"I need her." [because...] "Look, Emma, I'm drowning here. I'm dealing with a father I've been avoiding for the better part of 300 years and an 11 year old son I didn't know existed until last week. And you and me...I don't even know where to begin. Tamara doesn't care who I was or who I could be, she only cares about who I am. And I need that right now." Context. Foreshadowing. Irony. Making Neal look slightly less douche-y by acknowledging things are very, very complicated right now and he has feeling about it.
I think your mock-dialogue was pretty spot-on, Deirbhile. But even with your mock-dialogue that entire scene is one of the reasons Nealfire is and shall forever remain Douchfire [to me]. Because here's what I heard coming out of Douchefire's mouth during that scene (and your mock-dialogue):
"Me, Emma, me me me. Me me me me me me me me me me me me. Me me me me me. Me, me me me. Me me meeeeeeeeee. It's ALL about MEEEEEEE. Me. Me. Me.". If Nealfire were anymore self-absorbed a quantum singularity would open where he stands.
And while I'm not saying he's not entitled to his feelings, he just does not get to use Emma as the sounding board for his Man Pain. Particularly, when speaking to Emma, the words "I'm sorry" have yet to find their way out of his mouth. The closest he has mustered up is "..I get it. We're all messed up." No, Neal. Rooms are messed up. The current global-economic situation is messed up. You, Douchfire, have achieved eff-up status.
If Douchfire is having problems coping then he can go talk to Daddy Dearest, and if that's not appealing he's more than free to call a 1-900 or psychic hot-line. But Emma shouldn't have to stand there listening to his self-pitying drivel. I'm frankly astonished, and rather disappointed, that Emma just didn't walk out on his sorry ass during that scene. My only hope is that Emma stayed because she had a serious craving for a New York bagel. Either that or Neal's level of self-absorption really is achieving blackhole levels and she just can't escape his Man-Pain gravitational power.
But with all that said, I completely agree with you that the meaningful dialogue between our heroes has been sorely lacking this season and I think it's beginning to drag the show down.