A This Is Us Thanksgiving Reminds Us That All Families Are Crazy In Their Own Way
And we might as well be thankful for it.
It's Thanksgiving in America. Smell the bittersweet flopsweat wafting down our nation's highways as we all steel ourselves for hours of driving or hours of cooking or hours of clean-up. I so sincerely love my family, but, this year more than ever before, the idea of going through these motions is about as appealing as oyster dressing congealing next to Jell-O "salad." Still, I'm thankful that This Is Us is not afraid to stick its hand right up the butt of this turkey of a holiday and tell it like it is. So, in honor of the coming gorge, let's rank the most satisfying parts of this deliciously rich episode, from yuck to yum.
- Olivia: Reminding Us Why We Left England In The First Place
Get my show outcha mouth, limey. You're ruining everything. OMG, we don't need the "I'm a bitch until I realize I can't do better and then suddenly kiss you when you least expect it" moment! Not HERE. Not on this great show! Frankly, and I am not even a crackpot, we don't need a Kevin love interest yet at all! Why is this chick on my screen? There's enough going on and enough yet to learn that I'd rather see him going through meaningless model sex for the next two seasons than get on the back foot chasing after a woman who is more emotionally unavailable than he is. That stuff is tired. We're in the New Golden Age over here!
If we must be forced to waste time on Kevin's dating life, why not have it be Kevin recognizing that he's ready to put someone's interests on the same level as his own, and having that someone be worthy of his sacrifice? Because Olivia ain't. The character is already a cliché, but that she's British is somehow like adding raisins to an oatmeal cookie and y'all KNOW the Previously.TV policy on raisins!
- Not The Magical Black Man!
Come on. Thus far, they've walked a fine line on this trope with William and avoided that Bagger Vance thing we all dread, but leave it to Olivia to push William behind the metaphorical wheel and turn him into Morgan Freeman doling out the wisdom on Thanksgiving Day. Not that what he says isn't true -- life is to be lived while the living is good -- but he wouldn't even have to be saying it if Olivia wasn't there, so...this is basically just an extension of my Olivia rage above. I see that now.
But since we're taking about it: let's not relegate the brilliant Ron Cephas Jones to the role of generator of life lessons. I want them to stay with the hard work of reconciling his choice to place Randall for adoption, and Randall's own grappling with the reasons and brutal realities around that, and hope that we at least get some acknowledgment from Rebecca that taking the path of least resistance on that score was not the best choice as a long-range plan.
- The Legend Of "Pilgrim Rick"
The whole out-of-the-box reimagining of the Thanksgiving trip to grandma's house: this was a work of art. In practice, Pilgrim Rick, himself, was reading a lot creepier than anyone surely intended, but I loved the whole thing from the hike to the crackers to the annual hooking up of the VCR to watch Police Academy 2. What I did not love was Miguel horning in on the scene like a Johnn-come-lately trying to soak up the grandchildren love. Was Kevin's acquiescence supposed to tip me that Miguel is, in fact, deserving of my acceptance as part of the Pearson family? If so, consider that tip roundly ignored!
First of all, Miguel, stay in your lane. The girls think of you as their grandfather, already -- just take that and be happy with it and know your place. Maybe you can rise to the occasion now that Rebecca is about to be in the ish with Randall. Then and ONLY then will you merit a spot in the Thanksgiving Hat Rotation!
- Rebecca's Triumph
No, it isn't when she got her children out the door and into the car for this Hell Trip. It isn't when she finds a replacement cranberry sauce on a holiday when no grocery store would be open in the wilds of Pennsylvania. It isn't even when she hustles her family through the dark woods to shelter.
It's that moment, on that payphone -- that moment we all deserve -- when she frees herself from the bondage of tyranny and calls off the Family Thanksgiving Day Charade. Yes, she should have done it sooner, like .02 seconds after Randall stated aloud that his grandparents openly edge him out of family photos, but: we've seen the strains she has grown under as the child of her own parents. We're getting a clue as to how her missteps and self-sabotage have affected her and her own children. I can only pray that her "we're not coming" is the first of many breaks with a dysfunctional past that lead to better things for her, as a wife and mom.
- Chrissy Metz & Sterling K. Brown
These two are setting the bar so high for all of TV right now, I feel like I could write a thousand more words about each.
Let it suffice to say that seeing Kate reject Toby to choose herself is an unexpected and winning moment, and Chrissy Metz is Streep-calibre in her heart-wrenching and honest portrayal of those emotions. I wanted to call it out specifically because what, in any other show, would have been a singular sensation, is nearly overshadowed completely when we get to Randall's evisceration of Rebecca's dinner.
After watching Sterling K. Brown leap joyfully through the Pearson Thanksgiving traditions, so happy to be with his family and his biological father, so giddily deciding to go and get William's tapes of his musical friends, only to then agonizingly bring this high of highs down to such a crushing low for Randall? Who has spent his whole life trying to do the right thing, all while seeking what feels like his real place in the world? That one minute of Brown at the head of table is going to be with me for a long time. I saw real tears in Mandy Moore's and Ron Cephas Jones's eyes, and who can blame them? I'm almost scared to find out what happens next week between these excellent characters, but thankful to have it to look forward to.