THIS IS US AND A CROCKPOT BATTLE FOR AMERICA'S SOUL (THIS IS US RECAP)
Nothing interrupts a chill, relaxing, Caribbean vacation than the presence of a crockpot in America’s #1 drama. This is what I learned a few weeks ago when my phone lit up with one notification after the next. People were sending me links, messages, and ALL CAPS texts referencing the now-infamous feud between Crockpot Incorporated (I’m assuming this is the legal name) and This Is Us. “What is this madness?” I asked myself. “Has the US gone nuts?” I confirmed the president was still Trump and nodded my head. “Do I want to go back?” Of course not. But duty awaits and, in addition to working so I can pay my bills and feeding my bulldog, I had another obligation to fulfill: examining what exactly happened between one Jack Pearson and a kitchen appliance.
It is with deep shame and a sense of disgust that I confess to the following: Toby and I share the same dirty habit. We both put on a plush bathrobe, turn off the lights in the room so only the dim glow of the computer screen can be seen, and go on the internet to satisfy our hunger. Our hunger for dog pics. It’s what Toby does late at night, in secret, because he realizes that Kate will sour on everything that is good and pure in this world and puppies are among the most joyful bundles the world has granted to make up for the muck of cruelty we usually have to deal with. Toby breaks down. He wants a doggy bad, and god dammit, is this the second time he’s been likeable in his life? I always say that my biological clock was born with a dead battery but darn it if I didn’t wake up one day with an overwhelming desire to hold a little baby bulldog in my arms to nourish and love. Toby wants the exact same thing.
In a surprise twist of empathy, Kate heads to the dog pound to find a new addition to her home. Lena Waithe, lost on her way to the set of her own show, decides to hang out and play a bit role in this TV show out of the kindness of her heart. She’s won an Emmy after all, she can do whatever the hell she wants. Kate falls in love with a little cutie pie called Audio, which will be served to hit audiences over the head about Kate’s musical vocations. As she fills out the paperwork to adopt Audio, Kate tells Lena how Toby was made to take care of dogs. She isn’t as comfortable saying the same thing about herself, even though we know that her dog was her BFF as a teen. Lena decides to go back to her more important duties of being a showrunner for The Chi, leaving Kate alone. YOU SHOULD NEVER LEAVE KATE ALONE. Cause once you do, she starts thinking. And when Kate starts to think, she goes on a downward spiral of self-pity supposed to make us identify with her but resulting in a collective groan so loud it caused a minor tsunami warning in Alaska. Kate alone BREAKS UP WITH A DOG. Read that sentence to yourself slowly. See what I mean? This is why Kate must be monitored at all times.
This may be the only time I’m on the verge of tears in this dumb show because dammit Kate, Audio would only give you unconditional love and why are you walking away from that? What’s your damage and what can we do to heal it? Will her childhood pet die at the same time as Jack? Who(m) will be trying to save who(m)? Will it be Jack trying to save the dog? Will it be the dog refusing to leave Jack alone? [Insert all the ugly sobbing I have in me.] IS THIS HOW THE SADISTIC WRITERS OF THIS IS US PLAN TO GET EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US? My tearless streak is intact right now, but if I see Fluffy or whatever his name is TRY to save Jack and then die a hero, I will lose my shit and all my water retention. I will look fabulous because I’ll be about 20 pounds lighter but I will not be able to look at my reflection in the mirror for I will have lost something much more important: My own dignity.
Kate returns home and tells Toby about her almost adoption. She mentions in that annoyingly vague-for-dramatic-tension tone that she didn’t want to get a dog because it would remind her (ominous tone) of That Day. However, Kate seems to have grown and evolved as a character for she surprises Toby and all of America by doing something selfless. In this case, adopting Audio anyway to make Toby happy.
Adult Randall and Adult Kevin
Kevin is still sleeping in his mom’s basement but has enough self-respect to not spend his days on the internet debating the #MeToo movement by starting each statement with, “Not all men.” No siree! Instead, he texts Randall to see if he wants to hang. Randall is too super focused on becoming a benevolent overlord, so you know it’s going to blow up on his face. Beth is already taking control of the situation and reminds him that fixing an entire building is a process. Does Randall listen to our Queen? Of course not.
Beth and Randall start with a community meeting, and they can barely get through the major fixes before the whole building start shouting out demands. Randall, the epitome of the Burden of Minority Excellence, keeps making promises he won’t be able to keep instead of listening to Beth’s sensible plan of attacking each coding violation strategically. To make matters worse, Kevin shows up, claiming he wants to help. Nothing shuts down a community meeting like the presence of a white man and at that point Randall is too in love with his idea of being a hero. He is convinced he can pull an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (sorry, I haven’t watched a home repair show since the Bush years.) Beth walks away because Beth doesn’t have time for this nonsense.
Kevin makes himself useful, fixing minor repair in each unit. He’s entertaining the tenants with stories of the Manny and generally being a Nice Guy™. Randall joins in. The brothers are broing it out with sledgehammers and white undershirts and lots of toned muscles. You almost expect them to break out into Channing Tatum’s seminal choreography in Magic Mike XXL. Shout out to the elderly woman drinking her tea and admiring the Manny and calling the other neighborhood ladies to objectify him, Get it ladies.
Randall calls Beth to rub his victory in her face, the poor fool. Beth is always right. ALWAYS. It’s the greatest strength the show has and the reason I keep watching it. Nothing fill me with more satisfaction than the representation of women in their natural habitat: pinpointing exactly why men are incompetent. See, while Randall was busy patting himself on the back, cockroaches emerged from every stank corner of the rotting building. Randall scrambles to relocate all the tenants due to the roach infestation.
Kevin is still hard at work though. It worries Randall. Kevin has only worked a total of 42 hours in his whole adult life. This isn’t a behavior he recognizes and he sits down to ask Kevin why he is acting like a functioning adult. See, Kevin is at that part of the 12-step-program where your ripped body glistens with sweat as you ask for forgiveness. However, he realizes that some people won’t be able to grant him that so, as penance, he gets to play with his toolbox hehe. I am 12. Randall isn’t acting at all like himself either, by starting a new career as a landlord. The bros remember their father and voice out loud how weird it is to outlive him. At this point, Jack has been gone for longer than they had him. There isn’t a crockpot in sight.
Who does Kevin have to apologize to? For one, Wallflower. Remember her? She’s Kevin’s ex-wife, ex-high school sweetheart, ex-girlfriend. She’s pretty in that totally forgettable way that the popular girl in your high school was pretty. I think she spoke once. Anyway, Kevin shows up to her place. Wallflower has that split second internal debate where you can’t decide if you should sleep with an old beau or ask for a restraining order. She opts instead for the truth and tells him that he’s the One Guy who has messed her up. Girlfriend, consider yourself spared. The only way he can make amends is to leave her with a nice past, a memory of him being good. “Good.” Goodish? Ugh, whatever.
When Kevin comes home, he finds a package at his door. It’s Jack’s necklace! Charlotte, the lady he slept with at the high school event, sent it after he apologized. Kevin ticks off Wallflower’s name off his list but turns the page where we see one person who has not yet forgiven his sorry ass: Jack.
Mommy and Daddy Pearson
The episode actually begins with an old couple. Who are they? I don’t want to care about them. Am I supposed to be emotionally invested? Are they going to take them away like the Southern friendly doctor from Season 1? All I know is they’re rummaging through some junk. Remember this old couple.
Back in the 90s, the Pearsons are excited for Super Bowl Sunday even though Beyoncé will not be performing. It’s the last Super Bowl before the kids go off to college and I guess that’s supposed to make it a big deal. I don’t know dudes, I wasn’t raised on it. As far as I’m concerned, Super Bowl Sunday is a day when you eat nachos and watch grown men stand around in a field.
Another thing I wasn’t particularly raised on? The foundational myth of the Protestant work ethic, the idea that working your little toosh off was a signifier of being chosen to receive God’s grace thanks to his self-reliance. I won’t even get into the criticism that this theory has been manipulated to accuse communities of color of that grave sin of Sloth and Welfare Queendom. That’s not the point right now. I will say though that one of the great lies America tells about itself is that hard work, frugality, and discipline are all you need to succeed. It’s a powerful one, a mentality that is hard to shake off even when you learn of things like the historical practice of redlining. Hell, it definitely gives you a sense of control about your destiny, albeit a false on. This whole episode, to a certain extent, pushes that idea forward. Kate goes out of her way to bring Audio home. Randall finds a renewed sense of purpose by buying that inner-city hellhole. Kevin works with his perfectly-manicured hands as a form of salvation.
Yet, in the presence of Jack, This Is Us questions this foundational myth. They turn away from the bootstrapping. Are they becoming, dare I say, a bit of a commie? In this 2018 year of our lord can we expect economic radicalism from the cheesiest show to date?
Let me explain. Jack has spent his whole life sacrificing his own dreams for the better good, first as a soldier for his country and then as a corporate clog for his kids. Kids, by the way that are being ungrateful little bastards on Super Bowl Sunday. Teen Kevin is being his usual jerk-self because he found out Wallflower is heading to NYU while he only has community college to fall back on. That and his conventionally attractive white male heterosexual privilege. ANYWHO. He snaps at Mommy Pearson, gets into a spat with Daddy Pearson and storms off because his sense of entitlement is so big, he can’t even watch the Super Bowl in peace. Dude, even with that football scholarship, you probably wouldn’t have made it to the big leagues. His career probably would have ended after some hazing incident involving sheep at Kappa Kappy Douchebag. Teen Kate is moody because she got waitlisted at Berkeley and now has to send in an original recording. Jack wants to videotape her, Teen Kate wants to hide behind the audio. When Jack secretly creeps into her room with a camera as she is singing, Teen Kate gets mad. I’ll give this one to Kate. Teen Randall is too in love with the Cute Redhead to care about any Super Bowl. They’re off to see Titanic and discuss whether Jack could have fit on that door.
Since SPOILER ALERT I had already been warned that this episode ended with the beginning of Jack’s untimely demise, I had rare insight into why these little family dramas were set up that way. It gives each of the Pearsons an opportunity to have one last talk with Jack and what they say to each other seems to have marked the rest of his children’s’ lives. Jack apologizes to Teen Kate for overstepping her boundaries but when Teen Kate sees the footage, she realizes that her life would be infinitely better if she saw herself the way Jack sees her. She’ll spend her adulthood looking for that inner validation. When Teen Randall comes back from his date, he tells Jack about his first kiss. Jack is a proud papa but also stern, reminding Teen Randall the importance of being a gentleman. Randall, for all his faults, treats his wife with all the respect that Trump denies Melania. As for Teen Kevin? Well, the last message Teen Kevin receives from his father is that he owes him an apology. Hence, his torment.
As for his last talk with Mommy Pearson? It’s about dreams. With the kids out of the house, they have a new future ahead of them. A future that involves their own business, their own schedules, and lots of hot sex without any damn kids around. This is where I think This Is Us puts on their little beret and begin to question the underpinnings of deferring your dream because you’re a family man. After all, this is the future Jack will never get because he was too busy putting stability first.
Need more proof? Consider the crockpot. It’s an invention meant for busybodies who stay late in the office but also feel the pressure to provide a home-cooked meal. It became popular in the 1970s, around the time that women began entering the workforce but were still expected to have an impeccable house and a solid family structure.
AND IT IS WHAT ENDS UP KILLING JACK.
The Pearsons can work their pain away but this method has its limitations. You might do everything right and end up getting killed by a kitchen appliance. Might as well follow your heart.
At the end of the episode, Jack acts like the boyfriend you wish you had instead of the one that rinses a glass and considers he’s done his share of chores. He pets the dog. He wipes away the counter. He puts leftovers away. He leaves everything spotless. He even turns off the crockpot. We see its light go off.
But you see, this crockpot isn’t the new model with every security measure in place. (Don’t sue us, por favor.) The old couple we saw at the beginning are Jack and Rebecca’s neighbors from way back in the day, before the Big 3 were even zygotes. They give it away to the Pearsons before they move out of their own home.
As the episode closes, we see the crockpot come to life. It’s little red light turns on like the eye of Mordor! It communicates in anger and rage! A spark bursts forth and a fire begins! Curtains light up. Flames engulf the kitchen, the staircase, the happy memories of the Pearson family. This is where the tragedy begins.
That better have been some damn good chili, Rebecca.
Reasons to Lust After Milo
Get yourself a man with a goatee and a bottle of extra-strength Lysol spray.
Attempts at Emotional Manipulation
- Everything involving dogs
- Kevin and Wallflower’s final conversation
- Kevin getting back Jack’s necklace
- Kevin having Jack as the person he can’t make amends with
- Jack talking to his wife as an equal cause that’s how low the bar is set in heterosexual relationships, folks
Deep Quote of the Week
“Do some good, don't go broke. New company motto.” -Randall, saying what I’ve been trying to do ever since I graduated high school. Well played, This Is Us. Well played.