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

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

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

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

Jack/Rebecca


source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com
 

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

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


source: bigthree.tumblr.com
 

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


source: sylviebret.tumblr.com
 

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


source: bigthree.tumblr.com
 

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

source: thisisdefinitelyus.tumblr.com

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

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


source: bigthree.tumblr.com
 

Kate

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

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

Continue reading

The Best Performances of 2016

Posted by Kim and Sage

We’ve discussed the best TV moments of 2016 (you can find those here and here), so now we turn to the individual performances that brought us the most joy this year. These are the performances that inspired us, that stayed with us, and drove us into many a social media fight defending their worthiness. (Note of warning: if you come at Ryan Gosling, we WILL fight you.) I love everything we do for this website, but I have to admit that our annual “Best Performances” holds a special place in my heart, especially when I go back and re-read them when they pop up in our Timehop. These posts are like little time capsules of OUR year in entertainment; they reflect our crushes of the moment, our long-standing love affairs with performers that can do no wrong (Hey Eddie Redmayne), and a scrapbook of all the TV and Movies that we saw throughout the year. Some of these are the performances EVERYONE is talking about, whilst others are the ones that we think you all should be paying attention to. (ARE YOU ALL WATCHING SPEECHLESS BECAUSE YOU SHOULD BE.) Thus we present to you our 18 Best Performances of the year plus four Honorable Mentions. Because it’s our blog and we can’t be limited to our normal 20 shout outs. We hope you love them as much as we do.  — Kim

1) Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things

I obviously follow many celebrities on Instagram who are on the convention circuit. And I’ve noticed a pattern over the last few rounds of cons. All of these icons who themselves draw fans by the droves to their photo ops were all geeking out over one of their own. I can’t tell you how many backstage selfies I’ve liked of some famous fan cheesing like mad with Millie Bobby Brown.

And why shouldn’t they be starstruck over her? Millie burst onto the pop culture scene in the role of Eleven on Stranger Things in a striking performance reminiscent of Drew Barrymore in Firestarter. Eleven is a scientific marvel and a weapon, but she’s also a child – a child who was stolen from her family and exploited by the only “Papa” she’d ever known. Millie can do a thousand-yard stare like nobody else, but my favorite moments in the series are the ones where Eleven grasps for a sense of normalcy and belonging with the boys who find her. (“Still pretty?”) This young actor’s work warrants those deep reads of Stranger Things as an allegory about puberty, child abuse, or just being a kid in this big, bad world. 2016 will always be her breakthrough year, and we can’t wait to see how Millie’s career unfolds. –Sage

2) Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Pitch

The success or failure of Pitch as a show depends entirely on the woman playing Ginny Baker. If the audiences don’t connect with Ginny and her journey as the first woman to play professional baseball, the show never gets out of the dugout. (BASEBALL METAPHORS.) Lucky for the creators of Pitch and the television audience at large, we’ve got Kylie Bunbury carrying the entire show on her (very toned) shoulders. And the thing is, Kylie makes it look easy. Ginny Baker is an incredibly complex character and Kylie is tasked with a LOT. She’s got a spine of steel yet she remains incredibly vulnerable. (If you weren’t moved by her breakdown in the bathtub during her Almost Famous-esque “fuck everything” night, you may want to make an appointment with a cardiologist.) She’s been hurt and taken advantage of by so many people, yet she constantly puts herself on the line in the name of pursuing her dream. She fights to be treated as an equal in her workplace. (The episode where she blatantly refuses to back down from the “Beanball” war because she is a woman is SO IMPORTANT.) Kylie makes Ginny wonderfully human; she is flawed and complicated and she struggles being considered a role model when all she really wants to do is just play baseball. She’s the most important female character on TV right now, for so many women, and I PRAY that Fox does the right thing and picks up the show for season two.

gifs vis ginnyspitch.tumblr.com

And in the other corner, we have Mark-Paul Gosselaar as the aging All Star catcher Mike Lawson. Listen, it’s not like this is an out of nowhere comeback for the erstwhile Zack Morris. Mark-Paul has worked steadily since his Saved By The Bell days, but something feels DIFFERENT in this performance. He brings a “seen it all” attitude to Mike. He has a weariness that could easily be seen as a disillusionment towards the game when really it’s a career ballplayer being painfully aware that he’s coming to the end of his time in the sun. It took me about 75% of the pilot episode before I realized that I was watching Mark-Paul Gosselaar on my TV screen and it’s NOT just because of his GLORIOUS mountain man beard. Mark-Paul completely disappears into the character and brings a very Coach Taylor-esque quality to the Padres captain. It’s the speeches and the eye crinkles and the bone deep love of the game. Come on, you KNOW Mike Lawson would bust out with “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

So what happens when you put these two incredibly dynamic performers opposite each other? Fireworks, naturally. Kylie and Mark-Paul’s chemistry is SO PALPABLE and has so many levels. For Mike, Ginny serves as an inspiration and a reminder of why he loves baseball in the first place. In Mike, Ginny finds a true teammate who will stand up for her and not treat her with kid gloves. There’s a definite mentor relationship between them but there is also an undeniable sexual chemistry. Bawson is the slowest of slowburns, with their attraction building through lingering looks and late night phone calls. It’s the most DELICIOUS kind of tension and it’s one they are both incredibly aware of. Mike and Ginny are like magnets, pushing against each other, challenging each other, and eventually, falling into each other. To quote my boo Kate Moseley, “all they needed was a little flip.” — Kim

3) Joshua Sasse – No Tomorrow

As the meteor he believes is hurtling towards Earth inspires Xavier Holiday to live his life to the fullest, so does the uncertain future of the CW’s apocalyptic romantic comedy No Tomorrow inspire us to recognize it while we can.

Bearded, beanied, and tattooed Xavier is played by HOT AUSSIE Joshua Sasse, fresh off the unfairly canceled musical romp Galavant. (YEP, he sings too.) He makes an amazing case for not writing off the sexy guy who’s into you juuuuust because he believes the rapture is on its way. He breaks the Dealbreaker Scale, basically.

I’d like to keep on objectifying Xavier and Joshua (as the show clearly does – he’s 1/2 or more naked in most episodes), but I’ll get serious. It’s a challenging part, because Xavier has to believe completely in his end-of-the-world theory but not come off as dangerous or deranged. And as charming as he is to Evie and the audience (and OH, HE IS), Xavier is also kind of an arrogant jerk, accustomed to putting himself first. It’s a credit to Joshua’s embodiment of the character that Xavier is still our hero – a flawed person who heard terrible news and decided to use it to turn his life around. You see his petulance when Evie challenges him, but you also see the way he lights up when someone around him takes control of however many days they have left. And the man knows how to sell a love scene, just saying.

He’s so convincing that I wonder sometimes if Xavier is actually right about our impending doom. And if No Tomorrow gets the pick-up it should, I hope it ends with a completely fulfilled Apocalyst and a vindicated male lead. –Sage

4) Sterling K. Brown – This Is Us

2016 was a garbage year but it’s ALSO the year that gave us Sterling K. Brown’s major career breakthrough, so I am ALMOST willing to call it even. I foolishly missed out on The People Vs. OJ Simpson (and am counting down the days until it gets added to Netflix), so my first exposure to Sterling’s acting came when I saw the pilot episode of This Is Us. Sage said it perfectly when she wrote about Sterling for our Handsome Young Man post: just when we think Sterling has hit his peak as Randall Pearson, he just gets BETTER. Randall is easily the most compelling character on This Is Us, and sometimes I can’t decide if it’s because he has the best story or because Sterling is just THAT GOOD in a cast filled with stellar actors. I actually think it’s a combination of both; Randall DOES have the meatiest stories, but Sterling also elevates every single scene that he’s in. In my humble opinion, he is giving THE male television performance of the year.

It’s clear that Sterling understands Randall on a fundamental level. The performance is never one-note and Randall can switch from achingly vulnerable to slyly sarcastic in the blink of an eye. (His comic timing is MASTERFUL.) If I had to think of one word to describe Sterling’s performance it would be DEFT. You never see him working, you never see him changing gears, and you NEVER see Sterling. You only see Randall Pearson, king of bad Dad jokes and devoted son, brother, and husband. It’s such a fully formed and nuanced performance. But the most important thing about Randall is how wonderfully human he is. It would be quite easy, after all the truth about William and Rebecca and his adoption came out, for Randall to be played as bitter and jaded. But he’s never been that, even in his initial meeting with William in the pilot episode. Randall Pearson has the biggest HEART and his capacity for love and forgiveness is truly inspiring. Sterling imbues him with such grace and warmth that you can’t help but fall in love with him immediately. It’s the perfect combination of actor and the character he was meant to play and we’re so blessed to watch him work week after week. — Kim

5) Aya Cash – You’re the Worst

The first time I saw Aya Cash perform was in 2008 when she played a disillusioned teen in the off-Broadway comedy From Up Here. She was memorable in a way that surpassed quirkiness, and I’m so thrilled to see her thriving in a role like Gretchen Cutler.

I binged the first two seasons of You’re the Worst in time for the season 3 premiere and responded instantly to the show’s filthiness and honesty. As it progresses, the show digs deeper and deeper into what familial and chemical circumstances make Gretchen and Jimmy, in fact, the worst. And what Aya has done with already keen and incisive material is to give an alarmingly accurate crash course on clinical depression. Jimmy can talk himself out of feeling most things, so it’s scary for him and for us when the normally verbose Gretchen goes nearly comatose. She wants nothing, asks for nothing, finds comfort in nothing. For the novelist, cause and effect are always talking to each other. Aya shows Gretchen paralyzed by the fear of telling Jimmy that there’s not switch to flick when it comes to her illness. She worries that he loves her because she’s irreverent and fun, but she can only be those things when she’s capable of feeling anything. In a brave and desperate moment of confession, she finally tells him: “So the only thing I need from you is to not make a big deal of it and be OK with how I am and the fact that you can’t fix me.”

This is You’re the Worst, and it’s not the kind of show that will present a newly determined Gretchen facing her illness with gumption and putting one foot in front of the other until she’s better. Mental illness and its treatment are not linear. In season 3, she backslides and claws and insults her therapist for wearing the same pair of jeans every day. But that’s Gretch and that’s depression. Even badass bitches can have it. –Sage

6) Minnie Driver – Speechless

Speechless is my favorite new comedy of the season and that’s largely in part to Minnie Driver’s FIERCE performance as ultimate tiger mama Maya DiMeo. The overbearing mom is a sitcom trope that could easily go the clichéd route but Minnie plays Maya like she’s in on the joke. She KNOWS she’s ridiculous but she also makes no apologies for it. (Also, she’s advocating for her disabled kid, so how ridiculous is she, REALLY?) It’s such a WRY performance, especially in the way Minnie delivers so many of her lines completely deadpan, her posh British accent just ACCENTUATING the dry delivery. While I never watched About a Boy, I heard nothing but good things about Minnie’s performance on it, so I am so happy to see that she’s found herself another television vehicle to showcase how talented she is. (Look, I can make a very strong case for the fact that she should have won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting. Ask me about it over cocktails.)

So often on television, unabashedly alpha females are portrayed as ball busters or stone cold bitches. Speechless takes a different approach. Maya IS a ball buster and she is often a bitch but it’s clear that those closest to her adore and cherish that part of her personality. Her husband Jimmy (a DELIGHTFUL John Ross Bowie) is more than happy to let Maya wear the pants in the marriage, but not from a slacker “oh look at the old ball and chain” point of view. It’s clear that Jimmy loves and respects his wife immensely and takes pleasure in watching her run the show. (And he’s always there to pick up the pieces when she comes in like a wrecking ball, shrugging his shoulders in a “Yeah, isn’t she great?” kind of way.) While her kids often roll their eyes at Maya, it’s obvious that there is no one they would rather have in their corner than their mother. Same. TV needs more characters like Maya DiMeo and it needs more actresses like Minnie Driver to bring them to life in an honest and relatable way.  — Kim

7) Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters

Dudes, I love you. But it is IMPOSSIBLE to explain to you how much Ghostbusters means to us. When you tell me it’s “OKAY” or “good but not great,” you’re just proving how little you understand our intense craving for movies like these. We were DEHYDRATED over here, okay? But we didn’t know how thirsty we truly were until we saw Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann.

We got Holtzmanned, baby. And we loved it. Forever an SNL MVP, Kate imbued the gadget-loving scientist with a resplendent weirdness that made the whole movie sing. She instantly became an icon for girls who geek and – explicit though it wasn’t allowed to be – girls who would absolutely hit on Kristen Wiig if she ever wandered into their basement lab. The women in this movie were never sexualized, yet somehow, everyone I know walked out of that theater with a massive crush on Jillian and her collection of safety goggles. I’m so distracted by the gif below, it’s taken me 40 minutes to write this paragraph.

Which brings me back to why this is so important. Not since Ellen Ripley can I remember a female character kicking paranormal ass like Kate does in that sublime slow motion fight scene without being stuffed into cut-offs or a catsuit. Holtzmann is not a token hero, like so many in the “There’s One Girl!” teams that have been shoved down our throats. She’s a brilliant, bizarre, queer, ghostbusting scientist who’s biggest takeaway from this whole world-saving thing is that she’s finally found her tribe.

There should be a sequel. Kate McKinnon should be a movie star. Safety lights are for dudes who say this movie could have been better. –Sage

8) The Women of Penny Dreadful

RIP Penny Dreadful and some of the best female characters to grace our television screens in years. I’ll never understand why awards didn’t rain down upon Eva Green, Billie Piper, and Patti LuPone (whose role is the definition of a Guest Acting Emmy). But WE know the truth and we will never stop preaching the gospel of Vanessa Ives. Years from now, television historians will look back on Eva Green in Penny Dreadful and laud her bravery and her boldness. Her performance exhausts me, honestly. I don’t know how she did it. It was completely free of vanity. She wouldn’t just go to the ugly places, she would marinate in them and let them soak into her soul. Watching her every week was a masterclass in character development and determination and any episode that was Vanessa-less was weaker for it.

It was such a brilliant move to bring back Patti LuPone back for season three as Vanessa’s shrink, Dr. Seward. She had an incredibly memorable role in Season 2 as Joan Clayton, a witch who helped shape Vanessa’s life and cemented her identity as the Scorpion. I love how the two roles were completely different but yet the underlying thread of overwhelming compassion for Vanessa Ives tied the characters together. Patti brings SUCH gravity to all of her roles and really she’s the only woman who could go toe to toe with Eva Green and WIN. My biggest regret about the fact that we won’t be getting a season 4 is that we won’t get more of Seward the Vampire Slayer. NEVER FORGET how Seward casually admitted that she killed her abusive husband with a meat cleaver. Where’s my spinoff John Logan?

And then there’s Billie Piper, Queen of Our Hearts and the 2016 Feelie Winner for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama. There’s not much to say about Billie’s furious portrayal of Lily Frankenstein that we haven’t said before, so I’m just going to quote creator John Logan here. “It’s a very feminist show, and the idea that the audience gets to see, in our three years, Lily as a degraded figure who’s abused by men, as Brona, literally being reborn into a blank slate and then achieving incredible power but always having a great human connection. That was a case where I was also inspired by the actor, because Billie Piper so delights me, and I found that in the second season I was able to write her an eight-minute monologue that she absolutely delivered, completely, in a way that I found thrilling. I just wanted to do it again, because she’s an actor who understands theatricality and understands larger than life language in a very unique way, and that’s part of what this show is about.”

Quite right too.  — Kim

Continue reading

The Top 20 Television Moments of 2016 – Part One

Posted by Kim and Sage

WE DID IT YOU GUYS. The end of 2016 is nigh. Everyone take a deep sigh of relief.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. It was brutal with the celebrity deaths and it felt like the world was on the verge of imploding every time you turned on the news. I can’t help but think of Samwise Gamgee at the end of The Two Towers when I think of 2016. “How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.” These end of year posts are the stories that have stayed with us. We hope you enjoy the memories as much as we do. –Kim

1) Michael Phelps swims the 200 Butterfly – The Rio Olympics

Michael Phelps did not come to the Rio Olympics to play. After being disappointed with his performance in the London Olympics (you know, a measly six medals, four of them gold), Michael returned to the pool as a man on a mission. The most important part of that mission? Getting back the gold medal in the 200 meter butterfly that South Africa’s Chad le Clos had taken from him. As fate would have it, Phelps and le Clos were in the same semifinal, swimming right next to each other. It’s the perfect sports story, really. The undisputed King of the Pool and the younger and cockier rival who had lorded his victory over Phelps for four years. Who would triumph? Here’s why I love the Olympics so fucking much: the completely pure and unstaged moments of human emotion. As cameramen in the holding room focused on the two rivals they caught le Clos showboating and shadowboxing in front of Phelps. And there sat Michael, his hood up over his head and his trademark headphones on making a FACE OF DEATH. Seriously…laser beams were about to shoot out of his eyes. Thus, the greatest meme of 2016, #PhelpsFace, was born. (It’s also the default facial expression to describe the year.)

Was le Clos trying to psych Phelps out? Was Michael truly just in the zone, as he later claimed, or was he making the face at the obvious showboating? We’ll never know, really. What we DO know are the results in the pool. Phelps and le Clos qualified 2nd and 3rd in that semi, which set up an exciting final that was packed with contenders for the Gold. There was something about Michael’s swimming and attitude in Rio though. While he never looked MISERABLE in previous Olympics, it was clear that Michael had always been focused on winning and shattering records alone. In Rio, he seemed to have rediscovered the JOY of swimming and it showed in his interviews and his emotions on the podium. Michael shaved off nearly 8/10ths of a second off his semifinal time to take back his precious Gold Medal and his jubilation was reminiscent of a certain end zone dance by Rod Tidwell. One might say that Michael Phelps found the Kwan in Rio and we all got to see it. — Kim

2) The #HamilTonys

Look, Hamilton was going to come into the Tonys like a wrecking ball. Everyone knew it. Hence the joke in the opening (Hamilton-themed) number: Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, and Okieriete Onaodowan advancing on a Tony-toting James Corden, who stops them by singing, “Just you wait, just you wait…”

The Best Musical award was a foregone conclusion. (In any other year, Waitress. Any other year.) Score and Book were too. The tightest races in a couple of the acting categories were actually BETWEEN Hamilton castmates. And though no choice would have been the wrong one, the Tonys – in our opinion – played it just right. For once, Alexander Hamilton didn’t spoil an Aaron Burr victory; Leslie accepted the Leading Actor Tony he deserved. There was no controversy, since Lin went home with a wheelbarrow of other awards. Broadway veterans Christopher Jackson and Jonathan Groff looked on proudly as newcomer Daveed Diggs was handed the Featured Actor Tony. It’s safe to say that being in Hamilton would change anyone’s life, but of those three, it changed Daveed the most. And come on, the guy plays one character per act, spits RECORD-BREAKING fire, and delivers the best asides in the show. (Whaaaaaaat?) Renee Elise Goldsberry cried as she gave her Featured Actress acceptance speech. And if it hadn’t been for the unstoppable Cynthia Erivo, Phillipa Soo would have been on that stage too.

All told, Hamilton took home 11 Tonys, falling just short of the The Producers‘ record. But that wasn’t the whole story. Hamilton in its very existence is a statement. In the same awards cycle when #OscarsSoWhite trended worldwide, Hamilton contributed to the Tonys’ incredible diversity achievement of all four musical acting awards going to non-white performers. The show made this the hippest Tonys (is that a thing??) in recent memory. The 2016 telecast was the highest rated in the last 15 years. And those new viewers were tuning in SPECIFICALLY to see Hamilton – a piece of art that’s reinvigorated and redrawn the medium by prioritizing inclusion, truth, and a ridiculous amount of work.

A dark shadow was cast on the Tonys. Early that same morning, the Pulse massacre occurred in Florida. The telecast was dedicated to the victims and their families. One of Lin’s speeches was a quickly composed sonnet honoring them too. And Hamilton‘s producers made a decision to alter their performance. There were no muskets in “Yorktown.” The actors and the ensemble mimed their presence. And that image – two dozen people in Colonial garb pointing invisible guns into the audience – will stay with me for a long time.  –Sage

3) The Origin of The Big Three – This Is Us



source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com
I was fully on board with This Is Us from that first trailer that featured guaranteed tearjerker “I Won’t Give Up” as the soundtrack (and because it had Mandy Moore). But I was also completely aware that a great trailer by no means makes a great show and that This Is Us could easily be saccharine overdose. I was lucky to get to see an early screening of the This Is Us at the Paley Center a couple of weeks before it premiered. I was immediately taken in by the sharp and funny dialogue and the tightly drawn characters. (Sterling K. Brown gets Randall from the GET GO, guys.) I was so drawn in by the four principle stories of the pilot that I forgot to look for the twist of how they were all tied together (SILLY ME). I ignored niggling questions like why in the hell with triplets did Mandy Moore’s Rebecca NOT have a c-section scheduled? I missed the hints of Randall saying that he was abandoned at a fire station and adopted by a wonderful couple. I COMPLETELY missed it…and so did most of the people in the Paley screening room.

A collective GASP swept through the room when Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, mourning the loss of one of his triplets, stood at the nursery window smiling at his two babies and started talking to the fireman standing next to him, who pointed out the baby who had been abandoned at his fire station. “OH MY GOD,” I quietly (or not so quietly) exclaimed, as the camera panned back to reveal people in period clothing wandering the halls of the hospital. “THEY ARE A FAMILY.” It was in that moment that we KNEW that This Is Us was going to be a special kind of show: unabashedly sentimental, expertly acted, and one that would take us along on the journey.  — Kim

4) The Blood Threesome – Penny Dreadful

Rest in peace, Penny Dreadful. You crazy bitch.

Showtime’s literary horror masterpiece pulled out all the stops for what we didn’t know would be its final season. We didn’t get this gory orgy not in the finale, oh no. This was episode THREE.

I have some issues with the way it was resolved. But overall, I am all about Penny Dreadful turning the horror of being a woman of no consequence in Victorian London around on the godless men who exploit them. It facilitated some jaw-dropping Billie Piper monologues, that’s for sure. It also facilitated this consummation: Lily, her benefactor Dorian, and their bloodthirsty protege Justine celebrate Justine’s first kill by indulging in the most indulgent act possible. Lily and Justine are celebrating being masters of their own bodies for once. And Dorian? Well, Dorian’s just a hedonist.

The camerawork, the candles, the score: it’s all so over-the-top and UBER-DRAMATIC and not really that necessary for the plot. I love TV that will throw over subtlety when necessary, and go to these places just because it’s FUN. –Sage

5) Murtagh gets his vengeance – Outlander

When I look back at Season Two of Outlander, I can sum it up with a singular text I got from Sage whilst she watched episode 11, “Vengeance is Mine”: “THIS SHOW IS SAVAGE.” Season Two was a LOT, from all the shenanigans in Paris to the emotional wallop that was the entire episode of “Faith” to Jamie stabbing BlackJack Randall IN THE DICK to a pregnant Claire being sent back through the stones. The entire season was a masterclass in pacing and storytelling because we KNEW the ending in the opening moments of the season premiere, yet the show managed to keep us on our toes and have us HOPING that said ending would not come to pass. But sadly, I can’t single out the entire season for this post. Thus I settled on the moment that prompted Sage’s text message: Murtagh’s savage beheading of the Duke of Sandringham. Because as a book virgin, I did NOT see that one coming.

Let’s face it: Murtagh is the unsung hero of the series. He faithfully stands by Jamie and Claire’s side in France, even though every expression on his face says “I MISS SCOTLAND”. His only reaction when Jamie FINALLY told him the truth about Claire was to punch him in the face for not trusting him with this information sooner. He pulled a “I’m with you till the end of the line” with Jamie at The Battle of Culloden when Jamie tried to send him away. (SIDE NOTE: MURTAGH BETTER BE ALIVE IN SEASON THREE BITCHES.) Murtagh is good people. So it was devastated to see him wracked by guilt over not being able to protect Claire and Mary when they were attacked (and Mary was brutally raped) on the streets of Paris. HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS WHAT COULD HE HAVE DONE? Nevertheless, his promise to avenge Claire and Mary was one he took to heart. The last minutes of “Vengeance is Mine” were absolutely thrilling, from Red Jamie storming in ready to kick some ass to Mary grabbing the knife and stabbing her attacker once Sandringham’s complicit involvement in the attack came to light. But it was all capped off by Murtagh grabbing a fucking AXE and taking a swing at the Duke. Off came his head and he grabbed it and placed it at Claire and Mary’s feet as they looked on in shock. “I lay my vengeance at your feet,” he said, kneeling before them. That’s Murtagh for you. Taking things literally. — Kim

Continue reading

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

source: cookiesordeath.tumblr.com

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

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

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

Jack/Rebecca


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

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



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



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

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


source: bigthree.tumblr.com
Kevin and Sloane



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

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

source: owenselliot.tumblr.com

Kate and Rebecca

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

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

Continue reading

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

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

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

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

Jack/Rebecca

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



source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

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

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

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

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


source: sseureki.tumblr.com

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

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



source: echoeslane.tumblr.com

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




source: echoeslane.tumblr.com

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

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

Kate

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

Continue reading

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

 
source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com
This Is Us Season 1, Episode 8
“Pilgrim Rick”
Posted by Shannon

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

Jack/Rebecca

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

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

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

source: NBC

source: NBC

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

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

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

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

source: kepnerrrd.tumblr.com

source: kepnerrrd.tumblr.com

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

 
 
 
source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com
 

Kate

source: NBC

source: NBC

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

Continue reading

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

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

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

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

Jack/Rebecca

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

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

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

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

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

 
 
source: bigthree.tumblr.com

Randall/Kevin

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

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

Continue reading

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

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

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

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

Jack/Rebecca

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

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

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

source: bigthree.tumblr.com

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

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

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


source: stevenrogered.tumblr.com

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



source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

Randall/Beth


source: stevenrogered.tumblr.com

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

source: nbcthisisus.tumblr.com

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



source: thisisusedits.tumblr.com

Continue reading