Joining me this week are:
Jenn's MVP: Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson (This Is Us)
Why he's the MVP: I love that during each week of This Is Us, we learn more about the family dynamics and relationships between the Pearsons. This week chose to focus on conflict and struggles that have plagued each of the adults since childhood. In particular, it was an episode that dealt with the explosive relationship between Kevin and Randall. As children, they sparred. As teenagers, they seemingly resented one another. Kevin was always trying to distance himself from Randall, while all the latter wanted was a brother.
And the present-day isn't much different, except for the fact that now — as adults — Kevin and Randall have perfected the art of internalizing their feelings. Beth suggests that this won't last for long, and she isn't wrong: we watch as a fight unfolds in the streets between the brothers. And while each actor on This Is Us brings something incredibly special and meaningful to their characters, this week I'm honoring Sterling K. Brown who has inhabited the subtle nuances of Randall so well. Randall is such a great character, and Brown plays him with this inherent likability and drive. He's always wanted to succeed — to prove everyone wrong — and that comes across in all he does. But he's also exceptionally loving and compassionate (and funny, too. Can we talk about how fantastically Brown can deliver one-liners or facial expressions?). His heart, even as a child (as we saw in last week's episode) has always been others-focused.
This week, Brown took his performance to another level as we watched him unleash 36 years' worth of pain onto Kevin. It was more than just that, though. Any good actor can portray pain and anger and bitterness. But there was this complex mix of emotions that Brown was given to deliver, and he did them all justice. Because it's not just anger or pain that Randall feels and expresses to Kevin after their fight; it's desperation. When they were kids, all Randall wanted was some sort of attention from Kevin — some semblance of love or respect. Instead, he took any scrap or shred of something resembling love that he could get. It's a heartbreaking and honest confession, which further endeared Randall to me as a character. This week's episode was an amazing chance for Sterling K. Brown to shine and display his range as an actor. I'm so glad that Randall exists as a character, and even more thankful that such a talented and versatile actor is playing him.
Nora’s MVP: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead)
Why he’s the MVP: There have been many incarnations of Rick on The Walking Dead — honorable sheriff, head of the Ricktatorship, and more recently, ruthless leader who will do anything for his people. We are now entering a new phase of Rick and it’s not pretty: Rick the Submissive.
Andrew Lincoln is worthy of being MVP this week because he has done a complete turnaround of the character he once was. His swagger has disappeared. His weapon belt is now empty. There are no more motivational speeches, just pleading with his followers to cooperate. The look on Rick’s face when he sees Daryl with the Saviors is heartbreaking. Knowing how close both Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus are in real life, I imagine it was quite hard filming that scene. Both men are shadows of their former selves.
Even with the Governor, Rick was always defiant. But with Negan, he’s submissive because right now, that’s the only way to survive. Rick goes through so many emotions in “Service” and Andrew Lincoln portrays them perfectly. I love when he gives Negan a look like he’s going to rip him apart and then Negan tells him he shouldn’t be looking at him like that. Lincoln immediately diverts his eyes and his whole face changes. It’s really quite stunning to see Andrew Lincoln achieve that. Like, you can almost see exactly what he is thinking.
Later, Michonne says to Rick that they have always fought against adversaries. But Rick is done fighting. This is their life now. It’s so weird to see Rick in that position. This is a man who once ripped another man’s throat in order to save Carl. It’s like all of Rick’s fight has left his body. Andrew Lincoln looks like a defeated man. His shoulders sag, his face is drawn. There is not even a whiff of vengeance.
Although The Walking Dead is an ensemble show, Rick has been an anchor from the beginning. He has gone through so much and Andrew Lincoln has always expressed the myriad of emotions (horror, grief, anger, sadness, etc) excellently. That’s why it hurts to see Rick settle at the end of “Service” and accept his new life. (Plus, Andrew Lincoln has a great cry-face that makes me want to cry too.)
Erin’s MVP: Kristen Wiig as various characters (Saturday Night Live)
Why she’s the MVP: It's always a treat when a former cast member comes back to host Saturday Night Live. With all that's been going on post-election and the upcoming holiday, it was a comfort to see Kristen Wiig on that stage. She always exudes coolness, but with a down-to-earth vibe.
She effortlessly sang her way through a hilarious (fake) history of Thanksgiving for her monologue. She was the centerpiece that tied it all together as many cast members, current and past, joined her on stage throughout the song. It was a great feeling of togetherness with which to start the show.
The sketches all played to Wiig’s strengths. The CNN/Westworld crossover and the QVC and Secret Word skits highlighted her skillful comedic timing and amusing facial expressions. My favorite sketch was the Whiskers R We Thanksgiving Catacopia one with Kate McKinnon. It was great to see the Ghostbusters stars together again. The addition of adorable real life kittens practically made my heart explode. The set-up is somewhat reminiscent of the NPR Delicious Dish bit with Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer, but even naughtier. Wiig plays Veronica (or Fur-onica), a quirky cat lady who likes to tease her fellow host and partner. I think Wiig is also teasing McKinnon a bit, too. They share a lot of laughs where they grab each other's arms and make knowing eye contact. I loved the subtle comedy and puns and their chemistry definitely made it a memorable sketch.
When a cast member returns, there's the opportunity for them to reprise one of their characters and I am “so freakin’ excited” that Wiig jumped back into the role of Aunt Sue. Wiig gets to stretch her physical comedy legs and she does so by being classic Sue who can't contain her excitement. Sue is a one-note character, but the way Wiig approaches her is always fresh. Her struggle to get a hold of herself and the subsequent freak out is so fun to watch.
Wiig wore a "I Stand With Standing Rock" t-shirt for her closing thanks. She was heartfelt and sincere as she thanked the cast and guest stars by saying, “I love coming back here. It feels like home.” This was just what I needed before heading into the crazy holiday week.
Chelsea’s MVP: Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston (Timeless)
Why she’s the MVP: This week marked a turning point in Timeless in that many of the trio’s secrets came to light in less-than-ideal ways. Flynn quickly captured the gang and revealed to them that Lucy writes a diary in the future, and that she and him have spoken at many of the stops through time. Obviously this causes some instant distrust. Even worse for the gang was the reveal later on that Rufus had been recording their trips for Rittenhouse. I’m glad these secrets didn’t stay secret for too long because the results have been great story and conflict for our characters. And while all the actors are doing a great job with the material, it’s Abigail Spencer who is really shining this week.
Spencer’s Lucy Preston has been through a lot on this short season. If having to travel through time to stop a morally ambiguous man wasn’t enough to handle, she has had to endure losing her sister to the mistakes in the past and finding out her father wasn’t the man she grew up with. This week’s revelation of secrets and losing the safety and trust of her team have left her emotionally tired and lost, and Abigail Spencer plays all of these losses with such grace and desperation. She still wants to believe in her team and that Rufus is truly there for her. But she also wants to know more about Flynn, Rittenhouse, and if she’s really fighting for the right side.
Spencer carries this show on her shoulders. She’s our protagonist and we’re mostly following her journey, and everybody else's journey is filtered through her lens. We want her to be okay and want her to be doing the right thing. And without this great actress in the role, we wouldn’t care about what was going on throughout Timeless. For all that and all the exciting things to come, Abigail Spencer is my MVP for the week.
Megan's MVP: Laurie Hernandez as herself (Dancing With the Stars)
Why she's the MVP: I love Dancing With the Stars. I know sometimes people like to scoff at it, but I'm sorry. How could you hate on the production value, the sparkling costumes, and dances in varying skill levels? Oh, and I guess I'm totally in it for the slaughter of my emotions too.
I feel like this show makes me cry every single week, in one way or another. I'm crying because someone did so well when they didn't think they would, or because someone else is so proud of them, or because their story is so emotionally driven. So, basically, I'm amazed if I make it through a week of this show without crying.
Speaking of, this week I cried like a baby because of Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez. She had me in tears a few weeks ago when she let her frustration get the best of her (a feeling I'm so familiar with) and I just wanted to hug her. But this week was different. This week she discussed the closeness she felt with her grandmother and how she hoped to see her soon... only to learn that her grandmother had passed away the very day following that interview.
From the moment she started crying, I lost it. Hernandez is someone who is so warm and positive and innocent that you almost want to protect her from anything bad in this world. To see her break down like that was hard to watch, especially since I share that sort of closeness with my grandmother and couldn't imagine the position Hernandez is in. But she didn't let that stop her and that's what makes her my MVP. She channeled all of that sadness and grief into her dances and wowed every single member of that audience, cast, and crew. She danced far beyond her years and showed a maturity that was almost heartbreaking in a way.
Laurie Hernandez is made up of sweet sugar candy and to see something bad happen to her this week was hard. She had the entire room, including host Tom Bergeron, in tears. But she and partner Val danced their way to two perfect scores and showed her perseverance in every way.
If that doesn't make someone an MVP, I don't know what does.
Who are your TV MVPs this week? Sound off in the comments below!