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This Is Us

This Is Us – Unhinged (4×03)

THIS IS US -- "Unhinged" Episode 403 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lyric Ross as Deja, Eris Baker as Tess -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

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There are always hidden lessons tucked away in every This Is Us episode.

Lessons are taught as past, present, and sometimes future experiences that mirror each other.

Kevin, Randall, and Kate are all moving into new phases of their adult lives.

Randall’s making a name for himself as the “unhinged” councilman in Philadelphia after announcing an open door policy for all his constituents.

Randall: He’s a man of the people and his policy reflects that. Unlike most politicians, Randall isn’t in this as a stepping stone to some greater title that gives him more power. His purpose is to evoke change, which is something Berenice, his toxic and moody assistant, didn’t fully grasp. Berenice surely meant well, and she had the experience to offer up plenty of useful insight into Randall’s tenure, but it wasn’t enough to keep her around.

Berenice criticized Randall for not being a typical politician as if that’s something someone should strive to become.

Randall may be taking an atypical approach, but he’s doing exactly what he’s been voted into office for —  to help the people that elected him.

Yes, he’ll need the help of his other councilman to do his job, but he can’t help pass anything if he doesn’t know what the real-life, everyday problems are. Too many politicians nowadays don’t live the life regular people do, they don’t experience the problems, they don’t understand where they’re coming from. Randall is taking a hammer to all of that, and Berenice wasn’t going to bring him down.

She overstepped by suggesting that he fire Jae-Won and keep him strictly as a “friend.” Jae-Won shared the same passion for the work as Randall does. He believes in change, and he believes it’s time to change how they go about ushering in change.

He’s been there since day one, and helped Randall win the election — he deserves to be there.

Randall’s present-day confidence and ability to do what he felt was right juxtaposed his first day of school experiences where he had a panic attack for getting in trouble for being out of dress code.

He’s grown immensely from the boy that followed the rules to a man who makes his own and speaks out against injustice.

Kevin – Kevin’s on a journey to find himself, and it seems he’s been on this same journey since he was in middle school.

Kevin’s storylines are always filled with so much heart and that’s because he’s an emotionally vulnerable human. His ego always preceded him, but when you get to know him, you see that he’s always putting everyone he cares about ahead of himself.

When he was in middle school, he sacrificed his “me day” to help Randall deal with a panic attack despite not fully understanding what was happening to Randall. When he chucked it up to being a phase in “puberty,” I muttered: “I wish.”

In the present, Kevin was extending the same care towards Nicky, who was visibly struggling with addiction.

Kevin is the most underrated character and the one who pulls from Jack’s caring nature.

He never gives up on the people he cares about. Nicky resisted the help, but Kevin never wavered; he stuck around.

It’s amazing that This Is Us can bring me to tears with a summarized montage of Nicky’s up-and-down battle with addiction.  It allowed us to explore Kevin’s more serious side as he put his foot down and told Nicky how all of this would go down.  And, as most viewers have been anticipating, it led Kevin to meet Cassidy, his potential love interest.

Nicky threw the chair because he was driven to drink after losing the only therapist he felt comfortable opening up to.

As Kevin supported Nicky in the aftermath, he befriended Cassidy’s kid in the waiting room.

Although sparks weren’t flying between Kevin and Cassidy during their first meeting, they did bump into each other again at an AA meeting.

Cassidy and Nicky couldn’t keep it together as Kevin was pouring his soul out and it led to a laugh attack from all three.

Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.

Helping Nicky may have just led Kevin to his next chapter and a new purpose.

Kate – Kate struggled with her weight again in both the present-day and the flashbacks. Though she’s much more confident than the Katie girl who did one work out video with her mother in the 80s and felt deterred after she saw she wasn’t losing weight, the reality of her weight still well, weighed heavy on her.

It was only amplified when she realized how slim and hunky Toby’s been looking. That paired with his client meeting in which she had to admit she couldn’t fit into a booth and needed a table instead really triggered her.

Kate’s anger is expected as she’s always put so much pressure on herself to be thin and gets upset when it comes easily or naturally to others. But the anger wasn’t warranted, which is why it’s good she got over it quickly.

Toby didn’t mean to hurt her by taking care of himself and his health — his motives for doing it for his child were inspiring — he just didn’t want her to feel bad about not doing it also.

No one should ever be blamed for doing what’s best for them, even if it isn’t what others believe you should be doing.

Kate apologized and acknowledge how great his healthy lifestyle was, but there’s definitely going to be some animosity going forward. This isn’t the end yet. Could this be why Kate and Toby aren’t together anymore in the future?

Kate’s neighbor, Gregory, was unlikeable at first, but it teaches an important lesson about not judging people because you never know what they’re going through.

His callous way of requesting that Toby didn’t block the driveway seemed insensitive and uptight. It was obvious the storage unit was taking up too much space, and there was obviously a better way to go about getting his point across.

But later, we learned that Gregory was recovering from a stroke (guest star Psych’s Timothy O’Toole was also a stroke survivor) and walking a mile was a personal goal, which was being hindered by the car in the driveway.

Knowing that changed our whole outlook on Gregory – he went’ from being the “asshole neighbor” to the funny and slightly cynical one.

There’s potential within this new friendship, and maybe Gregory will be the one to push Kate in a way she’s never been able to push herself.

There’s an emphasis on health here from both Toby and Gregory that I don’t think Kate will ignore.

The first step is just taking that walk around the block.

First Day of School – The first day of school was the connection between young Kate, Randall and Kevin, and Randall’s girls, Deja, Annie, and Tess.

Both Tess and Randall wanted to make a good impression and found themselves misunderstood.

Tess may have come out to her parents and family members last season, but her storyline will echo what many LGBTQ folks know all too well — coming out never truly ends.

Every time you meet a new person, you’ll have to come out to them, which Tess realized is more difficult than she thought it would be.

Deja was having a situation of her own when Malik informed her that he was the father of a baby girl.

Finding out someone has a child is a lot to process for an adult let alone a teenage girl who isn’t prepared for such responsibilities.

But, Deja is more mature than many other girls her age. She’s gone through difficult times and experiences, which have made her stronger, and that outlook on life is why she’d probably be open to Malik’s situation.

And we’re all secretly hoping she gives Malik a chance because we want to see Randall’s reaction.

Will Beth and Randall handle the news maturely? Or will Randall spiral into another bus incident?

Jack and Miguel – Friendship is the key to life. I mentioned that Kevin is just as caring and nurturing as his father, and this rings true in the flashback to Jack and Miguel. Both men had each other’s backs during a difficult situation. If it wasn’t for Miguel, Jack would have lost his job over an accidental mistake.

Both men are/ were lucky to have each other in their lives. I do wonder if this backstory will have some impact on their friendship going forward. Jack seemed to make the mistake because he wasn’t happy in his line of work. Otherwise, the scene felt like they were just inserting it to give us some quality Jack time. I’m never opposed to that, but it isn’t how This Is Us operates.

The fourth season is delivering storylines that exemplify that character’s strengths, showcase their rawness, and propel the plot forward.

Even though fans were skeptical about how the series would move on, at some point, we have to move on from grieving from Jack’s death.

This new handful of characters allows us to do so while still connecting to inspiring moments with our Pearson clan.

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This Is Us

This Is Us Fall Finale Review – So Long, Marianne (4×09)

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This Is Us So Long, Marianne Review

How is it possible that This Is Us manages to make holiday episodes more emotional every single time?

Thanksgiving has always been a huge deal for the Pearson family, and just like Nicky mentioned, Jack Pearson traditions are the backbone of the shindig.

The series does an incredible job of keeping Jack’s memory alive even though he’s been gone for years now.

And it’s done in the smallest of moments that could be glossed over if not for the beautiful parallel that they offer the present-day storylines.

Traditions like 5 pounds of shrimp started with Jack and Nicky ditching their less than joyous Thanksgiving celebrations at home to watch a game at the bar. When Nicky won a good sum of money from a deal he made with a friend, they splurged by ordering an obscene amount of shrimp.

As Nicky attended his first Thanksgiving with the Pearson clan and tagged along with Randall and Annie as they picked up some left-behind belongings from their old house, he realized that despite “erasing him,” his brother never forgot about him.

He’d quote Leonard Cohen’s song and call it a “poem” just like Nicky did, and he’d explain the song to his kids the same way his brother explained it to him.

Nicky was then inspired to honor his late brother and introduce the family to a tradition they didn’t know about just as they’d introduced him to Pilgrim Rick.

As he brought out a platter of 5 pounds of shrimp, I lost it. Again, such a small moment but it has so much power in the context of their storytelling.

And then, they took it even further later showing Kate and Toby’s son, adult Jack, hosting his own Thanksgiving with his pregnant wife and bringing out 5 pounds of shrimp.

Jack’s impact has spanned decades, and even though his grandchildren have never met him, they still honor him because of how important he was to their parents.

Rebecca’s deteriorating memory storyline was front and center as she attempted to ignore the ugly truth until she no longer could.

Can I just say that Mandy Moore is such an incredible actress. The whole time, I could feel her confusion and her fear in her body language and movements. The camera angle making it seem like we were sometimes looking through her disoriented POV also helped drive those emotions.

When she finally made her way back home from the movies, she admitted to Randall that she needs to see a doctor, which immediately put a damper on his holiday.

But surprisingly, what we saw of Rebecca’s forgetfulness including the scenes where she thought she saw a young William and when she lost her phone and panicked at a Chinese restaurant didn’t take place on Thanksgiving.

Those scenes were happening in a future timeline, 9-months in advance.

The police picked her up and returned her home to the log cabin where Miguel, Kate, and Kevin were waiting to celebrate their big 4-0!

And this flash-forward revealed a whole lot.

For starters, Randall wasn’t there because “they aren’t on speaking terms.” Does that mean just him and Kevin? Or Randall and the whole family? And what could have changed so drastically in 9 months? Was Kevin upset that Randall knew about Rebecca’s deteriorating state and didn’t say anything to them?

Toby wasn’t seen at the party and neither was baby Jack, which isn’t a good sign at all.

But someone else was there, though they remained off-screen: Kevin’s pregnant fiancee!

Okay, I guess a lot really can change in 9 months! When Kevin told Randall he wanted to start a family by 40, Randall told him to find a girlfriend first, but Kevin just proved that he’s capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to.

So, who is this mystery fiancee?

The fact that it’s only been 9 months makes me think it’s someone Kevin already knew and that points to either Sophie or Cassidy. I can see either happening, honestly.

But 9 months also means it could have been a quick relationship and the woman is someone we’ve never met before. It would be less exciting, sure, but maybe that fresh start is exactly what Kevin needs.

Other Emotional Moments at Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Shauna is doing great. Actually, she might be doing too well. Beth felt intimidated by Deja’s birth mother because they had all these inside jokes and she knew she could never replace her. But that didn’t mean Beth wasn’t a valuable person in Deja’s life. She was the mother who stepped in and filled that void when Shauna wasn’t able to. She gave Deja a great life, a good chance at success, a stable home, and plenty of memories. Deja will always be grateful for that. Deja wished her mom well, but she too was a little triggered that things were going so great. I guess my only concern was why Shauna never invited Deja over to her new apartment with a fireplace? Were they told that they couldn’t see each other? If she’s in such a good headspace that she’s hosting potlucks with her co-workers, why can’t she include Deja occasionally?
  • Kate is not a fan of CrossFit Toby and truthfully, neither am I. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that Toby is taking his health so seriously and wants to better himself, but honestly, that’s all he was talking about. How off-putting on a day where people just want to enjoy some damn turkey. Kate didn’t bring it up to him because she didn’t want to upset him, but that text message she saw on his phone spells trouble. I’m guessing LadyKryptonite is his CrossFit trainer or nutritionist that’s supposed to keep him on track, but he’s clearly talking to other people about his marriage and isn’t happy with how Kate’s responding to his new lifestyle. Like Beth said, talking to other people about what’s happening between you two is how you enter dangerous territory. These two need to get brutally honest with each other even if it hurts if they want to salvage their relationship. Though, again, seeing as Toby isn’t around for their 40th birthday, it’s safe to say their relationship doesn’t overcome this.
  • Kevin proved he’s ready to become a dad when he helped his favorite niece Tess with feeling comfortable about coming out. It’s awesome how he applies what he’s learned in AA to other aspects of his life, and his lighthearted approach to having her just say it to a plastic clown at the drive-through was adorable. And the best part is that when Tess finally pulled the trigger, people were supportive and loving. As we know, not all coming out experiences are this positive, but it’s nice that This Is Us showcases that in 2019, there are people and families that are open and accepting.

What did you think of the emotional fall finale?

What was your favorite part?

Who do you think Kevin’s fiancee is? Why is Randall not speaking with his family?

And what’s happening with Toby and Kate?

We’ll meet back here on January 14, 2020, Cravers!

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This Is Us

This Is Us Review – Sorry (4×08)

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This Is Us Sorry Review

We’re getting ready to explore the early stages of Rebecca’s Alzheimer’s, which will eventually lead us to that moment in the future where the family gathered around her bedside.

Just thinking about how This Is Us tackles storylines and how they’ll handle this one makes me emotional.

Randall spent the day with his mom for a little bit of R&R (Randall and Rebecca time), but things were much different than they used to be.

Rebecca wasn’t acting like herself and she was forgetful. The fact that she’d lost her iPhone before meant that this wasn’t the first time something like this was happening.

Randall picked up on it right away, but when he confronted Rebecca, she was defensive and irritable. Refusing to get help is going to lead to Rebecca getting lost on the fall finale.

The R&R of the present-day paralleled that of Rebecca and Randall’s day together when the Big Three was already in college. Randall was still taking care of his mother than and promised to help her find a job.

When he realized she didn’t land the job interview due to lack of experience, he vouched for her to the boss who took him up on the idea and gave her a chance.

Randall has always been the son who connected so easily with his mother.

There was a brief nod to Kate’s relationship with the older record store guy that no one liked, but we’ve yet to explore the toxic nature of their relationship that was teased.

In the present day, Kate struggled with Toby’s decision to put his gym time before the family and then felt guilty about allowing Jack to eat his first solid food when Toby wasn’t around.

Their relationship has been filled with lies for a while now and though the truth eventually comes out, it would have been easier without the lie in the first place.

Will this be what drives them apart?

Or will they overcome all of this and emerge stronger than ever?

Speaking of strength, Nicky found his just in time for his court trial.

When the judge asked him if he regretted throwing the chair through the Veteran’s building, Nicky’s “not really” was classic and brutally honest.

But it was also beautiful.

Nicky wasn’t sorry because it’s the moment that not only made him become sober but also got his life on track and brought him closer to his nephew, Kevin.

In the process, he learned to forgive himself.

Is it strange that I’m really digging the Kevin, Cassidy, and Nicky trio and don’t want things to change?

I refuse to believe Cassidy is going to go back to her husband because her happy ending is with Kevin.

Hopefully, she realizes that he’s the only one to ever see her and she tags along for Thanksgiving with the Pearson clan.

If we have Nicky, Cassidy, AND Deja’s mother, Shauna, coming to Thanksgiving, there’s no telling what to expect.

And can I just say I’m so glad Beth is the kind of foster mother who encourages Deja to see her birth mother? Yes, it took Malik to make her aware that they’ve neglected that relationship, but she was so supportive once she realized the error of her ways.

It seemed like Kevin was surely going to go down a downward spiral once Nicky called him a wrecking ball for sleeping with Cassidy.

Kevin’s always been so hard on himself when he doesn’t have to be. We’re human, we make mistakes.

But Nicky and Cassidy were able to get him back on track rather quickly, which again, speaks to the power of being surrounded by people who understand you.

Cassidy has to be the person Kevin’s is with in the future, right? She has to be.

Seeing Nicky juxtaposed with Jack’s image was so powerful.

Jack passed so many years ago, but he still plays a huge role in Kevin’s life and he looks up to him and wants to impress him.

Nicky has many similarities to Jack, and I think Kevin likes knowing he’s closer to his father if even just for a minute.

What did you think about the episode?

Will Cassidy and Kevin end up together?

Will Toby and Kate split?

How will they help Rebecca?

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This Is Us

This Is Us – The Dinner and the Date (4×07)

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This is Us The Dinner and the Date Review

One day you’re their biggest idol and the next day someone else comes along and becomes their whole world.

This quote summarizes the mindsets of both Randall and Jack on This Is Us “The Dinner and the Date.”

Both Jack and Randall Pearson struggled with accepting that they weren’t the most important person in their child’s lives anymore.

For Jack, it was about being replaced by his teacher, Mr. Lawrence and for Randall, it was seeing Malik become “the man” in Deja’s life.

Much of the episode centered around Deja and Malik.

Though my expectations for this episode were low — frankly, I don’t think is the strongest season of This Is Us — I was surprised by how much I loved this episode.

Deja and Malik are characters that command your attention.

Their storyline is unconventional, but it’s real and emotional and forces Randall and Beth to get comfortable in their uncomfortableness.

Deja’s character development is noticeable and yet, she never forgets where she came from or who she is. Her past was engrained in this episode as she ditched school, explored Philly with Malik, and found a little piece of home on their Ferris Bueller inspired day off.

I’d even go as far as saying that Malik might be good for Deja.

She hadn’t has much exposure to a stable home or good men. Most of the examples of what a proper marriage and family look like have stemmed solely from Beth and Randall.

But Malik is a combination of both parts of her life; his family comes from lesser means, but they’re above all, a supportive family.

His life hasn’t been easy yet he has this confidence about him that draws people in.

He may have come off as a player, but deep down inside, Malik is a romantic who knows how to treat a lady.

When Malik brought her to see the lights that Deja remembered seeing as a child with her mom and grandma, I’m not going to lie, the tears welled up in my eyes.

Malik may be 14 but he’s mature; he listened to everything Deja said and planned the perfect date. I don’t know many middle-aged men who could pull off such an impressive evening.

Family dinners are always slightly awkward, but when you add strangers into the mix, the awkwardness is tripled.

In both timelines, that awkwardness was felt by everyone.

Dinner with the Pearson clan and Randall’s teacher, Mr. Lawrence, was less intense than the meeting of Deja’s parents with Malik’s parents.

In the present-day timeline, everyone had preconceived notions about the other party and Beth’s “open-mindedness” went out the door rather quickly.

Each parent blamed the other child for being a bad influence. Beth and Randall looked down on Malik because he was a father and refused to acknowledge him as anything else when, in fact, he’s also a grade-A student and good father.

Randall is a good and protective father, but Malik’s dad stating that he won’t let them overlook his son was powerful.

At the same time, Malik’s parents judged Randall and Beth by their wealth.

They viewed them as bougie and snide comments about the affordability of the house and his role as Councilman.

The dinner was doomed from the very beginning.

The only good thing that came out of it was that all parties checked each other towards the end and realized that the only solution would be to allow these kids to see each other with parental supervision.

In the past timeline, Jack struggled with accepting Mr. Lawrence out of fear that he was being replaced in Randall’s life.

Competitiveness and jealousy don’t look good on Jack.

Rebecca had to check her husband whose jealousy was making for some tense moments.

She also made a rather good point — Randall was seeking out Mr. Lawrence because he’s a man who looks like him. He could give him what Rebecca and Jack couldn’t.

When Jack became honest with himself and Lawrence, he admitted that Randall needed a role model like Lawrence.

By then, Lawrence realized he was overstepping and helped out by giving Jack the tools he needed to guide Randall’s journey of self-discovery.

Jack’s decision to embrace this part of Randall that they’ve been ignoring mainly because of their ignorance was admirable and important.

It’s this very quality that has always made them the best parents and in turn, made Randall such a great person.

Other Thoughts

  • Dejik is a cool ship name but Malajia takes the cake.
  • Malik should have known that skipping class wouldn’t make for a good impression on Randall.
  • Annie and Kevin’s commentary was everything. “It’s crazy that you have a baby” would have surely made Beth spit out her red wine had she been drinking some.
  • Beth may have gone a little too far but her spitfire attitude is a whole mood. Malik’s mom really tried it by bringing up Deja’s past and saying it “must be hard raising someone else’s kid.” She instigated all of that attitude from Beth.

I’m eager to get back to the Big Three storylines and see them all interact more, but a break from the mold wasn’t a bad thing.

This Is Us has a difficult task on their hands because they have to find a way to appease all fans — the ones who say that Kate, Kevin, and Randall should stop mourning their father already and the people who want the series to continue focusing on the core family and less on new characters.

But there’s only so much the writers can accomplish with the Big Three before eventually adding new faces and expanding the storyline. I think they’ve done a good job at balancing all of it for now.

What do you think?

Did you enjoy this episode?

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