I always liked the expression, “battling a demon,” and not just because it suggests a medieval image of hunting down a mythical shape-shifter with a massive sword, but it’s just what the phrase suggests: a battle. At times, there are no clear winners, and even if you win, in the end you’re battle-scarred. This episode has the entire Pearson family battling their personal demons in both the past and the present.
Picking up where last week left off, Rebecca brings Jack home and asks how he was able to beat his alcoholism the first time. Through a flashback-within-a-flashback, we’re reminded of an earlier episode where Rebecca tells him to, “man up,” and stop drinking. Through a montage, we see Jack truly struggling; he starts boxing, leaves an AA meeting, even has memories of his own father’s addiction and his time in Vietnam. This season the show is pulling back the curtain to show Jack’s full character. Last season, Jack was designed as a man that simply had to be asked by his wife to stop drinking and he could instantaneously beat his addiction. In reality, Jack’s demon was drinking and he struggled much more than he let on.
In the present, the entire Pearson gang is meeting in LA for Kevin’s one night return to The Manny. Kevin, dealing with some reservations that his guest appearance won't rival George Clooney’s in ER, leans on Sophie who supports him even as he comes on stage wearing an adult diaper. (True love.)
Beth is disappointed that Randall hasn’t taken the time to fill out his portion of their foster parent application. When she’s venting her frustrations to Kevin he reminds her that Randall never attempts anything that he could fail — with one very romantic exception: when Randall asked Beth out. Kevin is not always my favorite character, but he has these moments where he is so effortlessly sweet it’s impossible not to love him.
While Kevin and Randall both wrestle with their own demons, it’s Kate’s personal struggle that takes the stage (literally) in this episode. Both in the past and the present, Kate’s frustration is with her mom.
In the past, young Kate prepares to sing in the school talent show, only to back out at the last minute when she hears Rebecca singing with perfect pitch in the shower. In the present, adult Kate confesses to Toby that she always feels inadequate around her mother and she is visibly upset when Rebecca tags along with Toby to Kate’s first singing gig. At the end of her set, Kate confronts her mom and when Rebecca asks what she did Kate replies, “You existed. It’s everything about you mom. It’s not just that you’re beautiful or thin or that you have perfect pitch even when you talk. It’s everything.”
As the daughter of a woman who is (and always has been) very beautiful and thin and perfect, I can tell you first-hand, it can be a real struggle to not feel a little jaded. The worst part being, it’s not your mom’s fault that she’s beautiful and thin and perfect, but it’s the tilted scale you’ve been measuring yourself up against your whole life. At the same time...that doesn’t seem like your fault either.
The true MVP of this episode — without question — is Toby. I’ve loved Toby from the first episode. Toby's just a good person to his core. He always chooses to be in a good mood and tries his hardest to make everyone around him happy. At the end of tonight’s episode after Kate confronts Rebecca in the club, Rebecca turns to Toby for a little validation.
“Between you and me," he replies, "I think that she is super sensitive around you and I don’t know the history and as much as I want you to like me you need to know that I am Team Kate. That’s the deal here…you can’t ask me to side with you because I’m Team Kate forever.”
As it turns out, you don’t always need a sword to fight your demons; sometimes you just need someone else on your team.