BIRTHDAYS, BOOZE, & BABY FEVER (THIS IS US RECAP)
I begin this recap with an apology. I want to apologize to the new viewers, for I severely underestimated exactly how terrible this show really is. My primer does not do it justice. I want to apologize to the fans, for I cannot heal the damage within that allows you to watch this without a critical eye. I want to apologize to everyone, for assuming that you never had to care about William again. FOR HE IS BACK. It’s actually his voice that we first hear in the opening shots of the episode. William, the bisexual drug addict who is Randall’s biological father, recites his literary work with the gravitas of someone who’s been named Poet Laureate of a Folger’s campaign. It’s against this backdrop that we learn what the Pearson Trio has been up to since we last saw them.
It’s their 37th birthday, because this show loves nothing more than a cutesy callback. Unlike the existential despair that marked their 36th, this year brings along hope. Randall has baby fever and uses his morning jogs to attempt to kidnap any chubby baby within reach. Kate is still with balding Teletubby Toby, and though she may have settled in the man department, she is intent on launching a singing career. Kevin is in LA, away from his wife, filming a Ron Howard movie and looking as confused as ever. He peers into the frosted eyes of a birthday cake made with his face on it, wondering if there are signs of life. For once, Kevin sees himself as the rest of us see him. The rest of the episode follows them as they celebrate their day, with a few flashback scenes of Rebecca and Jack’s trial separation, the birth of the triplets, and the night of Jack’s death, which they keep dangling in front of us as some sort of macabre treat. Since I have no idea how to write this recap in chronological order without confusing the hell out of y’all, I’m going to divide the storylines in the way that I best see fit. This is what happens when a soapy drama gets too stylistic for its own good.
This is the episode where we learn that the Pearson men have a very particular fetish when it comes to women. They just absolutely looooooooove to make their wives open their home to children, even when said women insist that this is not a child they particularly want. Reread that phrase. It’s absolutely fucked up, right? Pretty much flies in the face of every pro-choice manifesto you read at college during that one week that you refused to shave your armpits. Yet, in This Is Us land, we’re supposed to find it heartwarming that both Jack and Randall pressure their wives into having more kids. Somehow, this makes them good men.
Let me back up. Randall and Beth head to an adoption agency to discuss the steps they need to take in order to get a baby. Randall is acting like he’s a 5-year-old visiting Santa for the first time, spewing off the traits of his imaginary adopted newborn as if they were custom-made by elves. Beth is seething in her seat because she does not want to be saddled with 3-years-worth of diaper duty simply because her husband is still grieving from the loss of all his dads. She tells him as much. Randall decides to turn to Mandy Moore for advice, who resembles the ruins of the Delphic oracle in her old woman make up. Clearly, that means she will have a few words of wisdom to impart. It comes in the form of her saying, “Yeah, boo, I really didn’t want to be your mom, but your dad pushed and I needed to get him to shut up cause Jesus, I was just out of labor and had been pregnant for at least 26 years.” At least that’s how I remember it and no evidence will make me believe the contrary. It’s a wake up call for Randall. He finally puts to good use all those critical thinking skills he learned in private school and tells Beth he’ll back off on the baby idea. This should have been the end of this saga. Instead, Beth caves and convinces Randall to adopt an older boy because they’re the ones that are forgotten by the system. Plus, he’ll be out of the house in a couple of years, unlike a baby. I see what you did there, Beth, you sly minx.
After Kevin interrupts their sexy times, tells Kate to change her outfit, and pays for their birthday sushi dinner (the horror!), Toby does the unthinkable: he actually points out the weird incestuous undertones of Kevin and Kate’s relationship. Dude, we all know their closeness is a tad gross but you can’t be polite about it and keep those nasty thoughts to yourself? Of course he can’t, because Toby is the worst and he’s feeling emasculated by his girlfriend’s twin brother. I can’t even bring myself to care about this little spat. I can somewhat care about Kate gathering up the courage to audition for a singing gig, after bailing earlier in the day at the intimidating sight of the skinny bitches that were competing for the same role. She belts out a rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 You” that would not feel out of place in a seedy karaoke bar at 3am. The guy running the audition cuts her off and shoos her away. Kate gives some big dramatic speech about how she’s not going to let some skinny bitch take her dream away. Guy in charge asks said skinny bitch to sing the same song. Skinny bitch blows it out of the park. Guy turns to her and says what we’ve all been thinking for the past year: NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR SIZE, WE DON’T LIKE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE TERRIBLE. It was like the writers’ room was aware of my existence and decided to gift me that gold nugget. Hopefully this means we can give this actor a better character arc than the one she’s had as of yet.
Mommy Pearson and Daddy Pearson
Rebecca and Jack have decided that Jack should stay at Miguel’s, after Jack punched the daylights out of Rebecca’s creepy band member. There’s a lot of sulking. There’s a lot of Mandy Moore staring off into space, with a look of concern. There’s a lot of Milo hunched over in defeat. After hours of being emo, Rebecca heads over to Miguel’s to rant and rave about how they are NOT the couple that gives up. And this is where This Is Us turns into an escapist fantasy a la Game of Thrones for Jack does something that literally no alcoholic has ever done since the dawn of AA. He admits to his wife that he has a problem, has had one for months, and he can’t return to the house until he figures his shit out. Swoon. In all honesty, him being away for a while to work on his recovery would probably be the smartest choice. But since we live in a society that feeds of a steady diet of the Love-Conquers-All myth, Rebecca fully embraces the idea of being his personal savior and asks him to come home. Girlfriend, the man needs a therapist and about 50 gallons of IV fluids. Are you willing to provide that? Cause something tells me you’re not.
All we know is that it involves a burned down house because SYMBOLISM!!!!!
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation:
There were four attempts at making you ugly cry this week:
- William’s poem; for the non-English majors among us.
- Beth showing Randall the spot where she bonded with William, before telling him they should adopt an older kid.
- Rebecca’s speech to a drunk Jack
- Shots of Teen Randall and Teen Kate sobbing over their dad’s death.
Reasons to Lust After Milo
Since we’re dealing with Jack during his alcoholic years, it was slim pickings. We’re talking puffy eyes, greasy hair and a certain haze of hangover stench impregnating his scenes. Then again, who can resist a man who waits by the phone for his morally righteous wife to call? I dig the role reversal.
Deep Quote of the Week
“Sometimes, in marriage, someone has to be the one to push to make the big moves.”- Rebecca, as a Town Elder. This, folks, is why I’m no longer married.
I can’t believe I have a whole season of this.