Kate's boyfriend sucks and four other takeaways from Kate's "This Is Us" episode
Randall and Kevin had their time; this week, it's Kate's turn for a solo episode, and – surprise! – it was a pleasant and low-drama hour with nothing but smiles and good vibes to offer. Sucks to suck, Randall and Kevin; Kate's doing great!
Or ... the exact opposite of that.
Indeed, "A Hell of a Week: Part Three" not only took Kate and Toby's relationship to the breaking point (again) but also flashed to the past to discover how slimy and bad things were with her teen boyfriend. Spoiler alert: Pretty slimy and bad! But not all of the relationship news on Tuesday night was unfortunate.
Let's recap the five biggest takeaways from Kate's solo episode.
1. So Marc sucks
I feel bad for young actor Austin Abrams, who is just way too good at playing extremely punchable sleazebags. He played the drunken bully in "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" so effectively that nobody felt bad for him when he got scarecrow-ed to death – and now he's again all-too-effectively playing Kate's bad drunken boyfriend Marc. Someone get this kid a nice, amicable and happy role playing somebody who's showered in the past month!
Indeed, as was foreshadowed over these last two episodes and several episodes before as well, Dark Universe Timothée Chalamet is gross controlling trash that sadly Kate's all too enamored with at first, then all too scared and emotionally manipulated to leave behind later. He condescends and emotionally abuses her when she tries to take a bite of his chocolate snack, negging her about her diet and her weight – there's being supportive of a person's body goals, and there's being a manipulative jerk and using those insecurities as emotional weapons; he's definitely doing the latter here – before going full sulky abuser after Kate has THE GALL to know more about pop culture than him in front of a customer and he holds it over her head like she's done something wrong. He's such a wormy, greasy jerk that, every time the guy walks off camera, I have to Windex my TV screen to get rid of him.
In short: Marc sucks – and we're only one-third of the way through the episode.
Later on, after the two make up over the phone – with him making her feel like she has to apologize for ... knowing stuff? – he agrees to meet for lunch date with Rebecca so the two can actually get to know each other, but of course he shows up late, crass and rudely whistling for the service. (Screenwriter tip 101: If you want to immediately paint somebody as trash, have them be rude to waitstaff.) Then, because he's concerned he's started with too good of an impression, he surprises Kate by telling her he's quit their music store job because their boss won't let him take enough smoke breaks and then continues to talk over Kate by snarling that they're going to get out of town to write music together – and also could they borrow the cabin? What a winner, right, Rebecca?!
Indeed, Rebecca tries to voice some of her reservations about Marc, that perhaps Kate's looking for post-Jack happiness in the wrong places, but Kate – young, in love, and manipulated and emotionally abused into thinking this is the best she can do – storms out to drive to the cabin with her sentient grease stain of a boyfriend. In an impressive display of self-control, it takes him several miles and a happy Ben Folds Five singalong before he returns to jagoff form, seething that Kate won't quit her job in solidarity and gratefulness to him, driving like a howling maniac and calling her fat before leaving her cold on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, even after all of that and even after a desperate call back home to Rebecca, when Marc comes back with a blanket and an apologetic face, Kate goes back to him – though it appears the Pearson calvary is en route to save the day, likely in the next episode. I say, in honor of Marc's Tarantino knowledge, Randall and Kevin reenact the ending of "Death Proof" on his butt.
2. While we're at it, Toby kinda sucks too
I'm sad to report that Toby is finding new and exciting ways to muck everything up in his marriage.
The two seemingly survived the cheating scare – though without any of Toby's help, who decided being secretive about that off-camera drama was the best strategy. (Spoiler alert: It was not.) Plus, Toby seemed to have a breakthrough of sorts with Baby Jack, feeling a sense of hope again when their infant started reaching toward the lights in the house.
But Kate needs Toby to be just as invested when on regular days and when things are rough, not just when Baby Jack is improving or having a step forward – and Toby still isn't that. He gets carried away with researching unrealistic gene therapies for Jack (there's being optimistic and open-minded, and then there's ignoring reality in the name of dream cures), and then he backs out of the weekend retreat for parents of blind children because he's getting backed up at work. (Translation: He doesn't want to go.) Much like her relationship with Marc – though obviously nowhere near as toxic in nature – Kate is sadly all too scared or self-conscious to demand better and therefore all too willing to acquiesce to her partner, Toby in this case, who isn't giving her what she deserves or needs. After all, it's to the point that Kate calls their neighbor Gregory to share her insights and updates from the retreat, not Toby. ("Yikes" moment #17 in an episode filled with "Yikes" relationship moments.)
Thankfully, with the Rebecca's reassuring help telling her that she's strong enough to do this by herself but she shouldn't have to, Kate comes home and challenges Toby for the truth: Can he do this? He says he wants to – but that's not good enough. She needs a good partner, not merely good intentions – somebody who's going to actually put in the effort to raise Baby Jack on good days and bad, not somebody who would like to try and put in the effort but then bails. She's already settled for aspirations from Toby before; now she wants action. (It says something about the show's generous and honest writing that, even though Toby's behavior has been frustrating, the show paint him less as a villain and more so as a merely person overwhelmed by a life he didn't expect and by his own depressive thoughts and tendencies.) Thankfully, she gets it, as Toby says that he'll take care of Baby Jack and spend some time with his son this upcoming weekend while Kate heads up to the family cabin to decompress with her fellow flustered siblings.
Here's to Toby having a great weekend with Baby Jack and now fully committing to being a parent with Kate – though considering what we've seen from the far-off future, with Toby arriving to a family gathering alone with little fanfare from Randall, I've got bad vibes.
3. Rebecca and Kate forever
We all knew Kate's difficult relationships were going to take center stage during this solo episode, but I didn't expect the most affecting relationship of the bunch that would have nothing to do with Toby or Marc.
Indeed, while the selling point of "A Hell of a Week: Part Three" was Kate's struggles with Toby in the present and Marc in the past, the relationship that truly took the spotlight Tuesday night was Kate's bond with her mother – and my god, I could've had a whole episode of that. In fact, I really do wish we could've just spent the entire episode with Kate and Rebecca as the latter takes Toby's place on the parenting retreat and the two grow closer together, paying off seasons of tension between the two. (Plus, the less Marc on my screen, the better.)
Props to writer Laura Kenar for writing such a lovely and charming connection between the two, plus the usual excellent performances from Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz, from Rebecca getting Kate to loosen up and go for a swim ("You're fat, I'm ancient, let's go!"), to telling her the true origins of the nickname "Bug" – she was adorably sweet and sensitive with lightning bugs – and hitting the karaoke bar together for some cathartic "Ironic" belting. All the way, Rebecca is helping Kate build her self-confidence and strength to tell her own story and lead her own way – like she did with a bedtime story that sleepy night all those years ago with her father. And who was truly at the end of that fantastical journey? Not a prince, but a queen: her mother.
Was the story a little on-the-nose? Sure. So were my tears, though, running down from such a lovely little chapter in Kate and Rebecca's story.
4. A familiar face behind the camera
Earlier this season, Jack Pearson himself Milo Ventimiglia stepped away from the front of the camera and instead stepped behind it to direct the "Storybook Love" episode – aka the big Cornish hen family dinner hour. He apparently wasn't the only cast member to get a directing audition as Tuesday night's new episode came courtesy of Justin Hartley, more famously known as Kevin. And he did a solid job! (This isn't his first directing gig; he also helmed a "Smallville" episode back in 2011.) The performances were on-point – and then some – the flow between scenes worked, the tone was right and even the visuals worked, an impressive feat considering he was tasked with bringing Lil Kate and Jack's fantasy bedtime story to life. (Though the field of flowers gave me some real "Midsommar" vibes; thank god a dance contest didn't break out.) Here's to the rest of the Big Three getting an episode to test the directorial waters as well.
5. So what happened with Randall and Kevin?
It wasn't all sweet bonding and nice memories with Kate and Rebecca. Indeed, while swimming at the pool, Rebecca opened up to Kate and spilled her secret: She's been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, with the potential for Alzheimers or dementia in her near future. It ends up being the cap to a lovely scene, and a lovely episode as a whole, as Rebecca notes that, as concerning as this medical news may be, she actually feels quite free. She's no longer wasting time or energy on being sad or stressing out about the small things in life – a thought that helps push Kate toward challenging Toby about his role in their family and his commitment to Baby Jack.
I'm sure Kate has some questions for her mother, still, after this reveal – and so do I, mainly about the impending fallout between Randall and Kevin. I assumed that the Randall and Kevin tiff previewed in the flash forward at the end of the Thanksgiving episode would be due to Randall keeping Rebecca's diagnosis from the other members of the Big Three – but now that Kate knows as well, it kind of throws that prediction out. After all, Kevin's not mad at Kate in the future – and if he's going to be hurt about one member of the family knowing about Rebecca's memory issues before him and not sharing, he certainly has to be mad at the both of them, right? Plus Rebecca's talk with Kate politely and carefully explained why Randall was quiet about it – but maybe Kevin doesn't get the entire context?
So is the fight still about this? Does Kevin still hold it against Randall that he knew early on and never told he or Kate, taking his hurt at being the last one to know out on the first one? Or does something else happen between Randall and Kevin, something so big that the two no longer speak to each other in the near future? With the Big Three headed to the cabin in the present next week, the answer may come sooner than later.
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