The youths are testing me this week. THEY ARE TESTING ME. Last week’s sojourn with Jack and his mom and Cat Benatar might have been emotionally and physically devastating (I cried a lot, okay?), but it is 1,000 percent preferable to this hellish jaunt with several This Is Us teens. Let’s start with Deja and Malik because I’m legitimately infuriated on Randall and Beth’s behalf. They’re like the parent jackpot, and these two dummies are squandering it over what? Love? Get over it.
Randall and Beth are still reeling from all the bold-faced lying Deja did not too long ago, and when they learn that Malik is in town and wants to cook dinner for their family, they can’t help but think something’s up. They break out their old friend the Worst Case Scenario Game and have at it. Sure, Malik could just want to apologize for being part of the Weekend of Lies, but more likely, they think, it could be something like Deja’s pregnant or the two eloped.
The truth is a little more complicated than any of that. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long to suss it out of these ding-dongs. You thought you were gonna pull one over on Beth? Beth is not fooled by Malik’s heartfelt apology or his delicious brown-butter gnocchi. She is certainly not fooled by Deja having Tess and Annie try to distract their parents with thoughtful questions and knock-knock jokes. Beth knows Tess is not thoughtful!! I will say I very much appreciate and buy the dynamic that Beth immediately senses her kids’ shenanigans, and Randall, sweet, dear Randall, falls for them immediately. It takes Beth yelling, “Tactics!! These are all tactics!!” to snap Randall out of it and force Deja into spilling her news.
It seems this high-school junior and college freshman have decided that Deja is going to graduate early and then move to Boston with Malik. The announcement does not go over well. And it certainly doesn’t help when Deja’s all like, “I’ve lived more life in my 17 years than most people twice my age!” and “You should get it, Randall!” The disrespect from this child!! Randall’s head might explode, so he leaves the table. Malik finds him out on the stoop and their conversation boils down to Randall telling Malik that if he really loves Deja, he’d let her go. He’d let her find her own path because leaving high school, moving away from her family, and moving in with her boyfriend and his baby at 17 is not what’s best for her. Malik’s like, Yeah, that’s not happening. The whole time I kept thinking that Randall and Beth should call in Malik’s parents for backup because surely those two have notes on this situation.
While Randall is still adamant that they simply refuse to allow Deja to blow up her life like this, Beth warns him to be a little more sensitive. Deja and Malik believe themselves to be some kind of Romeo and Juliet, and if they push too hard, Beth thinks they could lose Deja forever. Listen, this house needs more discipline, but Beth’s probably right in thinking that Deja’s going to Boston no matter what. Of course, we are privy to some useful information that Beth and Randall are not: We know that in the flash-forward to when Rebecca’s dying that Deja is in medical school, she’s secretly pregnant, and she and Randall seem to have a warm and loving relationship. So, however things shake out, Deja will eventually find her own path.
Are you fired up now? Cool, let’s move on to the other youth giving us trouble: Post–Jack’s death Kate. We’ve known all along that Kate and her mother had a rocky relationship for most of their lives — we’ve seen glimpses of it in all timelines, including the present day when we first met them. They’ve only recently moved past their shit and became close. I mean, when Rebecca tells Kate she’s her best friend?! I wept! These two have been through so much together, and this trip back to their lives not long after Jack died (they are in the new house, and Kevin has already moved to Los Angeles at this point) shows us just how bad things got. They hit rock bottom here. It’s … excruciating?
It’s very clear that Kate (I guess 19-ish here) is taking out all of her grief and pain and, yes, guilt (damn you, Louie!!!) over her dad’s death on her mother. The girl has a lot of anger over what she lost, and sometimes it’s easier to be angry at a specific person than just the universe in general. It doesn’t mean the things she says to Rebecca don’t hurt. Holy hell, they are cruel. She starts by ripping into Rebecca and Miguel for spending all their time sitting on the couch and watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. She’s very rude!! Still, it gets Rebecca and Miguel talking about maybe getting Rebecca out of her comfort zone. Do I think Miguel should be the one to decide that Rebecca is now ready to get back out there? No, but I don’t think she’d agree to head out to a speed-dating event if she didn’t agree to some extent.
And so Rebecca and Miguel embark on 15 first dates. Fifteen! It looks as awful as it sounds. It certainly doesn’t help that the only thing Rebecca can talk about on her three-minute dates is the nitty-gritty of how her husband died. Right down to the candy bar! But just as Miguel suggests they bail on the rest of the evening if their next date doesn’t go well (he fell in love with her the moment she complimented his hair, didn’t he?), a familiar face sits down across from her. It’s PTA Matt. Matt was the dad who hit on Rebecca in the middle of a RadioShack while she was trying to buy a new camcorder for the Big Three’s graduation. He could not read the room then, but now he’s in a room that is strictly set up for dating! He’s in the right room! The two have some cute banter about Law & Order, and just after their three minutes are up, Matt suggests they grab a coffee afterward (very sorry to that seemingly nice woman Matt is sitting across from when he asks Rebecca out).
The coffee date goes well and ends with a mutual agreement that they should do that again. Just as Rebecca is celebrating the fact that she did something she was terrified of and it went well, here comes fucking Kate Pearson to shit all over it. She’s aghast to learn her mother was on a date and doesn’t want to hear that Rebecca thinks she deserves happiness or how she thinks it’s what Jack would want. Kate calls her a slut. Rebecca slaps her. It’s all-around awful to watch. Rebecca immediately calls Miguel and breaks down: She just snapped. It was so hard to even force herself to go out and then this happened. She tells him her grief is unbearable. Kate overhears the whole thing and begins to understand that she has been the biggest pile of shit.
This story line is juxtaposed with a Kate and Rebecca story in the present day. Rebecca’s been more than happy to help Kate while Toby’s away — now he’s delaying trips to hang out on yachts with his boss, very cool Tobes — and when she offers to watch the kids when Kate has to go to work, Kate invites her to come watch her class and bring the kids along. Rebecca is thriving! She’s playing piano for Kate’s students! She’s singing Lorde’s “Royals”! She is learning what Doja Cat is (spoiler: not a cat)! But all of this joy comes crashing down when she learns there was an ulterior motive to this trip: Kate and Toby have decided that based on Rebecca’s last PET scan, they don’t feel comfortable with Rebecca watching the kids on her own anymore.
This is a tricky subject, isn’t it? You can understand where Kate and Toby are coming from, but it probably warrants a bigger discussion rather than just a decision handed down. Kate and Toby are the parents here, but maybe it needed a little more tact. Like I said, tricky. Kate seems to know this too, which is why, after Rebecca storms out, she goes to visit her mom and try again. Kate’s clearly upset by all of this, especially because they’ve worked so hard to get to where they are in the relationship. She knows how terribly she’s treated her mom in the past, and she’s upset that they wasted so much time that they could’ve shared together. And then she gives Rebecca a peace offering: She wants her to teach baby Jack how to play the piano, just like she taught her. It’s just so nice; I can barely stand it.
Last week, the episode ended with a real emotional gut punch, and the same thing happens here: We get a montage of Rebecca and Kate sitting at the piano together throughout different points in time. There’s Rebecca teaching little Kate how to play “Heart and Soul,” and then Rebecca and Kate leaning on one another at the piano after they make up from their big fight, and Rebecca starting to teach baby Jack while Kate watches on. The whole thing ends with present-day Rebecca and Kate at the piano, with Kate leaning her head on her mom. Rebecca has a complicated relationship with all of her children, but it seems like she and Kate have come the furthest.
This Is The Rest
• Randall really has Kevin’s number, doesn’t he? When Kevin tells his brother that he’s headed to PA to check on the new cabin construction and he’s invited newly divorced Cassidy to join, Randall’s response is: “Do me a favor and don’t propose.” Perfect! I’m very happy these two are so buddy-buddy again.
• Randall becomes a stand-in for the audience and gives us a whole rundown of Kevin’s love life thus far, wondering if Cassidy has really come from behind and beaten out all of Kevin’s other prospects. Although it seems like Kevin’s future wife could be a mystery This Is Us drags out for the rest of the season.
• Cassidy has Kevin’s number, too: When he tries to pitch them finding love through their respective “darkness,” Cassidy is like, Uhh, hard pass. Kevin thinks he lives in a rom-com and Cassidy decidedly does not. Cassidy telling Kevin that he’s “chasing the wrong blonde in the wrong city,” and Kevin admitting that she could be talking about several people really sums his whole deal up.
• Wow, I hope Madison told her now hot-and-heavy boyfriend Eli about her eating disorder before Kevin did!!
• Nicky & Edie forever!! Nicky has Edie join him at the cabin, and are these two not just the cutest? We learn that Edie has been divorced three times and has two kids and in the span of, what I assume, is just a few weeks, she’s already softened Nicky. He seems lighter! He’s so happy! I mean, he’s still weird as hell, but she doesn’t put up with his bull. Also, she hates The Manny!!
• “A real live woman? What do you mean by that?”
• I’m sorry, Kevin is still watching Entourage? No, you know what. I’m not surprised by this.
• Oh wow, remember when we were all so into Who Wants to Be a Millionaire???