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Jenn's MVP(s): Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley as Randall and Kevin Pearson (This Is Us)
Why they're the MVPs: I'm no stranger to crying during an episode of This Is Us. But this week's was especially gut-wrenching because it was all-too familiar. Randall, in both adolescence and adulthood, suffers panic attacks. If you've never been through a panic attack (and I've gone through two), it's a horrible feeling that I wish upon no one. Your body begins to fight against your brain. You sweat, you feel like you're having a heart attack, and you become so overwhelmed by your emotions, that it feels like you're drowning. When they were children, Randall would experience these panic attacks. Jack was always able to calm him down, but Kevin — upon witnessing one of these attacks — just ignored his brother. In "Jack Pearson's Son," Randall is beginning to flounder personally and professionally. William kicks his hospice nurse out of the house. Beth's mother is hospitalized and she needs to fly out to be with her family. A new co-worker is beginning to take over Randall's accounts. And to top it all off, Randall is still at odds with his mother. He's trying to hold his entire life together, and it's just not working. We watch him slowly erode throughout the episode, and it's Sterling K. Brown's incredible portrayal that makes us ache for him. The subtle unraveling was impeccable.
Meanwhile, Kevin is going through his own stuff in this episode. His new play is about to open and he is having nightmares about it. In a last-ditch effort to feel comfort, he shows up at his mother's home. When Miguel answers, we feel as about good at the prospect of this conversation as Kevin does. But Miguel actually has some really solid life advice for Kevin. Jack Pearson was Kevin's father. That means a part of him still lives in Kevin — the part that was compassionate and brave. Miguel tells Kevin that if he channels that part of him before he gets on stage, he'll know exactly what to do and things will be okay.
So Kevin is ready for the big night... just as Randall calls (sounding extremely odd) and when he steps into the wings, he knows what he has to do. What happens next is the reason that both of these men are my MVPs this week. Kevin runs to Randall's office, finds him in the midst of a panic attack, and then holds him as he cries. Sterling K. Brown is always a force to be reckoned with in this show. He makes Randall so easy to fall in love with, to care about, and to side with. But sometimes Kevin is a bit more difficult to connect with. Justin Hartley does a great job making Kevin the comic relief of this usually-heavy show. Over the past few weeks, though, we've gotten the chance to see Hartley's range: to watch him play a humbled, lovestruck Kevin Pearson. He's softened some of those less appealing, self-centered edges, and Kevin is becoming the kind of person you root for.
When these two incredible actors shared a really intense, emotional scene, I absolutely lost it. Through tears, I applauded Brown for his ability to convey such brokenness, sadness, and fear without ever uttering a word. And Hartley was equally as impressive, making Kevin the most affectionate, attentive version of himself. You could see the tears in Kevin's eyes and the pain in his heart as he watched his brother suffer. They sat and held each other, and it was absolutely beautiful. Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley were amazing and totally ripped my heart out.
Bonus MVP: John Oliver as himself (Last Week Tonight)
Who else is extremely thankful that Last Week Tonight is back? I am! Each week for the past few years, John Oliver has been changing the late night game with his biting commentary, perfect one-liners, and commitment to his stories. Oliver's show isn't just entertaining (it is), but it's also educational. It helps viewers filter through some of the stuff happening and draw their own conclusions based on the information that Oliver presents. This week, one of the highlights was a 23-minute discussion about what truth means within the new U.S. presidency. Oliver brought his barbed wit to the segment and pointed out absurdities and inconsistencies with laser focus. What I always admire about Oliver is that he and his team work hard to make their audience understand complex or big topics by using humor and facts. (And occasionally, really hilarious commercials.) I, for one, am thankful that John Oliver and Last Week Tonight are finally back from hiatus.
Why she's the MVP: I relate heavily to Jessica Day. I love crafts, anything that sparkles, and will literally put aside any and all of my emotions in order to help a friend. You know, like Jess did on this week's Valentine's Day episode of New Girl. Jess has broken up with Robbie and is now staring down the day of love alone. All of her friends are coupled up, so she decides to use her celebrity chef dinner she won at an auction and just hang out alone. No, everyone. She's fine. It's FINE.
But a project comes to her attention: Winston tells Jess that Allie wants to get married, but he's only a few phases into his 21-phase proposal. Seeing it as a saving grace, Jess jumps right in to help Winston pull of his proposal that night.
What I love about Zooey in this role is that it feels seriously so organic to her. It feels like this is exactly the type of person she is. I buy that she would have a craft cart, that she would drop everything to help a close friend with a proposal, and that she would even clean a dingy bathroom to make said proposal work.
This week she had me cackling with every answer she had, her entire conversation with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, and how she got emotional when reading Winston's proposal to Allie (seeing as Winston was loopy from scaring Allie dressed as a bobcat). When Winston asked about the flashy ring she found from a sketchy jewelry salesman for the proposal, I died when she said, "I don't think it's a legitimate business, and that's the real answer."
Every moment she had on the screen this week was perfect, spot-on, and totally genuine. I think that this was one of the best episodes this season and that's saying something!
Who are YOUR TV MVPs this week? Sound off in the comments below!