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Recap: 'This Is Us' Pulls an Unforgivable Trick On Its Viewers

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 20, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 20, 2019 |


We have not checked in on This Is Us in a few weeks, mostly because it’s been kind of uneventful since they found Uncle Nicky, who was apparently a MacGuffin to push Kevin off the wagon. He’s been drinking again, but he’s back at AA and, as of last night’s episode, four-days sober. However, I feel like it’s only a matter of time before he falls off again. He hasn’t yet hit rock bottom, and as his ex Sophie reminded him last night, Kevin has always gotten whatever he wants. His addiction has not cost him anything yet, and until he understands that there are consequences to his drinking besides judgmental stares and easy forgiveness, he doesn’t have much incentive to quit for good. This entire storyline is hewing close to formula, and it won’t end until it costs Kevin his relationship with Zoe, which is probably for the best, because 1) it’s a little too weird for Kevin to marry the cousin-sister of his adopted brother’s wife, and 2) Zoe honestly deserves better than a guy that doesn’t take his sobriety seriously and is clearly still hung up on Sophie.

Meanwhile, having had twin preemies, Kate and Toby’s storyline should be wildly effective on me, but it’s falling flat for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. The show is not quite capturing both the horror and fragility of that experience, nor the feeling of wanting more than anything to take the baby home but also finding the prospect of taking something so tiny home as terrifying as it should be. Instead, it’s falling back on the old, “I can’t connect with my newborn” and “what if I’m a lousy father” trope. We’ve all seen that storyline way too many times, and Toby isn’t bringing anything new to it.

The most interesting storyline, and the worst, is the wholesale character assassination of Randall, previously — along with Beth — the only reason to watch this show in the wake of Jack’s death. What the hell is this show doing? There are certain couples — Coach and Tami Taylor, Rob and Sharon on Catastrophe, Andy and April on Parks — that you just don’t f**k with. Has This Is Us learned nothing from the final season fiasco with Jim and Pam on The Office? Even if Beth and Randall don’t ultimately divorce (although, the flash forwards seem to be hinting at as much), this storyline — and that voice mail — will forever leave a stain on Randall.

“I’ve called you four times, Beth. What? Did you turn off your phone so you wouldn’t have to deal with me while you’re busy standing me up? *sarcastic laugh* You know, if you had told me something was this important to you, heaven and earth couldn’t have stopped me from being there, but maybe that’s the difference between us. I don’t know. I hope it was worth it, OK? I hope you’re off having fun talking about how to teach bored housewives how to twirl. Grow the hell up, Beth.”

That would have been nasty and character assassinating enough if Beth hadn’t arrived at the dinner party 20 minutes later after getting stuck in traffic during the course of a three-hour drive. The fact that she did show up? Well, here’s something I never, ever thought I’d say in the context of This Is Us, but “F**k you, Randall.” You have no right to put your career ahead of hers, and you sure as hell have no right to belittle her job. There was a study — I don’t know where I read it — that said that the biggest sign that a couple will divorce has nothing to do with the frequency of fighting. Fighting is a healthy part of marriage. It’s about whether there is resentment in their voices while they are fighting. Beth and Randall are firmly in the resentment stage.

Look: I’ll stick around to see if the writers can somehow, miraculously, pull themselves out of this hole, but if Beth and Randall — the heart and soul of this otherwise mediocre family drama — divorce, this show has nothing left for me except Saint Miguel. Saint Miguel is not enough by himself to keep me invested in this series. You just don’t destroy a perfect couple like Randall and Beth for the sake of some short-term drama over the long-term considerations of the characters. This show has forever tarnished Randall Pearson, and that is simply unforgivable.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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