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This Is Us - The Pool / The Game Plan - Double Review

29 Oct 2016

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The Pool

The Pool was a very interesting and thought-provoking episode that explored a lot of issues that you don’t see on TV that often. In this episode alone, themes such as racial discrimination, bullying, and mental health issues were examined.

Once again, we’re checking in on Rebecca and Jack raising eight-year-olds Kate, Kevin, and Randall. They all gang up on Rebecca and convince her to go to the pool because it’s too hot in the house. Jack promises a relaxing experience with enough pool chairs for them all to lounge comfortably. It turns out to be anything but this. The pool is filled with screaming children and there’s barely even one chair for them all to sit on. Jack spends most of his time chasing down free chairs, which provided some much needed comic relief for an episode that was otherwise pretty serious. Rebecca is spending a lot of time worrying about either Kate or Randall. Kate is in a bikini and Rebecca is worried that other kids will make fun of her. A group of girls do write a mean note saying they don’t want to hang out with Kate because she embarrasses them and Kate spends most of her time feeling sad and rejected. Kate is such a cute, excitable little girl and seeing that slowly being crushed while knowing that as an adult much of that spirit is gone, is pretty hard to watch. However, there’s a very cute moment between Jack and Kate at the end where he loans her his magic t-shirt so she can become a princess, even though he says that to him she already is one. It’s pretty adorable. Randall ends up running off and Rebecca spends most of her time searching for him. She ends up finding him being watched by an African-American mother, who has some friction with Rebecca when she suggests Rebecca needs help to learn how to raise an African-American child. Rebecca gets very defensive, which is understandable but she also ends up coming around and asking for advice and if their children can have play dates sometimes. I’m really looking forward to seeing the development of the relationship between this woman and Rebecca and also between her and Randall. While all this is going on, Kevin is left alone and basically forgotten. It seems like there’s a lot of sibling rivalry from this young age. Kevin ends up almost drowning because no one is watching him or notices. I really do feel for him and I actually feel more of a connection to young Kevin than present day Kevin. Jack and Rebecca are so obsessed with Kate’s weight, and making sure Randall feels included, and meanwhile Kevin is just so “normal” that he and his problems are kind of forgotten. Jack talks to him and admits that he should have been watching and that he’s sorry. This seems to smooth things over and after this episode, I can say that Jack really seems like a great father. Watching him comfort Kate and Kevin was really heart-warming and shows how much he cares, which is sort of a turnaround from when we last saw him out at the bar during bedtime. By the end of their pool trip, they only have one chair and they’re all cuddled up on it but they look so happy and content. It was just so fitting because that’s kind of how they deal with everything. Even though things don’t go exactly how they plan they still get through it together and that’s all that matters.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Kevin has just moved to New York and is starting to finding his way in a new city. I loved how he casually video called Randall, it shows that even though they don’t have a great relationship they’re still comfortable with each other. Besides wanting to reconnect with Randall and his family, Kevin is busy going to his first theatre audition. It goes pretty badly and it was awkward to watch. However, I did feel a bit of a connection between him and the actress he was reading lines with. After the audition, she gets a drink with him and gives him some advice to go back to LA. At this exact moment, she finds out that they’re giving Kevin the part and she's really mad. It’s pretty obvious they’re going to make these two a thing. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.

This episode also had some drama between William and Randall. Up until this point, William has been welcomed into the family with very little conflict, despite all the issues that need to be worked through. It all started when William got reported to security by people in the neighborhood during his daily walk. Randall lives in a very white neighborhood and people thought William was suspicious. When Randall talks to security he just dismisses the issue and William wanted him to stand up to his neighbors and call them out. Randall later confronts William about his judgment of being raised in a white household because William was a big activist during his younger days. This leads to a very honest conversation between them where Randall shares that growing up he wondered if every Black man he saw was his father and how difficult that was for him. William apologizes and tells Randall that he’s done everything right. I loved this scene because it addressed a lot of issues that they needed to work through and made their relationship feel more real. I already loved and believed in their relationship but not every scene can be cute and heart-warming, there does have to be some conflict and this was a very authentic way to incorporate that.

During this episode, we also learned a lot more about Toby. It turns out, he has an ex-wife and much to Kate’s surprise, she’s gorgeous. This makes Kate feel really insecure so she goes a bit crazy and starts cyber stalking her. This then turns into borderline actual stalking, when Kate goes into the store his ex-wife owns and pretends to be there for a job interview. For some reason, Kate doesn’t think this is super weird and she tells Toby she got the job at his ex-wife’s store. Up until this point, we’ve only seen Toby as this lovable teddy bear who treats Kate so well and seems to not have a care in the world. Obviously, we knew this couldn’t be true because everyone has issues, but in this episode, we finally got a glimpse of Toby’s. He shares that his ex-wife ruined his life and is kind of the reason that he gained a lot of weight and she even made him feel suicidal. Toby puts on a brave face but he has a lot of problems too and it was nice to finally get some insight into that. It makes me love him even more now that he’s been more vulnerable and we’ve learned more about his history.

This was a really powerful episode that tackled a lot of important issues. In a lot of ways, I thought this was the most compelling episode so far, even though there wasn’t a really big, shocking reveal. I feel even closer to every character after learning more about their history and struggles and I'm looking forward to finding out even more.

The Game Plan

This episode has been touted in promos as the most emotional episode yet so I had very high expectations. Although I didn’t find it to be that emotional, at least in comparison to previous episodes, I’m happy that we finally know Jack's fate.

One of my favorite aspects of this episode was the interactions between Kevin and William. Now that Kevin is in New York he’s been staying with Randall instead of at his fancy hotel. Randall and Beth let him know that he’s kind of overstaying his welcome so Randall helps himself to Kevin’s unused hotel room for a much-needed date night with Beth. This leaves Kevin and William to babysit together. Kevin is so wrapped up trying to learn his lines that he has the girls and William reading parts with him. This gets him into all sorts of trouble because the play tackles some pretty grown-up ideas about life, death, and the afterlife. The girls don’t really grasp these ideas and Kevin doesn’t explain it very well so he ends up really upsetting them when he says that William will probably die soon. Kevin feels really bad about what he said and his life in general right now so William has a cute heart-to-heart with him. William tells him that he has to stop doubting himself so much and that he saw him on The Manny and thinks he’s really talented and should believe in himself more. It’s a really sweet moment that I wasn’t expecting and further emotionally invested me in William and his relationships. I also really loved Kevin’s monologue about life at the end of the episode. I think so far, Kevin is my least favorite character because I just haven’t been able to connect with him yet. However, this scene really made me appreciate him and gave his character more depth.

Meanwhile, while Kevin and William are babysitting, Beth and Randall are trying to enjoy their night out of the house. Randall is super excited but Beth seems less into it. We find out why when she tells him that she thinks she might be pregnant again. She’s been too scared to take a test so they buy one and take it together. At first, Randall is kind of upset because he’s had a secret plan of taking an early retirement and moving to Charleston when the girls go away to school. But Beth is also worried about a pregnancy’s effect on her life. She was planning on going back to work and this could totally throw off her plans. I love Beth more and more each week. I especially loved when they were arguing in the store and she shut him down as he was complaining about how this would affect him. As they wait for the results of the test, they work through their issues and come to terms with possibly having another kid, and they even seem like they get a bit hopeful. When they finally look at the test results, they’re both very relieved when it reveals that she’s not pregnant.

Beth and Randall’s pregnancy scare sort of mirrored what we see Rebecca and Jack discussing during their parts of the episode. The Game Plan introduces us to life for Rebecca and Jack before they had kids and we also learn a little bit about their childhood’s. Rebecca is convinced to not end up like her mom spending her life watching Jack watch football so she gets Jack to teach her all about it. Pretty soon she’s an expert and a bigger fan than he is! Their favorite team is the Pittsburg Steelers, who play a big role in this episode. The Steelers are in the Super Bowl and there’s a big event at the bar where Rebecca sings. Jack and Rebecca meet up with Miguel and his wife Shelley to watch the game at the bar. Now that we’ve met Miguel’s wife I wonder what happened to her? Miguel and Shelley already have kids at this point and seem to be really overwhelmed. At multiple points in the episode, Rebecca makes comments to Jack about how they’re never having kids after seeing the struggle of their friends. This concerns Jack because he actually does want kids. Instead of waiting to discuss this later or at home, Jack brings it up at the bar during the game, which is so awkward. What was surprising to me, though, was that they were already married at this time and they hadn’t talked about this that in depth before? It’s kind of an important topic. Anyways, they get in a big fight and spend the rest of the game separately. Rebecca even misses the winning play in the game because she’s sitting outside by herself. Immediately after the game, Jack goes outside to talk to Rebecca and explains that as a child his father loved football so much that he felt loved less and whenever he watched his dad forced him to sit quietly. From then on, Jack vowed that if he had kids he would watch football with his kids and let them be as loud as they wanted. They end up making up, with Rebecca agreeing that she does picture them having kids, she just isn't ready to give up her life, and Jack conceding that she’s enough for him and they don’t need to have kids.

Continuing with this Steelers focused episode, Kate is really excited to watch the Steelers game and lets Toby know that she won’t be available because of the game. He offers to watch with her but she very clearly says that she always watches by herself. Because Toby just can’t let it go, he makes a cute little invite to come to a “party” at his house and watch the game so Kate agrees. When she goes over to his place to watch, she finds that he invited one of his friends and that they don’t really care as much about the game as she does. Toby keeps pausing it and talking, which really annoys her and I can totally relate to her feelings. She made it very clear that watching this game was super important to her and he just doesn’t get it. I don't understand him. He’s so over-the-top attentive for so many things but then can be so clueless about this. His behavior in this episode just doesn't match up with everything else that I’ve seen from him and I thought it was a little strange. I still love him though. Anyways, Kate ends up leaving to watch the game at her place and afterward, Toby comes over to ask about what he did wrong. Kate explains that ever since she was little, she’s watched Steeler games with her dad and when she moved to LA she stopped. However, one year they were in the playoffs and Super Bowl so she decided to watch with him again. Then came the moment we’ve all been waiting for. When Toby says he’d love to meet her dad, she brings over an urn - Jack is dead. I’ve been ready for this moment for weeks now, so it wasn’t that surprising but to have it confirmed was pretty sad. Kate has continued watching Steeler games with Jack this way ever since he died, that’s why she always watches by herself at her house, because that’s where her dad is. It’s sweet but also kind of weird. I wonder why she gets to keep the ashes and not Rebecca. Even though now we know that Jack is dead, there are still so many questions about what happened between him and Rebecca.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. I loved seeing Kevin and Randall’s continued interactions and I thinks it’s cute how brotherly they are with each other even though they aren’t really that close. I feel like Kate is too separate from everyone and I really can’t wait to see a scene between all three siblings. I still think the phone call with all of them was one of the best scenes so far and I’m looking forward to how much better an in-person scene could be.

What did you think of these episodes? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

About the Author - Kate Sidwell
Kate is a 25 year old, USA based, Psychology/Public Health Researcher - but that’s just her day job! In her spare time she is an avid TV watcher (some may even say addict!!). Some of her favorite shows are Jane the Virgin, Bates Motel, The Flash, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Rookie Blue, Silicon Valley, Beauty and the Beast, Sleepy Hollow, The 100, The Mindy Project, Pretty Little Liars, Once Upon a Time, The Royals, Orphan Black…so pretty much too many to count and a huge variety! She’ll give pretty much any show a chance! She also devotes a lot of time to her tumblr ( where you can find her reviewing and commenting on most of these shows and just generally fangirling! She’s excited to be writing for SpoilerTV on Complications, Baby Daddy, Proof, Switched at Birth, Secrets and Lies, and Minority Report!
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