This Is Us 2x04 Promo "Still There" (HD)
This Is Us Season 2 Episode 4 Tackles Microaggressions and the Struggle to Be Seen
The once-obscured truths of the Pearson family seep to the surface as we move through the second season ofThis Is Us. As each character struggles to come to terms with a past that continues to haunt them, we see how it has influenced the way they see themselves and the people they want—and don’t want—to become. This week’s episode took a closer look at Kevin’s desperate motivation to succeed, Kate’s choice between love and destiny, the microaggressions passed down to Rebecca from her mother, and Randall’s intense need to belong.
Let’s digest what we happened this week:
Randall is struggling to find his place within his evolving family.
Typical Randall (Sterling K. Brown). He is a perfectionist in everything he does—he even wants his family to be ideal. But he and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) have encountered their own individual challenges as they adapt to the newest addition to the family, Deja (Lyric Ross). Randall has taken Deja's distance personally and tells Beth he wants to take a more active parenting role in the house, citing how their younger daughters often go to her with problems before taking them to him. Remember last week, when he wanted to be the one to break it to Deja that her mother was going to be away for a while, and share how he too felt split between two identities throughout his childhood? And remember how, despite his efforts to relate to her, she ultimately reacted in precisely the way he and Beth feared she would—explosively?
He’s on a mission to gain Deja’s trust this episode, taking her, Tess (Eris Baker), and Annie (Faithe Herman) to the bowling alley. He also doesn't want to push her into tending to her hair, which—inexplicably to him and Beth—she hasn't washed for at least two weeks. He doesn’t want to rush Deja out of her comfort zone, yet he wants to be the one she comes to when shedoescome out of her comfort zone. Deja finally allows Beth to do her hair, and Beth discovers her bald spots. She tells Deja her sister also has alopecia, it's common among black women, and they increase when she’s stressed. When Beth tells Randall what Deja said, he tries once again to relate to her. He tells Deja he runs when he’s stressed and she should join him sometime. As usual, he has the best of intentions, but Deja takes issue with the fact that Beth told him something she told her in confidence. She's frustrated she can’t trust the family she’s living with—because Randall is too busy overcompensating for a relationship with her, like the one he didn’t have with his biological dad.
Toby may be a roadblock for Kate’s budding singing career.
Kate (Chrissy Metz) has been fighting obstacles all her life to be a singer, and now she's finally on the cusp of her big break. She’s taking every measure to fit a superstar image—working out regularly and steering clear of fatty foods. But it seems like all Toby (Chris Sullivan) wants to do is keep her the exact the same person he fell in love with, even making her muffins (with poppy seeds, but still) and trying to convince her to abandon her afternoon yoga class. While the first gesture is sweet and all, it’s obvious Kate is very, very serious about achieving her goal weight, especially to fit into a new dress she purchased to wear at her next gig. Ironically, Kate and Toby met at a weight loss program, yet Kate seems to be the only one of them interested in losing weight. Though Toby's been encouraging, Kate has basically been in this by herself. And now that she's so close to accomplishing her goal, she feels he’s trying to pull her from it. He even describes what she’s doing as “obsessive." She’s been snapping at him and not reacting the way he expects when he makes a nice gesture. She seems to think he may be trying to sabotage her goals in order to keep her in a place with which she is most comfortable (and I am inclined to agree with her).
Kevin’s desire to make his dad proud, even after his death, has pushed him into a dangerous spiral.
When the final scene of last week’s episode showed Kevin (Justin Hartley) taking pills to numb the pain from his on-set injury, it seemed like he might be suffering from something far more serious. This week’s episode definitely confirmed that. He’s spiraling, and he’s choosing to handle it all alone. As heartbreaking memories of his dad (Milo Ventimiglia) continue to swirl in Kevin's head, his set producer Brian Grazer (actual producer Brian Grazer) demands he step away from the movie temporarily to take care of his ailing leg. He obliges, but when his doctor recommends surgery and a recovery period, Kevin freaks out. Like his sister Kate, he's so close to the biggest moment of his career, and he doesn’t want anything in his way.
Just like he did with Kate, Toby is trying to get his soon-to-be brother-in-law, who’s staying with them while he’s laid up, to relax and stop trying so hard. At first, he doesn't want to take the painkillers from his doctor because they made his mind fuzzy, but later, he doubles down on them to hasten his recovery. It could be that he’s following down the dark path of his late father’s footsteps, but Kevin's need to be the best could also be triggered by the fact that he wasn’t able to show his father his success. Because Jack died when the kids were so young, he was only around long enough to see Kevin’s teenage football injury crush his dreams of becoming a professional athlete. Kevin wants to prove himself to the memory of his late father the only way he knows how—a brilliant performance opposite his dad’s all-time hero Sylvester Stallone. It becomes more important than ever to Kevin that absolutely nothing goes wrong with this film. “I’m not blowing it this time," he tells Toby. "I am going to do whatever it takes."
Randall tried to be more like Kevin and Kate as a child.
Randall’s sense of identity is a common thread in both his childhood and adult narratives. He revealed to Deja just last week that he often felt “split” growing up as a Pearson, with biological parents he never met out in the world somewhere. We know from that same episode that he tried to locate his birth parents when he was a teenager, to no avail. He hasn't shared many of the same experiences as his siblings, which created a complex for him. But in this episode, we actually see a 10-year-old Randall claim something that is inherently his own. He really wants to participate in the science fair at his school (he’s working on the perfect experiment), but both Kevin and Kate have come down with the chicken pox—which means he’ll likely get it as well. That also means he wouldn’t have anything to brag about to Grandma Janet (Elizabeth Perkins), who pays the family a surprise visit. This is very important for him, as he really wants her to love him in the same way that she does his two siblings. He’s not white like them, and her incessant habit of referring to him and his siblings as “the twins and Randall” is not lost on him. But maybe he can win her over with his cool experiment? Maybe he could finally get to that point with her where his blackness, or what makes him different, isn't also a defect in her eyes? In order to prevent himself from catching chicken pox at a time that would take him out of the fair, he basically wills himself to catch it, driving Kevin and especially Kate crazy by running after them all day. But he soon learns his plan is in vain when his grandmother's skeletons come flying out of her closet.
Rebecca’s mother is racist, and drops microaggressions in the exact same way as Rebecca.
Microaggressions apparently run in Rebecca’s family, and we learn just how harmful they can be when Janet’s visit turns into a suffocating nightmare which not only exposes her racism but also highlights patterns in Rebecca’s behavior. It was especially uncomfortable seeing Rebecca call out her mother Janet for her subtle jabs aimed at each of her kids and Janet responding with shock and offense—just like Rebecca did two episodes ago, after Kate’s performance brought up unresolved wounds. When Janet sees Kevin trying to pick his chicken pox, she warns him against it because his face “is going to take you far one day.” She purposely gives Kate a dress that is too small, passive-aggressively calling it her “goal dress” (though later in this episode, Kate uses this tactic as an adult as she gets ready for her big singing gig). Janet also gifts Randall with a basketball—for the third time. While Kevin already seems assured of his looks even at a young age, we know Kate is deeply self-conscious about her weight, and that Randall struggles to understand his black identity in a house of white faces. Janet gets them right where it hurts the most—whether or not she'll admit to it. But when she refers to the “black maid” she had when Rebecca was a child, who she “had to correct on her English,” and the church they had to leave because the pastor was Ghanaian and she “couldn’t understand his accent,” Rebecca flatly calls her a racist. Janet is appalled by the accusation, but neither of them realize that young Randall has been standing in the doorway the whole time. He wanted to show his mother his first chicken pox.
Just when he had finally gotten the chance to be like Kevin and Kate, he’s reminded yet again that he still does not belong—and that his grandmother is a racist. It's a heartbreaking scene that isn’t alleviated when Rebecca and Jack later try to explain microaggressions to him, and that though Grandma may say something nice, “there’s this mean undertone to it.” The next morning, Janet tries to explain to Rebecca that she grew up in a different time, still denying this has nothing to do with his race or the fact that he’s adopted. “It all just seems very foreign to me,” she says. Rebecca doesn’t accept this. But Janet does show some effort when, just as she's about to leave, she finally sees Randall for who he is and not who she assumes he is—a young black boy interested in science, not a budding basketball player.
Kate is pregnant.
It sounds like such happy news, but on the cusp of her big break, Kate seems a bit downtrodden about expecting—probably because it’s just another thing that could stand in the way of her singing dreams. What this will mean for her relationship with Toby, her weight loss goals, and her career remains to be seen, as the episode ends shortly after this bombshell. It will be interesting to see which direction the writers take her storyline—if she chooses to have the baby.
Video: THIS IS US 2x04 Recap: Kate's Big Secret - 2x05 Promo | What Happened?!?
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