THIS IS US: “Still There”

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This Is Us gave us a bit of an emotional reprieve this week, although we did get another plot twist at the end of the episode. Join Melissa and Ange as they discuss “Still There”.

Melissa: Is it fair to say the theme of this week’s episode is “Parenting Fails”? One by one, we saw Rebecca, Jack, Randall, and Beth (and Rebecca’s mom) make missteps with various kids. None of it came from a place of malice (except maybe Rebecca’s mom who clearly has unconscious bias), but out of love and a desire to protect or encourage the children.

Ange: Definitely fair. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though – as you pointed out, the majority of these missteps came out of love and good intentions and if anything, it was good that we saw this because parenting is tough and you’re going to make mistakes. So I really adore how much this show tries to stay true to life and show the little fails in life. Perfectly imperfect right? (Aside from Rebecca’s mom’s unconscious bias…)

Melissa: Yep, perfectly imperfect. Speaking of unconscious bias, the show dealt with racism and black hair, two very loaded topics, in a unique way. We saw Rebecca and Jack have to explain to Randall about the insidious nature of undercover racism; it really sucks that a 9-year-old has to lose part of his innocence thanks to his grandmother. We also saw Beth taking the lead with Deja and passing along some knowledge and advice about hair that she gained from her own mother and sisters. I liked that Beth shared the social, communal element of “doing hair” with Deja. It doesn’t sound like she’s experienced much of that in the past.

Ange: My heart broke for poor little Randall and the fact that Jack and Rebecca had to explain to him how his own grandmother mistreated him. (Okay but I did laugh when he innocently asked if grandma shot Martin Luther King when they tried to explain it to him – Lonnie Chavis was brilliantly wide-eyed and innocent in that moment!) It really does suck! I have to admit with the Deja hair storyline, it took me a while to clue in and I wondered where they were going with this storyline at the start but agree that they tackled the topic in a unique way. I also enjoyed the part where Beth shared her own childhood experiences of doing hair with Deja, which kind of made it hurt when Deja hacked her hair after her talk with Randall. We always knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road for Randall and Beth but I hope they’ve got a lot more patience in them!

Melissa: And on the topic of parenting…Kate’s pregnant! Man, this show is a master of misdirection. All that working out and stressing over fitting into the dress wasn’t stress over her first big gig. Well, not in the way we (and Toby) thought. And that shot in the drugstore…She went down the VITAMIN aisle, not the laxative aisle. Well played, director. Well played. But what do we think about this development? Toby’s going to be over the moon, right?

Ange: Well played INDEED! Was there even anyone who saw that coming? Hello plot twist! I do like how they turned our preconceptions – very clue. I’m really happy for Kate and REALLY hope that it all works out for her in the end. Can’t wait for Toby to find out – I can already seem him being super over cautious and mother hen like during this pregnancy. I also think it’s another interesting parallel between Kate and Rebecca too (something that we’ve been seeing a lot of in this season so far), in that Rebecca always prioritized her family over her singing career and here we have Kate who is just starting her singing career but has also discovered that she’s about to have a family of her own.

Melissa: How many times did your heart break for Deja this week? How many times did you want to bang your head against the wall because of her? Puberty. Yay.

Ange: She’s in her early teenage years right? Oh boy, hope Randall and Beth are prepared because this is just the beginning! She has had a hard life though so this is her way of protecting herself but oh man, that sullen teenager behavior. When we first saw her after she had cut her hair, for a moment I thought maybe she did it so she could have short hair like her new sisters Tess and Annie, but no, then I realised it was just teenage rebellion!

Melissa: That’s what I thought at first, too, then I remembered that cutting her hair exposed the patches she’d been covering. Oh, Deja. I just realized that I didn’t cry at all this week! Either I’m a monster, or they backed off on the heavy emotional beats to give us all a breather.

Ange: This episode was definitely a lot less emotionally heavy as previous eps, which was nice. The scene where Jack is getting young Kevin to toughen up by roaring, tugged at my heart strings and almost got me (I think following on from the Kevin/Jack feels last week) but then Rebecca’s mom had to come along and ruin the moment.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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