This Is Us
You had one job, Malik! One simple job: Do not let Randall Pearson, Philadelphia City Councilman, strip down while his livestream was still being broadcast to his constituents. One job!
What a delight to have this storyline join us in season five: While shadowing Randall at work, Malik gets distracted when his mom calls about his daughter, he forgets to shut down Randall’s livestream, and Randall unwittingly starts to get changed for a run while still broadcasting live. This show is begging for more levity to give us a break from the constant trauma the Pearsons are wading through, so yes, I do think I’ll take Beth dancing around the house trying to imitate Randall’s livestream performance even if only for a few seconds. As we all know, much worse things can happen on video meetings and livestreams, so in the grand scheme of things, Randall showing off his hot bod and joy to get out there and run really isn’t anything to be alarmed about. (He’s getting great reviews online!) Still, I do wish Malik showed even 10 percent more remorse for the position he put Randall in. He tells Randall that the reason he was a few minutes late that morning, and why he was nodding off a little throughout the day, and yes, why he forgot to cut off the livestream, is because his daughter is his first priority. Noble in thought, but sorry dude, lots of people are single parents and they still can’t get away with accidentally letting their boss get almost naked on the internet.
Instead, Randall is going to give Malik an internship. Randall sees a lot of himself in his daughter’s boyfriend, and he warns him not to make his dreams smaller just because he needs to be there for his family. It’s what Randall did after Jack died (his new therapy is having him dig deep!!). Malik tells him he doesn’t need to worry — he has big plans for his life: Ivy League college, culinary school, and opening the first restaurant in Philly to get three Michelin stars. Much to Deja’s chagrin (but secret love for it), a bromance is born.
Equally delightful about this storyline is the fact that now we’ll get to watch This Is Us show us how Randall stripping on the internet was actually his destiny, because when this video goes viral, the fishing grandfather who has pictures of Randall’s birth mother Laurel sees it. He’s very interested in the part of the livestream in which Randall talks about his birth father William Hill. The man knows that name. It looks like it’s only a matter of time before Randall gets some answers about Laurel. All thanks to a little impromptu striptease. What a world!
On the opposite side of the spectrum is what’s going on with Kate. Against their better judgement, Kate and Toby are getting deeply attached to Ellie and the baby she’s planning to give up for adoption. They’ve even picked out a name for the baby, Chloe. They’re in too deep! Ellie asks Kate to go to her next ultrasound appointment with her and while in there Kate actually uses the name Chloe when talking about the baby. It is awkward as hell and Ellie looks uneasy about the whole thing.
Kate asks Ellie if she just ruined everything, if Ellie’s having second thoughts about going through with this adoption. That’s not what’s going on at all. Apparently, Chloe was this bitch from highschool who tried to keep Ellie and her late husband apart when they first started dating as teens. The name threw her. Ellie assures Kate she’s not having any second thoughts. She tells her about when she got pregnant after just one night out, two years after her husband died. It took a few months, but she knew she couldn’t keep it. At first, she was going to have an abortion. She made it to the parking lot of the clinic, but decided it wasn’t the right choice for her. But she knows she’s not meant to have this baby and Kate and Toby are — it’s the only thing she is sure of. When Ellie asks if Kate’s going to judge her, Kate stops her right away. There’s no judgement here. But still, something seems off about Kate after this conversation. Even Kevin can tell something’s up when they talk on the phone later and Kate mentions that all of the Big Three have things from their past they need to work out. (Uh, yeah, that’s like the premise of the whole show.)
Back at home, Kate needs to tell Toby something. Something she’s apparently never told anyone in her family. And then we’re back with 18-year-old Kate. We see the scene from last season when — after Rebecca, Kevin, and Randall run up to the cabin to get Kate away from that piece of shit Marc — Rebecca is saying goodbye to Kate as she and Randall head up to New York to visit Kevin. You know, that time when Rebecca goes to NYC and DOES NOT make out with an adult human male who can pull off a turtleneck. Anyway, 18-year-old Kate is left all alone and now we see why she wanted her mom out of there so fast: She takes a pregnancy test and it’s positive. Prepare yourselves: We’ll definitely be headed back to that time period soon.
The rest of “Honestly” is about Kevin Pearson and his history of being coddled. It doesn’t offer much new information — for years he had his sister as his assistant, there at his side to pump him up and heap on praise whenever he needed it. We know Kevin is like this. Now we know Kevin was always like this.
The Kevin storyline is all tied into his new movie role — I’m sorry, film role, that pretentious director would have my head — the one in which he’s a hot lawyer. He’s nervous. The director, Jordan Martin Foster, is highly sought after and both Kevin and his co-star Ava are thrilled to be working with him. JMF seems to be only thrilled to be working with Ava. He barely says anything to Kevin. And when they rehearse, he keeps stopping Kevin and having him start over, but offers no notes. When Kevin asks for some, he replies that he didn’t know Kevin was the type to need an “’atta boy.” Afterward, when Kevin presses him about it, he gives him a speech about how Kevin is a good actor, but he could be great. Later, he sends Kevin a gift basket that says ’Atta boy. I don’t understand JMF’s tactics, but regardless, Kevin’s career is the least interesting thing about this character, forever and always.
Of course, this storyline isn’t just about his career. We jump back to when the Big Three were first born and Rebecca and Jack and Jack’s beard are dealing with sleep training issues. Kevin will not stop crying. They know they need to let him cry it out, but they can’t do it. For Rebecca, it’s nearly impossible. Eventually, so fed up with not being able to sleep, Jack has to physically block Rebecca from going into Kevin’s room when he starts crying. Just as Jack’s about to go in, Kevin stops.
The pattern repeats itself in the ’90s with eighth-grade Kevin. His football coach tells him he has all this potential, but he’s not working hard enough. Kevin’s already working harder than he ever has before, and he’s exhausted. He wants to quit. Jack tells him there’s no way, but Rebecca decides she wants to tell Kevin he can quit if he’s miserable. Jack isn’t surprised — she’s let Kevin quit almost everything he’s started. “It’s made him soft,” he says.
Kevin’s been standing on the steps listening to the whole conversation and it spurs him to do something drastic: He asks Randall for help studying his playbook. So when Rebecca goes upstairs to tell Kevin it’s okay to quit, she finds him doing something she never expected to see: Kevin and Randall working together over Randall’s patented multi-color index card system… and also the boys going in for a high-five. The Pearson brothers! Kevin knew exactly who to go to when he needed to work harder, to be better.
And hey, look, Kevin’s using those same multi-colored index cards in the present day to study his lines. ’Atta boy.
This Is the Rest
• Kevin tells Kate about the trouble he’s having with his new director and that he really needs this performance to not be so tired. Kate points out that “tired” was exactly how Randall described Kevin’s acting during their front lawn argument. Kevin just wants his brother’s approval!
• While on the phone with Kevin, Kate brings up the conversation she had with Randall about growing up in a white family. Kevin mostly dismisses it because, as he puts it, their parents were obsessed with Randall. But then, when eighth grade Kevin asks Randall why he studies so hard and Randall responds “being me, at my school, I have to be the best,” Little Kevin just goes back to his work. Another example of how alone Randall was, even when he tried to open up.
• “Your father and boyfriend spending the entire day together, what could go wrong???” The way Randall tortures Deja with this new dynamic is so perfectly a dad thing to do.
• Anyone else moved by the fact that Deja watches Randall’s livestream every day?
• It was Miguel and Shelly who told Jack and Rebecca about crying it out. And when Jack continually reminds Rebecca of this, she hilariously responds, “Who made them experts anyway? Their kids are train wrecks!”