overnights

This Is Us Recap: Let’s Go to the Mall

This Is Us

Clooney
Season 2 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

We interrupt your regularly scheduled emotional family drama for some murder-mystery theater. This Is Us isn’t really known for being subtle, but that final shot of a smoke detector with a missing battery was a lot. After just watching Rebecca get the funny feeling she forgot something on her to-do list — and knowing that the something is “buying batteries” — “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday plays in the background, but it might as well have been the theme from Jaws. We get it. The clock is ticking and death is coming for Jack Pearson.

Isn’t the show doing itself a disservice by building up to the event like this? If so many of the flashbacks are used to set the scene, what happens after we finally visit that evening we lose Jack? This Is Us isn’t some mystery show needing to be solved, but rather a sentimental look at how the past informs the present and how grief affects a family. All of this is to say, I was super into this episode up until that very last moment in which I groaned. I came to this show to cry, not groan.

As I shouted from the rooftops last week, I have turned a new leaf on BFF Miguel. Now all I want to do is watch HGTV and drink apricot LaCroix with the dude. It’s a brave new world we’re living in, people! Yet to follow suit: Kevin Pearson.

Kevin is out of rehab and he’s going to stay at his mom’s place for a while. This is great for two reasons. First, after that rattling family therapy session, it is Kevin and Rebecca who have the most healing to do. And second, we finally get a glimpse inside Rebecca and Miguel’s life together. It’s always been strange to me that Rebecca is a main character in the flashbacks, but for some reason gets relegated to a supporting player in the present. Shouldn’t we get to see Rebecca’s life, post-Jack? Unfortunately for Kevin, living with his mother means also living with Miguel, and the two have a notoriously prickly relationship.

It’s a nice choice to show us some Kevin and Miguel interaction from the past while they are getting to know each other in the present. In our flashback to 1997, the entire Pearson clan heads to the mall. Kate needs a dress for winter formal, Jack needs some new suits for work, and they force Kevin to come along since he’s being such a sad sack after his knee injury. Jack and Kevin head off to look at suits and run into perhaps the saddest sack of all: Miguel. Shelly just got engaged and his kids were all there with them, so to cheer himself up, he’s at the mall to buy a … memory-foam pillow. Oh, Miguel, dream bigger, my sad friend.

The boys bring their pity party to the food court. Even Randall joins in on the pouting. Jack is an anti-wallower, so he’s not thrilled with the turn the day took. Kevin thinks his dad just doesn’t understand what it’s like to lose the one thing you love, but Miguel corrects him. Jack had Big Three Homes, and he gave up his dream so that his kids could have their own dreams.

Later, as Jack helps Kevin try on his first suit and I weep silently into my pillow, Kevin is moved by Jack’s sacrifice. He says a simple thank you, and Jack assumes it is about the suit, but it is about much more than that.

Does Kevin remember this time at the mall as he shades Miguel in a supermarket years later? Kevin feels put-out that Miguel is tagging along on his and Rebecca’s grocery-store run and confronts the guy. Apparently, Kevin hasn’t thought about how wrecked his mother might be from everything he’s put her through lately, and he definitely hasn’t considered that Miguel is just being a good husband and looking out for his wife. Instead, when Miguel brings this up, Kevin reminds him that his dad was her husband. It is stinging, even through a TV screen.

Kevin immediately regrets it, and later when he and Miguel are alone, apologizes. He does, however, still want to know if Miguel was in love with Rebecca way back in the day. BFF Miguel has the perfect response: Jack and Rebecca were always Jack and Rebecca, to think anything otherwise was, well, impossible. But, he adds, he loves her now. Miguel isn’t going anywhere. That apricot LaCroix is really doing wonders for Miguel.

Kevin knows he needs to have an honest conversation with his mother, too. He’s noticed that every time he walks into a room, she pulls away from Miguel. Much like the scene in “The 20s” in which we get a glimpse into Rebecca’s grief (remember Sad Rebecca? I miss her), this scene with Kevin is wonderful. Again, she talks about how she didn’t think happiness was an option after Jack died. She says that her relationship with Miguel is “quieter and older,” but it is also a happy one. And that’s something. Kevin and I are now very much onboard with this marriage.

If you think this change of heart toward Miguel is crazy, wait till you hear about Madison. Yes, “I think my wrists are getting fat” Madison. I’ve been wondering if they were going to build on this friendship since Kate desperately needs someone else in Los Angeles to have scenes with other than Toby. Madison it is!

After listening to Kate’s fears about wedding-dress shopping during their weight support group, Madison wants to do something nice for her. She sets up a private consultation at a custom dress boutique to make Kate feel comfortable. During this surprisingly not terrible time together, Kate quickly realizes that Madison is binging and purging. But when Kate tries to get Madison to open up, Madison gets defensive and runs off.

Later, Kate gets a panicked call from Madison who purged again and fainted in her bathroom. She has no one else to call. As Madison opens up to Kate about her bulimia, we’re back at the mall in 1997. Kate and Rebecca are dress shopping at 5-7-9, a store that tormented so many of us back in the ’90s. Kate explains to Madison that in high school she got very skinny, but it was never enough — nothing ever made the voice telling her she wasn’t good enough go away. We watch Teen Kate fit perfectly into a seven, the goal size she’d written on her arm, but she can’t fit into a five, so she is worthless. It was easier for Kate to always see herself as fat, easier to be fat and not good enough.

The heart-to-heart seals the deal for Madison: She snuggles up to Kate on the couch and declares them best friends forever. Have we talked about Chrissy Metz’s comedic skills? Because the face she makes after Madison blows up this tender moment is perfect.

Kate and Madison move on to lighter conversation, but it’s clear we are not finished with Kate’s eating disorder in high school. She lashes out (poor Bec! She was so excited to be shopping with her daughter!) and Rebecca knows something is going on with Kate, but also knows she isn’t the parent to talk to her about it. Jack is the only one who can get through to her, and he promises to have a chat with his daughter. Hopefully he does it before that pesky smoke detector ruins all of our lives. Time is running out, Jack!

This Is the Rest

• Randall spends the episode hanging around William’s old apartment building, trying to figure out which lucky tenant may have been the object of William’s affections according to a love poem he discovers in a box of William’s things. It ends up being about Billie Holiday, whose mural he could see from his window. Still, the whole excursion gets Randall’s juices going: He wants to buy the building and, with Beth’s help, turn it into proper housing for its tenants. He is very excited.

• Will this venture turn into Big Three Homes? You guys, we all know that eventually the Big Three will turn their dad’s dream into a reality. I already have a special box of tissues ready for when that day comes. Can you even imagine?

• What’s up with Beth these days? She’s always been an excellent example of how tough love works, but the emphasis has been on “tough” lately.

• Aww, Teen Randall takes apart a Magic 8-Ball and rebuilds it to include a special message for the girl he wants to ask out. Allison is, of course, the redhead we saw in the flashback to the night Jack dies, so her mere presence induces heart palpitations, but still, aww.

• One more Therapist Barb quip for the road: “I can call you Babs, right?” “Still no.”

• Exciting Hat Watch Update: Anyone else notice what Rebecca was checking out while waiting for Kate to try clothes on? HATS. It was hats.

• “Oh my God, should we host a podcast?”

An ode to the crying men on 'This Is Us.'

This Is Us Recap: Let’s Go to the Mall