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

Friday, October 4, 2019

Food TV Friday: The Zen of the Stand and Stir

I’m very into both food and travel at the moment, so I love shows that combine both, like Anthony Bourdain’s (RIP) “Parts Unknown,” “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” or “Ugly Delicious,” but when I’m really stressed out (which is often these days), there’s nothing like a stand and stir to quiet my mind for a little while. At the risk of being to jargon-y (many of my coworkers speak almost entirely in the jargon of our field, so I’m especially sensitive to this), let’s take a second to explain what I mean by “stand and stir.” A stand and stir is a more old-school cooking show that features the TV personality in a kitchen teaching you how to cook something. Often it can cut to the TV personality doing other related activities, too, but the scenes in the kitchen are what make it fundamentally a stand and stir. Let’s take a look at three of my favorites: “Southern and Heart,” “The Pioneer Woman,” and “Pati’s Mexican Table.”

“Southern at Heart” features Kentucky culinary instructor/chef Damaris Phillips. Phillips was a Food Network Star winner, and so early episodes featured the concept she developed through that competition: teaching someone how to cook a meal for their significant other. Over time, however, the show evolved to focus more on Damaris’ life. Each episode usually features her doing some sort of quirky activity or hanging out with family or friends. Damaris is a very quirky person (which is a good thing in my book). She loves going to events dressed in costume and rescuing cats, among other things. The number of costumes she comes up with on a regular basis (which you can get some insight into if you follow her on Instagram) is really impressive. That quirkiness is reflected on the show, especially in episodes where she and a friend go to a circus training class or when she and her husband take some kids to a healthy food-themed puppet show.

Most episodes feature recipes with a Kentucky twist (usually bourbon, sorghum, or pecans). Food Network cancelled “Southern at Heart” several years ago, but they still air episodes on weekend mornings, and I have my DVR set to record them all. I also have Damaris’ cookbook, “Southern Girl Meets Vegetarian Boy.” I’ve cooked several recipes from it, and all are tasty. Both her stuffed acorn squash recipes (one from the TV show and one from the cookbook) are also staples in my repertoire. I also love her recipe for Kentucky red beans and rice (even if beans don’t usually love me) and chickpeas and dumplings. Her husband, Darrick, is vegetarian, and Damaris was raised on classic Southern food, so finding recipes that worked with both was the inspiration for the book.

I mostly watch “The Pioneer Women” because the vibe is overall very calm. Ree Drummond lives on a ranch in Oklahoma with her husband and kids. She also often cooks for the cowboys who work on the ranch and other various extended family members. She intersperses the cooking with commentary on whatever happens to be happening on the ranch at the time. Sometimes it’s activities her kids are involved in, like football practice or going away to college. Sometimes it’s something ranch-related like needing to move the cattle or build a new fence. There have also been episodes that show how buildings that would eventually become part of her lifestyle brand empire (more on that in a bit) were remodeled. One very poignant episode dealt with the death of Ree’s mother-in-law, who was a town institution and the matriarch of the family. I kind of feel like Ree is the Chip and Joanna Gaines of the food world in that she’s built a lifestyle brand that has turned a small town into a tourist destination. Like the Gainses have in Waco, Texas (which really isn’t that small, but work with me here), Ree has shops and restaurants Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The food is generally fairly simple, keeping a busy parent trying to put food on the table in mind. There are a lot of freezer meals, for instance. Ree also very much likes butter, and she occasionally waxes nostalgic about her mother’s recipes from the 1970’s. Especially beef stroganoff. Her style of cooking doesn’t really gel with mine. Her chickpea curry recipe is awesome, though, and is one of my lunch staples. I don’t really watch for the food. I watch for the stories of ranch life told in a calm, almost hypnotizing way.

Wrapping this up, I’m going to talk about my very favorite stand-and-stir, “Pati’s Mexican Table.” This show has single-handedly changed the way I cook. I started watching earlier this year because I’ve been thinking about taking a Dia de los Muertos in the future, so I had been looking for whatever I could find about Mexico. Pati Jinich was born and raised in Mexico City, and she and her husband moved to the United States for his job in finance. Pati focuses on ways to mix her Mexican heritage with the life she has built in the United States. Seasons 3-7 are available on Amazon, and season 8 starts premiering on PBS stations around the country this weekend. These seasons (I’ve never seen seasons 1-2, so I can’t speak for them) each focus on a different part of Mexico. Places featured thus far are Michoacán, San Miguel de Allende, the Yucutan peninsula, Oaxaca, and the Baja peninsula. Season 8 will feature Sinaloa. For the most part (there are a few exceptions each season), each episode mixes Pati traveling around the featured area of the season talking with cooks with Pati cooking dishes in her Maryland kitchen (yep, she’s a fellow adopted Marylander!) inspired by her travels.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this show has changed the way I cook. I’ve dabbled in various Asian cuisines before, and Southern food as well, but Latin food was always a bit of an enigma to me. Since I started watching “Pati’s Mexican Table,” I think I cook Mexican food more than I don’t. I even have a favorite latin grocery store in Baltimore (Cinco de Mayo in Highlandtown if your curious) and have discovered the awesome that is fresh Queso Oaxaca. I’ve made tacos and enchiladas and guisados, and making a sauce Mexican style has started to become routine (cook your components a bit most of the time, blend them up, then “season” the sauce by frying it). I’ve learned so much about the regionality of Mexican cuisine, and I can’t wait to try the real thing. I’m hoping to get to Mexico City and Oaxaca next fall, and I’m teaching myself Spanish to prepare.

So, if you’re having a stressful day and need to zen out, check out any of these stand-and-stirs, and lose yourself in the cooking and adventures. And try cooking something, too! Chopping veggies can also be extremely calming. You’ll definitely learn something, and you’ll have a delicious meal at the end of it all!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Fresh off the Boat 4.09: "Slide Effect"

“Don’t make me look like a cat. There’s nothing scarier than a cat-person.”

I’m trying to ease back into writing here by tackling some of the comedies that are in my backlog (since they’re shorter and all), and I was surprised to see I hadn’t written about “Fresh off the Boat” since March 2018. Then I fired up my DVR and saw I was missing the next episode, which probably explains part of why I abandoned writing about the show for so long. So, $2.99 given to Jeff Bezos later, and this recap is coming to you courtesy of Amazon Prime (you’re welcome). I actually distinctly remember watching this episode before, which makes me think I must have deleted it off my DVR accidentally. Back in March 2018 I was commuting 30 miles each way to work at a difficult job while having a (not life-threatening if treated but still fatiguing) autoimmune disease, though, so I can see how that could happen. I still have the difficult job and the autoimmune disease, but my commute is much improved these days, which is why I’m trying (again) to get back into writing. Anyway, this particular episode struck me as a pretty basic (going for easy jokes) example of a sitcom episode, but it did explore the character of Eddie with some depth, so I appreciated that.

The main plot in this episode is a bit of a coming of age story for Eddie. Eddie is mortified to learn that his friend Trent is on the school Safety Patrol (and Trent is kind of a jerk about it, so I really can’t fault Eddie here). He’s also mortified that the rest of his friends are also lame enough to want to join school activities. One friend is a cheerleader, another is the lead in the school musical production of “Brent” (it’s totally not “Rent” because the landlord’s name is “Brent” and everybody has the flu), and one is in book club. Eddie is so disappointed that all his friends want to be good, productive member of the student body. Then Trent takes it to another level by writing up Eddie for wearing “slides” (those black and white Adidas flip flops every teenager but me wore in the late 90 – they always looked painful to me), when East Orlando High is a “close toed campus.” Eddie has to get the dress code violation notice signed by a parent, and Louis, to his credit, pretty much just laughs when he sees what his son has gotten in trouble for. He tells Eddie that he’s glad he didn’t get in real trouble and that he and his friends are “good boys.” This is basically a nightmare for a teen who wants to be “cool” like Eddie.

This episode’s B plot centers around Jessica. She’s going to be a published author, but her editors are requesting an author photo for the book, and for some reason it’s freaking her out. Honey offers to take the photos, which seems to please Jessica. Honey puts her all into it during a fabulous montage set to Cake’s “Going the Distance” (I have fond memories of that song thanks to a law school friend), but Jessica is not happy with any of the pictures. She wants to use a picture of Amy Tan instead, because her picture looks like a picture of a real author. She doesn’t even like any pictures Evan or Emery took of her (which I kind of don’t blame her for). Later, Louis tries to tell Jessica that Eddie got detention (more on that in a bit), and she’s so distracted by trying to write a new children’s book (about an alligator who eats dreams) that she doesn’t care. While she’s working, Jessica finds out that a photo has been submitted on her behalf, and she goes to confront Honey. Honey wisely suggests that Jessica is suffering from self-doubt, and after some initial resistance, Jessica agrees. Honey reminds Jessica that even if it’s not perfect, even finishing writing a novel is more than most people have accomplished, and people will respect her for that. This inspires Jessica to get back in the game. She even likes the photo, which is a picture of her looking back at the kids, annoyed, from the driver’s seat of her car.

At East Orlando High, Trent’s reign of terror continues. He even wrote the producers of Rent to tell them about the upcoming production of “Brent,” and they’re not happy about it (he thought it was his safety patrol duty to warn of potential copyright infringement). The rest of the guys are all mad at Trent, and Eddie sees this as his opportunity to get his friends in on a little mayhem. He tells them they should all wear slides to school on the same day and see how Trent reacts. The guys all agree, but when the day comes, they chicken out, and Eddie is the only one wearing slides. Trent writes him up again, and this time Eddie gets Saturday detention. Louis still isn’t very upset about it and ends up quoting Breakfast Club a lot. Eddie ends up sleeping through detention, which impresses the hackey sack guys (in detention for sacking), since the detention monitor explicitly told them not to sleep.

The hackey sack guys start asking Eddie to hang out with them. They regularly ditch school at lunch time to go to Taco Fiesta, and they invite Eddie to join them. Eddie is desperate to fit in, and he makes a big show of asking for a water cup and instead filling it with Sprite. The hackey sack guys complain that Trent confiscated their hackey sacks, and Eddie hatches a plot to get them back. He has the combination to Trent’s locker, which contains a key to the principal’s office, where the sacks are being stored. The plot goes off perfectly – a little too perfectly. The hackey sack guys decide to steal the petty cash while they’re in the office, too. Somehow the powers that be figure out it was Trent’s key used in the theft, so Trent gets kicked off the safety patrol.

At this point, Eddie’s conscience kicks in (I told you this episode was a bit of a coming of age story). He turns to Louis for advice. After using some really confusing metaphors, Eddie finally tells Louis everything that happened. Louis assures Eddie that the fact Eddie is upset about this means he’s not a bad kid. Eddie says he has a plan to make it right, but he needs Louis’ help. Louis loans Eddie the money to pay back the school (for which Eddie has to work at the restaurant in exchange). He also gives Trent a tip about the lunch time taco runs to give Trent a way to get back on safety patrol. Not sure if that was the best move, considering Trent doesn’t seem to have learned much about not abusing power, but I can see why Eddie wanted to fix all the damage he himself had done. The guys all reunite to see their friend in “Brent,” which is pretty hilarious until the principal announces that the school lost their court case, and they have to shut down the production for copyright infringement.

This Is Us 4.02: “The Pool Part Two”

“I had a whole life before I met you. The things that make you uncomfortable remind me of where I’m from.”
- Deja

If you were worried that we wouldn’t get to spend some quality time with the Pearson clan in episode 2, fear not because we’ve got the whole family! In the past, the Big Three are about to enter seventh grade and have hit the point in puberty where they are too cool to be seen with their dorky parents. Still, Jack and Rebecca convince them to go to the pool one last time before school starts. Kate gets asked to hang out with the two most popular girls in school and Rebecca worries they are setting her little girl up for heartbreak. It doesn’t end up happening though. At least not like she thinks. The girls tell Kate that a popular boy wants to kiss her and to go wait behind the snack machine. Another kid shows up and she ends up kissing him anyway because he was expecting it to be her. The boys have a less than stellar time. Randall just wants to read his book (that’s so me) and Kevin has to show off of course in front of Randall’s friends by rapping and then embarrasses Randall who doesn’t know the song. Randall ends up ruining Kevin’s tape and the two nearly come to blows. Kevin then asks Jack if he’s a good person and Jack explains in a very Jack way that they are both dealing with stuff but that they are good people.

In the present, we catch up with Beth, Randall and the girls in Philly. Randall wants to do a family fun day (it’s amusing to me how he and his siblings resisted it back in the day but he wants to do it now). The girls are not interested, especially since Randall said he’d ride the bus with Deja to see if he feels comfortable with her riding it alone and Tess wants to get her hair cut. Both girls are trying to find themselves a little and both parents are obviously worried about them. Annie’s pretty chill at least. By episode’s end we learn that Deja’s motivation for the bus was because it takes her right by the car repair shop where Malik works. And we see Tess trying to figure out her own style with a cute hat. I am intrigued to see how the new characters fit in with our current cast.

Over at Kate and Toby, the family gathers to meet with a new specialist who is apparently supposed to educate and give them pro tips on raising a blind baby. Having been a blind child, I was really interested to see what they did with this part of the story and while I obviously don’t remember things from when I was that little (about 6 months old), it seemed a little early to be dealing with intervention type stuff. The specialist was going on about keeping furniture in the same place and having different floor textures to help Jack know what room he’s in. While that’s probably a good idea (lord knows I still walk into furniture when it’s moved and not where I’m expecting it to be), some of the things like dealing with sharp corners isn’t really a blind baby thing. That’s just a mobile baby thing (as in, we’ll have to babyproof our house pretty soon when our little guy gets moving on his own). I did find Kate’s ultimate outlook on things, about just having to narrate things to actually be accurate and ring true with my own experience. People know that if they go to a movie with me or watch something that has subtitles, they need to narrate it for me as I can’t read the screen. I also was touched by Kate and Kevin this episode. Kevin has been sober for 187 days (that’s how old Jack is at this point). But he worries that he’s just moving though life. He has a house plant to take care of but you can see he’s struggling not to get involved with Nicky more. He also worries that Jack cries every time he tries to pick him up. Kate explains you have to warn him since he can’t see what’s happening. Once Kevin learns to do that, things go much more smoothly.

We also get to see how all of this is affecting Toby, too. He’s losing a lot of weight (he’s going to the gym a lot) and he and Rebecca are both worried about Kate. She’s overeating and they both recognize that as a problem. Hopefully Kate sees it as the issue it is, too. And just when we think Kevin is jetting off to take a new movie role (we got to see him in an M. Night Shyamalan movie) he turns up on Nicky’s doorstep with his plant, ready to hep his uncle face his demons. And this definitely puts him right in Cassidy’s path. I just keep thinking she’s going to be his son’s mother.

Overall, I thought this was a decent episode. It moved things forward and while I’m sure I’ll have conflicting feelings and opinions on the baby Jack storyline as things progress—just because of my own experience as a blind person—I am hoping the writers treat it right. No, not every disabled person’s life and journey are the same and shouldn’t be portrayed like they are but I think the writers of This Is Us have usually handled sensitive topics well. So, while the infant tips specialist was probably a little unrealistic (It did provide a backdrop to address other issues), I trust them to proceed with sensitivity. It also might have helped if they also explained a little more of his journey in the NICU. All we saw was him getting off the vent. But hey, I also have Randall meeting Malik to look forward to!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

This Is Us 4.01: “Strangers”

“It’s so strange, isn’t it? How a complete stranger can become such a huge part of your story.”
- Rebecca

The Pearsons are back and even though we didn’t spend a lot of time with them this episode, it still felt so good to have them back on our screens. I know some people were probably annoyed or unhappy with the new characters they introduced in the episode but as much s I love Jack and Rebecca, they will run out of story to tell and we need to expand. We’ve got a whole host of other characters to explore and increase their orbit.

We do catch up with Jack and Rebecca as they are getting back from their cross-country road trip. They exchange adorable goodbyes about not calling each other first and then of course, Jack calls her. She invites him to dinner with her parents and their friends at a fancy country club and Jack being Jack, tells her not to worry about anything. He goes to a store to buy a suit—even though we know he’s strapped for cash and jobless—and he meets Miguel! I think their friendship is born partly out of Miguel letting Jack take the sport coat since they aren’t doing any alterations and lets Jack just tuck the tag away and return it a week later. Hopefully without that little bit of lobster he got on it at dinner. Honesty, I wasn’t surprised by the way Rebecca’s parents acted and treated Jack. They clearly don’t have a high opinion of him, no matter what Rebecca’s dad says after dinner. But as we know, Jack isn’t giving up that easy and he wins out in the end. I did love how he matter-of-factly told them that his parents aren’t worth much and he lost a lot in the war. It was eloquent in that beautiful Jack Pearson way. And the night ends with Jack and Rebecca going to one of her old haunts and her singing during open mic night.

Throughout the episode we are introduced to several new characters. There’s Cassie Sharp, a Marine clearly dealing with PTSD and alcoholism. There’s Malik and his parents and his little (very adorable) baby girl. And there’s the unnamed blind musician and his cute diner waitress. I wasn’t entirely sure where any of these storylines were going until we got to the end of the episode. I wasn’t surprised by Cassie’s storyline necessarily. I was a little surprised by the waitress and musician and Malik’s storyline just makes me grin ear to ear.

When we first meet Cassie, she’s overseas in the Middle East, trying to get intel from a local woman. She’s ultimately successful but the higher ups change their plans and take out the terrorist they got intel on. It killed at least eight civilians. We also learn (and I have to believe it’s fairly accurate because I don’t see Dan Fogelman not doing his homework) they pay civilians $1,200 per death as compensation. That’s honestly horrible and sickening. And it brings Cassie to a point where when her husband tells her their water heaters is busted and will cost $1,200 to fix, she kind of goes into a trance and ends up hitting her son, Matt. Her husband kicks her out of the house for what she’s done (and the drinking no doubt) and she ends up at an AA meeting. As she’s talking about how she can’t feel anything, someone throws something through the window and we see Nicky standing there, sucking down booze. We later see that its’ the Big Three’s birthday and Kevin gets called to go deal with Nicky’s situation. So maybe people are right and she will be the mother of Kevin’s child in the future.

Malik and his family end up being from Philadelphia. He’s got to work now that he’s got a baby to support but when he tries to get in on some shady business from one of his customers—gang affiliated I’m assuming—his dad ends up dissuading him. I’m really interested to see Malik’s story and what brought him to this place. By the end of the episode we find him at his friend’s house where he meets Deja. By the look she gives Randall when she gets back, she’s clearly smitten. That’s going to be an interesting situation to bring Randall and Beth into when Deja finds out about his daughter.

Lastly, we have our blind musician (who I learned is actually both blind and a musician) and the waitress. He’s got a little dog (it looks kind of like an American Eskimo actually) who ends up breaking a plate so he’s got to go out for breakfast where he meets Lucy. She’s a waitress with aspirations of owning her own restaurant. We briefly see their friendship develop into a courtship and marriage before we see her reveal that she’s pregnant. Our musician is thrilled and we see him take the stage at the end of the episode, introduced as Jack Damon. As in, Toby and Kate’s son. We see them learn that he’s got retinopathy and he likely won’t every regain his sight. He’ll see lights and darks a little and some blurred shapes but that’s it. That really struck me that they’d really consider the effects of him being born at 28 weeks. It also hits close to home because that’s the same eye condition I have. I have more usable vision than Jack but still, it’s lovely see a character I can relate to. I know we likely won’t get a ton of Jack and Lucy and the next generation of the Pearson/Damon clan but I really hope we see him again because he’s very pretty to look at and he’s got a great voice. And I love that they are playing the musical skill through the generations from Rebecca to Kate to Jack.

This felt a little bit like the pilot in how it revealed the timelines at the end of the episode but I’m not mad about that. I’m intrigued by the new characters we’ve met and can’t’ wait to see how they enhance and deepen the lives of our core family.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2019: The Aftermath

“And for that, I am here. And for that, my children are here. So step out of line, ladies. Step out of line.”
-Alex Borstein

I have mixed feelings about Sunday night’s Emmy telecast. Overall, because it was hostless, it was very disjointed. On the other hand, there were some interesting winners and inspirational acceptance speeches. On the whole, though, it wasn’t much to write home about. I suppose the fact that the telecast ended on time was a blessing, although it probably ended on time because of the lack of performance bits that a host would probably provide. I generally don’t mind if a show goes a little over (not too over, though) if fun performance bits break up the monotony of distributing the awards. I’m a fan of Broadway-style song and dance numbers, so I want all the theatrics with my awards telecasts.

I was most curious about how the show would open with no host, and it turned out that it would be a combination of Homer Simpson, Anthony Anderson, and Bryan Cranston. The telecast started with an animation of Homer about to start hosting the show and falling through the stage. Anthony Anderson then took over and tried to get the show back on track. This entailed trying to find someone with enough gravitas to start the show off right. Since he is an Emmy winner, Bryan Cranston fit the bill, and he performed admirably. This is where there would usually be a host making fun of a lot of the folks in the room, but without a host, that didn’t happen. I would imagine the self-serious celebrities who don’t like the usual roasting at the beginning of an awards show appreciated this development.

Ben Stiller then introduced the comedy awards, and the doling out of the hardware began. Tony Shalhoub won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which I appreciated, since he is indeed excellent on the show. His acceptance speech was amusing and pointed out that Amy and Dan Palladino basically fill every role on the show’s production crew (writer, director, producer, etc.). Alex Borstein also was a “Maisel” repeat, winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. I was most surprised that she was sitting in the audience with Seth MacFarlane. I didn’t realize they were co-stars on “Family Guy,” which makes me a bad nerd. I spent most of the rest of the telecast frantically Googling and watching my Twitter feed to try and figure out if they are in a relationship or just friends (my research was inconclusive, by the way). Borstein went on to give an amazing acceptance speech where she invoked how her grandmother survived the Holocaust (it’s quoted above). I completely missed it in real time because I was so busy googling “Alex Borstein Seth MacFarlane.” Because my priorities are apparently messed up.

There were a few other little gags that were presumably included in the show thanks to the lack of a host. Comedian Thomas Lennon did commentary and voice over (he kept up the tradition started by John Hodgeman of saying funny things about people as they walked up to accept their award. He had one joke that was a pretty sick Felicity Huffman burn (basically a shout out to an Emmy winner he understood was spending a couple weeks in jail). Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel also did a really funny bit that was basically all about how having no host for an awards show sucks (it does!).

Less successful was the creative team’s attempt to have a sort of “in memoriam” for shows that completed their final seasons in the past year. There was a moment where the entire cast of “Game of Thrones” was invited to come out on the stage and be applauded for wrapping the show before they presented an award. The same thing was done for “Veep,” as well, although that went a little better because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a pro and is hilarious. Hugh Laurie introduced that bit, and Tony Hale got in on the gag by continuing to hover around Julia like his character does on the show. To top it all off, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson introduced a video montage that was basically an in memoriam for a bunch more shows that recently ended. It was weird, and “The Big Bang Theory” was basically the centerpiece. Oddly, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was not included in the montage, when it absolutely should have been.

There were some other interesting winners outside of the comedy world. John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” won a bunch of awards, which made me happy because John Oliver is awesome and has really been an exceptional torch carrier for the type of smart, informed comedy Jon Stewart perfected on “The Daily Show.” A show I had never heard of before, “Fleabag,” which is available on Amazon, also won a great deal of awards. It appears to involve some raunchy British humor, so I will be checking it out at some point, no doubt. Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (beating out Julia Louis-Dreyfus of all people!), and the show itself won for Outstanding Comedy. While “Game of Thrones” didn’t win many individual awards (Peter Dinklage did pick up another Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama trophy, though), the show did receive the Outstanding Drama award, presumably as a going away present. Actually, I think the fact that so many actors from the show were nominated hurt it certain categories by splitting the vote. That fact did make for more variety of winner, though, which brought some much needed interest to an otherwise lackluster telecast. Can we have a host again next year, please?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2019: The Players

I’ll admit I haven’t been watching a ton of scripted TV lately (the latest season of “Glow” is awesome, though, by the way). The real world is too stressful and dramatic right now for me to want to add more stress and dramatics in my downtime. I’ve been writing about the Emmys here at MTVP for a decade now, though, so I’ve still got some opinions I’d like to share. As always, my usual disclaimer: I’m not a professional awards prognosticator. There are plenty of better known sources you can go to on the internet for that. My choices here might not even be who/what should objectively win. There is so much TV these days, and I’ve scaled back on my watching at the same time, so there’s plenty of Emmy-worthy stuff I haven’t even seen. This is just a few categories where there is a particular possibility of a winner whose work has made me happy. Also, a brief aside, there will be no host for tonight’s telecast on FOX, so I don’t have that to chat about here, either, this year. The choice of host is always one of my favorite things to speculate about, so I’m a little disappointed. Just because the Oscars couldn’t get their act together to choose a decent host this year doesn’t mean the Emmys had to follow suit. Anyway, with that, on to the discussion of specific categories.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nomiees:

Christina Applegate (Dead to Me)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)
Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll)
Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek)
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

My Pick: Rachel Brosnahan

I’m going with Rachel Brosnahan for this one because hers is the only show I’ve seen. Applegate, O’Hara, and Louis-Dreyfus are all seasoned comediennes, and I’m sure they have turned in outstanding performances. I do especially want to try watching “Schitt’s Creek” someday, because I’ve heard great things. But as of today, I’ve only seen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Brosnahan has been consistently fantastic in it. She can be subtle, such as when you can sense how much pain her mother running away to Paris has caused her, and she’s also not afraid to be big and completely go for broke in any stand-up comedy scene. I think that broad range of talent makes her a deserving winner in this category of very talented women.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Sarah Goldberg (Barry)
Sian Clifford (Fleabag)
Olivia Colman (Fleabag)
Betty Gilpin (GLOW)
Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)

My Pick: Betty Gilpin

In some ways, this one was tough for me to make a pick, and it some ways, it wasn’t at all. Seeing Betty Gilpin’s name here was pretty much the only nomination that has gotten me really exited out of the whole shebang. On the other hand, Marin Hinkle and Alex Borstein both turn in consistent excellent performances on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The sequence where Rose (Hinkle) goes to Paris in season two is especially memorable. Betty Gilpin, however, is a tour de force. I’m actually surprised she was submitted as a supporting actress instead of a lead actress (it was probably strategic), considering she was the glue holding GLOW season three together. Her character Debbie’s struggles balancing being a mom with advancing her career was really compelling to watch. I appreciated her determination to try and find the right balance that worked for her. I also appreciated that Debbie could be ruthless (I won’t spoil the end of season three if you haven’t watched it yet, but she’s definitely ruthless). There are also plenty of moments where she shows her humanity, as well, especially in her friendship with Ruth. Gilpin handles it all effortlessly and deserves all the kudos.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Bill Hader (Barry)
Don Cheadle (Black Monday)
Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
Eugene Levy (Schitt’s Creek)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method)

My Pick: Ted Danson

This was another tough category for me, as I have seen and enjoyed the work of most of the actors on the nominee list. The inclusion of Eugene Levy again makes me really want to catch up on “Schitt’s Creek” (I’ve watched too many Christopher Guest films to not be excited about another Levy/O’Hara team-up). Since “The Good Place” is the only show I’ve watched, however, and Ted Danson is excellent in it, I’ve got to give him the nod. I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that I have only seen seasons one and two of “The Good Place” thus far (planning to watch season three soon to get this blog caught up), but at least in those two seasons, Danson successfully left me wondering whether his character, Michael, was good or evil. Of course, he’s a demon, so there’s at least a bit of an evil core there, but he does seem to be genuinely trying to help the humans, though. I’m still wondering, though, since he also seems to care quite a bit about saving his own skin, if he’ll keep trying to save them. Only time will tell!

Outstanding Competition Program

The Nominees:

American Ninja Warrior
Nailed It!
RuPaul’s Drag Race
The Amazing Race
The Voice
Top Chef

My Pick: Nailed It!

I still love “Top Chef,” and this past season in Kentucky was fantastic, but I’ve got to give this one to “Nailed It!” for trying to do something different. In a world of food TV where everyone is striving for perfection, “Nailed It!” stands out for showcasing ordinary people just trying to do their best with extraordinary baking tasks. The results are what we’d expect when any of us civilians (as opposed to pastry chefs) decides to try and recreate some beautiful decorated baked good we saw on Pinterest. The show embraces the ordinary. Hosts Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres also have fantastic chemistry and play well off each other. Byer, a comedienne, goes for the joke whenever she can and has a really big personality. Torres, an acclaimed chocolatier, lends some prestige to the proceedings, but he also is always game for some banter with Byer. The combination of all this is the perfect way to get sucked into a major Netflix binge.

The Good Place 3.01: “Everything is Bonzer!”

“I know what you mean. My goal in life was to be completely different, too.”
- Michael

When we last left our core four, Michael had convinced the Judge to send them back to earth as living people to see if they could be better people. Throughout this episode, we see Michael go down to earth and save them all from the incidents that would have killed him. But, unfortunately, while they all have short-lived bouts of wanting to be better people, inevitably, all four revert back to their original selves. Eleanor gets bored of being good, Chidi suggests a friend get in shape and his friend then ends up seriously injured. Tahani spends time in a Buddhist monastery for a while until a news reporter finds her and she ends up back in the spotlight and Jason assembles a dance crew but after repeatedly losing competitions, he goes back to a life of crime.

Despite the Judge’s instruction that the core four needs to succeed on their own Michael can’t sit by and just let them all fail. He’s invested in this little experiment and against Janet’s better judgement, he goes back down to push them together. He thinks at first that it just needs to be Eleanor and Chidi. He had a lot of fun playing the bartender for Eleanor and the librarian (whom Eleanor dubbed as sexy) and it does get Eleanor to head to Australia to ask Chidi for help. I enjoyed the little forays into the year of their lives from when they had their near-death experience and where they end up during the present timeline of the episode. I also found it interesting that there is going to be a love interest for Chidi, just so that he and Eleanor don’t’ end up together too fast. Clearly as it stands now, they have very little in common. Although, it was pretty funny to see Eleanor play match maker while Chidi underwent another MRI. It does seem like a semi-reformed Eleanor thing to do.

This prodding by Eleanor sparks Chidi’s third thesis idea (thank goodness he dumped the first one). He wants to study survivors of near-death experiences and see what impact it has on ethical decision-making. And he gets to partner with Simone, the neuroscientist that he’s now kind of dating. As much as I want Eleanor and Chidi to be together I kind of like Simone as a romantic prospect for Chidi. She’s bubbly and quirky and fits into the group really nicely. I like that she has a way of bringing Chidi out of his shell.

I think I liked Michael’s persona the most when he was talking to Jason. I feel like he was able to get Jason to express himself. It was honestly the first time we’ve really seen Jason act like not a complete idiot. He had feelings and emotions and he didn’t sound like a dope. He was invested in his dance crew until he got caught stealing to try and pay rent on the rehearsal space. I just know that Michael’s little scheme to get all four back together is going to backfire somehow. The Judge isn’t that stupid. She was pretty all knowing last season. I can’t imagine she would see past Michael’s antics. And it may be sooner than he expects. Then again, he is convinced he made it through without anyone the wiser. He even bribed the Doorman with a frog covered insulated mug for his decaf anti-matter. I highly suspect the “key” made from the first atoms of the universe is going to come into play before the end of the season. They made a big deal about it. It can’t just be a throw-away gag. On his last trip, I thought Michael may have used the mug to distract the Doorman while he took the key. But, I think the Doorman would have realized it before Michael had a chance to get away. Still, it has to come back at some point.

While the Judge may not be aware of Michael’s meddling yet, Sean, Michael’s demon boss, is certainly aware. He has demons working to hack the Judge’s system so they can see what’s going on down on earth. They finally get access during Michael’s last trip down to earth. I was half-expecting Sean to pop down to earth and try to directly mess with our gang. But, it turns out he’s going to use one of his lackeys to do his dirty work. He sends one of the demons who got run over by a train in the fake Good Place to be part of Chidi’s study. Michael and Janet see this at the end of the episode and realize it’s bad. I will be interested to see where this goes.

Overall, I think I enjoyed this episode more than the season 2 premiere. Part of it was because we didn’t rehash the same plot line we’d spent all of the first season building to over and over again. I liked that we got to fill in the blanks on their lives during their second chance but we still ended up with everyone together by the end. I do think they have a lot of chemistry together and you can see little hints of the people they will become. I still think Jason and Tahani have the farthest to go but I suspect they will eventually get there. That said, I’m not sure where they can go with the storyline after this season. I’m assuming the whole season will be spent on earth trying to get them be good people so that they get into the real Good Place. Still, even if they are successful, to me that feels like a series ending arc. Given the popularity of the show and the caliber of the cast, I don’t see the network saying goodbye after only three brief seasons. NBC needs more successful comedies and they aren’t going to want to let this one go anytime soon.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Good Place 2.12: "Somewhere Else"

“The point is, we’ve all gotten better. Why should we have to go live alone in a boring void because of a messed up system? How is that justice?”

The second season finale of “The Good Place” gave us yet another of the show’s signature twists. I think part of what makes “The Good Place” such an entertaining and worthwhile show to watch is that the paradigm is always changing. In that sense, it kind of reminds me of “Fringe” about ten years ago, which really got interesting when the creative team worked to flip the script each season for the last three seasons or so. Both with “Fringe” and with “The Good Place,” sometimes the twist works and sometimes it doesn’t (can Chidi and Eleanor just be together already without all this rebooting!), but I always appreciate the effort to try something different and keep things fresh. I have a feeling that Mike Schur and the team at “The Good Place” will keep us entertained with their creativity for some time to come.

We pick up with this episode in the Judge’s court room, where Michael is trying to argue that the Good/Bad Place system is fundamentally flawed and our four humans shouldn’t be punished for it. After all, they have become “better” since their death, and the current system, which just tallies up what you did in life, doesn’t account for that. Tahani and Eleanor chat while the judge is figuring out what she’s going to do, and they actually acknowledge that they have become friends, which was nice. Janet also takes the opportunity to appear next to Jason and confess her love for him. And yes, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of Japan Youtube, and the Japanese concept of “confession” pretty perfectly describes what Janet does here. Chidi has an epiphany when he sees this, and he grabs Eleanor and kisses her. Eleanor’s response is to say “hot diggity dog!,” which she is embarrassed by at first, but then she decides to own it. I thought it was pretty adorable, myself.

Michael and the judge try to work out a compromise that will test Michael’s theory that people can become “better” after death. Their first potential solution is to send everyone to the medium place while Michael does more work to build his case. When the humans learn that this means they will have to be separated and alone for as long as it takes (a medium place has to be fine-tuned to be perfectly medium for each individual), Eleanor throws a fit. She doesn’t think it’s fair that they all have to be alone because of a faulty judgment system. Michael and the judge then come up with an alternative plan that will test his theory. He needs to prove that humans will become better without a promise of reward.

Suddenly Eleanor is alive again and waking up in her bed in Phoenix. She goes to the store and harasses the guy who wants to get her to sign a clean energy petition, just like on the day she died, but she gets pulled out of the way of the flying shopping carts and truck, so it’s just a near death experience instead of actual death. Eleanor, to the surprise of everyone who knows her, decides to go on a self-improvement kick and become a better person. She quits her job at the shady pharma company right before it gets shut down by an investigation, and she joins the Clean Energy Crusaders. She also spends time hanging out with the guy who always tried to get her to sign that petition. She’s drinking less and generally trying to be kind to people. Michael is very happy at the results he is seeing.

After a few months, however, being good all the time starts to get tiring for Eleanor. She gets kicked out of her apartment for telling her roommate the truth about something she did the previous year. She writes a note when she bumps someone’s car and gets sued by the owner. Eventually, she quits her job with Clean Energy Crusaders and goes back to her boss from the pharma company, who has started yet another shady pyramid scheme. Michael is very disappointed and decides to try and intervene. Eleanor goes to a bar to drown her sorrows, and the bartender is none other than Michael, which gives Ted Danson his “Cheers” moment for the series. Elanor thinks trying to be good is hopeless. She is, after all, the person who “cyberbullied Ryan Lochte until he quit Instagram” (seriously…he’s so pretty, but so very dumb).

Michael tells Eleanor that the question to ask is “what do we owe each other.” While moping at home, Eleanor googles this and finds a video of a lecture by Chidi. He is faulty at a university in Australia now. This gives Eleanor yet another epiphany. Next thing we know, she has hopped on a Qantas jet and is headed for Australia. She shows up at Chidi’s office and tells him she’s a fan of his lecture. And I’m swooning. With all the twists this show keeps throwing at us, one thing seems constant. Eleanor and Chidi are meant to be together.

I’m pretty excited to see what this latest reset is going to bring for the next season. Presumably, at least for one episode, we’ll get to see all the humans back on earth, and we’ll see how they all reacted to their own near death experiences. I’m especially curious to see what Jason has been up to during his time on his own. I’m also excited to see how things will progress with Eleanor and Chidi now that they’re reunited (although I’m sure they’ll be reset again soon enough – it’s already happened several hundred times!). Even if this ends up being one twist too far, I think attempts at creativity and changing things up should be appreciated.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Food TV Friday: "The Chef Show" Season 1: Volume 1

“Part of the reason we do this is because I used to cook with Roy all the time when he was training me, and then the movie came out and it all ended.”
-Jon Favreau

I started watching “The Chef Show” on a flight home to the East Coast from Seattle earlier this summer (yes, it’s still summer for a few more days, damnit!), and I binged the whole thing pretty quickly. I think it’s safe to say that Jon Favreau’s “Chef” is my favorite movie. It incorporates several of my favorite things, like talk about how food evokes memories of a place and New Orleans. Although my favorite thing to eat in New Orleans isn’t beignets. Beignets are great, but I’d rather stuff myself with oysters, po boys of all types, jambalaya, etouffee, and I’ll stop there before I basically recreate that Simpson’s bit where Homer describes his eating in New Orleans. That bit basically describes me every time I go to the Crescent City, by the way. Anyway, “The Chef Show” features Favreau and chef Roy Choi, who was a consultant on the movie, talking and gabbing, sometimes with celebrities. It’s just an enjoyable way to spend time when you want to take a break from the world and have fun nerding out about food. Since season two premieres on Netflix today, I thought I would share my thoughts on season one.

Several episodes feature Favreau, Choi, and friends recreating iconic dishes from the movie. The grilled cheese sandwich and the pasta aglio e olio are both memorable, of course. They also make mojo pork and use it to make Cubanos. Oh and there’s a running beignet fail gag, too. Note to all: if you ever pick up a cannister of Café du Monde beignet mix while in NOLA, make the beignets before the mix goes stale. It’s fascinating to get some insight into Roy Choi’s process through the cooking sequences. He’s very intense in the kitchen (which you can tell if you watch the sequence in the “Chef” credits where he walks Favreau through making the grilled cheese sandwich), and he cares about his craft deeply. One of the things he seems to really concentrate on while cooking is controlling the temperature. Even when just making a simple grilled cheese sandwich (which is loaded with multiple types of yummy cheeses, of course) or toasting bread for cubanos, he’s paying attention to the temperature of the grill at every second. He also has a habit of constantly changing up his recipes. There’s a funny bit where Choi loves a dish Favreau makes, and Favreau tells him that Choi texted him the recipe years ago. Choi had already added multiple additional ingredients into his own version.

There are many celebrity guests, primarily either chefs (like Aaron Franklin and Dave Chang) or Marvel actors (like Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow). Director Robert Rodriguez also makes an appearance. I think I enjoyed the chef appearances more. I really enjoyed the moments in the series that involved serious nerding out about food. I’m a bit of a barbecue snob (one of my favorite food memories is of trying the Sunday special prime rib at Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas), so I especially liked seeing how Aaron Franklin prepares one of his famous briskets. I’ve been a fan of Dave Chang for a while (I promise I really will write about “Ugly Delicious” here soon!), and it was fun watching him and Roy Choi compare food memories from growing up Korean American. There’s also an episode (the first filmed, I believe), where Favreau, Choi, and a bunch of Favreau’s Marvel actor friends get “crushed” by the staff at The Optimist in Atlanta. The towers of seafood they were invited to work their way through made my mouth water, and I vowed to check out the restaurant if I ever find myself in Atlanta again. I’m also not really a Robert Rodriguez fan, so I had no idea that he was really into cooking and included a recipe with each of his movies.

One thing I found interesting about the season was that there wasn’t really a standard format for an episode. Several episodes focused around Favreau and Choi cooking with others in a kitchen, but there was variation, too. Episodes filmed in Atlanta and Austin in addition to Los Angeles. The episode that was set in Atlanta, as I already mentioned, had an extended sequence of Favreau and a bunch of Marvel notables talking Iron Man and Spider Man while eating insane amounts of seafood (sounds like my kind of party!). There was also an episode in memory of Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold which, while it did include some cooking, also included a lot of discussion of Gold’s legacy and how he worked hard to promote small restaurants and many different kinds of cuisine. The final episode of the season centered around Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival, where he basically invited a bunch of chefs to Austin to cook whatever they felt like. Roy Choi made some smoked Korean barbecue, which I’m sure was awesome, because I had something similar at Pine Street Market in Portland, Oregon earlier this summer.

Overall, I think one of the things I enjoyed about the show the most was getting to know Favreau and Choi better as people. Favreau makes Gwyneth Paltrow laugh by using Yiddish words, talks about making beignets with his daughter because she first saw them as a little kid when “Chef” was filming, and is actually a pretty accomplished amateur cook thanks to Choi. He also is a talented visual artist and quickly pulls together an impressive drawing for Robert Rodriguez’s guestbook. Roy Choi, as I said earlier, is very intense and serious about his craft. He also takes a lot of pride in how he was able to build his business. He seems to always be tweaking his recipes and never just settles on one, definitive version. I think my favorite moment with Choi was when he mentioned how his mother basically has a shrine to him at her house and makes sure all her friends who visit stop to see all the articles and other memorabilia she has collected to document her son’s success.

I’m not sure how much someone who isn’t a super fan of “Chef” like I am would like “The Chef Show,” but I found it just as uplifting as the movie. I think anyone who is interested in food or Marvel, or just creativity in general could find something to interest them in the show. I’m looking forward to diving into the second set of episodes as soon as I can because Favreau and Choi have succeeded in creating an environment where I just want to hang out and watch them cook and chat for a while.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Food TV Friday: "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat"

“I’m just gonna live here now. Eat cheese and butter until I die.”
-Samin Nosrat

I’ve gotta admit, “Salt Fat Acid Heat” is my current obsession. I’ve watched all the episodes multiple times, and I have the book (I’m reading through the whole thing in addition to cooking from it, because it’s really more instructional than recipe-focused). “Salt Fat Acid Heat” is the product of Iranian-American self-described cook Samin Nosrat. While working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, she discovered that four elements are common drivers in flavor in cuisines all around the world: salt, fat acid, and heat. She developed this concept into a cooking class and eventually worked with food writer extraordinaire Michael Pollan. That eventually led to the book and now the Netflix show. The show itself combines some of the cooking instruction of the book with a travel element. Each episode takes place in a different country: Japan, Italy, Mexico, and the US respectively.

The show really works because Nosrat is such a charming personality. She really engages with the people she talks to, and she clearly loves food. She’s quick to both laugh and cry. Let’s go back to that loves food aspect for a minute. It is so rare to see a woman on television, especially one who isn’t skinny, just plain enjoying food. Nosrat never holds back in her enjoyment of food. She weeps in a parmesan cheese factory and erupts in tears and laughter when some salsa in spicier than she expected. She never hesitates to dig in and taste something, even seaweed. The conversation about women and food can be so fraught, and Nosrat just smashes through it all with pure joy. She’s gotten a reputation as a modern day Julia Child thanks to her bubbly personality and tall frame, and she is a delight to watch. Here’s a great video that captures Nosrat’s personality…plus, biscuits!

Another aspect of the show that I like is how many women Nosrat talks to about their food. She enlists the help of Italian Nonnas and Mexican Abuelas in her quest to show how her four elements unite cuisines around the world. So often it seems like food doesn’t become trendy until a hipster bro male chef makes it and sells it in a restaurant, but women have been doing plenty of cooking for centuries. Some of my favorite segments involved making pesto in a mortar and pestle in Italy, making miso in Japan, and making Pavo en Escabeche in Mexico. All of these women have mastered their craft over decades, and Nosrat delights in learning from them. And so did I, come to think of it! It’s such a different way of looking at food television in general. We often idealize a grandmother’s cooking, but we rarely see it on television, especially taken seriously.

As I mentioned before, Nosrat travels to a different location for each of the four episodes. The “Salt” episode takes place in Japan, where we learn about Japanese salt, miso, and soy sauce-making. I had no idea that so many, subtly different types of salt were produced in Japan. The “Fat” episode takes place in Italy, and the parmesan cheese, olive oil, and various types of cured pork made my mouth water. In the summer, I’m a big fan of making a meze platter for lunch with caprese and salami among other things, and this episode made me feel like I do when I’m eating that lunch. “Acid” took place in Mexico, specifically the Yucatan peninsula, and I was fascinated watching a cuisine I don’t know much about. Sour oranges figure prominently, a fruit I didn’t even know existed prior to watching. There was also a sweet lemon, which was also a surprise to me. “Heat” took place in Nosrat’s home of Berkley, California. The highlight of the episode was Nosrat’s mother helping her cook the iconic Persian dish, Tahdig. She also makes a beautiful buttermilk roast chicken, which has become something of a winter holiday tradition for me now. I even figured out a rig to keep the smoke down so I don’t have to constantly man the smoke alarm (I live in a row home, and the first floor is pretty small).

The production value of the show is extremely high, which is probably part of the reason there are only four episodes. I would have loved to have watched more episodes, but I can’t imagine how much it would have cost! The visuals are just stunning. The serenity of being on a boat in Japan and the many colors of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico are really brought right to the screen. Even the “Heat” episode, which takes place near Nosrat’s home in Berkeley California (not as exotic as the other three episodes) contain little visual details that make it feel inviting. I also have to mention that the beginning of that episode introduced me to a band I really enjoy, The California Honeydrops.

Nosrat has repeatedly said in interviews that if nothing else, she wants her work to inspire people to just get out there and cook. I think she has definitely succeeded. While I’ve enjoyed cooking for quite some time now, she’s definitely made me more intentional in the kitchen. While my doctor doesn’t want me to salt things as much as Samin would anymore (I would seriously give up sugar before salt – this is not easy, people!), she has taught me little details, such as macerating onions in acid before pulling together a vinaigrette, that has made my cooking better. I’ve also heard many people, some of whom I haven’t known to be that into cooking, talking about that buttermilk chicken. The chicken is delicious and not very hard to make. You really should try it!

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.”

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 fiancé 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.