This Is Us
Would you look at this? In just one episode, both Pearson brothers toss out some real truths about how they see themselves in the context of their family. It is illuminating. I mean that both in a character sense — oh, so this is why they act the way they do — and as a signal to what causes the impending rift between them — oh, yeah, okay this is a real ‘neither can live while the other survives’ type of situation. Randall’s trying out therapy for the first time, so it makes sense that some of these revelations might come to light.
When Randall blurts out that if it wasn’t for him his whole family would’ve fallen apart, reader, I gasped. It’s always been implied that Randall sees himself as The Only One Who Has It Together in the Pearson family, but to hear him say it so matter-of-factly was something else. You knew his stint in therapy was going to bring up some uncomfortable truths, but man did that go down quickly.
It was clear Randall going to therapy at the request of his wife would be contentious even before he steps foot in that office — remember how much he hated being a part of Kevin’s family therapy session? — and within minutes, he’s completely agitated. By the mess of old magazines in the waiting room, by the sounds the coffee maker is making, by his therapist’s choice of art, by the fact that his therapist waited to tell him she already knew who he was. Everything is bothering him. Randall’s therapy scenes are shot completely focused on him, and we only see his therapist (hi, Pamela Adlon!) at the very end, once Randall decides to commit to it. I guess this is supposed to ratchet up the tension? I had very little time for this choice. Regardless, there’s no escaping Randall’s escalating emotions.
He’s very Randall throughout the whole thing: He knows that he has anxiety and control issues and he knows what triggers him. He’s just here for some coping mechanisms. His therapist is basically like, lol that’s so cute. Randall’s always telling the story of his two fathers and how they defined him, basically brushing off his relationship with his mother. Yes, they’re closer than your average mother and son, but their relationship is fine, NOTHING TO SEE HERE. But we know better. After his outburst pre-Thanksgiving about how he acted more like the parent, all I wanted to do was pop some popcorn and enjoy the show as his therapist prodded into this relationship more. It only took her one session to get to the heart of Randall Pearson! He tells her all about how Rebecca is getting MRI results that day and when he learns Kevin is the one taking her — in the middle of the therapy session, no less — he gets all huffy about being the only one his mother can really depend on. It’s when his therapist questions this belief — would they really fall apart without you? — that Randall declares the session over. This is R&R Music Factory this woman is questioning. This is in no way helpful to him.
When he explains that to Beth, she is disappointed but not surprised. As we like to say around here, Randall’s gonna Randall. She knew he’d find a reason not to go back. But the thing of it is, she wasn’t asking Randall to go to therapy because he needs it, she’s asking because she needs it. She’s having a tough time feeling safe again in the wake of the break-in, but can’t talk to him about it for fear that putting one more thing on his shoulders might cause a breakdown. She needs him to get help so that she can get her person back. And so Randall decides to go back to therapy. Ooowee guys, if that’s the kind of insight Randall is getting in just one session, the next few episodes should be very interesting.
Kevin’s truth — that he knows his family thinks he’s undependable and he wants to change that — is a little more surprising. Freshly back from The Cabin of Emotions, and now in the know about his mother’s diagnosis, Kevin goes to see Rebecca. I guess this dude is supposed to be a good actor, but within seconds Rebecca can tell he knows. Try harder, Kevin.
Rebecca tries to temper Kevin’s worry by explaining that really what this diagnosis has done is “freed” her. She wants to enjoy the time she has. And that includes a day of visiting old record stores, which turns into an exclusive mother-son outing.
At the record store, Kevin comes across his mother jamming out to Joni Mitchell’s Clouds album, and she shares a memory from Rebecca and Jack’s road trip to Los Angeles. Apparently, they tried to find Joni Mitchell’s house in Laurel Canyon but failed. Kevin suggests they right that wrong immediately. You guys, has Rebecca ever been as excited as she is when they trespass onto Joni Mitchell’s old house? She is giddy. She starts singing “Our House,” which Graham Nash wrote while living with Joni Mitchell here and yes, Kevin is moved to see his mother that way but, like, can you imagine if you just walked by this scene? Or you just peered out your window to see these two beautiful dinks standing there and the “old” lady was belting out a Crosby, Stills, and Nash jam? It’s hilarious. But yes, sure, also emotional.
Seeing his mother like this, Kevin can’t help but ask if she’s scared of what’s going to happen to her. She tells him yes, but that she’s not thinking about that now because she’s here with him. She wants to stay here, in this day, with him as long as she can. They can go get her MRI results another day. And that’s how it ends up being Kevin who has to step up and be the responsible one. As much as he’d love to go eat poisonous blowfish with his mother (treasure that phrase), he doesn’t want to perpetuate “the narrative” that he’s not dependable. Plus, they can go eat blowfish another day. And now I’m realizing that the true gift of this show is that it allows me to write sentences like that one.
The MRI results are deflating, as we expected since we know the future here, and the word “Alzheimer’s” is finally uttered. But Rebecca doesn’t seem all that depressed. In fact, she tells her son that what she needs from him is the fun that he always brings. Their entire day out has been paralleled with an early-’90s Kevin and Rebecca trip to the baseball card store, which starts with him ragging on her for not being a fun mom and ends with them having a blast as they find the one card he’s missing from a set. It’s very cute, and for a guy who thinks he’s only seen as undependable, Rebecca sure relies on him for the fun. It’s a sweet development for this specific mother-son relationship — and yes, sure, okay, I may have cried at the sight of a John Candelaria baseball card when Adult Kevin buys the card they went searching for that day to keep in his wallet because it reminds him of his mom.
This Is The Rest
• Toby apologizes to Kate for everything once she’s back by building her and Jack a music studio in their garage. Kate eventually comes around to forgiving her husband thanks to some wise words from Madison, yes that Madison, who reminds her that Toby should be allowed to express his worst fears to his own wife. They are stronger together, she tells him. Okay, can we just find out why Kate and Toby aren’t together in the future already? It is time.
• Admittedly, Toby setting up some instruments in a playpen for Baby Jack and hanging a sign that says “Jumpin’ Jack Damon & The Bugs” is adorable. Also! We see Baby Jack growing up and using that studio as he becomes a musician, so we know at least one of his parents lives in that house for awhile.
• I’m sorry, do parents really make all of their children reveal their report cards to the entire family in a group like that? Yeesh. No wonder the Pearsons have problems.
• Little Kate gets dumped by First Kiss Stuart and spends her days mourning this loss by sitting in bed and listening to “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” by The New Kids on the Block and I am very much here for that kind of content.
• Still laughing at Kevin processing his mother walking through the open gate at Joni Mitchell’s house: “If I end up on TMZ for breaking into Joni Mitchell’s old house with my mom… actually, that could play.”
• Can we get Jack back into a juicy storyline? Milo Ventimilgia is just standing there in his sweater vest and white sneakers, begging to be utilized more.
• As you all know, I love Miguel Rivas with all of my heart, but when This Is Us gives us a glimpse of Rebecca and Jack snuggling up for a movie and it is Death Becomes Her and then a glimpse of Rebecca and Miguel on the couch and they’re watching — I’m sorry, are my ears working correctly — Borat, it’s like, you know why people are always going to root for Jack and Rebecca.