This Is Us
Just when you think hospital waiting rooms can’t get any worse, you get trapped in one with the entire Pearson clan while they are spiraling. Aside from the very last few minutes of “The Waiting Room,” there is no escaping the angst. There’s no reprieve, not even music, as the Pearsons await news about Kate and her baby. There’s only Miguel’s ridiculous food-guessing game, learning about birds, and confronting family members.
“The Waiting Room” is another This Is Us experiment with format and feels almost like a sister episode to last season’s “The Fifth Wheel,” in which the entire family spent time in group therapy as Kevin dealt with his addiction. So sorry to say, my This Is Us babies, but if you didn’t like that one, you probably won’t be into this episode. But it’s not exactly the same: There’s much less crying by all participants (including me), and although there are several confrontations, the episode ends without resolving much. It feels more like an acting showcase for the ensemble than anything else. It works best for Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley, who, whether fighting or joking, have wonderful onscreen chemistry. They remain my favorite pairing.
Tonight, the Brothers Pearson are mostly fighting. Everyone’s on edge — I mean, it’s been 26 hours and the Pearsons refuse to leave. (“This family stays” Rebecca tells the doctor as I roll my eyes — what, do you think you’re better than everyone else just because you like to torture yourselves, Pearsons? Someone go take a shower!) But Kevin and Randall show it the most.
Kevin spends his time in the waiting room generally being an ass to everyone. Obviously, all of this is stemming from both his genuine concern for his twin sister and also the fact that he feels ashamed for relapsing — something no one wants to talk about. You have to remember both those things in order to tolerate his extra douchiness this evening.
He tells the doctor that he has the financial means to get Kate the best medical care and won’t hesitate to move his sister. He kicks Madison out of the waiting room, and sure, she is asking dumb questions about Vietnam, but she just wants to be there for her friend and she brought doughnuts. When Randall and Beth start to air out their current marital situation, Kevin butts in and he is definitely not on Randall’s side. No one is, but this is not the time.
To diffuse the tension, Kevin takes a walk. He comes back with a water bottle, and if you didn’t immediately realize that thing was full of booze even though he tells Zoe that he’s not drinking anymore and he’ll never lie to her again, um, you haven’t been in high school. It’s a real shame because Zoe was just over by the vending machine telling Beth, who gives her cousin a free pass to get as far away from this family as possible, that she wants to stay. She wants to be there for Kevin. It’s a huge moment of growth for Zoe, but when she takes a sip from Kevin’s bottle, she realizes her trust has been broken once again. I love Zoe, so I want her to stick around, but also: You in danger, girl.
Randall isn’t acting much better than his brother. He is constantly telling Kevin to relax, which we all know never calms a person down. He acts like he is the one who has the charm or talents to pry sensitive medical information out of nurses and doctors who offer zero updates on Kate. He won’t stop cornering Beth to hash out their problems. I mean, what else are they going to talk about for two days, but still. Let the woman breathe! At least he takes the time to clear up what he meant when he told his wife to “put a pin” in her dreams. He doesn’t want her to give up teaching dance, but they do need to be realistic and come up with a plan that works for them and their girls. It’s still not great, since Randall never apologizes for putting them in this situation with the city council stuff, which Beth asked him to walk away from because of this very reason, but it is a start.
His first idea to solve their problems: Maybe Rebecca and Miguel can help out with the girls. It sounds like an easy fix until Miguel announces that they’ve been thinking of relocating to California to help Kate with the baby. Also, he notes — because he is a national treasure — Rebecca loves succulents. So, it’s a natural move. Randall freaks out a little, and then Kevin makes a dig about Randall not having a binding contract on their mother and things escalate. They always do. The boys are fighting and Miguel is trying to diffuse and then Kevin discovers that Kate’s doctor has gone into emergency surgery but they won’t tell them if it is with Kate or not. And like we’re living the Beyoncé jam “Love on Top,” things escalate again. Seriously, that song has so many key changes.
This time, the boys start fighting about some long-simmering issues. Kevin blames Randall for deserting him with Nicky. When Randall says it was because Kevin was “better equipped” to deal with him, Kevin gets defensive. He’s the screwup and Randall is the “moral center” of the family. You guys, when Kevin yelled about being surprised Randall wasn’t in the back “delivering the baby with his bare hands” because he’s christened himself the hero of the family, I laughed so hard. Couldn’t you see this show doing something like that? I mean, he’s done it once before.
Finally, Rebecca has to step in and shut everyone up. This is Mandy Moore’s big moment in the episode: She gives a long, sad monologue about how all that matters right now is Kate and her baby, and then she goes on to talk about being in the waiting room with Jack the night he died and how she remembers every little detail. Maybe I’m dead inside, and I’m sure hanging out in a hospital all day stirs a lot of things up, but all I could think was “Seriously? Does everything have to be about Jack dying?!” I mean, the answer is obviously yes, but sometimes I forget what show I’m watching.
Anyway, all that angst and anger will have to wait a week because Toby finally comes out to tell them that Baby Boy Damon has arrived and he’s in the NICU on a breathing machine and Mom is doing just fine. We leave the waiting room behind and follow the new parents as they talk to their son, who, of course, they name Jack. Motherhood immediately looks good on Kate, who seems so sure and confident and hopeful, even though she and Toby and baby Jack have a whole host of obstacles to overcome. Meanwhile, the Tobster looks terrified. And nauseous.
Then, in a lovely little callback, Kate talks to her dad — admitting that it is weird — and tells him that she needs her son “to be okay,” and she knows he can do that for her. Remember when Jack tells the car salesman he needs a good deal on the Wagoneer because he needs to know his family will be okay? It was, um, A Lot at the time but man, it really pays off now. I mean, no one on this show is okay, but the sentiment is just so nice.
The Is the Rest
• The best part of this episode: Beth making Rebecca eat something, being the only one really taking care of the woman who is suffering silently, and then seeing Randall look at his wife, who just took care of his mother, with so much love. Seriously. The most love human eyes could possibly contain.
• I know Toby was Having A Day, but his “joke” about Kate wanting to see Miguel first felt cruel after having just seen how desperately the guy still wants to feel included in this family.
• Madison and Miguel bond over being Pearson-family rejects, so I guess they are best friends now.
• Kate wants baby Jack’s first toy to be a Ruth Bader Ginsburg doll because she wants him immediately “surrounded by strong female influences.”
• The only person Zoe tells about Kevin’s water bottle full of vodka is Beth. I’m extremely interested to find out how all of this plays out because Kevin does not seem anywhere close to admitting this is very much out of control again.
• The mere fact that the entire clan thinks they have ownership of this HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM for, like, two days is so Pearson, isn’t it? When that Grandma gets up and leaves while the family fights, I imagine she yells “I have no time for these sad people!” as she hops into the elevator to freedom, dumping her second bag of Rold Gold pretzels into her mouth. A true blaze of glory.
• Who puts ranch on sushi?