Kate tries to help Toby navigate his depression, as Kevin's obsession with finding out more about Jack's time in Vietnam hits overdrive.
This week on "This Is Us," we found ourselves really noticing how self-absorbed and emotionally selfish the Pearson triplets can be. As likable as they are, we're kind of rooting for the over-arc of the series to be their emotional growth into compassionate people who don't instinctively put their own emotional needs above everyone else.
As an example, what Kevin (Justin Hartley) did this week is not a-okay, violating Zoe's (Melanie Liburd) requested privacy and ruining her post-project ritual for selfish reasons. She even said his photo obsession is one of the reasons she needed a beat away from him, and yet he showed up anyway and threw photo-obsession up all over her nice hotel room, inviting her to join him on a pilgrimage to Vietnam.
Zoe was incredibly gracious in allowing him this intrusion, as she becomes yet another supporting cast-member in the narcissism of the Pearson "Big Three." We saw it again with Randall (Sterling K. Brown), turning Beth's (Susan Kelechi Watson) reveal that she is "not okay" after getting fired into rallying Beth to join his campaign team because together they're unstoppable.
Okay, he's probably right, but in a way was he making her moment about her into a moment about him ... them together at best? Plus, he totally offered her a solution within minutes rather than just let her talk and listen to what she was going through. She said maybe three lines and Randall was redirecting and "fixing" everything.
Now, maybe this is the dynamic of their relationship, but we were kind of hoping for a role-reversal here, with Beth needing Randall to be there for her through this difficult time. Now, it looks like she's going to continue being there for him, instead.
Ironically, the most self-centered character on the show actually was the most supportive of someone else's problems as Kate (Chrissy Metz) beautifully assured Toby (Chris Sullivan) that she wasn't going anywhere, no matter how much his depression gets the best of him at times, or whatever else he might go through. So there's some growth.
Clearly the loss of Jack really impacted them, as we saw him and Rebecca listening to one another this week over Jack's passion for boxing. After struggling with his need for it, Jack opened up ever so slightly to Rebecca about why he needed that outlet, and she was able to compromise with him. It was Communication 101, something the kids still struggle with more often than not.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
"I Need to Peel the Wallpaper"
Alluding to a childhood story, Kevin opened up to Randall about his obsessing over Jack's letters and the photograph of the woman in Vietnam wearing the necklace Jack gave him. Now, Randall knows a thing or three thousand about obsession, so he was totally able to understand Kevin's current need.
And considering Kevin's decided lack of character or depth as a human being since the pilot episode, it's good to see him seeking a deeper understanding of his father, and perhaps in doing so, gaining a better understanding of himself. Like his muscles, Kevin has largely been "for show" thus far on the series, even lacking somewhat in genuine depth when he his rock bottom last season.
Hopefully, this journey goes a way towards rectifying that, though he could stand to learn to respect other people's space a tad more.
"You Have a Brain"
While it was never explicitly stated, we all know young Randall wanted to learn to box so he could beat up Kevin, who was shown bullying him earlier in the episode. But he lied to Jack about his motivations, tricking his old man into teaching him a few moves, against Rebecca's wishes.
But this is all part and parcel of the Randall package. When he wants to accomplish something, nothing will stand in his way. He always finds a way, and if that way is blocked, he will find another way. He's easily the most clever of the Pearson triplets, as Jack was quick to remind him. That is his secret weapon, and it's way more potent than Kevin's fists.
"I Think You Should Go on a Walk With Us"
This was the moment Kate took control of her own marriage, and in some ways regained agency in her own life. After leaning on Rebecca throughout the episode, she made the call to encourage Toby to leave the apartment and go outside with her and their dog, Audio.
It was here that she told him she would be by his side, "for better or worse," and it was here that we saw she can be his rock just as he's been her rock throughout their relationship. In all honestly, we are here for this stronger and empowered Kate Pearson. Here's hoping this is the first step in a new boldness that will help her achieve her dreams.
"He'll Tell You You're Exceptional"
We knew it was coming the second Beth walked into her bedroom and saw Deja sitting there, and boy was it a beautiful moment between them. Deja has been through it with her own mother, and she knows a lot about having to step up and be the grown-up. And even though Beth didn't want that for her, Deja was just who she needed to hear in that moment.
It was also beautiful that Deja felt enough compassion for Beth in that moment to come to her, be vulnerable in this way and talk to her the way we can picture her talking to her biological mother. Randall called Deja "exceptional," and it's moments like that that prove just how right he was. He sees and encourages greatness in others, and that's why Deja knew to push Beth toward him in her lowest moment.
"Teach Me How to Box"
For all the communication and trust struggles that exist between all of the Pearson children, it's amazing how much it didn't impact their parents. Jack and Rebecca had their differences and they fought, but the also always had their ears and hearts open. Jack took a beat and backed down when he knew he was wrong to go behind Rebecca's back and teach Randall to box.
And Rebecca took a beat and stepped back when she realized how important boxing was to Jack. It was unfair of her to just ban him from doing something that was helping him battle his demons. She didn't push him to talk about it, so instead she offered to step into his world, to try and understand a little what boxing does for him.
Compromise and being willing to step back, swallow your pride and truly hear and see the other person is fundamental in healthy relationships. In our narcissistic age -- and the "Big Three" exemplify this -- this is a lost art. It's why we're so combative as a nation politically and it's also why divorce at an all-time high.
"I Know You Don't Have a Campaign Manager"
Honestly, we're not sure why this moment got us, but when Jae-won came into Randall's campaign headquarters to offer his services after calling him out on the street, it hit us what a breakthrough moment this was for Randall. Yes, he totally used Kevin's popularity in South Korea ("The Manny" is the number one show there) to drum up voter registrations, but this doesn't make his heart disingenuous.
Councilman Brown proudly proclaims that he knows how to play the political game, and Randall didn't see any other way but to step into the mud and try to reach the community through the neighborhood Sol was ignoring. But just as he genuinely cared about the community his father's building was in, he saw the same desperate conditions in the Korean neighborhood and he really does care.
Randall has always cared, but his approach is always heavy-handed and awkward and it looked like this gambit was going to go that way, too. This was the moment that turned it around, as he finally connected with a group of people, despite how he chose how to seek them out.
"I'm Not Fine"
While we're not totally thrilled with how Randall jumped in and "fixed" Beth's problem, we were absolutely touched by how they got to that moment. He came in trumpeting his success of the day and saw immediately that she wasn't doing well. And so he dropped everything and sat in front of her to fully engage with whatever was going on.
That's the Jack in him.
Beth, to her credit, opened up to him and admitted that she'd only been pretending to be fine. She's so used to having to be the strong one for Randall, it apparently never crossed her mind that he could be the strong one for her. And so, she kept pushing herself and it took the words of a little girl to remind her that Randall loves her and believes in her and he can totally be her rock, too.
We're hopeful that her working on Randall's campaign doesn't just make all of her anxiety and stress go away, though, as it seems a tad tidy, and a disservice to the amazing Watson, who deserve spotlight moments like these to shine as an actress. That said, her and Randall working together could shoot up fresh new sparks that might be fun to watch.
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