'This Is Us' recap: A telling trip to 'The Pool'

For The Baltimore Sun
"This Is Us" recap: A telling trip to "The Pool"

As "This Is Us" gets comfortable with its characters and the viewers get comfortable with them, it’s time to delve more into what got us here.

What were the catalysts for Kate’s overwhelming insecurities (which border on psychotic in this episode) and Kevin’s constant need for attention? What was it like for Randall growing up as the black child in a white family in an almost entirely white neighborhood? We get some answers to all of those questions in Episode 4.

The show opens on Jack and Rebecca, struggling with three kids (as usual) and, with the air conditioner on the fritz, it’s time to head to the pool. Randall wants to go to the pool with the diving board. At the crowded pool, relaxation is not on order and I can sense Jack wanting to reach for a nip from his flask. But he’s being good, for now. I’m 99 percent sure in the coming episodes he’s not going to be so good about this sober promise.

Kate is showing off her Care Bear bikini (Team Tenderheart btw), Kevin is trying to get all the attention all the time, and Randall is being Randall, pretty much the perfect son. Soon, Kate is exiled by her friends for being too fat by ways of a pretty awful note. Kids are the worst. Kevin almost drowns trying to get his dad’s attention, and comes back furious at his mom and dad for not watching him all the time.

When Randall goes missing, Rebecca finds him with the other black kids at the pool. Now we know the real reason why Randall decided to go to this cool pool with the diving board. After a confrontation with one of the mothers, Rebecca heads back with Randall in tow. Later, she returns to get the name of a good barber and to find out if Randall needs to wear sunscreen. Seriously, that was a question in this episode. Shaking my proverbial head here, "This is Us."

Back in the present, our Big Three are dealing with their typical plethora of issues. As the episode jumps around from person to person with reckless abandon, let’s break it down by what is happening in each character’s life in this episode.

Kate is happy with Toby until she finds out that Toby’s ex-wife isn’t what she expected. She’s a super attractive, thin woman with her own business. Kate’s insecurities start rolling. What could Toby see in her? Is he rebounding with someone the exact opposite of her?

This could have been solved with, ya know, a conversation with Toby. But instead of that, Kate decides to go off the deep end. She gets on the internet, and you know how that ends up. I’m surprised that she didn’t come out knowing the woman’s social security number and mother’s maiden name.

After learning everything there is to know about her, she heads to her business to see her up close. She ends up staying for a job interview and, after displaying some borderline horrifying knowledge of the woman’s life, she’s surely headed to jail or the asylum. Nope, she’s got the job.

She goes over to Toby’s to … tell him the good news I guess? And he, of course, is livid. His ex-wife is nice to look at but was awful to him. He gained 90 pounds after they split up and contemplated suicide. Best scene of the week, right here. I wonder if Kate will quit, though. Knowing her self-destructive ways, I doubt it.

Over at Randall’s, William starts to open up about his life in the '80s and '90s while Randall was being raised across town by Jack and Rebecca. He was an activist, fighting for equality in Philadelphia city schools. After William goes out for a walk, Randall spots him getting questioned by one of the local policemen. Someone must have been really quick on the dial and the cop must have been right around the corner, just waiting for some action. Anyway, Randall rushes out and diffuses the situation but he senses some displeasure from William. The gears start to turn in his head and he starts to see William questioning Randall's blackness.

Randall confronts William at the department store where he’s buying William some $100 flat-front chinos (how descriptive!). Randall isn’t oblivious to the people who judge him by his skin color, he just chooses to look the other way. He notices everything and it makes his blood boil. Later, at the school play with his daughter playing Snow White, Randall sits idly by as the audience laughs at his daughter’s portrayal of Snow White. Was this really happening? Because, if it was, where in the world is this an OK response to a children’s play? Was the program subtitled “Feel free to laugh because Snow White is played by a black girl?” I’m shaking my head again.

Meanwhile, Kevin ran off to New York to be a big Broadway actor and it’s all going to happen quickly. After a few typically frantic and confused calls to Kate to prop him up, he’s off to his first audition. He’s performing with a typically aloof Tony Award-winning actress and he completely bombs. He keeps reading the stage directions and asking for another take. Is he aware that this is Broadway? When he actually acts, he’s good, but he’s not doing enough to get this part.

On his walk back to his apartment, he gets lost and bumps in to the co-star of his audition (of course). Over drinks, she tells him that he needs to go back to Los Angeles or at least take a class on how to act before he continues to try to get work. After telling him that, she gets a text and storms off. Seems like Kevin got the part after all. Success on “The Manny” really pays off.

Next week, we learn Jack and Rebecca’s backstory before the children, Randall is having a baby, and the girls want to know more about William’s health. Should be a doozy!

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