A VERY MIGUEL THANKSGIVING (THIS IS US RECAP)
A lot like yesterday, a lot like never. – Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Happy Thanksgivings are all alike; every unhappy Thanksgiving is unhappy in its own way.
That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after spending more than a decade hearing all of you gripe about the holiday. As a naturalized citizen, I approach Thanksgiving with boundless curiosity and zero emotional attachment. Everyone wants to gather around to eat an absurd amount of food? Sounds good to me. Unfortunately, it also seems that Turkey Day is prime time for other hollowed American traditions like fighting with your racist uncle, enduring an interrogation over your eternal spinsterhood, dealing with cousins who have discovered either Ayn Rand or Bill Maher, tolerating your sister’s new weird boyfriend, flaming the feud over dead grandma’s ring, witnessing the disproportionately gendered division of domestic labor, and so much more, all to the background of a never-ending football game. Oh, and this is without even getting into the whole genocidal origins of the day.
Thanksgiving: where you clash with friend and foe alike in real life, but where you value the importance of every human being that’s ever walked this Earth on TV land. In the case of This Is Us, we’re invited to six different Thanksgiving dinners, with their own small or big tragedies, small or big joys. Make like a platter of ambrosia salad and let’s dig in!
Thanksgiving #1: Mommy and Daddy Pearson Welcome Your Recently Divorced Uncle
What do we really know about Miguel, this weird interloper who doesn’t seem to click with anyone other than Beth? It’s long been one of my critiques that the lone Latino character in this series is usually presented as some Americanized jibarito being sold in a food court in a terrible attempt to “diversify.” We’ve seen a bit more of him this season, gracias a Dios, and this may be the episode where we learn the most about his universe outside of the Pearsons.
It’s the last Thanksgiving before the kids are set to go to college and the Pearsons have decided to forego any celebration that involves Meanest Dad Ever or Bad Becky. Theirs is a self-contained dinner…with the addition of Miguel who is going through a divorce worthy of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The writers are also setting the table for some nice upcoming drama. Mommy Pearson mentions how Miguel’s ex is her best friend—SCANDAL. Miguel’s ex is turning his children against him—ESCÁNDALO. Jack reminds Miguel of his unwanted presence in their boss’s Alt-Right country club, where no Puerto Rican has ever set foot in, but that’s the kind of professional drive Miguel has, even though all those Saturdays spent with Republican voters who will heartily approve of the financial ruin of the island and care little about the thousands of lives lost during Hurricane Maria have cost them a relationship with his kids—SENSATIONALIZED AND SALACIOUS EVENT.
While Jack does his best to cheer up a weepy Miguel, Randall is busy writing his college essay. The prompt has Live Lit theme show written all over it: “Who’s impacted you the most?” His siblings, enamored with the idea of the White Savior Complex, are rooting for the firefighter who left him at the hospital. Randall, aware that no success is possible without community support, wants to write an essay about the logical fallacy of that question to begin with. This is why he’s the sibling that’s going to college.
Thanksgiving #2: Randall and Beth Reenact Becoming
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Daaaaaaaamn shirtless Randall is on par with season one’s bare butt Milo. That whole shot was a thirst trap. Ok, back to business.
As a political candidate, Randall no longer has the luxury of spending the day at Mar-de-Lago or sending official emails via his private account. Instead, he is heading to a soup kitchen in his campaign district with Beth, Deja, and his youngest daughter since the older one is feeling sick. Hot KPop, who I enjoyed last time we saw him, is already questioning Beth’s choice of not having any photo-ops in a place that is already ignored by the mainstream media, unlike the church across town. When she’s out of earshot, he unleashes a series of grievances on Randall that range from not having had any say in her hiring to wondering if she bakes enough cookies to satisfy the insatiable misogyny of the American constituency. Randall won’t here it though. Beth is his wife. NEPOTISM IS HERE TO STAY!
The day goes well. Randall gets face time with potential voters, shakes the hands of adorable children, hears the concerns of the needy. All in all a success. Hot KPop, sensing a good opportunity, manages to schedule a photographer to take at least one picture. This leads to a heated argument between him and Beth, and despite Beth’s very reasoned arguments for not wanting a photographer, you know she’s going to be dubbed difficult and emotional. Randall sides with Beth, strictly because she’s his wife and, if he knew anything about his wife, he would realize that this is deeply insulting to her. Which it is. This of course gives Beth the doubts and she ask Randall how many of her ideas where actually valued for what they were and which ones were due to her being Mrs. Randall. Beth isn’t Ivanka; she isn’t even Tiffany She is deeply troubled by the notion that she might be skating by because of her relationship to the candidate.
Thanksgiving #3: Even in Vietnam, you’ll still fight with your brother
We head now to Thanksgiving on the warfront! Jack’s big plans to set his brother straight are not going as well as he planned. Nick is basically behaving like your surly younger brother who just discovered Nietzsche and the belligerent power of Southern Comfort. Jack invites him to Thanksgiving dinner with the soldiers, but only if he behaves like a human being and not a college freshman.
At dinner, Jack is being his usual secretive self by writing letters while his brother sulks off to the side. Even the fellow soldiers can tell his brother isn’t right. As they gossip behind his back, the Mystery Vietnamese Woman drops a couple of pails of water in front of Nick. Jack rushes to help her and a fellow soldier snaps the famous picture we’ve been seeing the whole season. Randall was right. It’s not the look of love; it’s the look of gratitude when an invader is benevolent.
Jack makes a little leftover turkey care package and brings it over to Mystery Lady. Earlier he had noticed that her son looked sick. The little boy has a huge gash on his foot that is clearly infected. Jack wakes up Nick, who had trained as a medic, and asks him for help. NICK, A TRUE MAGA VISIONARY WHO IS AHEAD OF HIS TIME, REFUSES BECAUSE THE KID MAY GROW UP TO HATE AMERICANS. Jack ends up cleaning the wound and doing his best to help the little boy.
Jack later finds Nick sitting hear the dock and appeals to his compassion. Nick’s argument against common human decency is to tell a story about his commander who was betrayed by the old Vietnamese lady who used to cut his hair. I would go into detail but I can’t even bring myself to retell the justification for the further dehumanization of foreign people so I won’t.
Thanksgiving #4: Two Lonely People Get It On and It Ain’t You and Your High School Sweetheart
Randall’s Bio Dad is back! Remember how he had a dashing British lover? Well, this is the story of their romance. Dashing Brit first meets Bio Dad when he’s playing the piano in the rec center. On Thanksgiving, they run into each other and Bio Dad invites him in for some food. They tell each other about their addictions. Dashing Brit tells him the perfectly polished, somewhat respectable life story of how he became an addict. You meant there’s a respectable one? Why yes! If you’re a man, white, and rich you can totally pass off a cocaine habit as a little slip up you fell into to stay awake during your long working hours. Believe me, I’ve worked in advertising. It’s a thing. Bio Dad can see right through it and asks him for the real version.
The truth is Dashing Brit loved cocaine until he found out that smoking cracked cocaine was cheaper. He was never a bond trader but he does have a sister in Chicago. Thanksgiving depresses him despite his Britishness and wonders aloud if the whole thing is a celebration of the Revolutionary War, which is the least believable thing I’ve seen in a show where Kevin is a serious actor and Toby is endearing. The world is saturated with Hollywood’s pop culture and the UK’s education system is topnotch so yes, everyone in the whole world knows what Thanksgiving is. That should be reason enough for the US to finally wrap their head around the real meaning of Cinco de Mayo but I digress.
Dashing Brit didn’t want to expose himself to a bunch of people asking him about his recovery, which is why he’s spending Thanksgiving alone. Bio Dad invites him to a show where a bunch of sober musicians are getting together to play jazz. Love blooms.
Thanksgiving #4: Someone’s Coming Out
Kate and Toby are in charge of Thanksgiving dinner and they turn to Randall’s Thanksgiving recipe binder for guidance. Side note: Randall having a Thanksgiving recipe binder with a comfit section is my sexuality defined. Toby is already freaking out but no manic episode is as terrifying as what comes next: him running into Tess while she’s holding a Walgreens-sized number of menstrual products in her hands.
Kate is off to the rescue and does the Cool Aunt thing of telling her own period story, which involves Miguel’s kids. Their names are Andy and Amber but since I’m not about that assimilation life I will call them Andrés and Ámbar. Ámbar is intimidatingly cool, the kind of girl that teaches Kate how to wear makeup. Maybe the most insightful commentary on a Latina teen ever. I’m notorious for being the only Latina who doesn’t know her way around a Sephora. I blame my international lifestyle. Kate gets her period and sneaks out of the room with her stained sheets in her hands so Ámbar can’t tell but ends up running into Andrés instead, who is a lifeguard. Ok, Miguel’s kids are obviously hot, right? One cursory glance at all my Puerto Rican friends tell me that yes, they will be caliente.
Kate finishes her anecdote by telling Tess that this is exciting. Soon she’ll have her first kiss! First dance! First boyfriend! To which Tess replies nervously, “or first girlfriend.” Remember to be inclusive with your young ones, friends!
Back downstairs, Toby has freaked out and resorted to a Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving. Why not?
Thanksgiving #6: Time to Air Out Some Ye Olde Grudges
We’re still in the present but Rebecca and Miguel aren’t on their way to Randall’s house. After a decade of estrangement, Miguel has been invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with his kids. There’s another grandson that hasn’t been mentioned until now. Miguel is feeling unease. He’s aware that he’s only been invited because his ex is spending time with her husband’s family. Rebecca is bursting with optimism.
I can confirm that yes, Miguel’s kids are H-A-W-T. Ámbar is played by Raphael’s sister on Jane The Virgin and Andrés is all chisel, no soul. Clearly they don’t have too much of a relationship. Conversation is stilted. Andrés is keeping tabs on a football game. There’s always a white person with too many allergies ruining the meal. Rebecca tries her best but it’s hard, especially when Andrés accuses her of stealing Miguel from them.
Miguel shows some cojones, though. He sets the record straight and tells them how much he reached out to them after the divorce, only to get silence. Andrés shoots back that he has the Pearsons and Miguel wholeheartedly agrees. Here is what we know about his pairing with Rebecca. It happened a whole ten years after Jack died and he left his wife. Those are potentially ten more seasons of us seeing this play out; SEND HELP. Miguel tells them he’s ok with his kids talking smack about him but not about Rebecca. This little speech is enough for everyone to keep eating in peace. “Peace.”
There was minimal Kevin presence and for that I am thankful. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!