Saturday, November 3, 2018

This Is Us 3.05: “Toby”

“The joy in you is as much a part of you as this sadness, you hear me?”
- Mrs. Damon

We usually don’t get non-Pearson family centric episodes until around episode 16 or 17 of the season but this year, we got some background on Toby early on. Then again, his story, especially with his depression, tied into active storylines with him and Kate trying to have a baby. Overall, I thought this episode was just okay. I didn’t dislike it but after the previous episode, I wanted more answers about Nicky!

Focusing on Toby and Kate, when last we saw them, they had eight eggs retrieved to be fertilized. As the episode progresses, we see that three of them were viable when fertilized with Toby’s sperm and ultimately one of them is good to implant into Kate’s womb. I did like the cute little graphics they put up on the fridge with each step of the process. It has now been about five weeks since Toby was off his medication for his depression and his withdrawal symptoms are clearly getting worse. He’s agitated and the leg shaking is getting worse. He goes to the pharmacy to ask if they can just refill his medication so he can be ready to go back on them if Kate is indeed pregnant, but the pharmacist tells him that he needs to call his doctor to get on a sfe plan to go back on the medication. In his past, we see that depression isn’t just affecting Toby. It’s clear that his mother is also suffering from depression (whether it’s post-partum or otherwise is unclear). But, even at a young age, Toby exhibited signs of mood swings. We see Toby’s first use of humor to cope with a situation when he’s out shopping for school clothes with his mom. We also get glimpses into when his father left and when, as an adult, Toby’s marriage to Jose fell apart and he spiraled into a deeper depression. In the present, Kate gets the good news that she is indeed pregnant again and this pushes Toby over the edge into a bit of a breakdown. He admits to Kate what he did in going off his medication and we finally catch up to the flash forward scene from the season 2 finale of Kate letting Toby know the doctor wants him to go in to adjust his medication.

Randall and Beth have their own trials going on right now. Apparently, Randall is still bull headed and can’t see that his wife really needs him to be her rock because he’s going forward with running for city council. How he can do that without living there is a little confusing to me, but whatever. He sets up a sort of meet and greet at an old diner in the neighborhood and people come in for the food. None of them are overly impressed with Randall, especially when he tells them that they’ve become complacent with the current councilman’s behavior. It was honestly nice to see Randall fail at something for once. Beth, meanwhile, is struggling to find another job. She has an interview but breaks down when asked why she left her other company after twelve years. That has honestly got to be a hard thing to try and explain, especially when you were fired. I still wonder if there was something race-related in the decision but that’s probably just my day job seeping into everything in my life. She doesn’t tell Randall the truth about how poorly the interview went but she does point out to him that he needs to find a different approach to reaching people. This is very obvious when the owners of the restaurant who hosted the event explained that they were on the verge of eviction decades ago when the current councilman stepped in and set their landlord straight. How Randall moves forward with this storyline will be interesting. I’m hoping he sees that Beth is hurting and puts aside his own aspirations (and what he thinks he needs to do to live up to both of his fathers’ memories) to support her.

Speaking of living up to their father’s memory, Kevin sets out on his quest to learn about Jack’s time in Vietnam. Robinson writes back to him and invites him to come and chat. Kevin is all excited to meet someone who knew his dad back then. Zoe goes with him and there are some things that happen that she assumes that Kevin, as a white man, won’t understand. She needs her silk pillowcase (for her hair) but she doesn’t tell him the reason she needs it. Still, in typical clueless Kevin fashion, he actually manages to be sensitive to her needs and buys her one anyway. These two might just work out after all. At first, Robinson is hesitant to tell Kevin anything other than Jack’s line about being a mechanic. But, when Kevin insists he really wants to know this part of his father’s past, Robinson relents and admits that Jack was a Staff Sergeant. He shows Kevin a photo of the unit and I was honestly surprised that Kevin was able to point out that Nick was probably Jack’s brother. As we know, Robinson never met Nicky since Robinson was sent home with his amputated foot before Jack went to find his brother. We also get another clue in the puzzle that is pre-Rebecca Jack Pearson: the necklace that Jack gave to Kevin seems to have come from a Vietnamese woman whom Jack knew then (the mother of the little boy from last week’s episode). I honestly don’t think they’d go with the “secret family” angle. But I think Jack may have been found a friend in this woman after Nicky’s death.

Speaking of dealing with death, in the past, we find the Pearsons in their new apartment. The kids are getting ready for prom—well the boys are at least—but they don’t seem super excited. Randall is mostly nervous to meet his girlfriend’s parents. That goes horribly. Either she didn’t tell her parents that Randall is black or they are just typical white people in the 1990s, but her dad can’t handle the fact that Randall is not white. So, Randall bails on the whole thing and Kevin winds up massively drunk. So drunk that Sophie brings him to Miguel’s place to sleep it off. Miguel and Randall do get to share a nice moment which I think helps cement the fact that Randall doesn’t hate Miguel like his siblings do. We also see that Miguel finds a small upright piano and gives it to Rebecca. She and Kate end up bonding over it a little bit. This is the first time Kate’s even sung or touched an instrument since Jack’s death and Rebecca reminds her daughter that music is always in her. We even see this in the present when Kate is doing a singing telegram as Adele and one of the people points out how good she is and asks why she’s doing this instead of singing professionally herself. Kate explains that whenever her life takes a dark turn, music is the first thing to go. I appreciated that little tie-in.

While this wasn’t my favorite episode of the season, I am intrigued to see where the plots take us next. Will Kate and Toby actually get a baby out of this? What secrets will Kevin and Zoe discover in Vietnam when they eventually head there and what does life have in store for Randall and Beth?

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