Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

This Is Us 3.15: “The Waiting Room”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

This Is Us 3.14: “The Graduates”

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

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

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

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

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