Last week brought a couple of medium explosions–Randall finding out about Malik’s baby, and the fact that Kevin and Sophie got married at age 18. This week was calmer, but I still felt like the writers were setting us up for some SERIOUS future drama. Anyone else scared spitless by teen Kate’s skeevy older boyfriend, Mark? Something very bad happened there, and so far we just know about the beginning of their relationship and many years after the fact. Uh oh. Also…I think the seeds were planted for another breakdown for Randall. But at what cost to his marriage and family?
Here’s my breakdown of this food-centered, bombshell-seeding episode:
1980: Rebecca preps for her first dinner at her and Jack’s new home. She’s eating for three already, though by the looks of her little baby bump the triplets are a way off yet. Jack is his perfectly imperfect self, rummaging through boxes for her, assembling a table for her, and generally being adorable and supportive. Honestly, that man has the nicest head of hair.
1998: The “first dinner” story of the Pearsons, pre-triplets, is woven artfully with a very different dinner party, years later. It’s the first nice dinner in Rebecca’s new home, her first since their house burned and Jack died. As it turns out, everyone is bringing a plus one for this super awkward celebration of Kevin and Sophie’s marriage, you know, “five years after puberty.” Everyone except Rebecca. Although, as Kate snarkily puts it, Miguel is over so much he might as well bring a sleeping bag. Hmmm. What’s going on there? And that creepy little flash to Kate making out with her TWENTY-THREE-YEAR-OLD boss. There’s something off about that guy. My mama Spidey senses are tingling.
2019: Last we saw Randall, his head was exploding over the revelation that Deja was dating somebody’s father. Okay, so a teen father, but still. Deja is not impressed with being told that’s not okay. When Randall cheerfully offers her cereal in her favorite ratio–1/3 Cornflakes to 2/3 Cheerios, she balks. “You think cereal is going to make me forget you treat me like a child who can’t make her own decision about who to date?” Obviously, that scene is a bookmark for that ongoing story.
So much delicious banter this week:
Toby, re the impending baby gift: “I’d love a hot tub.”
Kate: For a baby?
Kevin, probably not having uttered a syllable in all of three minutes as he and Uncle Nicky sit and have coffee outside their respective trailers: “Quiet’s nice, huh?”
Uncle Nicky, whom I ADORE: “It was.”
Uncle Nicky: “You have a strange relationship with people.”
Kevin: “That is the nicest thing you have ever said to me.”
I am absolutely loving their relationship. It’s like snippets of a buddy movie with oddball opposites (Abbott and Costello, Turner and Hooch, etc) every single scene they are in together. We find out that “he liked ice cream” is not a Jack story, or a story, period, but Kevin uses it as a jumping-off point to tell his own Jack story. Jack used to cut icecream in slices, not scoops.
Hot sauce, anyone? 1980 Jack nibbles string cheese with hot sauce as an hors-d’oeuvre (I admit, I tried and failed to spell it on my own). Later, in 1998, teen Beth brings hot sauce as a housewarming present in honor of her late, sauce-loving dad, Abe. So Abe and Jack both loved hot sauce, huh? Fabulous. I picture them on an otherworldly cloud somewhere, swapping stories about their kids over a bottle of El Yucateco.
2019: Randall blows another appointment with Wilkins when he gets a call from Tess’ s school: His daughter has had a panic attack. But when he rushes home and tries to relate to her, she slams the door in his face. “I don’t want to be anything like you.” (OUCH)
Also 2019: Meanwhile, at the hockey game, Kevin tries valiantly to befriend Cassidy’s soon to be ex. Cheery Kevin is like a shiny slice of ham between two CRUSTY pieces of bread. Between Cassidy’s surly (really, devastated) ex and grumpy (really, traumatized) Uncle Nicky, even Kevin’s charm is falling flat.
1998: The awkwardness boils over in the kitchen as the Big 3 convene. Kevin dislikes Mark on sight, comparing him to escargot, and Kate lashes out: “We should have been at your wedding!” Poor Randall, always a peacemaker, pivots from sib to sib, trying to smooth things over. Sometimes, only a mom declaring Enough! will get through to anyone. I liked everything about her speech: “Pretend you like burned, raw food--and get your whiny asses in there and enjoy the damn dinner!” (But Miguel’s face when was chewing those Cornish game hens…! Someone give that guy an acting trophy, and a cheeseburger.)
Randall takes it hard when he realizes that Tess may have inherited her anxiety from him. And then we get our first William flashback of the season! William tells Beth that he too was anxious. Though he was considered “fragile and sensitive,” his mama knew how to help him. “She’d fill a glass with Seltzer water and tell me my mind was like those bubbles bouncing around, trying to get out. We’d watch together until those bubbles settled and eventually I settled too.” Grand advice.
1980: The lasagna is scorched, though Jack feels it might now have a “nice hickory flavor.” However, after a pigeon gets in an open window and terrorizes Jack, the lasagna is beyond saving, and so is the carpet. But it’s pizza to the rescue, for Jack and Rebecca and for Rebecca and her kids in 1998. Pizza, and lots of laughter and grace, and maybe even a good theme song from a great movie.
As a wedding present to Kevin and Sophie, Rebecca plays the piano and sings “Storybook Love,” the theme song to “Princess Bride.” And it is a lovely, lovely moment of hope and sweetness.
The song underscores a Pearson Man Grand Gesture: Kevin and Randall ship the old family piano to Kate’s place in LA as a baby gift for Baby Jack. Yeah, they nailed it. A perfect gift and the grandest of grand gestures.
And then–WHOAH NELLY–we were made aware of two potentially troubling situations:
- Randall politely and then tersely rejects Beth’s suggestion that he seek therapy for his ongoing anxiety issues. She can see the signs. The bouncing knee. The frantic pace. Oh Randall, don’t be so proud! Get the help you need, my dear TV Brother from Another Mother!
2. Kate finds a stack of polaroids from that night in 1998, when Sophie and Kevin, Beth and Randall, she and Mark, and Rebecca and Miguel all bonded. (Or did they? Upon rewatching it, Mark was quite uncomfortable with all that family togetherness.) She smilingly flips through the photos until she finds one of her and Mark. Her smile snuffs out like a light. And Rebecca, seeing the photo, makes a cryptic comment about “not seeing what was happening then.”
Oh, My Stars…What did this guy do? I am guessing he starts to abuse Kate. Vulnerable, just lost her dad, super young Kate. And it makes my stomach hurt a little bit. Is that crazy or do you think I am on the right track? What are your guesses as to what’s going on here?
Favorite performance? (Mine was Griffin Dunne’s Uncle Nicky–elegant and downtrodden at the same time). Lines?
I’d love to know all your thoughts, feelings, and crazy theories!