Thursday, February 25, 2021

This Is Us 5.09: “The Ride”

“That’s where you and Tess and your mom come in. You are my branches. You are the start of my family tree.”
– Randall

It was a big day across the Pearson clan’s history in this week’s episode. We got to see every member of the family bringing home a baby (or two or three). In the past, we see a wary Jack and Rebecca get ready to take their three newborns home after four days in the hospital (and after apparently Rebecca had a c-section. They look woefully unprepared. Jack hasn’t even installed the car seats and he installed them backwards (although by today’s standards, he was putting them in correctly by having them face backwards). A security guard points out he’s putting them I wrong and then asks why Jack has three of them. Later, on the drive home, Rebeca wishes she could sit in the backseat with the babies because turning hurts her stitches (girl I feel you on that so much). They end up pulling into a gas station (babies screaming their heads off) when another driver cuts them off. Jack kind of loses his mind on the guy but Rebecca pulls him back from the brink. He does end up getting a little bottle of whisky and some mints to hide it before getting back into the car. He does then suggest Rebecca drive so he can watch the babies. By the time they get home, all three babies have fallen asleep and they sit in the car until the babies wake up. Jack admits his drinking and they both worry they aren’t going to be good parents before reassuring each other that they will be fine. We even get a montage of the family car as their lives unfold.

In the not-so-distant past, we find Randall and Beth bringing home Annie from the hospital. Randall is thrilled that she has his eyes because as he points out during a trip to Dairy Queen (Beth’s request for after the birth), he never had that sort of connection with his parents. He did a family tree in school but they weren’t his branches. He thinks now he has a chance to have that sort of connection through his daughters. And he tells Beth he’s thinking about another kid already (I agree with Beth, that soon after, don’t even mention it), because he wants that connection. I think he’s happy with Deja as their third child and I’m sure he’s going to be even more thrilled in the future.

Speaking of, we find a young woman in her residency and she’s doing her labor and delivery rotation. She bails and ends up in a car with her sister who gives her a gift. The doctor-in-training is pregnant. I knew pretty quickly that it was adult Annie and Deja by their mannerisms and speech patterns. Plus the casting is so spot on for this show. They’re heading up to join the rest of the family at the house to say goodbye to Rebecca. Randall is thrilled to have all three of his girls there and just as the episode ends, we see another car pull up so I’m thinking we’re going to find out soon whether Kate is still around. I really hope we get to see more of the flash forward storyline in the coming episodes.

In the present, Kate and Kevin’s respective trips home with their kids don’t go as they hoped either. For Kate, Ellie admits on the car ride home that she doesn’t want to do the open adoption. She can’t handle it. Kate is hurt by this but Toby assures her that they’ll figure it out because as he says, Kate is unflappable. Which is good because he just got laid off. Oof. Right when you’ve got a new baby (I can so feel that, too). Kevin, on the other hand, is dealing with annoying fans and the paparazzi. First, when Kev is trying to get the car seats into the car, a fan keeps snapping pictures. Kevin lashes out at him and the guy kind of apologies. He sympathizes with Kevin about his kids and Kevin eventually takes a picture with him. Later, on their drive home, Kevin notices another car following them. I bet that fan blew the whistle. Kevin loses his mind when he pulls over and so does the guy (who just keeps snapping pictures). It was very reminiscent of Jack’s behavior on the way home forty years earlier. And like then, it takes the woman to diffuse the situation. She does promise to call the guy to let him know when Kevin goes running. I’m kind of hoping she lies to him. She ends up driving home and Kevin has a dream where Jack gets the babies to calm down. Jack tells Kevin not to be so terrified that he’s not going to live up to Jack. They have both spent a lot of time being terrified of being (or not being) their dads. It’s time for Kevin to figure out what he wants. And he decides he really does want to marry Madison.

This episode didn’t make me cry last week’s did (and that was a lot of tears). But I enjoyed seeing the family starting out on this journey. It reminded me of our trip home with our son and all the related worry that comes along with having a new little human that is solely dependent on you. I honestly couldn’t imagine handling two or three at once (babysitting a pair of twins was enough thank you). It’s also hard to believe we are already halfway through the season with only one more confirmed after that. We’ve got 27 episodes left right now and that doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to tell all the stories that are left to tell. Adult Jack, Hailey and the next generation? Miguel and Rebecca’s reconnection (and Miguel’s background in general). Wrapping up the future with Rebecca’s death. It just doesn’t feel like it’s enough time to say goodbye to this family that has become such an important part of so many of our lives.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

This Is Us 5.08: “In the Room”

“I know this isn’t how you imagined the births of these babies, but I know that Kevin is out there trying his damndest to get to you.”
– Randall

I loved everything about this episode. It was just beautifully done and there was a little surprise at the very end that I wasn’t expecting. And not in the usual “This Is Us” fashion. At the start of the episode, we meet Ester and Nasir at a party in Albuquerque in 1963. He’s Indian, she’s Argentinian and while she has no clue what he’s talking about with regard to computer programming, she likes the way he talks. They end up getting married and having a son (who I swear was going to be Miguel). Then a few years later, Ester is waiting for Nasir at home and she’s mad because he was supposed to come home at 6:00 for family dinner. When he starts going on about his work and how close they are to a breakthrough, she makes him tell her what he’s talking about in terms she (and their four-year-old son) would understand. Basically, he and his team worked on the algorithm that allows technology companies now to send images and videos across the internet. Nasir is actually a real-life person (Nasir Ahmed) and he’s the reason we can do Zoom and Skype and FaceTime today. I cried when they dropped the title cards at the end of the episode explaining who he and Ester are. It was just so touching and not at all how I expected these new characters to connect to our core cast.

Speaking of the core cast, we pick up with Randall and Beth still driving home from New Orleans and they’re now video chatting with Madison as she’s laboring. She’s still worried that Kevin isn’t going to show up or that she’s bothering Beth and Randall. But, they are happy to stay on the line because they know she needs the support. She freaks out about getting the epidural when the contractions get to be too intense and Randall tells an adorable story about Kevin being drunk after junior prom and jumping on his bed naked singing “MMMBop”. Now, as a life-long Hanson fan I not only appreciated this reference, but I truly appreciated Randall actually signing the chorus with the proper melody. I spent a lot of my childhood people singing it wrong as a joke to rag on the band and I’m just grateful they could respect the band and their fans by actually giving it a good effort. As Madison finishes getting the epidural, Kevin arrives.

Out in California, Toby is sitting in the parking lot of the hospital while Kate is Ellie’s birth partner. At first it seems like Ellie is gung ho about handing the baby over to Kate, instructing the nursing staff to hand the baby to Kate after she’s born. Perhaps the more interesting part of this story, is the man Toby meets in the parking lot. We never learn his name but his wife Rose is in the hospital battling COVID and she’s on a ventilator. He comes to the hospital every night and parks in spot 157 (her lucky number). Of course, Toby is parked in that spot and after chatting a little, he moves over a couple spaces. He and the man bond as both Madison and Ellie labor.

Not to forget the elder generation of Pearsons, we find Rebecca and Miguel at the cabin and Rebecca feels so disconnected from her children. She feels like she should be there and this bring sup memories of a trip to the cabin she and Jack took when the Big Three were preteens. The kids all arranged sleepovers and Rebecca suggests they can have a romantic trip, but it gets interrupted by a burst pipe in the bathroom and Rebecca’s ragging on the kids gets to Jack. He keeps worrying that they won’t be in each other’s lives once the kids grow up and move away. He compares his fears to what he and Rebecca did with their own families. She promises that they will always be connected and she points to a ruined piece of artwork that they did with the kids as toddlers where they all did their handprints in paint. It’s a picture older Rebecca keeps staring at in the present and it represents that the family will always be connected. She also references how they never talk about how Miguel has to carry Jack’s death differently than the rest of the family. I’m sure we’ll eventually get more information on their relationship post Jack (beyond their wedding and honey moon in Puerto Rico).

Eventually, both Madison and Ellie deliver their respective bundles of joy. Kevin is pretty much in awe and he and Madison name their kids Nicholas (after Uncle Nicky….and a little bit Nick Cage) and Frances (after Madison’s grandmother). I’m excited to see more of Nicky and Franny in the future (maybe even in the grown up Jack future timeline). Speaking of the Damon family, we also get to meet little Hailey Rose, too. Toby was allowed to pick the middle name and as soon as he connected with the guy in the parking lot, I knew that’s what was coming. I was worried for a split second when Ellie asked to hold and then spend some time alone with Hailey. The look on Kate’s face I think mirrored most of the audience. But, Ellie just needs to say her goodbyes and soon she’s in Kate’s arms and we get a ton of FaceTime video going on. Rebecca gets to see each of her new grandbabies and then the babies get to meet each other and Kate dubs them “the new Big Three” which I think is adorable. And we see Kevin and Randall closing in on reconciliation and willing to have a frank discussion about Randall’s experience growing up Black in a white family. I don’t know what This Is Us holds in store for the Pearson clan next, but I’m so on board for it.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

This Is Us 5.07: "There"

“That’s the thing about parents. That’s why the loom large in our heads, I think. They mean a thousand things all at once. And even long after they’re gone, we’re stuck with them.”
– Jack

So, I’ll be honest, this episode did not end where I expected it would. We start off with an image of a crashed car on fire and a close-up of Kevin’s wallet with his ID in it. Of course, we’re dealing with the This Is Us writers and so they’ve clearly faked us out. Granted, they usually aren’t this blatant about it. We find out that Kevin is a week shy of wrapping his filming in Canada but Madison calls saying she thinks she’s in labor. We also see a call between him and Kate before he talks to Madison. Apparently Ellie (her and Toby’s birth mom) is being induced that day. I highly suspect that the twins and Hailey will be the next generation Big Three. The news that Madison is in labor sends Kevin into a bit of a panic as she’s six weeks early (duh, dude), and he wasn’t expecting it. Multiple people (mainly his agent and the director) tell Kevin they’ll try to wrap up his scenes that day in like six or seven hours so he could get to LA the next day, meet the babies and fly back. This does not work for Kevin. He doesn’t want to just swoop in for a photo op and then jet off. We haven’t seen all of what he’s been doing in his time away but it seems clear he is consciously making Madison and the twins a priority over his career. In fact, he tells the director that none of those plans will work and he gets in his car and starts driving for the airport. Along the way, he tells the director he quits the film because the guy is being such a dick about everything. It’s very interesting to see Kevin actually put family over his career. He’s been so focused and driven by trying to famous and popular, it’s just nice to see him making that distinction.

Along the way, he talks with several family members, including the scene from the last episode with Randall. Throughout the episode we see Kevin struggling to make it to the airport (Miguel and Rebecca find him a direct flight out of Seattle) but on his way, he sees a crashed car in a cell phone dead zone. He pulls over and rather heroically gets the guy out of the gar. But unbeknownst to him, he drops his wallet and ID on the ground in the process of the getting the guy back to Kevin’s car so they can get to the hospital (just not the one Madison is in). I will say before Kevin happened upon the accident, they did one hell of a job trying to convince us that wreck could have been him. He nearly gets hit or veers into oncoming traffic multiple times as he’s trying to deal with phone calls. In LA, Madison explains to a nurse that she doesn’t really have family she can call to be with her and the two people she’s closest to (Kevin and Kate) aren’t exactly around. And then, Randall calls and tells her that he and Beth can stay on the line with her as long as she needs as they head back to Philly from New Orleans.

The past storyline gives us some insight into why Kevin is so driven to be there for the birth of the babies and not just drop in and out. We had two sets of flashback in this episode that informed the present-day storyline. In the far past, we see preteen Jack (or maybe early teens) playing little league and he prays before the game. It turns out, he was praying that his team would win so that when his dad inevitably got drunk, he’d be happy, rather than a mean drunk. Unfortunately, this time his team lost and when Jack tries to get his dad to wait a while before going home (he can’t come out and say it’s because of his dad’s drinking), his dad blows him off. Ultimately, he tells Jack to drive home then. This is clearly a brand new experience for Jack and he’s nervous for a whole host of reasons. But he makes it home unscathed and even gets some praise from his dad. Then we see Kevin getting ready to go to football camp for the weekend with Jack. We see Kevin trying to review some plays before they leave and when they get to the hotel and he meets some players from Penn State who will be running drills, Kevin gets so nervous he throws up. He then tells Jack he thinks he’s not good enough to play football and if he doesn’t have football, then he’s got nothing. We’ve always known Kevin had some self-esteem issues. Jack insists that football isn’t all Kevin is or has and take shim to the hotel bar for a nice steak and cokes. Before they go, though, Kevin confides that his coach yells at him every day which Jack tries to brush off as being “old school”. Then Kevin admits that the coach calls him stupid basically every day. This clearly sets Jack off and that’s part of what prompts the bar visit. He suspects the coach will be there and ends up confronting him in the bathroom, telling him to never call Kevin stupid again. Jack vows to be at every game, too not just to support his son but to ensure that the coach is behaving himself. Back at the bar, Jack tells Kevin that he tried to be better than his father but feels like he failed by pressuring Kevin with sports. Kevin assures his dad that he’s nothing like grandpa.

But as we see Kevin get to the Seattle airport only to find he’s not go his ID, he realizes he may in fact miss the birth of his children. He’s trying to be better than his father (who he believes would have stopped and rescued the injured guy and still found a way to get to the births) but he’s really struggling. We’ll have to wait to see how the episode resolves but I’m hoping for a good outcome.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

This Is. Us 5.06: "Birth Mother"

“I didn’t even know I was looking for you. And then I found you and you were gone.”
– Randall

As the episode title suggests, this episode is all about seeing Laurel’s past. And I have to admit, it satisfied my hope that it would be in a similar vein to “Memphis”. Yes, we got one person telling her story while we saw things in flashback, but it felt like a good bookend to Randall’s origin story. And I am so glad that we are done with Randall’s search for his roots because now he can move on to other issues like healing things with the rest of his family.

Laurel grew up in New Orleans in 60s and 70s in one of the most prominent Black families in the city. She was ab it of rebellious girl and was always sneaking off to see her Aunt May, whom her father had told her not to see. We don’t learn until much later why he forbade contact and honestly, it spoke to the times she grew up in as to why. But before we get there, we need to talk about her own brother. She adored him (and I want to say that teen Randall played him but I’m not 100% sure). As is the case with so many people, he went to fight in Vietnam and did not come back. That broke Laurel’s heart and her Aunt May helped her through it by showing her how to let out and let go of her pain and grief. Over time, she’s seeing a nice, respectable man who her father approves of, but she is not really interested in. It’s one of those “rich people arranged relationship” type things and you can absolutely tell that isn’t Laurel’s style. She’s fallen in love with a Vietnamese immigrant fisherman who tried t save her when she was letting go of her pain (screaming in the lake). We see them fall in love over time (and see his English improve) and it is very sweet. But when Laurel’s father tells her that the man she’s been seeing is going to propose and he expects her to say “yes”, she freaks and run. She ends up in Pittsburgh where she met William and fell in love and had Randall.

Now, at this point, Randall is obviously upset about the fact Laurel didn’t try to reach out to William after she recovered from her overdose, but we learn that she spent five years in jail in California for drug possession in the early 1980s. And when she was released, she felt such shame that she returned home to her Aunt May. This is when she shares that she had a child with a married man and lost them both (it’s unclear if he took the child or if the baby died). But it is nice to see that Laurel has this person on whom she can lean. And as time goes on, she reconnects with her Vietnamese boyfriend (although not romantically because he’s married and has children). But they rekindle their friendship and eventually he finds out she’s got cancer and takes care of her for two years before she eventually passes away. She also shared her whole story (including Randall) with him during this time and apparently asked him to keep the house until or if he found her son.

As if all of this new information wasn’t enough for Randall to process, the farmhouse where they meet the current-day version of Laurel’s boyfriend is actually the house Aunt May owned which we are to assume she left to Laurel and Laurel left for Randall. So yeah, he and Beth now own a farmhouse on a lake in New Orleans. Randall can’t sleep that night and ends up going to the lake and stripping down naked and walking into the water (yes you could get a glimpse of all of him from the back). So risqué for the 9pm timeslot. Anyway, while he’s in the water he has what can be described as a spiritual experience where he has this whole interaction and conversation with Laurel. It was touching and beautiful as she finally could tell him (or he realized at least) that she loved him. And that William loved him. He’s spent so long wondering why they didn’t when he finally comes to see that they did in fact love him dearly, but circumstances saw fit to keep them from him for a period of time. As he lets out his own cathartic shout, you can just feel the weight finally lifting off Randall. I have to wonder if this will help relieve some of his general anxiety as well or if he will still have that battle. We know that much of his insecurity and inner turmoil came from not feeling like he fit in and I hope now that he knows his place, he can move forward.

As he and Beth start their drive back to Pittsburg, he wants to put the past behind him and Kevin as well. I know they’ve been slowly working toward this all season so I hope we get to see it and that the family can have a little less angst moving forward as we march toward that future with very old Rebecca on her deathbed. But, when he calls Kevin, it really is not a good time. Madison is in labor and Kevin is still in Vancouver and he’s trying to get back before the babies are born. Yeah, I am pretty sure I was yelling at the screen last week that twins come early, and Madison was kind of being too generous assuming the babies would stay put until after Kevin go back from filming. I have a feeling, given the status of filming right now, that the next episode might be the last one we get for a while. And I’m just hoping it doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger that leaves us wondering forever!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

This Is Us 5.05: "A Long Road Home"

“I let myself fall in love with the idea of our family.”
– Madison

This episode seemed to pick up pretty much where we left off in the last episode for some of the characters, but it also seemed like Madison was farther along in her pregnancy as well. Let’s start with Kevin and Madison. They are getting ready to interview a nanny who has been caregiver to the children of stars like Justin Timberlake. Kevin is all excited and then gets a call from his agent that the filming for his movie for the final two weeks has been moved to Vancouver. He says he’s out of the film then because he can’t leave Madison, but she insists he go because there’s still time before the twins are born when he gets back, even with the necessary quarantine procedure on the front end. I wanted to remind her that twins don’t always come on their due date. They often arrive early. But whatever. At the nanny interview, Kevin makes a big deal about needing someone who could travel with the family for consistency. Madison gets upset by this and says she pushed Kevin to do the movie because the babies aren’t here yet and she had the expectation that he would be staying put afterwards. So, she urges Kevin to consider what he really wants and how he’s going to honor that commitment when he heads off to the airport.

On his way there, he calls Randall looking for advice and admits that he often considers what Randall would do in certain situations that he’s unsure of. While it’s nice, the call is definitely awkward and came at a really bad time on Randall’s end. Earlier in the day, he gets the news that a man reached out to him via the city’s complaint contact form and it turns out it is the fisherman grandpa we saw earlier. He lives in New Orleans and he knew Laurel. They were friends and he was with her until she died of breast cancer in 2015. Randall is obviously thrown by this news as we all know William told him his mother died shortly after giving birth. I will say, I liked getting see a snippet of William again as we see him filling Randall in on the fact that Laurel was clean during her pregnancy but OD’d shortly after. Randall hates the idea that William lied to him. After all, we know Randall has massive issues with people lying to him about his heritage. But after talking with his therapist, he decides to reach out and get some answers. And boy is he glad he does. The man explains that he believes William thought that Laurel was dead, so he didn’t lie to Randall. And Randall and Beth decide they are going to head to New Orleans to meet the mans o he can show them where Laurel lived for 35 years and some of her favorite places. I am kind of hoping when we get to that part of the story that it’s told in a similar fashion to Memphis. I think that would be a very fitting counterpoint. It would also allow the writers to fit in the backstory for Laurel in a more organic way. And now I want to know if Randall has more family in New Orleans!

And then there is Kate and Toby. I was a little worried where the story was going to go when we first caught a glimpse of the pregnancy test with teenage Kate, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. We see her make the decision to get an abortion and she learns she has to wait 24 hours before they can do the procedure. She ends up going to see Marc. He acts all nice and makes her food which is classic abuser behavior. Trying to make her think he’s changed or won’t do it again. He even tries to rationalize his past behavior. I am sure she was going there to tell him about the pregnancy but when he starts acting like his usual self and starts drinking, she bolts, ultimately having the procedure on her own. When Rebeca gets home from her trip to see Kevin (who is going to head off to LA and ultimately cheat on Sophie and ruin their marriage), Kate requests ice cream to cheer her up from a sad movie (or you know, making a huge life choice without sharing that with anyone and then carrying the weight of that abuse and that choice for twenty years. In the present, Toby points out that he would have thought she would have told him about the abortion earlier, especially during the two years they were trying to conceive Jack. I would have assumed her doctor would have asked about past pregnancies and she would have disclosed the one at age 18 but maybe I’m wrong or maybe she did, and Toby just wasn’t around. But he also points out she’s clearly not over what happened to her which leads her down an internet stalking rabbit hole where she finds Marc is living in San Diego. She goes to confront him all these years late and he’s still a total douchebag, but she gets to stand up for herself. I had to cheer a little when she told him off after he said she was broken “in all the right ways”. Yes she was grieving and emotionally vulnerable and he took advantage of that pain and used it against her. She finally gets to take her power back and it was so satisfying. And to see her now in a relationship with someone who values her as a person and loves her makes me love Toby even more. Yes he can be kind of corny and over the top but he at least respects Kate as a person. I have to say I missed this show and I’m happy it’s back (for however long we have due to pandemic-related scheduling).

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

This Is Us 5.04: "Honestly"

“Do not make your dreams smaller, make them bigger. Not in spite of your daughter, but for her.”
– Randall

This episode moved the story along marginally more than the last episode did, but we got some interesting and needed nuggets of backstory, especially for Kate. She and Toby are trying to temper their expectations with Ellie (their potential birth mom) as they sign a birth plan and Kate goes her next ultrasound. Things seem to be going well until Kate calls the baby Chloe. Ellie later explains that a girl in high school who bullied her and tried to convince her future husband not to go out with her was named Chloe. More importantly to the story, though, she admits she consid4ered abortion. Kate says there’s no judgment there but later on, she admits to Toby (and it may very well be the first non-medical person she’s told) that after her break-up with Marc, she discovered at age eighteen, that she was pregnant. We knew that there was going to be more to Kate’s story and that this will lead into her dependence on food. I’m wondering if she turned to food and put on the weight to avoid men wanting to be with her so she wouldn’t risk getting pregnant again. I am eager to see where this storyline goes and I pray it isn’t as traumatizing as it could be (as in, I hope she doesn’t have to deal with Marc over the decision to abort the pregnancy but this was in the 90s so it’s possible).

Out in Philly, Randall is kind of excited to have Malik shadowing him for the day for a civics project. Things don’t go as planned though because Malik shows up six minutes later and he’s yawning through a morning meeting with Jaewon. Randall has taken to doing a daily livestream to his constituents where he shares news and answers questions. Malik is excited to be able to help out when Jaewon has a conflict, but his attention gets diverted by a phone call from his mom about his daughter and he misses the cue to cut the livestream. This results in all of Philly getting to see Randall Pearson undress (well only his shirt but still) and do a nerdy little dance around his office while he folds his dress shirt. The video goes viral and we see the Vietnamese man watching and he seems to recognize William’s name. There’s clearly more to that story that I hope we find out soon.

Kevin’s story in the present is the most tied in to the glimpses we see of the Pearson past. We get to watch Rebecca and Jack trying to sleep train baby Kevin who just keeps howling. Having been there not that long ago, it definitely hurt my heart. But jack was right, they had to let Kevin cry it out and eventually he managed to settle himself down. But this gives us a look at how Rebecca treats Kevin. Whenever things get too hard for him, she swoops in and lets him off the hook. Didn’t want to continue Boy Scouts because it was boring, she let him quit. And in the preteen storyline, she’s ready to let Kevin quit football because he seems miserable. Jack insists that Kevin made a commitment to the team and he needs to stick with it. (Side note: I was kind of surprised to see George Eads playing the football coach). Kevin has been working out a lot but he’s not having any luck memorizing the playbook. He calls Randall a nerd for color coding his study notes but eventually, he begs his brother to help him learn the football plays. Rebecca see the boys getting along and it’s kind of touching to see Kevin studying the plays via flashlight after Randall has gone to bed. Jack is also pleased to see his son has managed to stick with something. He tells Rebecca that he wants to let his kids know that he sees greatness in them because his father saw nothing in him and called him “Jack of all trades, master of none”. I do hope we get to see more of Jack’s history with his father. I really want to know how the man we saw when Nicky was born became the abusive alcoholic asshole he was when he died.

In the present, Kevin has gone for the meeting with the director for the new movie and he’s excited to be working with both the director and the female lead. But the director is overly dismissive of Kevin and praises the female lead repeatedly. Kevin gets kind of frustrated as he’s trying to do what the director wants but isn’t sure how his performance isn’t meeting expectations. While I understand the director wanted to push Kevin, I thought he could have bene less of a jerk about it. He could have actually given Kevin notes if he thought he wasn’t handling the scene the way he’d envisioned it. Afterward, Kevin tries to get feedback which the director takes as looking for an “Atta-boy”. He tells Kevin he could be a great actor if he put in the work. Kevin ultimately says he’ll be back the following day. But on the ride home, he calls Kate and says he thinks he might not stick with it because his performance was “tired” (Randall used the same words, which Kate points out). Kevin is dismissive of Kate bringing up Randall’s feelings of being unseen in his white family although we see in the past that Randall points out that he has to try twice as hard as all the other kids at his school to be the best because of his race. That night, the director sends Kevin an “Atta-boy” gift basket and Kevin tosses it aside and goes back to using Randall’s study method to learn the script. So maybe there will be some sort of reconciliation down the line.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

This Is Us 5.03: "Changes"

“I got stuff too, Madison. I got a lot of stuff. Including stuff with my brother I have to work out. but sometimes I lay in bed and I stare at the ceiling and I worry that I’m gonna pass that on to my kids.”
- Kevin

So, this episode didn’t move things although very far in any particular story but it was nice to see the pre-teen (eighth grade) Big Three starting to hit puberty and watch Jack and Rebecca try to deal with all of that while Randall and Beth tried to deal with an acting out Tess. In the past, we see some of the competitiveness between Kevin and Randall come out when Randall points out that Kevin’s weight at the doctor is below average. Then at home, Kate is excited because her ex-boyfriend, Stuart, picked to be in her group project. While Jack tries to bond with Kevin over sports and working out (something that ultimately becomes an addiction and obsession for Kevin), Rebecca tries to help Kate impress Stuart while the other girl in her group hits on Randall. She tries to kiss him he freaks out. She makes a comment about how she’s always wanted to kiss someone like him. That’s either a race thing or a smarts thing and given where the writers are taking Randall this season, I’m inclined toward the former. And poor Kate learns that Stuart just wanted to be in her group because of the subject they were covering.

In the present, Tess is being a somewhat typically moody teenager, not wanting to eat her mom’s pancakes and just being contrary. We soon learn she and a friend made a video insulting/clapping back at a teacher they felt wronged them. The teacher touched Tess’s hair and referred to her friend as ‘she” when the friend goes by “they/them”. The video included the phrase “screw you”. Beth classified this as profane language and Tess ultimately gets grounded and loses her phone for six weeks. Now, I don’t disagree that the video was inappropriate, and it appears the conduct toward Tess stopped when she confronted the teacher about it. But the punishment does seem rather harsh. There are far worse things they could have said in that video. On another note, Randall has found a new Black therapist whom he feels comfortable with. He is also instructed by said therapist to write down the first childhood story that comes to mind. I think it’s the one we saw play out in this episode because I’m sure Randall never really processed those feelings.

We have a little bit of mystery this episode, too, with a Vietnamese grandfather and his granddaughter. They’re out fishing, and the little girl catches a big fish, but is then impatient while her grandfather prepares and cooks it. He points out that he learned to cook to impress a woman and by episode’s end we see that the woman is Laurel, Randall’s birth mom. So, either she was a long-time love who died or was just a passing part of his life but it is entirely possible that Randall has other family out there, not that he seems overly interested in keeping in touch with the ones from William’s side of the line. But I’m sure we will find out all there is to know in due time.

Out in LA, Kate and Toby meet their potential birth mother. In typical Kate and Toby fashion, they banter a little while they wait but then it seems almost too goo to be true when she arrives. She loves Kate’s mask, named her daughter Willow after the character from Buffy (apparently Hush is her favorite episode….yeah I won’t go into that because I personally felt all of season 4 was pretty terrible). She has a Ghost Busters ring tone. As Toby points out, it was like she looked them up on social media ahead of time. Having never been involved in an adoption I don’t know the kind of things they would put in an adoption profile but I’m pretty sure it isn’t that kind of information. But the birth mom explains that she has an eight-year-old daughter from a marriage that ended when her husband died. She rebounded with some random guy and she doesn’t want this baby. The look on Kate’s face when she talked about ending up in bed with a stranger only hours after meeting him reminds me of some of Kate’s behavior from the first season and I’m wondering if that informs part of why she turned to food as her vice. I can’t tell if she’s playing them or if this might actually work out because she did mention that the baby is a girl, and we know Jack has a sister. We also get a kind of adorable argument over diapers which is also quintessential Kate and Toby.

And we can’t end without checking in on Kevin and Madison, who honestly are starting to grow on me. Kevin gets a call about a new movie role, but Madison seems kind of unhappy about it. He tries to ask her about it, but she brushes him off until they eventually both open up to each other. Kevin admits that working out is an addiction, like alcohol and so he’s been obsessing. Plus, at 40, it’s harder to maintain a ripped physique and that’s how he made his career, so he feels like he needs to keep it up. Madison explains that she struggles with bulimia and she keeps the sonogram of the babies on the fridge to remind herself t eat because when she goes to the doctor and they weigh her and she sees the number going up, she panics. While they’ve done this whole relationship thing backwards, I think it was probably one of the most self-aware, mature conversations Kevin’s had in a while. So, good on them. I am interested to see where they go with this relationship as time goes on.