This Is Us Season 2, Episode 12
Posted by Shannon
George Clooney references abound in This Is Us. The last time we heard Clooney it was in reference to Kevin’s grand Manny return, so I honestly assumed this week would connect back to his career. But in one of those beautiful, subtle connections that the show sets up, we’re reminded that William’s dear old cat was also named Clooney. So, it’s Clooney the cat that weaves this week together. After all, The Pearsons have a lot to process on their own right now. They each need to take a few steps back into their own daily lives. And each of them needs a little love and care.
Jack and Rebecca
Jack’s been working behind a desk for years now, but he’s still happiest building things with his own two hands. At the moment, he’s focused on an entertainment center, complete with shelves for all Rebecca’s records. The Big Three all have their own points of focus going on; Randall’s up in his room fiddling with a Magic 8 Ball while Kevin, fresh off his knee injury, is moping on the couch. Kate’s making plans for her Winter Formal – which means she needs a new dress. Kate and Rebecca are in the midst of one of many mother-daughter clashes, so when Kate asks Rebecca to take her shopping, it’s a BIG moment. Rebecca and Jack play it cool, but the moment she leaves the room, they’re positively bowled over with glee. While he’s careful to respect their space, Jack also sees an opportunity for the family to knock some to-do’s off their list. His boss Walter (last name Ick) is pushing the staff to land fancier condos, which means Jack needs a suit. Plus, he knows that if Kate has a formal, Kevin and Sophie do too.
While Kate tries on a bunch of dress sizes and Rebecca happily tells anyone who will listen that her daughter invited her on this shopping day, Jack and Kevin run into Miguel. In the modern timeline, Kevin and Miguel’s relationship is tense to say the least. But for this particular shopping day, with Miguel feeling down after learning that Shelley’s remarrying, the two are kindred spirits. Neither one of them is in the mood to listen to yet another Jack Pearson pep talk. (“Sometimes a guy just wants to be bummed.”) After all, Kevin has lost his main form of expression and relaxation, and he deserves to mourn that loss.
Jack’s impatience with Kevin and Miguel – and Randall, once he comes over – throws a new light on his unwillingness to let Kate be disappointed in last week’s episode. We’ve seen and loved that Jack’s emotional support comes in big, inspirational speeches, but I wonder if they’re also a sign of his inability to express negative emotion in a healthy way. While Jack is exceptional with Randall’s anxiety (and Rebecca’s, for that matter), depression seems to hit him in a different place. It’s almost as if he’s determined to bury any and all expression of sadness, and that always results in some form of turmoil or addiction. Kevin thinks the problem is just that his dad has never lost anything that meant a lot to him. But Miguel knows better. (And while we’re at it, so does Kevin, but he’s in the midst of teenage emotional selfishness, so what can you do.) He basically laughs in Kevin’s face, and tells both of Jack’s sons about the dream their father abandoned to ensure their family’s success. Jack doesn’t let his regrets show, and he insists that his sons “own your decisions and don’t look back.”
When all is said and done, the Pearson’s mall trip was a mixed bag. For Randall, the trip ended in a victory; he asked out his crush, an adorable ginger working at the mall. Kate and Rebecca’s dress shopping ended when Kate snuck off from the dressing room, leaving her mother to wander the mall looking for her. Kevin and Jack got themselves some snazzy suits, and they end up in a more positive place, with Kevin suggesting to his dad that now might be the time to start up Big Three Homes. And while it sounds like a pipe dream, the idea sticks for Jack. Sure, their three kids are about to go off to college. But emotionally, and professionally, Jack and Rebecca decide they’re up to the challenge.
Randall and Beth
Things have settled down for the New Jersey contingent. With Deja out of the house for over a month, Randall and Beth are back on the list for foster parenting. Randall is spending his days avoiding interview prep for the sake of building a superior penguin diorama. But Beth is on edge. She’s taken a professional hit, losing out a potential park in Trenton to yet another Costco. Beth is ALWAYS firmly rooted in the reality of her job and her family’s lives. And between the Costco situation and Randall’s unwillingness to do anything other than exactly what he wants to do exactly when he wants to do it, her patience is wearing thin. Randall barely registers her frustration and heads over to William’s old building, where a neighbor has found an old storage box for him to collect.
Even though he spent the last year of his life living at Randall’s, it’s this building that seems to hold William’s spirit. His whistle whispers through the halls, and his jaunty walk brightens up the hallways. Randall feels the weight of it all, and even though Lloyd, the keeper of the spare box and Clooney’s old cat sitter, is completely welcoming and sweet, Randall never quite relaxes. At the same time, once he’s there, it pains him to leave. Randall can’t even drive away from the parking lot without first looking through the box, shuffling through sweaters, books, an old radio, and a collection of poems William wrote back in 2011. One in particular catches Randall’s eye; a quiet, romantic piece entitled “Lady,” which William kept along with sketches of a woman’s face. Randall drifts off into a dream, picturing William happy, loved, and curled up with poem’s muse. He immediately turns on his heel and heads back into the apartment building to check with all of his neighbors and find out who, exactly, William was writing about.
His interrogations turn up short, but after leaving a note complete with his personal phone number on the building’s bulletin board, Randall heads back downtown and drops by Beth’s office on the way to his interview. Randall has rarely looked quite as much like William as he does in this moment. He swoops into Beth’s office, not registering her stress and trying instead to get her to take off for a cup of coffee. Both men were adorable in these moments in spite of themselves, but they were also dreamy and distracted. But while Randall needed the push to get out of his office, Beth doesn’t. What she needs is for her husband to meet her where SHE is. It’s not about at all about the money. It’s that Randall has been away from day jobs for so long that he’s forgotten even the possibility of a professional middle ground. No, jobs are not always fun, and they’re never perfect, but they don’t need to be as all-encompassing as Randall’s old job was either. He needs a middle ground, and Beth needs a partner who’s To-Do list includes more than school dioramas.
Randall’s clearly shaken up, but he also hears his wife, and he shows up to the interview ready to play ball. At first. The moment his phone rings with an unknown number, he takes off, claiming the caller is his daughter’s school. In reality, it’s Lloyd, calling with intel on Lady. He noticed William coming and going from the super’s apartment at all hours, and since Randall hadn’t spoken to the super in his first sweep of the building, he heads right over. The super, a hard edged woman with super jokes for days (“I’m pretty average, but yeah”), remembers William fondly. He made her life a bit of a nightmare, constantly reporting hot water outages and building failures that she couldn’t possibly fix without extra cash. (This was around the time that I started yelling “WILLIAM HILL IS BETTER THAN YOU” at no one in particular. Because honestly.) The building felt William’s loss so intensely that it was “like they lost a heart, and there was no place for the blood to go.”
A good super knows everything about the building in their care. The good, the bad, the ups and downs. And they certainly know every single window view. When Randall shows the super William’s poem, he’s at a loss, disappointed that his head was so firmly in the clouds that he read “Lady” as a sign of something bigger. But it was; just not of what he thought. The super leaves Randall in William’s apartment, vacant once more, and gently demands that he spend some time in the space. Standing at William’s favorite spot, the one he first showed Clooney when he snuck into the apartment on the run from some kids, Randall meets the muse after all. Billie Holiday, William’s favorite singer, is plastered on the building just outside his window. Because of course William’s Lady Sings the Blues.
Randall knows he owes Beth an apology. And she gets one, along with a project that Randall sees as the best possible way to combine their professional skills. By buying William’s old building, Beth can utilize her real estate expertise, Randall can have a project outside of the house and both of them can give the neighborhood its heart back. Except, I’m not convinced this is the kind of work Beth had in mind. It’s a way to honor William, and a big, exciting project for Randall to focus on outside the home. But it’s also huge, and a little dreamy, and a lot idealistic. AND, don’t forget that the two are back on the foster list. It’s a whole lot to ask of his family, but I’m hoping they can make the best of it.
If the only thing Kevin did in rehab was finally confront his family with his true feelings, then it would be enough. But he’s genuinely improved; he looks like himself again, and he’s back to making sweet, vaguely annoying jokes at every opportunity. Barbara knows he’s gone as far as he can in the facility, but she also knows he’s not ready to head back to LA. (My fear was that Kevin would try to crash Randall and Beth’s basement again, and honestly I don’t think ANY of them could take that right now.) Instead, Kevin decides to stay with his mom for a while, in an effort to bridge the gap that was created during the family session. He’s even excited for the opportunity. But he’s not excited to spend that time under the same roof as Miguel.
Of course, Rebecca is thrilled, and she’s stocked the house in advance with all of Kevin’s favorite organic food. Since he’s taking the opportunity to live a little more casually, Kevin asks if the two can go grocery shopping for some sugary cereal instead. Both mother and son are cautiously excited about the outing. It’s clear that they’re both very aware of the space between them, and that they both want to move past it if they can. Miguel’s aware of that space, too; but he’s not willing to stay out of it, and basically demands to join their grocery store trip. It’s tense from the start. Kevin and Rebecca haven’t spent a lot of time alone together in the modern timeline, and it’s lovely to see them reminisce about Jack. Kevin even takes a quiet moment to tell Rebecca something he hasn’t yet said out loud: that he’s lost Jack’s necklace. After assuring him that Jack would understand, Rebecca opens up too, admitting that “I beat myself up because I can’t seem to take mine off.” But then, Miguel jumps in with a bouncy, chipper announcement that the store now carries apricot Le Croix.
Immediately, I thought this felt like a planned interruption. The idea of Miguel intentionally breaking up such a quiet moment between Kevin and Rebecca felt uncharacteristically cruel – but Kevin felt it too. When he confronts Miguel about joining the shopping trip in the first place, Miguel confirms that he does see the signs of the two wanting to be alone; he’s just not willing to allow it. Turns out, he’s got a protective streak to rival Randall’s. Miguel plainly states that since Kevin “tore into her at that session,” he has no intention of giving Kevin the space to hurt Rebecca again.
Miguel’s pretty out of line here, as far as I’m concerned. Kevin’s relationship with Rebecca is his own, and the two have to work through their history in a way that’s honest and fair to both of them. That kind of work is rarely easy, and never without pain on both sides. But Kevin has also noticed signs of his mother’s current life that he never registered before; she and Miguel wear matching boots, take complementary vitamins, and have an obsession with Tiny House Hunters. Kevin knows that Rebecca has every right to that happiness, as quiet as it may be. She should be able to cuddle with her husband on the couch without worrying that her son will be upset. Miguel is clearly a tough addition to the family for Kevin, and Kevin is always the one who’s the most outwardly antagonistic to their mother’s second husband. But he’s there to try to bridge gaps. And so, Kevin finally asks the question that’s presumably been haunting him for years.
Rebecca and Miguel reconnected after Tess was born. They don’t seem to have stayed in touch after Jack’s death, and Miguel hadn’t been harboring secret feelings for Rebecca all along. Their marriage is a quiet, comfortable, relaxed one – and it’s one that does honor Rebecca’s history. I can’t imagine her sharing the later part of her life with a man who never knew Jack, who didn’t understand what her family had been through, who would have been the loudest, most bitter member of the New Big Three back at last week’s bar. This relationship is good for her, and it’s good for Kevin to see, too.
After hiding the first stage of her pregnancy, Kate has opened up completely to her group, sharing the reality of her miscarriage and her resulting comfort trips to Taco Bell. Kate seems to have struck a solid middle ground; she wants to get back to her new habits in preparation for the wedding, but she also isn’t beating herself up for anything that’s come before. She’s still dismissive of Madison, but now that the two have shared a secret, their vibe is a lot less hostile. So when Madison offers to take Kate dress shopping – somewhere that won’t make her try anything on, where everything is custom and they would just have to sip champagne and look at dresses – Kate agrees.
Madison so clearly wants to be there for Kate, and feels a real connection to her. (“I promise I can make this a nice thing for you.”) The shop itself is perfect – the attendant is lovely, they have the whole place to themselves and the dresses are gorgeous. Kate’s enjoying herself and feels comfortable enough to tell the attendant her preferences (yes to blush undertones and lace, no to super bright whites), but she notices that Madison seems off. She’d immediately made a direct beeline for the macaroons, and now has a collection of wrappers on the table in front of her. When Madison ducks out to the bathroom, Kate slowly begins to suspect what’s really going on.
Kate is not one to hide a truth once she sees it. It’s just not in her nature. The most important thing for Kate is always that she’s supportive, honest, and present for the people in her lives. So of course she confronts Madison in the parking lot, quietly telling Madison that she knows what was going on in the bathroom. Madison takes off, scared and upset and angry, and leaves Kate to find her own way home. But Madison has now been there for Kate during two serious, emotional moments, is in her life, so of course when she calls Kate later that night in a panic, Kate immediately goes over to check on her.
It’s been easy to laugh at Madison. To see her as an interloper, question her motives and suspect the worst. But while she hasn’t been honest in group about her history, Madison’s body dysmorphia is no less real. Kate finds her on shaken and crying on the bathroom floor, her face bleeding from a fall. While she hadn’t done anything since middle school, Madison’s bulimia is now raging. Kate gets her up and over to the couch where the two share their histories honestly. Kate talks Madison through one of her most challenging times: high school, right before Jack died. Back at the dress shop with her mother, Kate had run off not because she was frustrated with the dresses – but because she’d finally hit her goal dress size, and found herself dismayed, lost, and confused without the self-hating voice she’d grown so used to. (“I didn’t know who I was without it.”)
Kate and Madison need each other right now. Kate has needed a female friend since the pilot, honestly, and Madison almost reminds me of Kevin. She’s sweet, and a little bumbling and not always one to say the right thing. But just like Kevin, her heart is in the right place, and Kate can see that, plain as day. I’m so glad they have each other.
Colors of the Painting
- Okay. We have to talk about the smoke alarm batteries. I don’t want to, because it represents the very worst of the show’s emotional manipulation. But here goes. Jack and Rebecca forgot smoke alarm batteries at the mall, and we know the Pearson family home burns down a short time after this. I don’t find this revelation heartbreaking or devastating. I find it gross and exploitative, and all it does is bring me farther away from the reality of the characters’ lives.
- Clooney the cat is safe with an adorable neighborhood kid, THANK GOD.
- “There are 86,400 seconds in a day.” “Did you get that from RENT?”
- I need Randall to go back to work for one reason and one reason only: his mad suit collection.
- “I can’t believe I used to date Jessica Biel.” “Oh, I like her.”
- If Madison hadn’t already completely endeared herself to me, suggesting she and Kate start a podcast would have done it.
- “Aww, hell, I love gossip.” And just like that, Lloyd is my new favorite.
What are your thoughts on “Clooney”? Let us know in the comments!