Wednesday, October 3, 2018

This Is Us 3.02: “A Philadelphia Story”

“I’m doing the very best that I can. They’re grieving, what do you want me to do?”
- Rebecca

This episode of ‘This Is Us” had a lot packed into it and it all played into each era’s storyline beautifully. While Kevin’s premiere is the end point of the present-day storyline, everything else in the distant past and near past helps inform how our character act and react now. We see that Kevin and Zoe are still seeing each other, although there are some communication issues that need to be sorted out. Kevin kind of has an expectation that things are getting serious. He even is thinking about bringing her to the premiere as his plus one. But, she just wants to keep things casual. She’s busy making her documentary so she doesn’t have time for that. Well, at least, not until she hears an interview with him on the red carpet when he mentions he went solo (although his whole family came to support him). I am interested to see Zoe’s backstory and how that informs her relationship with Kevin.

In the far past, we find Rebecca and the teenage Big Three renting a house and trying to get their feet back under them after losing Jack. Kate and Kevin are not coping well: Kate’s overeating and Kevin is drunk. Rebecca is trying to keep it together and it seems Randall is the one having the most success. He also gets the good news that he was accepted to Howard University. As the family goes to look at a new house, we learn that Kate never sent in her audition tape to Berklee so she’s not going and obviously Kevin isn’t going to college (what with his football injury and everything). Rebecca is clearly disappointed in their decisions but it’s also clear that she’s struggling to keep it together. My heart broke as Randall realized after a confrontation with his mom, that he was needed closer to home. So, after he’d already accepted his spot at Howard, he calls and rescinds it. I was so looking forward to Randall being able to explore that part of himself. I wonder if he’d been able to do that if he would feel as if he’d found his place.

Speaking of finding his place, in the present Randall is still trying to find where he fits in terms of being Black. As we know, he lives in a predominantly white neighborhood and the girls go to school with a large non-Black population. Deja is the most out of place there. She misses her drill team from her old school. Randall has an idea. He wants to introduce her to the daughter of one of his building’s tenants. The girls hit it off and I think this will be a good experience for Deja. Unfortunately, I don’t think Randall quite does. I did really enjoy the juxtaposition between what Randall was doing in the present with seeing the girl’s mother move in years ago and meet William. Through William’s experience, we see that the building is really a community that supports one another. When the young woman, Gigi, has a screaming, unhappy baby, instead of getting mad, William offers Gig some dinner and someone to talk to. It was really lovely to see William able to connect like that. It was especially poignant that we saw the community come together to celebrate William’s fifth year of sobriety.

In the present, Randall wants to try and get the rec center where the kids from the building hang out cleaned up. An older Gigi with no time for Randall’s optimism points out they’ve tried to get the place fixed up by the city but no one cares. Randall learns that truth first-hand when he tracks down the local Councilman. In typical politician fashion, the Councilman promises Randall he’ll send some people over to at least replace the burnt out streetlights but of course he doesn’t. it really speaks to not just local politics but nation-wide politics how people, once elected, seem to forget where they come from or the fact that their job is to represent the people, not their own interests.

We also see the ramifications of Toby and Kate’s choice to go through IVF. The biggest change is obviously Toby. He’s jittery, really horny and emotionally volatile after going off his anti-depressants cold turkey. We even see him checking the symptoms online. Of course, he’s not going to tell Kate because he wants to give her what she wants: a baby all her own. They agree not to tell anyone about the treatment, but the cat is out of proverbial bag when Miguel accidentally finds the hormone shot in the fridge. Rebecca is really reluctant about Kate’s choice. At first we think it’s because of Kate’s weight but it ultimately turns out that she doesn’t want to see her daughter in harm’s way. She also regrets not doing more to help Kate get her weight under control when things really first spiraled out of control following Jack’s death. Kate makes a rather insensitive comment in front of Kevin and her mom and stepdad about how she is the only one who can carry on a piece of Jack. Kevin is hurt by her statement. Not because he wants kids, but because he feels like he’s never lived up to Jack’s expectations of who he could be. In fact, Jack never got to see him act before and Kevin is kind of bummed about that. Jack was the only person who took Kevin seriously and he wants to make his dad proud but he’s just not sure it’s going to happen. And then, Kevin relays Kate’s statement to Randall who has a wholly different reason to be upset by his sister’s words. I’m sure Kate wasn’t thinking about it that way when she said it. She’s being a bit self-centered at the moment but it still will certainly hurt her brother. As wonderful as this family is, they still have a lot of demons to conquer and they have a long way to go until they find peace.

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