Saturday, February 1, 2020

This Is Us 4.12: “A Hell of a Week: Part Two”

“At the funeral today, I was about the lose it. But I found you and I locked in on you.”
- Sophie

This episode could have gone a ton of ways. I’m kind of glad it went the direction it did, even if it means we aren’t really any closer to solving the Kevin’s baby-mama drama. And much last the Big Three-centric episodes of the past, we continue with the storyline in past and present from Kevin’s point of view. We get see flashback to the night Jack died as well as to the night of Rebecca’s birthday when the Big Three are college-age. And we also see Jack having to console little Kevin who wants his sheep mobile from his crib but it turns out Rebecca donated it. I think Jack has done less damage (or at least not in the same way as with Randall) by telling Kevin that sometimes things we love go away and we have to find new things to love. I hope Kevin is doing that with Sophie but that’s still kind of up in the air.

The night Jack dies, we get to see that Kevin gets a warm reception from his future mother-in-law, Claire. We also see Kevin and Sophie head to the movies from the lame party, then head back to the campsite because the movie projector has problems. They vow never to see the end of Good Will Hunting (because they think the endings they can come up with are way better). They don’t explain this right away so when Kevin gives Sophie a scenario when she calls to tell him her mother died, it’s a little out of left field. But we do get the sense that it’s something that’s been a long-standing thing between them. We then jump to the past of Rebecca’s birthday when Kevin and Sophie show up a day early and go to hang out with Claire again. Apparently things between her and Sophie are a bit volatile because Sophie thinks her mother is irresponsible with money and instead of fixing an issue with the house, Claire bought tickets for she and Sophie to go see the Aurora Borealis. Kevin then takes the chance to tell Claire he’d like Sophie’s grandmother’s ring to give to Sophie, since they basically eloped. Claire tells Kevin he hasn’t earned it. And as we know, he never does because of the way he screws up with her so frequently. And then we get a tiny hint about past Kate’s storyline. Kevin shows up with flowers for Rebecca and she says that dinner is cancelled because she and Kate got into a fight, Kate went off with Marc and then Kate called Rebecca crying.

But things take an interesting turn in the present. Kevin goes to the funeral but doesn’t approach Sophie. I did like how we got to see her give the eulogy for her mother and nearly breaking down before she found Kevin amongst the crowd and it centered her. They really so wrapped up in each other’s stories. Later, at the reception, Kevin shows up with donuts and Sophie asks him to get her out of there. They drive around for a while until he takes her back to the campsite where he learned that Jack died. He tells Sophie that he never thought he could go back there (she’d explained in her eulogy that she couldn’t go back to her and her mother’s favorite coffee shop because that’s where she found out about her mother’s death) but Kevin points out that with time and space, he was able to come back. It still makes him sad, obviously, but it doesn’t hurt the same way. They also decide to watch the ending of Good Will Hunting and agree the real ending was way better than any they came up with. They exchange longing looks before Sophie tells Kevin it’s time for her to go home. I don’t think Sophie quite knows what to make of Kevin popping up into her life again. He’s definitely in a better place than he ever was when they were together. In fact, Kevin points that out when he goes to visit Claire’s grave alone. He tells her that she was right about him becoming a star and she was probably right and knew he’d screw up with Sophie. He’s got a line about how he wishes he could have another shot with her but it’s too late. But we also get the sense that Sophie isn’t entirely thrilled with her fiancĂ©, either.

I suspect we’ll have to wait a little while for that story to pick up again. As this week’s episode wraps up, we get back to Randall and Kevin’s phone call. We see Kevin in bed with a blond who turns out to be Kate’s friend Madison. She was dog-sitting while Kate is at a retreat and Sophie is at work. Madison is wallowing a bit after being broken up with and Kevin realizes the next morning what a huge mistake he made. He seems to have a thing for hooking up with Kate’s friends. Anyway, he proposes to Randall that they make a trip to the cabin to get away from everything that’s been going on. They conference call in Kate who agrees it’s needed, especially because ominously she says her marriage is on the verge of imploding. I want to know what’s going on with Kate’s story. It’s too bad we have to wait a couple weeks to get the resolution to this mini-arc of story. I have to hand it to the writers and producers of this show. They are very good at seamlessly fitting scenes from other episodes together. I have to believe all three of these episodes were shot together so that scenes where we were going to get coverage from both sides are consistent. I can’t wait to see how this wraps up and where we go after this part of story.

This Is Us 4.11: “A Hell of a Week: Part One”

“Look bro, I get it. Us men of a certain shade aren’t used to talking. But that’s therapy, right? Talking.”
- Darnell

This week kicks off the yearly Big Three-centric episodes and we begin with Randall. As we know, he has struggled with panic attacks and anxiety from a very young age. As it turns out, it probably started in his very early childhood when he and his siblings moved to big kid beds and he was convinced there were monsters under the bed. Jack slept on the floor for a while but when he tries to sneak out, Jack tells him that he needs Randall to be strong and brave for him because his siblings are kind of high maintenance. I don’t usually disagree with Jack’s parenting but here I think he set Randall up for a rough time.

The majority of the episode splits between the present and when the Big Three were just out of high school. In the past, Randall is dealing with crazy stress-filled dreams about Jack. He keeps seeing various scenarios where he can’t interact with his family and he’s left standing there yelling at them and nothing happens. Beth tries to support Randall and suggests he see a counselor to deal with the trauma of losing his dad and the stress. He brushes it off. He does, however, agree to go with her to Grief party 9which sounds like a really weird idea but I’m intrigued and kind of sad we won’t get to see it). The reason: the family is gathering to rally around Kate. She’s still seeing Marc (the slime ball abusive boyfriend) and something has happened which puts a damper on celebrating Rebecca’s birthday. If these episodes are like the ones where we saw Jack’s last day from each of their perspectives, I suspect we will finally get to see what happened to Kate.

I’m thinking Randall probably should have gotten therapy a long time ago because he’s not coping well with a lot of things going on in his life right now. He is clearly stressed and anxious about Rebeca’s condition and keeping it from his siblings. I do think it is really unfair of Rebecca to make Randall that information from Kevin and Kate. At the close of the previous episode, Randall went into the kitchen to get some water and was confronted by a figure. At first I thought it was going to be a figment of his imagination like a smoke and soot covered Jack or something but it’s some kid wielding a knife and he’s very real. Randall offers his credit card, tells him the police are on the way and kid takes off.

Now, Randall was totally lying about having a security system or that the police were on the way. The officer who responded to his later call explains that sometimes burglars come back the next night because often families don’t feel safe and they stay in a hotel. Randall isn’t going to leave his home undefended so he sends Beth and the girls to a hotel for the night and he installs a very high-tech security system which ends up consuming a lot of his focus. He’s hyper aware and he isn’t sleeping. He’s got every notification possible on the app for the security system running so he knows when a leaf blows across a sensor. He also freaks out when he comes home and the alarms are going off. Annie opened a window and set off the alarm and Beth couldn’t remember the override code.

The lack of handling his anxiety becomes obvious when he holds a Town Hall with his district to talk about the new housing bill he’s backing that could impact a lot of small business owners. One in particular is Malik’s dad. He shows up when Randall is about to go for a run (to try and manage his anxiety) and points out that the new condos could hike up his rent to a point he couldn’t continue to operate his shop. He also tells Randall that talking helps deal with anxiety and he ended up going to therapy after confiding in a minister for a while (until the minister got tired of giving out free therapy). It is obvious that Randall isn’t into the suggestion, even though I think he really needs it. I understand there is a huge stigma around mental health in the African American community, especially with men, but Randall is going to fall to pieces again and it’s going to be ugly and he needs to get help. It doesn’t help that as he’s out for his run, he sees a woman being mugged and he jumps in and starts being up the attacker (breaking a few bones in his hand in the process).

As Beth and Randall try to get back to normal after the break-in, they realize that the burglar actually was in their bedroom and took a pair of Beth’s earrings and a pair of Randall’s cufflinks. This sends Randall spiraling into bad dream territory again as he imagines worst case scenarios of the burglar hurting Beth. Ultimately, he calls Kevin (who he’d talked to briefly before to let him know what happened). We also learn that Sophie’s call in the last episode was to let Kevin know her mother died so he’s now in Pittsburgh for the funeral. Yeah, that’s not going to end well (or hey, if she’s the baby mama then maybe it is). As Randall breaks down in the bathroom. I guess he’s willing to talk to his brother (sort of) about what’s happening and he asks Kevin just to talk to him, which Kevin says he’s good at doing.

As much as I love Randall, him not being willing to accept help when multiple people suggested he do so is really irritating. Perhaps this whole situation will convince him to go talk to someone who isn’t a member of his family or spouse. Someone who doesn’t already know the Pearson baggage. I have a feeling this show isn’t shy about addressing lots of topical issues and mental health in general is a big one. So here’s hoping they continue with the storyline. I think it was good to see how even though we like to think Randall has it all together, he really doesn’t and he’s fallible, too. Annoyance aside, this does make him human and I love that about this show. It just shows people living their lives and follows you through the good and the bad.

This Is Us 4.10: “Light and Shadow”

“That’s what I am. A part-time mechanic. That not who you belong with.”
– Jack

The first episode of 2020 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the Pearsons (then again, when isn’t it?). Kevin is determined to find his future spouse (and procreate) in the next nine months and to do that, he’s decided the best move is the hire a matchmaker. But he quickly realizes it’s a load of crap when he goes on a date with a racist woman. Not long after that, he ends up meeting the woman he thinks is “it” in a coffee shop. They go on this really fun date (where he rents out the Hollywood Bowl and gets John Legend to sing for her) but then she admits that he’s’ her hall pass (as in the one celebrity she could sleep with and it wouldn’t count as cheating). But she can’t actually go through with it. This leaves Kevin quite dejected but he’s’ got other things to focus on, like reshoots for his big movie. And just as he heads to set, he gets a call from Sophie. He doesn’t see it though and it just makes me wonder if he’s going to go back down that road again. Is she really going to be his big love story? They really aren’t’ good together and Kevin just keeps breaking the poor woman’s’ heart. But I guess we will have to wait and see.

Randall is still dealing with the possibility of Rebecca having some cognitive issues. He’s doing it alone because she’s asked that he not involve his siblings. So he flies out to California to go with her for some neurological testing. Miguel isn’t exactly happy that Randall is butting in. But when the tests reveal Rebecca is having some memory issues, he starts to feel guilty about missing or ignoring the signs. He admits he noticed things but he just wanted to attribute it to getting older. I can understand it has to be terrifying to see someone you love fade away like that and I know we are going to have to see that with Rebecca on screen, too, which is going to be really rough. I did like hearing Rebecca tell Randall that she would sneak into the nursery when he was a baby because he would wake up early and they would sit and she’d rock him and listen to music and they would watch the sunrise through the closed curtains.

In the flashbacks, we see the aftermath of the golf club incident where Jack got drunk and had that confrontation with Rebecca’s dad. Jack breaks up with Rebecca, claiming he’s not good enough for her and then not long after, Rebecca’s mom drops the news on her daughter that her dad basically scared Jack off. Rebecca isn’t having any of this possessive, aggressive nonsense and she tracks Jack down at the garage where he works part-time 9blowing off her dad’s big birthday party) and tells him that he is worthy of her and they’re going to have an epic love story. I think this flashback serves two purposes. We see where Kevin thinks he gets the notion of this epic love story for himself (then again, he only saw pieces and not all the rough patches along the way) and also to serve as Rebecca trying to hang on these memories of her husband.

And then there was Kate and Toby. As you might recall, Kate saw a text from one of Toby’s cross fit friends basically trash talking Kate at Thanksgiving time. When they get home from the holiday, Kate confronts Toby about it and he says that there’s nothing going on with this woman and they are just friends and sometimes he vents to his friends but he’s not lying to her and would never do so. Fast forward to the New Year and she is getting ready to throw Toby a Jimmy Buffet-themed birthday party (hence where Kevin meets Mrs. Hall Pass). Kate is trying to keep an open mind about the whole thing and says she’s happy to meet Toby’s cross fit friends so maybe she can stop being so stressed about the woman he’d been texting with. At the party, however, the woman isn’t there and Kate learns form one of his other friends that Toby hasn’t been the gym in several weeks (despite the fact that Kate has been giving him protein shakes and he’s been heading off or so she thinks that whole time). After the party, they have yet another confrontation. Toby admits that the woman tried to kiss him but he rebuffed it and he made the decision to switch gyms so that he wouldn’t have to deal with her and he didn’t want to tell Kate because he thought she’d be suspicious (which she is). I think we are seeing the lingering trauma of Kate’s relationship after high school.

Then we get into the bigger discussion of why Toby seems to avoid being at home. He confirms that Kate does feel him pulling away but it’s not due to an affair or anything like that. He’s been avoiding being around baby Jack because it just makes him so sad. He feels like his son is going to miss out on so much of life and Toby doesn’t want to ruin the pure joy that Kate has when she looks at Jack. This was kind of a tough storyline for me. Being the blind (or visually impaired) person, I know that life can be fulfilling and that one’s disability shouldn’t hold you back. And we’ve seen that clearly Jack succeeds in life. One of the things Toby said about not being able to watch Star Wars with his son hit me. Blind people can watch movies, too. It’s just a different experience. Kate tells Toby that she got him a getaway at a retreat for families with blind children but now she’s not really looking forward to it. Until she realizes that baby Jack has some light perception. As lovely as that is, I don’t really think they should be getting that excited over it. But hey, if it puts them in a more positive space, then good for them. Next week starts a trio of Big Three centric episodes where we find out more about Randall’s anxiety and how he handles (or fails to handle) it.