THIS IS US DRESSED UP AS A GOOD SHOW FOR HALLOWEEN (THIS IS US RECAP)
The one thing I missed about watching TV shows in real time is the Very Special Seasonal Episode. All these streaming services pretty much operate in a constant suspended temporal space so we rarely get the onslaught of holiday-focused musings that we used to get back in the good old days. But boy did This Is Us deliver on that front. Because not only did we get a Halloween episode, we got one that focused on the good old days, AND managed to add in that part of our lives that many of us find terrifying: our 20s. Just kidding! Every single decade in life makes you want to scream in terror.
The episode starts with the whole gang getting ready for Halloween back in the 90s. Little Kate was initially going to be a vet but now she wants a “pretty” costume because it really doesn’t take that long for little girls to internalize the idea that their self worth is wrapped up in their appearance. Jack says yes to Little Kate’s demands for a new costume, which prompts protests from Rebecca. She points out that if Kate doesn’t hear the word ‘no,’ her 20s are going to be awful because that’s all you hear in your 20s. I would like to live a life where the first time I heard ‘no’ was in my 20s but that’s neither here nor there. In any case, this tiny argument is a very obvious excuse to segue into that decade of their life when the Pearsons were fresh and bright-eyed.
The episode then turns into a period piece. By period peace, I mean 2008, the start of the Obama Era. It was a more innocent time. A kinder time. And, according to my calculations, it was approximately a thousand years ago.
Obama Era Kate
Obama Era Kate is surprisingly relatable in this episode. She’s going to college, working at a café, and flirting with a cute patron who is shocked she doesn’t have any Halloween plans. Kate tells him she has class that night. But then again Kate is a college students so she skips class to “run into” him at a bar cause that’s why you pay $50,000 a year for a degree. Cute Patron is happy to see her but is also getting some major side-eye from his friends. He convinces Kate to go somewhere quieter. For the young ones, this was the Obama Era equivalent of “let’s Netflix and chill.”
After they do the deed, Kate voices her suspicion. He’s married, isn’t he? Oh yes he is. Cute Patron asks her why she put herself in that situation if she knew. Kate’s answer is disturbingly honest: she was tired of waiting for things to feel right because nothing ever seems to feel right. Sigh. I know I give Kate a lot of crap because of her ineffable Kateness, but this actually did pull at my sympathetic heartstrings. The tiny ones I carry in my back pocket, that I dust off on occasion when I see a fellow woman not realizing her own self-worth. Honestly, if most of us had to wait for things to feel right in order to get laid, we’d be slapping on those chastity belts, decorating the nunnery with some Etsy find and calling it a day. We are all damaged pandas, lost in the great bamboo forest. It’s why pandas rarely mate. They know what’s up.
Obama Era Kevin
Obama Era Kevin is working as a hairdresser and waiting for pilot season to start so he can get some auditions. He’s complaining non-stop because he is a straight white man before the dawn of Trump. He was stumbling under the oppressive feelings of having society turn an eye, for only 2 freaking seconds, to other demographics. Even the rich lady whose hair he is watching will hear none of it. Like the butterfly effect, this tiny request snowballed into the Unite the Right rally of only a few months ago. In the meantime, though, Kevin will have to deal.
It doesn’t help that his goofy-looking roommate books a Christian Bale movie. To celebrate, he invites Kevin to a private Hollywood party, which now sounds a lot seedier and potentially criminal that it would have had they aired this episode a month ago. (I’m tired, everyone. What can I say?) At the party, Kevin is ignored which really hurts his tiny narcissistic heart. The saddest day in a 20-something’s life is when they realize the world does not revolve around them and also doesn’t owe them jack. Since his pre-frontal cortex is yet to fully develop (look it up), Kevin decides to corner the movie’s director and slyly convince him that he may be a better fit for the role. HE’S A PRETTY WHITE STRAIGHT DUDE FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. He is supposed to get everything he wants with barely any effort. Thankfully, the director sees right through this and calls him out for being the kind of snake that would try to take away his friend’s part.
Comeuppance? Hardly. Remember, Kevin is a pretty white straight dude for heaven’s sake and we already know from other episodes that he does get everything he wants in life with barely an effort. Unless you count taking improv classes, “effort.”
Obama Era Randall
Beth is pregnant and glowing like the Queen of Sheba she is, already planning to apply all of Grandma Robison’s teachings to her own childrearing. Randall is about to lose his shit on a ceiling fan, which I believe is supposed to be a sign of his past breakdown, but is actually a human reaction to what I call “the demons of the sky.” Things are tense in the household. Randall is still recovering from his nervous breakdown and Beth is afraid that he’ll crumble when the baby is born. Who you gonna call when the ghosts of relationship meltdowns haunt you? Your mom, of course.
At this point, the make-up artists have stopped trying to make Old Rebecca happen. They’ve opted instead to keep her as a thirty-something with some painted age spots. She is here to visit Randall and Beth, as they get ready to bring their first child into the world. In hushed tones, Rebecca and Beth talk about Randall’s emotional state, which Randall overhears. He tells them he’s going to go to the hardware store but fully expects everyone to be normal around him when he comes back. A surefire way of making everyone super awkward.
At the hardware store, Randall pours his soul out to a Sikh employee. This poor dude is simply trying to get by at his job when he is ambushed with all these fragile feelings for the simple reason that he is expressing his faith. This isn’t even my own critical analysis of the scene. Randall flat out says that he’s turning to him because the turban gives him a sense of authority. I can’t tell if this outright revolutionary or slightly racist. It’s transferring the Magical Negro trope on another minority so…progress? Can someone help me out? I’m Peruvian so we’re brujas to begin with, but I don’t know what’s going on in everyone else’s communities. Kidding, my only magical power is sensing the presence of bulldogs within a 5-mile radius and trashing your Instagram engagement photos with my acerbic wit.
Beth starts going into labor ruining all of Randall’s plans. The baby was scheduled for a later date but babies ruin everything. That’s what you sign up for when you decide to procreate: a whole host of rescheduled plans. Randall though decides to man up. He heads home, snaps out of his funk and gets to work delivering his baby on Beth’s pristine Crate and Barrel catalog-looking living room.
While Beth and baby get some rest, Randall runs into Rebecca crying in the kitchen. She’s sad that Jack missed one of the happiest moments of her life. The lady is still grieving. They chat about potential baby names and Rebecca reassures him that it will come.
And it does. In the shape of a flyer from the hardware store. Let me repeat that. RANDALL GETS THE INSPIRATION FOR HIS DAUGHTER’S NAME FROM SOME JUNKIE FLYER CAUSE THE SIKH’S NAME WAS TOO HARD TO PRONOUNCE. LET ME GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE NAME OF AN APPLIANCE INSTEAD OF THE NAME OF ONE OF THE OLDEST CULTURES ON EARTH OR IT’S FEMALE EQUIVALENT SINCE THE SIKH WAS A DUDE AND I GUESS THAT COULD GET WEIRD. I really need some justice for this hardware store employee.
Kate and Kevin pop in to meet the baby. They lie to each other about what’s actually going on in their life, pretending that everything is great. They then take sip of wine and get real about how crappy everything is. In vino, veritas. I like it. No snark: people should be doing this more often. I am done sugarcoating my life, which is why I will flat out say things like “I have a thing for assholes if their face is pretty” and “my writing goals have gone from winning the Pulitzer in literary fiction to cracking jokes about fictional characters.” There’s liberation in accepting your messed up parts, peeps. Try it out. Especially cause when you do, other people will tell you their messed up life, and then you get some pretty juicy gossip, which you can later use for whatever blackmailing goals you may have. We all gotta make a living somehow.
Mommy Pearson and Daddy Pearson
Back in the 90s, Rebecca and Randall decide to go trick-or-treating, following Randall’s very detailed map of what houses to go to and what houses deserve to be skipped. Jack takes the other two children to a haunted house. It is then that we discover why Kate wanted to be pretty. She is there to see her crush, Billy. And she has a plan. She is going to walk by his side in the hopes that he’ll hold her hand. Kevin, with the clarity of a budding douchebag, flat out tells Jack that this is a disaster waiting to happen. Jack hovers over the children to make sure Kate’s crush holds her hand, bracing himself for baby’s first heartbreak. Billy, however, does hold Kate’s hand in the scary bits! That sounds super gross when I say it out loud! My apologies! But only because Kevin bribed him with Halloween candy. It’s the way of the world. Men using behind-the-scenes to puppeteer unsuspecting women. I believe this was supposed to be cute but everything is tainted now.
As for Rebecca and Randall, they are hitting most of the houses on the block. Rebecca however is getting a little testy over Randall’s insistence on where to go and where not to go. She spews some BS about improvisation and life. Randall is pulling an Ines (that would be me) and getting very upset over the fact that he had a map with a PLAN and Rebecca wants to change his PLAN and why can’t free spirits follow the freaking PLAN!!! Us control freaks usually have our reasons. We’re not operating on irrational emotions and fears. There was a very good reason as to why Randall wanted to skip the Larson’s house and Randall finally caves and tells his mom.
It’s because the Larsons are the kind of dickwads who tell the adopted black kid that he got his parents only because they lost an original baby. There’s one in every neighborhood. Rebecca tells Randall that he didn’t replace anyone. That his place in the family was destiny. Randall is not here for this Elizabeth Gilbert bullshit though cause he is the smart one. Wait, is this how he finds out that he was adopted, in general????? Um. Ok. Randall’s supposed superior intelligence continues to be questioned, making it the biggest mystery of the show.
Rebecca says some pretty boring stuff about babies, and how the middle of life is hard, and how they are loved, and she is loved or something. I don’t know, man. Some stuff about how there are multiple beginnings in life as the camera cuts to the day Rebecca gave birth onto the day that Beth gave birth. Really, the relevant part of this whole verbal diarrhea is that Miguel sends her a Facebook message congratulating her on the birth of her first grandchild. Dudes, I have it on good authority that this is where all the baby boomers are setting up their dates now. Forget Tinder and OkCupid! People from your past blowing up your DMs is where the real action is. At least we now know that Miguel wasn’t creeping on his best friend’s widow right at the funeral. So why do all the kids hate him?
Reason to Lust After Milo
Jack as Sonny, and you can fight me over this.
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
- The whole birthing scene, duh
- Rebecca still bawling over Jack, despite the fact that he’s been gone forever
- Little Randall learning the truth about his birth
- Obama signs dotting everyone’s lawn
Deep Quote of the Week
“What they don’t tell you is that babies, come with the answers. They come out, they look up at you, and you at them, and they tell you who you are. You’ll see.” Garuda from East Trenton, bravely exemplifying why we need more diverse roles for everyone. That’s the Sikh’s name. Show some respect.