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This Is Us - Three Sentences - Review

Blow up some balloons, put on pointy paper hats with an elastic chin strap and grab some cake. It’s the Big Three’s birthday.. and Jack’s.

In years past, the Pearson birthday has been immediate family only, full of things like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. For the big 1-0, however, the triplets want separate, yet simultaneous parties. Actually, Kate and Kevin want that. Randall doesn’t care. Because Randall. That kid is so go-with-the-flow. I keep waiting for the scene when he loses his mind, just because. Despite inviting his entire class, only 3 people show up for Randall’s magician party. “I don’t care. I have 3 really good friends. That’s a lot. And they all came to my party.” There’s a lesson in there for everyone, young and old. Kate’s Madonna party (my 80s-loving heart gets you, girl) draws more than Randall’s, but by the end of the day, she’s left alone, abandoned by her friends for Kevin. When pressed by Jack and Rebecca to send Kate’s bestie, Sophie, back to the Madonna party in the other room, Kevin responds that he can’t because he loves her. More on that later.

Now to present-day, non-birthday reality. Kate is questioning her decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery. She’s also officially engaged to Toby. Life comes as you fast. Toby’s health crisis scared Kate about surgery, so she decides to attend an “immersive weight loss experience” in New York instead. Sounds like a cult because, well, at times it kind of feels like it. The goal of the program is to get to what’s underneath the weight, emotionally. That’s something we’ve never necessarily seen. Sure, we’ve gotten glimpses of it over the last dozen episodes, but it’s possible Kate doesn’t even fully know. After just a few hours, Kate is ready to leave. She eventually decides to give it a go, attending a cardio drumming class. Flashes of moments from her life pass before her: when she first notices her mother wears a smaller size than she does, the nasty note calling her a pig from her “friends” at the pool, a happy moment with Jack at her Madonna party… and her father’s funeral. Yes. We FINALLY get a look at Jack’s funeral. I’ll touch on this a bit more in a minute, but back to cardio drumming, all of these moments surge up, coming out of Kate in a scream that even she’s not expecting. It’s a “come to Jesus” moment for her, and she realizes she actually could get something, both physically and emotionally, out of the experience.

Another factor that’s sure to play out over the next few episodes: Duke. Duke is a surly, terse dude who takes care of the horses at the camp. He’s a self-proclaimed dick, to give you an idea of his sparkling personality. Duke takes a liking to Kate, coming on super strong in the same way a 2x4 smacks you in the face. He’s calls her “sexy as hell” and rattles off his cabin number, even though she tells him she’s engaged. “You don’t see it yet, but this? This is happening,” Duke confidently boasts. “Ohhhh, but it’s not,” Kate retorts. “Ohhhh, but it is,” Duke replies. That conversation is the scripted TV drama equivalent of buckling up your seatbelt. Game on. Now I’m a huge Toby fan. I’m also a Toby and Kate fan. However, I admit I don’t like that they’re already engaged. It seems too fast, which is probably the point. Duke, however much he wants to make me shower after hearing him talk, could be good for Kate… or the Kate/Toby storyline. Do I want Kate with Duke? No. Not yet, at least. Do I want Kate to cheat on Toby? Absolutely not. But I do like the idea of angst in their relationship. It’ll also give them an idea about how committed they are to each other and, eventually, could make their relationship stronger.

Adult Kevin is having a bit of a crisis, as only Kevin can. The ladies man is having some lady problems. Does he want Olivia? Does he want Sloane? Even Kevin doesn’t know… which should probably tell him something, but, well, it’s Kevin. At Kate’s urging, Kevin takes Toby out for drinks, but in true Kevin fashion, everything turns back around to himself, and he dumps his love problems on Toby. Toby, who’s supposed to be the one receiving support, instead turns into Mr. Matchmaker. He makes Kevin close his eyes and think of 3 grand sentences he’d say to the love of his life. Kevin opens his eyes with a clear realization as to who that great love is. Most viewers assume it’s either Olivia or Sloane, but when the door to Kevin’s true love opens, it’s a woman we’ve never seen before. It’s Sophie. Yes, THAT Sophie. Kate’s best friend, Sophie. The girl 10-year-old Kevin said he was in love with, Sophie. Not only that, their conversation on Sophie’s doorstep reveals that the two were married and that they haven’t seen each other in 12 years. Kevin pouring his heart out in 3 sentences (more or less) was one of the rare times we see the real Kevin. Not the famous actor or the selfish brother or the forever-looking-for-Misses-Right-Now guy, but the true Kevin. His heart. Sophie agrees to meet up with Kevin at some point, which means this scene is just the beginning of this storyline. There’s plenty of material to explore. What was their relationship like as teens? When did they get married? What happened to their relationship and what’s happened in the last decade? Are their marriage and divorce the reason why Kevin is who he is today when it comes to women? “You always have to go big, don’t you, Pearson,” Sophie laughingly laments. “For you, Sophie. Always,” replies Kevin. We then come full circle, going back to the triplets’ 10th birthday… Jack’s first grand gesture for Sophie. Now realizing that Kevin married and later divorced Kate’s best friend, I wonder if that ever had an effect on their relationship as siblings. It clearly did when they were 10, and I assume it only did as they grew. The good thing about this show is I have every confidence that they’ll explore the various aspects. We also have a full 2 more seasons to find out, thanks to NBC.

As Kevin tries to fight his love battle, Randall is in the fight of his career. He’s being challenged by another co-worker over an account they both want. Both men are told to come up with a plan by the end of the week. Randall ups the ante by saying he’ll have it the next morning. Like he has throughout his life, Randall is constantly trying to prove himself and his worth. He even has to convince his boss that he should be given a shot at the new account. This is a career-defining moment for him; 24 hours when he needs to focus on nothing but work.. so, of course, it’s when William walks in. He’s on a chemo boost, ready to take on the world. William wants Randall’s help over a “quick” lunch break. That break eventually turns into a full afternoon, as they go from shops to restaurants. It culminates in a parking lot, and Randall quickly learns the lunch is so much more. He's helping William live out a fantasy. William’s entire life, he's wanted to be like the owner of a record shop he knew as a kid: wearing sunglasses, listening to his favorite music, sipping his favorite drink and sitting behind the wheel of a flashy car. It's a bucket list moment. He gets that moment, thanks to Randall. Not only does Randall let William sit in the driver’s seat, he teaches him how to drive around the parking lot. At a time when every minute of that day should be spent on work, he makes his father’s dream come true. Ever since he was a child, Randall has always put family first above his own wishes and desires. From only 3 kids showing up at his birthday party to William unexpectedly showing up at work, Randall is always go-with-the-flow Randall. I like that we see how the personalities of each of the Big Three play out from childhood into adulthood. Will this day negatively impact Randall’s job? We don’t yet know. However, that day, his time was best spent making his dying father’s dreams come true.

As I mentioned earlier, this episode is the first we’ve seen of Jack’s funeral. We see the family lined up at the cemetery, holding hands. It looks like the kids are in their late teens. We still don’t know what killed Jack, but that’s what this show does so well. It offers little glimpses into storylines, giving us a single puzzle piece at a time without showing the entire puzzle.

Other things:

--Jack and Kate “voguing” was a-dor-a-ble. Every girl should be so lucky to have such an involved father.

--Rebecca, as Jack tries to convince her that they should have another baby: “Do you remember what happened the last time we tried to have a kid? We came home with 3.”

--Toby to Kevin, as he’s describing a man’s grand gesture of love: “The end of ‘Notting Hill’ completely falls apart if Hugh Grant thinks that Julia Roberts is just kinda a’ight. Then he’s just kind of annoying her at a press conference.”

--Toby, also to Kevin: “It’s hard to believe we’re even the same species.”

What was your favorite scene? What’s your feeling about Duke? Do you think Kevin and Sophie will get back together? Do you have any guesses as to how Jack died?

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