This Is Us 213 – That’ll Be The Day

So hard to watch! We all know what’s coming, but we still have to watch our beloved characters plow ahead into their fractured futures. We’ll be back after the Super Bowl, assuming we don’t need professional emotional support. Damn you, Crock-pot!

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5 thoughts on “This Is Us 213 – That’ll Be The Day

  1. Hello Caroline & Paul–

    Sorry for the slow response. I’m writing on the fateful day when we find out the details of Jack’s death. Are we ready? I’m not sure I really want to see this episode. Our house in Maine burned down in 1998. We weren’t home, but we lost our beloved cats and our 4-year old developed PTSD from having everything familiar torn away at such a young age. Fires alone are traumatic, plus they lose wonderful Jack??? Here we go, ready or not…

    On behalf of Kevin Pearson and myself, thank you for your very personal and detailed response to my last comment! We appreciate it. I feel more relaxed listening to the podcast knowing that Caroline is willing to look at Kevin with new eyes and Paul will hold back the snark because he doesn’t want to turn off listeners! Fair enough.

    Yes, absolutely, the writers give Kevin different treatment than Randall (and even Kate). That’s precisely why I find him more interesting. I have six brothers and no sisters so I grew up in a house full of boys—my brothers and all their friends. I knew them as young boys, tweens, sullen teenagers, young men, family men and now they are all aging. They came of age in the same era as Kevin and were athletes like Kevin. For the most part, their ability to identify and express their emotions was limited. My parents were caring and well-meaning, but busy. I found that if I spent time with my brothers, one to one, they would talk to me and I would learn how they saw things, what hurt their feelings, what they needed to feel appreciated, what really ticked them off, etc.

    When I saw that scene on the Jack/Kevin/Randall camping trip—when Jack comes into the tent and asks Kevin why he is acting out and Kevin covers his face and says “I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT”–that rang so true to me. Kevin did listen to Jack however. Jack told him he needed to be a good brother and Kevin’s behavior improved—Jack found the boys bonding around the campfire if I recall correctly. But the key thing is that Kevin couldn’t tell his father what was bothering him. He had already told him so many times. Like when he almost drowned at the pool because no one was watching him (even though they promised they would). Mom had run after Randall—again. And Jack was distracted by Kate and the mean girls—again.

    You mentioned the scene when Rebecca lays down on the floor to sleep next to Kevin. Of course she does—she’s doing her best to be a great Mom! She also brought food out to Kevin when he was sitting out on the porch. But do these things erase all the slights and isolation that Kevin felt during that family vacation? Did Kevin even know Rebecca was there on the floor? What do 9 year olds remember? We like to think our kids remember the thousands of things we do because we love them, but what are the things that stand out? Perhaps that the family went on vacation without us and then we got accused of stealing our brother’s glasses because we are “the bad one”?

    The writers definitely give Randall the “Emmy reel” treatment. Sterling K. Brown is great, no doubt. But, really? He came into the family in such a dramatic way. Then Rebecca has trouble bonding with him, which she feels guilty about, so she overcompensates forevermore. Then Randall is super smart. And super sweet. And super cooperative. And keeps a notebook about how to get Kevin to like him. And he has an anxiety disorder, yes, but it’s about NOT BEING PERFECT ENOUGH. And he turns out to be highly motivated as well as highly intelligent. Gets into Harvard but chooses a HBCU instead, very self aware. And he finds a perfect wife there. And has a perfect marriage. And rises to the top of his perfect job. And has two perfect children. And finds his birth father—who is an amazing person—long recovered from his addiction–a poet/musician/dispenser of wisdom. And now Randall is a crusader for low income housing? So he can partner with his perfect wife, like his perfect parents wanted to with Big Three Construction? I just don’t find perfect Randall all that compelling because we are basically told how to feel about him. I’m more interested in what is hiding beneath the surface with Kevin.

    In present day (well, maybe before recent budget cuts), a family expecting triplets would be followed very closely as high-risk and offered many follow-up services. With the death of one triplet and adoption of Randall, even more services would follow. Rebecca and Jack would have home visits from nurses, lactation consultants, medical social workers, infant mental health specialists, early intervention/developmental specialists, parenting educators, grief support, respite providers, adoption social workers, etc. At least that’s how it would work in New England where I did this kind of work. In Rebecca and Jack’s era it looks like they are on their own with no support, and no extended family. That’s insane!!! I’m sure you two can relate much better than most with your twins and your third child coming along quickly.

    I think Rebecca, as the at home parent, must have done an amazing job. Then Jack, fortified by a few drinks after work, came in for the evening shift and showered the kids with love, affection, fun and also did hands-on parenting tasks. But as Rebecca said—“Kevin, you were always so strong, we didn’t think we needed to worry about you.” If they had that infant mental health person, parenting educator, extended family members to give them perspective, then perhaps Kevin wouldn’t have become so bratty, resentful and prone to acting out. Because no, Paul, I don’t believe children come into the world ready to be bad actors. Maybe there is that rare baby with a very difficult temperament, but that’s not Kevin. Kevin is the kid who gave up all his Halloween candy to protect Kate’s feelings and didn’t want any praise for it. Kevin is the kid who was true blue loyal and in love with Sophie from age 9, even though he could have been a “player” in high school. His personality and acting out was shaped through his experiences. Could he have risen above? Yes, but most people don’t when they feel like the fifth wheel in their own family from a young age. I learned from my brothers that many men are very tender-hearted and easily hurt. We don’t raise healthy men by saying “suck it up buttercup.” I think this is where emotionally insecure/immature/volatile men come from.

    I’m glad Kevin is finally taking an honest look at himself at almost age 40. That’s very very late in my opinion, and that is totally on Kevin. Talk about avoidance behavior! Once Kevin became famous as “The Manny” everyone seemed to see him as that character. Even in rehab I think all that “Hey Buddy, what’s happening!” type behavior was a front—everywhere he goes, that’s what people expect of him. He can either fulfill that role or be labeled as a stuck-up cranky celebrity. Not much of a choice.

    At any rate, I do think people need to take responsibility for their behavior when they become adults. But again, the Pearson kids were traumatized at age 17, and Kevin got a double dose. Perhaps Kevin turned to acting because he wanted to become someone else??? Maybe being Kevin, looking closely at himself after Jack’s death was just too painful because of his guilt? Maybe we will have more answers after tonight. Kevin sure is deeply attached to Jack’s necklace—even though he refuses to talk about his father. I think he’s been stumbling around in the dark, not really understanding the root of his unhappiness or what he is looking for. To me, he’s just more layered than a spelled-out character like Randall.

    Wow, I think way too much about this TV show! What if I decide to bother you with my thoughts about Kate????

    Thanks for listening and for your podcast. It’s the best of the This is Us offerings.

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