Wednesday, April 3, 2019

This Is Us 3.18: "Her"

“I’ll tell you one thing. I don’t think we figure out who we are all at once. I think it happens over a long period of time, piece by piece.”
- Kevin

Oh man, I was not expecting that ending of the episode! Before we can get there, though, we need to take a look at the drama unfolding for the Pearson clan in the present and briefly in the past. We find the Big Three as preteens and Rebecca ends up in a car accident due to careless driving. She’s banged up and has a broken arm. Her injuries freak the kids out a bit, as does her speech thanks to the pain meds. She insists Jack take them home and he does so but that just doesn’t go well. I’m not sure how or why Jack is so inept with parenting in this episode. I suppose it could be still around the time he saw Nicky so he could just be off. But, ultimately, he takes the kids back to the hospital and convinces a bleary-eyed nurse to let them see Rebecca before visiting hours start. This actually ends up tying more into the future storyline but we’ll get there in a minute.

In the present, Kate and Toby are still dealing with baby Jack in the NICU. He’s now two weeks old and has started to breathe on his own. Still, he may forget so they just need to tap his foot to startle him to remind him he needs to keep breathing. I don’t know if I had that problem, but I know my heart would stop sometimes when I was fed so similar scariness of preemies! Rebecca is dutifully taking notes on everything and asking the doctor a zillion questions which kind of annoys Kate. Then, when Jack stops breathing and alarms go off, Kate slightly panics and then Rebecca remembers what to do and the baby is fine. Kate snaps at h3er mother which sends Rebecca home. Kate ends up apologizing to her mom. So for now, it seems, they are in a good place.

That leaves us with Kevin and Randall, whose stories are somewhat intertwined. Randall has to take Deja to a debate tournament while Beth goes to teach ballet classes. Kevin and Zoe agree to watch Tess and Annie which leads to Kevin realizing he does still want kids. Especially after he gets to give Tess a pretty good speech about how you figure out who you are over time through different life experiences. Kevin also observes Zoe with Annie and thinks Zoe would make a great mom. But, later that night, she confirms that she in fact never wants to be a mom. I suspect she’s one of those people who likes being around other people’s kids but doesn’t want her own. Kevin finally acknowledges that he does in fact want kids some day and thus they end up breaking up again.

It turns out that Deja is a bit crafty. She took Randall on a long car ride to deliver a speech of her own, much like when he wanted her to sign the adoption papers. She brings him to the worst foster home she was in. The parents were abusive and took in too many kids just for the money so they could scratch lotto tickets. This is all to say that Randall and Beth need to sort their stuff out because she and Tess can feel the tension. And she thinks Randall “won the lottery” when he got adopted and when he met Beth. As Randall processes the wise words from his oldest daughter (she really is a pretty wise girl), he calls up his campaign manager to ask a question I was honestly surprised he would ask. He wants to know the procedure to resign. Unbeknownst to him, Beth is reevaluating some things on her end, too. We see her meet with a realtor in Philly and in true This Is Us fashion we think it means she’s looking at houses. But when she gets home, she tells Randall she wants to open her own dance studio in Philly so they can move there and that way Randall doesn’t have to give up his political aspirations and she can teach dance how she wants to.

This leads us to the future storyline we’ve been wondering about all season. We know from prior hints that it’s set probably 10-20 years in the future given Tess being a grown-up and social worker. We know that folks are gathering to see Rebecca. We quickly see Tess, Randall and Beth catch up with one another and it seems that Beth and Randall are in fact in a good place (as also evidenced by how things went down in the present). I am a little confused about why Deja and Annie aren’t around but who knows, maybe they are coming. Toby arrives, too, and says that he talked to Jack and “they” are on their way. That does not say that he is with Kate, although it could. We don’t know. It makes me wonder a little if Toby and Kate are no longer together. We also learn that everyone is gathering at Kevin’s huge house. We also meet a nameless child who it sounds like is Kevin’s son. So he eventually becomes a dad, too. We have no idea who his mom is (other than we know it isn’t Zoe). And then, Randall goes to see Rebecca and she is very old and it seems like she doesn’t remember Randall. Whether it’s just old age or dementia is yet another question to be answered. Perhaps the biggest twist in the future storyline is that it is not Miguel sitting vigil by Rebecca’s bedside. It’s Uncle Nicky! Okay, I was not expecting that and I need to know how Nicky ends up there given how much he brushed off the rest of the family when last we saw him. I did like how this scene was cut to show young Randall walking into Rebecca’s hospital room in the past. It was very well done. Now we just have to wait six months to see what happens next!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 2.04: "When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?

“Life doesn’t happen to you. You make decisions. Right now I’m deciding to move forward with my life.”
-Greg

I’ll be honest, the events of this episode are the main reason why, even though the first season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is one of my very favorite seasons of television, I haven’t gotten very far beyond it in watching the show. In honor of the series finale airing this coming Friday, though, I thought I ought to dive back in. You see, I first started watching the show when a close friend moved across country under somewhat painful circumstances, and I was trying to cheer myself up with a quirky comedy and some pepperoni pizza. While watching the first season, I got very invested in Rebecca and Greg. Then when I found out that Santino Fontana was leaving the show and I saw the video for “It Was a Shitshow,” which featured their big airport goodbye, I knew I wasn’t in an emotional place to watch the whole episode. Just about three years later, I can confirm I was actually able to watch the whole episode (including the departure scene) without crying, so that’s progress. A lot has happened in the past three years, I suppose.

The episode opens where the last one left off, with Rebecca rushing to the airport just as Greg is about to board his flight to Atlanta to attend Emory University. Greg explains his reasons for leaving with the aforementioned “It Was a Shitshow,” and I was mostly reminded that damn, Santino Fontana can sing. I’m now contemplating a spontaneous trip to NYC to see him in Tootsie (although my bank account and work that needs to be done on my house may make me decide to do otherwise). Greg’s got a good point with this song. While Greg and Rebecca have crazy chemistry, they’ve done some pretty awful things to each other. Their relationship hasn’t been rosy, for sure. Greg does admit he loves her (which will have to sustain me until season four), but pursuing his dreams in Atlanta is the best thing for him at this point.

Rebecca is completely broken by both Josh and Greg leaving her in such a short space of time. She’s feeling very abandoned, and Paula, even though she’s dealing with her own issues (more on that in a bit) does try to comfort her. Josh and Greg keep appearing to her as visions, and they perform a rather epic song and dance number called “We Tapped that Ass All Over This House.” Rebecca decides to try burning everything that reminds her of both Josh and Greg in her kitchen sink, and it turns into a major fire and a 911 call that goes viral (probably because it involved Rebecca describing pooping in her backyard). Rebecca goes over to Heather’s house to see if she can stay there, and she learns that Heather still lives with her parents. Heather and her parents are all cool with Rebecca crashing at their place temporarily. Heather’s dad even makes her pancakes at 2 AM), and Heather’s mom gives her clothes to wear to work the next day.

Rebecca, looking quite disheveled, is devastated to find out that all her coworkers have been watching the viral 911 video. She thinks she’ll feel better if she throws herself into work, though, so she sits in on a meeting with Petra from “Jane the Virgin,” who in the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” universe, runs a company called Miss Douche. Since douching isn’t really in fashion anymore, she’s desperately trying to rebrand the company (Whitefeather is helping them with legal transactions required for their new headquarters). She especially wants to replace their illustrated “Miss Douche” mascot with a real woman. They’re running a social media contest from which five winners will be chosen. The rebranding talk really appeals to Rebecca, because she desperately wants everyone to forget about that 911 video.

Back at Heather’s house, Heather’s mom is super supportive of Rebecca’s desire to have a post break-up makeover. Rebecca even comes up with a pretty silly song to accompany the makeover. Next thing we know, Rebecca is walking into Whitefeather with blonde hair and looking like she’s dressed for Coachella. She also made the Instagram post for the contest and has spent thousands of dollars on bots to give the post likes. Even though reaction to the new look was surprise more than anything else, Rebecca is feeling pretty confident in herself when she happens to run into Josh on the street. Josh doesn’t recognize Rebecca at first, but when he does, he tries to be kind. He makes the mistake of calling what Rebecca is wearing a “costume,” though, and that completely throws her off her game.

Meanwhile, you may recall that in the last episode, Paula found out that she’s pregnant. Her husband, to his credit, is still super supportive of the idea of her going to law school, but his attempts to show that he can manage the house somewhat to give her space to study doesn’t really go well. The house is more chaotic than ever, and Paula doesn’t see how she can possibly juggle her job, school, the kids they’ve got, and a new baby all at once. Her husband reminds her she has “options,” but Paula views that as a teenager’s way out. She thinks the right decision is for her to drop out of law school. She also doesn’t want to talk any of this through with Rebecca (even though Rebecca asks her a couple times how she’s doing), because she thinks Rebecca has too much on her plate and wouldn’t understand, anyway. She ends up presenting Miss Douche’s case to the planning commissioner, however, and he seriously compliments her work, so Paula finally makes her decision. She has an abortion. It’s all handled in a very matter-of-fact way (and she still doesn’t tell Rebecca), which was very interesting to see on television.

When we next see Rebecca, she’s officially a finalist for Miss Douche, but Heather is having a terrible time trying to get her out of bed to go to the competition. Heather’s parents aren’t helping. They’re totally cool with Rebecca just staying in bed not trying to win the competition. Heather’s taking this personally, I think because she wishes her parents had pushed her a bit more to not be a perpetual student. Eventually, Heather succeeds, and Rebecca shows up at the competition just in time. The ladies all have to answer questions from the judges. Petra (I don’t know her character’s name on this show, so I’m just gonna call her Petra) mentions that Rebecca seems like the kind of person who does it all – success ful attorney, living her best SoCal life, etc. Fundamentally, though, she wants to know who Rebecca is. The planning commissioner asks Paula who she is in a cut scene, so I’m guessing this is the theme that is tying the whole episode together. Rebecca ends up giving a speech where she says she doesn’t deserve to be Miss Douche because her life is a mess, and she suggests they choose Heather instead.

Heather does end up as the new Miss Douche, which is not what anyone would have ever expected. She wants to take the money and strike it out on her own. She’s tired of her parents enabling her to keep living in her safe bubble. And she wants Rebecca to be her new roommate. This is going to be quite an interesting combination! Later, the two of them start looking at listings, and they see a familiar face gorging on a donut. It’s none other than Valencia – since when does she eat carbs! The three ladies are all surprised to see each other and don’t know quite how to react. Do I detect a potential third roommate? This could get interesting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

This Is Us 3.17: “R & B”

“I love you Randall, but you consume things.”
- Beth

If you thought that Beth and Randall’s epic fight was going to be over and done with at the start of this episode, you’d be wrong. It was just the start of a look back at their relationship starting with their first meeting. Beth prefaces the trip down memory lane that they have been having the same fight for twenty years and as the episode went along, I could see it from her perspective and it really made me feel for Beth. But at the same time, she could have pushed back harder sometimes and stood her ground. The Beth we met who was a force as a teenager did seem to get swallowed up a bit by Randall and that is the problem.

I did like that we got to see the phone call with Kevin giving Randall pointers asking Beth out on a date. That was definitely cute, but the date itself was awkward in part because Randall totally info dumped all the sort of “memorable” stuff about his childhood—being adopted, his dad dying. Yeah, Randall, you don’t want to lead with that on a first date, buddy. And then the waiter requested that they pre-pay for their meal before ordering. Randall was all set to do it (even though he knew it wasn’t right…hello 1990s racism) and Beth couldn’t believe it. She didn’t want the flowers and the fancy dinner. She just wanted to hang and eat some nachos. She tells Randall not to call her again. That clearly didn’t last because when next we catch up to them, they’ve been together for seven years and Randall has repeatedly been proposing to Beth. She hasn’t said yes yet but he’s determined.

Things take a turn for Randall and Beth when Beth suggests they skip Sunday dinner with Rebecca in favor of mini golf. Randall likes the idea of golf but insists Rebecca come along. I get that he doesn’t want his mother to feel abandoned but she would understand I’m sure. This leads to Beth flipping out at Randall for telling Rebecca about all of his proposal attempts. Randall storms off and Rebecca and Beth have a heart to heart. Beth loves Randall but she is worried he will consume her and she wasn’t that. Rebecca insists that won’t happen because Beth isn’t a “wall flower”. So, Beth ends up taking Randall to a diner where she orders nachos and then tells him to ask her to marry him. She says yes this time.

Cut to their wedding day. Beth is trying to finish writing her vows because she didn’t have time earlier thanks to lots of little things that were going on with wedding planning. They bought the big house (where they live now) and they are holding the ceremony in the back yard. She asks Kate to stall for a few minutes which leads to Randall and Kevin going over Randall’s vows which Randall realizes was more of a boring dissertation on marriage than how he felt about Beth. Beth is not having any of this and so they agree to write the vows together and it is a really sweet scene intercut with their actual exchange of vows. They promise to be whole people with each other and not get swept up by the other but as we’ve seen, that’s not going to be the case.

When next we pick up with Beth and Randall, they are both sleep-deprived trying to deal with baby Tess in the middle of the night. After sniping at each other over the baby wipes to use and the right way to put on the diaper, Randall offers to make Beth some nachos. But, they end up having yet another spat. Beth tries to explain that she feels like Randall does things and he doesn’t mean to it but leaves Beth with less. She uses a fairly apt nacho metaphor. Before we get back to Beth and Randall in the present, we have one more stop on memory lane: the time that Kevin was living with Beth and Randall as well as William. Beth lies about going to a conference out of tow but really, she just needs a night to herself away from everyone else. Randall catches her in the lie when he and William stop to pick up syrup and they run into her at the store. Randall is upset but also then asks her what episodes of a shared TV show she planned to watch and Beth ends up going home.

The point of this whole trip down memory lane is of course to show that whenever there is an issue, Randall gives some big speech and Beth ends up bending or adjusting her life to fit him. It is never the other way around and that is not fair and it wasn’t what they promised. Now, I don’t think Randall has meant to do any of these things and I also don’t think Beth realizes she’s’ been giving in as much as she has. She has become a bit of a push over at times and she and Randall both need to figure out how to move forward. I found it interesting that when Beth was trying to get Randall to admit he thought his job was more important than hers and he refused to say it, we got flashes of teenage Randall walking in on Jack and Rebecca’s big fight. It was essentially the same thing. I suspect that Randall has been trying to avoid having that fight so he’s been doing everything he can to not come off like he resents Beth following her dream. But in the end, he heads back to his office because he can’t be in the house with her. Whether this is the beginning of the end of Beth and Randall as a couple (leading to that future where it seems clear they aren’t together) only time will tell. But there are definite fractures in their relationship that I am unsure how or if they will be able to fix. I didn’t get teary this week but damn, the writers are still bringing us through the wringer.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

This Is Us 3.16: “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away”

“I’ve never heard my kid cry; can you believe that?”
- Toby

The writers are really not letting us catch our breath on the Randall and Beth storyline. They’ve been struggling to make both of their jobs work and it is clear that it isn’t going to hold for long. They are like ships passing in the night and it’s clear that Randall is starting to resent Beth, especially when she initially agrees to go with him to a work dinner and then seems to back out. He gets super aggressive and mean when he thinks she’s not coming and then tries to cover it when she does show up. After the dinner—where they make nice for their hosts—Beth tells Randall he should stay at his office but comes home. He’s not going to do that. They need to address their issues. I suspect that’s going to be the focus on next week’s penultimate episode.

Speaking of dealing with couple-y issues, Kevin and Zoe are in couple’s counseling. Kevin professes he wants to do his sobriety right this time and he wants his relationship with Zoe to work, too. She’s just worried about the fact he lied to her for so long. But, he’s determined to prove to her that he wants her. At least, until she points out that she doesn’t want kids (coming off a comment he made in the session). She essentially gives him an ultimatum: choose kids or choose her because he can’t have both. He ends up going to an AA meeting near Sophie’s apartment and runs into her. Well, okay, he was loitering a bit but they end up going for coffee and she points out that he’s never really had to choose anything before. Even when they were younger, he got everything he wanted. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s true. He didn’t “get” football after his injury and he lost Sophie twice. I have to admit when she was leaving the diner, I thought he still wanted to be with her. But, he goes home and commits to Zoe and their future together. He even appears to move on from Sophie by giving her and her fiancĂ© Billy Joel tickets.

And then there’s Kate, Toby and baby Jack. At the start of the episode, we see Jack is two days old and Beth and Randall are saying their goodbyes (before all their drama ensues). We then jump to about a week out and Toby is not handling things well. He gets kind of freaked and annoyed when the nurses come to take blood and urine samples to make sure the baby is doing okay. He ends up having to leave and ends up in the waiting room where he bonds with another NICU dad (played by the actor who portrayed Toby on Scorpion which I think is hilarious and it felt like he was playing a version of that character. To be honest, he even looked a little like his character from Scorpion. At first, he and Toby commiserated over how their babies were doing. Toby bemoans the fact he hasn’t heard his son cry (thanks to the ventilator tube). I hadn’t thought about that but I would be pretty disturbed if I hadn’t heard my baby cry, too. How would you know when he needed something? But, the other dad points out that there are parents there whose baby isn’t going to make it home and as horrible and dark as it sounds, comparing their situations to those parents (hey at least Kate and Toby have a shot of brining Jack home) makes it all a little better. They also agree that the moms handle things better. When Toby finally goes back to the NICU, he gets Kate to admit that she is scared of everything that’s going on but unlike Toby, who can only see the tubes and wires, Kate sees the little boy underneath who has Toby’s eyes and her chin. In the end, Toby even manages to hold baby Jack. I hope that is what he needed to help him start bonding with his son.

As a backdrop for all of the drama going on in the present, we find Jack and Rebecca chaperoning the Big Three’s first school dance. Kevin is hoping for a first kiss with Sophie. Kate just wants to hang with her friends and while Kate’s friend invited Randall to the dance, he’s going all OCD about a science test. So, it’s going to be a mixed bag. We also learn that Jack never went to a school dance. Mostly because of his father and Rebecca wonders if he’s sad. She even tries to entice him to go sneak off with her to the library to make out. They don’t get far because they find Randall studying. His parents are disappointed he bailed on his commitment to his date (which makes me think as an adult he takes things too literally in this department) and send him back to the dance. We also see that Sophie is totally right in the present about Kevin getting what he wants. He and his friends are toilet paper-ing the principal’s office and he even convinces Sophie to partake, even though she really doesn’t want to. He even gets his first kiss out of it, too. And then we get a really sweet moment with Jack and Rebecca as their share a slow dance where Jack is certain that if they’d met as children, he would have fallen for her, little hairbows and all.

I have to admit, I’m really getting tired of Randall being such an inconsiderate tool. He doesn’t handle things not going his way very well and I know that’s always been a part of his personality but I didn’t realize just how much Beth propped him up in things. It makes me wonder if their relationship wasn’t really as strong as we thought it was originally. It also makes me see that it makes sense somewhere down the line they break up and get divorced so Beth can pursue her dream of dancing. It is getting seriously ugly in that branch of the Pearson clan and I am just ready for it to be over. But something tells me we are in for a bigger storm before it ends.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

This Is Us 3.15: “The Waiting Room”

“I’m sorry but anything that doesn’t have to do with Kate or my grandson doesn’t belong here. It doesn’t matter. So, you need to put it away right now.”
- Rebecca

Well, we finally got our first real “bottle” episode of “This Is Us”. For those not in the know, a bottle episode is often used to save money by using a single set to film the whole episode (or in this case 2 sets but no actual on location shooting). Much like last season’s Rehab episode (which now that I think about it, was somewhat of a bottle episode, too), a tense family situation brings out all the Pearson drama.

Kate’s water has definitely broken so the baby doesn’t have much (if any) amniotic fluid left to keep him protected from infection so they’ve given Kate antibiotics to help just in case. But they have managed to delay her labor. The whole family (including Zoe) has camped out in the waiting room and boy is everyone testy. When last we left things, Randall and Beth were on the outs for his frankly stupid suggestion that Beth not teach dance and Kevin had admitted to at least Kate and Toby that he had relapsed. As we find out, everyone else now knows about Kevin’s relapse and he is in quite the mood and state. For one thing, he’s clearly hung over and he’s frustrated about the lack of news on Kate. He even gets kind of bullying with the doctor who points out that right now, they are doing what they could to keep the baby inside Kate to further develop.

As tends to happen when you put this family together during stressful times, folks start to snipe at each other. It isn’t that surprising that Kevin and Randall go at each other several times over a whole host of issues from Kevin’s drinking to Beth teaching dance. Randall tries to explain that he’s worried about the financial aspects of daycare given the reduced salaries both he and Beth would now be working with. Then, he suggests that Miguel and Rebecca could babysit. Again, I don’t get why the girls couldn’t stay home for a few hours by themselves. Or have Beth and Randall prepare meals ahead of time that the girls could easily heat up (like in a crockpot). Miguel explain\s that they were considering moving to California to be with Kate, Toby and the baby for a while since they will need help. Randall is kind of taken aback by this but in the end, he does understand. I was annoyed—much like Beth—at Miguel constantly talking for Rebecca during this episode. She’s acting kind of spacy and I was honestly worried we were seeing the start of some sort of neurological condition (it had me thinking about that future storyline). She’s counting chairs in the waiting room, noting how the electrical sockets look like surprised faces and the chair patterns look like bacteria. When Madison shows up with donuts, Beth manages to get Rebecca to eat a little something. Kevin promptly snaps enough at Madison that she leaves, although Miguel finds her later on and she explains that Kate had a whole plan and that Madison was supposed to be there for the whole thing. Miguel reminds Madison that he, too, is on the outside of the Pearson family, even though he’s been around a part of it for a long time. He says he’s okay with it although you can tell later on that he really isn’t okay with how the family treats him.

Things finally comes to a head when Randall and Kevin are having yet another shouting match and Rebecca basically tells everyone to shut up and put their drama aside because Kate is what’s important. She also recounts in chilling detail how she remembered the waiting room on that fateful night when Jack died. She detailed all of the furniture and how the chairs looked like key lime pie (courtesy of Jack’s observation) and then they started recounting their favorite pies which led Rebecca to remember she hadn’t eaten since that afternoon (on the day). So yeah, being in that hospital waiting room was a massive trigger for her and I totally understand her reaction. I’m just glad for now it seems she is okay.

Speaking of Kate, we learn that the baby’s heart rate went into distress and they had to do an emergency C-section. I’ve never seen Toby so out of it as he tells the family that Kate is fine but the baby is a ventilator and in an incubator and so small. We don’t get to see the family go up to see Kate or meet baby Jack (yeah, everyone knew that was coming) but we do see snippets of the various pairings. Madison shows up and passes off a Ruth Bader Ginsberg doll to Miguel to give to Kate (that apparently Kate wanted to give the baby once he was born) and Randall and Beth at least seem to remember they are on the same team in all of their own drama. The bigger worry is Kevin and Zoe. She is hurt that he lied to her which triggers her own trust issues. She’s especially upset when she realizes that the water bottle Kevin was drinking from was vodka. I mean, I’m not surprised in the least that he’d continue to relapse through the stress of his twin sister going through such a life altering event. It seems Zoe wants to stay with Kevin, even though she knows he’s still lying to her. I can’t imagine that’s going to end well. When we finally get to witness Kate and Toby visit baby Jack in the NICU, I have to admit I got kind of weepy. I’m sure they got a fake baby for that scene but all the wires and stuff, oof, that is tough. But Kate seems optimistic that he’s going to be okay. She even says a little prayer to her dad to make sure her son is okay. Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

This Is Us 3.14: “The Graduates”

“You’re a story and no offense Randall, but I don’t want to do it that way.”
- Deja

This week’s episode of ‘This Is Us” was pretty emotional and made me both sad and angry. I have to admit that post-loss Rebecca (while the Big Three were still teenager) is just so raw and kudos to Mandy Moore for pulling that off. After a brief glimpse of Jack and Rebecca with toddler-age Big Three shopping for a new video camera, we find Rebecca on the eve of the Big Three’s high school graduation in search of a new camera. She’s clearly not sure what to get and runs into a father who’d been on the PTA when the kids were in middle school. He makes a recommendation and then asks Rebecca out for coffee. She understandably is thrown by the offer and bolts. When she gets home, she finds that Kate is refusing to walk at graduation, saying she doesn’t need everyone’s pity for “the girl whose dad died” and she’s also pissed at Kevin for following Sophie to New York to become an actor. She doesn’t seem as mad at Randall for going to school, too (although he’s going to stay closer to home).

On graduation night, Rebecca has a panic attack when she realizes she and the kids are going through a huge milestone without Jack, especially since Randall is valedictorian of his class. Miguel manages to talk her down and ultimately, he convinces her to go to a grief support group. Seeing her panic at graduation and break down when she called Miguel to come pick her up was just heart breaking. This storyline is somewhat mirrored in the present day. Kate has earned her last credits to get her Bachelor’s Degree and Toby is insisting on putting on a ceremony for her and the other three folks who finished their degrees with her. Kate doesn’t want the fanfare—especially given the fact her graduating college comes 16 years late—but she kind of gets into it eventually. Rebecca flies across the country to be there and Kevin has been out there, too. Although, as we see, he’s lied to them about having meetings with various directors and producers. He’s been on a bender and he’s trying to hide it from everyone. He bails on the party after the little ceremony and when Kate shows up, she realizes what he’s doing. She insists he get a sponsor this time and go to meetings. He’s not ready to tell Zoe because he worries he’ll disappoint her to the point she leaves. He does agree to go to a meeting and Kate drives him. On the way there, her water breaks and she ends up in the hospital. They manage to stall labor for now but she’s only 28 weeks. I’ll be honest, this part got to me quite a bit. Not just because I was a preemie born at 29 weeks but because I’m around the same place in my pregnancy and having a preemie is one of my big worries. I just hope Kate and Toby get a happy outcome.

And then there was Randall’s storyline. I started out the episode rooting for him and how fiercely he fights for his girls but by the end of the episode, lord I wanted to strangle him. We pick up with him and Beth trying to figure out their schedules with the girls and all of the other responsibilities that come along with Randall’s job and Beth’s dance classes. It is going to be complicated but they think they can find a way to do it, even if it means getting someone to stay with the girls for a few nights during the week. Well, until Randall gets a frantic call from Deja to pick her up. He pulls up to find her walking away from school and she explains they had to write personal essays in English class. She got an A which is all well and good but the teacher posted Deja’s essay online without her permission and she wrote about the time she and her mother were living out of her mom’s car. Now kids around school are calling her Pontiac. Randall is visibly horrified by this (he can’t even form coherent words and sentences). So, he goes to the teacher and rips her a new one, making her cry. She takes down the essay (not really the point and it won’t stop the kids from bullying Deja still) and explains she was impressed with Deja and wanted to share her work. She also points out that Deja has caught up with all of her classes in seventh grade should be sent to high school next year.

Randall and Beth think this is a good idea but Deja has other plans. Initially, she tells Randall she doesn’t want special treatment just because she’s the kid who used to be homeless. She’s also somewhat distrustful of the White teachers’ motives. She doesn’t want to be a “story” like Randall. Later, she confesses that she likes the routine of all three girls going to the same school and having Beth or Randall drop off and pick them up every day. She hasn’t had that type of stability before and she really doesn’t want to lose it. I’m honestly just so impressed with Deja. She’s so mature for a seventh grader. And then Randall has to go and be a big moron. He’s looking for folks who can come stay with the girls and it’s expensive to find someone who can handle their girls’ specific needs. He also asks if they really want to leave their girls with strangers and then tells Beth she shouldn’t teach classes for a while. First of all, Beth is right to point out that it’s entirely unfair that Randall gets to pursue his dream and she can’t. Also, Couldn’t she just go to the studio and for the time being try to teach classes that were more during the day? Yes, it would probably be younger kids but it would still fulfill her desire to dance. It seems like there are more options available than just forcing Beth to give up her dream. Also, Tess and Deja are almost teenagers; can’t they be home alone for a few hours and watch Annie? They seem like pretty self-sufficient kids to me. Randal just jumped to totally wrong conclusion and Beth better not let him forget it. It also makes me worry that they really will be on the outs in that flash forward.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

This Is Us. 3.13: “Our Little Island Girl”

“Sister-cousin, I know you inside and out and there is something bigger going on with you and you need to find a way to talk about it.”
- Zoe

We’ve been waiting for a Beth-centric episode and it is finally here! When last we saw Beth, she was heading to DC to help out her mom who bruised her hip after being knocked into by some unruly high school kids at the school where she’s a principal. Beth picks up Zoe and they head and along the way, Beth admits she hasn’t told her mom about being laid off yet. Given that it’s been months, that’s kind of surprising and Zoe calls her out on it. She says that Beth clams up around her mother because her mom is terrifying. When we meet Mrs. Clark in the present, she insists she doesn’t need help and thinks they are foolish for worrying. She doesn’t want to slow down or even consider retiring. And while they are eating, Mrs. Clark starts in on Zoe for not having a path and career like Beth, prompting Beth to blurt out that she got laid off. Her mother jumps in and says they’ll look at new firms and spruce up her resume in the morning. But we can all tell that Beth isn’t interested in doing that and as we look back at her childhood, we learn why.

We first find young Beth around eight or nine years old (and my God if she doesn’t look a lot like Tess from season 1). Good job casting folks at “This Is Us”. Then again, they always do a really awesome job of casting people to play different characters at different ages. Beth gets accepted to a prestigious ballet academy but her mother is skeptical both at the time commitment and the cost. But Beth’s dad is all gung ho to see his baby girl dance. As he keeps saying, she danced before she walked so it’s got to be in her blood. The owner of the company explains that the goal of all the classes is to participate in a senior showcase and hopefully get recruited by one of the major ballet companies worldwide. With this dream in mind, Beth manages to get her parents to agree. She works hard but she isn’t exactly the best in class. She’s not horrible but she’s got to push harder than some of the other girls.

When Beth gets to be a teenager, her teacher tells her that she’s not built like typical dancers and if she wants the solo in the showcase she’s going to have to push herself even harder. She also sees that he brings in another Black dancer (who Beth feels has it easier because routines just come that much faster to her). When she gets home that night, her parents drop the bomb on her that her dad has developed lung cancer (despite not spoking as Zoe points out). Beth thinks it is her fault that her dad got sick because he had to work extra hard to make enough money to support her training. Her mother brushes that off as ridiculous and she’s no nonsense that he is going to get chemo treatment because that’s what the doctor said. Inevitably, the cancer claims him and Beth is understandably upset. Though, I think she was more upset by how her mother just kept going as if they didn’t need time to grieve. When Beth doesn’t get the solo like she’d hoped, her mother points out that she can’t continue to pay for the classes so Beth’s path is going to need to change and she’ll need to go to college. Eventually, we see Beth at a freshman mixer where she bumps into none other than Randall Pearson!

In the present, Zoe wakes Beth up in the middle of the night and they end up getting high off some weed Zoe hid behind a picture. They have some real talk where Beth comments about how they don’t’ acknowledge how much Zoe has accomplished. Zoe admits that while everyone else saw Beth’s mom as harsh and strict, Zoe saw her as someone who wouldn’t hurt her the way her own father had. Zoe also points out that Beth clearly has something big she’s trying to deal with and she needs to get it out before it just explodes. So, Beth eventually confronts her mother. She points out that her mom didn’t have to rip dance away right after her father died. Her mom in turn explains that her mother fought for her to have every opportunity her brothers did and that Beth’s mom wanted to give her kids that same chance and push them to do well. But she acknowledges she shouldn’t have pushed Beth away from dance like she did. By the end of the episode, Beth realizes what’s been missing in her life and she seizes on it. She shares it with Randall who in typical Pearson fashion is supportive. She wants to get back into dancing. She wants to teach and if the glimpses of the future are any indication, she’s going to be doing it for a long time. It still makes me worry that Beth and Randall aren’t in a good place in the future. I just hope we get to see more of that sooner rather than later. I want to know what lays ahead for the Pearson clan!

I thought this was a good episode overall and finally gave us some insight into who Beth is and how she ended up the way she is. I really liked getting that glimpse into her past and as usual, the acting was top notch. I got a little emotional when Beth and her mom finally had their talk to sort out the drama that had been lingering between them. I also liked to see that Beth’s mom at least acquiesced to using a walker at the school. This was a necessary step along the path of the larger Pearson clan and I look forward to seeing more of Beth’s family. Maybe we’ll get to meet her brother and sisters next time.