This Is Us
Well, the Pearsons just had a whole gaggle of babies (past and present), and they got those babies home in one piece, so what’s next? According to “I’ve Got This,” the next hurdle is providing for one’s family, both financially and emotionally speaking.
The financial part takes up the bulk of the episode as Toby grapples with being laid off in the middle of a pandemic just as his second child has arrived. The fear and the shame he’s feeling are only exacerbated as he’s forced into a sushi feast at Kevin and Madison’s house and has to spend time trying to put on a happy face for people who have no idea what this kind of stress feels like. Truly, I’m surprised that while Kevin is welcoming his sister and brother-in-law into his home and showing off the fancy gifts his celebrity friends have sent over and praising his miracle nanny, Toby doesn’t Hulk out right there and start smashing fancy baby gadgets. But he saves his anger for the dinner table. As is Pearson family tradition.
Toby’s really primed for an emotional outburst going into this dinner: He’s been Zoom interviewing nonstop with no luck (and no pants!) and has finally gotten a nibble from a job that he’s maybe, sort of, allowing himself to feel excited about. Still, he makes Kate promise not to say anything about what’s going on — he’d rather wait until he’s sure he has this new job lined up. Of course, then, Kate and Toby get there, and Toby gets an email informing him that they went with a different candidate.
It certainly doesn’t help that he goes right from that demoralizing news to sitting outside with Kevin, who’s pontificating on fatherhood and dad bods and his great dream of building a Pearson compound in Malibu so all their kids can grow up together. It’s all very on-brand for Kevin, and you’d think Toby would know that by now, but instead, as Kevin continues this line of conversation at dinner — now wanting to get Hailey an expensive gift — Toby assumes all of this means that Kate did in fact tell Kevin everything because she just can’t help herself. He’s 100 percent wrong, and, sure, he’s emotional but he’s very dismissive of Kate throughout this whole thing and I wish she would speak up for herself a little. Alas, she keeps quiet mostly.
The truth comes spilling out. Kevin’s attempts at being helpful — which include making sure they know he can help out until they’re financially back on their feet — certainly come from a good place, but Toby’s right: It all comes off as very condescending. Toby’s fired up at this point. When Kate suggests that she go back to work, especially now since she’s gotten her college degree, Toby dismisses that, too, saying it doesn’t make sense because, salary-wise, he’d have to work anyway and then they’d have to pay for child care. Very cool stance for him to take when he’s unemployed and finding it impossible to get a new job. Also, what if Kate wants to work? Again, all very dismissive.
Kevin tries to explain that his money wouldn’t be a handout because he views them all as one big family and what’s his is theirs. Again, noble in thought, but coming from Kevin, it smacks of condescension. Toby’s yelling at this point about respecting his 20-year career, his ability to take care of his family, and how they actually aren’t one big family — Toby and Kate and their kids, that’s Toby’s family. He yells about how he and Kate have a “normal family” with hand-me-downs and a tight budget and that Kevin and Madison’s family is from “an alternate universe” with “too much money” and a nanny who does everything for them. Many blessings to baby Hailey, who starts crying at the perfect time to get Toby to stop and walk out of the room.
Toby is clearly lashing out because he’s scared and embarrassed, and although the argument devolves into insults, he’s not wrong about everything. It’s a tough conversation about complicated emotions that may ring true for a whole lot of families and adult siblings. Once he calms down a little, Toby apologizes to Kevin. They shake hands. They are brothers.
The tension is still pretty palpable, though, and friends, you know heads will roll when Toby learns Kevin took Kate aside to reiterate that his money is her money, too, and if she ever needs anything at any point, he should come to her. He makes her promise to tell him if she needs help. She does. “What’s mine is ours” will surely come back to wreak havoc on these people, right?
That night, Kate sits down to feed Toby’s damaged ego for a bit and then informs her husband that she was offered a job at Baby Jack’s music school and she’s taking it. That’s that, and they’ll figure out the rest. Good on Kate, who has lived her whole life with the men around her thinking she can’t take care of herself or other people in her life, when, especially recently, she has proved that just isn’t the case.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Beth is trying to prove to her judgmental mother, Carol, that she has everything under control when it comes to her family and her home. Carol has been staying there since Beth and Randall went to New Orleans and has been slow to leave. The stress is weighing on Beth. And Randall? Well, he has set up a little spot for himself and his new basil plant, Isaac (welcome to the family, buddy!), out on the back porch to deal with the mother-daughter tension in the house.
The centerpiece of this story line is a fancy dinner Beth makes to impress Carol, who casually announces that she has delayed going home yet again. Like the sushi dinner, this one devolves into a lot of yelling. Tess is mad at Beth for … existing, mostly, but also more specifically for not getting her friend turned significant other Alex’s pronouns correct. In turn, Beth gets upset when she learns that Tess confided in Carol about her new relationship but not her own mother. Tess storms off. At the other end of the table, Deja’s getting upset because she learns that not only is Malik’s ex and Janelle’s mother, Jennifer, looking to get back into their daughter’s life but also that Malik went to Randall for advice and Malik and Randall kept this secret from Deja. So she storms off. Then Beth lays into Carol for being judgmental and how she wishes she would just go home so Beth’s family could be as chaotic and messy as they need to be instead of pretending for her. And then Carol leaves the table too.
Annie remains a beacon in this family.
Beth realizes she has been harsh so goes to apologize to her mother. Carol acknowledges that she can be judgy about some things but not about the chaos and the noise and the drama. That’s why she has been so hesitant to leave: Her house is too quiet; her life, too lonely. She’s jealous of this big, bustling family Beth has built. Beth realizes it’s time for the child to emotionally provide for the parent, so Beth visits Randall on his Porch of Solitude and gives him a whole cooler of beer: Her mom is moving in for a while. This should be fun!
I’ve saved the very best scene of this episode for last. Can we talk about Randall and Deja? I can’t stop thinking about this conversation. Randall finds Deja sulking on his porch — it’s her spot, too, she informs him — and opens up about why she’s upset. Obviously, the idea of Malik’s ex coming back into his life is scary for her. They have a child together. It’s a lot for this 15-year-old to process. But she’s also upset with Randall.
Malik is trying to decide whether to let his child’s mother back into their lives, and Randall, while acknowledging that every situation is different, has firsthand experience with what not knowing your birth mother can do to a person. So Deja is happy that Randall and Malik have bonded, but she’s supposed to come first in Randall’s life. She explains that he’s the first person she has had “completely in [her] corner” in her entire life. She calls him her “day one.” But with this, it felt as if Randall had put Malik first, rather than thinking about how this situation would affect her, his daughter. She’s hurt. Randall assures her that he is Team Deja “first and always.” This whole conversation out on the porch makes that glimpse of future Randall and Deja being just as close as they are here extra special. The Randall-Deja relationship continues to be one of the best on this show.
This Is the Rest
• Just as Kevin is coming around to the idea that, for now, his family is just him and Madison and the twinkies, there’s a knock at the door. Uncle Nicky has arrived for a surprise visit!
• There’s a “Jack and Rebecca as new parents” story line, too: Here, Jack goes to dinner with the higher-ups at Lundy to prove he can be more than a foreman so he can get a desk job and make more money. He ends up paying for the expensive dinner, and Rebecca decides that, from now on, she’ll be handling the family finances. And that’s how it was for the rest of their marriage. In the present, Kate realizes this, thanks her mom for all she did for them, and that’s when she’s inspired to take matters into her own hands with her own family’s financial situation.
• There has to be more for Jack to do than this. There’s so much there with his family. Maybe now that Nicky’s back, we’ll get into some interesting stuff? Am I being too optimistic?
• Truly can’t believe I’m typing this, but seriously, bring weird Madison back.
• So wait, are we really never again going to mention that whole thing where Kevin pulled a guy out of a burning car, dropped him off at a hospital and then charmed his way onto an airplane without an ID? No further discussion or clarification or follow-ups? Still no update on the consequences that walking off set has on Kevin’s career, even though it may be totally applicable to this episode’s story line? Okay, cool.