Gooooood morning, Vietnam. This is a two-fer because pretty much the same things happened in both eps, so I'm conserving my energy and board space.
My thesaurus, when I looked up 'insufferable', read: "Come on, you look up this word about a million times after watching This is Us. Don't you know the synonyms by now? Do you need Clippy to return and ask whether you're writing a letter?"
Anyway, Jack is dead so now the apparent compelling storyline is the hardiness of his unbearably insufferable gene, which we can see passed on in all of its blunderbuss wonder to the three Pearson offspring (no worries, Randall - that gene will find you. It will broadside your DNA with a long speech about how it needs to be there). Here we go:
Well, the universe finally gave Kate a break and she's pregnant, but, our jagged little pill still can't quite get the hang of emotional adulting down very well. Kate is currently "affording" her five-figure minimum medical miracle by delivering sing-o-grams part time. She shows up at an office to sing an Adele tune as a birthday present. Um, if my colleagues hired someone to sing an Adele song without arriving with a cake and champagne, I'm snipping that department credit card in half. But, whatever, if you hate your office colleague and want them to have a gloomy birthday, Kate's your gal! Adele called during the show and said, 'Thank you, show. My songs mean nothing because my dad didn't die a tragic death from crock pot. They're so much more poignant when sung by someone with a voice so average that musically inclined viewers mute their televisions so they don't ruin their own vocal cords screaming 'make it stop!!!!' I'll just send Kate Pearson on tour for me from now on and kick back with some honey tea, thanks." The bastard office worker who arranged this sing a gram apparently thinks the same thing because, oh no, out he comes to tell Kate Pearson that she's better than Adele and should be up there shaking that thang with her power vocals. Kate's husband, Tobe Babe, is currently a little under the weather what with flushing his crazymeds down the toilet and having an episode with his name on it already devoted to the Pearsons, so Kate has been missing a chance to back up the misery truck and dump. *Beep* *Beep* *Beep* Here we go:
My dad died! My husband is in a video arcade! My mom hates me! And I'm fat! I coulda been a contender but I was such an unironically bitter little fuck as a kid that I can't even pretend to be a normal person now! I put the music away because I *have an average voice and no drive* was sad but now every time I walk into a room or open my mouth, everyone hears a trombone: "whoooooomp, whomp...." And they sing the SNL "Debbie Downer" skit theme at MY birthday, at which I have to eat carrots instead of cake! Don't you give me a compliment, Mister, unless you're ready to follow me around and repeat it over and over!"
Office worker: My boss is getting married next week and I was going to order a Nine Inch Nails sing-a-gram with hemlock punch but why don't you just show up and marry him instead? I'm just trying to make everyone here miserable enough to quit so I can take over and get my own spinoff, k?"
Anyway, Kate meekly taps out a few notes on the piano, but an agent doesn't instantly appear at her door along with her dead dad so she's, again, mired in the hopelessness of it all.
But this is supposed to be about TobeBabe and Why He's Depressed. It doesn't take long before we discover that, shock, it's his parents's fault, what else? Because they're not dead, they're just constantly screaming at each other loud enough that Tobe Babe turns on the fan (must be one helluva fan to drown out the Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf redux). Yadda yadda yadda, poor kid stuck trying to adult too early and that's how you end up playing video games and fat and divorced and very horny. Good god, Tobe Babe, I'd curl up under the covers, too. Audio had a better backstory.
Speaking of the dog, something's off there, too. Kate takes him for a walk and he walks over to a garbage bag sitting next to the garbage can (how convenient) and I think, 'oh, cool, he's going to Scooby Doo this show and start wolfing down the remains of a body and solve a murder mystery.' Nope, he digs around and eats...a rock. Who in hell puts a ROCK in a garbage bag? And what dog swallows a rock when there are presumably tastier ways to almost die? Chicken bone, anyone? Gah! But no matter, Kate takes the dog home and tries to feed it rubbery undercooked bacon ( the fuck?) and Audio says, 'bitch, please, can I go to the rainbow bridge now? I've had enough of this shit.' But Tobe Babe snaps at Kate and asks what the hell she's thinking letting a dog roam off the leash (cos, er, I don't think that's allowed in most public places, and we don't need a ticket on top of everything else). So Kate takes the dog to the vet and realizes she doesn't know what to do, so she calls her evil mom who says, 'take a deep breath and hope for the best.'
Kate drags Tobe Babe's depressed ass out for a walk and tells him, in the speech that had me laughing harder than any SNL skit in recent memory, "all this stuff that happened to me? I'm strong as hell now!" Oh lordy. OK, writers, when you realize you've painted a character so one-dimensionally awful, there really isn't an easy way out of that. For sure, simply having the character decide to say "I'm strong" isn't convincing anyone. Dollars to donuts says they pull a Shonda Rhimes and, as Kate gives birth, show will start flashing "#KATESTRONG" on a chyron. Now, when Rhimes did this, at least her character was getting shot at or drowned or electrocuted or dumped or whatever other tragedy she dreamed of for Meredith Grey, but hey, again, Meredith doesn't know the pain of crock pot death. Anyway, Audio shits a brick and the universe delivers another break to old sad trombone. I tell you - these plot twists...
Oh, wait. This is TobeBabe's story. I forgot his Emmy submission. He shows up at a pharmacy to demand a refill on his meds. If you're playing the "which extra will bear the brunt of a Pearson-Braverman style raise the rooftops sermon" game and you guessed the pharmacist, well, you can refill your meds as a prize. TobeBabe is not so lucky. Maybe it's because he insists on telling his lifestory to the poor pharmacy tech who says, 'sir, you do have a refill...if you've been on anti-depressants for years, you for sure have at least several months of refills available...no need to fall apart here, sir...I can simply call your doctor and request a refill....oh, christ, you're going to make this a thing, aren't you? OK, I'll just stand here while you mug for the camera. Good luck on that Emmy...."
Takes Zoe the maneater to see St. Greasy's Vietnam contact, 90-Days and Footless. I don't see maneater in Zoe - I just see a woman sussing out whether Kevin has any depth whatsoever and, if so, whether he's capable of comprehending that racism includes microaggressions and what those can do to a person's self-esteem and trust. They visit 90-Days and Footless, but I admit I was actually more engrossed in reading various twitter feeds and articles about black hair care and the "subtle" racist and ignorant comments/questions/assumptions black women face about their hair. So I was struck more deeply by stories of black women who still have white people ask whether they can touch their hair or learning that stores will keep black hair products under lock and key than the purple heart and pictures, but the upshot is that, of COURSE, the Vietnamese woman who was almost assaulted by Bad Bad Townie is shown in a photo looking lovingly at St. Sergeant Greasy and WEARING HIS NECKLACE!!! DON DON DON!!!! Zoe tells Kevin about the store clerk (who I thought might be another target for a Pearsoning, but nope, she's the racist extra) and then Kevin gives her the silk pillowcase and Zoe says Kevin is worth it, but she needs a night alone. Oh, Zoe. Now you've done it. No Pearson ever EVER will stand for being told that their sig other wants to get the fuck out for a while and go hang with Miguel at the Star Wars cantina. Worse, you tell Kevin that he should stop obsessing about the picture. Oh, nooooooo, Zoe, why did you do that??? Kevin, of course, hears 'stop obsessing' and sees a red flag and like a bull, he charges into Zoe's retreat and says, "I know you said to stop obsessing, so let's go to Vietnam!" Zoe, if you are a maneater, now's the time to bring that out. Otherwise, you will be Pearsoned.
Oh, good God. Beth gets exactly one line of "I don't feel great, I was fired, remember, and I have my first interview today." Randall: "You'll do great. Anyway, about ME!" Randall is trying to Pearson his way into politics via a barbeque and he hoses it up by interrupting the barbeque (you don't do that....I'm a midwesterner and I know this) to tell the great unwashed that they're being played by the current councilman who has no respect for St. William's old neighborhood. St. William appears in everyone's barbeque sauce, but to no avail...the downtrodden aren't interested in listening to how great Randall is, even with awesome barbeque, so they leave. BBQ owner sits Randall down and says, 'well, Mr. Perfect, do YOU know how to schmooze via baseball tickets to save a business or two? Because that's kinda how it works in politics." Now, this could actually shape up to be an interesting storyline. Because BBQ guy is right. But, This is Us, and subtlety is dead along with Jack and William, so of course the councilman humiliates Randall at a church and, oh, no, it all looks lost for Randall and his determination to turn nostalgia into a political career....until, wait, what is this? He has lunch with Kevin at an Asian restaurant and Kevin is flashing the Adoring Vietnamese Woman Beholds Her Protector photo and I'm cringing thinking, 'oh, shit...I don't THINK they'd do this, but if they have someone at the restaurant point and say, 'Aunt Sally!' I'm done for real.' They don't, so you're still stuck with me, but holy crap, I was seriously worried for a minute. But I needn't have been. There's talk of wallpaper and peeling it off to discover paneling and Kevin says he has 'Something in him' that needs to be peeled off. Kevin, that's a medical problem. Go see TobeBabe's pharmacist about that.
Anyway, turns out Korean Americans love Kevin and Randall does some econ weather math and says, 'waaaaaaiiit a minute...look at this place called Koreatown! It's the perfect setting for an intersectionality story, isn't it? I failed to Pearsonize the poor black crowd, but Korean Americans already love the Pearsons! I cannot screw this up!"
Oh, but he tries. A cynical Korean American political operative tells Randall that, hey, again, we're kind of over the whole savior thing, so could you just shut up and let the Manny talk? This is an epiphany for Randall, as shown by a slight frown on SKB's face and momentary restraint of the manic smile. Randall recalculates the econ weather and it's kind of like a combo of Rocky/Goodbye Mr. Chips/Mr.Smith Goes to Washington/Snoopy comes Home. Randall says he's going to listen to them. Beth says: yeah, good luck with that. Deja rolls her eyes and Annie asks Uncle Kevin to come pick her up again because her house is really going to suck now. Randall returns to his campaign HQ and finds Steve Kornacki from MSNBC at the big board. No, but he does find the cynical Korean American political operative (who, I must say, is most welcome eye candy) who says that Randall's speech (and his moisturizing routine) have inspired his 70-ish grandmother to register to vote and so now he's all in for Randall for President. Attention politicians: if you want to rally Korean Americans, be sure to use lotion on your hands.
All of this is to point out that Randall didn't need to learn to box because he is smart. But that doesn't stop him from running up those steps and bouncing around at the top. You know he and the councilman will step into the ring at some point, right?
Is the actress who is really so much better than all of this dreck and I wish to hell her agent would rescue her and give her her own show. The fall and rebuilding of the superwoman as human, let alone a black superwoman, done with nuance and minus any Pearsons would be so awesome. But no. Beth realizes that jobs are hard to find and she's been a bit out of the loop on the marketing of girl scout cookies, so now her kids think she sucks so no more 'perfectly imperfect' Beth. But, hey, here comes Randall with his soft hands and says, 'eh...come work for me, woman. Get me elected." Ah, Beth. It was lovely seeing the seeds of a possible interesting story for you, but you're in Pearson world, so let's get back to it, eh?
Red Leader #5 drags a random piano off the street and to Rebecca's apartment. Yeah, I don't have a clue how that would ever happen, either, but Miguel is trying to honor his pinky swear with St. Greasy and Take Care of Greasy's Family. And what doesn't say helpful like showing up with a random piano? And fixing the fridge so that Rebecca, like a housewife from 1950, keeps opening and shutting the door, marveling at this new wonder called electricity. And then, when Randall comes home from prom alone because racism, launches into an attempted Pearsoning about how he knows exactly how Randall feels because he was called Ricky Ricardo and so instabond, right? Randall says, 'dude, if anyone's going to blather on and on, it's going to be me.' Sorry, Miguel. I'd still totally watch your show if you got your own spinoff.
She and Miguel deserve each other because neither can live up to St. Greasy's standards and he's always friggin' right. Rebecca isn't thrilled when St. Greasy returns with a black eye because he's boxing because of Things He Won't Talk About and Rebecca tries to say, honey, it's 1980 something. Therapy is all the rage. Give it a shot, eh? Because I am not going to be Every Boxer's Girlfriend as played by Heidi Gardner on SNL. Hangdog St. Greasy mumbles, OK, but then of course he later insists that it helps him and Rebecca says, 'you're right. I'm a shrew. I'm sorry. Besides, now I can giggle like a girl and put on boxer gloves and it's kind of cute!' It's probably the inept makeup and overly calm (read: 'old') demeanor, but old Rebecca seriously looks so much more at peace than young Rebecca. The serene smile says, "I am so done giving a shit about any of you ungrateful brats and so loving my life with a non overbearing man who knows how to wash his hair." At least, I tell myself it does.
Next week: Don't watch. Vote. Thank god.