This week, This is Us wakens the social warrior in us with a look at race, adoption, and the legal system
This week’s This is Us takes us on a journey with Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) through Randall’s adoption process and how it was almost blocked by a judge who felt baby Randall belonged with a black family. Around the same time William is arrested for his drug habit but meets with a judge who shares his malaise with life and the system in general who gives him another chance to change his life.
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Would that Deja’s mother had that same chance. This episode finds her in prison refusing to allow her daughter to see her bruised face after she’s jumped. This brings out Beth and Randall’s protective instincts to the point where Randall visits her in prison himself and the two of them end with a standoff over Deja’s future and well-being.
Kate her and Toby start telling people about the pregnancy until Toby fears telling his Catholic mother. Kate makes an impulsive decision that they marry right away at a courthouse but Toby rightly figures out that she’s just avoiding dealing with her dad not being there and makes a grand proposal and they decide on the big wedding.
Kevin is just a drug spiralling mess who dumps Sophie. So let’s see what the roundtable has to say!
Danielle (@dani_pitter): Couch potato, dreamer, writer, and recent college graduate! Also needs many tissues during This is Us, among other amazing shows. Danielle’s book blog, PoetryBooksYA, Danielle’s fansite, ParamoreRKLife.
1) One of the things we’ve always talked about loving on This is Us is the good hard look at adoption and its issues. The Pearsons go through all that until Randall is one and the judge doesn’t want to grant the adoption. Give us your thoughts here, and shoot straight.
Danielle (@dani_pitter): On one hand, as a black woman growing up in a black home, I completely understand what it means, again, to be a black woman in America. I may have not lived through being called the N-word or heavily prejudiced by white people, or anything like that, but I know because my parents raised me to be aware of my race. To be aware of my black people and understand that we all have to work together.
In another point, I’m wondering why on earth we’re hearing about the Pearsons having issues with this judge not understanding how a white family can help raise a black baby boy. But at the same time, we’ve seen how awesome Jack and Rebecca are to Randall; they protect that little boy like their own — he is their own! So why do we now need to know how it would be if Randall were raised by a white family, when he is? To me, it was bad timing.
Mel (@musiccitymel): The judge had valid concerns. Randall’s blackness is an extremely important of who he is, as is anyone’s lineage. The judge wanted to make sure Randall was with a family that would respect, teach and nurture his racial background. I’m glad he encountered Jack and Rebecca so that he could see they would do just that.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I get the judge’s concerns, I really do. However, it seemed a little odd to me that he would be willing to pull a child from an obvious loving home and put him in the system. I think this lost some of it’s impact because we had already seen Jack handle the racism talk with Randall in an earlier episode and so we knew, and were shouting at our TV at the Judge, that they could handle it.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): The minute I saw that it was Delroy Lindo playing the judge, I knew we were in for some bumps. And I knew right away what his issue with the Pearson’s adoption of Randall was going to be too. This was a different time, when families like the Pearsons were not at all typical. Keeping it real, I think even now in 2017, we wouldn’t have to look far to find someone who agrees with Lindo’s character when it comes to transracial adoptions. That’s a whole other discussion. However, the one thing that felt kind of “too TV” for me was that one letter and a sweet family portrait sent to the judge from Rebecca could so easily change his mind. But it is a TV show, right?
K.M. (@kwanawrites): I was surprised to see the writers went there with having a black judge and the judge going so far as saying he thought Randall should be with a black family. Good for the writers for pulling no punches. It was uncomfortable and hard to watch knowing the strong bond Randall has with his family now and what he would have missed out on if that judge would have had his way. Boo to judgey Mc Judge.
2) Kevin’s washing pills down with beer, making grand gestures and man is he sweaty. How has NOBODY noticed he’s in big trouble other than a passing Kate observation?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): UGHHHHHH KEVIN WYD BOY!! I keep wanting to root for him, but he continues to disappoint the living ish out of me. And it’s killing me how NO ONE is noticing his behavior, but then again, addicts know how to act normal, don’t they? And too much sweat. Yuck!! His drunk, high honesty to Sophie was….refreshing, in a way. I know it was the beer and pills talking, but I saw the fear, terror, in his eyes. That dream made him realize that he’s not good for Sophie, for anyone right now. Hopefully he gets some professional help, and not just from Kate. Wow, this may be the first time I may actually sympathize with Kevin!
Mel (@musiccitymel): In fairness, I think Randall also noticed the night he had to infiltrate the ladies room for Deja. The other Pearson siblings have a little bit going on right now in their own lives. But Sophie, who is allegedly a nurse doesn’t seem to notice anything amiss. What in the actual hell? He’s exhibiting sooooo many red flags and they’re all flying right over her head. She’s known him for YEARS. You mean to tell me she’s that oblivious? C’mon.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I’m pretty sure if you look up “Hot Mess” in the dictionary there would be a picture of Kevin Pearson beer in hand, pouring sweat and making some sort of bad decision. The fact that no one has taken notice of this baffles me a little. I guess I have the perspective of knowing he is 100% abusing drugs, but it seems as if all the tell-tale signs are there.
I cut Kate and Toby a little more slack because they are a little more focused on the fact they’re having a baby, but Sophie is just completely oblivious, and I’m not sure why.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): I have been talking about Clammy Kevin (now Sweaty Betty Kev) from the beginning of his very obvious downward spiral. I thought for sure that Kate would have a Wonder-Twin-Power inner sense about him. She did have that passing “something seems off” moment, but then was so wrapped up in her wonderful baby news that it kind of fell off the sides of the boat. Then I thought that, with his ex-wife-girlfriend Soph being a nurse, the minute she laid eyes on him she would know he was spiraling. But nope. I guess this is how it often happens in real life: we’re all busy with our own things that we don’t quite notice that someone we love has let go of their rope and is plummeting to the bottom. It’s heartbreaking, but real.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): Seriously, for a family that has dealt with addiction issues how are they not noticing this? Come on isn’t the running joke that Kevin is not that good an actor? This does highlight that though they are all connected there is a part of their relationship that is stuck on superficial. As if they want to keep each other in their perfectly assigned boxes and venturing out is not allowed. I’m feeling like if Kevin is in a room with Beth for a good ten minutes, she would be the one to call him on his mess.
3) There were some deep issues in this episode. William’s drug arrest and subsequent release by the judge was definitely one of them. How do you feel it was handled?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I wasn’t expecting to hear about William again. I’d thought that was Randall at first, because he’d had a clean record, but it was William! The fact that the white judge had William and the black one had Randall, Jack and Rebecca….SO CLOSE!! They could have been so close!! But I thought it was a bit of a cop-out for the black judge to send them to another judge. Like, he read the letter and saw the family portrait, why’d he just hand them over to fix the problem?
Mel (@musiccitymel): I think it was handled beautifully. This was a case where the judicial system did what it was supposed to do. They helped rehabilitate William instead of sending him off to jail where he might have continued to use or worse.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): It was awesome to have William back in an episode that didn’t feel forced. Most of the time when he pops up now it seems out of nowhere, but this felt super organic and served the story beautifully.
William getting his life together for all of those years, only to try and go back to drugs when he is diagnosed as terminal was heartbreaking. However, This Is Us is great at bringing things full circle, and Randall preventing that from happening by replaying their first encounter from the pilot was genius.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): I’m really impressed with the casting on this show. Young William not only favors the older version masterfully played by Ron Cephas Jones, but he played the part so convincingly, it honestly felt like you were watching old footage of Randall’s birth father falling into hopelessness. It was really compelling to watch the scene between Young William and the judge, and the callback to that “look at my face, remember my face” moment when older William was about to turn back to heroin after his cancer diagnosis. It was deep and so well done.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): I loved William’s speech about being disappointed. It was heartbreaking and so perfectly William the way he politely and gracefully shut the judge down. I also appreciated the second chance that the judge gave him, but in all honestly it did strike me as a bit of saviorism and the judge clearing his own conscience which rubbed me the wrong way especially after hearing all his other harsh sentences for minor offences. So my side-eye was strong.
4) Toby had a conversation with dead Jack and then that sweatshirt proposal. Is Toby trying to outdo Jack by Jack Pearsoning?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): That was both…..creepy and endearing. Even though Jack is no longer here with us, his presence is still with everyone. Toby would have been sweating bullets if Jack was alive to give his blessing, let’s be foreal lol. But no one can outdo Jack, not even Toby. Nope!!
Mel (@musiccitymel): He can try all day long. Toby will never be a Jack Pearson. That proposal was….fine. I guess. 😂
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I will start this answer out with nobody out Jack Pearsons Jack Pearson. Having said that, I found the scene with Toby chatting with Jack’s urn to be pretty entertaining. His proposal however, was…wired? The multiple sweatshirt thing seemed hokey, but Kate seemed to enjoy it so I guess that’s what matters?
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): Look. I can’t express yet again how much I’m not here for Toby. It’s ugh and no way, ALL DAY, between him and me. He’s so extra! So, of course, the conversation with Jack’s urn was a bit much for me. I cannot confirm or deny whether I muted the scene. (cough—I did-—ahem). But the sweatshirt proposal marked a historic moment. As tweeted while watching: It’s possibly the only time that I said, Well, done, Toby…and it was completely ugh-free! Look at you, Toby; earning a point.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): Three minutes with Toby usually exhausts me, but not this episode. The sweatshirt proposal was perfect and totally swoon worthy. I’m here for it!
5) We knew it wouldn’t be too long until we met Deja’s mom Shauna. Is she what you expected?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): Whew, she was a lot to process. At first, I was like Beth, pissed off at the fact that Deja’s mom did not even show up to see her daughter. But when I saw her face all bloodied up and beaten, I felt kinda bad. She put herself in jail, but it wasn’t a choice; she did it for what she thought was love. For this Alejandro turd (was that his name? lol). And also, hearing her judge Beth and Randall too, I literally wanted to jump my TV to grab her throat myself, and I don’t fight lol. No one messes with my baby Randall!! However, at least Deja’s mom called her back. Looks like Pearsons have a bit of a fight ahead of them.
Mel (@musiccitymel): I didn’t really have an expectation. I know a lot of people expected her to be 100% terrible. From my experience with many young women like Deja, I know it’s just not as simple as we want to make it out to be. I love that the writers have made Deja’s mom so real. She’s not a bad person or even a bad mom. She’s made some costly mistakes. She needs help and she loves her daughter. But love isn’t enough. She has to get herself right to be the best mom she can be for Deja.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): To be honest I expected Deja’s mom to feel a little more guilty about the situation she’s put Deja in than she was. She plays it up like she cares about Deja a lot, and she might, but the fact that she has let her bounce from abusive home to abusive home due to her actions says otherwise.
The scene between her and Randall was just top notch though. Both Sterling K. Brown and Joy Brunson were really great in the scene, and based on the heated exchange it’s not the last we have heard of Deja’s mom.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): Honestly, I was wondering if we were going to meet Deja’s mom this episode, especially after she bowed out of seeing her daughter on the special visiting day at the prison. So it was a surprise when she and Randall faced off, and what a fantastic scene! When she told him the real reason she opted out of seeing Deja (didn’t want her kid to see her beat-up face), I was like whoa. When she told him, “Make no mistake: You can give her your money, you can give her your cheerleading, but I gave her my blood.” WHUUUTTT! And of course, Randall realizing that this was not going to go how he expected—in fact, this woman loves that child and wants to set her life right to get her back—was another thump to the chest. Just great acting across the board.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): Deja’s mom was quite the force and though she’s a tangled mass of faults you can’t help but feel her love for Deja and see why Deja loves her fiercely. That scene between her and Randall went nothing like I expected. I expect a full-on storm ahead.
6) Let’s piggyback on that last question: There was some role reversal happening here! Tiger Beth and reasonable Randall until he went full tiger himself. What do you have to say about Beth and Randall’s reactions to Deja’s mom?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I’m basically saying the same thing from the last question. At first, I was like Beth, pissed off at the fact that Deja’s mom did not even show up to see her daughter. But when I saw her face all bloodied up and beaten, I felt kinda bad. She put herself in jail, but it wasn’t a choice; she did it for what she thought was love. For this Alejandro turd (was that his name? lol). And also, hearing her judge Beth and Randall too, I literally wanted to jump my TV to grab her throat myself, and I don’t fight lol. No one messes with my baby Randall!! However, at least Deja’s mom called her back. Looks like Pearsons have a bit of a fight ahead of them.
Mel (@musiccitymel): I loved everything about this. I love that they were so protective of Deja and that Randall went to the prison to find out what was up. He went in ready for battle but had no clue he would come out fighting on the same team.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): Both are within their right to have their reactions to the situation, but they need to caution themselves. Deja obviously cares very much for her mother, and is already extremely skeptical of Randall and Beth. I can just see this situation playing out with Deja resenting Randall and Beth because she thinks that they are working to keep her away from her mom. It should provide some interesting storylines moving forward.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): That scene was so good. Of course, I mean, it’s Beth and Randall! Their collective impression of Deja’s mother makes sense. It’s what a lot of us would assume when we see what looks like a reckless, selfish mother full of bad choices and zero concern for her child. But that wasn’t the full picture, it wasn’t all the facts. Sadly, that’s what we all typically do when we hear half the story or see someone we assume is not worth saving. I like that the show is going deeper with Deja’s mother’s story than just a stereotypical “bad mom” who neglected her child.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): I love how protective both Beth and Randall are of Deja. It’s sweet but they need to know Deja will give them kickback and her heart will probably always be with her mom. It’s going to be quite the bumpy ride. The fact that Randall let her call and talk with Deja was a smart move. Much better than just taking a hardline approach.
7) Kevin skipped forward about a thousand steps with Sophie and preemptively dumped her, but did you care?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): I think I talked about this before in another question, but at one point, I felt sad because all Kevin does is push people away, and he’s using drugs and drinking to numb the pain. It’s much bigger than losing his dad. His drunk, high honesty to Sophie was….refreshing, in a way. I know it was the beer and pills talking, but I saw the fear, terror, in his eyes. That dream made him realize that he’s not good for Sophie, for anyone right now. Hopefully he gets some professional help, and not just from Kate. And until he gets help, he’s going to spiral down even further. Wow, this may be the first time I may actually sympathize with Kevin!
Mel (@musiccitymel): Suuuuuuuure didn’t. I know. First I diss Toby’s grand proposal and now this. I guess I’m dead inside?
Jake (@Jake_Lester): I absolutely 100% do not care. Kevin has dug himself a hole with his selfishness, and it’s making it super hard for anyone watching the show to express sympathy for him.
I will say, Sophie especially being a nurse, should see the signs of him clearly having a problem.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): Honestly? Not really. I mean, I care that Kevin is out of control and it’s going to take some work (both from him and his siblings) to pull himself back up from the pit into which he’s sinking. But as far as the relationship between he and Sophie… for me, there was no there there. I never got into that storyline, and I wasn’t convinced it was going to last.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): Yeah, not so much. I’m sure Kevin will regret dumping Sophie much more than the viewers will miss her (Ouch! was that harsh?). But she seemed pretty flat to me. The fact that she could not see that Kevin was in crisis was a big red flag that she’s not the one for him, so bye girl.
8) The title of this episode was “The Most Disappointed Man”. The title can obviously apply to several characters in this episode. What significance does it have for you?
Danielle (@dani_pitter): This title was very telling, and showcased the tone of this episode. It wasn’t as lighthearted and funny and open as this past season. It’s different, but it’s needed because we needed to see both sides of the show we all know and love. I feel like we’re getting closer to Jack’s impending death story, since we saw Toby with the ashes.
Mel (@musiccitymel): Disappointment is all perception. It’s based on how you judge someone or yourself according to your own expectations. As an illustration, Toby and Kate become disappointed at different times in the episode over expectations regarding Jack. Initially, Toby feels like he is expected to make grandiose gestures and feels disappointed when he wasn’t able to propose to Kate. Kate was disappointed with the idea of a wedding because it wouldn’t be her perfect dream wedding without her father. When they accepted their situation and let go of their expectations, they were able to allow themselves to be happy and celebrate the moment.
Jake (@Jake_Lester): For me it really applied to Randall. This man is doing his best to try and make sure Deja has access to her mother, but Deja’s mother is making it extremely hard. I think the biggest disappointment for him came at the end of the conversation with Deja’s mom where she told him that she would be fighting to get Deja back after she got out.
Nicole (@NicoleBlades): I think it still belongs to Young William Hill. What he said in the beginning in court, how broken he looked, it had impact–hard to shake the look on his sad, despondent face.
K.M. (@kwanawrites): The title was quite on the nose where it came to William’s story, but it can also apply to Kevin too who on the outside hasn’t really wrestled with his feelings about his now spiraling addiction. I’m sure he’s feeling pretty crappy about himself, not to mention feeling like he’s also letting the memory of his Jack down thinking ghost dad must be disappointed in him too.
Now of course ‘The Most Disappointed Man’ moniker can apply to Randall too. But hey, that’s Randall he’s almost never satisfied and we still love him anyway.
Final Verdict: We’re all facepalming nobody noticing Kevin’s mess but finally giving Toby applause for knowing what Kate really wants
This is Us continues to explore difficult and potentially controversial issues. And as usual no conclusions are simple. While on the one hand we’ve seen what a fine man Randall has grown into with the Pearsons, who knows what kind of man he would have grown into with a family that looked like him? Still it was difficult to believe a judge would rather a child spend time in the system than be with a family who clearly loved him.
The big question on everyone’s mind with regards to Kevin is how blind could Sophie be? She’s a nurse for crying out loud. The rest of the big three are wrapped up in their personal lives though Randall and Kate exhibited signs of knowing something. But for Sophie to not recognize the signs of addiction in Kevin just seems so blind. When will someone get him the help he so desperately needs?
It would’ve been so easy for the show to paint Deja’s mom as the villain everyone wanted her to be (Beth and Randall included). To Dan Fogelman’s credit not only did the show not do that they even managed to make her appear sympathetic in some ways. Everyone on the roundtable agrees, though: It isn’t over with Deja’s mother. We’re predicting some major battles moving forward since both Beth and Randall so clearly want to keep and protect her but so does her mother. And Deja clearly assumes she’ll be back with her mother someday.
We give credit to Toby for knowing just how much Kate was brushing aside by just agreeing to a courthouse wedding. And good for him for standing up to his super catholic mom! There’s a slight concern that Kate has started to tell people she’s pregnant and she’s only ten weeks along though (and boy do we hope we’re wrong on this one). We can’t wait to see a little wedding planning though!!! And as for Toby’s proposal, well. The roundtable is still 50/50.
This is Us continues to make bold choices and stay strong for its second season. When will we see Deja’s mom again? And who will finally figure out Kevin’s big secret? Stay with us for our This is Us roundtable!