A powerful message resonates across time as Randall continues struggling to find his place and fit in among his peers -- meanwhile, Kevin and Kate struggle with love.
"This Is Us" played a little storytelling trickery, utilizing its time-crossed format to manipulative effect to save a big surprise for the final moments of the hour.
Along the way, we witness three golf games across time that connected Randall and Jack. Meanwhile, in the present it was date night for both Kate and Kevin, with different results for each. But while Kevin's date with a random redheaded woman in Bradford, PA would prove a catalyst to move his character forward, we could have done without Kate's storyline altogether this week.
Yes, we get that it is common and believable for new parents to struggle in the sex department. It's also common if one partner loses weight and the other does not for their to be anxiety and insecurity about that. The problem is that the writers ticked off every box on the cliche list for both of those storylines and just mashed them together.
Of course Kate is going to worry about Toby not being attracted to her anymore. Of course Toby is going to be hyper-aware of this and sensitive to things like her telling him not to get rid of his bigger pants that don't fit him anymore. Does that sound like someone who might be secretly hoping you'd gain the weight back?
We never find out for sure if that's what Kate was thinking or not, but it's safe to say she was at least grappling with that notion. Or she was concerned he was falter in his weight loss mission simply because she knows she's faltered many times over the years. The problem is that all of this is tired ground and retreading it simply because Chris Sullivan lost weight isn't as necessary as the writers seem to think.
Thank god they have an adorable chemistry on-screen and Sullivan can deliver comedic lines like nobody's business, because their banter was the only thing keeping us from rolling our eyes every time they were on our screens this week. Please give them something more interesting to do than be walking cliches. "This Is Us" is better than this.
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.
"Please Start Dialing"
"For the sake of our sex life, call your mother," Toby says after more than nine months of getting shut down by Kate. We know we said this whole storyline was a bit of a bore, but Chris Sullivan is an absolute treasure on this show and probably the best thing to happen to Chrissy Metz's character.
He plays off of her so beautifully and has brought out a more comedic side in her own delivery, as when she sheepishly said "both?" after cutting up the wrong pair of pants as a statement of support for his physical transformation. We like this couple better happy, and we love Toby happy, so here's hoping the amorous five-minute tryst was enough to get them back on track ... at least until the next tragedy (we remember what show this is).
2 tissues (the line is so creepy it's funny)
"Then You Don't Know Me"
One of the most poignant through-lines for the entire series is Randall's struggle to understand his place in the world, in a white family and even in his own family as an adult. What makes it work is that the creators don't shy away from showing that sometimes love just isn't enough.
We never doubt that Jack and Rebecca love their son with all their heart, but he's dealing with things and issues they can't fully grasp. Jack trying to connect with Randall over his own discomfort at a country club can't relate to Randall's awareness that he may not have even been allowed there back then.
And at this tender young age, on the cusp of his teenage years, Randall is probably finally beginning grasping the enormity of what it means to be black in America. Sure, he's seen glimpses, but there's a heaviness to that experience that no white person can fully understand, no matter how well-meaning they might be.
It was wonderful seeing Jack question with Rebecca whether they allowed Randall to quit the dojo because they were intimidated by its mostly black clientele. The fact they are always diligent of their own potential racism or bias is key. They're not perfect people, but they never stop trying to be better.
"I will listen better and lecture less," Jack told his son on the links, after Randall proved inspired by Tiger Woods to break some ground of his own. Granted, he followed this up with a bit of a lecture, but the message was still there. Jack is acknowledging that he, too, can learn from Randall and that sometimes it's okay to not have the right answer.
And then, to top it off, he invited Randall's mentor to dinner to try and forge a more meaningful connection with the positive black adult influence in Randall's life. That's the kind of love we can get behind!
3 tissues (because too many parents don't know the importance of listening)
"That Doesn't Make You Unlovable"
This softer side of Kevin is nice to see, and it was poignant in his otherwise sadly predictable journey with Cassidy. As he was set up to be helping her reconnect with her husband, we were really hopeful that this was the direction they would. Now granted, they still could, but not before sliding down the path of least resistance.
Kevin was kind to Cassidy at a vulnerable moment, and he said the right words to acknowledge the trauma of her life experiences and that she can still be a good person, a desirable person, despite what she's been through and how she's still grappling with everything.
Now, it's safe to say that because she is damaged, she reacted poorly to Kevin's kindness, and because he is damaged, he reacted in suit with a timely, "Wait." What doesn't need to happen for either character is an exploration of a relationship after their afternoon delight. We were hoping they could serve as proof that platonic friendships between straight men and women can exist on television without sexual tension, but that ship has sailed.
Now we can only hope that this will prove a one-off "mistake," if you will, and they'll realize they have a better future as friends than disastrous lovers.
All of that said, on a personal level Kevin made a really poignant and meaningful connection with Cassidy and seemed to do it with no thought for himself or what he migth gain from it. Despite this setback, he is growing.
2 tissues (we applaud the growth, not the stumble)
"Play the Game"
Okay, we have to admit that we kind of saw this twist coming, but it didn't make it any less sweet when we finally got the reveal that everything adult Randall was doing was an orchestrated maneuver based on some wisdom imparted on him by the old man.
Randall has been struggling to fit in (again) with the other councilmen in his new position, and yet he never gave up. He just kept trying to come at it through different means. And finally, he decided that the solution might just be to swallow some pride and play the game. And in the world of politics, you follow the game wherever it takes you.
In this case, it was back to the golf course where we he managed to convince his arch-nemesis Wilkins to give him a chance by being so bad at golf that Wilkins started offering him advice.
What was even better about this was the advice was coming from a place of humility from Jack's part. He already knew that Randall could achieve things he could have never dreamed of, because of his own shortcomings. Jack allowed his pride to hinder his relationship with Rebecca's father during their golf game.
He turned down a job offer that could have helped them out financially because he'd been insulted by Rebecca's father. Now, the guy was a jerk, sure, but Jack refused to play the game and made his life more difficult in the long run. It wasn't until much later that he even tried, but even then he was never very good at it, as evidenced by Miguel having to bail him out of trouble last week.
So he determined to set his son up for more success than he could achieve by teaching him to do the one thing he couldn't; to be the type of man who knows when your pride can be the enemy of your goals. Why create more obstacles for yourself when there is an easier path if you're just willing to take it (within reason, of course).
2 tissues (for imparting a challenging lesson well)
"Do You See Yourself There?"
At the same time, we couldn't help but applaud when Jack turned David's words around on him, painting a powerful picture of his life with Rebecca and asking her father if he could see himself in that world. This after David had asked him if Jack could see himself at Rebecca's wedding reception at the country club.
These two men butting heads is infantile and all too real, which is why it's frustrating to watch. And we're not really supposed to be rooting for either of them, a point driven home by having our hero Jack immediately stumble and make a bit of an ass of himself moments after saying those words to David.
It's important that the audience not see this as a triumphant moment from Jack. As much as he was standing up for his principles against someone who was treating him like crap, Jack also had the option to take the higher road here and show that he could be the bigger and more gracious man. Instead, he drank and picked a fight.
But we can't help it, we still love it when the underdog gets in a good jab at his bully, and David has been coming down on Jack (behind Rebecca's back) since day one. Even worse, he looks down on him as if he were a lesser person because he isn't the white collar worker that David is, even though his own father wasn't, either.
That's called forgetting where you came from, which is something Jack never did.
3 tissues (we're not proud of this one, but we still applauded)
There was so much love in the way Jack said this word to Randall over and over again, and we love that all three actors who portray the adopted Pearson got their chance to take their shots, and continued hearing his voice even in the eras where he's no longer with us.
It was in this sequence that we learned just how much discipline and hard work Jack gave to teaching Randall how to be amazing at golf. He was setting his sun up for more than he set himself up for, and he was imparting in him a drive and work ethic to never give up.
Plus, Jack proved a pretty good teacher, which makes us wonder if he wasn't better than he let on to Randall. It's not unheard of for parents to downplay their own abilities to help boost the confidence of their children.
Regardless, it created a beautifully poignant tether across time and between Jack and Randall that resonated beautifully into the present as Sterling K. Brown shot a golf ball into the lake in honor of his father's biggest weakness on the course.
Sometimes parents don't realize just how powerful their influence can be on their children. But here were are, more than two decades since Jack's death, and it was his words and wisdom that won the day for Randall in his new job.
It stays with them, the words we say, the things we do, the way we love. It stays with them forever, so be mindful when wielding such power.
5 tissues (because it matters, dammit!)
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