This Is Us
Buckle up, buddies, we’ve got two of the saddest bachelor/bachelorette parties to get to. Although here I mean “sad” as in “pathetic,” instead of your typical This Is Us sad, though Kevin’s “party” does have a twinge of that, too. Is anyone surprised? These are the Pearsons, incapable of feeling too much of anything that is remotely close to joy unless they are simultaneously processing feelings of sadness. The best they can really hope for is bittersweet, if we’re all being honest here.
It certainly doesn’t help the overall party atmosphere that, due to the pandemic, the guest lists are restricted to family members (although it doesn’t seem like any of these characters have actual friends). The bachelor party at the cabin in Pennsylvania consists of Kevin, Randall, Toby, Miguel, and a man truly bowled over by plane melon, Nicky. I mean, Nicky has my heart forever and always, and we know how I feel about Miguel, but that is a tough crew to throw a rager with. But there are other things weighing down the mood: There is the rain that starts as soon as everyone arrives, of course, but mostly it’s because the man of the hour is having some feelings.
Right before he left, Kevin got a call from Sophie, who was using a new number (she said she had to change her old one and that it was a long story why, which is mysterious) and assumed she would get his voice-mail, but the two chat about how happy she is for him as he builds this beautiful new family. “It felt weird not to call,” Sophie says. But they have to end their talk before they get much further, and Kevin promises to call her back so they can really catch up. He is undone a bit by the whole thing. That call, plus the little seed Zoe planted in his head when he randomly caught up with her, too, must really be messing with him. All we need is Cassidy to send the guy a text and Kevin really will be sent over the edge. (Sorry, Sloane!)
So Kevin’s already thinking about Sophie when Randall makes his big rainy-day bachelor-party movie selection and whips out Jerry Maguire, one of Kevin’s favorites, and yeah, sure, exactly what five dudes gathered together in a cabin would select to watch. We learn from trips to the past that this movie means a lot to Kevin. He first saw it with Jack in theaters, where upon it ending, both Pearson guys declared it to be the “best movie ever.” My head wants to say there’s no way in hell Jack Pearson would want to see this movie, but a film about a handsome guy who makes grand gestures and self-important, impassioned speeches? My heart knows that tracks.
Then, in a visit to the Middle Three time period, right after Kevin returns to the East Coast after an unsuccessful first pilot season in Los Angeles, Rebecca takes the kids and their respective significant others out to the cabin at the start of the summer, and they watch the movie again. Kevin — who has upset his wife, Sophie, by repeatedly saying that their long-distance relationship was easy and he’ll be going back to L.A. a lot, without even considering her feelings or how they’ll make their marriage work — is inspired. He writes his own Jerry Maguire–esque manifesto, but his is all about his big, beautiful future with Sophie. “You and me until the very end,” Kevin tells her.
In the present day, as the movie ends, Kevin is already angst-ing about several things and then Uncle Nicky goes and makes a remark about how Kevin is basically “Jerry 2.0,” because Jerry fell in love with the kid and then “stuck it out” with the woman to do the right thing. Kevin is highly offended and claims that he’s “crazy about” Madison. It’s awkward because, come on, have Kevin and Madison ever once seemed crazy in love? It also doesn’t help that later, Randall finds him up in their bedroom, and he has dug up that manifesto he wrote about Sophie, wondering how a person knows if they should get married to someone.
Randall attempts to help his brother get rid of his cold feet by having the other men assure him he’s doing the right thing, but wow, these are some terrible fireside pep talks. Nicky apologizes and then talks about his tragic love story. Toby talks about how Jerry Maguire is all a lie and also that he needs a new job before he loses his mind, which is both troubling and unhelpful in this situation. At least Miguel is there to remind Kevin that not all love stories are “written in the stars” — some, like Miguel and Rebecca’s, are just “two people the universe had no plans for, writing their story in the stars together.” It’s about as cheesy as it gets, but it does give Kevin something to think about. At least they can all agree this is a terrible bachelor party. Self-awareness is something!
The bachelorette party is equally as terrible. Just the thought of Madison, Kate, Beth, and Rebecca participating in a sip-and-paint-a-naked-male-model activity is unhinged on its own, but then we learn that the male model they’ll be painting is one of Madison’s ex-boyfriends? And they continue with the naked painting? In the middle of the day??? The show tries to explain it by having Madison say this is the perfect revenge for the guy who ghosted her … but no. NO.
Although this entire concept is haunting, there is a different takeaway we’re supposed to have here: First, when the ladies want to toast to Kevin “knowing a great thing when he saw it,” it’s Madison who is the first to point out that her and Kevin’s story didn’t exactly go that way, and although he didn’t completely ignore her after they had sex, it did take her getting knocked up for anything more serious to happen between them. She is well aware of how things worked out between them. Then, during the Newlywed Game trivia that Kate organized, things go well until they get to a question about what Kevin sees for his and Madison’s future as they grow old together. After a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it panic face, Kevin balks, saying he refuses to get old so this is a trick question. The ladies all laugh it off, but Kate has a panic face, too, and hers is much more telling. We know she witnessed Kevin’s declaration of love for Sophie at the cabin all those years ago, and back then he had no trouble imagining a long, wonderful future with his wife. So Kate has concerns, it seems. But when she has a heart-to-heart with Madison and, you know, just as a friend wants to check in and make sure she is really happy with Kevin, Madison seems happier than we’ve ever seen her. There’s nothing to worry about here!
Later, however, we find Madison in bed replaying that Newlywed Game video, fixated on that moment of trepidation in Kevin’s expression. It seems she saw it, too. Will this wedding actually happen? Will Kevin have to make some Jerry Maguire–esque speech to save it all? And, most important, what are they going to do with all those paintings of Madison’s naked ex-boyfriend??
This Is the Rest
• This Is Us hasn’t focused much on the Rebecca-Beth relationship, but those scenes are a highlight in this episode. Rebecca encouraged a young Beth to believe in herself as she was about to embark on a challenging urban-planning internship and then again in the present, when Beth opens up about pursuing work at a dance conservatory. Beth is worried because those types of dance schools almost broke her when she was younger, but Rebecca reminds her that she is a force and she can change that broken system if she wants. As a bonus, Rebecca gets to feel like a human being again, instead of a patient everyone is worried about. Anyway, the whole through-line is very compelling.
• Nicky is awake late at night on his phone trying to look up Sally Brooks! Be on alert! We know Nicky is wearing a wedding ring in that flash-forward scene, so maybe this weirdo who believes he’ll never love again is going to … love again??
• The KaToby train feels poised to crash at any moment. Toby is still down and out about being unemployed and tells the Circle of Sad Men that his only prospect has been a job in San Francisco, which obviously he can’t take. But then, after being inspired by, well, I guess Jerry Maguire, we see him leaving a message in which he tells the company in San Fran that he is interested in the position. Meanwhile, did anyone else clock Kate’s face when Madison started talking about old couples who have never run out of things to talk about? Kate and Toby have had very little to say to one another these days. Drama is nigh!
• There’s some very sweet Rebecca-Miguel stuff going on in this episode, as he worries about being away from her for the first time in over a year. He calls her late at night and asks her about the sky where she is, and feels connected to her, and they are just the loveliest little couple, guys! Plus, in the flashback to the cabin, we get another phone call in which Miguel is still checking up on her post-Jack’s death, and she talks about how, for the first time, she feels like maybe one day, possibly, she could find some type of love again. She’s healing!
• Kevin is hiring private jets now? I … uh … what?
• Should we talk about how both Kevin’s ex-wife and current fiancée were Kate’s best friend when Kevin met them? (And Zoe is Kevin’s brother’s in-law!) I feel like when Madison said that nothing about their friendship would change, Kate could have had a very compelling counterpoint.
• Between Beth getting all horny over Randall in his fishing gear and Rebecca voting for naked-model art time, there are some very thirsty Pearson ladies in this episode!