I feel terrible about this because I loved him so much in Psych and even more so in Galavant, but I didn’t realize that Timothy Omundson had had a stroke back in April 2017. He’s been recuperating for the last two and a half years, and the writers of This Is Us specifically wrote a recurring role for him on the series to mirror his real-life recovery.
In “Unhinged,” Omundson plays the grumpy new neighbor of Kate and Toby, who move out into the suburbs to raise Jack. Omundson’s character confronts Kate in their first days in their new home and repeatedly complains that Toby’s car is blocking the sidewalk. When he complains again, Kate is having a bad day after having discovered that Toby has been secretly doing CrossFit at the gym and losing a ton of weight behind her back. “I’m really not in the mood for your stupid curb drama,” Kate says.
“Sorry you’re having a bad day,” Omundson’s character replies. “I had a massive stroke two and a half years ago. Almost punched my ticket. Had to relearn how to do everything. Had to learn how to walk, talk, even relearn how to chew and swallow. I finally did it, though. And a week later, I lost my job. My only goal right now is to be able to walk just one pathetic mile, so every morning I walk around this block. I’m not fast, but I do it, unless your husband blocks the sidewalk with his car. If he does it again tomorrow, I’m keying his car.”
And that is how a friendship is forged between Kate and Omundson’s character, who end the episode walking around the block together. (It’s another lousy weight episode for Kate, who is too often defined by it on This Is Us, but I’ll forgive it for introducing Omundson’s character, who I hope we see a lot more of in the weeks to come).
Meanwhile, back in the ’90s (which look like the ’70s), Jack gets fired from his job for making a colossal mistake, but (Saint) Miguel sticks up for him and threatens to walk out if his boss fires Jack. It’s the episode’s thematic throughline: Stick by your friends. It’s what Randall does, too, in the present. He inherits a veteran, experienced staff member in his new job as a city councilor, who uses her wisdom to tell Randall that he has to fire his Chief of Staff, Jae-won, because Jae-won is both too naive for the job, and too much of a friend to Randall to be honest with him. It seems like Randall is considering the move, but ultimately, he fires her and sticks by his friend, because that’s what you do as a Pearson. You stick with the ones who brought you.
Back in the ’90s/’70s, meanwhile, Kevin shows up for Randall when Randall has his first panic attack after a Black teacher Randall admires writes him up for wearing Air Jordans to school. For Randall, it feels like a betrayal. Kevin, meanwhile, signs the pink slip in lieu of their parents, and then — continuing to work off the season-long theme where Randall often feels out of place as a Black member of a white family — Kevin rallies the family together that night to watch an episode of Arsenio. Jack relents and allows it, because he understands there’s something deeper at play here than just watching a late-night talk show.
In the present, Kevin also shows up for Uncle Nicky, who we find out was doing very well in recovery until the VA relocated his therapist. That is what provoked Nicky to throw a chair through the window of an AA meeting in the episode two weeks ago. In helping Nicky in his recovery process, Kevin encounters Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) twice more, and the two do not get off on the right foot, largely owing to the fact that Kevin strikes up a friendship with her nine-year-old son during her therapy session. She thinks it’s creepy.
However, during an AA meeting at the end of the episode, which Kevin forces Nicky to attend, Kevin finds himself worrying in front of the group that he’s going to derail his career and end up on AARP ads, which cracks Cassidy up, which in turn sends Nicky into a giggling fit, which spreads to Kevin until the three of them are booted from the meeting for their inability to control their laughter. It’s a cute moment.
In another lovely sibling moment, Deja shows up in Tess’ bedroom after having learned that the boy she is crushing on has a kid of his own. It’s not played for dramatic effect, but as a nice bonding moment between sisters. “Do you still like him?” Tess asks. “I don’t know. It’s complicated,” Deja responds. “You know, you seemed pretty complicated, too, when you showed up.” Likewise, Tess confides in Deja that she couldn’t stop herself from lying to a new classmate and saying that a boy was hot, even though she’s a lesbian. “I don’t know why I said it, and it sucks,” Tess says. And then the two bond over how much Randall and Beth hover, and why it is both a blessing and a curse.
The entire episode is This Is Us at its best, playing not off of big dramatic turns, but off of small but genuine character moments. It’s a sweet and relaxed episode that doesn’t try to manipulate its audience into crying. It’s just a nice picture of good people providing support for their friends and family members, illustrating the value of support systems in our lives. I probably won’t remember the details of this episode in a week, but it’s nevertheless one of the warmest and most confident episodes of its run.
Header Image Source: NBC