This Is Us
Light and Shadows
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Just as you were embracing the hope that comes with the start of a new year, This Is Us has returned to remind you that everything is awful. We knew Rebecca would be getting diagnosed with some type of dementia, so it’s not like we were waiting with bated breath for the results from her initial cognitive testing, but watching her get the bad news from the doctor, while flanked by Miguel and Randall, is still pretty devastating. And don’t even get me started on that single tear as Old Rebecca recalls the first time she and Jack said “I love you.” Do not even get me started. Why must all the terrible things happen to the Pearsons? IS THERE NO END TO THIS TRAGEDY?
Yes, much of “Light & Shadows” is about Rebecca’s preliminary diagnosis — and This Is Us is feeling those artsy transitions between Old Rebecca and the memories of her and Jack with lighting and Joni Mitchell’s “California” — but mostly it seems concerned with how that affects Randall and Miguel. But of course, Randall spent weeks trying to find the best neurologist to see his mother. This dude even calls Miguel to tell him he’s made an appointment with someone out in Los Angeles literally while the ball is dropping on New Year’s Eve. His family is counting down from ten, and Randall is jabbering away with Miguel. He’s wearing a New Year’s Eve party hat while doing it. You guys, sometimes Randall even out-Randalls himself.
Randall taking charge of Rebecca’s life is clearly bugging Miguel, and once Rebecca leaves for her test, he makes sure Randall knows how he’s feeling. Basically, Migs is like, I can take care of my wife. You don’t need to be so Randall about it. And Randall’s all like, How could you not have noticed anything was wrong with her? And also, remember how you married your dead best friend’s wife? He doesn’t say that last thing so much with his mouth as he does with his eyes, but there is tension in that waiting room is what I’m saying (there’s always tension when Pearsons are in waiting rooms; it is their natural state).
But we know Randall has been right all along. There’s something wrong with Rebecca. They are still in early stages, but things could deteriorate fast. (We know they do!) Miguel is an angel person, so he’s big enough to admit he was wrong. He also explains that of course he noticed things were off with Rebecca; he was just in denial about it because he can’t lose her. The guy starts to tear up there in the lobby in front of his wife’s son. He promises Randall he’ll take care of Rebecca. Be still all our hearts. Sometimes, I feel so bad for Miguel, who is completely misunderstood by the Pearsons. But also he knew what he was marrying into, so you can’t feel too bad about it. Anyway, Miguel may be the only one crying, but all three of them are leaving the hospital defeated and depressed. And it’s only going to get worse, so that’s fun and cool.
Speaking of being misunderstood: We need to talk about Kevin (Pearson). What in the holy hell is his story line in this episode? Kevin hires a matchmaker in hopes of achieving his goals of being married and starting a family by the time he’s 40. (Kate’s reaction is extremely on point.) This lasts all of three minutes. Then, the moment he swears off his matchmaker and allows the universe to take over, he meets a very cute brunette named Lizzie in a coffee shop. (Welcome to the madness, Sophia Bush!) The two hit it off, naturally, but Lizzie is in town only one more day, and then it’s back to Chicago for her. Cute, TIU. Kevin wants to make the most of it. Somehow, in the span of, I don’t know, two hours max, he gets access to the Hollywood Bowl and has John Legend, People’s Sexiest Man Alive, come to perform for just him and Lizzie because she had mentioned how John Legend is her favorite musician. My brain exploded, guys. Is John Legend just sitting around waiting for the ex-star of a now canceled sitcom to call him up and ask for a full-length concert in the middle of the day? Are Kevin Pearson and John Legend best friends? If so, could he not have used this Legend favor for something more important? Like Kate’s wedding? Wooing Sophie back on her doorstep? Easing the tension after family therapy? Literally anything else?
Even more confusing: The first date is going well, especially once Kevin starts saying swoony things about how his parents’ epic love story made him a hopeless romantic, but when he goes in for the post–John Legend concert kiss, Lizzie pulls away. You guys, in the Year of Our Lord 2020, the twist here is that Kevin Pearson is Lizzie’s “hall pass” with her husband — you know, the agreed-upon celebrity you could hook up with without it being considered cheating. (Fans of Friends may know it as the “Freebie List” and would also know to never, ever laminate it.) Lizzie didn’t expect Kevin to be so great or for this to go so far. In all fairness, who would expect their celebrity crush to hit on them and follow up a nice coffee chat with a private John Legend concert within hours of meeting? Who? So things get awkward, Kevin is a little offended, and Lizzie decides it’s best to leave. All Kev wants is a romance like his parents’ — is that so much to ask, universe? Maybe not: Just as he hands his phone over to a PA on set for his Shyamalan movie reshoots, it starts buzzing. Sophie’s calling.
The mystery of Kevin’s future baby mama will have to wait till another day (honestly, my money is on Sophie, but hear me out: Is Madison a contender? Her one random scene in this episode felt … weird). We have a big ol’ problem on our tiny, tearstained hands. Randall makes it back to Philly, checks in on all his girls, who are fast asleep, and then heads back down to the kitchen only to come face-to-face with a man holding a knife who has broken into the house. So yeah, my question at the top about all the tragedy? That still stands.
• In a TIU twist I did not see coming: It’s Rebecca’s mom who encourages her to go after Jack once he breaks up with her because he’s poor and not good enough and has decided to let Rebecca’s dad get into his head. I mean, she’s still the worst, but it’s an interesting footnote to the tale of Jack and Rebecca nonetheless.
• Wow, wow, wow. Very much here and staying for that epic Jack-and-Rebecca kiss at the auto-repair shop as they profess their love for the first time. A real visit to Swoon City right there.
• Really slamming some salt in the gaping wound that is our hearts with Jack’s “Rebecca Malone, I love you. Don’t you ever forget it,” huh, This Is Us?
• Rebecca’s story about rocking baby Randall as the sun came up and she listened to Joni Mitchell was very nice and very sad, which is a basic description of this show in general.
• Kate calls Toby out for trashing her in his group text with his CrossFit friends, but Toby is adamant that she has nothing to worry about with LadyKryptonite. He says things like “I would not look you in the eye and lie to you,” to which Kate replies, “When you tell me something, I believe you.” Both sentences will probably come back and haunt them.
• After Kate throws Toby a surprise “Margaritaville”-themed birthday party, she learns that LadyKryptonite (also, Kara) tried to kiss him, but he didn’t let it happen and switched gyms immediately. He didn’t tell her, because he had just sworn there had been nothing to worry about, and he was wrong. Kate also learns that Toby’s been pulling away because Baby Jack makes him sad. But then Baby Jack starts reaching for string lights because he can see light, and there is finally something to celebrate! Probably not for long, but we take the joy we can get, here.
• But why is she in his phone as LadyKryptonite?