Saturday, February 1, 2020

This Is Us 4.12: “A Hell of a Week: Part Two”

“At the funeral today, I was about the lose it. But I found you and I locked in on you.”
- Sophie

This episode could have gone a ton of ways. I’m kind of glad it went the direction it did, even if it means we aren’t really any closer to solving the Kevin’s baby-mama drama. And much last the Big Three-centric episodes of the past, we continue with the storyline in past and present from Kevin’s point of view. We get see flashback to the night Jack died as well as to the night of Rebecca’s birthday when the Big Three are college-age. And we also see Jack having to console little Kevin who wants his sheep mobile from his crib but it turns out Rebecca donated it. I think Jack has done less damage (or at least not in the same way as with Randall) by telling Kevin that sometimes things we love go away and we have to find new things to love. I hope Kevin is doing that with Sophie but that’s still kind of up in the air.

The night Jack dies, we get to see that Kevin gets a warm reception from his future mother-in-law, Claire. We also see Kevin and Sophie head to the movies from the lame party, then head back to the campsite because the movie projector has problems. They vow never to see the end of Good Will Hunting (because they think the endings they can come up with are way better). They don’t explain this right away so when Kevin gives Sophie a scenario when she calls to tell him her mother died, it’s a little out of left field. But we do get the sense that it’s something that’s been a long-standing thing between them. We then jump to the past of Rebecca’s birthday when Kevin and Sophie show up a day early and go to hang out with Claire again. Apparently things between her and Sophie are a bit volatile because Sophie thinks her mother is irresponsible with money and instead of fixing an issue with the house, Claire bought tickets for she and Sophie to go see the Aurora Borealis. Kevin then takes the chance to tell Claire he’d like Sophie’s grandmother’s ring to give to Sophie, since they basically eloped. Claire tells Kevin he hasn’t earned it. And as we know, he never does because of the way he screws up with her so frequently. And then we get a tiny hint about past Kate’s storyline. Kevin shows up with flowers for Rebecca and she says that dinner is cancelled because she and Kate got into a fight, Kate went off with Marc and then Kate called Rebecca crying.

But things take an interesting turn in the present. Kevin goes to the funeral but doesn’t approach Sophie. I did like how we got to see her give the eulogy for her mother and nearly breaking down before she found Kevin amongst the crowd and it centered her. They really so wrapped up in each other’s stories. Later, at the reception, Kevin shows up with donuts and Sophie asks him to get her out of there. They drive around for a while until he takes her back to the campsite where he learned that Jack died. He tells Sophie that he never thought he could go back there (she’d explained in her eulogy that she couldn’t go back to her and her mother’s favorite coffee shop because that’s where she found out about her mother’s death) but Kevin points out that with time and space, he was able to come back. It still makes him sad, obviously, but it doesn’t hurt the same way. They also decide to watch the ending of Good Will Hunting and agree the real ending was way better than any they came up with. They exchange longing looks before Sophie tells Kevin it’s time for her to go home. I don’t think Sophie quite knows what to make of Kevin popping up into her life again. He’s definitely in a better place than he ever was when they were together. In fact, Kevin points that out when he goes to visit Claire’s grave alone. He tells her that she was right about him becoming a star and she was probably right and knew he’d screw up with Sophie. He’s got a line about how he wishes he could have another shot with her but it’s too late. But we also get the sense that Sophie isn’t entirely thrilled with her fiancé, either.

I suspect we’ll have to wait a little while for that story to pick up again. As this week’s episode wraps up, we get back to Randall and Kevin’s phone call. We see Kevin in bed with a blond who turns out to be Kate’s friend Madison. She was dog-sitting while Kate is at a retreat and Sophie is at work. Madison is wallowing a bit after being broken up with and Kevin realizes the next morning what a huge mistake he made. He seems to have a thing for hooking up with Kate’s friends. Anyway, he proposes to Randall that they make a trip to the cabin to get away from everything that’s been going on. They conference call in Kate who agrees it’s needed, especially because ominously she says her marriage is on the verge of imploding. I want to know what’s going on with Kate’s story. It’s too bad we have to wait a couple weeks to get the resolution to this mini-arc of story. I have to hand it to the writers and producers of this show. They are very good at seamlessly fitting scenes from other episodes together. I have to believe all three of these episodes were shot together so that scenes where we were going to get coverage from both sides are consistent. I can’t wait to see how this wraps up and where we go after this part of story.

This Is Us 4.11: “A Hell of a Week: Part One”

“Look bro, I get it. Us men of a certain shade aren’t used to talking. But that’s therapy, right? Talking.”
- Darnell

This week kicks off the yearly Big Three-centric episodes and we begin with Randall. As we know, he has struggled with panic attacks and anxiety from a very young age. As it turns out, it probably started in his very early childhood when he and his siblings moved to big kid beds and he was convinced there were monsters under the bed. Jack slept on the floor for a while but when he tries to sneak out, Jack tells him that he needs Randall to be strong and brave for him because his siblings are kind of high maintenance. I don’t usually disagree with Jack’s parenting but here I think he set Randall up for a rough time.

The majority of the episode splits between the present and when the Big Three were just out of high school. In the past, Randall is dealing with crazy stress-filled dreams about Jack. He keeps seeing various scenarios where he can’t interact with his family and he’s left standing there yelling at them and nothing happens. Beth tries to support Randall and suggests he see a counselor to deal with the trauma of losing his dad and the stress. He brushes it off. He does, however, agree to go with her to Grief party 9which sounds like a really weird idea but I’m intrigued and kind of sad we won’t get to see it). The reason: the family is gathering to rally around Kate. She’s still seeing Marc (the slime ball abusive boyfriend) and something has happened which puts a damper on celebrating Rebecca’s birthday. If these episodes are like the ones where we saw Jack’s last day from each of their perspectives, I suspect we will finally get to see what happened to Kate.

I’m thinking Randall probably should have gotten therapy a long time ago because he’s not coping well with a lot of things going on in his life right now. He is clearly stressed and anxious about Rebeca’s condition and keeping it from his siblings. I do think it is really unfair of Rebecca to make Randall that information from Kevin and Kate. At the close of the previous episode, Randall went into the kitchen to get some water and was confronted by a figure. At first I thought it was going to be a figment of his imagination like a smoke and soot covered Jack or something but it’s some kid wielding a knife and he’s very real. Randall offers his credit card, tells him the police are on the way and kid takes off.

Now, Randall was totally lying about having a security system or that the police were on the way. The officer who responded to his later call explains that sometimes burglars come back the next night because often families don’t feel safe and they stay in a hotel. Randall isn’t going to leave his home undefended so he sends Beth and the girls to a hotel for the night and he installs a very high-tech security system which ends up consuming a lot of his focus. He’s hyper aware and he isn’t sleeping. He’s got every notification possible on the app for the security system running so he knows when a leaf blows across a sensor. He also freaks out when he comes home and the alarms are going off. Annie opened a window and set off the alarm and Beth couldn’t remember the override code.

The lack of handling his anxiety becomes obvious when he holds a Town Hall with his district to talk about the new housing bill he’s backing that could impact a lot of small business owners. One in particular is Malik’s dad. He shows up when Randall is about to go for a run (to try and manage his anxiety) and points out that the new condos could hike up his rent to a point he couldn’t continue to operate his shop. He also tells Randall that talking helps deal with anxiety and he ended up going to therapy after confiding in a minister for a while (until the minister got tired of giving out free therapy). It is obvious that Randall isn’t into the suggestion, even though I think he really needs it. I understand there is a huge stigma around mental health in the African American community, especially with men, but Randall is going to fall to pieces again and it’s going to be ugly and he needs to get help. It doesn’t help that as he’s out for his run, he sees a woman being mugged and he jumps in and starts being up the attacker (breaking a few bones in his hand in the process).

As Beth and Randall try to get back to normal after the break-in, they realize that the burglar actually was in their bedroom and took a pair of Beth’s earrings and a pair of Randall’s cufflinks. This sends Randall spiraling into bad dream territory again as he imagines worst case scenarios of the burglar hurting Beth. Ultimately, he calls Kevin (who he’d talked to briefly before to let him know what happened). We also learn that Sophie’s call in the last episode was to let Kevin know her mother died so he’s now in Pittsburgh for the funeral. Yeah, that’s not going to end well (or hey, if she’s the baby mama then maybe it is). As Randall breaks down in the bathroom. I guess he’s willing to talk to his brother (sort of) about what’s happening and he asks Kevin just to talk to him, which Kevin says he’s good at doing.

As much as I love Randall, him not being willing to accept help when multiple people suggested he do so is really irritating. Perhaps this whole situation will convince him to go talk to someone who isn’t a member of his family or spouse. Someone who doesn’t already know the Pearson baggage. I have a feeling this show isn’t shy about addressing lots of topical issues and mental health in general is a big one. So here’s hoping they continue with the storyline. I think it was good to see how even though we like to think Randall has it all together, he really doesn’t and he’s fallible, too. Annoyance aside, this does make him human and I love that about this show. It just shows people living their lives and follows you through the good and the bad.

This Is Us 4.10: “Light and Shadow”

“That’s what I am. A part-time mechanic. That not who you belong with.”
– Jack

The first episode of 2020 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the Pearsons (then again, when isn’t it?). Kevin is determined to find his future spouse (and procreate) in the next nine months and to do that, he’s decided the best move is the hire a matchmaker. But he quickly realizes it’s a load of crap when he goes on a date with a racist woman. Not long after that, he ends up meeting the woman he thinks is “it” in a coffee shop. They go on this really fun date (where he rents out the Hollywood Bowl and gets John Legend to sing for her) but then she admits that he’s’ her hall pass (as in the one celebrity she could sleep with and it wouldn’t count as cheating). But she can’t actually go through with it. This leaves Kevin quite dejected but he’s’ got other things to focus on, like reshoots for his big movie. And just as he heads to set, he gets a call from Sophie. He doesn’t see it though and it just makes me wonder if he’s going to go back down that road again. Is she really going to be his big love story? They really aren’t’ good together and Kevin just keeps breaking the poor woman’s’ heart. But I guess we will have to wait and see.

Randall is still dealing with the possibility of Rebecca having some cognitive issues. He’s doing it alone because she’s asked that he not involve his siblings. So he flies out to California to go with her for some neurological testing. Miguel isn’t exactly happy that Randall is butting in. But when the tests reveal Rebecca is having some memory issues, he starts to feel guilty about missing or ignoring the signs. He admits he noticed things but he just wanted to attribute it to getting older. I can understand it has to be terrifying to see someone you love fade away like that and I know we are going to have to see that with Rebecca on screen, too, which is going to be really rough. I did like hearing Rebecca tell Randall that she would sneak into the nursery when he was a baby because he would wake up early and they would sit and she’d rock him and listen to music and they would watch the sunrise through the closed curtains.

In the flashbacks, we see the aftermath of the golf club incident where Jack got drunk and had that confrontation with Rebecca’s dad. Jack breaks up with Rebecca, claiming he’s not good enough for her and then not long after, Rebecca’s mom drops the news on her daughter that her dad basically scared Jack off. Rebecca isn’t having any of this possessive, aggressive nonsense and she tracks Jack down at the garage where he works part-time 9blowing off her dad’s big birthday party) and tells him that he is worthy of her and they’re going to have an epic love story. I think this flashback serves two purposes. We see where Kevin thinks he gets the notion of this epic love story for himself (then again, he only saw pieces and not all the rough patches along the way) and also to serve as Rebecca trying to hang on these memories of her husband.

And then there was Kate and Toby. As you might recall, Kate saw a text from one of Toby’s cross fit friends basically trash talking Kate at Thanksgiving time. When they get home from the holiday, Kate confronts Toby about it and he says that there’s nothing going on with this woman and they are just friends and sometimes he vents to his friends but he’s not lying to her and would never do so. Fast forward to the New Year and she is getting ready to throw Toby a Jimmy Buffet-themed birthday party (hence where Kevin meets Mrs. Hall Pass). Kate is trying to keep an open mind about the whole thing and says she’s happy to meet Toby’s cross fit friends so maybe she can stop being so stressed about the woman he’d been texting with. At the party, however, the woman isn’t there and Kate learns form one of his other friends that Toby hasn’t been the gym in several weeks (despite the fact that Kate has been giving him protein shakes and he’s been heading off or so she thinks that whole time). After the party, they have yet another confrontation. Toby admits that the woman tried to kiss him but he rebuffed it and he made the decision to switch gyms so that he wouldn’t have to deal with her and he didn’t want to tell Kate because he thought she’d be suspicious (which she is). I think we are seeing the lingering trauma of Kate’s relationship after high school.

Then we get into the bigger discussion of why Toby seems to avoid being at home. He confirms that Kate does feel him pulling away but it’s not due to an affair or anything like that. He’s been avoiding being around baby Jack because it just makes him so sad. He feels like his son is going to miss out on so much of life and Toby doesn’t want to ruin the pure joy that Kate has when she looks at Jack. This was kind of a tough storyline for me. Being the blind (or visually impaired) person, I know that life can be fulfilling and that one’s disability shouldn’t hold you back. And we’ve seen that clearly Jack succeeds in life. One of the things Toby said about not being able to watch Star Wars with his son hit me. Blind people can watch movies, too. It’s just a different experience. Kate tells Toby that she got him a getaway at a retreat for families with blind children but now she’s not really looking forward to it. Until she realizes that baby Jack has some light perception. As lovely as that is, I don’t really think they should be getting that excited over it. But hey, if it puts them in a more positive space, then good for them. Next week starts a trio of Big Three centric episodes where we find out more about Randall’s anxiety and how he handles (or fails to handle) it.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving "Classic" Recap: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: "Kimmy Finds Her Mom!"

“I’ll bring you back a real Florida souvenir. Like a python. Or a gun!”
-Kimmy

I think Thanksgiving is the most difficult holiday to find TV episodes to recap, but this was a pretty good one. The second season finale of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was all about avoiding, then confronting, hard truths. It also had some Thanksgiving trappings to frame everything out. This episode also really reminded me that the earlier seasons of “Kimmy Schmidt” were the product of a much simpler time, when there was room to deal with issues like the Washington football team’s offensive name or the pros and cons of gentrification. These days, there are daily embarrassments emanating from the federal government that don’t really leave room to get into much else.

Let’s start by talking a bit about the uncomfortable truths Titus must confront. He has gotten a job on a cruise ship, so he and Kimmy are on their way to Florida (more about Kimmy’s quest in the Sunshine State in a bit). He’s supposed to join the ship in Miami. After Titus and Kimmy go their separate ways, however, Titus gets cold feet. He asks for a sign that he’s supposed to go on the cruise ship, and instead, he sees a bus pull up that says “Titusville.” This takes him, of course, to the home of the Kennedy Space Center. Titus isn’t quite sure what to make of the place and its casual racism. When he has a chance to enter a drawing to have lunch with a real, live astronaut, though, he takes it. Since he and this town share a name, he is determined to make the best of it. He wins the raffle, though, and the astronaut he gets to meet changes his perspective. The astronaut explains that he never got to go to space because the manned spaceflight program ended (which is sort of true…a few American generally go to the International Space Station using Russian Soyuz rockets each year). Titus finds this rather pathetic and surprising, and he uses it as fuel to go back to chasing his real dreams, which are on that cruise ship in Miami.

Kimmy was in Florida hoping to find her mother. She knows her mother is a huge coasterhead, and there is a particular coaster at Universal that she and her friends were going to be riding. Kimmy has a lot of unresolved issues with her mother (namely, wondering why her mother wasn’t able to rescue her from the Reverend and why she hasn’t contacted her since she was found), and she’s ready to say it all out loud. When Kimmy does find her mother at the amusement park, however, her plans get thrown for a bit of a loop. Kimmy’s mom, played by the always funny Lisa Kudrow, immediately owns up to being a less than ideal mother, and she apologizes, which is not something Kimmy expected. Kimmy hadn’t really thought about how her kidnapping would be tough on her mom, too (she had to leave Indiana because everyone expected her to be sad all the time), so she goes along with her mom’s glossing everything over for a while.

There’s an especially poignant moment when Kimmy’s mom yells at her to get out of the ball pit because it’s almost time for them to ride the big roller coaster, and Kimmy gets held up because the Velcro on her shoe comes undone. Kimmy’s mom never taught her how to tie her shoes, and on another occasion when she had to stop walking to fix her Velcro, Kimmy got kidnapped. Anyway, Kimmy and her mom end up screaming out all their issues to each other while on the coaster, which is really kind of perfect. Kimmy doesn’t really end up seeing her mom’s side of things (Kimmy was genuinely hurt by her mom’s actions growing up), but she does decide not to let it define her. She tells her mom they’re cool, and Lori-Ann Schmidt leaves happy. Before she leaves, she does offer one interesting tidbit: she likes rollercoasters so much because you can scream your head off and nobody looks at you funny. I thought that was profound (and sad) in a way.

The story of Lillian’s fight against gentrification also comes to a climax in this episode. She is feeling very lonely with Kimmy and Titus off to Florida and Jaqueline spending time with Russ. She notices just how much the neighborhood has changed, with mom’s running along with their strollers down the sidewalk with abandon. She decides to put the house up for sale as “3 BR 0 LGL BA” because of course. I thought that was such a funny little detail. Instead of a buyer, though, a political operative knocks on the door wanting Lillian to run for office. I don’t remember where this plot thread goes in the next season, but part of me wants to rewatch season three to remember.

Finally, Jaqueline is spending Thanksgiving with Russ and his family. She is all set to impress him with her apartment that she can’t really afford. At first, she really gets along with Russ’s brother, Duke, played by the always snobbishly charming Josh Charles. She also gets to see first hand how horribly Russ is treated by his family – he is constantly the subject of their crude jokes. Everything changes, though, when Jaqueline realizes that Russ’ family are the owners of Washington’s football team. Being Native American herself, Jaqueline is quite offended by this. The Snyders won’t hear of changing the name, though, even when Jaqueline explains exactly why she finds it offensive. She’s about to tell Russ she needs to break up with him, but he explains that he actually agrees with her and fully supports her quest to take down Washington’s football team.

The episode ends with a little Friendsgiving scene between Kimmy, Jaqueline, Lillian, and Titus (who appears via video chat), which ties a nice little bow on everything. Then Kimmy gets a call from none other than the Reverend himself. He says he’s getting married, so he needs to get a divorce from Kimmy first. This is quite the twist and makes for some interesting storytelling in the next season. Until next time, I hope you all ate too much on Thursday and enjoyed time with family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

This Is Us 4.09: “So Long, Marianne”

“Hey, you might not have gotten the fireplace but don’t’ forget about all the times she was absolutely perfect.” –
Beth

What a way to end the mid-season finale of “This Is Us”. We always know the show is going to do something moving when it comes to episodes before the break and this was no exception. It was also our yearly Thanksgiving episode. Everyone in the family is converging on Beth and Randall’s new place to celebrate the holiday. Rebecca is still mad at Randall for thinking she needs to see a doctor and after telling Randall not to share it with his siblings, she goes for a walk to clear her head. We see Rebecca out and about, looking very lost. She sees a man she thinks is William but it’s not (obviously). The guy she stops points her in the direction of a grocery store because she needs a baked good. But once she stops to look at some flowers in the store, she seems to forget what she was doing. She buys the flowers but leaves her phone at the cashier line and then after she’s had a nice meal at a Chinese restaurant, she realizes she doesn’t have her phone and panics. Next we see her, she’s in the back of the police cruiser being driven home.

While Rebecca is dealing with her symptoms, we have some other family drama unfolding. Tess tells Kevin that there’s a mem going around school on Instagram to post a picture of your celebrity crush. After Kevin takes her to a drive through where she comes out to the speaker (which I thought was a pretty cool idea), she posts a picture of Zendaya. Girl has good taste! Kevin is also dealing with bringing Nicky along for the ride. Nicky was nervous that everyone was going to not be happy to see him but that’s the opposite of what happens. Everyone welcomes him in, even though the kids don’t know who he is. He looks at all the photos of Jack and Rebecca and the kids and you can tell he feels left out. He even tells Annie that Jack erased him which is why they’d never met. But really, Jack found other ways to share his brother with his family.

In the past, we find Jack and Nicky right before Nicky heads to basic training. Their dad and grandfather are both drunk and yelling at each other so the guys take off to a bar to watch a football game. Nicky bet $200 on the Cowboys and because the bet was based on the point difference at the end of the game, he ends up winning the bet and he and Jack go to a fancy restaurant and eat five pounds of shrimp cocktail. That’s a lot of shrimp, guys! We see that Nicky thought it was the best Thanksgiving ever and I’m glad Jack found a way to keep Nicky in their lives, even if no one realized it. WE also see that one of Jack’s favorite songs was actually a song that Nicky really liked. Nicky gets rather emotional listening to it in the car with Randall and Annie (they had to make an impromptu trip to New Jersey because they left the box of thanksgiving stuff (including the Pilgrim Rick hat) in the attic. But, by the end of the episode we see that Nicky introduces the family to the tradition he and Jack were supposed to have had the war not ruined everything. And in a flash to the future, we see that baby Jack (now all grown up) continues not only the hot dog tradition but also the five pounds of shrimp.

Speaking of baby Jack, on the flight from California to Pennsylvania, Kate comes clean to Toby about how Gregory was the first to feed Jack avocado. Toby is upset by this revelation mostly because Kate lied to him. He also was rather obsessed with the video going crazy on Instagram. Kate and Beth end up having quite the conversation through a little later in the episode. They are both feeling bad about what they’re feeling. Kate hates CrossFit Toby because they had said they were going to lose the weight together and he went and did it without her. Beth explains that she hates that Shauna is doing so well with a new apartment, new job and new friends. Beth is glad that she’s doing it but she feels like after watching Shauna and Deja interact and share little moments that only the two of them get, Beth worries that she’s being replaced. But it seems Deja isn’t that happy either. She is feeling like “why couldn’t she be all these things with me?” That’s such a hard place for a child to be in. Beth implores Deja to focus on the times her mom was perfect with her and it seems that potential crisis is averted. Unfortunately, Kate doesn’t tell Toby how she feels and then when she grabs his phone to take a picture, she sees a text from a woman telling Toby not to let Kate bring him down. Yeah, the more I see, the more I’m thinking Toby and Kate don’t make it as a couple.

It wouldn’t be “This Is Us” without some sort of twist in the episode. We see Kevin tell Randall that by his fortieth birthday, he wants to have a wife and kids. That’s only nine months out Randall reminds him. And then we see that the police have dropped Rebecca off not at Randall’s place but at the cabin where Kate and Kevin and Miguel are waiting to celebrate their 40th birthday. Randall isn’t there because they aren’t on speaking terms. Kevin also has a pregnant fiancée at this point, too. Given that it’s so soon from where we are timeline wise, I really am wondering if Cassidy is the mother/fiancée. And in the present, we see Rebecca return home with a pie and she confides in Randall that she was halfway through one of the previews at the movies when she couldn’t remember what movie she’d gone to see. So, this is definitely the start of her decline and it’s not going to be pretty.

Friday, November 15, 2019

This Is Us 4.08: “Sorry”

“I’m sorry is like this magic word when you’re a kid. You do something wrong, say I’m sorry and it’s all better. But when you grow up, it doesn’t work anymore, does it?”
– Kevin

Oh man is this a big episode for a lot of reasons (and members of the Pearson clan). Let’s dive right in with Kevin, Cassidy and Nicky. Kevin is feeling super guilty about sleeping with Cassidy and worrying that he ruined her chance at saving her marriage. But, she’s already signed the divorce papers she just has to give them to her ex. Nicky even knows what happened and calls Kevin a human wrecking ball. That sends Kev on something like a spiral. He’s’ moping in his trailer and then he ends up in a bar fight at a bar (although good on him for not drinking). I did find it interesting that Nicky got Cassidy involved, especially noting that he’s never called her for help before. I do think that as time moves on, the pair of them is going to be a good fit to help each other stay sober and work through their drama from the war. We actually got a little bit of an insight into Cassidy as she’s cleaning up Kevin’s face with make-up before Nicky’s court date. She says that her dad was in the military and she enlisted and went overseas so many times trying to find what he loved so much about the military and serving. She claims she never found it, but she did eventually find friendship and comradery with her fellow soldiers. I was a little concerned about Nicky’s hearing but it goes really well. The judge agrees to send him to a diversion program so long as he continues treatment and stays out of trouble for two years. I was touched by his speech to the judge about how he doesn’t regret his actions with throwing the chair through the window because his made his life better. He got sober, stayed in therapy and reconnected with family. I could see pieces of Jack in his this episode (and so could Kevin because when Nicky was dishing hard truths to him, Kevin saw Jack instead.

Out in LA, Kate and Toby are trying to get baby Jack to eat solid food (a concept I’m all too familiar with….O like bananas and applesauce). I had to laugh about how baby Jack didn’t’ like bananas given how fast my son consumes them. Toby heads off to work with the promise that they will try solid food again when he gets home. Kate ends up spending the afternoon with Gregory and he gets Jack to eat avocado. Kate is elated but also freaking out because she was going to wait for Toby. She manages to keep it from Toby by taking some of the avocados from Gregory’s tree and leaves them for Toby to find. He gets excited and feeds Jack—who we know likes it already—and Toby is thrilled (complete with phone video and everything).

The bigger, heartbreaking story is set in Philly with Randall, Beth and Rebecca. She and Miguel are coming for Thanksgiving (it seems the whole family will be gathering for the holiday in next week’s episode…including Nicky) and Rebecca can’t wait to have Randall show her around the city. She is acting a little off though. She’s taking pictures of absolutely everyone and everything and she freaks out when she misplaces her phone. She also calls Randall a congressman rather than a councilman. Randall is understandably worried, especially as we see in the past storyline he helps her get a job (albeit an entry-level one in her forties). He’s worried about her back then, too. I wasn’t expecting his ploy of telling the sob story about his adoption and Jack’s death to actually work to get Rebecca a job but I guess some people fall for it. I really want to know if Randall was able to teach Rebecca the software she needed to learn over the weekend. We also got a little glimpse at Marc and Kate. It’s very clear that he’s controlling. When Kate expresses excitement about Practical Magic, he mocks her. Both Rebecca and Randall aren’t impressed.

Back in the present, Randall calls Rebecca out on what’s going on with her health. He asks her to let him get her in to see a doctor but she refuses. She says Miguel calls them senior moments but I suspect we are starting to see the decline of her mental state. I think it was really starting when baby Jack was born. Knowing that we are heading down that round is heartbreaking. But at least we get answers. I also hope if we do make a jump back to that part of the future, we get a little more information on some of the other questions (like where Kate is and who is the mother of Kevin’s son).

Oh and we can’t forget about Deja and Malik. Under the new rules of their dating, Beth is in the kitchen while they watch a moving in the living (lucky Beth and Randall have such an open floorplan space). But the date isn’t going well. Deja tells Malik to stop pushing her on something and that he needs to take no for an answer. We are supposed to believe he’s trying to push her into something she’s not ready for romance wise but Beth gets Malik to explain that Deja wants contact with her mother and she didn’t want to bother Beth and Randall. When Beth says they were busy, Malik points out they weren’t too busy to uproot the whole family to Philly. Beth tells Deja they will find time to see Shawna but Deja wants to invite her to dinner for Thanksgiving. Beth agrees and boy is it going to be a crazy dinner with everything going on. I still think the season 1 Thanksgiving episode is my favorite but I’m excited to see what happens with this episode, too.

This Is Us 4.07: “The Dinner and the Date”

“You’re lucky. You have all these connections. You walked up in here and everyone said hello. That’s so dope.”
– Deja

This week is all about awkward dinners. In the past, Jack has invited Randall’s black teacher, Mr. Lawrence, to dinner. In the present, after a school skipping incident, Randall and Beth invite Malik and his parents over for dinner. The motives behind the meals are different but I think in the end they both ended up working out like they were supposed to.

In the past, Jack is feeling really threatened by Randall’s relationship with his teacher. I don’t think it’s a malicious thing but he feels like he’s been the person his son turned to with questions his whole life and now Jack doesn’t know how to answer the more complex questions Randall is raising. But Mr. Lawrence seems to have a real connection with Randall. But Jack isn’t the only one who is a little nervous and off their game. Mr. Lawrence is trying to impress Jack, too and he ends up just running off on tangents that only he and Randall understand. Kevin is his decidedly annoying self for most of the dinner. First he complains about how hungry he is and how boring the dinner is and then when Jack tries to sort of “compete” with Mr. Lawrence by saying he wants to take the whole family to a cultural festival that celebrates black artists, Kevin gets really into the awkwardness. But Rebecca reminds Jack that Randall will always choose him but if Jack makes him pick, he’ll resent Jack. I have to admit this reminded me of a plot line in One Upon a Time. In the end, Jack and Mr. Lawrence come to an understanding that they can both offer Randall different things to enrich his life and help him find his identity as a person of color in the world.

Before the dinner with the present-day Pearson clan, Malik convinces Deja to skip school so he can show her “his” Philadelphia. You can tell Deja isn’t totally comfortable ditching class but she goes with him anyway. He takes her to his favorite cheese steak place where one of the sandwiches is named after his grandfather. He’s greeted by everyone in the place and Deja can’t believe how many connections he has. She’s never been in one place long enough to become a regular somewhere. So, Malik takes her back outside and introduces her again to everyone. He then takes her to see some cool street art and a garden. But, when they end up at a park, she starts to get nervous. Especially when Malik holds her hand and it looks like he wants to kiss her. She’s understandably concerned that he’s trying to put the moves on her and she is not about that. She has plans for her life that don’t include any big derailments like an unplanned pregnancy. She also doesn’t trust that when Malik shows interest in her or calls her beautiful that he’s being truthful and not working an angle because that’s all she’s known her whole life. She watched her mother be lied to by men all the time. I’m really glad they addressed her concerns about the relationship rather than her just accepting it without comment. Malik understands and he tells her that he’s being truthful and that he’s only had one girlfriend (his baby mama). That clearly didn’t go as he expected either. Deja says she wants to go back to school but Malik convinces her to let him take her to one more place. During their city wandering, she mentioned that she’d gone to Philly as a young child with her mom and grandmother and all she remembered was Christmas lights reflecting on water when it was warm out. Malik understands the reference and brings her to the spot. They share a kiss and it seems like they are going to fight for their relationship.

That fight is made decidedly more difficult by both sets of parents who aren’t happy about them cutting school or lying or sneaking around. Randall wants to get Malik’s parents into his and Beth’s boat of keeping the kids apart. Beth initially says they should be open to them as people and see what they’re like. But, that’s going to be hard to do when Malik’s parents aren’t trusting of Beth and Randall either. His dad seems a little chiller but his mother isn’t impressed with Randall’s success and wealth and that his family is white. Beth has lots of wine ready but Malik’s parents don’t drink. I will say that Annie calling it like it is (saying it’s weird that Malik has a baby and that they’ve not been to church in ages) was refreshing. I like that they just give her no filter and she says what everyone else is thinking. I do hope as the show continues we get to see her grow and develop more. But she is pretty cute. All of her adorableness isn’t enough to make the dinner less awkward. I did find it interesting how this dinner was all about class while the dinner in the past was all about race. Beth gives Malik’s mom a tour of the house while Randall and his father chat and Beth is really rubbed the wrong way when Malik’s mom comments on Deja’s past and what Malik has told them about Shawna.

Things come to blows when the baby starts crying and Malik goes to take her for a walk. Beth banishes the girls upstairs (though you knew that it wasn’t going to keep Deja from listening in) and the families come to blows. Beth and Randall don’t want Malik to drag Deja down into her old life. While I can understand their concern, especially knowing that Malik made choices that led to him being a teenage father, his parents also had a good point about them not seeing the straight A student and kind boy that he is. They point out that Malik’s dad was in a gang but he got out of the life and he’d never let his son end up involved in that type of situation. I think they need to take a little of their own advice and see Deja for the bright, mature you woman she is and not the daughter of a drug addict. Beth and Randall have fought to give Deja a more stable life and maybe they are a little threatened by that. Deja ends up interrupting and says that she’s sorry she’s disappointed everyone but that she’s not sorry for liking Malik. In the end, the parents agree (if a bit quickly) to supervised visits. Beth and Randall then ask Deja to tell them about Malik, since they didn’t really get to know him during the dinner. The way she talks about him, you can tell she really likes him. She says that he makes her feel like herself. I do hope they make it. I’m sure there will be lots of ups and downs along the way but that’s what This Is Us does best. They give us real people living real lives. They don’t’ shy away from hard topics.