Over in the "TV Shows I Am Binging" thread, I noted that I got hooked on This Is Us, which led to a quick discussion over the show's merits and a pledge to talk about the latest episode. We threw out the idea of having that conversation in the "What Are You Watching Right Now?" thread, but I decided to start one dedicated to the show. Although I titled it "Season 4," I'm not going to limit my observations to that season alone,

So far, it's just been me and Jeff, but I welcome anyone else to join in -- especially Tracy! We've seen too little of you here in the Comics Cave!

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Tracy and I had a conversation about which of the kids would be put in charge. Tracy nailed it: Kate. I thought it would be someone else, but Tracy reminded me of how Randall and Kevin almost irrevocably ruined their relationship over the decision whether or not to send her to St. Louis for care, which is why neither of them could be in charge. 

I was surprised it was Kate, but I couldn't in my mind make a good case for Randall or Kevin, what with Randall's control issues and Kevin's still-fragile sobriety. And I suppose Beth was not an option ... ?

Nah.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Tracy and I had a conversation about which of the kids would be put in charge. Tracy nailed it: Kate. I thought it would be someone else, but Tracy reminded me of how Randall and Kevin almost irrevocably ruined their relationship over the decision whether or not to send her to St. Louis for care, which is why neither of them could be in charge. 

I saw commentary that Randall's established history of doing what he thinks Rebecca needs instead of what she says she wants may well have put him out of the running.

After the Thanksgiving episode, This Is Us launched into a trilogy about The Big Three. Part 1 was about Kevin, which I watched a few days late, but haven't made time to come here and comment on. Part 2 was about Kate, and it was explosive, but I also haven't made time to come here and comment on. Part 3 is about Randall, and it's on as I write, but I'll watch it later. 

I have lots of thoughts about the Kate episode, but since it was second, I suppose I should talk about the Kevin one first (since it was first). But it didn't leave that big an impression on me (especially not compared to the Kate episode!), so I'll just quickly dash off some thoughts:

Kevin travels with the babies to where the cabin is under construction, alone. Madison isn't going and their nanny has the week off. This only made me think that Madison could and should have let Kevin have the babies at Thanksgiving, since she knows how much it means to him. (No, I am not Team Madison.)

Kevin is checking in on the cabin construction because somebody misread something in the plans, so the foundation has to be broken apart and done all over again. Cassidy is the construction foreman, there to ride herd on Uncle Nicky. We see Nicky with Edie, that hot girlfriend of his, and it made me wonder, and not for the first time: How does a schlub like him pull somebody like that? She is WAY too good for him.

Cassidy's PTSD is still pretty bad, and one night she gets into a car crash that may not have been entirely accidental, and gets pretty banged up. The upshot is that Kevin learns no matter how bad his problems are, other people have it worse. Also, he learns the construction crew is all retired veterans, from the Army Corps of Engineers or Navy Seabees, and he is inspired to not let building the house be a one-time project for them, but an ongoing business. The end.

As for Part 2, the Kate episode ... WOW. Kate and Toby are definitely on the train to Splitsville, and we see lots of bumpy twists and turns on the ride. 

I have long thought Kate is the worst character on the show, and nothing that transpired here made me believe any differently, although Toby comes off as a real tool. But. to be fair, the episode takes pains to show that they are both wanting some of the same things (a united family), both wrong about a lot of the things they do to accomplish that (mostly because they are both terrible at communicating to each other), and both have developed some semblance of a happy life -- separately from the other. And in so doing, each is trying to force the other into their version of a happy life and neither is willing to develop one together. 

So --- Kate invites herself to visit Toby in San Francisco. He's got a cool apartment with a fabulous view (probably paid for by his company, but if it isn't, then he must be making a LOT of money). Toby has planned all kinds of cool things to do, but Kate, being Kate, immediately shoots him down. She wants to just hang out and wander around, and they do, but Toby spends lots of moments, including immediately after lovemaking, on the phone with his job. Kate has a fantasy in which she is hanging out with the old Toby -- fat, jolly, beardless, with a combover and Hawaiian shirts -- 'cause she likes him better.

Toby, in the grand tradition of Pearson men, springs a surprise on Kate: A house! He wants to move her and the children to San Francisco, and he's gotten prequalified for a mortgage, and he can hold the real estate agent off for maybe one more day -- whaddaya say, hey? Kate is too gobsmacked to know what to say.

Toby brings Kate to an office party at his boss's house, but there's trouble getting there; the first Uber they call cancels and Toby insists on calling another. Kate asks why can't we just walk, and Toby points out it's eight blocks away, all uphill.

At the party, everyone is kind and welcoming to Kate, including Toby's boss ... who lets slip that Toby turned down a job offer in Los Angeles. Furious, Kate grabs Toby and insists they leave RIGHT NOW, and back at the apartment, they have it out. And it's ugly.

Kate insists on knowing how much that prospect in Los Angeles would have paid, and Toby doesn't answer the question. He responds with how he likes his job. He's valued, he does important things, and they will need the big income he's bringing in to pay for the special care and equipment their blind son will need. And in the not-so-grand tradition of Pearson men, he belittles what his wife does. (Jack did it with Rebecca's singing, Randall did it with Beth's dance studio, and now Toby with Kate's teaching job.)

Kate admits she's been dreaming about hanging around with the old Toby, and he really mocks her for it, searching for him in the room and practically snarling "You fell in love with a coping mechanism!" Toby today does NOT like the old Toby, who was depressed and self-loathing and, in his eyes, a loser. 

The next day, Kate goes back to the hill and makes herself walk the eight blocks. At the top, she feels triumphant, and calls her boss at the music school and asks to be considered to replace the full-time teacher who had just retired at the start of the episode. Funny how it's terrible that Toby didn't tell her about his job offer in L.A., but she didn't feel compelled to tell him about doing that.

More thoughts in the next frame ...

First off ... yes, Toby is a jerk and he's wrong for not telling Kate about the job offer. And for making an offer on a house without talking with her. And making an ultimatum that moving to San Francisco is the ONLY option. 

That said, there's lot to unpack. 

Toby is tired of living in suitcases and being away from his children and wife and wants to be together with them under one roof. Is that so terrible? 

Toby wants to do it in San Francisco because Los Angeles was a dead end -- remember, he spent months being unemployed -- and his job is exciting and fulfilling and, frankly, he's more married to the job now than he is to Kate. And it is a further step in Toby's evolution. Toby had a heart attack, and he got serious about getting fit, and he dresses better, and he's moving forward ... and Kate isn't.

Kate is, and has always, been passive, wandering through life rather than actively living it. The show, and this episode, went through great pains to show why: She's Daddy's Little Girl and she's lost without him. Plus, she has the guilt of knowing Jack died after she told him to go into the burning house to save the dog, and he went because he just couldn't disappoint her. He may well have died anyway, but no one can ever know that, but going back in certainly couldn't have helped. (Plus, there's the whole trauma from Jerk Boyfriend Marc and the secret pregnancy and abortion.)

That said, if Toby had told Kate he had a job offer in Los Angeles, she would immediately assume he's moving back. Kate could consider moving to San Francisco with Toby, but you know she wouldn't think about it even if she had all the time in the world. She doesn't want to be away from her family. 

And that's another problem with the both of them: "Family" means different things. To Toby, his family is the children and Kate. To Kate, her family is her brothers, her mother, the children and then Toby (and then maybe Miguel). 

Oh, and one more thing ... about the hill. The first Uber driver canceled on them, and various online commentators figure it's because he didn't want to deal with a large woman in his vehicle. Kate takes Toby's insistence on getting another as him not believing in her, but the way I see it, If he didn't get the Uber, that would mean walking eight blocks uphill -- one mile -- in party clothes and dress shoes. Kate proved to herself the next day she could take the hill, sure ... but that means the day before, she didn't know she could do it. So why should Toby believe in her when she doesn't believe in herself?

No matter what Toby did here, she'd say he was wrong

I was online last night just after you put up tour Kate post but I didn't respond then because I didn't want to interrupt the flow of your responses to the trilogy of episodes. As I watched successive ones, I became increasingly impressed by the technical aspect of filming the same story (the family at the pool) from three different POVs simultaneously. I wonder how they did that? I imagine some degree of technical wizardry must be involved (such as looping the dialogue in far shots) because it's unlikely the three stories were actually filmed simultaneously, yet they flow together flawlessly.

"How does a schlub like him pull somebody like that?"

I wonder that about a lot of different TV couple on a lot of different shows.

"WOW. Kate and Toby are definitely on the train to Splitsville"

Yeah, hard to watch because they've been so good for each other up until recently. I have not been as down on Kate as you have been in the past, but this show is very manipulative in that they often insert scenes designed specifically to sway the audience one way or another. I'm thinking specifically here about the scene in which Toby was supposed to put Jack to bed and he gave him that toy football instead. The babysitter's reaction was a bit extreme, I thought. We get it. Sledgehammer unnecessary. 

"Toby has planned all kinds of cool things to do, but Kate, being Kate, immediately shoots him down. "

Another example. I don't really mind )it's a hallmark f the show) but sometimes the manipulation is painfully obvious.

"The next day, Kate goes back to the hill and makes herself walk the eight blocks."

Symbolic of a turning point in Kate's life.

"I didn't respond then because I didn't want to interrupt the flow of your responses to the trilogy of episodes."

Whoops. I started responding "live" when I saw you had posted a third time and assumed it was about the Randall episode. (I guess I ended up interrupting the flow after all.) I'll save my thoughts on last night's episode until after you have posted yours. I appreciate you doing this (leading the discussion, I mean).

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I was online last night just after you put up tour Kate post but I didn't respond then because I didn't want to interrupt the flow of your responses to the trilogy of episodes. As I watched successive ones, I became increasingly impressed by the technical aspect of filming the same story (the family at the pool) from three different POVs simultaneously. I wonder how they did that? I imagine some degree of technical wizardry must be involved (such as looping the dialogue in far shots) because it's unlikely the three stories were actually filmed simultaneously, yet they flow together flawlessly.

I think it's very likely the three stories were filmed simultaneously, or at least all on the same day or few days. It's far easier to do those three tales while everybody's at that location than to set up for one, complete it, break everything down, and then come back days or weeks or months later for the next one. For movies they might; for TV, time is money.

Oh I definitely agree they were filmed on the same day; I wondered whether or not they were filmed in three simultaneous takes. While Jack is off doing his thing with Kevin and Rebecca is doing hers with Kate and Randall is off doing his own thing, and all those things are overlapping with each other, how likely is it that any one (of the overlapping sections) was done in three individual single takes? 

It depends on how diligent/determined/prepared/masochistic the director and actors and camera crews are.

Especially the "prepared" part. If they thoroughly figured out the camera blocking and rehearsed it well, it can be done.

I suppose. It's the kind of thing that, if done well, goes unnoticed. (I noticed it not because it wasn't done well, but because I've trained myself to think about those things.) However they did it, it was impressive. 

Wow, lots has happened with the Pearson clan since I last had the chance to sit down and comment here! And things are coming fast and furious, as there are only five episodes left!

I'll have to give things a quick dusting ... 

  • Malik has been ghosting Déjà and broke up with her while the family was at the cabin during Thanksgiving. He also lets her know Randall told him to back away. Furious, Déjà confronts Randall, spits at him "I'm not your daughter," and runs away to Boston. Randall heads out to get her back, and Rebecca insists on coming along. How does Déjà make it from a cabin in the woods outside of Pittsburgh all the way to Boston? She is determined, street smart, wise beyond her years and .
  • The road trip allows Randall and Rebecca some nice parent-son bonding, much like his previous journey with William. Plus her counsel for how to handle Déjà was wise.
  • Even though Malik didn't like Randall telling him to step away, it's clear he realized he had enough plates spinning in the air -- full-time student at Harvard, being a dad to his own kid, with the kid's mother around -- without his girlfriend also around with nothing to do since she would have left school early. Fortunately, Randall was wise enough not to rub it in and let him know he and Déjà might find their way back to each other.

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