey celebrates every victory with a few drinks, and every time he gets more and more drunk. Julia finds out that Sam was engaged and she joins him in his dinner with his ex-fiancÃ©e. She is getting married and he realizes he still loves her. Charlie gets an award for helping the homeless and realizes how much he likes Grace when another man asks her out.
Bailey is spending so much money on drinking that he can't even afford rent. Julia wants to get Bailey and Sarah back together, but she's still very mad at him. She warns Julia about Bailey's drinking problem, but Julia doesn't believe it. Julia gets Bailey a job with Sam. Bailey steals expensive liquor from the house he was working. Julia wonders if what Sarah told her is true. They try to talk to Bailey about it, but he won't listen. Taking advantage from Julia and Charlie's fight, Bailey gets Charlie to support him. Julia and Claudia don't like Grace. Charlie tells Claudia she should try to be Grace's friend, and so Claudia offers to volunteer at her program, but that doesn't last long. Grace can't stand the kids. Charlie wonders if Grace really wants to be there.
At work, Julia runs into P.K. and he later shows up on her doorstep sporting a black eye and seeking refuge from his abusive stepfather. As the family takes in P.K., they worry that hiding P.K. could get them in trouble with social services. Joe promotes Charlie from bartender to night manager, but Charlie's not interested. Bailey tries to impress Kate's stern father.
Julia meets a Stansford teacher who is also a writer. They become friends and she gets inspired to write. She asks for his opinion and he tells her that she's not good. She is devastated but after she finds out that her mom only chose music after college she realizes that it's too soon to decide what to do for the rest of her life. An old colleague of Diana, Avery Baltus, introduces himself to Claudia and tries to develop in her Diana's talent with the violin. Claudia gets overexcited and Charlie tells her not to hurry, she still has her whole life ahead, but she is stubborn and decides to enter the conservatory. Bailey has the chickenpox and Sarah is taking care of him, but he doesn't want to. They have a fight, but Sarah loves him too much to stay mad at him forever.
Joe suffers a heart attack and Charlie takes over management of Salingers. Julia assumes Griffin will want to have sex with her, but when he asks to sleep with her, it turns out he literally wanted to sleep. Bailey injures a teammate during football practice.
Bailey is not doing so well in school. Callie throws a big party at their place and the landlord threats to kick them out. He is trying to stay sober, but it's hard. Unable to keep up with school, he decides to quit. Charlie doesn't want to rush things with Grace, but the more they try to slow it down, the more they want to be together, so they sleep together. Julia is accepted in Stansford, but is not sure she wants to go. She wants a time off studies, and to find herself. Charlie thinks it's all Sam's fault. Ross is dating one of Claudia's teachers, and she outs him to the entire school. She tries to fix it, but Ross tells her it's not that easy.
It's Christmas. Jake comes back. Charlie decides to get rid of all Kristen's stuff left so he can finally move on with his life. He tries to help a homeless man at the restaurant. Sarah and Callie are away for the holidays and Bailey wants to spend it all by himself, but Coach doesn't let him. Julia notices that Jake can't see very well and he tells her he's going blind. Charlie sees him leaving and Jake says he has to go for his chemotherapy appointment. Julia asks Bailey to spend Christmas in the house and he brings Coach with him since his daughter is not coming anymore. Stuart gives Claudia a very expensive gift and she tries to give him a bad gift, but he loves it. She tells him that she doesn't like him in that way, and he gets mad, but apologizes and stay over for Christmas dinner. Grace shows up and Charlie invites her to stay, and they all celebrate Christmas.
Joe tells Bailey that he's been stealing money from the restaurant to pay for his divorce. Bailey covers for him taking money from his account to pay the others, but when Joe tells them, they want to solve the situation. Bailey meets a girl at na AA party, and she asks him to be her sponsor, and he says no because he's been having a beer for the last two weeks. Gus offers Charlie the factory. He talks to Kristen and decides to take it. Joe pressures Bailey to tell the others about his beer. Julia tells Adam she just wants to be friends with him and also says that but later he tells her how he really feels about her and kisses her. Daphne tells Charlie that she's moving to Texas and taking Diana with her.
Joe is getting married, which reminds Charlie of his own wedding. If he and Kristen got married, they would be celebrating their first anniversary. Charlie asks Grace to the wedding, but she gets confused when he makes a speech that is definitely about Kristen. She tells him to make decisions about his life. Sarah wants to fix Callie with her cousin, but Callie turns it into a double date right away. She feels like Bailey and her are getting apart, and she decides to sleep with him, but Bailey can't do it. They promise to give it another try, but Bailey sleeps with Callie again. Sam doesn't want anything with Julia and Claudia says she's pathetic, but Julia insists and Sam decides to go back to the house.
Kristen is getting more and more depressed, and not even a job as Salinger's hostess makes her feel better. Charlie tries to help her as much as he can, but nothing seems to work. He wants her to get better fast and medication can take 6 weeks. Cooper lets Bailey crash in his place. Julia starts to date him and things get awkward between the three of them. Bailey asks Julia not to date his friend, but she decides to date him anyway. Later she realizes how much they don't have in common. Bailey is looking for a new place and finds one cheap with a good roommate, Callie, who Sarah really doesn't like, but Bailey tells her not to worry. Claudia has to find a plumber to fix the pipes and gets yelled at because it costs 3,000 dollars, but she says she's 13 and that was not her job.
Grace's parents are spending time with them, and Grace doesn't like it, but Charlie does. Claudia is spending time with Avery, which makes his son jealous of her. Bailey spends all his money in drinking and can't afford a clown for Owen's birthday party, so he dresses as a clown. He gets to the party drunk and ruins it. Martin tells Charlie that Bailey might have a drinking problem, but Charlie refuses to accept that idea, even though everybody else thinks so too. Julia breaks up with Sam because he's a racist.
Sarah dumped her boyfriend. Her mom tells Bailey that she got into Brown, and Bailey gets mad at her because she is moving away, but she is going to Berkeley instead. They kiss, but Sarah tells Bailey that she just wants to be friends with him. Charlie and Grace break up because she doesn't like children, and she wins the election. Justin is going to Europe for 2 months and ask Julia to go with him. But she doesn't and gets married to Griffin. Charlie, Bailey and Claudia give Julia their mom's ring, and she moves out.
Libby, Julia's old friend, killed herself. Justin and Julia feel like if they paid more attention to her she would be alive. Her death makes everybody wonder what they are doing with their lives. Sarah realizes that life's too short to spend it with a ruined relationship so she decides to break up with Bailey. Meanwhile, Charlie is having some friends over for his high school reunion. He misses the good old days, but the truth comes up and he realizes his life wasn't as good as he remembered.
Bailey starts to go to AA meetings, and on his first meeting he bumps into Walter Alcott, the man that killed his parents. Bailey has second thoughts about going to the meetings, and he quits. Griffin gets US$100.000 from his lawsuit settlement, and decides to help his father, and he becomes friendly with Griffin just for the money. Grace decides to run for council and makes the Salinger's house her campaign headquarters.
Charlie has a slogan contest at Salinger's and the winner wants to bring homeless people to have dinner at the restaurant. Charlie has to kick them out so his clients won't leave and Grace prints in the paper what he did, giving him a hard time. They have a discussion and after Grace admits being wrong about him they come up with a solution. Sarah is worried because Bailey is drinking too much, but he says he's only celebrating. He tries to get in the hockey team but he's not in good shape, so he gets invited to the wrestling team, which is the worse in school. He doesn't support Sarah's new job and they have a fight. She says he's changed. Julia is having problems with the roofers. Alec offers her pot, and she turns it down. She talks with his brother and he fires him. They flirt. Claudia tries to get back at Charlie for not letting her go to the conservatory.
Bailey meets Jill Holbrook, a pretty waitress who he falls for and ends up sleeping with her. Morgan begins to drink after his club is closed down and he is forced to pay a fine. Julia wants to help, but he doesn't accept her apology or her money to pay the fine. Claudia receives her first period. Kirsten's family wants her to return home to Chicago.
Bailey witnesses a fight between one of his teammates and some members of an opposing team. When he refuses to name the teammate who was involved in the incident, he is suspended from the football team. Julia holds a party for her ""new friends"", but they quickly abuse her generosity by trashing the house. Kirsten starts dating a lawyer named George. Charlie regrets not making his move on Kirsten. Because he lied about his profession, Kirsten dumps George and isn't interested in Charlie.
In this special episode, we, the viewers, get to take a look at what the Salingers' lives would have been like if their parents hadn't died. Claudia is a touring violinist, Bailey and Charlie become unsettled with their father and Julia is engaged to Justin until she meets a mechanic named Griffin, which sparks second thoughts.
Julia doesn't want to go to school, and when she does she feels awful and guilty. She lies to Justin and Charlie and runs away to New Orleans to meet Griffin. She feels safe around him. They spend time together, talking about what happened to her, and he tells her to go back home. Bailey is jealous about Sarah for wearing tight clothes in her shows and for hanging out too much with her band. They fight because she thinks he's controlling her too much. Kathleen wants to be more in Charlie's life. She invites the whole family to go to Hawaii and Charlie gets mad at her because he wants to keep it casual. He tells her that he doesn't love her and she attempts suicide.