Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Did This Is Us Save The Worst For 'Last Christmas'?

There are so many twists, Al Lowe is asking Santa for a whiplash brace this year.

Let's start with this: "Last Christmas" has some problems. First of all, why is it called "Last Christmas"? Were you also sitting there clutching a throw blanket, waiting for Jack to die? The Christmas we saw in the past wasn't his last Christmas; it was the Christmas when his kids were eight, and we know he lived until they were, at least, young teens. Sure, there are other people on the show for whom this could be Last Christmas -- it could easily be, and most likely is, William's last Christmas, and then, um, Toby (!!!) -- but Jack's last Christmas is the one we're all worrying about, right?

Secondly, there are so many huge stories going on, none of gets the attention it deserves. That must be what it's like to be a triplet, really, but watching it is narrative and emotional chaos, and by the end I felt strung out and bewildered. I found myself with questions inside of questions atop a bed of chopped questions, and here they are:

Kevin and Sloan: how long can it last?

I'm into them. She is cute and smart. Kate likes her. What's not to love? I'm a little confused that she was flipping out last week (or, a month ago, in the show's timeline) about her sister having a baby, and the only sister at her Hanukkah dinner was a bitchy shrew with two school-aged kids and no baby, and no third sister is mentioned. I know that, in the scheme of things, it doesn't matter, but...tighten up, show. Maybe we'll eventually find out she has a bunch of sisters. I don't know; it just bothered me.

Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Anyway, my actual question about Sloan and Kevin, who will now be thrown together to produce her play on their own using Kevin's money, is: how long will it take for Olivia to return and ruin everything? Just tell me now, because I already see where this could go and we might as well just cut to it. Hmm...Kevin and Sloan, against all odds, get their show up off-off-Broadway. Previews garner major buzz. Riding high from their success, they once again fall into bed. Sloan admits a depth of feeling she never expected to feel. Kevin, pausing, realizes his heart is beginning to awaken to new possibilities. Before he can say this out loud, though, OLIVIA WALKS IN. "Congratulations," she says, feebly. Sloan, off-camera, sings Wham's "Last Christmas," as a call-back to this episode. Kate punches Kevin in the face and becomes a hero to us all.

Why did we do the stuff with Dr. K?

Not that I disparage any use of Gerald McRaney, and I guess they thought they needed to show the family in the hospital waiting on Kate's appendix to come out, but...how weird is this segment? He was in a car wreck and is about to hemorrhage to death but has time to sit around talking and joking with the Pearsons? Meanwhile, Kate is having major abdominal surgery (it's routine, blah blah, but I've had it and it ain't a vacation), and all of them except Kevin seem to have forgotten her. (The little scene between the two kids as Kate was being wheeled into surgery was incredibly sweet.) That "Christmas magic in the branch" routine doesn't really work and is unnecessary, anyway -- the zinger we needed to remember was "Nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve," and that works on its own. Like the rest of the episode, it all could have used some streamlining.

Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Can Randall get a new job, please?

I need his next self-realization to be that his job sucks, because before I even get to the fact that he has to talk a coworker off the ledge, what is with Randall's boss forcing his employees to show up so that he can throw bonus checks into the air to make them pick up? Is it just to show the heightened pressure Andy is under? That whole sequence is too depressing for words, but of course Sterling K. Brown was amazing. Randall's new job should be as a hostage negotiator for the NYPD.

It's great that it seems to bring home to Randall that forgiving Rebecca (and William) is the healthy choice, but the scene is too intense just to drop so abruptly. Maybe they're trying to get away from overdoing the exposition, and I get that, but a line or two tying some of this stuff together would have helped in a few places, including this one.

Did Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore go to reverse family therapy together to prep this?

Because, looooord, they are getting that mother/daughter thing too damn right. We talked about this on this week's Extra Hot Great, and I hope you listen to it, because the Shit & Abuse Cycle is real and, as a mother of a daughter and a daughter of the mother of all mothers, I am at the bottom of this hell loop and it makes me wish I could live just one day as a man. Oh, to have a break from these feelings. Major kudos to both Metz and Moore for nailing the many-shaded tones in the meeting with the gastric bypass surgeon. Watching Kate deliver the classic "Mooooom-uh" as Rebecca keeps interrupting, and Rebecca's face as she processes decades of truths in about five seconds...it's too much. I would gladly have forgone all of that Dr. K stuff just to give them more time together.

William's gay. WILLIAM'S GAY?

Show, you got me. My emotions were kind of exploding during his "I saw a monkey on the street" monologue at the NA meeting, and then the incomparable Denis O'Hare shows up?! The second I peeped him in the back row, I braced myself, but the reveal of their relationship came as a complete surprise to me. (Did y'all know, by the way, that O'Hare is married to a gorgeous man who is black and that they adopted a son from the foster system? Cry with me.) His English accent of mysterious provenance notwithstanding, I immediately liked Jesse and appreciated that he was the bearer of the essential news that William's cat, Clooney, is alive and well and living with a crazy neighbor.

Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Ron Batzdorff / NBC

Randall's family's bemused acceptance of William's relationship seems kind of quick, but I mean, hell, there was almost no time left and this show loves a big twist at the end so, it's okay...wait...there are a few seconds left? What could possibly happen?

Hey, Toby. HEY! TOBY?!

It feels punitive! Like, we all sort of liked Toby and then hated him a little, for Kate's sake, but then he shows up on Christmas Eve ready to get real and liking him again is super-easy! Kate is so happy! They have sex in Randall's house, earning a Beth eyebrow raise! I was fully ready to get on board, so warmed was I by William's happiness and the glow of the rest of the family around the Christmas tree (even Miguel, who kept killing me with "Doug Fir"). And the dude starts sweating and keels over the coffee table? WHAT? So, bad things do happen on Christmas Eve. But, how bad will it be? And what will it mean for Kate? What will it mean for all of them?

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