Thursday, February 25, 2021

This Is Us 5.09: “The Ride”

“That’s where you and Tess and your mom come in. You are my branches. You are the start of my family tree.”
– Randall

It was a big day across the Pearson clan’s history in this week’s episode. We got to see every member of the family bringing home a baby (or two or three). In the past, we see a wary Jack and Rebecca get ready to take their three newborns home after four days in the hospital (and after apparently Rebecca had a c-section. They look woefully unprepared. Jack hasn’t even installed the car seats and he installed them backwards (although by today’s standards, he was putting them in correctly by having them face backwards). A security guard points out he’s putting them I wrong and then asks why Jack has three of them. Later, on the drive home, Rebeca wishes she could sit in the backseat with the babies because turning hurts her stitches (girl I feel you on that so much). They end up pulling into a gas station (babies screaming their heads off) when another driver cuts them off. Jack kind of loses his mind on the guy but Rebecca pulls him back from the brink. He does end up getting a little bottle of whisky and some mints to hide it before getting back into the car. He does then suggest Rebecca drive so he can watch the babies. By the time they get home, all three babies have fallen asleep and they sit in the car until the babies wake up. Jack admits his drinking and they both worry they aren’t going to be good parents before reassuring each other that they will be fine. We even get a montage of the family car as their lives unfold.

In the not-so-distant past, we find Randall and Beth bringing home Annie from the hospital. Randall is thrilled that she has his eyes because as he points out during a trip to Dairy Queen (Beth’s request for after the birth), he never had that sort of connection with his parents. He did a family tree in school but they weren’t his branches. He thinks now he has a chance to have that sort of connection through his daughters. And he tells Beth he’s thinking about another kid already (I agree with Beth, that soon after, don’t even mention it), because he wants that connection. I think he’s happy with Deja as their third child and I’m sure he’s going to be even more thrilled in the future.

Speaking of, we find a young woman in her residency and she’s doing her labor and delivery rotation. She bails and ends up in a car with her sister who gives her a gift. The doctor-in-training is pregnant. I knew pretty quickly that it was adult Annie and Deja by their mannerisms and speech patterns. Plus the casting is so spot on for this show. They’re heading up to join the rest of the family at the house to say goodbye to Rebecca. Randall is thrilled to have all three of his girls there and just as the episode ends, we see another car pull up so I’m thinking we’re going to find out soon whether Kate is still around. I really hope we get to see more of the flash forward storyline in the coming episodes.

In the present, Kate and Kevin’s respective trips home with their kids don’t go as they hoped either. For Kate, Ellie admits on the car ride home that she doesn’t want to do the open adoption. She can’t handle it. Kate is hurt by this but Toby assures her that they’ll figure it out because as he says, Kate is unflappable. Which is good because he just got laid off. Oof. Right when you’ve got a new baby (I can so feel that, too). Kevin, on the other hand, is dealing with annoying fans and the paparazzi. First, when Kev is trying to get the car seats into the car, a fan keeps snapping pictures. Kevin lashes out at him and the guy kind of apologies. He sympathizes with Kevin about his kids and Kevin eventually takes a picture with him. Later, on their drive home, Kevin notices another car following them. I bet that fan blew the whistle. Kevin loses his mind when he pulls over and so does the guy (who just keeps snapping pictures). It was very reminiscent of Jack’s behavior on the way home forty years earlier. And like then, it takes the woman to diffuse the situation. She does promise to call the guy to let him know when Kevin goes running. I’m kind of hoping she lies to him. She ends up driving home and Kevin has a dream where Jack gets the babies to calm down. Jack tells Kevin not to be so terrified that he’s not going to live up to Jack. They have both spent a lot of time being terrified of being (or not being) their dads. It’s time for Kevin to figure out what he wants. And he decides he really does want to marry Madison.

This episode didn’t make me cry last week’s did (and that was a lot of tears). But I enjoyed seeing the family starting out on this journey. It reminded me of our trip home with our son and all the related worry that comes along with having a new little human that is solely dependent on you. I honestly couldn’t imagine handling two or three at once (babysitting a pair of twins was enough thank you). It’s also hard to believe we are already halfway through the season with only one more confirmed after that. We’ve got 27 episodes left right now and that doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to tell all the stories that are left to tell. Adult Jack, Hailey and the next generation? Miguel and Rebecca’s reconnection (and Miguel’s background in general). Wrapping up the future with Rebecca’s death. It just doesn’t feel like it’s enough time to say goodbye to this family that has become such an important part of so many of our lives.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

This Is Us 5.08: “In the Room”

“I know this isn’t how you imagined the births of these babies, but I know that Kevin is out there trying his damndest to get to you.”
– Randall

I loved everything about this episode. It was just beautifully done and there was a little surprise at the very end that I wasn’t expecting. And not in the usual “This Is Us” fashion. At the start of the episode, we meet Ester and Nasir at a party in Albuquerque in 1963. He’s Indian, she’s Argentinian and while she has no clue what he’s talking about with regard to computer programming, she likes the way he talks. They end up getting married and having a son (who I swear was going to be Miguel). Then a few years later, Ester is waiting for Nasir at home and she’s mad because he was supposed to come home at 6:00 for family dinner. When he starts going on about his work and how close they are to a breakthrough, she makes him tell her what he’s talking about in terms she (and their four-year-old son) would understand. Basically, he and his team worked on the algorithm that allows technology companies now to send images and videos across the internet. Nasir is actually a real-life person (Nasir Ahmed) and he’s the reason we can do Zoom and Skype and FaceTime today. I cried when they dropped the title cards at the end of the episode explaining who he and Ester are. It was just so touching and not at all how I expected these new characters to connect to our core cast.

Speaking of the core cast, we pick up with Randall and Beth still driving home from New Orleans and they’re now video chatting with Madison as she’s laboring. She’s still worried that Kevin isn’t going to show up or that she’s bothering Beth and Randall. But, they are happy to stay on the line because they know she needs the support. She freaks out about getting the epidural when the contractions get to be too intense and Randall tells an adorable story about Kevin being drunk after junior prom and jumping on his bed naked singing “MMMBop”. Now, as a life-long Hanson fan I not only appreciated this reference, but I truly appreciated Randall actually signing the chorus with the proper melody. I spent a lot of my childhood people singing it wrong as a joke to rag on the band and I’m just grateful they could respect the band and their fans by actually giving it a good effort. As Madison finishes getting the epidural, Kevin arrives.

Out in California, Toby is sitting in the parking lot of the hospital while Kate is Ellie’s birth partner. At first it seems like Ellie is gung ho about handing the baby over to Kate, instructing the nursing staff to hand the baby to Kate after she’s born. Perhaps the more interesting part of this story, is the man Toby meets in the parking lot. We never learn his name but his wife Rose is in the hospital battling COVID and she’s on a ventilator. He comes to the hospital every night and parks in spot 157 (her lucky number). Of course, Toby is parked in that spot and after chatting a little, he moves over a couple spaces. He and the man bond as both Madison and Ellie labor.

Not to forget the elder generation of Pearsons, we find Rebecca and Miguel at the cabin and Rebecca feels so disconnected from her children. She feels like she should be there and this bring sup memories of a trip to the cabin she and Jack took when the Big Three were preteens. The kids all arranged sleepovers and Rebecca suggests they can have a romantic trip, but it gets interrupted by a burst pipe in the bathroom and Rebecca’s ragging on the kids gets to Jack. He keeps worrying that they won’t be in each other’s lives once the kids grow up and move away. He compares his fears to what he and Rebecca did with their own families. She promises that they will always be connected and she points to a ruined piece of artwork that they did with the kids as toddlers where they all did their handprints in paint. It’s a picture older Rebecca keeps staring at in the present and it represents that the family will always be connected. She also references how they never talk about how Miguel has to carry Jack’s death differently than the rest of the family. I’m sure we’ll eventually get more information on their relationship post Jack (beyond their wedding and honey moon in Puerto Rico).

Eventually, both Madison and Ellie deliver their respective bundles of joy. Kevin is pretty much in awe and he and Madison name their kids Nicholas (after Uncle Nicky….and a little bit Nick Cage) and Frances (after Madison’s grandmother). I’m excited to see more of Nicky and Franny in the future (maybe even in the grown up Jack future timeline). Speaking of the Damon family, we also get to meet little Hailey Rose, too. Toby was allowed to pick the middle name and as soon as he connected with the guy in the parking lot, I knew that’s what was coming. I was worried for a split second when Ellie asked to hold and then spend some time alone with Hailey. The look on Kate’s face I think mirrored most of the audience. But, Ellie just needs to say her goodbyes and soon she’s in Kate’s arms and we get a ton of FaceTime video going on. Rebecca gets to see each of her new grandbabies and then the babies get to meet each other and Kate dubs them “the new Big Three” which I think is adorable. And we see Kevin and Randall closing in on reconciliation and willing to have a frank discussion about Randall’s experience growing up Black in a white family. I don’t know what This Is Us holds in store for the Pearson clan next, but I’m so on board for it.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

This Is Us 5.07: "There"

“That’s the thing about parents. That’s why the loom large in our heads, I think. They mean a thousand things all at once. And even long after they’re gone, we’re stuck with them.”
– Jack

So, I’ll be honest, this episode did not end where I expected it would. We start off with an image of a crashed car on fire and a close-up of Kevin’s wallet with his ID in it. Of course, we’re dealing with the This Is Us writers and so they’ve clearly faked us out. Granted, they usually aren’t this blatant about it. We find out that Kevin is a week shy of wrapping his filming in Canada but Madison calls saying she thinks she’s in labor. We also see a call between him and Kate before he talks to Madison. Apparently Ellie (her and Toby’s birth mom) is being induced that day. I highly suspect that the twins and Hailey will be the next generation Big Three. The news that Madison is in labor sends Kevin into a bit of a panic as she’s six weeks early (duh, dude), and he wasn’t expecting it. Multiple people (mainly his agent and the director) tell Kevin they’ll try to wrap up his scenes that day in like six or seven hours so he could get to LA the next day, meet the babies and fly back. This does not work for Kevin. He doesn’t want to just swoop in for a photo op and then jet off. We haven’t seen all of what he’s been doing in his time away but it seems clear he is consciously making Madison and the twins a priority over his career. In fact, he tells the director that none of those plans will work and he gets in his car and starts driving for the airport. Along the way, he tells the director he quits the film because the guy is being such a dick about everything. It’s very interesting to see Kevin actually put family over his career. He’s been so focused and driven by trying to famous and popular, it’s just nice to see him making that distinction.

Along the way, he talks with several family members, including the scene from the last episode with Randall. Throughout the episode we see Kevin struggling to make it to the airport (Miguel and Rebecca find him a direct flight out of Seattle) but on his way, he sees a crashed car in a cell phone dead zone. He pulls over and rather heroically gets the guy out of the gar. But unbeknownst to him, he drops his wallet and ID on the ground in the process of the getting the guy back to Kevin’s car so they can get to the hospital (just not the one Madison is in). I will say before Kevin happened upon the accident, they did one hell of a job trying to convince us that wreck could have been him. He nearly gets hit or veers into oncoming traffic multiple times as he’s trying to deal with phone calls. In LA, Madison explains to a nurse that she doesn’t really have family she can call to be with her and the two people she’s closest to (Kevin and Kate) aren’t exactly around. And then, Randall calls and tells her that he and Beth can stay on the line with her as long as she needs as they head back to Philly from New Orleans.

The past storyline gives us some insight into why Kevin is so driven to be there for the birth of the babies and not just drop in and out. We had two sets of flashback in this episode that informed the present-day storyline. In the far past, we see preteen Jack (or maybe early teens) playing little league and he prays before the game. It turns out, he was praying that his team would win so that when his dad inevitably got drunk, he’d be happy, rather than a mean drunk. Unfortunately, this time his team lost and when Jack tries to get his dad to wait a while before going home (he can’t come out and say it’s because of his dad’s drinking), his dad blows him off. Ultimately, he tells Jack to drive home then. This is clearly a brand new experience for Jack and he’s nervous for a whole host of reasons. But he makes it home unscathed and even gets some praise from his dad. Then we see Kevin getting ready to go to football camp for the weekend with Jack. We see Kevin trying to review some plays before they leave and when they get to the hotel and he meets some players from Penn State who will be running drills, Kevin gets so nervous he throws up. He then tells Jack he thinks he’s not good enough to play football and if he doesn’t have football, then he’s got nothing. We’ve always known Kevin had some self-esteem issues. Jack insists that football isn’t all Kevin is or has and take shim to the hotel bar for a nice steak and cokes. Before they go, though, Kevin confides that his coach yells at him every day which Jack tries to brush off as being “old school”. Then Kevin admits that the coach calls him stupid basically every day. This clearly sets Jack off and that’s part of what prompts the bar visit. He suspects the coach will be there and ends up confronting him in the bathroom, telling him to never call Kevin stupid again. Jack vows to be at every game, too not just to support his son but to ensure that the coach is behaving himself. Back at the bar, Jack tells Kevin that he tried to be better than his father but feels like he failed by pressuring Kevin with sports. Kevin assures his dad that he’s nothing like grandpa.

But as we see Kevin get to the Seattle airport only to find he’s not go his ID, he realizes he may in fact miss the birth of his children. He’s trying to be better than his father (who he believes would have stopped and rescued the injured guy and still found a way to get to the births) but he’s really struggling. We’ll have to wait to see how the episode resolves but I’m hoping for a good outcome.