THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YADDA-YADDA BROTHERHOOD (THIS IS US RECAP)
Siblings: it’s a complicated relationship. They’re the reason you feel slighted by your parents. You have probably done something cruel and humiliating, like taking a picture of them kissing a Disney figurine of Bambi’s butt, but would kill anyone else who tried to do the same. You are more alike than you think, but will always project your own faults on to them and insist that YOU are the only rational one in the family. You have inside jokes that are inexplicable outside of the coded language you have created. This is the dynamic the intrepid writers of This Is Us are about to embark on today. Do they go about in a nuanced, layered, complex approach? HELL TO THE NO. They’re just going to go full throttle on the idea that brothers are polar opposite, what can you do?
Let’s dig right in.
Mommy Pearson and Daddy Pearson
It’s the early 90s, the kids are 10, and Daddy Pearson has noticed that a decade has gone by and his biological child continues to treat his adopted brother like crap. The solution? Camping. Where boys become men and men become wolves. (Extra points to whoever gets that reference.) Jack is convinced that forcing his sons to poop in the woods will provide the kind of bonding they are seriously lacking.
The trip starts off about as well as you would expect. Little Randall is overachieving and bootstrapping and bravely facing the struggle of building a tent. Little Kevin, fulfilling his destiny as the show’s ultimate useless entity, is sitting there and criticizing everything Randall is doing. There is no stronger metaphor for the status of race relations in this country, but I’m going to let that train of thought go because the news is depressing enough. Just read some Ta-Nehisi Coates and we can talk about it later. Jack notices that his progeny is being terrible and tries to understand why Little Kevin is such a little shithead. After all, Jack is perfect. That’s what we’ve been told since Day One, despite all the alcohol issues. Let’s face it, we’ve all been blindsided by that shot of his buttocks on the very first episode and have yet to recover. Little Kevin, though, is basically growing up to embody almost every adjective used to describe your best friend’s hot but loser boyfriend. Despite all the prodding though, Little Kevin is mum about his seething hatred for Little Randall. It is only after Little Kevin finds Little Randall’s notes detailing his brother’s likes and dislikes that he grows something resembling a heart. Little Randall, budding scientist he is, has been trying to figure out exactly what would make Little Kevin love him. The world hasn’t taught him yet that trying to satisfy the entitled desires of a white man is a losing game. In any case, it’s enough for Little Kevin to go from absolutely horrible to semi-tolerable. He begins to entertain the idea that Little Randall can become his One Black Friend.
The Pearson’s Brothers’ rivalry though is not the most dramatic event that occurs during the weekend. It wouldn’t be This Is Us if there weren’t some inopportune death scare in each episode. This week’s, it’s Jack’s father. The abusive old bastard is rotting away in some nursing home. Rebecca is the only one there to take the call. She has never met him before but since Jack is being a man and simply opting out of dealing with some real life issues, she heads over to the nursing home. Did anyone else feel, uh, conflicted about Rebecca’s little monologue to Ye Olde Bastard? On the one hand, it’s true that Jack overcame all of his father’s abuse and somehow resulted in a better version of himself. On the other hand, uh, it’s still violence. I could not tell if she was throwing shade or giving Ye Olde Bastard some solace. When watching this scene, my entire face clenched up like Melania’s when she’s forced to smell the decaying wheel of cheddar that is her husband. I don’t know. Did not sit well.
In the present, the brothers are also spending time together. Kevin is in town for some big gala his ex-wife/current girlfriend is planning. I refuse to learn her name because one does not learn the names of wallpaper, silly readers. Randall is still having a hard time connecting with Deja. Kevin is not. That is because Deja is 12-years-old and crushing hard on the Manny. Beth is obviously aware of this because she was too once a 12-year-old. The first thing you do when you hit puberty is to lust after Basic Bitches, and their palatable, pumpkin-spice tinged beauty. Kevin’s good looks are so inoffensive, I’m convinced his big break was as a Bumble bot.
Of course, behind that pretty face hides a deep, dark secret. Kevin is well on his way to relapse. He’s lying to his doctor for more prescriptions. He’s lying to Wallpaper about why he’s having a beer. He’s lying to America about having any talent. At the gala, Kevin turns into a belligerent mess real quick. He skips most of the dinner to make frantic calls to his doctor about drugs. He’s not in the dining room when some rich lady buys him off in an auction to participate in this year’s Purge festivities. He gets into an awful fight with Wallpaper, which may be slightly triggering to anyone who’s had the fun experience of dating an addict.
But here is how I know This Is Us is actually a fantasy show disguised as a realistic drama. He somehow has enough sense to encourage Randall to speak to Deja after she freaks out when Randall takes a piece of shrimp tail out of her hands. Randall barges into the ladies’ room where Deja is crying. I swear this isn’t creepy. Over the sacred confessional of the bathroom stall’s crack, Deja reveals why she freaked out so hard when Randall touched her. She spoke of past abuse and violence. Randall says some words of comfort. I do believe Deja will soon understand that being perpetually embarrassed by your father is the epitome of having a father figure. We shall soon see.
Kate announces her pregnancy the way I suspect too many of us do: after hearing her partner make some dumbass joke about pornography. (One incidence of this is already too many.) It’s not enough for Toby to ruin this sweetest of moments. Kate brings it home by mentioning the fact that it’s considered geriatric, her weight and her lifelong list of “tragedies.” Reminder, this is a white woman living in one of the richest countries in the world enjoying a solidly middle class lifestyle. Since Kate truly does believe in the power of jinx—fair—, she demands Toby never speak of it.
Kate is in group therapy, witnessing the return of Madison. For those who don’t know, Madison is an average-sized lady who attends these meetings and blabbers one about how hard her life is. She is the equivalent of Kate, without the actual body issue. I can’t decide who I dislike more. Kat tells off Madison and I find myself rooting for her. Then Madison tells of Kate and I kind of agree. The obvious conclusion is that they’re both terrible people. The whole point of this duel of words though is that it ends up with Kate being so distracted, she accidentally bumps her car into Madison’s. When Madison runs to make sure Kate’s ok, Kate blurts out that she’s pregnant. I guess they’re friends now?
Kate realizes she can’t deny that same joy to her boyfriend. She gives Toby permission to be himself within the confines of a café full of strangers. How does homeboy decide to celebrate? By blasting “I only want to be with you” by Hootie And the Blowfish. It is literally impossible for Toby to be tasteful at any point in his life.
Little Boy Jack
That’s right! Amidst all this back-and-forth, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, we did get a little nugget of intrigue. See, for the first time ever we get a glimpse of Little Boy Jack. A tiny flashback here and there of Jack as a wee going camping with his own dad. Y’all, I am THRILLED. Maybe this means we’ll go further into his complicated relationship with his dad. Maybe I’ll reach some level of enlightenment as to why all my exes, flings, casual dates, hook ups, and complicated dalliances shed big fat tears over their terrible fathers. The patriarchy hurts everyone, people. And this case, it hurts Little Boy Jack. Instead of camping, Dad makes a stop at a rural bar, leaving his son behind in the car. Little Boy Jack mumbles, “he’s coming back” over and over again. To whom, you may ask? TO NICK! In a classic This Is Us twist, we see a bespectacled little boy pop up from the backseat of the care. We also later see Grown Up Jack looking at a picture of him during his Vietnam years and a certain bespectacled someone in uniform with him. What happened to Nick? Did he not make it back from the war? Is he the brainy one? Will we see his ass? We demand answers!
Reasons to Lust After Milo
Jack is in full on Portland hipster mode in this episode. All he needs is a The National playing in the background and a rant about why IPAs are passé.
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
- The Pearson men lying down in a circle, their heads touching each other, as they stare in wonder at the night sky
- Deja recounting all the horrible things that happened to her. The fact that it involves US Weeklies does not make the pain any less hurtful.
- Rebecca waxing poetic to Ye Olde Bastard about what a great father Jack is.
- Little Boy Jack praying his dad stops drinking may very well have broken my hard exterior.
Deep Quote of the Week
“No black man will ever be jealous of being auctioned. Hashtag American history.” –Randall, dropping an ounce of truth in a show that is filled with saccharine platitudes. Really, have you all read your Ta-Nehisi Coates yet? Please stop reading this immediately and go do that instead.