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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SPOILER for February 9.

"We didn't mention that last episode ended in a cliffhanger -- Kevin in a car racing from Vancouver back to Los Angeles because Madison went into early labor, and crashing the car(!) The promo for next episode showed a bit more of the crash scene, with the promise we'd find out what happened next week."

I wish I had said (i.e., posted) something at the time (I did say something to Tracy), but I never believed Kevin was actually in a crash in the first place. This show is notorious for misdirection and misleading previews. In this case, while watching the scene in which Kevin was driving while talking on his phone and was nearly involved in an accident again and again and again, i thought to myself, "We're being manipulated." After 4+ seasons, it's becoming obvious.

We also got to see the phone conversation with Randall from Kevin's POV, which is a "trick" I do like.

Ah, yes, This Is Us pulled a fake-out; it wasn't Kevin who crashed the car, but some other jamoke. Kevin stopped and got him out of the wreck and bound the guy's injured leg with a jacket -- not noticing his wallet and driver's license fell to the ground.

(By the way, during the two weeks the show was delayed because of, y'know, COVID, they re-ran the first and second part of The Big Three's 40th birthday story. Why not air the third one too, ahead of the new episode? That's what I would have done.)

In that This Is Us way, they didn't go right to the crash, but gave us parallel stories from the past and present. We see Kevin preparing for his big moment, filming a scene with Robert DeNiro, certainly a big get for an indie production. He's still using the notecard system he developed when he was a kid learning his football plays ... 

... and we flash back to Tween Kevin doing so, not long after he's gotten serious about football after overhearing Jack tell Rebecca she's let Kevin get soft by allowing him to quit things when they aren't easy instead of sticking with them. Then Jack and Kevin go to a weekend football camp, and Jack learns Kevin is anxious about it ... when he finds Kevin puking in the toilet at the hotel. Jack, being the cool dad everybody wishes they had, takes Kevin to the hotel restaurant for a steak dinner. Jack tells Kevin he regrets turning something Kevin loves into a thing that makes him sick, because that happened with him and his dad, Stanley ... 

... and we flash back to Tween Jack, a budding young baseball pitcher. But Stanley poisons his love of the game, thanks to his getting drunk, heckling, and berating Jack if he doesn't do well. In the scene we see -- which, clearly, is not the first or last time this happened -- Stanley rides Jack for giving up the game-losing run. When Stanley pops open one more beer, Jack gently suggests they hang around awhile. Stanley sees through the ploy and instead gives Jack the car keys and makes him drive. Stanley actually is impressed with Jack's driving, but he's too nervous to accept the compliment -- what with not wanting to crash the car he's not supposed to be driving -- and yells at Stanley to shut up.

Hoo boy.

"...some other jamoke..."

Ah, yes... Joshua Malina from The West Wing and The Big Bang Theory

In the present, Kevin is just about to film his scene with DeNiro when he gets a call from Madison: She's gone into labor, six weeks early, and she's scared. Kevin tells the director he needs to go; the director says, okay, we can shift some things around and get you out of here in six, seven hours. Kevin tells him I need to go now, and takes off.

Driving away from the set, Kevin is on the phone with Rebecca and Miguel, who are trying to find him a flight back to Los Angeles. Kevin is also fending off angry calls from his agent and frantic calls from the director. But we know, for good or for ill, Kevin will drop everything when his family is in trouble, and deal with the fallout later. I don't think the fallout here is impossible to navigate, but telling the pretentious director "Nobody cares about your movie!" didn't help.

I watched the episode drawn in to Kevin's dilemma and not picking apart the plot holes. That's what I read the recaps and comments on Vulture and TVLine for. And boy, did they find many!

  • Since Kevin's in Canada -- which is, y'know, a foreign country -- wouldn't he have to quarantine after crossing the border and entering the United States? So this frantic rush to get to Madison is pointless.
  • Kevin is racing to Vancouver, but then Miguel gets him a flight out of Seattle, so he heads there. Both of those are semi-major cities, so wouldn't he be traveling on a major interstate-type highway, not back roads?
  • Typical of the self-absorbed Pearsons that even after rescuing the traveler, Kevin starts whining about his problems and not asking the guy anything about himself.
  • Okay, Kevin was in a rush to get to the airport, but just dumping the poor guy at the hospital without a word to anybody? Really?
  • Kevin left behind his driver's license, but what about his passport? Wouldn't he have shown that to get across the border? If he didn't have the passport, he wouldn't have gotten across the border to even confront the TSA agent at the airport. If he did have the passport, he could have just shown it and gotten on the plane. If he got to the airport without the passport (and the driver's license), then he's in the country illegally. The writers really needed to think that through a little harder.

On the plus side, we see the flip side of Randall reaching out to Kevin after his epiphany about his mother. And we see Randall and Beth reach out to Madison, who is alone at the hospital, and comfort her. That was cool. 

The last we saw of Kevin, he was appealing to the TSA agent to make an exception in his case, but we don't see her ultimate decision. She presented him with an option that would get him on the next day, but, speaking as someone with 30 years experience in the airline industry, there is a level of "enhanced" screening available for just this set of circumstances. Tracy had to go through it once when flying back home from St. Louis once when I was not with her. Her driver's license had fallen out of her wallet in our friend's car and she had no other photo ID. She was given a special placard to hold throughout the process and it involved an extra pat-down, but she did make her flight. Our friend mailed Tracy's ID back the following week. 

Also, remember (former Legionnaire) Don Collett? He lives several hours away from the DFW airport. He was flying his two kids on a trip one time and Tracy and I invited the three of them to spend the night at our house so they wouldn't have to leave their house at 3:00AM or whatever. His daughter forgot her driver's license and was freaking out that they would let her board the plane. We called the reservations office and were informed of the procedure.

I wouldn't recommend it, but it is possible to fly without a driver's license.

What do I think is going to happen? I think Kevin is going to show up just in the nick of time.

Justin Hartley spoke to Deadline about that episode ("‘This Is Us’: Justin Hartley On That Car Crash and Kevin 'On the Brink' As He Struggles to be The Perfect Dad"), and said this about Kevin's dilemma at the airport:

Justin Hartley said:

DEADLINE: Let’s start with where we left Kevin, pleading with an airport officer to let him in without an ID. Will he get on that flight? I checked TSA regulations, it is allowed after an on-site identity verification process that could take up to an hour.

HARTLEY: I actually did the same thing, and I’ve been in that situation before. There is a way to get on the flight, there is a process, but obviously, they’re not going to delay the flight for you, and he’s crunched for time. So we don’t know if he made it. I hope that we did a good job of conveying and showing the importance to Kevin of making the births. I know that it’s not technically life and death if he doesn’t make it there on time, but I think the bigger picture is just him and everything that he’s gone through and the fact that he lost his father at such a young age.

And the fact that he’s constantly trying to live up to this man’s idea of who he thought his son was, and the idea of starting this family and his being a father off in a good way, him being there on time and being there for his kids from the very beginning, just like his dad was. I think that’s the significance, not necessarily thinking that if he doesn’t make it there on time, Madison will never forgive him. I don’t think it’s something that shallow.

I think there’s a bigger reason, and I think it would affect him for the rest of his life. When he talks to the TSA agent saying ‘This is going to break me’, I don’t know if he really believes that this is something he’ll ever be able to live down, and it’s not something that he needs. Also remember, this guy is a recovering alcoholic, recovering drug addict, and I think he’s speaking to that a little bit, as well. He is just teetering on the edge, and so I think that’s the bigger idea.

All that said -- that it is possible for Kevin to be cleared to get on the flight, and the big question is will the clearance process be completed quickly enough for him to actually get on board?

-- there's still the problem about Kevin having crossed the border from Canada into the U.S. before he even got to the airport. Since we don't know geographically where the crash happened, I suppose we have to assume it happened on the U.S. side of the border, and Kevin lost both his driver's license and his passport.

That makes sense ... as much sense as the This Is Us writers forgetting that you have to have a passport to cross the U.S.-Canada border these days.

FEB 16: Another thing this show is known for (in addition to misleading previews) is showing characters in the first scene then waiting until the last scene to explain their significance. At the start of this episode, Tracy asked, "Who are they?" and I said, "we'll have to wait until the end of the episode to find out. Wouldn't it be funny if they didn't have any direct relation to the Pearsons at all?"

FEB 23: This episode should have been titled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." Kudos to casting and make-up for the future versions of Deja, Tess and Annie. Nailed it! 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

FEB 16: Another thing this show is known for (in addition to misleading previews) is showing characters in the first scene then waiting until the last scene to explain their significance. At the start of this episode, Tracy asked, "Who are they?" and I said, "we'll have to wait until the end of the episode to find out. Wouldn't it be funny if they didn't have any direct relation to the Pearsons at all?"

And, as it turned out, they didn't!

Their indirect relation is that Nasir Ahmed invented Discrete Cosine Transform, the underlying programming that makes FaceTime and other image and video transfer technology work. This Is Us' creator Dan Fogelman had the notion to work that into a story, so their crack research team located Ahmed and his wife Esther, and were charmed by them as a loving couple (they recently celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary! ).

Working that in was a nice, if totally out of left field touch to the parallel stories of three mothers birthing six (!) kids among them. We've seen Jack and Rebecca on that fateful day lots of times, but it was new to see Madison and Ellie, the woman whose baby Kate and Toby plan to adopt.

Speaking of Toby, he was out in the hospital parking lot waiting for the birth, not allowed to be present because, y'know, COVID. He gets confronted my a man who drives up demanding Toby move because he wanted that parking space. Toby quite rightfully points out that there are plenty of other parking spaces, but the man is insistent, and I began to be afraid for Toby, because in an alternate universe (Grey's Anatomy), this man* shot up Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, killing two doctors.

Well, Jeff, you called it: Kevin did get there in the nick of time. I still don't understand about not having to quarantine after crossing an international border -- I know people who have had to quarantine after crossing a mere state line -- but we just have to chalk that up to  .

Nice of Randall and Beth to stay on the phone with Madison on the long (18 hour!) drive from New Orleans back to Philadelphia. Madison did wonder why they weren't stopping at a motel, and Beth let her know she wasn't about to catch cooties -- er, COVID -- from some sketchy place on the road.

Nicer still that Kevin and Randall reconciled, after that ugly fight in the previous season finale. (Still, I can't help but notice that Kevin effusively said things about how wonderful Randall is, and Randall didn't reciprocate. I'm probably overthinking that.)

* Played by Michael O'Neill of The Legion of "Hey, It's That Guy!" Character Actors.

"And, as it turned out, they didn't!"


Speaking of a "fateful day," are we supposed to know why everyone is gathering in that future scene (and I have just forgotten), or hasn't it been revealed yet. In either case (knowing this show), whatever we think is happening probably isn't. :) 

Oh, and I liked the way Madison handled that paparazzo. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Speaking of a "fateful day," are we supposed to know why everyone is gathering in that future scene (and I have just forgotten), or hasn't it been revealed yet. In either case (knowing this show), whatever we think is happening probably isn't. :) 

It's been a while, but it's because Rebecca appears to be on her deathbed.

It's unclear that everybody in the family is coming, because we haven't seen all of them (yet) -- particularly Kate, Miguel and Madison. It's not even clear that the people we haven't seen yet are still alive.

"It's been a while, but it's because Rebecca appears to be on her deathbed."

That's what I thought.

Or is that just what they want me to think? :)

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