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.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Halloween "Classic" Recap: Stranger Things: "Trick or Treat, Freak"

“What's wrong with Winston? He joined the team super-late, he's not funny, and he's not even a scientist!”
-Lucas

It’s a little hard to write about an isolated episode of “Stranger Things” because it’s pretty serialized, but I thought that watching this would be a fun way to spend Halloween evening in addition to making lotus root and jammy tomatoes from Priya Krishna’s “Indian-ish” and handing out candy to the occasional group of Trick or Treaters. It was interesting to drop in and see how much of the various plot threads I remembered from back when I first watched season two. With this being the second episode of the season, there are a lot of longer term plots being set up, but there is also some fun Halloween content, too. The Halloween content also digs a little deeper and provides some commentary on the transition from childhood to adolescence. I think this is the perfect theme to explore with Halloween.

Let’s start by expanding on the idea of the dividing line between childhood and adolescence. Halloween in the perfect holiday on which to think about this, because it’s all about playing pretend, which is something we usually associate with childhood. You’ve probably seen recent news stories about that town that banned Trick-or-Treating over a certain age. These days, though, I think it has become more socially acceptable to use your imagination and be whimsical as an adult. While I don’t dress up nearly as much as I would like, I have been known to don a Halloween costume or go to a convention in cosplay as an adult. Even when you’ve got real, adult things to think about (maybe even moreso because of those real adult things), it’s fun to let go once in a while and pretend to be someone/something else. Anyway, “Stranger Things” delves into all this when the boys go to school in their Halloween costumes, and everyone else is in street clothes. Wearing your costume was cool just a year ago, and now suddenly it’s not.

Speaking of costumes, the boys decide to dress as the gang from “Ghostbusters.” “Ghostbusters” is one of my favorite movies, so I really enjoyed this. It’s that movie where my mom and I can just quote lines to each other on demand. I’m not sure why – I’m sure there are plenty of other movies that are just as funny – but there’s just something about the mix of humor and macabre that I love. The boys on their bikes in their “Ghostbusters” gear is just iconic 1980’s nostalgia. They have a bit of an argument over who is going to be which Ghostbuster and debate the merits of each, but really the cool aspect is just the fact that they’re dressed as the Ghostbusters.

There’s also some good material in this episode that establishes the relationship between Hopper and Eleven that will continue to develop throughout the season. When Eleven returned from the Other Side after her big battle in season one, she took refuge with Hopper, who presumably is still really missing his daughter, and he hides her in a remote cabin where the feds can’t find her. Eleven really doesn’t like being cooped up, but Hopper doesn’t want to take any risks, so he keeps her hidden. She really wants to go Trick or Treating, but even wearing a ghost costume that hides her is risky, so Hopper makes a deal. He’ll try to be home on time with a bag of candy, and they can watch movies and get fat together. Of course he gets caught up with work (investigating a mass crop blight that turns out to be Upside Down-related) and gets home late to a pretty pissed off Eleven.

Speaking of the Upside Down, Will is still experiencing some after-effects of his time there. He keeps basically disappearing and returning saying he had visions of the Upside Down. He’s been drawing pictures of it and everything. Hopper thinks he may just have PTSD like some of the guys he knew in the war, but Joyce seems a bit skeptical. Will and Mike have a nice little heart to heart about what he has been going through after Will has one of his episodes while Trick or Treating. Trick or Treating also provides an entry point into the fight between Lucas and Dustin over new girl Max. Max is from California, and she’s under the thumb of her abusive older brother (he almost runs the boys over with his car at one point just to scare Max). She’s the cool, badass new girl, though, and Lucas and Dustin are smitten. They are only too happy for her to join them for a bit of Trick or Treating.

We also see that Nancy has been very negatively affected by the events of the previous season. She’s still (understandably) really upset over what happened to Barb, and she feels incredibly guilty that Barb’s parents still don’t know what actually happened. This guilt really manifests itself at a Halloween party she and Steve attend. Nancy gets extremely drunk and ends up telling Steve she doesn’t love him anymore. He leaves, and Jonathan is left to take her home. It was surprising to see Nancy so out-of-control, as she generally seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. She has been through the wringer, though, so it makes sense that she would be struggling. This development also fuels her relationship with Jonathan, so it’s not all bad.

There’s one final observation I want to make. I completely forgot Sean Astin was in this! He plays Joyce’s dorky, Radio Shack salesman boyfriend Bob. Bob seems like he wants the best for Joyce and the kids, and he really does try to be supportive. He dresses up as a vampire on Halloween and enjoys hamming it up. There’s a sweet little scene of him and Joyce dancing to “Islands in the Stream.” He may feel like the annoying interloper now, but his character will become more important as the season progresses. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him in anything other than the “Lord of the Rings” films, so it was fun to see him in a different role. And with that, I hope everyone had a great Halloween. Don’t cross the streams!

This Is Us 4.06: “The Club”

“You’ve seen things 99% of the rest of us couldn’t even dream of. And yeah, you’ve made some mistakes along the way but that doesn’t make you unlovable. It makes you human.” Br>- Kevin

This episode of “This Is Us” moved a couple of storylines forward and gave us some interesting insight into some of the family relationships, especially Jack and Randall. Like last week, we have two past storylines that help inform the present. And it’s all about golf. I tried to learn golf with my dad at one time. Turns out, all ball sports aren’t really the best fit for the blind kid. But, hey, it was a bonding experience. It wasn’t quite that type of experience for Jack and Randall. At least not entirely. See, in the time when Jack and Rebecca were still dating, Jack gets goaded into going to club with Rebecca’s dad. It seems like yet another way to have her dad show Jack up but he almost seems to be trying to get Jack a job other than being a mechanic and working part time at a gas station. Until Jack turns the guy down—while quite drunk—and Rebecca’s dad pointedly says he’s still not good enough for his daughter. This doesn’t deter Jack at all. He says he’s going to marry Rebecca and have kids and be happy. His temper does start to flare though until Rebecca shows up and unknowingly diffuses the situation.

But that golf outing informs how Jack interacts with Randall when he’s 12. Randall is going on and on about his English teacher (who he clearly looks up to as Black male role model) and about Tiger Woods. So Jack goes and teaches him golf. In an attempt to bond, Jack explains that he never felt comfortable on the course and that he regrets letting other people hold him back and define him. But, Randall isn’t appreciative of his dad’s attempts to share experiences. He thinks Jack will never understand what it means to be a black kid (or man) and he’s right but that doesn’t’ mean Jack and Rebecca aren’t trying. Jack also wonders if maybe he feels threatened by having Black male role models in Randall’s life. In the end, he seems to warm up to Randall’s teacher—even inviting him for dinner—and he also shows Randall how to game other people on the course. He explains that a lot of important business gets done on golf courses and he has to know whether to be a show off or terrible to help get what he wants.

And that’s exactly what Randall is doing in the present. He wants one councilman to back his affordable grocery store bill but he’s been told if he keeps asking for support, he won’t get it. So, Randall floats that he’s got an in at a local golf club and then lets himself get roped into going with them. He presents as being pretty terrible but with some coaching from the councilman he’s trying to win over, he gets better. This was a strategic move on Randall’s part to butter up the other councilman. In the end, they come to an agreement to talk about supporting each other’s bills. And that’s really all Randall wanted. He’s learning how to be a politician but still put some Randall Pearson flare on it. I liked how the story had multiple layers to it and we got to see the through-line across multiple eras.

The rest of the episode was all about couples and romance. Kate and Toby are worried their sex life is dead after Jack’s birth and Toby suggests they get away for a night. Kate agrees but things don’t go well. Toby can’t perform and ultimately it’s because Kate told him not to throw away a pair of pants he clearly can’t fit in anymore. She says they are his favorite and he thinks she doesn’t support him and his new body or that she thinks (or even wants) him to put the weight back on. Kate eventually explains that she loves him just as she is and things seem to be moving in a better direction with them. But, they need to be quick because Rebecca and Miguel were about to come back to the house with Jack. Oh boy.

And then there’s Kevin. Oh, Kevin. He’s getting bored out of his mind in Pennsylvania in the small town where Nicky lives. He can’t just bail because he told the VA counselor that he’d be there for Nicky’s court appearance for throwing the chair through the window. So, Kevin goes to work out and ends up running into Cassidy. Things still aren’t going well with her husband but Kevin urges her to keep trying. He also ends up on a rather boring date with a girl who works at the gym. She says that it’s a nice place to raise kids (so hey, at least someone he’s interested in at least minimally wants kids). He’s also been creeping on Zoe. At least he’s moved on from Sophie? But, when he gets back to his trailer with his date, Cassidy is there. Kevin sends his date away because clearly Cassidy needs someone to talk to. She explains that she went to see her husband but things devolved quickly and she lost her temper. She thinks she is unlovable given everything she’s’ been through but Kevin disagrees. And then, of course, they end up sleeping together. I still think she’s going to end up being the mother of his kid that we saw at the end of season 3. I get that we needed to check in on everyone in the family but the Kate and Kevin storylines didn’t feel as cohesive with the rest of the plot and I was kind of annoyed. I wanted to see more of Jack and Randall and those storylines. It felt like Kevin and Kate’s relationship drama could have waited a week.

This Is Us 4.05: “Storybook Love”

“You have strange relationships with people.”
- Nicky

This week’s episode was all centered on food. At least in the two past storylines. It’s not often we see stories in the distant past, the somewhat distant past and the present all at the same time. But they all informed each other and I thought it was pretty cool. In the past set in the year after Jack died, we find Rebecca and Kate have moved into a house and are having Sophie and Kevin over for dinner to celebrate their wedding. Kate thinks it’s weird that Kevin got married without them and she makes her feelings perfectly clear. Beth and Randall come for the visit, as does Miguel. Kate’s boyfriend, Mark, ends up showing up, too. There’s totally more to this story and I can’t wait to find out more. But as we see the night unravel as the kids snipe at each other, we also see a flashback to Jack and Rebecca moving into their new home after she found out she’s pregnant. She wanted to make the perfect lasagna but it got burned and the table didn’t’ have all the legs. And then a bird got into the house and Jack lost his mind because he’s terrified of birds. Ultimately, though, the night turned out pretty perfect. In the not-so-distant past storyline, however, it seems the kids are forcing smiles for Rebecca’s sake as she sings a song from the Princess Bride. I’ve seen that movie countless times and I don’t remember this song at all.

In Philly, Randall and Beth end up having to deal with an expected situation with Tess. Randall has been focusing a lot on exercise which makes Beth nervous (when he’s ramping up for an anxiety episode he tends to get hyper=focused) and he’s trying to recover from bailing on the councilmen for drinks (when he was meeting with constituents and firing his aid). But then he gets a call from Tess’s school that she had a panic attack. Randall tries to sympathize with Tess but she doesn’t want to hear it. She insists she doesn’t want to be anything like her dad. As Randall worries that he’s passed on the one bad thing about himself to his child, Beth flashes back to a very similar conversation with William not long after Randall’s breakdown in season 1. William admits that he, too, suffers from anxiety. While they didn’t have a name for it when he was growing up, his mother would pour him a glass of seltzer water and they’d watch the bubbles settle (the bubbles were analogous to his thoughts). So, Beth drags Randall and Tess into the kitchen and gives them seltzer. It calms Tess enough to admit that she is anxious about the fact that she’d planning to just come out to people but when another girl asked if she thought a boy was hot, Tess answered “yes” instead of saying “I like girls”. Both Beth and Randall promise to help her through the stress. Beth even finds Tess a therapist. She’s found one for Randall, too, but he refuses, saying he’s fine. That’s not going to end well.

Out in LA, Kate is waiting at home for some big present from Randall and Kevin. It’s a delivery so she’s got to be home for it. The doorbell rings and Rebeca shows up, claiming she wants to see the baby. But then, the delivery people arrive with the old piano from their house and it is really a sweet gesture so that Kate can share music with baby Jack. Other than being worried about Kevin buying a trailer in in the woods in Pennsylvania, Kate didn’t have a ton to do this episode in the present. She does uncover some Polaroid pictures from the dinner party, her and Rebecca’s reaction to the photo of Kate and Mark promises drama about to unfold. I have a feeling it’s going to be some sort of abuse.

Out in Pennsylvania, Kevin is trying to bond with Nicky but it’s just awkward and Nicky isn’t really interested in bonding. He doesn’t really want to go to the hockey game Kevin is dragging him to. Cassidy is being honored as a veteran and Kevin is going to support her. Plus, her husband is going to be there which gives Kevin a chance to help her fix things. At first it doesn’t seem like things are fixable. Her husband is chilly at best to her and Kevin and he spends the whole event looking at his phone instead of focusing on Cassidy. Nicky also bails on the event and I don’t blame him. There are too many triggers around: copious amounts of alcohol, loud noises that are somewhat unpredictable. He ends up leaving. I get Kevin was trying to be supportive of his new friend but he put his uncle in a really bad situation. After the game, Kevin confronts Ryan who admits that he met Cassidy when they were 15 and he fell in love immediately and he knew she was going to be his favorite person. The ceremony honored the thing that broke his favorite person. So there may be hope for them yet. I still think that Kevin and Cassidy may end up together but we’ll just have to wait and see. By the end of the episode, Kevin has also gotten Nicky to open up. He tried to share a story about Jack sharing a box of ice cream with him and how much Kevin loved that connection with his dad. Nicky explains that it was their father who started it. Even though he wasn’t a very nice man, every now and then he did something nice and cool. It was nice to see how different things, both good and bad, can be passed down through generations. It was a nice connection for Kevin and Nicky to have and I’m so glad that Nicky was able to stay sober despite the whole triggering situation.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

This Is Us 4.04: “Flip A Coin”

“So, I picked up a book and started a new chapter, in every sense of the phrase.”
- Carol

There wasn’t a huge leap of forward momentum in this week’s episode, but it still took a few small shuffles forward on several storylines. In the past, we see Rebecca and Beth’s mom, Carol, meet during parents’ weekend. They actually end up sharing their respective stories of loss. Rebecca rambles on about what she’s lost and Carol just sits there listening, all stoic (Beth and Randall had made a semi award retreat to class by that point). Rebecca ends up being in awe of Carol’s ability to be so strong. Carol shares that she’s got her students to keep her focused. Rebecca wants that, too but she’s still struggling. Kate has also been struggling to find purpose with her brothers off in the world. She goes to the record store and meets a cute guy who offers her a job. He’s not Toby but he’s kind of sweet and musically nerdy like Kate. In the end, Beth and Randall are on track to move forward with another date (despite what Beth’s mom thinks about the fact and the way that Randall is still grieving Jack’s loss) and Kate and Rebecca maybe moving out of their condo. Oh, and Kevin and Sophie got married!

Speaking of Kevin, he, Nicky and Cassidy are heading to an AA meeting only to find that the website hasn’t been updated in ages and the meeting isn’t’ for another five hours. Cassidy is really irritable about the mix-up because she really needs a meeting after having breakfast with her husband and he still wants a divorce. Kevin wanted a meeting because the Manny got cancelled and Nicky was just along because Kevin really gave him no choice. But, Kevin jumps into actor mode and finds a way for them all to stay busy until the meeting rolls around. Despite Nicky insisting he doesn’t want a new trailer, Kevin takes them to a dealership and starts haggling with the Manny-obsessed salesman. Along the way, Kevin interacts with another super fan and Cassidy is kind of baffled. She thinks he’s a shallow idiot who can’t possibly relate to her trauma or what she’s going through with the potential divorce. But, we know Kevin Pearson has layers. He explains that the Manny was his first big job and while he hated the pilot, he discovered that he could actually be an actor and he had actual skills when he made the baby in the end of the pilot laugh instead of screaming his head off. He also points out that he’s been divorced and it sucks. I still think that Kevin and Cassidy are going to end up together but she wants her husband back and he insists on helping her. We also get Nicky to open up about why he bought the trailer in the first place. He got it for a girl named Sally (who Jack asked out on Nicky’s behalf) but when he got back from the war, he went to her house and she wasn’t there. By episode’s end, Kevin has bought himself a trailer and parked it next to Nicky’s. Yeah, I can’t see how this is going to go over so well.

Beth and Randall have their own drama cooking this week as Beth unveils her dance studio. I’m a little confused how when they arrive, there’s a dead possum in the wall. Hadn’t she been there before? Anyway, one of Randall’s constituents comes out to help but the smell won’t go away for a few weeks. Carol tells Beth to just reschedule the event but Randall insists he can fix things. And he does so beautifully. He sets everything up outside and it goes off like a smash. We even get a little moment with Randall and Carol where she says that she was wrong about him. She couldn’t see the strong man and devoted father and husband that young man was going to become. That’s not the only drama they’ve got to deal with this week, though. Deja wants to go to the movies with Malik and some other kids and Beth and Randall insist on meeting him. Randall is okay with him until he learns about baby Janelle. That, understandably, leads to both him and Beth flipping out. As much as the situation is unusual and I can see their worry about their teenage daughter, Deja isn’t a stupid girl. She’s more street smart than maybe they give her credit for. And I just like Malik.

And lest we forget, Kate and Toby are having their own drama this week with baby Jack. Kate has signed him up for a baby music class, despite Gregory’s suggestion that Jack is too little. Kate is insistent though and she wants her son to experience everything that other kids do. The class is an absolute disaster. There’s way too much auditory stimulation for Jack going on at once and the teacher just doesn’t get it. She’s up in his face and being super loud. I could see both of Kate and Toby’s points as they argue in the car. They were late because Toby needed to go back and grab Jack’s favorite toy (which he’d put in the fridge when he got extra milk). Kate says they wouldn’t have been late if they hadn’t spent all that time looking for the toy so they could have gotten Jack used to the space. But Toby also notes that it was a lot of stimulation all at once. I kind of agree that even if they had gotten him used to the space itself, that wouldn’t have dealt with all the conflicting sounds and stimulation from the teacher. I think Kate is also still resentful of Toby for spending so much time at the gym. In the end, though, they take Jack to the beach and slowly introduce him to some new sounds (ocean, seagulls, wind) and feelings (water and sand on his feet). They are going to have missteps but I do appreciate the writers for showing us the good and the bad along the way.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

This Is Us 4.03: “Unhinged”

“You know, I was sober for over a year before I came here and met you. Did you know that?”
- Kevin

Well, the Pearsons continue to move forward in their lives and cross paths with our new characters. We also get to see Kevin taking Jack’s suggestion o “find people to care about” to heart both past and present. In the past, we see Randal start school a couple of days before Kevin and Kae. He wears some Air Jordans to try and impress one of his new (Black) teachers. Unfortunately, that means he is out of dress code and gets given a slip his parents need to sign. Randall has probably his first panic attack and calls the house but Kevin answers. Kevin slips off to Randall’s school and forges Rebecca’s signature on the slip so that she and Jack never have to know Randall got in trouble. But Randall isn’t the only Pearson in trouble in the past. Jack made a mistake on a project that will cost the company $20,000 to recover from and Jack ends up getting fired. But, Miguel steps in and demands their boss reverse that decision or else Miguel walks and takes his very high earning potential with him. At the end of the night, we see the Big Three actually hanging out together as Kate reveals she kissed the boy at the pool. We also get a brief glimpse at the start of her issues with weight as a teenager. She did an exercise video with Rebecca but it didn’t burn any weight off.

In the present, Kate is still clearly dealing with her weight. She’s gained 10 pounds since baby Jack came along, while Toby is now ripped. She ends up meeting him and some clients (apparently Toby is in IT) for lunch and they have to ask for a table rather than a booth because Kate won’t fit. Kate is caught really off guard by Toby’s transformation and he says he didn’t tell her because he didn’t want to make her feel bad. We do see her start to get a little exercise when she ends up walking with her new neighbor who was not a happy person for most of the episode. He walks the neighborhood to try and build up his stamina after a stroke and Toby’s car had been blocking the sidewalk. After Kate sort of broke down in front of him (and he explained about the stroke…which apparently mirrors what happened to the actor playing him), I think they bond a little and I’m excited to see more of him.

Over in Philly, the girls are starting school as well and Tess is rather quiet about everything. Later in the day—after school—we see Tess still not want to talk to Beth about her day. Meanwhile, Deja gets a visit from Malik. He explains about Janelle (his daughter) and we get a little more on his backstory. He and her mom were together for a while, she got pregnant and she and her parents wanted to give the baby up for adoption but he and his parents didn’t so he took her and has custody now. He just didn’t want Deja to hear about it through the rumor mill at school. Deja isn’t sure how she feels about all this and confides in Tess, who in turn shares that she thought being at a new school, she could just be “out” but she’s still not comfortable with it. I’m really glad the girls have each other and I am excited to see their sisterly relationship grow. Randall had a bit of a day, too. He took the door off his office to show he has an open-door policy and he spent all day meeting with constituents, much to his aid’s disapproval. At the end of the day—after he’s already missed drinks with two other councilmen—she says he needs to fire his chief of staff (who we know has become his best friend by this point) because he doesn’t know what he is doing. Randall ends up firing the aid because he wants to do things his own way. We also get to see Randall help out his chief of staff with the plan to propose to his girlfriend (which I thought was totally adorable).

And last, of course, we have Kevin. Before we catch up with him, we see what led Nicky to throw the chair through the window and get arrested. He started seeing a therapist at the VA and things were going really well. He was opening up to her and he cleaned out his trailer and tossed most of the alcohol and he even looked less shabby. But the day of the chair incident, she told him she was transferring to a different location. He clearly didn’t want to see anyone else so he acted out. Kevin shows up and tries to convince the center to give Nicky another chance. They say he needs to be evaluated and as Kevin waits for him to get done, Kevin meets Cassidy’s son. They bond rather quickly which isn’t surprising given how good Kevin is with kids. He then meets Cassidy who finds it very creepy that an almost 40-year-old man is hanging with a nine-year-old boy. But that won’t be their last interaction. Even though Nicky gets to stay in the program, he still ends up at a bar drinking. Kevin tracks him down and drags him to an AA meeting because dealing with Nicky has made him want to drink. And who should be at the meeting but Cassidy. Kevin starts to talk about everything that’s going on in his life and he worries about growing old and ugly, which set both Cassidy and Nicky off into fits of giggles (Kevin eventually falls into them, too) and the three of them are asked to leave the meeting. I have a feeling Kevin has found his new love interest and I want to see where they go. Maybe Cassidy will be able to