Finally, finally! In “The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World,” This Is Us delves into one of the most interesting relationships in both timelines: Kevin and Randall. And, you guys, it was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. By “more,” I of course am referring to that Seth Meyers cameo. Who knew Seth was a fan of The Man-ny? I totally buy it.
Unfortunately, This Is Us had to ruin a really stellar episode by dragging Kate through yet another story line completely focused on her weight. As a fat woman, I get it. Food and weight can consume you — but that doesn’t mean that either should define you. Kate battling the scale and self-esteem is a big part of her life, but do we really need to watch her stare longingly at Toby’s giant dessert? Enough is enough, show. Let’s flesh out Kate’s characterization beyond “a woman dealing with her weight.” Remember when she landed a great job and hinted at a rocky relationship with her mother? I want to see more of that.
Now that that’s off my chest, I can get back to my happy place. Milo Ventimiglia’s facial hair. Washing machines. The way Mandy Moore wears hats. Okay, that’s better.
Let’s talk about the Pearson brothers. Through flashbacks and their limited interaction in the present day, we know the basics regarding the Kevin-and-Randall dynamic: They did not get along as little kids, and as adults they are cordial but their relationship is strained. “The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World” both shades in how that tension was built and brings it to a head.
Thanks to Milo Ventimiglia’s helpful facial hair, we’re alerted that we’ve entered a new time period. Welcome to the ‘90s, you guys! Jack has a sweet goatee, the Big Three are teenagers, and Rebecca … got rid of her bangs, I guess? What a time to be alive! Kevin and Randall have graduated to a new level of sibling rivalry as teens. Sharing a bedroom is getting difficult. Randall stays up late studying, and Kevin needs sleep for football. One night, their fighting escalates so much that Kevin decides he’s moving into the basement. Sadness creeps across Teen Randall’s face. The last thing he wanted to do was upset his brother. Later, when he tries to smooth things over with a friendly Yoohoo and Pop-Tart visit to the basement, Kevin reacts with even more hostility.
Randall gets the message loud and clear. When they both get onto the football field — they’re at different schools, and thus, on opposing teams — Randall finally gets angry. What’s supposed to be Kevin’s big night in front of scouts turns into a repeated pounding into the ground. Eventually, it’s not just a game anymore, and the boys have to be ripped away from one another. Sigh. There’s just something about teenagers working out their emotions during a football montage set to moody music that gets my tear ducts all in a tizzy. I blame you, Friday Night Lights.
It’s clear that this isn’t a cut-and-dried “brothers who don’t get along” type of feud. The emotional complexity conveyed in Randall’s face as he peers over at his brother’s empty bed is evidence of that. And this little theory is confirmed with Randall and Kevin’s story in the present day.
After BFF Miguel’s gout ruins Kevin and Randall’s dinner plans with their mother (TYPICAL BFF MIGUEL), neither Kevin nor Randall want to be the one to bail on a dinner with the other, even though that is very obviously what they both want to do.
The brothers Pearson put on some fake-ass smiles and head out to a trendy NYC restaurant where everybody knows Kevin’s name. The conversation is lacking, and the mood awkward. Kevin spends most of the time basking in the glow of selfies and free shrimp. See the bounty The Man-ny hath brought, Randall? Only, Randall doesn’t care much about The Man-ny. And when he fails to recognize one of Kevin’s co-stars — a series regular for four seasons, duh — Kevin realizes that his brother has never watched his show. That’s when the evening takes a sharp turn.
Kevin is insulted and leaves. Randall, always chasing after his brother, trails close behind. He reminds Kevin that he has no idea what Randall really does, but that doesn’t bother him (Kevin’s attempt to describe Randall’s job with The Big Short made me laugh). Kevin gears up for a big speech about feeling unsupported, but he’s distracted by a giant billboard for The Man-ny featuring his replacement: a very handsome black man. When Kevin says, “That’s great. Replaced by another black man,” neither brother can hold back their real feelings. Kevin’s always felt overshadowed by Randall. That because he was black and adopted; their mother treated him as if he were more important. Randall counters: She had to treat him that way because Kevin treated him like a dog. And like a dog, Randall kept coming to Kevin for more. It was Kevin’s love he craved the most.
Guys, I know. It’s intense. But if you’re ever going to unfurl decades of anger and angst, you might as well do it in the middle of New York City in front of Seth Meyers. As Randall and Kevin fight in the street and people begin to realize who is sparring in front of them, Kevin explains that it’s fine because “he’s my brother.” Back at home, Randall tells Kevin that was the first time in 36 years that he’s called him his brother. The first time he’s claimed him as his family.
The Kevin-and-Randall relationship is awfully complicated, so a wrestling match in the Flatiron District isn’t any kind of resolution. It’s only a start. And that’s fine by me! Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley play this dynamic so well and have such great chemistry that I never want to lose them as scene partners.
That night, after Kevin is sent down to sleep in the basement courtesy of Beth, he invites Randall to stay and hang out with him. It’s all Teen Randall ever wanted. May reruns of The Man-ny and sweet, sweet brother snuggles begin the healing process!
The episode features another great character pairing that we should talk about. How about that Beth-and-William bombshell? It was completely unexpected, but very, very welcome. Drama!
Left home with William, Beth, whose own father died after a battle with cancer, makes her father-in-law some pot brownies to help with his appetite. The two scarf some edibles and bond over their love for Randall. Beth whines about Kevin taking over her office. William makes all of our hearts crumble into tiny pieces when he talks about how having a family makes him sad to die. Then, while sitting outside, William is surprised when Beth joins him in reciting a Dudley Randall poem. She explains that she only knows it because it comes from a book Randall has had since he was a child. Ah yes, William says, the book he gave to Rebecca when Randall was first born.
RECORD SCRATCH, Y’ALL. William can’t backtrack from that slip, and he has to explain the entire situation to Beth. He pleads with her to not tell Randall, that it would do irreparable damage to Randall and Rebecca’s close relationship. Beth doesn’t want to lie to her husband, but she gets William’s point. So she does the next logical thing: Beth calls Rebecca. She wants to talk to her mother-in-law immediately.
Like I said: DRAMA.
This Is the Rest:
- “You and my wife got high together? That’s pretty cool.”
- Looks like the ‘90s weren’t all snap bracelets and smiles for everyone. There’s trouble brewing in the Pearson marriage. Jack is completely distracted by work, and Rebecca is feeling more and more alone. Having Jack hook up with that horrid assistant (seriously lady, leave Mandy Moore’s buttoning skills out of it) would be a huge character misstep. Having Rebecca be tempted by that cute band mate (Sam Trammell) with whom she’s reconnected? Well, not so much.
- Toby’s losing weight pretty easily, so he decides to stop torturing himself and ends the hard-core diet plan he and Kate have been following. This freaks Kate out, who … oh, I’m sorry, am I still typing? I fell asleep for a second.
- The cute moment between Teen Kate and Teen Randall has whet my appetite for a glimpse at their relationship in the present. The Big Three need a reunion, pronto.
- Who knew I would ever open my arms and heartily welcome teenagers into my life?! I mean, THEY ARE TEENAGERS. Yeesh. But seriously, those teens were cast incredibly well, and if the show wanted to hang around in the ‘90s for a good long time, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
- Raise your hand if a washing-machine montage made you cry.