“Always a headache with triplets.” – This Is Us Recap – The Right Thing to Do

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This Is Us Season 1, Episode 11
“The Right Thing to Do”
Posted by Shannon

I have a theory about handling a crisis: it’s just as important to understand how you’ll react in the aftermath as it is when you’re in the midst of one. As the Pearsons watch the dust settle from their holiday season, every member of the family is navigating their own crisis or its aftermath. And every one of our primary players has to decide what doing the right thing means to them in this moment. This week, This Is Us lets us observe these characters as they react to their own individual crises, essentially taking each of their emotional temperatures and setting the stage for the second half of their first season.

Jack/Rebecca


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It’s the early days of Rebecca’s pregnancy, and she’s nesting. Hard. The two are on the hunt for a new apartment, and Jack and Rebecca are both thrilled to find a sun-filled, two-bedroom, sixth floor walk up that feels a lot like home. At $200/month (insert modern New York apartment-dweller sounds of dismay here), it’s a stretch, but Jack puts down first, last, and security without a second thought. The timing is perfect; the couple is just about to find out the sex of their baby, and let Rebecca loose on full-scale apartment decorating, when Dr. Schneider comes out with the unexpected news. Not one baby, but three. Dr. Schneider knows that it’s a curveball, but his bedside manner leaves something to be desired, and the couple is shocked. (Was opening with the twins line supposed to ease them into it? Cause I feel like it didn’t.)

Back at their new apartment, Jack and Rebecca try to adjust to the news. I can’t imagine how intense this would be for both of them, but my heart broke especially for Rebecca. The last time we saw her talking about motherhood, it was at the Steelers bar, frustrated and confused and filled with anxiety at the prospect of changing life as she and Jack knew it. The couple had clearly come to a new place in their relationship and decided this together, but three kids? Right out of the gate? There must have been a voice in her head whispering that this wasn’t what she signed up for. To make matters worse, Rebecca has a lunch date with her mother set for the afternoon, and won’t have time to really process on her own before facing her mom.


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We’ve known that Jack and Rebecca both have complicated relationships with their parents. But this week, the curtain is drawn back to show us just how bad things had been for them both. Jack’s father had been verbally and physically abusive to his mother (and likely to him as well), and as a teenager, he had often witnessed his father’s outbursts. At the beginning of this episode, we see a young Jack coming to his mother’s defense during one of those moments. His mother, sitting at the kitchen table while her teenage son comforted her, had asked for a promise: “Promise me you’ll never be like him.” I was completely floored by the mirror to Rebecca and Randall here. Randall’s mother had asked for a promise after a crisis, too: “Promise me you’ll always be good.” And while the circumstances of those oaths could not have been more different, both the Pearson men held fast to them, and we’ve seen both promises shape their lives as adults. For Jack, it’s meant doing anything and everything he can to support Rebecca and the kids: it’s meant overtime work, it’s meant shelving the dreams of his own construction company, it’s meant laying on the floor with Randall on his back doing push up after push up after push up. All of it has been in honor to the promise he made to his mother, and all of it has set himself at a distance from his father in every way possible.


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Rebecca, growing up at the hands of a quieter form of emotional abuse, rife with passive aggressive, controlling, and demeaning barbs from her mother, knows that her familial relationship with wasn’t healthy either. This kind of struggle isn’t as cut and dry, and while she makes a cruel aside to Jack about how she knows his father was worse, he doesn’t take that to heart. Rebecca’s anxiety (and later on, her confusion at how to speak to her only daughter) is a clear line from the nightmare lunch she sits through the day she found out she was having triplets. Her mother orders for her at the restaurant (a diet soda, a salad without dressing), constantly degrades Jack, his profession, and his ability to support them, and nearly refuses to put out her cigarette when Rebecca asks. Every sentence is dripping with disdain and condescension, and Rebecca sits, tries to defend herself and her husband, and ultimately hears her mother’s suggestion when she admits that she doesn’t know what to do.


source: bigthree.tumblr.com
 

When Jack and Rebecca are back at home, Rebecca makes her mother’s suggestion to Jack: that the two move in with her parents after the triplets are born, save some money, and take advantage of the space at her old family home. It’s painfully clear what this would mean for Rebecca, and Jack doesn’t believe she’s even voicing this suggestion – but she doesn’t see any other way out. Rebecca feels trapped, and when Jack doesn’t see how dire her emotional state has really become, she promptly sends him out for ice cream. Once she’s alone, the effects of the day finally come crashing down around her. The triplets, the apartment, her mother, her desperation – all of it leaves Rebecca in their tiny kitchen, falling against the wall, sobbing. No part of her wants to let Jack hear her break down, but he does anyway, after forgetting his wallet and heading back into the apartment to get it. The loneliness that Rebecca was feeling here was palpable. Jack does everything right: knowing she wants to be left alone, he doesn’t go to her, and lets her believe he hasn’t heard the depths of her tears.

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But of course he has. And now that Jack understands how trapped and desperate Rebecca is feeling, he has to take action, has to do the right thing. He takes a detour from the grocery store and arrives instead at his father’s front door, with his wedding ring safely hidden in his pocket. Jack is a blank wall during this conversation, and it’s devastating to watch. Jack sits there and listens while his father repeats many of the same lies about him that Rebecca’s mother had thrown at her during lunch. After his father prompts that he must need money for gambling debts, Jack grabs at the suggestion and leans in. There’s not a word about Rebecca, not a word about the expected triplets; Jack has kept his father as far away from his life as humanly possible, to keep them all safe. When the gambling lie isn’t quite enough, he repeats back his father’s insults, knowing that groveling and stroking his father’s ego is the only way forward. It’s brutal, but it works – he walks out with a check, slips his wedding ring back on his finger, and moves on.

He sells the car. Gets a loan. Goes back to his boss, who had already given him a 10% raise at the triplets announcement, and gets a solid deal on the money pit he’d been working on. It’s in shambles, but Jack has six months to pull the house together and nothing can stop him. By the time they welcome the Big Three, that construction disaster has become the Pearson family home we all know and love.


source: bigthree.tumblr.com
 

Kate

The big mid-season cliffhanger left Toby in the hospital, after he collapsed during the Pearson Christmas celebration. This week, the show doesn’t linger on his fate for very long; it’s mere moments before Kate is visiting Toby, alive and relatively well and snapping at everyone he can find. He had suffered an arrhythmia, and has been recovering in the hospital ever since. Hospital stays rarely bring out the best in people, but still, Toby is at his worst. He admits that he’s “cranky,” which seems like a pretty dramatic understatement considering his opening sentence to Kate is “That’s what I get for flying across the country to surprise you” and that he’s openly hostile to every doctor in sight. It’s clear that he’s scared, and that he’s trying to act like none of this is a very big deal. But it very much is, and he’s not out of the woods yet.

His doctor arrives to tell Toby the official cause of his arrhythmia – a small hole in his heart that, while it could be treated using medication alone, should be operated on as quickly as possible. Heart surgery is terrifying, and with the doctor suggesting they operate in the morning, the turnaround is quick. But Toby doesn’t intend to volunteer for a second procedure when he’s already had a stent put in. He stops mocking the doctor long enough to decline, but Kate is having none of it. She sees right through his fear and calls him out on it immediately. She does it “gently and quietly,” though, because Kate has no intention of upsetting him more than she needs to in order to make her point.

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“Nothing bad happens on Christmas Eve.” – This Is Us Recap – Last Christmas

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This Is Us Season 1, Episode 10
“Last Christmas”
Posted by Shannon

For the first full episode this season, the whole Pearson crew is on the east coast. And it is SO good to have everyone together. But before we can get the whole family under one roof, we get to spend some time focusing in on individual characters and exploring some dynamics that I for one have been itching to learn more about. The mid-season finale is built out of a series of stand-alone two-person scenes, and every single one is a doozy. So let’s take them one by one this week.

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Jack/Rebecca


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Christmas preparations with triplets is no small feat. The tree is absolutely bursting with presents, and while Jack sees that as the fruits of his labor and love for his family, Rebecca’s got the traditional concern that the kids are only seeing the holiday for the sparkly gift wrapping and not as an opportunity for the family to be together. As one would expect for nine-year-olds, she’s not too far off the mark: Kate’s counting presents and Randall is counting Grandma’s Christmas money. At least Kevin, when pressed, assures his mom that he knows what the holiday is really about: Jesus stuff. (I mean, the kid’s not wrong.)

It’s good to see that the Pearsons hadn’t been planning on taking a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house after finally establishing their own Thanksgiving traditions, but unfortunately it doesn’t mean they’ve avoided an unexpected change of plans. Kate, complaining about stomach pain, lands in the hospital for appendicitis, and Christmas eve is suddenly relocated to the ER. It’s a pretty standard procedure but the family is understandably freaked out; Rebecca’s initial attempt at comforting Kate falls flat. (“It’s like having a tooth pulled?” The dentist would be an even worse place to spend a holiday, c’mon Rebecca.) Meanwhile, the boys are reacting in a perfect mirror to their adult counterparts. Randall hangs back, thoughtful and quietly worried, while Kevin simply won’t be moved from his sister’s side. He doesn’t go so far as kicking and screaming, but he follows along while she’s wheeled into surgery, far past the point he’s allowed.



source: bigthree.tumblr.com
When she slips off to get some snacks from the vending machine, Rebecca hears a familiar voice – Dr. K, holed up in a hospital bed after spinning his car out on some ice. Dr. K was close to retirement when we first met him back in the pilot, and it’s a full nine years later. He’s aged well, but the accident has left him with internal problems and he’s not too confident that he’ll make it out of surgery. Rebecca and Jack hop to immediately. There’s just no way they would allow Dr. K to sit in the hospital alone on Christmas Eve, and the family settles in to keep him company while they wait for Kate to get out of surgery.



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Kevin’s highest priority was and is Kate. As kids, the twins don’t actually get a ton of scenes together, but all we need to know about their childhood is right here. Kevin barely says a word at the hospital; all that matters to him is where his sister is, and when he’s not able to follow her into surgery, he tries to settle on the best possible religious figure to pray to for her safe recovery. He spends most of the evening clutching his side, feeling the same physical pain she was, and he can’t really be bothered to speak to his parents or to Dr. K.

For Randall, though, Dr. K represented something new and vital to his young life: an older man with some answers, someone who was there before his adoption, and even partially responsible for it. It’s not quite the answer that he’s been looking for, and he won’t fill the void of a biological parent, but he can help shine a light on how Randall got to where he is. So it’s no wonder that he immediately spends his Grandmother’s Christmas money on a gift for Dr. K, or that he’s the one who really bonds with the Doctor. We leave 1989 here for now, with Dr. K leaving yet another imprint on young Randall, instructing him to pass the same kindness Jack has shown on to someone else during his lifetime.


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Kevin and Sloane



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I figured Olivia wouldn’t be able to handle Kevin calling her out on her behavior nearly as well as she expects everyone else to, but I didn’t think she’d be quite this irresponsible. Turns out, immediately after their time at the cabin, Olivia just…disappeared. She jumped ship entirely on the play and hasn’t been seen for a month, leading the producers the pull the plug on the whole operation. Kevin and Sloane are both frustrated and disheartened; Kevin feels like he’s put the entire fate of his career into this play, and Sloane, as the playwright, actually has. But Sloane isn’t going to admit defeat on her entire holiday season, and demands that in return for driving her lead away, Kevin accompany her to her family’s Hanukkah dinner. In character. As her boyfriend. (“I can’t show up with no play and no Manny.”) Kevin is totally on board for this plan and jumps right in – after all, he did this story line twice in The Manny.

It’s only fair for Kevin to be thrown into the deep end with Sloane’s family after her time at the cabin, and their dynamic is just as delightfully relatable as the Pearsons. With a judgy, overly perfect sister and snarky mom, Sloane is the outlier in her family, and she plays right to type. She’s casually infuriated that her family found time to watch The Manny (or at least claimed to) while not showing up for her play, and throws barbs around at everyone in sight. Kevin’s just along for the ride, but then the lights go down and Sloane tells the story of Hanukkah to the kids. He can’t take his eyes off her. No one can; it’s no wonder her family insists she be the one to tell the story year after year. She’s funny and smart and dynamic, and you can see Kevin’s wheels turning the entire time. It’s the inspiration for Kevin’s best idea all season; he can put the money up for the play himself, with Sloane acting in Olivia’s old role. This is the most excited Kevin has been for the play hands-down, and frankly, it’s the most excited I’ve been too. Kevin and Sloane have a gorgeous chemistry, and they bounce off each other so much more naturally than he and Olivia ever did. Kevin radiates inspiration and affection when he’s around her, and all of a sudden I am VERY invested in both the success of their play and the inevitable transition from “fake relationship” to very very real and genuinely delightful relationship. Sloane brings out the same side to Kevin that Kate does; his eyes are brighter around her, his senses sharper. I just want to watch these two be adorable for a while.

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Kate and Rebecca

This is the one I was waiting for. FINALLY, we get some time with Kate and Rebecca. It’s a mirror to their Christmas Eve spent in the hospital back in 1989, except this time, Rebecca is accompanying her daughter to the initial appointment to discuss Kate’s potential gastric bypass surgery. The risks here are legitimately horrifying; not only is the surgery intensive, but Kate’s quality of life going forward would shift. Her diet would need to be extreme, and the risks for not following Doctor’s orders to the letter are dramatic. Kate grits her teeth, no doubt knowing most of this before she went in, and still feels that the change will be worth it. But it’s all new for Rebecca, especially when the doctor moves on to the intake questionnaire.

The dynamic between a mother and her grown daughter is complex. Of course it varies dramatically from family to family, but so much of Kate and Rebecca’s tensions are deeply relatable. Living far away from her family and existing more or less as an island, Kate has been facing daily struggles for depression (trying to get treatment with prozac, but giving it up after it caused more weight gain) and wrestling with frequent bingeing. It’s horrifying to Rebecca, but to Kate, and to many grown women, it’s just life. Adult children who move that far away from home and aren’t terribly close with their parents wouldn’t jump on the phone to talk about untreated depression. It’s a natural distance, and it’s partially because of the reaction Kate knew Rebecca would have. Of course Rebecca would want to know the difficulties her daughter faces. But for Kate, the mental math of sharing this information just never added up.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda: Most Handsome Young Man 2016

Posted by Kim, Sage, and Shannon

The competition was fierce and the competitors were easy on the eyes and the heart. But among a field that included Chris Evans, Sterling K. Brown, Santino Fontana, Oscar Isaac, and Karl Urban, just ONE Handsome Young Man could be voted as our readers’ CHOICE Handsome Young Man. Today, Lin-Manuel Miranda joins Adam Scott, Joel McHale, Tom Mison, John Cho, and Harry Styles in a very attractive fraternity. Not only that – he won our fourth annual poll with the largest margin we’ve ever seen. You showed love to his opponents too, but the numbers don’t lie. And they tell us that you think Lin-Manuel Miranda is one handsome son of a gun.

Since I wrote Lin’s nomination, I’m ceding most of this winner’s post to Kim and to our This Is Us recapper/head of the #HamforHandsome committee to elect Lin-Manuel Miranda, Shannon. I just want to add two points to my initial endorsement:

1. Enthusiasm is such an attractive quality. Though he’s a megastar now, Lin never looks or acts like he’s over it. He CAN’T BELIEVE what he gets to do every day and how many people he gets to reach. I think his fans see themselves in him. If they were in his place, they’d be soaking up every delicious moment too. That’s humility right there.

2. I don’t know why, but the way he says “yes” does things to me. (See: “No hablo Ingles!” “YES.”; “You punched the bursar?” “YES.”; and the entirety of “Say No to This.”)

Lin just can’t lose right now. And we’re happy to be heaping one more honor onto his teetering pile of awards. –Sage

#Ham4Handsome

#Ham4Handsome

I can admit that I am a latecomer to the Lin-Manuel Miranda train. I never saw In the Heights, his Tony winning musical that thrust him into the national spotlight. (I KNOW. BELIEVE ME.) But I can remember watching the Tonys that year and being completely endeared by the sprite of a composer who had FIRE in his eyes as he wrapped his acceptance speech, quoting Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat”. I remember him popping up on How I Met Your Mother and going toe-to-toe with Hugh Laurie in two magnificent episodes of House (both in red because Lin clearly knows his colors). I was aware of his genius and quick-thinking mind as he churned out those magnificent show ending raps for Neil Patrick Harris’ Tony hosting gigs. I was COMPLETELY aware of Lin-Manuel Miranda and yet I WASN’T. It’s one thing to know of him and it’s an entirely DIFFERENT thing to KNOW OF HIM and that’s something that can really only be achieved by seeing him live and in person.

Which brings me to Hamilton. While all of my friends were going apeshit when the original cast recording came out, I steadfastly refused to listen to it. Not because I wasn’t interested, because GOD KNOWS I was, but because I was holding out to experience Hamilton for the first time in the theatre. I proudly deemed myself as a Hamilton unicorn as I stubbornly clung to the dream that SOMEHOW I would be able to score a ticket. It was tough because the show was EVERYWHERE and all of my friends were obsessed. (God BLESS them, they tried to preserve my innocence as much as possible.) The Hamilton Gods smiled down on me in April, when one of my best friends from high school called me up one day and said “So my sister and I are taking her daughter to see Hamilton and we have a fourth ticket. Do you want it?” After crying profusely and desperately switching my tickets to see Gillian Anderson in Streetcar to another night, my ticket to the Room Where It Happens was secured. And it was EVERYTHING. I totally get people listening to the OBCR before seeing the show, because for some, it’s the only way of being able to connect with this masterpiece. But let me tell you…FOR ME…my choice of being a Hamilton Unicorn made my experience perfect because it was like baptism by FIRE when it comes to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Lin would probably be the first person to tell you that he is not a conventional Broadway leading man. He doesn’t have the full-bodied soaring voice that peers like Santino Fontana, Jeremy Jordan, and Hamilton‘s own Jonathan Groff have. But when you look at Lin on stage, none of that fucking matters. What sets Lin apart is his passion and charisma and that untenable quality that prevents you from looking at ANYONE else when he’s on stage. (And that says a LOT considering he’s standing next to people like Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr.) Lin’s Alexander Hamilton is MESMERIZING. He acts from his gut, from the deepest part of his soul, and it pours out of him from the tips of his fingers to the soles of his feet. From the buoyant JOY and determination of “My Shot” to the despondence of “Hurricane” to the reflective “It’s Quiet Uptown,” Lin’s performance was a masterclass. He knew his Alexander Hamilton inside and out and I will forever be grateful that I got to experience it in person.

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“Relax your eyes and look through it.” – This Is Us Recap – The Trip

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

This Is Us Season 1, Episode 9
“The Trip”
Posted by Shannon

Much of the focus for This Is Us has been on the long-term reverberations of decisions made by parents and parent’s parents; it’s a generational exploration, significantly larger in scope than we typically find in a family dramedy. Of course that still plays a part of the story this week, but this episode shifts focus to narrow in on the significance that community and family hold on a daily basis. “The Trip” is all about the importance of holding each other up in the here and now. Generational impact is all well and good, but where would any of us be without the people in our lives who will always stand within eyeshot when you need their support, or be willing to sacrifice their emotional security for your own? And what becomes of us when we don’t allow loved ones into our internal struggles?

Jack/Rebecca

Jack and Rebecca start off this week by carting the Big Three to the grocery store. It’s a relatively uneventful errand with standard levels of chaos and confusion, which Randall uses to sneak away.  Fresh from a science unit on inherited traits, Randall is armed with a new test in the search for his biological family: he’s taken to approaching any and all black adults he can find and asking if they can roll their tongues. His curiosity on the subject has made a natural progression from his subdued notebook to something more active; he’s even taken to making up stories to Yvette’s kids about who his birth father might be. The options he’s rattling off range from a cook to a famous basketball player to a mailman: all roles, Yvette points out, that Randall has seen filled by black men. He’s actively seeking out adult black males to look up to, and while he hasn’t got many options in their small town, it hasn’t stopped him from looking.



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Interestingly, during Randall’s first year of private school, Jack and Rebecca have switched places in their parenting styles. While Rebecca was the one to see past Jack’s misgivings about taking Randall out of school for what they really were (fear about his own career and the path his work life had taken), the situations have reversed. This time, its Jack pushing Rebecca to consider making a change on behalf of their son’s emotional well-being by tracking down Randall’s birth parents. Even Jack’s gentlest prodding, and his loving concern that he doesn’t want Randall “sticking his tongue out at strangers when he’s 80” sends Rebecca into a fit of anxiety, which she promptly takes out on the dishes.

On Yvette’s recommendation, and knowing how vital the need for a more tangible connection to the black community is becoming for Randall, Jack signs him up for a martial arts class. The studio is a haven for Randall; it’s full of black men and boys, and the teacher, Ray, emanates strength, calm and focus. He promptly takes Randall over to a photo of Ron van Clief, a renowned black martial artist, and starts to explain the Black Dragon and his legacy. This is precisely the kind of exposure Randall desperately needs, and exactly what Jack knows he and Rebecca can’t offer. Hard as they might try, the two will never be able to draw from a black experience. The best they can do is actively put him in environments like the dojo, with people who can offer that level of guidance and identity.

Still, Jack can’t shake the feeling that the dojo alone isn’t enough. One hour a week won’t be enough exposure to the black community to truly give Randall a sense of self, and Jack again mentions to Rebecca that it might be worth searching for the birth parents. Jack’s initial sensitivity at Randall looking elsewhere for a father figure is nowhere to be seen. Instead, he’s willing to make his own life more difficult, emotionally and practically, if it means giving Randall a more comprehensive, “inherent understanding” of his identity.  He even comes prepared with a PI recommendation to get the ball rolling. Rebecca, though, is painfully uncomfortable with this conversation, and only becomes more anxious the more Jack brings it up.

Of course we know Rebecca wouldn’t need a PI to track down William. When Randall first started asking questions, in the early days of his intense drive to find his birth parents, Rebecca once again found herself speaking to William without telling Jack; she knocks on William’s door, hoping he still lives there. And he does. (Rent control is a beautiful thing.) I’m not sure that Rebecca truly knows what she wants out of the meeting, but what she sees must have been a comfort and a horror all at the same time. William has already turned his life around; he’s been sober for over five years, he’s working at an instrument repair shop, he’s playing music in the back room during off hours, he’s attending Narcotics Anonymous. He’s more or less returned to the William we first met on the bus; writing often, living alone, and cautiously curious about how Kyle’s doing. His eyes lit up when Rebecca explained that they took his advice and changed his name; it was even more impactful to William that Randall’s namesake was Dudley Randall, after William’s favorite poet. The two share an uneasy but kind-hearted dialogue; Rebecca tells William all about Randall’s penchant for GI Joe’s, his skills at math and science, and his innate kindness.


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William is moving through so much in this moment: sadness, nerves, gratitude, and regret, but he takes comfort in knowing that Randall is living a happy, healthy life. Rebecca stops short of telling William he can or should meet Randall; what she says, rather, is that Randall has been asking questions, that he wants to meet his father, and that’s why she’s there. William, still struggling with his separation from his child and seeing an opportunity, jumps on it. His response is a little manic, and immediately he switches into turn of phrase that both had avoided thus far: “My boy wants to meet me.” All of a sudden, William launches into a whirlwind, offering a tour of the instrument repair shop, music lessons, even sleepovers and poetry collections that William had written for his son. It’s too much, too quick and too horrifying for Rebecca – she sneaks out the front door while William is searching for his poems, not saying goodbye, and certainly not leaving any way for William to get in touch.

These are exactly the fears Rebecca had in her mind when speaking with Jack. She doesn’t see any potentially positive outcome from Randall meeting William. She’s terrified by every option – that William could fall back into drugs, leaving them to decide what to tell Randall – or, maybe even worse for Rebecca, there’s the fear that Randall’s birth family would be great. That they would love him just as much as the Pearsons, and that they would want him back. I’m no expert on adoption laws, so I’ll take Rebecca’s comments here to be truth; without a paper trail for the adoption, without the Hills having legally given Randall up, it would be feasible for William to make a case to take Randall back, away from Jack and Rebecca and the twins. And that risk, no matter how slight, is a non-starter for Rebecca. She won’t budge, no matter the cost to all of them: to her, for having to keep the secret from Jack and Randall, to William, denied contact with his son, and to Randall himself.



source: echoeslane.tumblr.com

Jack, seeing how deeply Rebecca is set against a search for the birth family, continues taking Randall to the dojo. During Randall’s first formal class, Ray begins an initiation. He formally welcomes Randall into their community, acknowledging that while Randall’s life is generally positive, there will be ups and downs and challenges ahead. But at every turn, the community he’s built will hold him up, beginning with his father. The ceremony begins: Jack enters the formal dojo, and with Randall on his back, completes push up after push up, representing the support he will continue to give to his son. Ray prompts Jack to make a pledge, and Jack follows every “yes, sir” with a glance to Rebecca. He’s not just promising to Randall, and to Ray, and to the community at large that he will do anything and everything for his boy: he’s promising Rebecca, too. Even after Ray gives Jack the all clear to stop, Jack just keeps going. He goes, and goes, and goes, and for who knows how long; he only stops when he physically can’t continue, and by that time Rebecca has gone to his side.




source: echoeslane.tumblr.com

It’s a powerful, phenomenally moving gesture, but it’s also completely necessary.  Jack needed to prove to himself that he would push as hard as physically possible for his son to feel loved and supported, no matter the differences between them. He needed to show Rebecca that he would go as far as he could to make her feel comfortable and safe within their family unit. And of course, Randall needed to feel that support, and to see it made by his father in the community that they’ve joined together; both are outliers in a community of black men and their sons, but they are no less included in that community. Rebecca sees all of this as proof that she and Jack are all Randall ever truly need. Without knowing how William would have reacted to actually meeting Randall, without knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that their family unit would grow rather than shrink, she makes the call, writes the letter to William, and never contacts him again.

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

Kate

After her “seize the day” moment on the plane, Kate is holding steady to her decision to get gastric bypass surgery. While Kevin insists that she’s being too flippant about a dangerous procedure, Kate is never someone to take a decision like this lightly. She’s run the numbers (of course she has) and found that if her current weight loss rate stays steady, she’d be 106 by the time she reached her goal weight. Between this and the breakup with Toby, Kate is in the middle of one of those moments we all face from time to time: she’s thrown all the pieces of her life up in the air, mixed them up, and let them fall into a new order, hoping the new combination lets her feel more like herself.

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“The pieces are moving faster now.” – This Is Us Recap – Pilgrim Rick

 
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This Is Us Season 1, Episode 8
“Pilgrim Rick”
Posted by Shannon

Family dynamics are unique and strange and phenomenally individualized, so it’s no wonder that every annual celebratory gathering (holiday or otherwise) develops its own patterns. Traditions can grow out of anything – quiet, peaceful moments, casual repetition, or even extreme and unplanned chaos. For the Pearsons, what originated as chaos has evolved into a beautiful, cozy holiday celebration. This week, we see a holiday experienced from both sides: we have the origin story and the comfortable patterns that have taken root across three generations. Think of your weirdest holiday tradition – now ask yourself if the annual Pearson family celebration is really all that extraordinary.

Jack/Rebecca

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

It’s Thanksgiving in the 80s for the Big Three, and Jack and Rebecca are gearing up to spend the holiday with Rebecca’s family. Nobody’s very excited to go, and from the sound of things, I can’t say I blame them. Rebecca is as anxious as we’ve ever seen her, laser-focused on perfecting the cranberry sauce so she can avoid passive aggressive commentary from her mother. Jack isn’t looking forward to hearing his brother-in-law wax poetic about his new, top of the line CD player, and Randall is dreading a subtle but odious tendency from his grandmother, who keeps requesting photo shoots with “just the twins.” (Rebecca has called her on it, several times, to no avail. And Kevin wondered why she was protective of Randall.)

Jack, who had hoped that he and Rebecca could develop their own traditions now that his parents have passed, still puts on a smile, packing the car with snacks and Paul Simon records. The kids are enjoying the day before they end up stuck in the car; Kevin and Randall are actually hanging out and having a good time together, and while Kate is annoyed by the itchy sweater her grandmother knitted, she’s still ready to wear it for the day. All in all, it looks like the Pearsons have made the best of their newly annual six-hour road trip – until the boys knock into Rebecca and her cranberry sauce. The day gets exponentially longer, as they now have to kick things off by bouncing from grocery store to grocery store in search of a replacement side. Jack tries to keep the kids in line, but alas – Graceland really loses its powers of distraction after the fifth listen.

source: NBC

source: NBC

While Rebecca probably couldn’t imagine a worse start to the holiday, the Thanksgiving disasters have just begun; a tire blows out, and while Jack manages to keep everyone safe, he can’t avoid veering off the road and taking out a fence. It’s a 3.4 mile hike to the nearest gas station, but there’s nothing else for it, and the whole family sets out for the walk. When the animal noises kick off from the woods, Jack and Rebecca get their first opportunity to come in with a stellar distraction technique – the Thanksgiving game, where everyone describes how they want to celebrate the holiday when they grow up. Kevin’s the only one who gets out a proper plan – he intends to play for the Steelers, and eat a whole turkey after his game – but Randall throws a wrench in works by declaring that he won’t have Thanksgiving as an adult, since “when you’re an adult, you don’t have to do things you hate.” (Oh, kid. If only.)

The rebellion reaches Kevin and Kate, too, and before their parents can blink, the Big Three have revolted against the entire holiday. The quiet pain in Rebecca’s voice is palpable; she’s SO distraught that her holiday tensions have rubbed off on her kids. But it only gets worse when she hears that she’s a part of the problem, too; all the pressure of handling her family turns Rebecca into a walking ball of stress, and each one of the Big Three picks up on the change in her personality. Jack, who sees the situation coming more and more unglued, tries to assure her that the “kids are delusional from the cold” and don’t really mean it. But Rebecca has heard her family’s complaints, and the impact is already taking hold.

 
 
source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com
Once they arrive at the gas station, things don’t get much better – the attendant can’t get a tow truck to come out on Thanksgiving, and he suggests calling someone to come pick them all up until the car can be fixed in the morning. Rebecca puts her head down and gets ready to call her family, but it’s clearly out of instinct and not any real sense of security. It takes just a few sentences from her mother for Rebecca to lose all patience. Once her mom’s been assured that everyone is ok, she lists out what must have been a tirade of complaints – why are they so late, why didn’t they call earlier, why did it take so long to get in touch. But now that Rebecca has really felt the pain that has trickled to her kids, something switches within her. It’s not just that she’s worn down enough to take a stand – she’s making a change on behalf of her entire family, and refuses to “subject my kids to that this year.” With the slamming of a payphone, the Pinewood Lodge becomes the site of this year’s Pearson family Thanksgiving.

We don’t officially know where the Pinewood Lodge is located, but this is a weird, small New England town if I’ve ever seen it (and I grew up in one, so trust me). This lodge has it ALL: separate tiny cabins for each of its guests, a moose head on the wall (and it’s definitely real, despite Jack’s assurances otherwise), a furnace stuck on high and zero television reception. The real star of the Pinewood Lodge, though, is the hotel clerk – complete with a fancy hat, he creepily asks the “kiddies” if they’ve heard of the Mayflower, and refuses to answer to anything except his designated character name, Pilgrim Rick. No matter how firm she was in her decision, the whole set-up is unsettling enough to make Rebecca question whether or not she’s done the right thing. But the decision has been made, and the family settles in for a very different Thanksgiving evening.

source: kepnerrrd.tumblr.com

source: kepnerrrd.tumblr.com

Jack’s not a perfect father. No one is. But Rebecca was right when she said that Jack is an 11 when he sets his mind to it, and that quality really shines this week. He completely turns the evening on its head – under the guise of ducking out to talk to Pilgrim Rick about the furnace, he returns in character, knocking on the door and pretending to be Pilgrim Rick himself, at the room on a mission to fix the heating. The entire family’s reaction to Jack is so joyful – every single one of the kids is giggling, and Rebecca, who had been genuinely nervous when she thought Pilgrim Rick was knocking on the door, is clearly relieved – the family is finally LAUGHING, and they each really feel like themselves for the first time all Thanksgiving. In a whirl, a terrible gas station dinner becomes a thrilling floor picnic, complete with cheese dogs and Police Academy Three. Rebecca closes it all out with one last touch; Kate’s itchy sweater is coming undone, and it’s hard to avoid the symbolism here – while the family truly branches out to become their own unit, with their own celebrations, they physically destroy the only thing in their room that represents the holiday they were “supposed” to be having. Each family member yanks on the string, says what they’re thankful for, and throws the sweater to the next person. And so the holiday origin story is complete; the Pearson family traditions are born, the kids are enchanted, and the Thanksgiving holiday morphs from something each child was dreading into a truly special celebration of their unique identity.

 
 
 
source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com
 

Kate

source: NBC

source: NBC

Stuck on the West Coast with Toby, Kate’s position as the outlier was particularly intense this week. Even though Toby has decided to leave the group in peace, she’s still attending meetings, and this week the group focuses on each person’s Thanksgiving struggle. Everyone has a trigger that they’re particularly worried about, but Kate perks up when a member of the group mentions her gastric bypass surgery. It’s been a difficult road for the group member, but so far it’s been successful – she’s lost 30 pounds, and cautiously tells the group that the journey has been worth it. Frustrated with her lack of progress so far, and feeling particularly vulnerable after the change in Toby’s diet, Kate is visibly curious about the procedure.

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“Back in the basement.” – This Is Us Recap – The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World

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source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

This Is Us Season 1, Episode 7
“The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World”
Posted by Shannon

Spending your adult life in New York comes with a set of special skills.  I can identify storage space in otherwise unnoticeable nooks, I can kill weird kitchen bugs without freaking out (too much), and I can do a pretty decent yoga practice in a confined space. But it also means some very standard facets of adulthood are completely and utterly foreign to me. Enter the washing machine. In-home washing machines are nostalgic entry points to my childhood rather than my adult life, and as the show moves us through the decades in the Pearson home, I was quietly flashing back to a series of personal vignettes set in New England houses in the 80’s and 90’s. The same thing happens for Rebecca; she finds herself a little lost in time, using home electronics as her guide. It’s the most banal moments that stand out, as is so often the case in life. Those small mornings spent warning of an impending machine break or digging out from piles of soapy water are the ones that remind her of how far they’ve come, and of the stability that the family has created for themselves. This week, we explore the most decades yet in one story, and the consistency of the characters throughout those decades stands front and center. That, and the fact that past decisions, no matter how well-meaning, never really go away.

Jack/Rebecca

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

When last we left Jack and Rebecca in terms of their respective careers, Jack had taken the promotion with Miguel and Rebecca had presumably stopped singing at the sports bar after the arrival of the Big Three. Now we find ourselves in the 90’s; Rebecca is gearing up to return to performing, and Jack has been settled into his desk job for quite some time. Things seem to be  going well at the firm – Jack has even landed a big, impressive-sounding new account. But he and Rebecca aren’t quite connecting at home. Their interactions this week are stilted and just don’t have the same feeling of unity that they have in the past. The most glaring misstep comes early in the episode; Jack almost leaves without giving Rebecca a kiss for the first time in 18 years. He’s so distraught that he still can’t shake the guilt, and throughout the whole episode, Jack never really feels like himself.

Rebecca, for her part, is juggling her family’s needs with a rediscovered focus on her own passions. After getting a call from an old friend, Rebecca jumps at the chance to spend some time performing again.  While she’s a bundle of nerves all day at home, Rebecca shows up to rehearsal prepared, warmed up, and wearing a genuinely fantastic hat. I love that she’s giving herself the space to continue performing; even though she clearly stopped for a while, and perhaps longer than she wanted, Rebecca is still the dedicated, focused, and inspired girl she was when she was singing for a bar full of fans before the Super Bowl.

Football keeps circling around the Pearsons during their most important moments; despite a late work meeting that came along with the new fancy account, Jack arrives in time to watch the high school game with Rebecca. It’s a tricky game in the best of circumstances; Randall and Kevin are now playing on opposite teams, and the teen boys have their own powder keg of problems developing. (More on that later.) However, Jack and Rebecca barely speak to each other in the stands – Jack initially starts off asking about rehearsal, but Rebecca, clad in beige so as not to promote one boy’s school over the other, only gets out a few initial thoughts before a random parent interrupts them to talk about Kevin’s quarterbacking skills.

Jack and Rebecca’s problems connecting this week felt…odd. Technically, both of them have what could be read as mildly flirtatious interactions with other people. The band leader clearly has a thing for Rebecca, and I don’t know what the office assistant, Heather’s, deal is but I do not care for it. (“Your wife should have caught that”?? Really, show? Ugh.) But all that said, I don’t think we’re looking at an affair plot here. Rather, I think we’re seeing the first signs of whatever illness is going to claim Jack. I can’t shake the suspicion that it was Jack who forgot to tell Rebecca about his big work deal, not the other way around, and This Is Us has proven that it has a real penchant for focusing in on character’s ages as focal points for plot: don’t forget that Grace’s son Jeremy, the family from the wake Kevin crashed, was 15 when his father died – the same age that the Big Three are this week. I think we lose Jack in the 90’s, and I think it’s going to be rough.

 
 
source: bigthree.tumblr.com

Randall/Kevin

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

This week, we finally got to focus on one of the relationships I’ve been the most curious about – Kevin and Randall, through the ages. We open on the two sharing a room at fifteen; Randall has stayed at his private school and recently joined the football team, while Kevin is well known as his school’s star quarterback. They’ve aged since their time at the pool, but the dynamic hasn’t changed: Kevin wants nothing to do with Randall, and starts a screaming match in the middle of the night while Randall is still up trying to finish all his homework. Rebecca comes in to sort them out, and though Randall tries to make peace by offering to do his homework in another room, Kevin jumps at the idea of his own space in the basement. Randall is visibly downtrodden at the suggestion, and even more heartbroken when Kevin acts on the offer the next day. In an effort to understand his brother’s constant rejections, Randall goes to Kate and asks her advice. Knowing the two brothers’ default position is intense competition, Kate suggests that Randall try to go make some jokes and relax a little. It backfires immediately. Randall’s jokes aren’t much better at 15 than they are at 36, and Kevin has no patience for his brother, kicking him out of the basement almost as soon as he gets there.

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“I like spinning in your chair.” – This Is Us Recap – Career Days

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

This Is Us Season 1, Episode 6
“Career Days”
Posted by Shannon

In one way or another, every kid is uniquely impacted by observing the choices of their parents and family. Particularly when it comes to the weird, winding road of career paths, we either work towards or run away from the decisions we watch our parents make in their working lives. My parents were both artists; I’ve quietly rebelled with a desk job. It might have happened that way regardless, but the decisions each generation makes to follow (or not follow) in their parents footsteps is integral to that very specific dynamic. It plays out for every person in unpredictable and distinctive ways, and the Pearson kids are all faced with the impact of those relationships this week.

Jack/Rebecca

Jack’s career choices (and struggles) are pretty standard, but that’s not to say they’re without impact. He’s in construction, and while he starts off knocking down walls and doing site visits, as time goes on he moves into an office, presumably with the same construction company. With the spin of his chair, his surroundings stay stagnant (with the exception of a typewriter transforming into an early computer), and Jack’s face shows the strain of the years. His frenetic energy would have been better suited to a life out and about and building things, rather than one behind a desk. All of a sudden, his post-work bar stops make a whole lot more sense. Jack will always do what he has to do for his family, and he won’t blink at the sacrifice, but it’s clearly weighing heavily on his shoulders.

So when Miguel lands a promotion and offers to take Jack with him, he’s found himself at a crossroads. In his spare moments at work, he’s sketching logos for his own dream company, Big Three Homes (my heart), but now he’s faced with a different opportunity. Moving to a new team with Miguel would mean even more time behind a desk, but it would also mean an easier time at the kitchen table trying to stretch a paycheck to cover all the bills.

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

It’s particularly timely, because Randall’s teacher has called Jack and Rebecca in to speak with her after report card season. Randall has tested way above average at school, and the teacher suggests that his standard report card grades are because he’s just not being challenged enough. Jack’s response makes it pretty clear that something else is going on here; he freaks out and hides behind good intentions. He’s so terrified of treating his adopted son differently than Kevin and Kate that he’s devoted himself completely to raising them The Same, for better or worse. Rebecca isn’t convinced, and the two take a drive by of Hanes Academy to see what the switch would really look like. Jack is so focused on the white kids running around with briefcases that he can’t see what’s really happening here; he’s projecting his own fears and worries about taking a boring desk job onto Randall, who, let’s not forget, solved a Rubik’s Cube in moments a few weeks back.

His major outward concern is a seemingly fair one: he knows that Randall is already one of very few black kids at school, but at least here, he has Kevin and Kate. Ultimately, though, Jack would rather hold his son back then treat him differently. It’s a misguided attempt to help Randall feel less different, which, is never going to be possible. Randall will ALWAYS be different – he’s always going to be raised as an adopted, black kid in a white family, and Jack’s desperate attempt to hide from that fact is potentially very harmful. Just like Rebecca back at the pool, Jack’s giving us a perfect representation of how destructive “colorblind” mindsets are to people of color. His attempts to be fair are actually wiping away Randall’s difference, and holding him back from his true potential. Cue Yvette, who’s here to bring Jack to his senses by actually talking through what he’s proposing. She denies him the “black person seal of approval” and lays out exactly how harmful it would be to Randall for Jack to keep him in his current school.

Jack, to his credit, hears her, and brings Randall to work for a bit of a test. Under the guise of needing Randall’s help to calculate building materials, he sees first-hand two incredibly important things: one, that Randall is unquestionably operating at a higher academic level, and two, that he’s terrified to admit it. Jack’s suddenly faced with the real life consequences of trying to raise his children equally – Randall is horrified to be different, horrified that it will mean Kevin and Kate hate him, horrified that it will be yet another difference in a long line of differences that he feels deeply in his little nine-year-old heart.


source: stevenrogered.tumblr.com

Jack comes to his senses with another one of his patented amazing father speeches, and acknowledges the difference that Randall feels and that the family has tried to ignore. Difference is not the same thing as inequality, and that finally clicks in for Jack. Each of his kids can be – and are – extraordinary, but in specific, individual ways. That just makes it more impressive, and more empowering to see their different strengths.



source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

Randall/Beth


source: stevenrogered.tumblr.com

All that private school has paid off, and in adulthood, Randall is clearly proud of the work he does. He’s also a little defensive; turns out, trading commodities based on long-term weather patterns is tricky to explain to kids and adults alike. After walking in on William playing piano and singing for Tess and Annie (MORE OF THIS PLEASE), Randall learns that music and poetry have a strong hold on the biological side of his family. The girls are hoping their dad can teach them music too, but that’s not in the cards, since Randall declares that all the musical talent went to Rebecca and Kate. Tess and Annie see an opportunity to trade Randall’s boring day job speech at career day for a piano recital from William or even a visit from the Manny, but Randall bats off the attempts and holds his booking steady.

source: nbcthisisus.tumblr.com

During a dry run of the career day speech later on, the real emotional trigger makes itself known. He’s spinning out a little, and suddenly upset that no one in the family (Beth included) really understands what he does. But no one really needs to – Beth knows which partner he likes and which one he hates, she knows he’s considering firing his assistant for saying “like” too much, and she knows that’s what actually matters, not the ins and outs of weather-based commodities trading. Randall is facing a little bit of an early midlife crisis, triggered by the sudden potential for a new identity, one more in line with the biological side of his family. Beth encourages him to try to pull some of that creativity into the career day speech as a sort of test run, before he goes off and joins open mic saxophone nights in search of his Wesley-in-Mo’-Better-Blues self.



source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

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“I need you to talk me down.” – This Is Us Recap – The Game Plan

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source: bigthree.tumblr.com

This Is Us Season 1, Episode 5
“The Game Plan”
Posted by Shannon

There certainly are some massive themes rolling around this week’s episode. In both timelines, women had the opportunity to gorgeously articulate their feelings on motherhood and its impact on their sense of self. Also in both timelines, we discovered that two of the Pearson men have a penchant for making large-scale life plan changes in their minds without telling their wives until highly inopportune moments. Jack’s modern day fate, however clearly hinted at in earlier episodes, was finally revealed. Mandy Moore had an excuse to sing. And to wrap it all up, the show delivered its thesis statement, in the form of a stunning closing monologue from Justin Hartley. There’s a huge amount to process here, so let’s get right to it.

Jack/Rebecca

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

It’s pre-Big Three days for Jack and Rebecca, and we see the outline of their courtship through the lens of something deeply instrumental to all the Pearsons: Steelers fandom. Initially, Jack’s the only fan. Rebecca notices herself falling too close for comfort into the patterns of her mother; she’s watching Jack watch football, lacking an attachment to the game but more importantly, feeling separated from something that’s clearly important to her partner. What’s a woman to do? Insist that he teach her so she can be involved herself, of course. This throw-away moment actually highlights one of the very greatest things about Rebecca as a character; she’s tenacious, she cares deeply about every aspect of those she loves, and she jumps into the unknown with both feet. She more than matches Jack’s levels of personal investment and excitement for all things Steelers and Terry Bradshaw, and a few football seasons down the line, the two wake up on Superbowl Sunday ready for some shots.


source: thisisdefinitelyus.tumblr.com

Rebecca is living her best life; at 29, she’s singing at the local bar, she’s deeply in love with her partner, and she loves the freedom that their lifestyle affords. She listens to Miguel and Shelley’s childrearing horror stories and is happy to dismiss them. We get the impression that, until recently, Jack was taking part in these dismissals too – but twice in the episode, he looks at Rebecca while she declares that she never wants kids, and the sadness in his eyes is palpable. Earlier on in their relationship, the two of them were on the same page about children not being a priority; but at this point, Jack clearly has some other ideas brewing in his mind. Despite the setting, despite the company, despite a living, breathing stereotype of a misogynistic sports fan screaming at them every chance he gets, Jack prods Rebecca to have another discussion about children right here and now. It’s for all intents and purposes a terrible idea, but he just won’t let it go, and Rebecca finally dives in.

 
source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

I loved this so much. I loved her exhaustion at having to defend not being ready for kids at 29, I loved her owning her confusion about her feelings down the line, I loved how frankly she declared that she never wanted to be the kind of woman whose only priority was having children. It was messy and complicated and contradictory and so, so real. I have nothing but respect for ANY choice that a woman makes with her life and her body; if you want to have kids at 29, or 25, or 38, or never, go forth and live the life you want to live. But we so rarely get these conversations on-screen in ANY real way, and every single thing that came out of Rebecca’s mouth hit me right in the heart. I have felt and questioned and pondered all of those things; so many of us have. And to give Rebecca the freedom to explore that, at a sports bar of all places? It was a hell of a thing to see.

The fight jumps a level when Jack gets into an altercation with the misogynistic, shouty fan (I gasped when Jack punched him out without flinching for a second) and Rebecca was onto something when she implied that Jack maybe wasn’t in a state to be having a family right now either. Of course we know the drinking problem that’s to come, and it’s hard not to point to this moment as an example of questionable decision-making on Jack’s part.  But ultimately, and with the help of another well-placed question from Miguel, Jack comes outside to apologize to Rebecca for making such a scene and for forcing her into the conversation when she wasn’t ready. The most important thing in both their lives is each other; it’s a steady bedrock, upon which the two begin to move into the next phase of their lives.


source: leave-me-hypnotized.tumblr.com

Randall/Beth

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

This man needs a vacation, and he needs one now. The stress of handling his biological father’s health, plus his brother essentially moving in without warning, plus his everyday stress, leads Randall to wander the kitchen in a fog first thing in the morning, almost throwing a chemo pill in with his breakfast shake. I was immediately reminded of Beth’s warning early on in the season; Randall will push and push for everyone’s well being, with no thought for himself, until he breaks. Beth is there to make sure none of the men in her home do anything too careless, and catches him just in time. While Kevin is basically a guest in the house, William has truly become family; that change is particularly on display when Beth carefully instructs William on the order of his morning ritual – “toast, pills, shoes.” He’s become folded into their home, and while his health is certainly cause for stress, William’s living there is just adding another layer of love and support to their family unit.

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