THE VERY SPECIAL KATE EPISODE (THIS IS US RECAP)
Motherhood. A simple word that is pregnant with so many definitions, it might as well be the Octomom of vocabulary. It is often cited as the greatest joy a woman can experience. It is also the source of some of women’s most crushing oppression. Opting in or opting out is rarely seen as anything less than a political move and it turns out that politics will usually have more of a say in it than we care to believe. It carries whole industries. It is hope for the future. It is a source of an entire identity.
And it is something that will be resolved in 45 minutes of content and 15 minutes of commercial break on NBC.
Guys, I have been dreading this episode for a whole week. A WHOLE WEEK. Kate is the character that most inspires in me an urge to throw an axe through my TV. My biological clock died somewhere around the same time that I stopped believing in Santa Claus, so my relationship to pregnancy is either of complete indifference or palpable terror. Yet, I know miscarriage can be devastating, a life-altering moment and there’s no way I’d put that kind of delicate topic in the hands of a show that brought us Toby as a romantic interest. In fact, I don’t even want that kind of delicate topic in my evil hands and watching This Is Us is no fun unless I can let my true horrible self out into the daylight. I feel…is this tact? This sense of unease? This strange inclination to bite my tongue in favor of kindness? I don’t like it.
Was it awful? Eh. Was it fluff? Meh. Was it a slog? Kind of. Let me try to break it down for you.
We are back to that fateful weekend where Kevin broke his knee and spirit. Teen Kate is directionless, or so we think. While her brothers are out being football stars and super nerds, Teen Kate is lost in the sweet, sweet tunes of her Walkman. She has the prettiest hair in all the land (for real, that hair is gorgeous), but what else can she offer this vast wide world? A bad mood? A host of daddy issues? Irritation?
This is the question that’s most nagging Mommy Pearson. Yes, Kate is very adept at delicately cleaning a dog’s balls. This actually happened, it’s not me being a dick. (Pun!) But a woman can’t live off of that alone. She needs dreams! Ambition! So Mommy Pearson goes up to her room to have a nice heart-to-heart, which is the worst kind of conversation to have with your mom when you’re a teen. You’re supposed to be all dark and mysterious, and here comes mom to let you know that you’re actually just a regular human being. No teenager wants to hear that! Mommy Pearson means well, though, and tells Kate that it’s ok to feel lost. It’s what college and $160,000 in student loans is for. Society gives you 4 years to write crappy poetry and protest that year’s unpopular war and in exchange the unregulated free market slowly crushes your soul.
Kate, of course, takes it the wrong way. Because this is Kate’s most defining personality trait. What’s a mother to do? What all mothers do: go through your stuff until they find out why you have a stick up your ass. It is here that Mommy Pearson stumbles upon Kate’s application to the Berklee College of Music. The situation is more dire than I expected. Kate wants to spend 4 years of her life and $160,000 in student loans writing terrible scat lyrics and protesting that year’s unpopular Wallflowers album.
At the football game, Mommy Pearson tells Kate that she knows about her dreams. Kate’s first response: “HOW DARE YOU?” Once she gets past her self-righteous indignation, Mommy Pearson begins to tell her how much she believes in her. Of course, Kevin has to go and ruin everything because that piece of milquetoast needs to be the center of attention. The conversation resumes in the hospital, while they wait for Kevin to finish getting his MRI. Mommy Pearson tries to reach out again. What is Kate’s big deal? Kate’s whole grudge against her mom is that she can’t stand to disappoint her and can’t tell the difference between her mom feeling disappointment with her and being disappointed in her because Kate can only look inward, to her feelings. Then Mommy Pearson rambles about the terrible relationship she has with her mother (“Bad Becky”) and how she wanted a daughter so she could experience something different. That’s the thing with children though: They will actually do and be whatever and whoever they want. And Kate has chosen to be insufferable.
Kate is excited. She’s making lists, she’s taking vitamins, she’s drinking Toby’s gross green smoothie. In the TV universe, this kind of happiness will not stand. We see Kate going to the bathroom to measure the tub to see if the fancy baby tub she ordered will fit. Next thing we know there’s a crash, a scream and Kate is in the hospital.
Imagine going through the worst day of your life and having to deal with Toby. Kate has my deepest condolences.
At this point, we know that Kate’s thing is shutting people out. The next day, Toby has planned an entire day of comfort sitcoms and sobbing. Kate, however, is ready to head to her paying gig. She has a red dress on that screams “I’m pushing down every uncomfortable emotion I’m feeling right now.” But no amount of crimson lipstick can wipe the pain away, especially when you have an adorable mommy/daughter duo dancing to your concert. Kate walks off to the stage and into an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and I feel like we finally have some shared interests here.
In the meantime, Toby goes all the way to delivery docks to find the fancy baby tub package that is on its way. This is what kills me about Toby. They write him with the intention of showing him as some wildly romantic, slightly goofy, loveable oaf. Yet his actions actually represent the kind of man boy entitlement that does nothing but bulldoze over anyone else’s sense of wellbeing. Case in point: Carl, the innocent dockworker. Toby actually utters the words “I am a strong, powerful man!” to this dude to bully him into finding the package. It’s supposed to come off as some moment of overwhelming love and protective instincts.
You know what I see? A white dude throwing around his status to a low-income minority laborer who has to do what he says because he has no other recourse. I AM FIRMLY ON TEAM CARL, HERE. Sure, Toby can go home with the sweet satisfaction that he intercepted the package before it broke Kate’s heart. Carl, however, will be berated by his incompetent manager for stepping out of the established procedure and will be cut a whole afternoon’s pay since god forbid the corporation he works for suffers any losses. Carl can’t run to HR because they are knees-deep in yet another sexual harassment allegation and the workers haven’t been unionized since 1985, after they merged with their biggest competitor. Carl avoided the massive layoffs by keeping his head down and doing what other yelling, white balding men told him to do. Since then wages have stagnated to the same levels as those in 1995, when adjusting for inflation, and benefits have been cut by half. Yet Carl persists in this job, and the other 2 he works in, because he’s one of four siblings who are barely getting by. His sister does have 2 kids after all and another one on the way, and her husband hasn’t quite been the same since he got in that accident and his insurance refused to cover physical therapy. Carl just needs to put in a couple of more years so he has enough money saved up for his own business and his last remaining credits at the local college. This run in with Toby will set him back, he’ll have to kiss his supervisor’s ass again so he can lobby for a raise in his annual review. It might mean that he can’t pay that month’s electricity bill either, but he’s been through worse. As long as he doesn’t get fired and he doesn’t have another encounter with some random man who claims to be strong and powerful.
THAT’S WHAT I THINK ABOUT TOBY’S GRAND ROMANTIC GESTURE.
Toby freaks out when he can’t find Kate at her job. After hours of driving around, looking for her, he returns home. Kate is hurtful and self-centered, but I’ll give her a pass cause she has a legit reason this time around to be so deep in her pain that it’s a struggle to be empathetic. Where she crosses the line is when she says, “It happened to me, it didn’t happen to you.” Yet it did happen to Toby. Not in the same way, but he was also suffering a loss. He heads out to clear his head and yell at another service worker.
Mommy Pearson surprises Kate. For once, Kate decides to embrace the love her mom gives her. They talk about their shared mourning, their guilt, and their pain. It’s a very touching moment, but is it enough for someone to get over a miscarriage and decide to try again?
UH YES, ACCORDING TO THIS IS US.
I can’t. I cannot even. Thankfully, there is only one more episode of our national nightmare. The Very Special Randall episode and season finale is next week. I knew they were saving our favorite kid for last.
Reason to Lust After Milo
Very few Milo sightings this week, so even a brief glimpse was a welcome break.
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
- All the slow-cam, silent shots of the moment Kate miscarries.
- Mommy Pearson telling Teen Kate that a parents’ job is to love a child even when that child is cold-stone bitch.
- Mommy Pearson yelling about yellow onions. Trust me.
Deep Quote of the Week
“I wanted to be the mom that had her arms wide open just waiting for you to fall right in if you needed it, and somehow…we just never got there, did we?”- Mommy Pearson, quoting Creed. That’s a Creed lyric, right? I’m not just making that up?