INADEQUACY (THIS IS US RECAP)
I have to say, I like it when episodes have a unifying theme. It makes me feel like I’m putting my postgraduate studies to good use. My parents will be pleased to hear that all that close reading finally amounted to something! In the case of This Is Us, this week was all about inadequacy. Fitting for a show that is constantly punching above their weight. Let’s hop to it!
We’ll start by examining the triplets as they battle their own insecurities. At the start of the episode, they’re getting ready to see Kevin return for a guest appearance in a show that would not be out of line with most of NBC’s lineup. Though Kevin stormed out of The Manny in season 1, he is now back and ready to debase himself once more. This is making him feel things, which means that Kevin has a perpetual look of confusion throughout the hour. Randall has been procrastinating on filling out the adoption forms for the troubled teen you know will be introduced during sweeps week. Finally, Kate is fretting over her mom’s impending visit because their relationship is complicated because god forbid we ever see a mom and daughter relationship that is healthy. Bitches be trippin’ and all that. As they wait on set for Kevin’s performance, shit starts to go down. Life imitating art! The world is a stage! What would Guy Debord have to say about the spectacle of such a trite series? Inquiring minds want to know!
We’ll start with Randall’s mini panic attack. He decides to take a walk with the unfilled adoption papers, mumbling something about needing fresh air. I can’t remember, to be honest, but Randall is the type of person who always needs fresh air, so I’m going to stick with that. Beth runs out because there is no way in hell she is staying to witness the never-ending mediocrity that is Kevin’s acting career. She also knows that something is up with her husband because he is, as she rightly puts it, “Randalling out on me!” Beth, Queen of My Dreams, this is why America loves you and why you have a special place in my heart, right next to Michelle Obama. Randall and Beth’s marriage is SO convincing because of moments like this. Only a person who truly loves you would dare use your first name as a verb. It did make me wonder what “Inesing out on me” would entail. I can imagine it’s the kind of thing used to describe when I turn into a little munchkin of fury, all wild eyed and high-pitched, as I viciously destroy my lover’s self-esteem. I never said I was a great partner, guys! Just an entertaining one. Anyways, Randall is Randalling because he’s afraid they won’t be able to cope with a traumatized teenager. Fair enough. Most adults can barely cope with your average adolescent. This frustrates Beth, who goes to Kevin’s trailer to calm down. Kevin—who I’m sure went through some turmoil in this episode, but do we really care? —finds her there and then proceeds to tell her that the Randall doesn’t like taking risks. Ok, I’m with you. That Randall only does things he knows he can do well. Ok, go on. That there was only one time that Randall actually confronted his fear of failure and that was when he decided to hit on Beth. Awwwwww, this is sweet.
AND THEN KEVIN PROCEEDS TO ADMIT THAT HE WAS FEEDING RANDALL ALL THE PICK UP LINES HE USED ON BETH, IN SOME PERVERSECYRANO-DE-BERGERAC SCHEME.
Look, I can’t even begin to broach the underlying-slightly-gross incestuous undertones that keep popping up in this show. I refuse to follow that dark trail of thought. It seriously needs to stop. Beth too is visibly grossed out, but it doesn’t prevent her from humping Randall in a wave of love because, dammit, who doesn’t love a man who cons his way into your heart?
Let’s now turn to Kate, the bane of my existence. While they’re waiting for Kevin to appear, Kate gets a call. There’s a singing emergency in a smoky, dark bar and they want her to come in for the gig. This is the first tiny step towards accomplishing her dreams, a dream that she’s had since she was a cute kid in pigtails. A dream that she’s skirted because her pretty and talented mom intimidates her to such a degree that she backed out of the Elementary School talent show, as we see in a flashback. Kate does what any woman would do, when faced with an intimidating life-altering opportunity: She channels the white magic power of Stevie Nicks, harnesses all her feminine force, and belts out a lovely interpretation of “Landslide.” Never mind that the song is rumored to be about cocaine. Haters to the left when it comes to that melody, for it even has the power to melt my frosty heart. Mommy Pearson, unable to resist seeing her only daughter achieve her goal, sneaks out of the set with Toby. She beams. She pays attention. She shushes rude customers. She is basically the embodiment of supportive motherhood, so how does Kate react? By telling her she ruined everything.
Kate, YOU ruin everything.
No, really, when Mommy Pearson asks Kate what horrible crime she committed against her to cause such a landslide of resentment (you see what I did just there), Kate literally answers, “You existed.” Then we hear her bitch and moan some more about how her mom is too pretty to bear. Listen, Kate, my mom too is a MILF and her beauty far surpasses that of my own. But instead of complaining to the high heavens about it, I’m thankful for carrying on those genes. It means that I now have a killer sense of style and the ability to Benjamin Button my way through life. Get your emotional shit together! Mommy Pearson is not the enemy and I hate the fact that she makes me defend her.
Kevin’s storyline is best summed up by this:
Mommy Pearson and Daddy Pearson
In the flashbacks, we see the aftermath of Jack admitting his alcohol problem to Rebecca. Via another flashback. That’s right, the episode incepts itself and does a flashback within a flashback. In this case, Rebecca asks Jack how he kicked the habit before. You see, back when the triplets were in elementary school, Rebecca told him to GET OFF THE WILD TURKEY and that’s the last thing we viewers ever heard of the matter. Because we are dumb, we assumed that her requesting it was enough. Duh, women around the world know this is exactly how a partner’s addiction works. You yell at them and they change, amiright? Turns out there was more to the story.
Jack healed himself from alcohol abuse the same way I heal myself from a terrible break up: by placing inappropriate emotional burdens on an unsuspecting child and exercising a lot. As a way to battle his demons, Jack takes up boxing. As he’s beating the cotton stuffing out of a punching bag, we see another flashback (dear lord, not even Leo can keep up with this timeline) of a young Jack in Vietnam.
Which begs the question: Are we going to see Jack, the Vietnam Saga???? Please let it be so!
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
· Beth and Randall making out like 8th graders in their first school dance
· Jack telling Teen Kate that her perfect dad has a drinking problem
Reasons to Lust After Milo
Ok, this is more about the potential as opposed to the actual moment. However, Vietnam Jack might be what our sore eyes need. It might give us Sweaty-in-the-Jungle Jack. It might give us Shirtless-in-the-Barracks Jack. It will definitely give us Haunted-By-My-Past Jack, which is a long way of sayingH-A-W-T Jack.
Deep Quote of the Week
“You wanted me to be the you that you never became”- Kate, as every single 12-year-old emo tween in America. Except she’s 37.