Shannon’s Post – Head Over Feels We Just Have A Lot Of Feelings Tue, 14 Nov 2017 15:48:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 47147277 “We don’t get a lot of families in here that look like yours.” – This Is Us Recap – The Most Disappointed Man Tue, 14 Nov 2017 15:48:03 +0000

This Is Us Season 2, Episode 7
“The Most Disappointed Man” 
Posted by Shannon


Disappointment and hope are intrinsically linked; in a heartbreaking, complicated way, it’s almost impossible to have one without the other. “The Most Disappointed Man” could be any or all of us on the wrong day, and each and every character this week has had a day like that themselves. But there’s beauty in all of those stories too; a persistence, a drive to keep going, to see some hope ahead when disappointment feels like it’s closing in. This week, the Pearson’s (and Pearson-adjacent) each find themselves on one side of the fence between disappointment and hope.   

Jack and Rebecca


The Big Three have just arrived home, and amongst the chaos and clamour of three infants, Jack and Rebecca are fielding visits from baby Randall’s social worker, Paula. They’re anxious and prepared for the planned visits (and anxious and terrified for the unexpected ones) but regardless of the schedule, each time Paula shows up it’s clear how much they love all three of their children. After a year of successful check-ins and a glowing recommendation, they should be a shoo-in for an easy adoption. Paula doesn’t even bother attending the hearing, certain that it will be an open and shut case. For Judge Bradley, though, it’s not that simple.

Initially, Judge Bradley asks that Jack and Rebecca come back in three weeks with Paula, but when they find him in the hallway and ask to speak with him, it becomes clear that things won’t be that simple. The Judge firmly believes that Randall should not be raised by a white family, and he insists that he will not change his mind. In many ways, his arguments are the same ones that Jack presents to Rebecca when Randall starts asking questions about his birth family. Judge Bradley insists that without a Black family around him, there will be no one to help him “see himself, understand who he is.”  Judge Bradley knows first-hand the necessity of a role model who shares the same experience as your own, and informs Jack and Rebecca that “what you have in your possession is a Black child who will grow up to become a Black man, and my fear is that he won’t have the tools he needs in his life if he stays in your home.”


Rebecca is ready to fight right then and there, but it’s telling that Jack, even all those years earlier, stayed silent. It’s not that he doesn’t want to fight for Randall; he does. And I’m not suggesting that the Judge is in the right here. But the basic core of Judge Bradley’s fears are justified, and Jack knows it. For Rebecca, there’s no question that she and Jack will find a way to get Randall the support he needs, no matter the challenge. She’s already faced one hurdle; to celebrate the assumed adoption, Jack and Rebecca took the kids to get formal photos taken. For the kid behind the camera, exposure is a nightmare; he can’t figure out how to balance all five skin tones, so instead, he makes a thoughtless side comment and tries for various exposures in an effort to make the best of it. With the photos back from the store, Rebecca can see a tangible representation of the difficulties they’ll all face. Rather than accept a photo where one (or four) of them look unbalanced, she cuts out Randall’s best photo and pastes it into Kevin and Kate’s – and sends it off to Judge Bradley as proof of their persistence. Three weeks later, Jack, Rebecca, and the Big Three all show back up to the courthouse, ready to face Judge Bradley yet again. But knowing that he would be unable to make the ruling, knowing that his bias couldn’t be shaken and that Rebecca wouldn’t be shaken either, he recused himself from the case.

Randall, Beth and William

Deja’s stay with Randall and Beth has started to even out; her hair is tidied and she’s even amused by his jokes. But the time has come for Deja to go on a visit with her mom, and Randall’s protective side is on full blast. Turns out, at the time of her arrest, Deja’s mom had been driving with an unlicensed gun in the glove compartment next to her daughter. Instead of seeing a complex situation for what it is, all Randall can see is Deja in danger, and he’s in no mood to bring her to the visit. But he knows she’s been looking forward to this, compliments her dress, and hears Beth out when she reminds him that this isn’t some random criminal they’re visiting. And besides, Randall hasn’t done this before, but Deja certainly has. Once there, Randall makes another jumpy move to cover her eyes at the sight of a person in handcuffs. It’s a massive sign of how far they’ve come that Deja doesn’t push him away, but reminds him that “you can’t do that,” and nearly even teases him at having only seen someone in handcuffs on TV.

This visit is meant to be a special one; Linda, Deja’s social worker, announces happily that they won’t need to be behind glass and that today, “you can hug your mom.”  Randall puts his own feelings aside to calm Deja’s excited nerves, getting them through all the necessary checkpoints and assuring her that “your mom’s gonna love” her new hair. But when Linda pulls Randall aside and tells him that Shauna has opted out of the visit, the stress of it all gets to him. This is the first time we’ve really seen Randall be thoughtless, even cruel; he knows better than to ask Linda “if anyone here’s looking out for these kids,” and he’s so rarely careless that it felt like a slap in the face. Linda handles him calmly, but she’s shaken too; instead of reprimanding him directly, she tells him of another foster child she cares for who, after suffering from an untreated ear infection, is now deaf. Foster family after foster family doesn’t want the challenge, and Linda’s now an expert at saying “‘sorry sweetie, we still haven’t found a family for you’ in sign language.”

The sad fact remains, though, that Randall has to go back to Deja and tell her the news. They both take it in stride; he doesn’t tell her that her mom opted out, while Deja quietly asks for her purse so she can give her mom the allowance money she’s saved up for her.  

Of course, Randall’s not the only one who’s protective streak has opened up to include Deja. Once they get home and Randall tells her the news, Beth demands that they cut Shauna out of Deja’s life entirely. (“I am done letting that woman hurt that child.”) Randall knows that’s not the way out either, but part of me still half expected him to go into his own meeting with Shauna as if he were going to battle. And maybe he intended to. But when he gets there, behind the glass, and sees Shauna’s wrecked face, his better instincts kick in. Mostly.

This scene is complicated as hell, and I don’t pretend to know how any of it would feel. But I do know that Randall misses many of Shauna’s points, misunderstanding the difference between drill team and cheerleading, assuming that Shauna’s history makes her a fundamentally bad mother (and that his financial privilege will make him a better parent). I know that Shauna’s assumption that Randall’s wife is white is complicated and messy. And more often than not, I kept thinking again that Randall should know better. He should know that while personal responsibility is important, the system is set up so dramatically against women of color that to say Shauna’s choices alone landed her in prison shows a fundamental lack of understanding. When Shauna reminds him that “you wound up over there no doubt cuz things broke your way,” she mirrors a sentiment that William shared, too.


Randall has been brought to this point in his journey by both his fathers, and as is so often the case, they’re the ones he needs right now. William would have known exactly where Shauna was coming from because in so many ways, he came from the same place. After losing everyone he loved, William spiraled into addiction, and was ultimately arrested in what would have been the Reagan era’s “war on drugs.” (The history of the war on drugs should not be lost on us as viewers. William Hill would have landed in jail along with so many other young Black men charged with nonviolent crimes, and there are multiple books, documentaries, and articles written on the issues that I can’t summarize here. Please do read them.)

With no record of any kind, the Judge admits his “disappointment” at William’s transgression. And rather than stand there and listen to that, William asks his own question – “what would you have me do, your honor?” He’s lost everyone, he barely recognizes himself, and he honestly doesn’t care if he’s thrown in jail or not. And in William’s own case of things breaking his way, the Judge sees a light in him, asks to speak to him alone, and decides to rule an acquittal. On one condition. Not that William be perfect (“I know you’ll make mistakes just like the rest of us”) – that he remember the Judge’s face, his “too tired, too old, too fat face” and that he remember that face every time he’s faced with a bad choice. And William being William, he’s true to his word for years – decades, even. Whenever confronted with his addiction, he makes the choice to stay sober, to stay safe. Until his diagnosis. He still sees the Judge’s face, but he’s ready to end his sobriety anyway. And we learn, finally, that this is what kept William so long when Randall was knocking on the door during their first meeting. Randall’s knock stopped him from making a terrible call, and now his son is faced with a potentially bad call of his own.

Randall knows that he and Beth have done exactly what all the books warn against; they’ve taken Deja as their own already. And while Randall is ready and willing to fight for custody if Shauna so chooses, he also knows the more people in her life that love her, the better. With William, Jack, and Rebecca in his own mind, he makes the right call for Deja, and gives Shauna their home number so she can speak to her daughter.



Kevin’s downward spiral shows no signs of stopping. For the third time in a row, he pushes off a trip to see Sophie, opting instead to lie about meetings with directors and stay in bed surrounded by pain pills and empty bottles. He’s a more depressed version of the Kevin we met early in the first season; clueless, checked out, waking up confused and brushing off responsibilities. But this time, instead of snapping out of it by quitting a job he hated, he leans in and throws his relationships into chaos and disarray. On the phone, Sophie reiterates what she said at the benefit; she didn’t ask for this. (“You came to me, you showed up at MY door. I was doing just fine.”) And from Kate’s point of view, something is definitely “off” with him, but she’s understandably too focused on her own life changes to click in with her brother emotionally right now.

Before completely self-destructing, Kevin gives his relationship one last desperate attempt at a save. He books a red-eye and stops by a jewelry store, asking the attendant to “show me whatever’s the most sparkly.” Kevin’s addiction has completely taken over here. He’s not paying attention to his own feelings, and he’s certainly not paying attention to the feelings of those around him. But none of that matters to him in the moment; all he sees is a way to mimic his father’s grand gestures. He avoids all possible decisions, buys three rings and gets himself to Manhattan General as fast as humanly possible.


When he arrives at the hospital, Sophie’s just left for a transport, and while Kevin wanders the maternity ward waiting for her to come back, he takes even more pain pills and falls into a nightmare vision of his life as a father and husband. And here’s the real problem with that vision. It’s not that Kevin doesn’t want to get married and have kids; a lot of people don’t want that and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The problem is that I genuinely don’t know what he wants. Kevin is blundering but well-meaning, occasionally cold and more than occasionally clueless, he’s personable, good at the occasional speech, and superficial as hell. But beyond that? His hopes, his dreams? We don’t know what they are. And neither does he. Which brings us to this.


Jetlagged, sweating, and out of his mind, Kevin tries to leave Sophie’s life the same way he came back into it: appearing unannounced on her doorstep. And I can only imagine the betrayal that Sophie must have felt while listening to Kevin blather on about how  “there’s nothing inside me to give to you.” The “grand gestures” version of Kevin who appeared on her door a year ago might not have been him, but neither is the guy who says “when I dream of our future together, Sophie, it’s a nightmare.” But no matter which guy he really is, Sophie’s reaction is the right one; she slams the door in his face.

Kate and Toby


Now that Kate has told Madison about her pregnancy, the dam has broken and she’s ready to tell her family. They start with Kevin, of course, and even while he’s spiraling in his own mess, Kate and Toby’s giddiness is infectious. Next up is Toby’s mom; but as a severely practicing Catholic, she won’t be as entertained by their hoodie-zipper-shirt-reveal. Toby’s too freaked out to call her, much less during her “Judge block – Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Divorce Court” and tries to avoid the conversation as much as possible. Toby’s mom was heartbroken when they decided to move in without being married, and when Kate pushes the call button, Toby nearly has a panic attack. The severity of his reaction gets to her, and Kate, knowing that “nothing about our relationship has been traditional,” suggests that they just go to the courthouse and get married.

It’s all well and good at first, but none of this feels like Kate and Toby. The reality here is that a courthouse wedding would mean that they’re both avoiding something; Toby would be avoiding his mother’s wrath, and Kate would be avoiding multiple personal nightmares. From dress shopping to facing guests repeatedly bringing up Jack, Kate is all too happy to dodge the whole thing with a “Whoosh, you’re married.” When she goes so far as to say a courthouse wedding would “get it over with,” Toby clicks in and realizes that her heart wouldn’t be in this.

Back at home, watching his own Judge block, Toby needs to talk out the problem. But Kevin is checked out, he has a complicated relationship with Rebecca, and he frankly barely knows Randall. So instead, Toby starts talking to himself – and to Jack. He knows Kate loves weddings. Knows she watches “Say Yes to the Dress” with a special notebook. And he knows that a part of both of them would always be disappointed if they didn’t have a celebration – with the wedding itself, but also with the engagement.  So instead, he calls his mother to tell her about the pregnancy, buys five hoodies and waits for Kate to get home.


I love a lot of this proposal. I loved “If there is any part of you that wants the big wedding… I think you deserve that, kid.” I loved that he mentioned Jack. And I love that he did the right thing. When Toby comes through, he comes through.

Colors of the Painting

  • “Good morning, Destiny’s Children.”
  • I really love that the Pearson family photo countdown word is “Steelers.”
  • Toby’s right, Kate’s two brothers are “stupidly handsome.”
  • It was a tiny moment, but Randall asking Deja who was driving to the meeting with her mom killed me. It’s so casual, so lovely, and a sign of how far they’ve come that she’s amused by his dad jokes even at a time like that.
  • It’s standard This Is Us symmetry to have both William and Rebecca’s judges in the same courthouse, but I’m still touched and haunted by the possibility that William was in the building the same time as the Pearsons.
  • A moment for Beth’s outfit on the way to work, honestly that woman is killing it on the regular.
  • Speaking of outfits, baby Randall and baby Kevin are wearing MATCHING SHIRTS to the first courthouse hearing.

What are your thoughts on “The Most Disappointed Man”? Let us know in the comments! 

]]> 0 12546
“I’m not the same as I was.” – This Is Us Recap – The 20s Mon, 06 Nov 2017 17:43:32 +0000

This Is Us Season 2, Episode 6
“The 20s”
Posted by Shannon

When my quarter life crisis hit, I had just moved to New York City, finally achieving a goal I’d had for the entirety of my young life. Sure, I made it to the town of my dreams, but that felt like it was the beginning and the end of my victory list. Imposter Syndrome ran rampant in my professional life, which was made up entirely of best guesses and lucky breaks, while my personal life was really nothing short of a disaster. Basically, it wasn’t going well. The thing is, everyone I know has a version of that story – and our fictional Pearson counterparts are no different. Kevin and Kate spend those hellacious years professionally and emotionally stalled, while Randall, crushed by the weight of his own expectations, is thrown into his first nervous breakdown. The Big Three just aren’t doing great here, and who can blame them? No matter what you call it (quarter life crisis for most, Saturn return for the astrologically minded), that stretch of years from the mid-twenties until the early thirties is weird and horrible. But at least they have each other.

Jack and Rebecca


Homegrown Halloweens are always the way to go, and from Rebecca behind the sewing kit to Randall’s hand-drawn map, the Pearson’s are doing it right. But that doesn’t mean it’s done early; Rebecca is finishing up the costumes the night before Halloween, and while the boys are happy as Michael Jackson and a hobo respectively, Kate wants to make a last-minute change from a veterinarian to Sandy from Grease. It’s all well and good in theory, but in practice, Jack and Rebecca’s favoritism is running rampant this Halloween. Jack immediately cedes to Kate’s request for a whole new costume on a moment’s notice, and Rebecca leaps to Randall’s defense when Kevin and Kate start questioning his map. Jack and Rebecca are decent but flawed parents (really, isn’t everyone) and my thinking here jumped right to Kevin. Is it any wonder that the child who was so clearly no one’s favorite grew up to be self-involved and emotionally cut off? And in yet another blow to their parenting skills – how do NONE of their children recognize Sonny and Cher?!? Shameful.

While Jack and Rebecca lack behavioral self-awareness, they at least recognize the favoritism in each other. Rebecca is worried for Kate, who she knows will have a “nothing but no’s” in her twenties, while Jack rightly points out that Randall is “too rigid, and it’s getting worse.”  But neither one of them makes a change immediately. Kate gets her new Sandy costume, and Randall gets to split off from Kate and Kevin so he can stick to his strict full-size candy bar priorities. With the party split in two, Jack takes Kevin and Kate to the neighborhood haunted house, but soon Kate jumps ship as well. She’s hoping to go through the house with Billy, a kid from their class who’s “almost as popular” as Kevin. When Jack questions Kevin, he immediately divulges Kate’s crush, and while Jack thinks it’s ridiculous because Kate is only 10, Kevin worries that “it’s ridiculous because he’s Billy Palmer.” Jack follows them outside of the house, worried the whole time for Kate, hoping that she doesn’t emerge with a broken heart. Instead, she runs out holding Billy’s hand. Jack and Kate celebrate, but out of the corner of his eye, Jack watches Kevin dump his entire bag of candy into Billy’s pillow case. He’s not the only one who’s always looking out for her.

For her part, Rebecca is at least trying to address Jack’s concerns. Randall IS getting too rigid, and it’s not healthy for a 10 year old to be so completely opposed to any change in his plans. She sees an opening at the Larson’s house, which is right on Randall’s route and doesn’t have a line. Randall isn’t interested in improvising here, since the Larsons talk too much and give out licorice, (TRULY, who likes licorice, that stuff is awful) but Rebecca gently insists. When Randall returns in a huff, Rebecca is worried that he’s reacted badly to the spontaneity; instead, it’s a whole lot worse. The Larsons, unprompted and with truly astounding carelessness, had called Randall a “miracle,” opening to a conversation about their lost triplet. While Randall knew he was adopted, he didn’t know the circumstances; Rebecca and Jack had been planning to tell him the full story one day, but thanks to the thoughtlessness of suburban neighbors, Rebecca is stuck on a sidewalk telling Randall his history alone. She makes the best of it; Rebecca normalizes Kyle’s death in a healthy and thoughtful way, while making it clear to Randall that “yeah, you are a miracle, but you are not instead of anything.” For Randall, the pieces all begin to fall into place. He asks for his brother’s name, and realizes out loud that “Kyle’d probably look like you and Daddy.” It makes so much sense that Randall would become fixated on his origin story; in his 10 year old mind, it must have felt like everyone knew his whole past except for him.


Back at home, Rebecca’s clearly shaken. In a matter of moments, Jack knows that something’s off, and Rebecca tells him about the evening’s dramatic change of direction. Jack’s focus instantly lands on Rebecca’s emotional state. After all, she just had to re-live that trauma all by herself while navigating the shock of her story being told without her knowledge AND losing any semblance of control as to how her son learned a pivotal piece of his history. It’s a heavy lift in the best of circumstances, but Rebecca’s priority here was keeping Randall safe. Any flashbacks to that night from her own perspective had to wait. At least, until the birth of her first granddaughter.

Randall and Beth


The year is 2008, and it’s just two months since Randall’s first nervous breakdown. While he fixates on installing a ceiling fan for the baby’s room, Beth is a week and a half past her due date, with an induction scheduled for the following day. Randall and Beth’s relationship is strained, to say the least. Their usual banter is nowhere to be seen. Instead, he nitpicks her Halloween candy purchase (“I wanted to be the house with the full size candy”) and insists on discussing crib death. At least Rebecca is on her way; Beth is visibly relieved at the prospect of some support in the house, not to mention some backup in handling Randall’s emotional state.

I can’t say enough about Beth and Rebecca’s relationship here. Like so many female bonds, mother-in-laws are often treated with an eyeroll, something to be dismissed or joked about. Instead, Beth sees Rebecca as a point of comfort, context, and as a trusted confidant. After Randall takes off to the hardware store to let them talk about him in peace (“You two are really loud whisperers”), Beth opens up about Randall’s recovery and the toll it’s taken on their relationship. Rather than being honest with each other, rather than hashing things out with their signature quick wit and honesty, Randall and Beth are tiptoeing around each other, scared that any wrong move could trigger another breakdown. Rebecca tells Beth that Randall is stronger than he seems, and while that might be true, Beth’s also got a point. Rebecca wasn’t there, she didn’t see Randall “blind, weeping, and a million miles away.” There’s no easy solution for either of them, but it’s a comfort for Beth to get this off her chest, and to hear Rebecca assure her that “you’re gonna believe him again.” Soon they switch gears, talking instead about the pregnancy and impending string of baby photos. While Beth assures Rebecca that she isn’t going to be one of those moms who Facebooks every moment of her child’s life, she can see that Rebecca is looking for connection, and agrees to help Rebecca set up a Facebook account.


Meanwhile, at the hardware store, Randall is staring intently at the ceiling fan section. When an associate comes over to check on him, Randall, with all of his walls broken down by sheer exhaustion, launches into the reality of his life and his recent past. Two months ago, he was doing research on the brain development of a fetus (because of course he was). When he discovered that dreaming starts at six months, everything started to crash down around him. Dreams aren’t scientific, they’re not planned, they can’t be prepared for. In essence, dreams represent everything that Randall is most afraid of. Work is one thing, and even his own dreams are another, but the universe of a whole other person’s hopes? It’s too much. It’s heartbreaking and perfect that this was the cause of his first breakdown, and he picked a truly patient and kind-hearted retail professional to open up to. Randall admits that he started talking to Garuda in equal parts because of his “ask me how I can help” badge and his turban (“Eastern wisdom?” “East Trenton.”), but Garuda more than humors him. As a father of five, Garuda knows Randall’s fears. And he knows that with the baby comes the answers. He won’t feel ready until he has no choice but to BE ready. With a final suggestion for the best ceiling fan on the market, Garuda tells Randall he’ll meet him at exchanges. But his time is up; Rebecca calls Randall’s cell with the news that Beth is in labor. Now.

Randall allows himself a few panic-blinks before taking off from the hardware store, making it home in record time. Sure enough, Garuda was right. The moment Randall really needed to come through, really needed to be the reliable, steady partner Beth knows him to be, he snaps back into reality. With his eyes locked on Beth the whole time, and his mother by his side, Randall delivers his first daughter right in his own living room.


When the chips are down, the Pearsons always come through. And as the matriarch of the family, Rebecca embodies that mindset. I was so proud of her during this delivery. And I was floored by how touched I was that she was a part of Tess’s birth. And of course, the show leans right in. This is Parenthood-esque manipulation at its BEST, and I am here for it. After the dust has settled (and after she breaks a ceramic in the living room) Rebecca finally breaks, too. It’s been eight years since Jack’s death, and she’s still very much in mourning. While she must have had similar feelings at Beth and Randall’s wedding, the birth of her first granddaughter is shadowed by the fact that her partner isn’t there to share the moment. Randall feels the loss too – of course he does – and while he and Beth had been planning to name their baby Jack or Jasmine, the girl name just isn’t sitting perfectly with him. Rebecca assures him that “it doesn’t have to be a J name, Randall,” and instead, they remember Jack with a joke, laughing about how he would have tried to take biological credit for the baby having so much hair.

Once she arrives at the nursery, Rebecca welcomes Tess to the world, and walks her through the outline of their lives. Middles are hard; no one knows that more than Rebecca. Beginnings, though, have a magic and a history to them, all at the same time. After all, Tess “began a long time ago,” with another gorgeous baby in another nursery, that time with Jack behind the glass, watching the bond begin between a mother and son. And sometimes, a beginning gets snuck into a middle, and the cycle begins again. Once she’s back home, getting all set up on Facebook by posting a picture of her new granddaughter (named after, of course, Garuda’s suggested ceiling fan), Rebecca gets a message to her inbox. It’s Miguel, checking in to see how she is. And she’s good.

Kevin and Kate


Kevin and Kate’s 20s are not particularly kind to them. Kevin, relatively new to LA, is spending his days washing hair and boring his customers to tears by complaining about his inability to get an audition that doesn’t end in him being compared to Tom Cruise. At least Kevin’s roommate, Zeke (HI CHARLEY KOONTZ, I HEAR YOU WERE ON COMMUNITY, IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU HERE), has been covering the rent. Zeke’s an actor too, and he’s overwhelmingly supportive of Kevin. After Zeke gets cast in what’s very likely his big break, rather than leaving Kevin in the dust, he brings his roommate along to party, hoping to help make a connection. And how does Kevin repay Zeke? By following the director to the men’s room, cornering him, asking about casting and – when none of that works – questioning Zeke’s ability to perform in the movie. After all, Zeke is a character actor, not nearly “all-American” or “handsome” enough for the role.  To be clear, this is sleazy and horrible and might be Kevin’s most irredeemably selfish moment. The director doesn’t take kindly to it either. He lets Kevin fully dig his own grave before absolutely decimating him, calling Kevin out as an “actor, waiter, talent-optional” and assuring him that he’ll never be cast in one of his projects. Ever. “Not even carrying a tray.”

Back on the East coast, Kate’s waiting tables by day and attending classes by night. She’s got a favorite customer, though; Kate knows Steve’s schedule and his favorite order by heart, and when he mentions his plans to go out to a bar later that night, Kate sees her opportunity. Dressed as “a girl taking a chance,” Kate arrives at his neighborhood bar for Halloween. I love her taking this shot, but something felt off from the beginning – when Steve’s friends notice her, they exchange meaningful glances, and he pretty much immediately asks if they can go somewhere “quieter.” They land in Kate’s apartment and hook up, and while the initial giggles are cute, the guy makes moves to leave pretty much immediately. Kate’s got an optimistic streak, but that doesn’t make her dumb. She worked out that Steve was married ages ago, but she’s just deeply tired – “tired of waiting for things to feel right” – and I for one can definitely relate to that. But hopping into bed with a married dude doesn’t seem like an emotionally safe way to work through those feelings, and sure enough, this hasn’t helped her the way she hoped.

But taking Steve home means she was there to get Rebecca’s call. Hearing that Randall and Beth had their baby immediately throws Kate into action. She calls Kevin, who hops on a plane (having been properly told off by Zeke, he certainly has no obligations in LA at the moment) and in a blink, the two of them are at Randall’s side, ready to meet their first niece. It’s all hugs and new baby excitement for a while, but when they’re alone, Kevin and Kate split a bottle of wine and start to commiserate. It doesn’t take long for both of them to admit that they’re each a mess. Kevin hasn’t had an audition in a year, Kate’s “new guy” is married and she’s regularly driving to the old house, staring at where the Pearson family home used to be. Kevin and Kate are still very much in mourning; especially Kate. These two need each other right now. And they need new projects, something to shake them out of their quarter life crisis malaise. For Kevin, it’s joining an improv troupe. For Kate, it’s finally leaving town and heading out to California to get a fresh start. And hey, they both still have five years to catch up to their brother and get their shit together.

Colors of the Painting

  • Using the Obama ‘08 campaign as a timestamp was real effective and real upsetting at the same time. I miss you, Barack, come back to us. (And character wise, it makes sense for Kevin to be the only one of the Big Three not paying attention to politics, but don’t think I’m not judging him because I most definitely am.)
  • The soundtrack for This Is Us is reliably great but between the “I Got You Babe” and “Jesus, Etc.” covers, this episode really killed it.
  • Speaking of music, Rebecca’s Halloween costume meant two fantastic, blink-and-you-missed-’em Cher shout outs: “I’ll be the one with the devoted fan base!” and “What’s Sonny without Cher?” “I think it’s the other way around.”
  • Also, the moonwalk.

  • Miguel is living in Houston when he reaches out to Rebecca on Facebook, which means they reconnected long-distance. Why is Miguel in Houston to begin with? Did he promptly move back when he and Rebecca got together? That little line opens up a whole host of questions.
  • Sterling K. Brown coming through with the SINGLE TEAR again after he hears Garuda talking about his family. Give that man more awards right the hell now.

What are your thoughts on “The 20s”? Let us know in the comments!

]]> 0 12542
“I try not to feel anything at all.” – This Is Us Recap – Brothers Mon, 30 Oct 2017 14:45:12 +0000

This Is Us Season 2, Episode 5

Posted by Shannon

The Pearson family has a few calling cards. Steelers fandom, a knack for performance, and an attachment to unique traditions all signify their familial bond. But they also share a deeper, more problematic trait; the all-too-common impulse to ignore what they’re feeling, to bury their anxieties down within their psyches, cover them up with addiction, or hide their worst memories away in the attic. This week, Jack, Kate, and Kevin alike all find themselves ignoring something they ought not ignore – painful pasts, frightening futures, and rampaging addiction. Randall, ever the outlier, is the only one who lets himself truly FEEL something – now that the constant distraction of his office job is at an end. I, for one, would like to take up a collection to get each and every one of them into therapy. But in lieu of that, there’s always camping.

Jack and Rebecca

While we’ve yet to see a particularly great time in the relationship of young Randall and Kevin, “Brothers” takes us back to one of their most challenging years. With Randall at a new school, Kevin is consistently horrible to his brother, avoiding him at all costs, making fun of everything that comes out of his mouth, and opting to hide alone with his Gameboy at every opportunity. Jack can’t let this stand, and decides to take the boys camping for the weekend, in the hopes that the time alone will break them down and create some kind of bond. Kevin definitely isn’t making it easy. From the moment they get into the car, he wants nothing to do with Randall, and the only time he has a modicum of fun at the campsite is when he’s laughing at his brother for getting trapped inside a collapsed tent.

Jack’s at his wit’s end. And while he’s got the right idea with his speech to Kevin, he also pushes the kid a little too far, leaning into his worst habit of being too emotionally open with his children and airing his frustration with their unique needs. (“All you kids, you need something different!” Maybe because kids are people and people are not all the same? C’mon, Jack.) There’s something deep and intense about Kevin’s reaction to Jack pushing him; right before Jack leaves him alone, it almost looked like Kevin was on the verge of a panic attack. Regardless, he completely shuts down, and Jack leaves, frustrated. Whatever’s going on here, Kevin isn’t able to express it; he might not even understand it. But when he finds Randall’s notebook, filled with ways to try to get on Kevin’s good side, he begins to understand that their dad is right. All Randall wants is to be friends with his brother.

Something in that list gets through to Kevin, and he ventures out of the tent to make s’mores with Randall. But Kevin isn’t the only Pearson wrestling with complex emotions on the camping trip. Jack is fixated on the faltering relationship between his sons, and fixated on being the best, most supportive father he can possibly be, in no small part because of the dramatic difference in his own upbringing. Throughout the camping trip, Jack has glimmers of flashbacks to being roughly the same age as Randall and Kevin, on a fishing trip with his father. We’ve known that Stanley Pearson was an alcoholic, and an emotionally and physically abusive figure in Jack’s past. The image of a young Jack, quietly convincing himself that his father hasn’t abandoned him, is heartbreaking – but it’s thrown into a new light when his little brother, Nicky, emerges from the backseat. Even at that young age, Jack’s internal drive to care for those around him, to protect them from anything and everything, was paramount. And yet, we haven’t heard a word about this brother before. At the close of the episode, we learn that Nicky signed up to go to Vietnam with his older brother, and there’s no way that story ends well. There’s something bad here, something that Jack is ignoring, and it has manifested into a desperate drive for his sons to get along.

With the boys out of the house for the weekend, Rebecca had planned to spend some quality time with Kate, taking in a double feature of Turner & Hooch and Honey I Shrunk the Kids before ending their mother/daughter day with a manicure. But it all goes out the window when a representative from Stanley Pearson’s nursing home calls, warning his next of kin that Stanley is close to death. Rebecca tries, to no avail, to get in touch with Jack, before finally heading off to the nursing home with Kate in tow. I suspect that the last time Jack saw his father, it was to ask for the house loan, and Jack had memorably slipped off his wedding ring before walking in the door. As a result, Rebecca and Stanley have never met; he certainly hasn’t met any of the grandkids.

When Rebecca finally does get in touch with Jack, thanks to a park ranger with a car radio, he has no interest in coming home, and doesn’t even ask Rebecca to pass along a message to his father. That father and son relationship is far past the breaking point, and Jack’s priority is the family he’s built with Rebecca. Nothing else matters.


Tensions are still high at Randall and Beth’s breakfast table, but with Kevin back in the basement (for all of one night, but still), the issue of Deja’s hair has been shelved. Still, Randall and Beth are both on high alert for any and all comments about Deja’s appearance, and Kevin is all too happy to ignore their concerns and generally act like his oblivious self. When he invites Randall and Beth to join him at Sophie’s charity gala, they decline, but Deja quietly asks to join instead. Beth has some legitimate concerns about this plan; not only is a “swanky, Manhattan charity ball” an intimidating place to bring Deja, Beth can see the real reason for Deja’s interest – her burgeoning crush on Kevin. After all, as Beth reminds Randall, “your brother is smoking hot.”

Not even that mortifying piece of evidence can sway Randall in his efforts to connect with Deja. He’s just happy that, for the first time in her stay, she’s excited about something, and he can’t let that opportunity pass him by. Beth does want it to go well, and besides consistently reminding him not to discuss her appearance, she also gives Randall a strict set of dad joke guidelines – which he promptly throws out the window. (“Cool means normal.” “No it doesn’t. Cool means cool.”) Throughout the car ride and their arrival at the party, Randall is in fine form, making endearingly cringe-worthy jokes ranging in subject matter from Dairy Queen to Star Trek and everything in between. (Petition to have Sterling K. Brown recite the entire opening monologue of Star Trek: The Next Generation, please and thank you.)  As always, though, Randall’s efforts have a deeper, thoughtful motivation. He remembers his first day at private school, looking out into a sea of white faces not unlike the one he and Deja find themselves in now, and he wants her to feel at home. But Kevin does that in a heartbeat, with all the ease and humor that Randall always envied in his brother.

Despite Deja almost completely ignoring Randall, their attendance at the gala gets off to a decent start. She’s enjoying herself, carrying herself with poise beyond her years, and generally looks a hell of a lot more comfortable at her first non-profit gala than I did at mine. Randall is so impressed with her, and watches her out of the corner of his eye while she takes in her surroundings and enjoys some shrimp cocktail. He’s happy to keep a distance and let her have this experience, but when Deja goes to eat the tail of her shrimp, he jumps, grabbing at her shoulder to stop her from choking. Once again, Randall is well-intentioned but clueless about Deja’s reactions to his physicality. He pulls back quickly when she jumps, and lets her leave for the restroom without visibly following her, but still – he should have seen this coming.

Randall and Kevin’s relationship has settled since their time living together last year, but there’s still so much tension and envy between the two of them that it’s hard to know when it might rear its head. And when Kevin finds Randall waiting in front of the ladies room, trying to talk himself out of going in to talk to Deja, the two get to the emotional core of their differences. Randall cares deeply about his emotional well being, and that of the people around him. But showing his loved ones that he cares, and expressing those feelings outside of his own swirling turmoil, has never come easily to Randall. Kevin doesn’t express those feelings well either – but that’s because he ignores them, relying instead on his considerable charm to get him through. I was reminded of how easy it seemed for Randall to connect with his newfound cousins back in the jazz bar in Memphis; when he does get out of his head, when he lets himself be comfortable and at ease, he’s just as socially natural as Kevin. But getting to that point takes a whole lot more out of Randall than it does his brother.

Barging in on Deja in the women’s room could have gone either way. She could have seen his standing in front of her stall as a trap, or taken it as an order to share a story she wasn’t ready to share. It could have backfired, and it could have backfired badly. But instead, Deja almost seems to be grateful for Randall’s steady, quiet energy, and so she opens up. It’s been clear that Deja was a survivor of abuse, and she tells Randall that the second to last foster home was the worst yet; she was regularly beaten by her foster mother’s boyfriend, along with all the other foster kids at the home. Randall hears her out, doesn’t ask questions, and doesn’t demand any further information. He’s just there to listen, and when Deja is done talking, he lets her leave with dignity before taking her home for the night.



Kevin’s back on the East coast for a long weekend, and even after spending a night regaling Tess and Annie with set stories about Ron Howard and Sylvester Stallone, he does not look great. The film has wrapped, but Kevin’s not in town to celebrate: Sophie’s hospital is having their annual charity benefit, and Kevin has agreed to be auctioned off for a date to help raise funds. Instead, he spends all of his time fixated and self-medicating. When he can’t find extra pain pills in Randall’s guest bathroom, he leaves message after message at his LA doctor’s office, asking for yet another Vicodin refill. In between phone calls, he guzzles beer, and even though he hasn’t seen his girlfriend in weeks, Kevin is distracted and disinterested at her apartment. He’s lying to her constantly; he never once mentions his knee, even though Sophie knew about the injury, and he pretends all his calls for pain meds are just calls to Kate, helping her with a universal remote crisis.

Kevin holds it together at the beginning of the gala, and at least he isn’t a mess in front of Deja, but before long he’s a complete drunken disaster. Kevin downs bourbon after bourbon, finally reaching his LA doctor only to scream at him when his request for more Vicodin is turned down. Kevin is too wrapped up in his own pain and addiction to notice when Sophie announces him from the stage; he misses the auction entirely, stumbling back into the ballroom long after the ceremony has ended. Kevin has no clue that he’s missed it, and while he knows he’s fucked up, he won’t truly own his mistake. Sophie has the look of a woman who has been through all this before, and who can’t believe she’s back here again. I’m willing to bet that she knows Kevin has something else going on, and that she doesn’t buy his claims that Ron Howard needs to do re-shoots. Whatever Kevin’s excuse, she doesn’t really want to hear it, and I can’t say I blame her.

I’ll say this for Kevin’s addiction; it’s certainly spiraled out fast. This storyline feels tired and predictable, but I’m hopeful that it acts as a launching point to get us to his actual emotional core. To the reason for his divorce with Sophie, the reason for his shutting down after Jack’s death, even the reason for him refusing to click into his emotions while he was camping with Randall all those years ago. There is SOMETHING in Kevin’s center that’s driving all of this, and I hope that the current storyline is just a way to get us to something deeper.   


Having spent the last two weeks getting accustomed to her pregnancy, Kate decides it’s time to tell Toby what’s going on. The way she goes about it, though, is incredibly telling. Rather than sit Toby down at home, privately, Kate shows up at his office unannounced and asks to talk in his office. Toby being Toby, he assumes Kate wants to have office sex and clears off his desk before she even gets a word out. (Please know, Toby, that I do not hate you because you watch porn. I hate you because you assume this visit is about you, and therefore the only purpose for the visit could be sex, and therefore you are terrible. I digress.)  When Kate breaks the news, Toby is thrilled and ready to break out his happy dance, but Kate’s just not there emotionally. Kate is doing all she can to keep from feeling the weight of this news; it’s no wonder she decided to tell him at work. It’s not that she’s concerned about “jinxing” anything; it’s that she’s TERRIFIED. And considering the fact that any pregnancy at 37 is considered geriatric (“That’s literally what it’s called!”), combined with potential complications due to her weight, Kate has every reason to be cautious.

Obviously it’s Kate’s call when and how to share this news, and it’s still early for her and Toby to start telling people about the pregnancy regardless. But demanding that Toby not even talk to her about it, not share any of his hopes for their pregnancy with her, is pretty extreme. Kate’s on edge at every moment, and when she shows up to group only to listen to Madison complain about meeting a new guy during a mini-pizza party, it’s just a matter of time until she snaps. Full disclosure, I cracked up at Chrissy Metz’s performance here. And it’s very possible that Kate’s on to something when she accuses Madison of being the group’s Marla Singer. But also, where was the moderator during Kate’s outburst? And for that matter, where’s the moderator with Madison in general? I have a lot of questions about this group.

When Madison and Kate finally confront each other in the parking lot, they both make some valid points. Madison’s right to call Kate out for giggling her way through meetings with Toby. (I’ll never forgive them for that note-passing situation MID-MEETING last season.) Our sympathies are meant to be with Kate, and again, this entire scene really rides on Chrissy Metz’s performance. When Kate and Madison get into their inevitable fender bender, leading Kate, shocked, to share the news with Madison, she immediately drops any and all animosity to be there for Kate. Her happiness for Kate’s pregnancy, and her relief that she’s not hurt, is so genuine. Is it too much to hope that these two can become pals? Because Kate needs a good girlfriend in her life and that window-hug was charming.

Safe and sound at home, Kate makes a deal with Toby; he can tell anyone in a random restaurant that Kate is pregnant, as long as they never go back to that restaurant ever again. And again, Toby being Toby, he somehow “charms” the manager into plugging in his phone and playing his happy song for his celebration. It’s Hootie & the Blowfish. Of course it is.

Colors of the Painting

  • Shout out to Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia, who were acting their faces off during that phone call/car radio scene.
  • Kate and Rebecca’s relationship was so genuine and loving at this point in their lives. It’s no wonder Rebecca can’t figure out what went wrong.

  • I spent so long on the Chuck Noll wikipedia page and I still don’t get this reference. Help, sportz people. 


  • Is it just that I’m desperate for any and all references to House, M.D. or does Kevin’s bad leg and Vicodin addiction make anyone else wish he was Hugh Laurie?
  • I was going to try to pick a favorite Manny title, but when the options include Iron Manny, Manny Get Your Gun, and Of Mice And Mannies, it’s impossible to go wrong.
  • KEV-ENT.

Are you as wary of the Kevin addiction story as we are? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


]]> 1 12463
“You shouldn’t have to try.” – This Is Us Recap – Still There Sun, 22 Oct 2017 17:51:35 +0000

This Is Us Season 2, Episode 4
“Still There”
Posted by Shannon

There certainly is a lot going on this week. Thematically, “Still There” is all over the place; the episode splits its focus between race, parenthood and illness, bouncing around between time periods and influences just as quickly. But no matter the time or the subject at hand, the Pearsons as an intergenerational unit are struggling here. Struggling to do the right thing, to share secrets or to keep them, to protect each other or leave each other alone. And it all builds to the first genuine shock we’ve had yet this season; for better or for worse, here we go.

Jack and Rebecca


A blizzard is coming, and the Pearsons are preparing with a staple of my own childhood: the pre-snowstorm video store run. Randall couldn’t care less, since he’s got a science fair project to finish, but Jack, Rebecca and Kate run around grabbing the classics. Kevin’s dismayed to find that none of the Karate Kids are available, and while I’m not convinced he wouldn’t have had this reaction regardless of his health, he has a bit of a meltdown. When Rebecca checks his forehead, she finds that he’s running a fever. Kate’s quietly scratching in the background, and before they know it, the whole family is at the doctor’s dealing with the chicken pox. Rebecca suffers through a phone call with her mother to confirm that she did, in fact, have chicken pox herself as a kid, which leaves Randall as the only family member who still needs to catch it. And bless that child for looking at the rest of his family like they’re insane when he realizes he needs to spend his precious snow days actively TRYING to get sick.

That call to her mother, while necessary for the doctor, put the family at emotional risk; Rebecca’s mother, Janet, whom we’ve only ever encountered as a general nightmare before now, shows up unannounced to “help.” In reality, she starts making demands; for Jack to salt the driveway, for Randall to put on a shirt. Things start off bad and only get worse; Janet presents Kate with a Little Mermaid outfit easily two sizes too small, and suggests that she use it as a “goal dress.” Yikes. Kevin’s present is a football helmet, to protect his looks (double yikes), and while my immediate fear was that Janet hadn’t brought anything for Randall at all, she did one worse. She presents him with a basketball; the third she’s given him already. There was something in Janet’s eyes, something about the disdainful way she tossed it at Randall, that confirmed the worst implications of this gift.

It just spirals out from here. Randall is the kind of kid who just wants adults to talk to him like a person, to show off his science fair project and to treat him like he knows what he’s talking about. That doesn’t get him anywhere with his grandmother; when he tries to talk to her about his project, she listens half-heartedly before saying “why don’t you show me when it works?”  She’s problematic or callous with the other kids too, telling Kate that she needs to learn how to cook if she wants to land a husband, and shutting down Jack and Kevin’s chicken pox battle cries because she had a headache. But there’s something in her dismissal of Randall that felt pointed, hateful, and racist.

With Jack sick too (turns out he’d had the measles, and honestly who can tell the difference) Rebecca is left alone with her mother. Rebecca holds it together well for a while, even when her mom starts prodding at why Rebecca doesn’t seem like herself and asking why it is that the family doesn’t visit for the holidays anymore. The breaking point comes when Janet, flipping through the kid’s photo albums, mutters “who would’ve thought that Randall would be the one to get into private school?”

TAKE NOTES, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. This is how you call out a family member for subtle racism. Rebecca outlines exactly how Janet’s problematic behavior towards herself, her husband and Kevin and Kate are complex-inducing and terrible, but ultimately excusable, before diving into the differences in how she treats Randall. Janet consistently separates Randall from Kate and Kevin, she refuses to listen to what he’s actually interested in and instead throws stereotypical bullshit at him, and always keeps him at an arm’s length. Rebecca puts this together with patterns from own childhood; that they changed churches when a pastor from Ghana came in, that Janet would constantly demean their 50-year old maid Dora, treating her like a child instead of a capable, experienced mother. My personal favorite thing about this scene is that Rebecca gives absolutely no leeway to the standard defenses white people cling to when confronted with their racism; that it was about the pastor’s accent, that Rebecca is being hysterical, that Janet is “appalled” by these accusations. Rebecca blows past all of that, and plainly calls her mother what she is: racist.

The blessing and the curse in Rebecca’s confrontation with her mother is that Randall, having finally found the first signs of chickenpox, came downstairs and heard the whole thing. Jack and Rebecca sit him down to talk about the different, covert ways that racism appears. No, his grandmother never said anything directly, aggressively racist. But dog-whistle racism is insidious and way, way more common. It’s all too common for white family members to ignore the subtly racist attacks made by their loved ones; we hide behind the guise of it not being too overt to ignore. The reality is that Jack and Rebecca handle this exactly as they should; they protect their child from any and all types of racist attacks, and they don’t shy away from telling him what’s really happening here. When the reality settles in for Randall, he’s heartbroken, and heads off to bed.


With the confrontation behind them, all five Pearsons are hiding upstairs, waiting for Janet’s car to get dug out so she can leave. Jack can’t allow his family to be held hostage, and he and Kevin head downstairs to dig out her car. While Janet tries to grapple with the reality of her behavior, Rebecca stays firm; she hears out Janet, but doesn’t excuse her. Rebecca does let Janet say goodbye to Randall, and while I frankly have no interest in a redemption arc for this woman, it was good to see her finally recognize Randall as the brilliant, special, science-ie kid he is. After all, what other kid in the house knows Newton’s laws of physics as well as he does?

Randall and Beth


Even before he was staying home to be the primary caregiver, Randall spent any morning he could at the dinner table, doing Tess and Annie’s hair. Now that Deja has moved in, he’s particularly focused on this ritual, trying to tempt her with new jewel tone barrettes. But his efforts are all for naught; not only does Deja continually turn down his offers, she’s refusing to wash her hair at all. After the girls take off for school, Beth broaches the subject with Randall. Sooner or later, they need to have a sit-down conversation with her as a matter of hygiene. Randall is desperate to take the lead; he loves that Beth is the one out working while he stays home, and he wants to take the opportunity to steer their childcare decisions. It’s not just that Randall wants to be the first in line to kiss a scratch; he wants to connect with Deja, hoping that she’ll become comfortable enough to wash her hair on her own, without having a difficult discussion first. Beth agrees to let Randall take the lead, as long as something changes sooner rather than later.

But Randall being Randall, his big idea is to take all three girls bowling. He only had to think this through just a little bit to realize it was a terrible idea, but the reality doesn’t set in until they’re in line for rental bowling shoes. Deja refuses to exchange her shoes, and her resistance inspires Annie to join the mini-rebellion. None of Randall’s panic-induced suggestions help, but things go from bad to worse quickly when a girl behind them in line makes a snide comment about Deja’s hair. Deja confronts her and gives her a shove; the other girl’s father immediately steps in, gets in Randall’s face, and starts making demands. We haven’t really seen Randall get protective of his brood yet, but it’s no surprise that he’s ready to take off his glasses and throw down the moment an outsider starts rebuking Deja. Ultimately she puts an end to the scene herself, having been referred to as Randall’s daughter one too many times. Deja finally mutters “I’m not his daughter” and takes off. Randall throws one last disgusted look at the now-bewildered bowling alley dad before taking off himself, bringing Tess and Annie along with him.


Once he’s back at home, (with Beth trying to get to sleep, but when’s that ever stopped him from launching a serious conversation) Randall keeps repeating his errors over and over again in his mind. He’s wallowing in his mistake, and wallowing in his perception that Beth is just better at connecting than he is. He’s still desperate to bond with Deja, but Randall knows when he’s past a point of no return, and he hands the hair issue off to Beth.

The next morning, Beth finds Deja packing, assuming that after shoving a girl at the bowling alley, she won’t be welcome at the Pearsons’ anymore. Consequences are a big point of issue for Deja; it was the first thing she asked about when she finally spoke to Tess and Annie, and she radiates disbelief when Beth clarifies that the consequences for something like this would be grounding, but certainly not getting kicked out of the house. Finally, Beth starts to talk about her own upbringing; with three sisters and their mom, loving yelling matches were frequent, battles over lipstick seemed massive, and siblings were constantly promising that they’d never speak to each other again. And yet, they “always came together to do each other’s hair.” Beth uses her mother’s mantra, that how you present on the outside is a reflection of how you feel on the inside, to pivot to Deja. There’s got to be a larger, emotional reason why she’s not washing her hair. And Beth knows that, and doesn’t demand that Deja tells her what it is. But she does gently insist that they “get it taken care of,” either at her own salon or at home.


I can’t speak to how it would feel to watch this scene from the perspective of a woman of color, and I don’t know these experiences personally. But watching Beth do Deja’s hair, watching her discover the alopecia patches and assure Deja that it’s perfectly normal for black hair, felt important on so many levels. Deja didn’t know that her hair was nothing to be ashamed of, didn’t know that there was a name for the patches that flare up during her most stressful life moments. Beth normalizes Deja’s experience immediately, assuring her that no one else is around, and that her own sister had this too. She braids Deja’s hair to cover up the spots, and is overwhelmed with emotion when Deja quietly comments that her “mom’s hair is beautiful.” She’s happy with how she looks, happy to sit in the mirror and admire her braids the next morning. But Randall gets blinded by the opening here. He’s grateful that Beth handled it, and grateful that the family made an in-road with Deja at all. But at the same time, all he really hears is common ground between himself and Deja.


He just isn’t thinking. He’s not thinking about how quickly Deja recoiled from him when he raised his voice, he’s not thinking about how tentative the bond between Deja and Beth is. Randall saw a way in, a way to offer Deja support that he could understand – to handle her stress by running. In and of itself, it’s not a bad idea, but Deja doesn’t hear any of this. All she hears is that Beth, who had essentially promised Deja that no one was around before opened up to her, had turned around and told Randall the first true piece of private information that Deja had shared. She feels deeply betrayed, and shows that betrayal the only way she knows how; by chopping off her new braids, and sitting at breakfast daring anyone to speak of it. They don’t.



Kevin went down hard on set, and while he took some time to ice his knee, he hasn’t done a thing to take care of it since. He also hasn’t taken any time off, but surely he’s been showing signs of pain from time to time, prompting executive producer Brian Grazer (just that guy, no biggie) to take a look. He finds Kevin’s knee badly swollen and generally banged to hell. There’s no hiding this anymore – Grazer demands that Kevin visit the medic, who sends him to a doctor, who gives him the bad news. Maybe if he’d come in after re-injuring himself, the diagnosis would be different, but as it stands now Kevin needs surgery to repair a tear in his meniscus.

With Sophie working through the weekend, Kate and Toby take Kevin to surgery and put him up for the week. Kevin begins pushing his recovery the moment he gets in the door; he immediately removes his brace, insisting that he can push through. Twice, Kevin declines pain medication – once when it’s offered by the doctor, and again when Toby offers to make him a quesadilla so he doesn’t take his meds on an empty stomach. Kevin’s reasoning is the same both times; “I don’t like how they make me feel.”  There’s clearly a history here. Sophie asking for Kevin to report on his pain scale didn’t feel like it came just from the perspective of a nurse, but Kate doesn’t seem particularly concerned about anything being triggered. If you’ll humour me for a rare prediction: I wonder if this is the one thing in Kevin’s life that Kate doesn’t know about. If Kevin first encountered pain meds right after Jack’s death, it would make sense that Sophie was there to see it. AND it would make sense that he kept it from Kate, to spare her during a traumatic time. It’s a lot for a kid to hide, but underestimating Kevin is an easy mistake to make. It certainly would explain a lot about Kevin’s reaction to his injury.


In the face of the revised pages that came along with the movie production’s care package, Kevin kicks into high gear. Toby finds him limping on the the treadmill, clearly pushing his body beyond a reasonable degree, and Toby finally has to unplug the machine to get him to stop. Kevin admits that his initial injury had been a life changing one; his original career path was to be a football player. College scouts had started coming to his games, and Jack had been making reels for his application. His injury stopped all that, and without a purpose or a way to spend his days, Kevin began acting. His distraction turned into love, and now that he’s on the precipice of another career breakthrough, he’s stuck with his bad knee again. Sure, Ron Howard is being understanding, but he’s also being pragmatic. Kevin knows that this could rob him of his remaining action sequences and re-assign his lines, and he can’t allow that to happen.

There’s clearly something deeper hidden in Kevin’s reaction to his injury. We’ve known that he had his leg in a cast when Jack dies, but beyond that, the details on how he hurt it in the first place are scarce. And what about young Kevin, facing the chicken pox without any of the quiet determination that he has now? What is it about watching his old college reel, and hearing Jack proclaim how strong he is, that leads to Kevin finally taking his prescription? We don’t get that answer this week; but we do see Kevin driving back into the lot, not a limp in sight, ready to jump back into action.


Well, Toby acting like a decent partner was nice while it lasted. He’s back to his usual self this week, turning off Kate’s workout videos with only 15 minutes left, complaining that she got rid of all the food in the house again, and insisting that she loosen up and eat the muffin he made. (Did Toby place the muffin in front of her, knowing that she was mid-work out? Or did Kate take it to shut him up and then not eat it? Discuss.) Kate is pushing herself, yes, under the guise of needing to get ready for her first paid gig. She’s got a dress in mind for the occasion, and wants to be sure it fits.

Kate isn’t acting unhealthily here, she’s acting focused. Leaving Kevin with Toby after he gets out of surgery to make her afternoon yoga class is meant to be a sign that she’s gone too far, but I don’t see that at all. Kate knows when her brother needs her and when he’s fine, and Kevin in that moment couldn’t care less if his sister was around to watch him get settled. (Also, sir, you were JUST angry that she and Kevin were too close. Make up your mind.)  There were only two things that actually concerned me: Kate’s walk down the pharmacy aisle and her despondent look after trying on her dress. So yes, something was up.

OKAY. Okay. Okay. First off, I did not see this coming, so I will give them that. But Kate getting pregnant and Kevin’s probably-impending addiction to pain pills means we’re mirroring two of the Big Three’s modern story lines directly after their parents. Just like Rebecca, Kate will be faced with ending her singing career to focus on motherhood. If she makes a different professional choice, then she’ll lord it over Rebecca for seasons to come, and if not, then we’re running dangerously close to repeating stories. And those are just the external issues. Toby had asked to slow things down, which certainly doesn’t include having a baby. Neither of them are in a solid emotional place to take this on, their relationship is still very new, and other than Kevin, the whole family is on the other side of the country. Realistically, we’re in for Toby expanding his control issues to Kate’s pregnancy and continuing his reign of terror. I’m going to need a whole lot more William flashbacks to bear it.

Colors of the Painting

  • It was great to spend time with Jack and Rebecca in their relationship heyday. The bantering this week was top-notch and it’s been too long since we’ve seen them at their best.
  • So far, Annie’s dreams have involved flying around with William and accompanying Queen Latifah on a search for puppies. My heart for this child.
  • There is one misstep in how Jack and Rebecca handled Janet’s racism; while they were right to talk to Randall first, and alone, they also needed to talk to Kate and Kevin. Kate and Kevin should also know this reality, know what their brother is up against, and know that all forms of racism are inexcusable. Their grandmother’s racism shouldn’t just be Randall’s weight to bear.
  • Big, important talks never happen without inadvertently suggesting something equal parts horrible and hilarious, and Rebecca and Jack’s talk with Randall offered up this gem:

  • What was up with Kevin knocking Toby for binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale? Toxic masculinity runs amuck, part eleven billion.
  • I demand to hear all three of Randall’s verses on the benefits of antibiotic ointment.
  • Throw all the awards at Susan Kelechi Watson. All of them. Post haste.

How did you feel about this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments.

“There’s no such thing as a long time ago.” – This Is Us Recap – Highs and Lows Mon, 16 Oct 2017 15:41:26 +0000

This Is Us Season 2, Episode 3
“Highs and Lows” 

Posted by Shannon

Toxic masculinity is some dangerous bullshit. It’s never ending, it’s inescapable, and it’s exhausting. And while I honestly never thought I’d say this, it’s also the crux of this week’s episode. At its core, “Highs and Lows” is all about the three Pearson men and their struggles to open up. To feel something, acknowledge it, and speak to it honestly. To act in any way other than banishing their doubt and struggles to the pit of their stomachs, continuing to pretend they’re fine and that surely, they can handle everything. And if anyone needed more proof as to why Randall is the shining star of this show, he’s the only man this week who can truly access his emotions, acknowledge what it is he’s feeling, and grow from it. Well, him and Sylvester Stallone.  

Jack and Rebecca


Jack is keeping his promise to Rebecca and regularly attending meetings, but he’s still early in the process and frankly, it doesn’t feel like his heart is in the group portion of recovery. He’s removed even while sharing, and he knows he isn’t opening up the way he should be. Jack tries to make light of his emotional barriers, commenting that it “feels like you get extra credit around here for crying,” and while he’s frustrated by his inability to open up, he also has a tinge of judgement in his voice. There’s the subtlest hint of an eyeroll with the acknowledgement that “these days men are supposed to talk about their feelings.” But at the same time, Jack knows this hangup isn’t getting him anywhere in his recovery, in his marriage, or even as a father. He’s concerned, as he should be, that Randall and Kevin gain the tools they need to skip this particular struggle so they “don’t end up cavemen like me.” On some level, Jack knows that his walls need to come down if he’s going to get anywhere.

Rebecca trusts that his recovery is making progress, but she’s also spent way too many nights going to bed alone. While out with Shelley, Rebecca admits that her marriage still isn’t in a great place. She and Jack don’t talk much, and they’re certainly not having any sex. Shelley is going through the first stages of her divorce with Miguel, and she sees this as a huge warning sign. She prompts Rebecca to take Jack out for a grand gesture, and so Rebecca picks up her husband from work, unannounced and dressed up, to sweep him off his feet.

The reality here is that Jack and Rebecca haven’t spent a lot of time alone together lately – maybe they’ve barely even had a real conversation in the past three weeks – and it shows. Rebecca attempts a classic date re-creation, but Jack’s emotional walls are firmly in position, and he can’t connect with her. He certainly can’t engage with her physically. Naturally, Rebecca is hurt, and they head home without much of a word between them.


To his credit, Jack doesn’t let Rebecca get out of the car without at least acknowledging his emotional barriers. He admits that this time, and this method, are a lot harder on him so far than the first. He’s finding it impossible to open up to either his group or his wife. The crux of it, for Jack, is a deep-seeded desire to run away from the things that made his life so hard in the first place. His pre-Rebecca life, living with an abusive father in a neighborhood that he felt he couldn’t escape, is haunting him. Even though it hasn’t been shown as the cause for his drinking, those are serious underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. Recovery is asking him to truly look at those moments, to “sit in all those ugly, horrible years” and to acknowledge how it’s all affected him. Jack can’t bear to do it, but at the same time, he knows he has to. And it’s at least a start.


Finally, Jack and Rebecca are acting more like themselves. They laugh in the car about Shelley’s historically questionable advice which apparently led Rebecca to a bad haircut (though it sounds cute, so, who knows) and together, they remember who they are. Jack’s barriers come down just enough for him to admit that he borrowed money from his father to buy the house, and while he also admits that there’s a whole lot more he hasn’t told her, at least the crack in his emotional facade has started. There’s a long way to go and who knows how many secrets he’s kept over the years, but for now, it’s a start.

Randall and Beth

In the three weeks since they were approved to be foster parents, Randall has moved from trepidation to sheer impatience. He practically jumps up and down at every phone call and spends every spare moment cooking elaborate meals. (“I love it when you cook your feelings.”)  Finally, the call comes and brings Deja, 12, straight over. Randall and Beth don’t get a lot of information ahead of time; Deja’s mom has been arrested, the most recent in a string of multiple arrests, and her dad is a question mark; but Randall is so overjoyed at the opportunity that all of his concern about this kind of situation feels miles away. He’s been studying foster parenting books, after all. Despite Beth’s efforts to get him to “breathe through it,” Randall runs upstairs to tell the girls post haste.  

If Tess and Annie had any reservations about this whole process, they don’t show it. Annie has created a painting for their new guest, and both are on board to repeat their names as many times as necessary while accompanying Randall on a guided tour of the house. It’s all so well intentioned and so, so naive. Deja arrives and is, of course, completely checked out. She goes through the motions of meeting everyone, but barely speaks until asking if she can go to bed.  Randall handles his disappointment well, but he’s shaken, and asks the social worker to say since “I don’t think she’s okay.” (Dearest man, of COURSE she’s not.) The social worker reads him immediately and offers some quick but key advice; he has to take it one moment at a time, things won’t necessarily get easier after the first night, and every single day will be different from the one that came before. Basically, it’s the summation of all his worst anxiety triggers.


Beth sets Deja up in her bedroom with a new toothbrush while Randall checks on the girls. Tess and Annie are both pretty freaked out, and convinced that Deja doesn’t like them. Randall tries to settle them down, but they’re interrupted by a scene in the hallway. Beth found cigarettes in Deja’s bag, and Deja doesn’t take well to the intrusion. She’s quick to yell at Beth, but the second Randall raises his voice even the tiniest decibel, Deja recoils. Her fear is tangible and clearly stems from PTSD. Randall basically cowers in the doorway, horrified that he could prompt that kind of reaction, while Beth jumps into action. She handles everything perfectly, quieting her voice, keeping her distance and assuring Deja that nothing bad will happen, before settling Tess and Annie into Tess’s room, with the baby monitor on just in case.

With his fears realized and a scared 12-year-old girl under their roof, Randall finally starts to see the reality of what he’s in for. Not the extremes, though; not the blind terror he felt back in LA, and not the sheer delight from earlier that afternoon. Instead, it’s a complicated, messy, beautiful, difficult challenge. It’ll be everything at once, and while his panic isn’t prevailing anymore, the weight of this responsibility sits heavily on his shoulders. With all the focus on Randall’s anxiety lately, it’s easy to forget that he is phenomenally high functioning. Nearly everything – marathons, school, marriage, parenthood, weather trading, and everything in between – has come easily to him, despite many warnings to the contrary. He’s accomplished countless victories without even batting an eye. But this is something more multifaceted, something that’s truly “as hard as everyone says.”


Deja has been through several foster families during her mother’s arrests, and she knows that the easiest way to get to the truth is to talk to the other kids. While Tess and Annie are anxious at Deja waking them up, they’re happy to give her the lay of the land. Mom’s in charge, breaking the rules means “we have to talk about it for like a million years” and if it’s really bad, they can even lose iPad privileges. (And isn’t that the word for it.) Deja knows how lucky these girls are, even if they don’t grasp it themselves, and she mutters to herself about how unbelievable the whole thing feels. She’s not the only one who thought so.

Ron Cephas Jones is a gift, and so far every time he’s popped up in a flashback this season, it’s been my favorite part of the episode. William felt just as out of place in this big, peaceful, fancy house as Deja. He even tried to leave his first night, only stopping because Annie warned that he’d set off the alarm. It makes perfect sense, looking back, that William tried to leave early in his stay. The pressure of not wanting to disappoint this perfect family that he’d always dreamed of having after all those years, while knowing that his time with them would be limited, must have been almost too much to bear. But if Tess is the chess champion (and she is) then Annie is the empath, and just as she knew that on some level, William was scared to death, she also knew that he’d regret leaving. So he didn’t. He stayed, and learned how to turn on the bathroom lights, and got used to the suburban silence. The memory settles into Annie’s little kid brain, and she realizes that Deja must be scared on her first night, too. So she offers to let Deja join in their slumber party, and Deja accepts.


As comforting as it was for Beth and Randall to overhear the girls bonding on their baby monitor, Randall knows there’s still miles to go before Deja to trust them. He knows because he sees himself so clearly reflected in her eyes. When he was about her age, Randall placed a classified ad in the paper in his continuing effort to find his birth parents. He even got a response from a woman claiming to be his mother, and confessed as much to Kate and Kevin (with minimal prompting). The twins accompanied him, watching from a distance, and were there to walk him home after Randall realized that the woman was only there to ask for money and wasn’t possibly a relation. Randall remembers the ringing in his ears, remembers worrying about his heritage while also not wanting to offend anyone in his family by the sheer act of wondering who he might be. (The way he jumped to assure Kevin and Kate that his search had nothing to do with them was devastating.)  Randall was able to articulate his emotions and to act on them, but he still had a lonely, disconnected look in his 12-year old eyes from time to time. He knows that look and he sees it on Deja, plain as day.

Until meeting and loving William, and until forgiving Rebecca for keeping his birth father out of his life, Randall wouldn’t have been able to see his family for what it is. It’s so much more important than the beautiful house and his “super fine wife.” He’s moved from feeling “split inside” to keeping photos of both sets of parents and knowing that his upbringing only meant having more people around who loved and cared for him, as both a child and an adult. It’s the perfect way to open up to Deja, the perfect first step towards getting her to open up to having more adults in her life who love her, too. But Randall moves just a little too quickly, in my view, to telling Deja a hard truth just after gaining her trust; her mother might not be back for a long while this time, and her arrest is a whole lot more serious than they thought. Deja smashes his picture and takes off to her room as a result, but Randall knows that what she really needs just then is a moment alone. And he gives her that space.

Kevin and Kate


Kevin and Ron Howard are still hard at work, and Kate drops by for a set visit during a particularly busy day. Kevin’s got a big emotional monologue to get through, and an action scene later in the day, both opposite none other than Sylvester Stallone. I wasn’t sure what the deal would be with this guest spot, but right off the top I have to say that I’ve never loved Stallone more. (I’ve also never seen Rocky, so maybe low bar? I know, I know.) When they first meet, Kevin once again finds himself in the awkward position of being overheard by the person he’s talking about, though this time it’s all really charming.  Kate is the perfect level of thrilled and endearingly star struck, and after Sly heads off to “check out the frittata situation,” she fangirls out with Kevin. They both know Rocky by heart because Sylvester Stallone was their dad’s favorite actor, and Rocky his favorite movie. Kate is overjoyed thinking about how much it would have meant to Jack to see Kevin succeed in this way, but Kevin can barely hear a word about his father and changes the subject immediately.

While Kevin is holed up in his trailer practicing his big monologue, Kate and Sylvester Stallone (I’m taking my cue from Kate and just continually full-naming him) find themselves at craft services together. Kate takes the opportunity to thank him on behalf of their father, and when Sly offers to have their dad come by for some photos, she clarifies that Jack passed away. Already, this is WORLDS more comfortable than we’ve ever seen the adult Kate while talking about Jack. She’s secure in her words and in her feelings and she doesn’t shy away from telling Sylvester Stallone just how much he meant to her family. For his part, Sly is clearly touched, and he and Kate sit together for a spell, laughing and talking about their careers.

The moment Sylvester Stallone started talking to Kevin about Jack, Kevin was in a spiral. Sly’s entire monologue here is gorgeous, and in a lot of ways, it’s an echo to Kevin’s own speech to Tess and Annie about his painting all those episodes ago. But Kevin can’t handle thinking about his father this much on the best of days, much less directly before he has to go in and shoot one of the most challenging monologues of his career. Of COURSE he throws his lines.   

None of this is anyone’s fault but Kevin’s. Not Stallone, and certainly not Kate. But Kevin needs someone to blame for his emotional barriers disrupting his performance, and his sister gets the brunt of it. Kate knows exactly what’s going on here. She went through it too, and tries to talk to Kevin about her breakthrough at camp, and all the hard work she did in therapy. Doing that work and processing her grief was the only way she could break through to the other side, to a place where she CAN thank Sylvester Stallone for making her dad feel happy during fevers and bad days, and she’s right to say that Kevin needs to do that work too. Therapy is the right move for him (honestly therapy is the right move for basically everyone, but that’s a discussion for another day) but Kevin does just what Jack feared. He mirrors his father, refuses to address his past, and insists that he’s fine, that he can handle everything himself. Feeling your feelings is not the same thing as wallowing. Talking to a therapist is not a sign of anything except being human. But Kevin won’t hear any of it, and he finally snaps, telling Kate “I don’t need to walk around and be sad and damaged just because you are.” She slams the door behind her, leaving Kevin to ignore his emotional work alone.


The action scene later that day doesn’t end well for Kevin, either. Without any tools to process his emotions, and without even knowing how to manage feeling them, he’s stuck with flashbacks of his father rolling through his head. It lands him in a bad jump, twisting the knee on his bad leg, the same one he broke right before Jack died. While icing his knee in the trailer, Kevin calls Kate to apologize, but even then, he can barely speak about Jack without becoming completely overwhelmed. It’s basically the same emotional journey that Jack took in the car; he can’t bear to confront his feelings head on, but he takes a small step towards opening up, before shutting down again. He is so much like his dad in this way. And I for one think that Kevin’s mental health similarities to his father are the some of the most interesting things that have been explored in his storyline. He doesn’t need anything else to make that parallel engaging. But the last shot of the episode implies another similarity: Kevin grabs a bottle of pain pills to make it through the rest of the day. Without more plot evidence, I won’t say too much about this, except one thing: I really, really hope I’m reading too much into that.

Colors of the Painting

  • Real talk, WHAT GENRE IS THE RON HOWARD MOVIE? During the season opener it looked to be a romance and now it’s a full-scale war film? I just need to know what’s happening here.
  • Remember how William was originally introduced to Tess and Annie as a “work friend” because until he told Annie that Randall is “the best work friend a guy could ask for,” I certainly didn’t.
  • I really can’t overstate how wonderful Sylvester Stallone was in this episode; he and Chrissy Metz in particular had a completely fantastic dynamic. They were adorable and I want them to pal around on the regular.
  • “That call was my calling calling!”
  • Now we know how the Pearsons finally get their dog! And what an adorable, scrappy little thing he is, too.


What did you think of “Highs and Lows”? Let us know in the comments.


“Some things are better left unsaid.” – This Is Us Recap – A Manny-Splendored Thing Mon, 09 Oct 2017 14:19:10 +0000

This Is Us Season 2, Episode 2
“A Manny-Splendored Thing”

Posted by Shannon

This week was such a relief. I know I’ve harped on how disappointed I was by the season one finale, and while last week wasn’t all bad, on the whole it left me very concerned for how season two would play out. But this right here? This is the show I fell for last year. “A Manny-Splendored Thing” focused in on the Pearson family dynamics the way only This Is Us can. We explored a daughter’s experiences with each of her two parents, as well as two parallel love stories for Randall and Kevin, all through the lense of at least 10-20 years’ worth of emotional journeys. And that focused character growth still left space for important plot developments! Let’s settle into the second season with a whole lot more of this, please and thank you.



Once again, Jack’s story line is picking up right where we left off, with he and Rebecca making their way home after Jack’s short lived stint on Miguel’s couch. As the two sit in the driveway, it’s clear neither of them can quite manage the walk back into the house. Rebecca, who had been entirely focused on getting Jack home and hadn’t yet had time to ponder the implications of his addiction, finally starts to ask some questions: had he truly stopped drinking all those years ago? How did he manage to quit without any support? It’s uncomfortable to think that the two never had this conversation before, that Rebecca just assumed Jack would handle his sobriety without a second discussion, but that’s what seems to have happened. In a flashback to the night Jack bought Rebecca her necklace (the same night that ended with him waiting in the hallway) we see exactly how Jack’s drinking started.

At its core, his trigger was work. The office job that he didn’t like, and didn’t really want, which he kept to support the family rather than take the risk that would come with his dream company, all while the weight of endless files stacked up on his desk. That’s what drove him to keep a bottle in his drawer, ready to tip into his coffee at a moment’s notice. After promising sobriety to Rebecca, and after the beatific hallway scene the next morning came to a close, family chaos kicked back in. (And what a weird relief to see that chaos, too; after all, family mornings are never THAT easy.) While Jack looks a little overwhelmed by the kids shift from quietly reading to yelling over each other, that’s not what rattles him; it’s the call from his boss to his home phone, spending the morning being screamed at by said boss, and fielding a coworker’s offer of a liquid lunch, all of which make it clear that he needs some help. Jack holds to his promise not to drink and instead makes his way to an AA meeting, but something about the setting just won’t hold for him, so he takes off to the Big Three’s playground instead.


While a young Kevin is busy showing off for Sophie, Kate immediately hops to attention when she sees her father’s car. She’s so attuned to her father’s moods that she immediately knows something is up. Jack doesn’t tell her what’s really going on, but Kate fundamentally knows that her dad needs some support right now. She’s seen what Jack does when Randall spirals out, feels alone, and needs a family member to center him. So she does just what their father would do: places her hands on his face and tells him it will all be okay. Between that quiet moment and the much louder ones at the boxing ring, Jack buckles down to handle the weight of his recovery entirely alone. That’s how he made it through the first time. And that can’t be how he does it the second.

This time, Jack will accept the support he needs – from a group, from his wife, and even from his kids. Jack tells Kate about his addiction first, promising her he’s going to tell the boys as well. And her reaction is the same as it was years before; to be the same support for her father that he is to them. While this was meant to be a lovely scene, acknowledging their bond, it also set off all sorts of warning signs for me. This is WAY too much pressure for a kid. Jack didn’t go so far as to outwardly ask Kate to support him, but she’s an empath for her father, and she takes his emotional well being SO seriously. He leaves her with no emotional tools to handle that kind of information, and we KNOW that in the present day, Kate still holds herself accountable for Jack’s emotional journey. Whether or not he ever told her as much, Kate was a huge part of what got him through his first recovery. It wasn’t fair to ask that of his daughter, and the ramifications of his inadvertent carelessness resonate through to her modern life.


Randall and Beth


Randall and Beth have done a bit of a 180 since their conversation in the park last week. The entire family is packed up for a whirlwind trip to the west coast to see Kevin’s big return to The Manny, and while Tess and Annie are out packing the truck (“We’re better at it than you”), Beth pokes at Randall, asking why he still hasn’t yet filled out the fostering forms. Randall has suddenly skidded to a halt on the whole process; he doesn’t want to tell the kids yet, complains that the questions are too invasive, and begrudgingly offers to fill the forms out on the plane. But he doesn’t do that either, and while waiting for the taping to start, Beth tries again to get him to finish the necessary paperwork. Instead, he leaves the taping to take a walk, and Beth heads out to follow him.

Beth knows something is up, but she’s also in no mood to really know what’s going on. She makes a cursory effort, asking why the forms have him “Randalling out so hard” (yikes, Beth) and assumes that his hangup revolves around his two fathers’ histories with addiction. But that’s not the problem. Randall is absolutely terrified of supporting a child with a history of abuse, and it has him overcome with doubt and fear. Tess and Annie were miracle children; they slept through the night, self-soothed immediately, and were generally so well behaved that Randall and Beth had to fake being tired. A “newborn, clean slate baby” was one thing, but knowing they could be inviting this kind of a challenge is something else. Sure, they’re legitimate worries, but Beth is at her wits end with how Randall is setting up the conversation:

Beth: We have talked about this, a lot, and we discussed how difficult it could be, and we came to a decision. And now I’m jetlagged, you got me out here sweating, and I traveled across country to miss the taping of a sitcom that I didn’t want to come see in the first place. So can we please just table the convo until we get home? Please?
Randall: I guess the part that concerns me, Beth is…
Beth: Oh my god. You’re driving me nuts. I’m walking. I love you but I’m walking.

Beth finds herself in Kevin’s trailer, entirely out of patience and needing to talk to someone who understands her husband’s anxiety. And even though Kevin and Randall were never that close, Kevin does understand his brother, and has been there to see some of his most debilitating panic attacks. So as soon Beth confides in Kevin about their foster plans, he immediately switches gears and morphs into the best, most supportive version of himself. Kevin knows that for his brother, taking a risk when he has no control over the outcome is a a huge, terrifying, even paralyzing emotional position. And while the stakes might have seemed lower then, Kevin knows that Randall felt that same fear when he asked out Beth for the first time.

Turns out, Kevin was with Randall every step of the way, acting as a vaguely creepy Cyrano De Bergerac, feeding his brother lines through the phone. Let’s take a moment to fully paint that picture. Not only does this mean that Randall called Kevin for help – at NINETEEN – it also means that, when the chips were down, Kevin was there for his brother, ready to be there for him. Kevin and Randall’s dynamic is so nuanced, and I love every insight we get into that relationship. This conversation gives Kevin and Beth a lovely moment together, and it also gives Beth the context she needed. Randall will always have these anxieties, and fostering will challenge him in ways neither of them could imagine. But if anyone can handle that challenge, it’s these two.



Sure, he’s spending his days on a big-time movie set now, but not so long ago Kevin was a punchline on a tacky network sitcom. It’s a little bit of a stretch to assume that The Manny would want to bring Kevin back for their 100th episode after his fireworks display at his last taping, but really, anything for the ratings. Kevin being Kevin, he’s placed himself a strict diet of plain chicken and even picking out his favorite ab (or maybe least favorite? Who can tell?) can’t calm his nerves. After all, the entire family is flying in, and he’s feeling the pressure of making a graceful return after an exit that was anything but.

Even though she clearly thinks the whole thing is a little ridiculous, Sophie is there with him every step of the way. When a panicky Kevin tells her he’s fashioning his cameo to match the style of George Clooney’s grand return to ER, she walks a perfect line of cutting through his bullshit and still being supportive. (“I need people to love me the way they love Clooney.” “This is your least attractive side.”) The two go down to set, and Sophie tries to get Kevin out of his head by reenacting his meltdown. Naturally, the showrunner comes in just when Kevin starts yelling all over again, and the two have a painfully awkward interaction before Casey leaves and returns to his office. There was no way this wouldn’t result in a little retribution, and while Kevin planned to take the high road at every step of the way, Casey’s last-minute script changes have other ideas…

I have a hard time believing that this wasn’t the writer’s plan from the get go, or at least a backup plan that he had in his head in case the two blew up again, but regardless, Kevin is mortified and has a crisis of faith right before going in for his quick change. Sophie is there to talk him down, and she does so exceptionally well: “Be Clooney! Otherwise what’re we even doing here?” She knows that Kevin is nailing it so far, and knows that he came in with every intention of taking the high road and leaving The Manny on good terms. So, with his teeth set, he does just that, with Sophie gently giggling just off stage all the while.

This, this right here is some of the best that the show has to offer. From his middle school talent show to his last gig on The Manny, Sophie has always been the laugh that means the most to Kevin, the one he’s the most focused on hearing. Maybe even the only one that matters. Their history is a whole lot more complicated, and we don’t have the full story yet, but at their core, they’re still the same kids that they were all those years ago. Same laughs and everything.

Kate and Rebecca

Rebecca and Miguel are staying with Kate and Toby while they’re in town for Kevin’s taping, and it’s left Kate in a in full-scale parental-visit panic. This reminded me so much of Rebecca’s freak out before her final Thanksgiving with her mother – these two really are more alike than Kate wants to admit. But rather than fixating on perfect cranberry sauce, Kate digs out gifts from her mother that she doesn’t actually use and yells at misbehaving decorative blankets. (“Why won’t this throw just throw?!?”) Toby has his own mission; to win over Rebecca and wipe the slate clean from his first family meeting. His plan of attack involves pigs-in-a-blanket and making friends with Miguel. From the moment Rebecca and Miguel ring the doorbell, the visit starts out tense, with Rebecca immediately commenting on Kate’s appearance. Soon after the four settle at The Manny taping, Kate gets the call from a band. Their lead has strep, and they need Kate to fill in for a bar gig that evening. Kate’s thrilled, and jumps up to leave, when her mother hears the words “sound check” and jumps up herself. Kate’s clearly nervous and doesn’t appreciate Rebecca taking the opportunity to speak wistfully about her own days singing in bars, but her bitingly sarcastic comment of “you used to sing?” was a low blow, right off the bat.

You’d think that, from Kate’s reaction, Rebecca was a nightmare stage mom. That she pushed her daughter to perform, delivered cruel comments about her abilities, or actively belittled Kate. But that’s not really the reality. The first time Kate was getting ready to sing during her middle school talent show, her mother nothing but encouraging. Yes, Rebecca nitpicked Kate’s last note during her breakfast table rendition of “Lean On Me,” but she also tells Kate she’s the best singer in the house and cuts up the dress she wore to her first performance to give Kate an extra bit of courage. Rebecca was there for her, and middle school Kate was visibly moved by her mother’s support. Moving back into the modern timeline, Rebecca quietly insists that Toby take her along for the first gig, and while she’s standard-issue embarrassing mom, shush-ing the audience and pushing her way into attending the performance, she’s CLEARLY so proud of her daughter.

But for Kate, that’s not what it’s about. Her perceptions of her mother’s feelings are fully a projection of her own. As a kid, Kate went from being thrilled to perform in her mom’s dress to faking a sore throat to get out of the talent show after overhearing Rebecca sing “Lean On Me” in the shower. (And mind you, Rebecca didn’t force Kate to sing anyway, taking her daughter’s “I don’t want to” as the final word on the matter.) As a teen, she callously refers to her mother as “the Queen,” and openly favors her father. It’s gone on so long that Kate is blind to her mother’s real efforts to support her.

Kate fully shuts down when her mother walks into the bar, and while she still nails her performance (“Landslide” was pretty on-the-nose, but I’m a sucker for Fleetwood Mac so I’m not mad at it) she’s already decided that the night will be an emotional loss. The band leader compliments Kate immediately and asks for her to return, the crowd loves her, and she KNOWS she did great – but none of that matters. Instead, Kate takes Rebecca’s compliment that she “sang absolutely beautifully” to have a hidden meaning; her poorly timed but well-meant comment that it’ll get easier to sing through a crowded room is taken as a rebuke of Kate’s experience level. Kate finally snaps, and when Rebecca practically begs her daughter to tell her once and for all what it was that she did wrong, Kate replies simply “You existed.”

Damn. This didn’t HAVE to be Kate’s memory of her first gig, but it will be now. And the reason this comment felt so biting, so cruel, is that it’s clearly the truth. Rebecca could have been more supportive, could have kept her mouth shut about any and all singing advice when it was clear that her daughter was taking it badly. And there’s probably additional history here that we haven’t seen. But from where I sit, Rebecca didn’t deserve any of this.

Speaking of deserving, I have got to give Toby some props. This week he was supportive of Kate in all the ways a partner should be, and his speech to Rebecca in the bar was perfection. Rebecca was really out of line asking Toby to defend her after their fight, even if she saw it as just trying to understand where her daughter was coming from. He handled that with respect to Rebecca, and didn’t once back down from being “Team Kate, all the way.” Aside from that genuinely awesome moment, I felt for his embarrassment over his first family meeting ending in a heart attack. Obviously that was NOT his fault, but I get him feeling like he was the sick newcomer who wrecked a tight-knit family’s holiday celebration. And still, he didn’t let his embarrassment or his clearly stated goal of winning over Rebecca stop him from correcting Rebecca’s bad behavior. You’re not all bad, Toby. You’re not all bad.

Colors of the Painting

  • Shout out to Miguel, who got some subtly great character moments this week. Dude could not have been more excited to get in on the Manny dance competition, immediately sniffed out Toby’s pigs in a blanket, and was happy to be the lone adult in the front row of the taping so that Tess and Annie weren’t there alone.
  • I’m mystified by the inclusion of those images of Jack in Vietnam. His history as a veteran seems to come into play next week, but in this episode it felt out of place and a little jarring.
  • “It’s great for America, a black manny. Especially…. in these…. times.”
  • Between William and Jack, addiction was rampant in Randall’s life, and I find it a little hard to believe that he never would have spoken about that before now.

  • After all the build up of family tension with Sophie last season, it’s odd that there was no acknowledgement of her seeing the family for presumably the first time again on set.
  • Sorry in advance for this comment, but all I could think about when Randall and Beth were packing up the car was how much William would have LOVED the chance to go to a taping of The Manny. (Editor’s note: RUDE SHANNON.)
  • Friendly reminder that Beth Pearson is the greatest character on the show.



What did you think of “A Manny-Splendored Thing”? Let us know in the comments!

“I wanna adjust your perfect plan.” – This Is Us Recap – A Father’s Advice Sat, 30 Sep 2017 13:00:53 +0000

This is Us Season 2, Episode 1
“A Father’s Advice”

Posted by Shannon

Welcome back, Pearson clan! We’ve made it through a long summer hiatus, nabbed some statues along the way (STERLING, DARLING, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR EMMY), and are picking up more or less right where we left off. The second season premiere has a few through lines, some more immediately cohesive than others. In the modern timeline, the Big Three are celebrating another birthday and marking some serious emotional milestones. For Jack and Rebecca, it’s the immediate aftermath of the tour and their blow-out fight. And for all of our main partnerships, there’s a distinct focus on the ups and downs of being pushed – pushed into an adoption, pushed into taking a family member in, pushed on stage, pushed, perhaps, into recovery. I have mixed feelings on the episode itself, but one thing’s for sure – I’m excited to unpack it all.

Jack and Rebecca


After the serious let down that was the Season One finale, it was honestly a relief to be back with the Jack and Rebecca we know and love – even if we spent most of this hour wallowing in one of their most painful times as a couple. It’s immediately after Rebecca leaves her tour, and the kids are understandably surprised to see her picking them up. Kate, though, sees that something is off. She has intel the others don’t; she knows Jack was heading to Rebecca’s gig, knows it must not have gone the way anyone planned. When the family pulls up to the diner and sees Jack waiting at a table, they all see the writing on the wall. I was struck by how honest Rebecca and Jack decided to be with the kids; Rebecca is clear that Ben crossed a line, and also acknowledges that Jack is staying at Miguel’s for a few nights because the two of them had a rough, emotional fight.

A couple things about the kid’s reactions jumped out at me here, and each of them sheds light on their unique relationships with Jack. Kate’s first thought is to offer to stay with Jack at Miguel’s. Kevin, in a predictable but no less annoying display of masculinity, checks his father’s knuckles after hearing about Ben. And Randall – Randall is ready to stay, sit, talk – but Jack asks him to leave, to “give your mom and I a sec, Buddy.” All three of those moments are slight, but relate right back to the Big Three’s characters as adults. Kate, constantly acting as her father’s keeper, Kevin following Kate immediately to check on her, Randall trying to help the family emotionally in whatever way he can. It’s touches like this that highlight the structure of This is Us at its best: allowing us to actually see the past informing the future with smaller, honest character moments.


Jack and Rebecca are clearly still raw. Rebecca isn’t ready to let Jack hold her hand (“I need to stop feeling so disappointed. I need to feel something else first.”). She’s desperate for a distraction, and, once at home, packs up the kids so they can all try to find said distraction in the latest Tom Hanks movie. Kate is despondent, and Randall is entirely focused on taking care of Rebecca. As the four sit in the theatre, we find out why; he had left the party early, come home, and overheard one of the nastiest exchanges his parents had had during their fight. Randall and Rebecca already had a strong connection. Hearing Jack belittle her like that must have been almost too much for him to take. It’s honestly no wonder he stormed out when Jack, well intentioned but condescendingly, called him “buddy.”

And what of Jack, over at Miguel’s and settling in for a few nights on the pull out couch? He’s refusing to accept sheets (“sheets are for long-term guests”) and constantly checking the phone to make sure the dial tone is working. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it just gets worse when Jack returns to the jazz club, begging the manager to give Rebecca a solo night on stage. It’s embarrassing, mortifying even, and I folded into myself when he went so far as to offer the manager money. On first watch, I was too busy flashing back to his gross season finale behavior and being generally horrified to wonder if he might have been drunk – but on rewatch, he almost definitely is. Not nearly as glassy eyed or stumbling as he gets later in the night, though.


When Rebecca goes over to Miguel’s house with the intention of setting things right between them, Jack’s a mess. Even as he listens to Rebecca’s assurances, his eyes can’t focus, and his face looks half-frozen. In that state, he can’t help but come clean about his behavior. Jack tries to convince Rebecca (and himself, honestly) that the right thing to do is to get his addiction under control before going home. Her shock in these moments is palpable, but ultimately, she won’t have it, and instead she steers Jack into the car, assuring him it’ll all be okay.


And here we have the major counterpoint to the show’s structure. At its best, we get those small character moments, and the understanding that the fabric of families, blood and chosen alike, outlives everything else. We feel the impact of a legacy. But the flipside is this kind of melodrama, which can veer all too quickly into outright manipulation. We KNOW it won’t be okay for Jack and Rebecca, and in the episode’s final moments, we see Rebecca, driving home after Jack has died, finding the Pearson family home entirely destroyed in a fire. It’s a shock, sure. But it also feels gimmicky, even careless to keep getting slowly-revealed pieces of this particular puzzle, especially the way this montage played out – with cutaways to the kids, sobbing, along with Rebecca’s voiceover that they’d all be ok. Instead of really feeling that moment, I personally felt voyeuristic and tired. The sooner we know what happened – the sooner the structure is refocused on revealing honest, resonant emotional growth and character development over months and years rather than solving the “mystery” of a fundamental tragedy – the better.

Randall and Beth


Right out of the gate in the modern storyline, I got one of my big hopes for Season Two met – Randall is staying home, taking care of the girls, while Beth gets back to work. He’s off to a predictably great start, cooking fabulous breakfasts and shutting down Annie’s problematically gendernormative questions about why he’s “being the girl.” (I have a hard time believing that these are the same kids that so casually schooled Randall on William’s bisexuality, but okay I guess.)

Randall is moving full-speed ahead on his adoption plan, freaking out neighbors with adorable babies, ignoring Beth’s clear signals that she’s having misgivings, and treating the appointment with an adoption agency as a birthday present. He actively requests a newborn boy, and it doesn’t take attendance in a single Psych 101 class to know why. At their first meeting with the agency, Beth can’t take it anymore and lays out all of Randall’s motivations. Sure, her delivery is a little brutal, but as usual Beth is absolutely and entirely correct. Randall follows her outside, joins her in a fake smoking session and the two start to get back into their groove – until Randall crosses a line, demanding that he NEEDS this exact type of adoption, and that Beth needs “to get your head around it.” Immediately, I flashed to Jack constantly making decisions FOR Rebecca, decisions that might have ended up right but that she didn’t get a say in. The continued dynamic of a husband pushing his wife into large, life-altering decisions – buying a house, adopting a baby – was repeating here in a way that was sitting wrong with me.


As it turns out, it was sitting wrong with Randall, too. Armed with the knowledge that often in adoptions, one spouse is driving and one is going along for the ride, he drops by Rebecca’s house to get the full story on his own adoption. And it takes a little nudging, but sure enough, Rebecca admits that this was one of those times that Jack insisted, and she went along with it. “I was tired and I was grieving but he kept pushing me,” she says, before pivoting to tell Randall how grateful she was to have that particular stranger become her son. Again, I got nervous here, worried that Randall would take all the wrong lessons from his mother. But his branch of this family tree is the undeniable highlight of this show for a reason.


I love this apology so much. It’s so good, in every possible way. Randall and Beth’s dynamic IS perfectly imperfect. This apology was everything Jack should have said, and never did. After all, Randall is the kid who saw, first-hand, his father minimizing his mother’s dreams, and as a result he refuses to bulldoze Beth in that way. And Beth – always one step ahead, always completely attuned to her family’s emotional state – notices Randall’s perfectionism spiral getting out from under him, and raises her hand to interrupt.


Every day, Beth has been visiting William’s favorite spot, a park in a less suburban, less fancy, less white part of town. It was there that William and Beth sat right before the Memphis road trip, there that Beth voiced her concerns to William about Randall’s newfound tendency to do exactly what Jack did so many times – to make decisions for her and the family, without so much as a warning to his wife. And in visiting that spot every day, Beth’s been watching the young black men who kick around the park, thinking that so easily, Randall could have been there himself not so many years ago. It’s not a newborn they should take in – it’s an older kid, one “who no one else in the whole damn world is gonna help.”

It’s perfect, of course, it’s perfect. Randall knows that Beth’s right before she even finishes her thought. It won’t be easy on them, but it’s exactly what they need to do. What a way to honor both of his fathers’ legacies.

Kevin, Kate, and Toby

The recently re-established LA contingent of the Pearson clan has settled in nicely to their new normal. Kevin spends his days collaborating with a tennis ball under the watchful eye of Ron Howard and facetimes with Sophie as often as he can. Kate and Toby are all moved in, and Kate is getting ready for her first big audition as a wedding band singer. The four had planned to go out on a double date to celebrate Kate and Kevin’s birthdays, but after Sophie’s mother’s MS acts up, Toby is left as the twins third wheel.

Kind reader, if you were wondering if my overwhelmingly negative feelings about Toby mellowed over the hiatus, let me assure you that they have not. He’s atrocious from the word go. After hearing about Sophie’s cancellation, his immediate reaction is to assume the whole thing is off – which would leave his supposedly future (I know, I know, it’s happening, but a girl can dream) brother-in-law entirely alone and without plans on what is also HIS birthday. Yeah, sure, he wants to spend the night alone with Kate but even if Kevin wasn’t family, leaving someone in the lurch for their birthday dinner is just cold. The twinning behavior from Kate and Kevin, which Toby treats with such disdain, was almost entirely charming. Kate is so excited to ask for Kevin’s opinion on her audition outfit, and he wonders if it looks a little bit like she’s trying too hard. (Yeah it’s kinda harsh, but my immediate reaction was that Kate needed to, in the wise words of Coco Chanel, look in the mirror and take one thing off, so I’m with Kevin here.) Despite Toby’s assurances that she looks great, Kate and Kevin go off to plan a new outfit.

Once at the audition, Kate almost immediately starts to feel overwhelmed. She flashes back to the pool, focuses in on the appearance of all the other women there (really, there are THAT MANY people at a wedding band audition?) and bails before her name is even called. When they arrive at the fancy restaurant, which Kevin bought out entirely, Kate avoids telling Toby that she bailed. I do not blame her for not wanting to talk about it. It’s her birthday dinner – it’s entirely HER call whether she wants to discuss it or not. It comes up, of course, after Toby toasts Kate’s bravery, and when Kevin leaps to her defense, all Toby can hear is that she told Kevin – HER TWIN – before she told him. Okay. I’m an only child, so I’m often clueless about sibling dynamics of all kinds. But my immediate reaction here was that not only can Kate tell, or not tell, whoever she damn well pleases about her day, but that a twin – especially when they’re as close as Kevin and Kate – gets an automatic pass to know pretty much anything before anyone else, ever. Toby is trying to close Kate’s life off to any man that’s not him, and it’s gross and creepy and I hate it.

This fight isn’t Kevin’s shining moment, either. He’s used to being Kate’s entire emotional support system, something we regularly see throughout their childhood, and admittedly he takes it too far here. Later on, when Kevin and Toby make up, it’s a more fairly minded argument that the two ultimately just need to learn how to get along, how to coexist while respecting each other’s space. Still, it’s a relief when Kate tells them both off, leaves them in the dust and goes back to the audition, demanding to be heard.

I had a bad feeling the second she got on stage that Kate, while remarkably talented, just isn’t trained enough for this right now. It felt like the kind of room where you get ten, maybe sixteen bars before being cut off, and sure enough she doesn’t make it through the first three lines of “Nothing Compares 2 U” before being shut down. Kate immediately assumes it’s because of her body type, but my first thought was that she sounded a little breathy, a little nervous, and just not good enough. The manager calls up his backup singer to do the same few bars, makes his point, and gives Kate some pointed but accurate criticism that “your range is limited and your falsetto blows.” These are the kinds of gig where your technical skills need to be perfect, and her aren’t. Not yet.

Kate’s disappointed, of course, but she’s also relieved. Her vocal abilities are something tangible that she can work on, something she knows she can improve, and something she has total and complete control over. And that’s something Kate – both as a character and in her own storyline – desperately needs.

Colors of the Painting

  • “You alright, old man. I coulda done without the Manny in my basement for a year, but you alright.”
  • I forget just how hot Justin Hartley is sometimes and then this kind of look happens.


  • Jack and Miguel’s conversation felt strangely forced to me this week. I couldn’t tell if it was because Miguel thinks that Jack’s marriage is truly in trouble or because, perhaps out of any of the people in his life, Miguel had the best sense of Jack’s alcoholism.
  • Okay, let’s talk about William. His theme opening the episode, his poem acting as a bookend, and his small but pivotal scene are the set pieces that really gave this episode its heart. I’m really, REALLY hoping that This Is Us can continue to find ways to feature William as often as possible, not just because Ron Cephas Jones steals every scene he’s in but because William Hill has been the subtle moral and emotional backbone to the entire show and I’m frankly a little worried about what will become of it without him.
  • Blanket statement that I am here for all the Tom Hanks love.
  • NOPE, still entirely too soon for this.


What are your thoughts on the season premiere? Let us know in the comments!

“Good Afternoon, Seattle. I’m Listening.” – The Many Genres of Frasier Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:07:22 +0000
Source: mscheerio

Posted by Shannon

Frasier is my gold standard sitcom. I admit, it’s an easy show to take for granted; it will always be remembered, first and foremost, as a Cheers spin-off. One of the most successful spin-offs of all time, certainly, but a spin-off nonetheless. It wasn’t really a landmark show in the cultural consciousness. No barriers were broken, no new representations explored. Nope, the Cranes were just there, quietly winning Emmy after Emmy until they collected a record 37 statues (a height only recently beaten by Game of Thrones). But kick the tires, even just a little bit, and all of a sudden – genius. I’m somewhere around my fourth full rewatch of the show (yes, all eleven seasons, thanks Netflix!) and I am here to tell you that the cast and crew of Frasier took home all those Emmys for a reason.

I’m a tough sell for sitcoms as a whole. Give me a drama or genre show, and more often than not I’m there from the start, but it takes a lot for perfectly respectable half-hour situation comedies to worm their way into my heart. Frasier, though, has kept its place as my ultimate sitcom of choice for years, never getting old or feeling tired and outdated. It’s a feat for any program to last eleven seasons, much less for those eleven seasons to maintain stand-out character development, great storytelling, and most importantly, to keep landing the punchlines. How? How do they do it?

With a structural secret weapon! Frasier is a sitcom. No one would argue that. But it’s also a workplace comedy. A classic farce. A romantic comedy. A show about a multi-generational family, mourning their matriarch and learning to coexist. A show about clinical psychiatry and academia. And, yes, a show with a franchise legacy, one that’s cheerfully (sorry not sorry) embraced and never, ever forgotten. Frasier, quite literally, has it all.

So if you’ve caught an episode recently, or if you haven’t thought about the Crane family in years, consider this your re-introduction to Frasier and its many genres.


“It’s times like this that most families pull together and draw strength from each other. What shall we do?”

Source: sternincrane

Let’s take it all the way back to the beginning, and start with the pitch. After leaving Boston and his neighborhood bar behind, Frasier Crane rejoins his father and brother in their hometown of Seattle. He quickly ends up taking in his father Martin, a retired cop who suffered a gunshot wound to the hip in the line of duty. Right out of the gate, the premise is pointing us towards blood relatives and a show about family. It’s an inter-generational version of the Odd Couple; Martin is the blue collar, sports watching, Ballantines drinking elder, while Niles and Frasier squabble about their favorite operas and keep an endless supply of sherry on hand at all times. But they all love each other, function as a family and generally get along. Right?

Source: sternincrane

Kind of, kind of not. Especially in the first several seasons, the Crane family is flat-out dysfunctional. We learn in season three’s “You Can Go Home Again” that, while he used to make the trip twice a year, Frasier stopped visiting Seattle almost entirely after his mother Hester (Rita Wilson, with one of my FAVORITE returning cameos), died of cancer. Hester was the connecting force between the three Crane men; she too was a psychiatrist, and met and fell in love with Martin during a crime scene investigation. Frasier and Niles carry on their mother’s legacy while ignoring their father’s influence almost entirely. Without her to bring everyone together, the chasm between father and sons grows and grows – even the brothers barely speak when Frasier first moves home. But Frasier is desperate to connect. After all, he’s just left his son Frederick and ex-wife Lilith on the other side of the country, all on the hope that he can re-integrate himself with his family in Seattle and start over. They get there in the end, but the trip isn’t easy. Especially not with Martin. Just look at this exchange from the pilot episode:

Frasier: I’m just trying to do the right thing, here. I’m trying to be the good son.
Martin: Oh, don’t worry, son. After I’m gone you can live guilt-free, knowing you’ve done right by your pop.
Frasier: You think that’s what this is about, guilt?
Martin: Isn’t it?
Frasier: Of course it is! But the point is, I did it! I took you in! And I’ve got news for you – I wanted to do it! Because you’re my father. And how do you repay me? Ever since you’ve moved in here it’s been a snide comment about this or a smart little put-down about that. Well, I’ve done my best to make a home here for you, and once, just once, would it have killed you to say “thank you?” One lousy “thank you?”
Martin: Come on, Eddie, it’s past your dinner time.

In time, the walls come down. Niles starts letting Frasier join him for coffee, and sheer proximity and determination wears down Martin. A huge turning point for them comes in “Beloved Infidel,” when Frasier and Niles uncover evidence of an affair between their parents thirty some odd years previously. Martin takes the blame, but Frasier finds out that it was actually Hester who strayed. It’s the first real thing Martin and Frasier have in common; back in Boston, Lilith had also had an affair. The very best of Martin’s character is on display here: “Don’t hate your mother for this,” he insists. Despite the barriers he keeps up at every opportunity, despite the fact that Martin never said “I love you” out loud to his sons until they hit adulthood (check out “Breaking the Ice” if you want a good laugh-cry on that one), his priority is ALWAYS his family and the memory of his wife.

Source: sternincrane

Slowly but surely, Martin, Frasier and Niles build a life together as the loving and supportive family unit you might remember. There are still growing pains throughout the series – in “Chess Pains,” for instance, Frasier can’t stand the idea that Martin keeps beating him in chess, refusing to acknowledge that, as a detective, Martin is smart as hell – just in a different way than his sons. But maybe the best example of the Crane men’s family dynamic comes in season five’s “The Gift Horse.” Martin is celebrating his 65th birthday, and in a standard display of sibling rivalry, Frasier and Niles keep trying to one-up the other to get their father the best possible gift. The whole thing is a delight and they’re both at the top of their game. Frasier is even driven to purchasing a ridiculously huge big-screen TV, but still comes up short when Niles tracks down Martin’s old mounted patrol companion:

Niles: He certainly did love that horse.
Frasier: You can only live in denial for so long before you…
[Frasier gasps]
Frasier: You didn’t?!
Niles: Didn’t what? Buy the horse? Sorry, did!

The set up is perfection, especially because, amongst all the killer jokes, everything points back to fundamental insecurities within all three of the Crane men. Frasier and Niles are desperate for their father’s approval and love, projecting it all onto the perfect gift because “somehow, finding the right present will magically change everything.” Frasier is even willing to sacrifice his beloved interior design for the cause, once again proving that he’ll upend his own life to make his father more comfortable. Niles, ever the younger brother, can’t bear to let Frasier win. Meanwhile Martin, finally reunited with his old horse Agides, is struck by how much his companion has aged and gets knocked out by his own mortality. Finally, they all come to a head in Agides’ stable, while Frasier and Niles eavesdrop on Martin:

Martin: We were something, weren’t we Agides, huh? Riding crowd control. People’d just step aside to let us pass. Now, they’re putting you out to pasture and I’m riding the buses. It’s fun getting old, isn’t it? Hey, this is a nice place here, you know. I bet you’re really going to like it here. And you know, if you don’t like it here, then we’ll do what we said we would. We’ll just go to Montana, start a ranch. You know, we still got all that money we took from those drug dealers buried in the old box canyon!

Martin goes on to tell his sons that all he really wants from them is to listen – not to offer advice or push their opinions or education upon him, but to hear him out when he’s feeling scared. But he’s quick to assure Niles, who’s worried that his perfect gift backfired, that he’s never been given a greater gift. And what else is Niles to do?

Source: sternincrane

Because here’s the thing. The Crane boys get their profession, their tastes, their outward natures from their mother. They even get a large part of their tendency towards emotional distance from her, frequently referencing Hester’s motto, “a handshake is as good as a hug.” But Frasier and Niles, under their lovably pretentious surfaces, are honorable men with strong moral compasses. They take their practices seriously, and find real purpose in their work. After all, their professional mission is to help people through their most difficult moments, to be supportive, thoughtful, and dependable confidants for callers and patients alike. Frasier and Niles have integrity, and that, they get from Martin.

Tasting Menu: “The Good Son,” “Beloved Infidel,” “Dukes, We Hardly Knew Ye,” “Breaking the Ice,” “Chess Pains,” “You Can Go Home Again,” “Our Father Whose Art Ain’t Heaven”, “The Gift Horse,” “RDWRER”


“With a grateful shudder, I swore I would never again return to… the NIGHTMARE INN.”

And now, I am pleased to present one of the greatest displays of farcical comedy in sitcom history:

While we’re on the subject, may I state for the record, for the first time and certainly not the last that David Hyde Pierce EARNED his 11 straight Emmy nominations. (Yep, you read that right. He got a nomination for EVERY SINGLE SEASON of Frasier and he deserved all of them.) This is gold and he is perfection. And in the comedic duo of DHP and Kelsey Grammer, Frasier had two of the most talented farcical actors of their generation, ready and waiting to dive into anything the writers could imagine. They took full advantage, and the result is one of the best uses of the genre to originate from this side of the pond.

So what are the greatest farce hits on Frasier? They basically add up to a list of the show’s most beloved episodes. Take, for example, “The Ski Lodge.” This episode is held up as one of the high water marks for the show’s 11 year history, and the whole thing runs like a master class. Roz wins a free weekend at a fancy ski resort but she can’t make the trip, so the whole crew – Frasier, Niles, Martin and Daphne – crashes in her stead. Daphne brings a model friend, the resort provides a hot ski instructor, and Martin’s ears are clogged, leading him to pass along a whole lot of wrong information about who’s into who. Chaos ensues.

These episodes knock it out of the park not just because their scripts are so meticulously crafted, or because the cast is so well suited towards them (though both things could not be more true). They’re classics because the all-important tipping points plug right into their main characters’ well-established and often endearingly obnoxious neuroses. David Hyde Pierce can pull off farce in his sleep, but something about Niles – fussy, skittish, OCD Niles – makes him lighting a couch on fire because he passed out at the sight of blood next-level hilarious. The same can be said for Kelsey Grammer – Frasier’s painfully sensitive ego around romantic entanglements gives him the PERFECT closing punch line for “The Ski Lodge.”

Personally though, my favorites come in at a three-way tie: “Ham Radio,” “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Mozkowitz” and “The Seal Who Came to Dinner.” If I’ve had a terrible day and need some cheering up, those are my three go-to’s. Looking for Frasier at his most pompous and controlling, Niles at his most defensive and snarky, and radio prop work at its finest? Check into the Nightmare Inn:

How about a classic holiday episode, a blind date gone right, and a nativity gone amuck?

Source: sternincrane

And really, what can I say about “The Seal Who Came to Dinner” except that it culminates in this sentence seeming like a totally logical chain of events:

Source: sternincrane

The dialogue, the slapstick, the ridiculous build to a moment you KNOW is unavoidable but still somehow don’t see coming? Nobody does it better.

Tasting Menu: “The Innkeepers”, “To Kill a Talking Bird,” “Ham Radio,” “Voyage of the Damned,” “The Ski Lodge,” “The Seal Who Came to Dinner,” “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Mozkowitz,” “Decoys,” “Bla-z-Boy,” “Tales from the Crypt”


“At work today, I found an injurious graffito about me scrawled on the men’s room wall.”

Source: sternincrane

A truly remarkable amount of sitcom legwork is done over at KACL 780 Talk Radio; so much so that the AM radio station (remember AM radio, everyone?) really could have been home to a show unto itself. It provides Frasier with a limitless cast of characters from other KACL programs – Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe and the Gonzo Sports Show, Gil Chesterton’s Restaurant Beat, Chopper Dave’s Eye in the Sky traffic report, Father Mike’s Religion on the Line, The Morning Zoo with Carlos and the Chicken – and a constantly rotating door of station managers, owners, interns, and agents, plus the annual SeaBee awards for excellence in Seattle Broadcasting.

We have The Doctor Frasier Crane Show to thank for all those celebrity voice over cameos; David Duchovny calling in with relationship problems, a 13-year old Elijah Wood having issues with other kids at school, Carrie Fisher looking to treat insomnia, Gillian Anderson practicing her southern accent – I could go on. (Pro tip: always check the season finale credits for a rundown of that year’s callers. I guarantee there will be someone in there that surprises you.) And none of this even touches Roz, who’s so vital to the show’s makeup that she makes an appearance no matter the set location, and ultimately rises above KACL entirely.

Source: sternincrane

The best radio personalities are big personalities, so of course Frasier constantly finds himself at odds with his KACL colleagues. After all, the possibilities for radio focused storylines with such a ridiculous cast of characters are endless. Take “Frasier Crane’s Day Off” – in the first season, Frasier gets the flu but doesn’t want to call out for fear that Gil Chesterton will make a play for his time slot. Niles fills in, Frasier’s big brother competitive streak takes over, and several ill-advised pharmaceutical decisions later, Frasier storms the booth stoned out of his mind until Niles and Roz join forces to kick him out:

Niles: Hello! This is Dr. Niles Crane again and no, we haven’t taken leave of our senses. That bit of inspired lunacy you heard just before the commercial was just a little docudrama Frasier and I put together on the dangers of over-medication. Bravo, Frasier, for so brilliantly demonstrating why they call it “dope!”

(Really, check out that episode, the whole thing is a masterpiece.)

It’s season three that delivers the show’s most comprehensive workplace storyline in the form of Kate Costas, one of KACL’s station managers (and unquestionably the best, most professional one they had – sorry Kenny Daly, but you’re a loveable pushover). She’s every bit Frasier’s match; a little ruthless, clever as hell, and just damn good at running things. Kate Costas is a perfect example of Frasier at its most subtly excellent. She’s a woman who has fought to get to the top of her profession, dealing with all the bullshit that female bosses have hoisted upon them and winning piles of broadcasting accolades along the way. (Frasier: “My god, you’ve won SIX Golden Mike awards?” Kate: “Aren’t you sweet to notice.”) Plenty of men throw jabs her way, but the jokes always ultimately land on them for being idiots – never on Kate.

Source: sternincrane

Kate Costas IS ruthless. She fires Father Mike on her first day, and when Frasier won’t give in to her (very reasonable) suggestion of adding in some well-focused theme shows, she relegates his show to the graveyard shift until he breaks:

Kate: Enjoying your new time slot?
Frasier: As a matter of fact, I found it invigorating! Didn’t you, Roz? Remember that woman who called in, uh, you know, with the delusions of grandeur? Couldn’t understand why nobody liked her.
Kate: Well, I hope you explained to her that it’s not important that people like her, as long as they respect her.
Frasier: Oh yes, respect is important. So is self-respect.
Kate: Oh, yes, yes, but some people — and this is so unfortunate — can’t tell the difference between self-respect and pig-headedness.
Frasier: Yes, but those people are usually rigid little demagogues who don’t know the difference between the kind of respect that is earned and the kind of respect that is irrespective …of what others expect.
Kate: Isn’t it sad when bad things happen to good sentences?

A few episodes after her introduction, in “Sleeping with the Enemy,” Kate decides to freeze pay raises for the support staff, claiming that the on-air talent has sucked up the entire budget for the year. The ensuing episode is, at its core, an exploration of class politics in the office environment. Frasier rallies the on-air talent (after Martin brings their elitism down a notch) and organizes a strike for the entire staff unless Kate reconsiders her decision. The negotiation gets heated and lands Kate and Frasier in an office romance, but, that’s a story for another day.

Source: oldfilmsflicker

So clearly, KACL provides Frasier with a vast network of supporting characters and a structural home base in the form of the all-important call-in show. Those two things alone are more than enough to justify its existence within the universe. But KACL is also doing something delicately vital for Frasier’s professional work: it allows him to practice clinical psychology without placing the burden of consistent mental health work too firmly on the show itself. KACL gives him the opportunity to treat patients, but it also gives him an easy out for the caller to “seek professional help” if things are a bit too complex to solve in a few short minutes. This is not to say that Frasier doesn’t do any heavy emotional lifting; it very much does. But The Doctor Frasier Crane Show gives the character the flexibility of an entertainer while maintaining the authority of a psychiatrist, which makes the KACL workplace pivotal to both Frasier Crane and Frasier.

Tasting Menu: “Frasier Crane’s Day Off,” “She’s the Boss,” “Leapin’ Lizards,” “Sleeping with the Enemy,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Radio Wars,” “Love Stinks,” “Juvenilia”


“Perhaps we should start with the premise set forth in the definitive study done by Harlan and Watkins.”

As has been stated in countless articles and think pieces across this great internet, we are living in the Golden Age of television. Dramas are comedies, comedies are dramas, and shows of all kinds are regularly taking substantive risks. But let’s take things back to the Spring of 1994. It’s the first season finale of Frasier. The show is on solid ratings ground and has been critically well-received. How to close out the year?

Source: sternincrane

By re-imagining a landmark, extremely well-regarded experimental film from 1981, holding to one conversation for an entire episode, and digging into the psyches of their main characters with the most complicated, yet most straightforward question of all: “Are you happy?”

“My Coffee with Niles” is one of my all-time favorite episodes of Frasier, and I could spend ages extolling its virtues. The season one finale does a huge amount of character work. It’s the first time Niles admits he might be in love with Daphne and it allows Frasier the opportunity to decide that his big move to Seattle has been a success. But in this context, I will just say: that episode is cerebral as hell.

It’s pretty common knowledge that the writers wove actual clinical psychology into the DNA of the show. Niles Crane was pitched to David Hyde Pierce with little more character development than the fact that he was the Jungian to Frasier’s Freudian. Nights out are regularly spent at the opera or at wine club. Ridiculously specific intellectual in-jokes are often baked into episode titles. (Niles and Daphne have to re-stage their wedding? “The Ring Cycle.” Niles’ parrot causes trouble at a dinner party? “To Kill a Talking Bird.”) The greatest thing about those little asides are that, as with all truly high quality easter eggs, they treat those who don’t notice the joke just as well as those who do. Frasier is not out to make anyone feel dumb for not liking art; it’s also not out to make fun of those who love it. If you’re enough of a classical music fan to giggle at “The Ring Cycle,” that’s great! If you’re not, it doesn’t take a single thing away from your viewing experience. And that line is a damn impressive one to walk.

Frasier’s scholarly leanings are at their most effective when they match the mission of clinical psychology itself – to dive into the psyche, take a look around, and help guide an individual through a crisis. Take “Don Juan in Hell Part 2,” wherein Frasier, desperate to understand why all of his relationships keep failing, imagines a debate between all the most important women in his life. Diane Chambers, Lilith Sternin, even his first wife Nannette and his mother Hester all join in the thought experiment:

Hester: You’ve spent your whole life trying to replace me, but it’s completely understandable. I was your first love.
Lilith: Ladies, meet the competition. This is the woman against whom we have all been measured.
Frasier: Lilith, will you please be quiet! Mother is speaking!
Hester: So, a lifetime of collecting women and this is the cream of the crop: the slacker, the barmaid, and the icicle. I was so relieved when they left you.
Diane: You left him too!
Hester: Oh, I had no choice. Perhaps you heard? I died. Now, let’s get down to work, shall we?
Lilith: We were doing perfectly well before you got here.
Hester: Well, if your bargain-basement psychiatry was so effective, why did he have to call in the big guns? Now, let’s explore the inner recesses of your psyche like we did when you were a boy.
Frasier: I don’t want to!

This is heavy emotional and psychological lifting, even amongst all the jokes and jabs. The same can be found in “Good Grief,” which takes place right after KACL’s talk radio staff is unilaterally fired. Frasier literally moves through the five stages of grief over the loss of his job, with Niles counseling him every step of the way. Or “Frasier’s Edge,” in which the SeaBees bestow Frasier with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s initially thrilled, but when he receives a note from his mentor, William Tewksbury, recognizing the accomplishment with “Congratulations. You must be very proud,” Frasier spirals out and drops by to speak with him before the awards ceremony. What follows is a full scale psychological breakdown between mentor and mentee:

For me, that’s one of the most impactful scenes in all of Frasier, and it’s because the therapy is treated with such precision and care. There is real psychoanalytic work being done here. The writers don’t shy away from the opportunity to treat their characters (or viewers, for that matter) with the same intelligence and focus with which they would treat their patients. And as a direct result of all that academia, the characters and audiences alike receive a uniquely emotionally comprehensive journey.

Tasting Menu: “Author, Author,” “My Coffee with Niles,” “Shrink Rap,” “A Crane’s Critique,” “Death and the Dog,” “Good Grief,” “IQ,” “Momma Mia,” “A Tsar is Born,” “The Apparent Trap,” “Frasier’s Edge,” “Don Juan in Hell Part 2”


“It’s all about romance with you Cranes, isn’t it?”

In the early days of the first season, it’s established that all of our main characters are single, divorced, widowed or unhappily married. It takes years for any of them to enter into emotionally satisfying, long term romantic relationships, and for our titular character, that particular form of partnership never really comes to pass. Frasier, who left Boston in huge part because of his divorce from Lilith, spends an inordinate amount of time dating his way around Seattle. Most of his romantic life comes in fits and starts, and more often than not, the man just gets in his own way. Take “Adventures in Paradise Parts 1 and 2,” in which Frasier meets a woman from Seattle Magazine’s “up and comers” list. He and Madeline connect immediately, and before long they’re totally enamored with each other:

Frasier: It’s just that I haven’t felt this way since, since my divorce. Everything seems so right.You know, I haven’t said this out loud, but here goes: it’s possible that she could be the woman I spend the rest of my life with.
Roz: Go. Go do that. Get married, have a couple of kids, move out to the country, buy a puppy, live happily ever after! Just don’t tell me about it, I need a boyfriend!

In no time at all, Frasier and Madeline take off for a romantic trip to Bora Bora – staying in the exact resort where Frasier took Lilith five years ago. So of COURSE she’s staying in the room next door, on a romantic getaway of her own with her new partner, Brian. What follows is a complete and total downward spiral; Frasier absolutely cannot handle having Lilith around (*cough cough* because he’s always been in love with her *cough cough*) and drives Madeline away with his obsessive attempts to one-up Lilith and Brian. So many of Frasier’s relationships end like this: with him standing directly in his own way, obsessed with his own neuroses and incapable of making a real, romantic connection.

Source: sternincrane

Meanwhile, there’s a really interesting counterbalance to be found in the show’s leading women. Roz dates constantly, and gives precisely zero fucks when her coworkers suggest she sleeps around too much. Roz REFUSES to settle, and refuses to let anyone make her feel bad about it; at the same time, she won’t let her life be put on hold while she looks for the right guy.

Frasier: Who knows, Roz? Maybe the time has come. You might be willing to start looking for a…
Roz: What? A husband?
Frasier: No, I wasn’t going to say that.
Roz: Just because I’m gonna miss certain things about Bulldog doesn’t mean I need to rush out and get married. Look at this week I’ve had. Three guys interested in me and not to mention Bulldog. I’m liking this! Single life is pretty good.

When a pregnancy comes before a partner, Roz decides to become a single mother and start a family, while maintaining a healthy dating life. Daphne dates from time to time, but doesn’t have many steady relationships. Before falling in love with Niles (and also kind of WHILE falling in love with Niles, but that’s a story for another day), her romantic life nearly culminates in an engagement to Donny Douglas, Niles’ divorce lawyer. Donny and Daphne have a really beautiful courtship, and their romance is pretty traditional – until Daphne pulls a Diane Chambers and leaves him at the altar. For Niles, of course, it was love at first sight, though the road to his and Daphne’s marriage is long, convoluted and spans two divorces. That particular romantic plotline is one of Frasier’s most memorable legacies, and for the most part it holds up – but right now, I want to talk about Martin. (Never fear, kind reader. I will be spending a huge amount of time talking about Niles and Daphne in an upcoming post. But, y’know, spoilers.)

Martin Crane is in his 60s during the first season, and at the time, he had been living as a widower for two years. Martin was doing just fine physically until the whole bullet to the hip thing, but his life before moving in with Frasier seemed pretty solitary. Once the walls begin to come down between him and his sons, Martin starts to open up to more genuine relationships outside of his family, too. It’s a subtle transition, but the two are undeniably connected, and Martin, ever so slowly, begins to open his heart up to partnership again. Over the course of the show he has several relationships, all of which play an important role in his emotional growth. While I am firmly in support of Martin ending up with Ronee (a genuinely delightful lounge singer played by Wendie Malick), it’s his relationship with Sherry Dempsey, a bartender at McGinty’s, that really allows Martin to work through his grief.

Sherry is everything Frasier and Niles hate: loud, brash, wonderfully tacky, and a huge amount of fun. Martin and Sherry hit it off right away, and the boys initially try to feign their support. That reaches a breaking point fast, and when Frasier finally admits that he and Niles don’t like to spend time with Sherry, all three of them are faced with the way they’ve treated the spouses in the family:

Martin: I guess it’s too much to expect my own family to make a person I care about feel welcome!
Frasier: WAIT A MINUTE! When did you ever make any of the women we were involved with feel welcome?
Niles: Ooh Frasier, you’re right! He almost got away with that!
Frasier: When did Lilith ever set foot in your house that you didn’t make her feel as wanted as a fungus?
Niles: Yes, not to mention my Maris!
Martin: You’re comparing a warm lady like Sherry to Frosty the Snow-Wife?
Frasier: There! That is exactly what I’m talking about. Oh, why don’t we just face facts? I mean, since when has any of us ever – from Sherry to Lilith to Maris to Diane – has ever been able to pick one woman that the other two could stand the sight of?
Martin: I picked your mother!
Frasier: I’m sorry, Niles. I’ve been hogging the floor.
Martin: Ah, forget it. You’re right. Why should I expect you to make the effort when I’m no better? Hell, you probably got it from me. You sure didn’t get it from your mother ‘cos she was great that way. Anytime she ever met anybody she could always find something to like about them. One of the things I loved her for. It’s one of the things I love Sherry for. She’s a lot like your mother that way. She’ll always find something — even with you two.

The memory of Hester looms large for all of the Cranes, but Martin doesn’t bring her up all that often – and when he does, it’s a moment like that one, which stops each of the characters in their tracks and forces them to reevaluate their points of view. It’s SO rare for a show to spend time on the romantic life of retirees, and especially rare for those plotlines to thoughtfully navigate the emotional journey towards remarrying after a loss – but Frasier pulls it off. Two of Martin and Sherry’s major episodes do substantial work on that front; in “Three Dates and a Breakup,” Sherry tells Martin she loves him and he initially reciprocates, only to break up with her almost immediately after. By now, we know that Martin has had trouble saying “I love you” even to his sons, and Niles and Frasier immediately share a glance when Sherry tells them what transpired. They’re shocked that their father was able to express himself in that way, and Frasier is immediately concerned that Martin is running away from an emotional connection:

Frasier: I believe that the feelings that you’re going through here are feelings of guilt. It’s probably natural to feel that way – my God, I understand exactly what you’re going through.
Martin: No, you don’t, no you don’t. You don’t understand at all: when you’ve been married for thirty-five years, you never thought there could be someone else, and one day you hear yourself say, “I love you” to another woman, maybe then you’ll understand what I’m going through.

Sherry and Martin reconcile at that point, but ultimately it doesn’t work out – and the REASON for that breakup is one of the clearest points of character development in the show. After years of keeping his family and loved ones at a distance, Martin decides he wants to remarry. And he knows that Sherry, having been married several times in the past, doesn’t. So the two go their separate ways. But without the work that Martin had done in the years leading up to that point, he never would have been able to come to terms with what he truly wanted out of a romantic relationship – and he would never have landed here.

Source: sternincrane

Tasting Menu: “Adventures in Paradise Parts 1 and 2,” “Police Story,” “Dad Loves Sherry, the Boys Just Whine,” “Three Dates and a Breakup Parts 1 and 2,” “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do,” “The Love You Fake,” “I’m Listening,” “Boo”


“Oh, I love returning to Boston. There’s just something in the air.”

Spin-offs are, by their very nature, strange beasts. For a show to get a spin-off at all, it needs to be a huge success. That original success then acts as both a blessing and a curse to the new entry in the TV franchise. If a spin-off is good, it’s never as good as the original. If it’s bad, it’s devastating to the fans, who wanted to see a new part of their favorite show’s universe explored. But for me, it’s the other way around. As has now been very well-established, I adore Frasier, but while I have fond and fuzzy memories of Cheers, I never really plugged into it. So naturally, when I started this whole venture, I went directly to Head Over Feels’ brilliant Cheers expert and sitcom historian Sarah for some guidance. How should I begin to examine a beloved 11-season sitcom so similar and yet so different from “my” beloved 11-season sitcom?

Armed with new clarity on the whole Frasier – Diane – Lilith timeline and a comprehensive episode guide (which is mostly replicated in the Beer List, with thanks again to Sarah because I can’t say it enough), I got to work. And what I found in Boston was a Frasier Crane who looked FRIGHTENINGLY identical to his brother, one who was making the same mistakes in his love life as he did in Seattle and who was the same delicate balance of pompous and unexpectedly friendly – which, he’d need to be to land him in a bar every night or a coffee shop every day.

When it comes to Frasier referencing back to Cheers, the writers had their work cut out for them. Of course this was ages before DVR’s and continuity wasn’t as much of a concern, but there was still the fact that the Frasier Crane in Boston never spoke of a brother and had, in fact, announced to the whole bar that his father was a deceased research scientist, not a retired cop who was very much alive. That little problem isn’t even touched until the second season, in “The Show Where Sam Shows Up,” but when they do go there, it’s handled with a refreshing lack of give-a-shit:

Martin: Hey, what did he tell you about me, Sam? His father, the old cop?
Sam: Oh, yeah, you I remember. Um, he told me you were dead.
Martin: Dead?!
Frasier: Well, we had had an argument. You called me a stuffed shirt and hung up on me. I was mad.
Sam: You’re a cop? You told me he was a research scientist.
Frasier: You were dead, what did it matter?

To be fair, it DOES seem very Frasier. But before the show trots out Sam Malone, they give us Lilith.

Source: sternincrane

Lilith Sternin is a wonder and a joy and I LOVE her. In her first appearance in Seattle, about half way through the first season, she gives the show several gifts. (Besides gracing them with her presence, which frankly is always a gift in and of itself.) First, she offers a subtle connection back to Boston that both references and honors Cheers but doesn’t rely on it. She also gives Frasier a way to discuss their marriage, which had been seen in Cheers as ending in cautious reconciliation. In “The Show Where Lilith Comes Back,” we learn that before moving to Seattle, Frasier had left a letter for Lilith asking for one last attempt at their relationship – but the letter fell behind a dresser, and Lilith only found it after he moved. She flies to Seattle thinking he left the letter not the year previously but the month previously, during his last visit with Frederick – only to find that he had finally given up hope, and that too much had been done in the year past for him to consider another reconciliation.

Lilith shows up once or twice a season, and the show is only better for it – but once every few years, another member of the Cheers family shows up. I’m especially fond of “The Show Where Diane Comes Back,” in which Diane Chambers, having written a play in an attempt to grapple with her life back in Boston, flies to Seattle and asks Frasier to help her stage the production. The result is Frasier and Diane, finally – behind the guise of the characters in her play, of course – giving each other a fond, kind-hearted farewell. It’s one they both deserve, and I am so glad they get to have it.

Source: sternincrane

My favorite thing about how Frasier handles its legacy is that it honors Cheers, but never depends on it. There aren’t any major plotlines in Frasier that rely on Cheers, but at the same time, the show never forgets its origins. So of course, in its second to last season, they take a beat to bid a final farewell to Boston. Frasier, Niles, Daphne and Martin all trek across the country and find themselves at Cliff Clavin’s retirement party. The Cheers crew gets one final toast, and Frasier’s family sees what his life was like years before they grew so close. It’s the best possible way to honor both shows and their legacies. And it just makes me love them all even more.

Frasier: It was about ten years ago when I too left Boston. But the kind wishes and outpouring of emotions from my friends remain fresh in my mind. I still remember Sam throwing me a lavish party and dubbing me the “Einstein of Cheers” against my modest protests that I was merely the Neils Bohr.
Carla: You still are!
Frasier: Carla, thank you. And then of course, Norm begging me to stay and that comical moment when Woody threw his arms around my leg and began to cry. Now another one of us is leaving this wonderful town. Good luck, Cliff.
Everyone: Hear, hear.

Beer List: “Diane Meets Mom,” “Rescue Me,” “Birth, Death, Love and Rice,” “Abnormal Psychology,” “Teaching with the Enemy,” “The Girl in the Plastic Bubble,” “The Bar Manager, The Shrink, His Wife and Her Lover”

Tasting Menu: “The Show Where Lilith Comes Back,” “The Show Where Sam Shows Up,” “The Show Where Diane Comes Back,” “A Lilith Thanksgiving,” “Room Service,” “The Show Where Woody Shows Up,” “Cheerful Goodbyes,” “Guns N’ Neuroses”

A loving shout-out to the fantastic Frasier blog sternincrane for all the amazing gifs and screencaps!

What’s on your own curated Frasier tasting menu? Which of the show’s many genres is your favorite? The lines are open. (That means leave us a comment below.)

“That would be some way to leave us.” – This Is Us Recap – Moonshadow Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:15:38 +0000

This Is Us Season 1, Episode 18
Posted by Shannon

The first season of This is Us had some near-perfect episodes. It also had some that stood on the importance of their character development, even when the plot or structure faltered, and some that worked despite sections with deeply problematic writing, but it hadn’t yet had an episode that just fell flat. So it’s especially unfortunate that the first episode to truly disappoint me was also the season finale. “Moonshadow” revelled almost exclusively in the show’s worst qualities, and while This is Us is secure in its unprecedented second and third season renewal, I for one hate that its first season went down like this. With barely a moment for the Big Three, no closure on Jack’s passing, and a lack-luster closing speech, we’re left with some lingering questions and a whole lot of plot devices to tide us over until season two.

Young Jack


A Vietnam veteran, Jack has returned from the war and is living at home, working as a fix-it guy around the neighborhood. Mrs. Peabody, a widow who wants to set Jack up with her best friend’s granddaughter, opens the episode by offering him $5 for fixing up her car and chatting with him in the driveway. (Her car is immediately recognizable as the one Jack drives later on, so all that work on the engine will pay off in time.) Jack is trying to piece together his livelihood on odd jobs, and while he painstakingly saves every dollar he earns in a box with his dog tags, it’s slow going. Not only is he living in his parent’s attic, his horrible father is back and is taking every opportunity to berate Jack and his mother.

At least Jack has one friend to commiserate with; Daryl, with whom he wants to open up an auto shop. They even have a spot in mind, and they spend nights sitting outside of the garage, making plans and drinking beers. Jack and Daryl just aren’t saving up money fast enough, and Jack asks Daryl to get them into his cousin’s poker game in an attempt to move things along. It’s clearly misguided, but we’re still meant to see the origins of Jack’s best qualities in this conversation: against all odds, we’re told that he’s returned from Vietnam without any emotional or physical wounds, and he’s toiling away in a horrible family situation, working hard to pull himself and his mother out into safety. Instead, though, I found this characterization of Jack to be entitled and indignant. When he told Daryl that “we’re good guys, we deserve to make it,” for the first time it occurred to me that Rebecca was onto something when she called Jack out as only acting like the good guy to make himself feel better. Yes, motivation and drive are good qualities, but being a good person does NOT mean that good things will automatically happen to you, and even at this age, Jack doesn’t seem as naive as he’d need to be to believe otherwise.


Once they get to the poker game, things are even more painful to watch. The set up is a cliché representation of a dive bar, just smoky enough to read as “bad” without actually feeling dangerous, and Jack plays the part of the fool, walking in and winning a pile of money on his first hand, only to bail on the rest of the game immediately afterwards. It’s a bad move in the best of circumstances, and of COURSE it means that he and Daryl get beat up outside the bar, with all their earnings stolen. Jack doesn’t see how foolish his behavior was, instead blaming it all on how unfair the world has been to punish him instead of his father, who’s always broken on the side of the morally bankrupt. He’s chosen to be the opposite of his father, to be “respectful to women, be a good man – look where it’s gotten me.”


Jack is feeling angsty and angry, and ready to “take the life that I was supposed to have.” He intends to take that life by blatantly standing up his blind date and stealing his poker winnings out of the bar. Everything is going according to plan when Jack spots Rebecca singing an open mic, and stops short his life of crime. I’m not sure what it would have taken for me to find this plot line interesting, or more importantly, actually in character for Jack. Maybe if he’d seemed more genuinely angry or frightened by his life’s path, maybe if his entire character wasn’t now based in Rebecca as his salvation from petty thievery. Maybe if he hadn’t openly decided to stand up some poor unnamed woman, with never so much as a phone call or a thought to her well-being. It’s possible that this will all make more sense if we spend more time with young Jack, but with the context we’re given in “Moonshadow”, it just fell flat. Being a good person is not something to be done for a reward. You do good because it’s right, not because it will pay off in the end in some karmic display of gentle retribution. Before this episode, Jack had never seemed like the kind of person who acted singularly for ulterior motives, positive though they may be. And now that he’s been established as such, it’s that much harder for his words to ring true.

Young Rebecca


Single Rebecca is, by contrast, living a pretty great life, despite friends who are on a constant mission to set her up. Rebecca is happy to sit alone, happy to focus on her career and to stand up for her individual goals. She’s busy and content, doing open mics and recording demos for a family member who works at a recording studio. Rebecca also manages to be confident in the face of two friends who seem dead-set on feeling bad for her, telling her that she needs to “diversify” her options by taking a date with a guy in finance so she won’t be doomed to go to a wedding alone.

After she gets a rejection letter from the recording studio, though, Rebecca is feeling less certain  and accepts the offer of a blind date. The show sets us up to think, of course, that this blind date is Jack. She gives up a spot at an open mic night and arrives at the restaurant first, annoyed that the date is late after she made the sacrifice of a night on stage. It’s not Jack that she’s waiting for – instead, it’s a dull and vaguely horrible finance guy named Ethan, who works in mergers and acquisitions. That is, when he’s not calling up his secretary to save him after he’s locked himself out of various locations. Rebecca barely makes it through a drink before she bolts, knowing that she belongs on stage that night.


Everything that “Moonshadow” gets wrong about Jack, it gets right about Rebecca. This Rebecca still feels like herself. She’s young and a little starry-eyed, sure, but she’s also dedicated and comfortable in her own skin. The Rebecca Malone that meets Jack at the bar that night isn’t an unevenly written, bizzaro version of herself. She’s a little foolhardy and not without her own family and career struggles, but she is still very much herself. And she certainly didn’t need saving, not by Ethan, not by her friends, and not by Jack.

Jack and Rebecca


In hindsight, I should’ve known better than to think that Jack’s death would be resolved this episode. After setting the audience up to believe that Jack would be in a car accident while driving drunk to Rebecca’s show, he instead makes it there safe and sound and plunks himself down in front of the bar to get another drink as he waits for her to perform. Rebecca, meanwhile, is getting ready backstage, and her nerves are at an all-time high. She admits to Ben that she feels like a fraud, that “I should be watching ER” instead of singing in front of a crowd full of people. Rebecca’s mindset has clearly been shaken. After all, she’s just left her husband earlier that day, who has been stifling (with varying degrees of success) the opinion that she has no business performing at all, much less in this kind of venue. Jack’s words have gotten to her, and she keeps muttering things like “I have kids, I have multiple kids” as a reason to doubt herself. Ben talks her down, but he also crosses the line, misreading the moment, and tries to kiss her. Rebecca is having none of it, and shuts him down immediately. She runs past the bar to the payphone out front, missing Jack completely, and leaves him a message on the home machine.

With even more whiskey in his system, Jack stumbles backstage, demanding that he see Rebecca. Instead, he finds Ben, who assumes that Rebecca has told him what happened and admits his wrongdoing in an attempt to calm Jack down. It has the opposite effect, and Jack once again punches someone out at a bar after drinking too much, just like he did all those years ago at Froggy’s. This time, though, the consequences could be much more dire. Ben decides not to press charges, but Rebecca doesn’t see any way out except to drive Jack home, quit the band and leave the tour behind.


Once they return home, there’s a moment of calm before the storm. Rebecca immediately moves to delete the message she left on the machine, even before giving Jack a glass of water and frozen vegetables for his hand. The two stare at each other in silence, before finally talking about Jack’s lapse in sobriety. He immediately offers to go to meetings, but Rebecca doesn’t think that the reason for his drinking is singularly alcoholism. I’m not a professional, and I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this disease, so I don’t feel comfortable speaking to the root of Jack’s drinking. But I can see that he’s clearing acting out, and he immediately uses Rebecca’s gigs against her as the reason she didn’t notice his change in behavior.


Jack and Rebecca have been a powder keg for a while now, and the two finally explode into a painfully realistic, uncomfortable fight. They both give voice to some ugly truths about themselves and their feelings, and the scene doesn’t shy away from these two characters screaming over each other in a desperate attempt to be heard. Jack admits once and for all that he thinks Rebecca’s performing is a joke, mocking her for calling it a career, while Rebecca finally calls Jack out on his frequent habit of making family-wide decisions without consulting her. Everything that’s been hiding under the surface of 90’s Jack and Rebecca comes to the front. She admits to feeling like “a ghost,” with grown kids who don’t need her anymore and a husband who comes home late and goes to bed early, while Jack sees himself as the only emotional support for whole family. As is the case in fights like this, there’s no real way for either of them to end it, but Rebecca tries, with “I’m tired, and I’m really sad, and I’m going to bed.” Jack lets her go, and spends the night on the couch.


For me, that fight was the stand-out scene of the episode, and its most honest moment comes from Rebecca the next morning. She doesn’t shy away from what had been said, knowing that “we may have hated the way that we said it, but we meant it.” There’s no easy way to move on once they’ve given those thoughts a voice, and so Jack packs up to stay with Miguel for a while. Rebecca’s first thought is for the kids; that this moment will be defining for them, and that it will cause them pain for the rest of their lives. (It certainly will for Kate, though it’s unclear why.) Jack doesn’t see that, insisting instead that “this is just gonna be a blip on the radar years from now.” While Jack delivers one last Big Speech of the season, we get a glimpse of what the kids are planning in their modern timelines. Kate, back in LA with Toby, is inspired by a photo of her mother and decides to pursue a career in music. Kevin takes the movie meeting, leaving Sophie to admit her feelings after his taxi pulls away. (“I love you too, God help me.”) And Randall, after pasting a photo of William into his baby book, decides what he wants to do with his time now that he’s quit his job; adopt another child.


Colors of the Painting

  • I will say this for “Moonshadow;” they nailed their continuity, with Jack wearing his lucky alligator shirt the night he met Rebecca.
  • “He’s in finance!” “Yeah. We know, Katherine.”
  • Rebecca’s apartment as a single woman is stunning and so completely her. There are Joni Mitchell albums abound, with a Janis Joplin poster hanging up, a guitar in the corner, and what looks to be the same piano she has in the Pearson family home against the wall.
  • Spotted in what we assume is Kate’s childhood bedroom: a killer Buffy the Vampire Slayer poster.
  • I have a moderate wish-list for Season Two, but mostly I just want Randall to stay home and take care of the kids while Beth gets back to work.

What are your thoughts on “Moonshadow”? Let us know in the comments. 

“It was enough time to know that I loved him.” – This Is Us Recap – What Now? Mon, 13 Mar 2017 16:36:45 +0000

This Is Us Season 1, Episode 17
“What Now?”
Posted by Shannon

After saying farewell to William last week, the penultimate episode of the season is full of complex themes. The Pearson clan has spent their recent days pondering legacy, blame, and forgiveness, and while some are making more concrete moves than others, each of them carry a hefty emotional weight. As we head into the season finale, Randall and Kevin share clarity and opportunity in their work and home lives, while the guilt and shame of Rebecca’s decision to lie to Randall is lifted and transposed to Kate. The legacy of the Hill-Pearson patriarchs is felt fully this week, and their children’s emotional connections to those legacies are not a simple matter. “What Now?” is rife with guilt and mourning, but there’s just as much joy to be found in those moments as there is sadness.



It’s time for Rebecca to head out on her two-week tour, and while she’s packing her best dresses, Jack is staying late at work for a retirement party. He’s under no obligation to stay, and he and Miguel don’t even like the guy they’re celebrating, but Jack is searching for any reason not to go home. While he hasn’t stopped Rebecca from going on tour, he’s determined to be as difficult about it as possible, making her wait until the last possible moments to say goodbye. Rebecca calls him out on this behavior as soon as he gets home, and the two bicker privately in the kitchen over schedule changes and getting the kids to a party. There’s a quiet sadness watching them like this, so disconnected, especially after their night in the old apartment was such a short time ago. They’re at least able to share a laugh over Kevin and Sophie, who are deep in the throes of teen romance and unable to keep their hands off each other, but even that doesn’t break their moods. Rebecca gives hugs to each of the kids, but Jack only offers a kiss on the cheek before she leaves for the van.

Kate sees right through her parents’ interactions, and from the moment Jack walks in the door, she knows something is wrong. She glares worriedly at Jack, urging him to give Rebecca a better farewell just with a quiet, muttered “….Dad….” Their connection is so strong (as is Rebecca and Randall’s) that she can feel every single one of her father’s moods, and she knows that he can do better than he’s doing right now.


After Jack drops the kids off at a party, Kate lingers in the back seat, asking pointedly why he hasn’t made the relatively short two-hour drive to Cleveland to watch Rebecca’s show. This is SUCH a tough line for a kid to walk, and Jack does the right thing by assuring her that it shouldn’t be her problem. Her focus should be on “boys, and grades, and that band that sounds like they’re always kidding” – not on the ups and downs of her parents’ marriage. But Kate can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong, and while she does finally leave for the party, it’s only after making sure that her father won’t spend the whole night being sad and alone.

But that’s exactly what he does. After spending some time in front of the television with Chinese takeout, Jack grabs his keys and heads out the door – but it’s not for Rebecca’s show, it’s for his coworker’s after-party. Miguel is nowhere to be seen, but Heather is, and she promptly buys him a beer. She takes the opportunity to ask what’s been bothering Jack, and he opens up with one hell of a Freudian slip. (“She’s on tour with her Ben. Her band.”)  Heather tries to get Jack to admit that he’s having marriage troubles, but Jack isn’t having it. He’s a little too slow on the uptake, but once Heather puts her hand on his leg, he catches up quick, and shuts down her advances. Finally, after listening to his daughter’s fears, and defending Rebecca’s dreams to Heather, Jack knows that this has gone far enough. He calls the party and asks if the kids can stay the night, opening his schedule up to make the drive to Rebecca’s performance. Except he’s been drinking. A lot. After a final conversation with Kate, and after fumbling his keys, Jack gets behind the wheel and heads to Cleveland.



It’s just been a few days since William’s passing, but Randall is already trying to make sense of the space William has left in his heart and in his home. The last time William was in Annie’s room, he was packing up for his final trip to Memphis, deciding what to take and what to leave. His instruments stayed; his poems were packed.  While Randall sits on the bed, trying to unravel the best way to honor his father’s legacy, (“Do I start wearing sweater vests?”) Beth spots a letter tucked underneath Annie’s pillow.

William rarely did anything without intention. Especially in the final weeks of his life, every single decision he made ensured that the people in his life knew how special they were to him. So of course, in his final letter to Tess and Annie, he knew just what to say. Rather than let Randall and Beth plan his memorial, he asks Tess and Annie to do it. After all, “adults make these things sad, and I want you two to make it fun.” The change in the girls from the beginning of the letter to the end is palpable. They take their mission so seriously, especially their grandfather’s request that it be joyful. Tess and Annie share mischievous smiles, and immediately scrap the plans Beth’s plans for catering and white doves. Randall asks just one thing of his girls: permission to deliver a eulogy. But eulogies are sad affairs, so it’s retitled a toast, and Tess and Annie agree.


The Pearsons aren’t the only ones mourning William. I had wondered how Jesse would be included in the memorial, and his call to Randall is full of grace. Knowing himself and the danger of a potential relapse, Jesse has decided to stay in Chicago, but he wants to be sure that Randall knows how much William was loved by him and all of the people in their NA group. Jesse specifically passes along the well wishes of a gentleman named Sebastian, an athlete who started attending NA after an addiction to pain pills. Since no one at the group was into sports, William feigned an interest in football, hoping it would give Sebastian someone to connect with. Jesse and Randall’s conversation is painful and quiet and beautifully written. These two haven’t had the chance to get to know one another, and outside of William, they don’t have much of a connection. But William is enough, and they both feel the need to honor him, to share stories, to laugh when they can, to celebrate his memory. Randall won’t have many people in his life with which he can share those memories, and I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jesse.

When the neighborhood mailman brings in a perishable box from Randall’s office, it gives him another opportunity to learn the extent to which William was  “a soft arm rest for weary souls to lean on.” After getting to know each other on his morning walks, the neighborhood mailman is devastated to hear of William’s passing. I was so moved to hear him say simply that “this neighborhood will miss him.” Immediately, I flashed to the first of William’s walks, when his mere presence was enough to make the neighbors call the cops. The subtle racism of the suburbs can’t be handled simply, but his impact on the neighborhood is felt in that one line alone.

Slowly but surely, as the day unfolds, Randall comes back to himself. He greets Rebecca, Miguel, Toby, Kate and Kevin with an ultimate horrible joke: “welcome to the FUN-eral.” He’s able to honor William’s wishes, to let the celebration be a joyful one, and to make bad jokes to his family again. His face is still strained, of course, but it’s good to see Randall continuing to heal after his breakdown, in spite of William’s loss. Beth, however, has spent the last few days just a little off kilter. She’s tense with Randall and clearly showing signs of strain.<

Tess and Annie have orchestrated the perfect celebration to honor their grandfather; William’s Perfect Day, complete with streamers, breakfast food, and his morning medication in the form of M&M’s. It’s the pills that finally trigger Beth, and she steps away from the memorial, staring at the cabinet full of prescriptions that she’d refilled while William was in Memphis. While the girls have been able to plan the memorial, and Randall got the trip to Memphis, Beth has been left without a way to say goodbye. It’s very possible that Beth knew William the best out of all the Pearsons; after all, she was spending days working from home, acting as his caregiver, sharing in the joys of his daily life.


When it comes time for Randall to give the toast, he passes Annie’s pink karaoke machine microphone to Beth instead, hoping to give her the closure she needs. She takes a breath, admits her anger, and remembers William as her friend. Her friend, who hummed while he brushed his teeth and danced the Charleston in their living room. Knowing him as well as she did, and loving him so much, Beth’s toast captures William’s spirit completely: “William’s moves weren’t fast, but they were endearing as hell. He was endearing as hell.”

The whole family heads out to continue the day with William’s walk, complete with colorful plastic hats for the everyone (and William’s real hat for Randall). As the Pearson clan meanders down the road, Rebecca finally comes up to Randall to say her piece. Things haven’t been the same between them since Thanksgiving, and she had been anxious about attending the memorial at all. With William’s passing, Rebecca’s guilt has reached a level that must have felt unbearable. Of course it’s not her fault that William was ill, or that Randall found him so late in his life. But she feels a sense of responsibility for the pain of this loss, especially after seeing how deeply the rest of the family had bonded with William. She needs to explain herself to Randall once and for all, and while he doesn’t seem to need to hear it anymore, he knows that SHE needs to tell him. The lie had simply grown too big, too insurmountable, and year after year, she wasn’t able to tell her son the truth. Randall wouldn’t have been able to forgive her before Memphis, and certainly not before his breakdown. He hadn’t yet felt the pain of the betrayal, hadn’t opened himself up to accept what Rebecca had done. But now, with William gone and his recent anxiety healing, he’s able to truly hear and forgive her.


Up until this episode, I’d been very complimentary of Randall’s work environment. He clearly worked too hard, but it seemed more self-inflicted, less pressure from above. But as soon as Randall opened the note on the box of pears, my hackles were raised. So when Randall took off after Kevin’s play to head to the office (at 10pm, knowing they were all still working) I was disappointed in their behavior. But after learning about Randall’s severe pear allergy, AND the fact that his boss knew of it? Clearly Randall’s attitudes about work weren’t only coming from himself and his inner perfectionist. Finally, Randall has a moment of perfect clarity, and he knows just how to honor William’s legacy. By quitting, slowing down, spending more time with his family. Walking instead of running. Spending more time with his mailman. He passes his accounts off to Sanjay and leaves the office for the last time, “in triumph.”

William Hill was many things. Thoughtless was certainly not one of them. There was simply no way he would leave Beth out of his farewells, and the whole episode, I was waiting for Beth to check the mail. Sure enough, the postcard he promised arrived from Memphis, and it’s so very William. Classy, old school, honest, and creative. Amidst a smiley face and pen-drawn musical notes, he wrote: “Told you I’d send you a postcard. Goodbye my dearest Beth, the daughter I never had. Love, William.”



After leaving Sloane on stage alone for their opening night, Kevin’s production has been scheduled to re-open with the full cast intact. While the show has certainly taken a blow, it seems to be a relatively painless process for them to stage a second opening night, but there’s one significant change from the first. New York Times Theatre Critic Brandon Novak (a Brantley stand-in if I’ve ever seen one) is refusing to attend, leaving the Back of an Egg without the all-important New York Times review. Kevin’s on a mission to get Novak to change his mind, but to his credit, he won’t involve Randall’s breakdown in his efforts. (“I can’t tell them Randall’s business, he’s been through enough.”) Kevin’s ego and professional pride won’t let him give up on changing the critic’s mind, though, and several voicemails and bribes to his assistant later, we find Kevin storming into Novak’s office, pleading for a second chance.

Novak gives voice to every single one of the inner-most fears that Kevin has carried with him throughout the season. He plainly states that he believes Kevin was a no-show at his opening night because he choked – that without “five takes and a laugh track,” he doesn’t stand a chance and can’t possibly be taken seriously as an actor. Kevin doesn’t break, and doesn’t throw his brother under the bus, but takes it all in stride and keeps trying to make his case.


One benefit of moving the opening night is that Sophie is able to attend – but she’ll only watch from the back of the house, and insists that she won’t see the Pearson clan, “especially Kate.” Their relationship is still tentative; she’s not ready to have sex with him again, and while they’re dating exclusively, there’s still the feeling that Sophie is holding something back emotionally. That said, she clearly has that same ability to cut through Kevin’s bullshit that Sloane did. Her throw-away line that Kevin’s  sexy when he’s loyal but not when he brags about it sums up his entire character so completely. He’s a good man, but he can get distracted by his blind ego in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s their history or an inner quality that Sophie has, Kevin’s able to hear things from her that he can’t hear from others. These two have such an ease with each other; the kind of ease that comes from decades of knowing and loving one another. She practically skips backstage while he’s warming up, wielding a crutch from the ER so he’ll have something to stand on after he breaks his leg.

Turns out, he needs that crutch; Kevin absolutely nails the performance, and while Novak’s not there to see it, his whole family is. Their pride for Kevin in that moment is so gorgeous. After the crowds scatter, Kevin tells Sophie that he knows now that he came back to the city to “win back my girl” – and that might be part of it, sure. But perhaps more importantly, look at the bridges he’s built with his brother, and that he’s begun to build with Miguel. None of that would have happened on the west coast, and Kevin is all the better for it.


After the performance, something gives way for Sophie. She believes Kevin’s promise that he’ll be there for her, and that he’s truly in it after all this time. They’re about to test that connection, and far sooner than they should. There was no Times critic in the audience that night, but thanks to a young Manny fan with a convenient Uncle, there was a Ron Howard. And he’s hoping to coax Kevin back to LA to shoot a film for several months. Considering a bi-coastal relationship was what began their split in the first place, this is a tall order for Kevin and Sophie’s burgeoning relationship. Kevin can’t possibly turn it down, but he has to know to proceed with caution.



The impending LA exodus isn’t limited to Kevin; Toby is anxious to get back to LA so he and Kate can move in together and resume their old lives. Kate, though, has a mission to attend to first, and it’s fulfilling Tess and Annie’s request for 50 rainbow balloons. Kate is her best badass self on this call, and if her going back to LA means we can get more Professional Kate Getting Shit Done, I’ll allow it. (Especially with lines like “Oh I don’t know, Sharon, CAN you help me?”)

Toby, though, senses that something else is going on for Kate in this moment. She IS concerned for Randall, and wants to do exactly what the girls have asked, to the letter. Fifty balloons, not 49. Toby’s quick to dismiss that drive as a shield for her grief – but he’s not completely wrong. This is a complicated time for Kate. She’s just been dismissed from a program that was working for her, and was finally starting to open up her emotional work on Jack’s death, only to be thrown out without completing that work. To be faced now with the funeral of her brother’s biological father is almost too much to take.


Beth’s toast in honor of William is Kate’s breaking point. And while she refuses to speak to Toby, when Randall follows her outside, she quickly falls into his arms. I loved this scene, and a moment  with just Kate and Randall was overdue. Their relationship is so gentle and supportive, and they trust each other completely. Kate’s grief for Randall is wrapped up in her own, but it never once diminishes her sorrow for her brother. Kate is the one to hear about Randall’s dream: that Jack and William finally met, shared stories, heard each other laugh. And while it’s cruel that Kate has been pulled away from a system that was working for her, it’s important that she’s in a place to keep doing the work right now. Randall can see that, and takes the opportunity to remind her that he of all people knows the importance of expressing one’s feelings before they build up beyond recognition. Kate agrees, and pulls Toby aside to tell him she’s ready to talk – later, though, after Kevin’s show.

When the time comes, Kate takes the opportunity to brag about Kevin – she’s SO proud of her twin, and so thrilled to see that all his hard work has paid off. Toby, now that the door has been opened, doesn’t want to let it shut, and asks again about Jack’s death. Kate takes a deep breath and finally admits the piece of the puzzle that has plagued her for years. We know that it was her wish that Jack drive to Cleveland, and we’re lead to believe that she was the last person to speak to him on the phone: and for half her life, she’s blamed herself for his death.


Colors of the Painting

  • Sterling K. Brown is the master of many things, but most devastatingly, he’s the master of the single tear. One falls down his face when he speaks to Kate about Jack, and again when he hears Rebecca out. I really don’t know how he does it.
  • It could have gone without saying, but I for one was glad to hear Kate acknowledge the emotional trauma that Randall must feel going through the loss of a father not once, but twice.
  • “I meant what I said, but I’m a grown-ass man and this is gonna cross a very weird line.”
  • William’s Perfect Day is a clear call back to the Pearson Family Thanksgiving Traditions, with heightened recreations of their family’s habits. It’s worked well enough both times so far, but I’m wary of this becoming a repeated plot device.
  • Kevin hasn’t had a lot of time with Tess and Annie so I loved seeing him lead William’s walk, holding hands with both his nieces.
  • I’ve always loved Beth, not to mention Susan Kelechi Watson’s performance, but this week especially she deserves a shout out. I need to see a LOT more of her in season two.
  • “Are you gonna leave me here with a floundering career and a lukewarm Americano?”
  • “Stage penis is so 2015.”

What did you think of the penultimate episode of Season 1? Are you ready for the finale? Let us know in the comments. 

]]> 3 11593