Wednesday, January 11, 2017

This Is Us 1x11 Review: "The Right Thing To Do" (The Ends, The Middles, and The Means)

"The Right Thing To Do"
Original Airdate: January 10, 2017

We've all done things we don't want to do because it's the "right thing." That's why most of us showed up for our SATs in high school, and try to get our daily eight hours of sleep each night. Sometimes doing the right thing is easy — it comes naturally and we do it happily. But sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do in order to become better people or better the lives of the people around us. In this week's This Is Us episode, we got the chance to witness a few of our key characters making difficult decisions for the greater good. When Olivia reappears in Kevin's life, he rejects her presence in the play and her advances, citing that choosing Sloane isn't what he necessarily most wants, but it's the right thing. And in the past, when Jack and Rebecca find out that they're having triplets, Jack decides to do something unthinkable in order to get enough money to buy a house for Rebecca and their growing family. As always, This Is Us was a return to (emotional) form, with the core emotional story being Jack/Rebecca (and a few sub-stories in Kate/Toby and Randall/William).


We open this week's episode with a flashback of a young Jack standing up to his abusive dad for his mom. When they're alone, his mother asks Jack to promise that he'll never be like his father. And honestly, Jack isn't. His dad is physically abusive and angry and selfish, venomously tearing down his son and Jack's mother. When Jack and Rebecca learn that they're having triplets, it's not ideal. They just paid the deposit on a two-bedroom apartment with a six floor walk-up. The couple begins to panic and struggles to come up with a way to make their new situation work. 

Over lunch, Rebecca gets passive-aggresively berated by her mother who is, in fact, the worst. Jack tries to ask for a raise at work, and gets a minimal one — not nearly enough to cover the cost of a new place, since they won't get their deposit back on the apartment. So both Jack and Rebecca are driven to the edge of a cliff, and it's one that we've all been to: what are they willing to do in the short-term in order to achieve their goals in the long-term? Because the truth is that Jack and Rebecca are smart, wonderful characters who want to make their marriage and family work. They want to be able to provide for their kids and unfortunately, it's just not a possibility. So what must they sacrifice in order to put their children first?

For Rebecca, it's legitimately contemplating an offer for her and Jack to move in with her mother for a month or two after the babies are born. Rebecca's mother is insufferable, and Rebecca knows it. Living with her would be toxic, and undoubtedly put a heavy strain on Rebecca and Jack's marriage and their future as parents. Jack dismisses the option to move in and then accidentally hears Rebecca breaking down crying under the stress of their future. So that is when Jack makes a decision: he drives to a house, removes his wedding ring, and knocks on the door.

It's his father.

Jack is so desperate to provide for his family — to be the kind of man who Rebecca needs and deserves — that he asks his deadbeat father for money. The ends justify the means to Jack, even if he has to lie to Rebecca about how he got enough money to afford the fixer-upper home that he purchases, he will be the kind of father who is there for his kids. Jack, as a character, is characterized by his sacrifices. He is willing to do whatever it takes to be the very best dad he can for his children. They are his world and they are his priority. Asking his father for money and selling his car are sacrifices Jack is willing to make and wounds he's willing to re-open if it means he will create a home for his family. That's why I love this character so much. Where Jack is more idealistic, though, Rebecca is more pragmatic. When he takes her to their new home (which is barely constructed), Rebecca thinks he's crazy. 

But there's a moment in which Jack asks Rebecca, "can you see it?" as he points out where a bathroom will be and what a nursery will look like. And in that moment, Rebecca CAN picture it. It's a work-in-progress, and it required sacrifice. But it's theirs. And so are their future triplets.


In case you forgot what happened before the show's hiatus, Toby was hospitalized and underwent surgery. We were meant to believe he probably died (he did not). As it turns out, Toby had arrhythmia, and brushes it off as nothing. Kate, of course, is worried about his health and even more so when Toby's doctor reveals that Toby has a small hole in his heart that requires surgery to repair, lest it cause him issues. Toby refuses to have the surgery because he's scared, leading to a fight between him and Kate. But he changes his mind, has the surgery, and confesses his love to Kate right beforehand. After he wakes up from surgery, Kate reciprocates his love, Toby tells her he would marry the crap out of her, and all is well in their story for this week.

As you might have guessed by the brief synopsis, I'm not really a fan of the whole Toby/Kate relationship. Personally, I find Toby to be absolutely insufferable and nothing he does endears me toward him. Kate deserves better, and I want her to be with someone better. Alas, it looks like Toby is here to stay.

Meanwhile, Kevin literally says the words "the right thing to do," in regards to his relationship with Sloane. I appreciate the way Kevin has seemed to grow since the pilot episode. He's definitely not the most emotionally available person, but spending time with his siblings seems to have made him more empathetic. He really does care about Sloane, but when Olivia reappears, Kevin becomes conflicted. They had a powerful connection, but Olivia is self-absorbed and dangerous because of it. She didn't care about Kevin as much as he did about her, and — as he pointed out — she didn't know how do do or be anything real.

When Olivia tries to get back into the play and reignite her relationship with Kevin, he rejects her and tells her that he cares about Sloane — that being with her is the right thing to do, even if it's not necessarily what he wants. Sloane, of course, overhears this and is hurt. Though Kevin tried to be admirable, I think his focus was misaligned. He's spent so much time around Randall, who always (almost) does the right thing, that Kevin didn't realize your motives for your actions say more about your character than the actions themselves.

I hope Kevin and Sloane can repair their relationship though, because they're quite cute.

And finally, Randall — under Beth's recommendation — tries to get to know William's former flame, Jesse, better. The two men have started to spend more time together again and it makes Randall uncomfortable. At first, he can't figure out why and incorrectly assumes it's because he has some deep-seated homophobia (he does not). But at the end of the episode, Randall confronts the real reason for his reluctance to get to know Jesse: he feels like William is just distancing himself again by getting closer to someone he used to be comfortable with.

After all Randall and William have already been through, the former feels slighted and doesn't want William's half-hearted excuses again. He doesn't want to be placed on the back-burner in favor of comfort and familiarity. But what William confesses is even more painful than anything Randall could have imagined: his medicine has stopped working. Instead of feeling better, William constantly feels sick. Jesse has been taking him around to visit care facilities so that Randall doesn't have to watch him die.

While Randall is surprised by this news, unsurprising to us all is his unwillingness to let his father die alone. They are a family, however unconventional, and Randall will remain by William's side as long as William still has breath. It's a powerful final scene between Sterling K. Brown (who should have won the Globe for this role) and Ron Cephas. Their relationship feels so real, so raw, and so intense that each week, I forget Randall and William aren't real characters. William decides to stop chemotherapy, and you can tell that the decision breaks Randall's heart in two (and deeply hurts William, who is scared, sick, in pain, and also rapidly approaching the end of his life).

But sometimes — This Is Us reminds us — the right thing to do is also the most painful.

Stray thoughts & memorable quotes:
  • You might notice that I'm not Bibi. She's unable to continue to write This Is Us recaps, so I'll be taking over in her absence! Be patient with me as these may not be as timely as this week's was.
  • "I could ask." "They were pretty firm about it." "I could CRY." That's my life motto, really.
  • I don't say enough how amazing Milo Ventimiglia is as Jack. He always nails the emotional beats of the episode and the scene where Jack accidentally hears Rebecca crying was just so painfully real. (Bonus fun fact: I've just started my first ever binge-watch of Gilmore Girls, and I recently approached Jess' first episodes so now I appreciate young Milo and adult Milo!)
  • Beth and Randall are relationship goals. Seriously.
  • "What's wrong with Long Island?" "... I don't know, I've just heard other New Yorkers slam it and I wanted to fit in."
  • I love scenes where The Big Three are together. More please!
  • "I'm trying to be taking seriously for the first time in my adult life."
What did you think of this week's episode? Sound off in the comments below!


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