This Is Us Season 1, Episode 3
Posted by Shannon
While there was no shortage of emotional moments or surprise reveals in this week’s episode, I am thrilled to say that This Is Us has broken the pattern of an earth-shattering twist in its last five minutes. Hopefully, we’ll be spared that particular storytelling device for a while, at least until the midseason finale. The result is a really well-balanced episode, filled with moments to pause and cry throughout the whole hour instead! It’s only week three, but I’m completely attached to each and every one of these characters. I just want them all to be ok. (They definitely will not all be ok.)
Back in 1980, Jack and Rebecca are preparing to bring their Big Three home from the hospital. The mood in the room is beyond the typical nerves, though. Dr. Katowsky, cementing his place as the world’s best doctor, can immediately see that Rebecca is struggling. While Jack can’t wait to brag that they’ve given the babies all “K” names in his honor (Kevin, Kate, and Kyle), Rebecca is staring out the window, emotionally disconnected and feeling “a little overwhelmed.” Dr. K barely takes his eyes off Rebecca; of course, having lost his own child, he knows the signs. Rebecca is mourning the loss of one of her triplets, and it seems to be manifesting with postpartum depression.
That’s only underscored during an appointment with Dr. Katowsky. Jack is at a loss and doesn’t know how to help Rebecca through her depression; but Dr. K highlights the issues immediately. He reminds Jack that, while he’s channeled the loss into Kyle’s adoption, Rebecca needs to move through this on her own. We haven’t seen her processing the loss or the adoption before now, and either one on its own would be a seismic shift.
While Rebecca was already struggling to bond with Kyle at the hospital, it didn’t stop her from immediately recognizing William for who he truly was when she spotted him across the street. While Jack was moving the babies into their policeman-approved car seats, Rebecca immediately sensed William, hanging back at the bus stop, watching her. Now, with a few hours to herself while Jack is at the hospital, she’s free to track down the man she knows must be Kyle’s biological father. Thanks to the bus driver who saw William meet and fall in love with his partner, she has a nickname, Shakespeare, and an address to work with.
Young William Shakespeare (oh, show) and Rebecca share a cup of tea and open up to each other about their lives; William makes it clear that his son was born out of love, and that he didn’t know what else to do after his partner’s death than to hope that their son could find a life outside of their addiction by leaving him at the fire station. Rebecca, to her credit, doesn’t have a hint of judgement on her face through the entire conversation, and opens up to William about her loss. However, when William asks to check in on Kyle from time to time, Rebecca doesn’t hesitate; she shuts him down immediately. It’s such a complex decision, but it doesn’t come from malice. Having his biological father around must have felt like an impossible obstacle to successfully bonding with Kyle, and she couldn’t allow it a moment’s thought. It would be cruel for her to carry on the conversation much longer after that move, and she turns to leave. But, out of desperation or as a way to explain her actions (most likely both) Rebecca stops and admits to William that she’s not been able to truly connect with Kyle.
William shows the wisdom and strength we’ve seen from him in the present day by immediately pointing to the crux of the problem; Kyle needs his own name, not one that was perhaps even meant for the lost triplet. Rebecca recognizes his kindness in helping her, despite the deal they’ve just made, and honors it by asking for the name of William’s favorite poet – Dudley Randall. Randall is renamed for his parents, and Rebecca honors both his past and his difference from their twins while also opening the door to her own maternal bond. It’s incredibly moving – but my heart broke for William, so willing to help even after being denied contact with his son. Jack accepts Rebecca’s suggestion that they rename their baby without any real pushback, and immediately the family coalesces.
Meanwhile, Randall and Beth are downstairs, engaged in some top-notch banter. One of my favorite things about Randall (and that list is long) is how quietly hilarious he is in the midst of stressful situations. Humor is a huge part of how he handles complex moments; the girls know their Dad is hiding something when he calls Miguel out on dropping by without a phone call, and Randall and Beth say everything they need to about the plan, or lack thereof, to tell Rebecca about William with just a few loving snips at each other.
After hearing the worst at the oncologist, Randall and William head home; William sits upstairs and Randall takes his aggression out on a puzzle. Even though Randall claims to Beth that he “has no idea how I came from that man,” these two don’t feel so dissimilar. Young William did everything in his power to make sure his son would be taken care of, even accepting Rebecca’s deal with no complaint. In present day, he has honored his deal with Rebecca, and has respected every single wish Randall and Beth have asked for. These are two men who are willing to do anything for their families, just in two dramatically different situations. It’s a trait that can easily be found in Randall’s siblings, too. They really did have great parents.
Preparations are underway for Kevin’s big move to New York, and while he starts off excited, all it takes is a few half-packed boxes for the panic to set in. Ten unanswered calls to Kate later, and Kevin lands in bed with an ex to distract himself. Panic-induced booty calls never go well, and this one lands him locked in his own closet, hiding from “Insane Elaine” while she throws things around and yells a lot. Of course, Kate finally comes to the rescue, handling the destructive ex and comforting her twin in just a few moments.Besides acting as his personal assistant, Kate is obviously Kevin’s only real support system. There’s no one else he can call to talk himself down – but he’s willing to throw that out the window when it’s clear that Kate is using him as an excuse not to live her own life.
Kevin knows that they won’t separate unless he does something drastic. After hearing how willing Kate was to throw away an afternoon that was orchestrated entirely for her, he knows something has to be done. His firing/ pep talk alone is beautiful and generous, but it’s not enough to truly break them from their patterns. It’s clear in his eyes that Kevin wants Kate to meet the woman he’s proud to have as a twin, not to mention recognize her own abilities as a performer and an obvious member of what I call the “curse of the competent” club. When everyone knows you can handle a crisis quietly and efficiently, they will rely on you to do it every time – and while he’s clearly relied on her at the most important moments of his career, Kevin is ready to break the cycle, for both their sakes. And so he books a flight to New York that evening, taking off without warning to spare them both the goodbye.
It’s such a kind-hearted move, and it’s a testament to their bond that I’m not worried about any real emotional fallout on Kate’s side. Ultimately, she’ll understand his motivations, and there’s never a doubt about how much respect he has for her. So it’s off to New York with Kevin; here’s hoping he lands a respectable role in a play sooner rather than later. I already want to see these two reunited at an opening night curtain call.
Riding high on post-performance glee, Kate and Toby are making out in the supply closet when Kevin’s desperate call for reinforcements finally comes through to Kate’s phone. Much to Toby’s dismay, she drops everything for her brother and heads out immediately. I’m still so conflicted about Toby, and this scene didn’t do him many favors. Yes, it’s clear that the twins have some codependency issues, and yes, Kate needs to start putting her life before her brother’s. But a few dates does not make someone equal to a family member in crisis. It’s not what he’s saying that’s the problem; it’s how he says it. To claim that he should be on par with her twin brother, after just a few dates? If Toby had been arguing that she deserved her own life, I would have been cheering him on. Instead, it sounded a lot like “I should be just as important as Kevin” rather than “you should prioritize your own choices.” I’m hopeful that for Kate, the end result is the same, especially with Kevin saying something so similar, but it isn’t sitting well with me.
- Randall’s namesake, Dudley Randall, was a poet and publisher in Detroit, and was even named Poet Laureate of the City of Detroit in 1981. While much of his work, like Poem Counterpoem, looks to be out of print, most of his collections have place of honor next to Randall’s family photos. My heart.
- The possibilities for a Mandy Moore/Chrissy Metz duet are endless, and if we are denied this, it will be a travesty.
- I for one am relieved that Dr. K voted for Nixon, because no character is allowed to be so perfect.
- Massive shout out to the casting department for finding the perfect actor to play Young William. He looks like SUCH a perfect mix of a younger Ron Cephas Jones and a present day Sterling K. Brown.
- Miguel. I am already wary of you. Please, for your own sake, pop in next week to confirm that you enjoyed Hamilton.
Did you enjoy “Kyle”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.