Pearson wrap-up Jan. 17: Friends in low places

This is Us last week: Kate finds a friend somewhere unexpected, and in the past the Big Three prepare for the Winter Formal.

click to enlarge Sterling K. Brown as Randall in This Is Us - Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Sterling K. Brown as Randall in This Is Us

This week on This Is Us we’re back to the teen years with the Pearson kids, which I love because I feel like we don’t see these actors enough. There’s a winter formal on the horizon for the Big Three and each are dealing with it differently. Kevin has a broken leg (football accident) and has no intention on asking Sophie. Randall is quietly re-building an Eight Ball to ask his date, and Kate asks Rebecca to take her to the mall to go dress shopping.

Rebecca can hardly contain her excitement when Kate asks to go dress shopping and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for Rebecca. Last season, I was hard on her for how she treated Kate (especially young Kate) and her weight. However, now you can see that she really is trying to make Kate happy and it’s like walking through a field of landmines. 

When we cut to the present, Randall is helping the girls build a science diorama and maintaining his role as most adorable dad. Beth hints that she’s ready for him to get back to work as she reminds him of his job interview. I am also ready for Randall to get back to work. What is he doing all day? Even when they had their foster daughter, she went to school nine hours a day. What was Randall doing?

He counters that he has to pick up a box that was left unclaimed at William’s old apartment. Sometimes it feels like we might be dragging the William flashbacks out more than necessary. This is my fear for when Jack’s death scene finally plays out; there’s only so much you can do with a dead character.

Kate is attending her support group again, following her relapse with junk food. Meanwhile Kevin, (still in therapy) decides to move in with Rebecca in attempt to nurture their relationship after their blow-up in the previous week’s therapy session. Kevin is hesitant to move in because of Miguel — and Miguel calls him out saying, “I’m not going anywhere,” but in a soft, reassuring way that seems both supportive and calming.

Madison is maybe my least favorite character. If you forgot who she is, she's the skinny girl in the weight-loss support group that always chimes in with something annoying like, “I think my wrists are getting fat.”

Kate mentions to the group that she is nervous about wedding dress shopping because of her size, but excited about marrying Toby. (Who is sadly missing from the whole episode.) After, Madison comes to Kate and asks to take her wedding dress shopping. Kate responds instantly with, “That’s a hard no.” Which is totally understandable. No one wants to go try on clothes with their much skinner, much more attractive friend — even as Madison said it, I laughed out loud.

Madison, however, is so sincere and tells Kate that she knows a store where everything is custom made and she wouldn’t have to try anything on. She says, “You just have to sip champagne, talk about silhouettes, and be treated like a princess…I promise — I can make this a nice thing for you.” This was such a heartfelt offer from Madison, I instantly felt drawn to her. She seemed so sincere and kind and it was a refreshing change of pace.

 In the past, Rebecca gives Kate a few dresses to try on and I can already feel my anxiety rising. As someone who has been in a life-long abusive relationship with the size on tags, I could already feel like this was going to end badly.

Elsewhere in the mall, Kevin and Jack run into Miguel who is impulse shopping to distract himself from the fact that his ex-wife recently got engaged. Jack immediately tries to motivate him to move on, when Kevin explains that sometimes people just want to be bummed. This is an important lesson — and I’m guilty myself: Someone brings me a problem and I want to solve it, but sometimes people just need to wallow for a little while.

In the present, Randall finally collects William’s box of belongings and finds a poem written about a woman that William saw every day. Soft lines of poetry, as well as graceful drawings of a woman's eyes lead Randall to believe that William had a love affair with someone in the building.

It’s true, Kevin is not my favorite character. I find him annoying, selfish and incredibly short-sighted for being a man that’s almost 40. This episode is no exception with him making Miguel feel uncomfortable whenever they are together. Unless Miguel murdered Jack, I have no idea how this behavior is acceptable. My episode notes literally say, “Kevin is too old for this shit.” I get that Jack was awesome, but if Kate and Randall are ok with Miguel how is Kevin so immeasurably immature?

Madison takes Kate to a beautiful bridal salon, where they are so kind and accommodating. After drinking champagne and eating macaroons, Madison melts down (quietly) and you know what she’s doing when she quickly gets up to go to the bathroom. I groaned, at first, at the idea of Madison’s bulimia playing a role in the story, but the to the credit of the This Is Us writers, the path the story takes it great.

Kevin finally asks Miguel if he was in love with Rebecca when Jack was alive. Miguel, who is growing on me more and more in every episode, responds, “Your mom and dad, they were one. There was no — there was no Rebecca. There was just Jack and Rebecca.”

So chill out Kevin. You are too old for this shit.

After knocking on countless doors, Randall discovers that William was a great person, but not a lover of anyone in the building. It’s not until the super tells Randall to spend a minute in William’s old apartment that Randall sees a mural of Billie Holiday on the wall outside Randall’s window. While the message is sweet, and his “lady” was jazz, this whole story line seemed like a thinly veiled reason to have William’s voice back on the show.

Kate goes to Madison’s house after Madison calls her in distress; she’s fainted in the bathroom after not eating enough. They bond on the couch over always — in their own way — having weight and size define them. Kate flashes back to her younger self in the mall trying on a dress that does fit, but she didn’t know how to feel when she didn’t have a weight problem. 

All these issues aside, Madison ends the exchange by cuddling up to Kate saying, “I can’t believe it. I finally have a best friend.” It’s amazing how a side character I always found annoying won me over in two scenes. Madison really just needed someone to hear her and support her — sometimes being lonely really does seem like the biggest obstacle.

Rebecca tells Kevin that she loves Miguel. Rebecca says that while Miguel is older, and quieter than Jack, she loves him and they are happy.I feel like they’ve been married at least 15 years; it seems like this is something Kevin should understand. 

In the past, Jack tells Rebecca he is ready to start The Big Three construction company, to which Rebecca takes in stride, ignoring upcoming college bills for the excitement of a new adventure. It’s only in the final seconds of the scene Rebecca asks Jack, “Did we forget anything at the mall?” and the camera slowly pans up to the fire alarm — showing the missing battery.

Final thoughts: Jack’s death is killing me. It’s clear, at this point, that Jack’s death is related to the fire. I think the dog is involved somehow (like Kate tells him to go back for the dog and he doesn’t make it out) but that’s just me speculating. They’re building this moment up so much, I can’t see how it could possibly live up to the hype. More importantly, I don’t want it to ruin something else. Please don’t cut scenes of Jack dying with Kate getting married. Don’t ruin something good with something tragic.

This Is Us is back next Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on NBC and available on Hulu.

About The Author

Toni Jannel

Toni's a true Tampa native, equal parts Italian and Cuban — she's practically an ad for Ybor City. She's a USF graduate and a genuine enthusiast for anything with a script.

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