Emotions run deep on This Is Us, which isn’t afraid to push the envelope a little bit. Just four episodes into the first season, “The Pool” brings up the topic of racism and even bullying. During a heat wave, Rebecca and Jack struggle to keep their cool, literally, at the local pool. In present day, Kate learns something unexpected about Toby, while Kevin heads to his first Broadway audition. Meanwhile, William’s presence is bringing up some tough memories for Randall.
Keeping Their Cool
Things we take for granted nowadays include central air! But in the ’80s, Rebecca and Jack struggle to keep cool after their A/C breaks. So Jack suggests a fun, relaxing day at the pool. A reluctant Rebecca agrees, and they head off. At first, it’s fun and games, as Jack races around to find available chairs. But soon, Rebecca is no longer relaxed as she makes sure each of her kids are lathered up in sunscreen and sticking close by.
Of course, this lasts all of five minutes, as Kate heads off to talk to some classmates, with a worried Rebecca concerned about Kate wearing a two-piece, fearing cruel kids. Her nightmare comes true when Kate is handed a note from one of the girls saying they don’t want to play with her anymore.
As Jack races around the pool, still in search of chairs, Randall sneaks off, leaving Kevin in the pool by himself. A frantic Rebecca and Jack search for Randall, and Rebecca finds him playing with a black family. At first, the tensions are slightly high as the mother is passive-aggressive toward Rebecca. Rebecca gets defensive about her son, and as she storms off, the woman offers her tips on how to properly cut Randall’s hair to avoid razor burn.
Meanwhile, Kevin is still in the pool with no one watching as Rebecca and Jack deal with their other children. They find the cruel note given to Kate, while Randall scribbles some numbers in a notebook. Kevin swims too far into the deep end and almost drowns. He freaks out on his parents, saying they don’t care about him. Jack makes it right, though, reassuring him that they do love him.
A now-calm Rebecca heads back over to the black family and asks the woman for the name of a good barber. The woman is kind and starts to write it down as she offers Rebecca tips on how to care for Randall’s skin. Rebecca, seemingly grateful now, suggests they make a play date soon, and the woman gladly accepts the invitation.
And Jack cheers Kate up by giving her his favorite T-shirt, telling her a story about how it’s magic.
Stalking is Research, Right?
Kate and Toby are out eating a healthy lunch when Toby runs into his ex-wife, Josie, who happens to be very pretty and thin, much to Kate’s dismay. This information sends Kate into a downward spiral, as she cyber-stalks Josie. She even takes it a step further and goes into the shop that Josie owns. When Josie asks if she’s there about the job opening, Kate finds herself on a job interview, which she eventually gets.
Toby obviously flips out on her. Kate pulls the ‘I have issues’ card yet again, but Toby isn’t having it. He explains that the reason he got divorced is because Josie was cruel to him. She cheated and lied throughout the marriage. He explains that after the divorce, he gained almost 100 pounds and had suicidal thoughts. He wants Kate to know that everyone has issues, including him. She apologizes and says that her issues just won’t go away overnight, and Toby says neither will he. I mean, can this guy be any more perfect for Kate? She agrees that she won’t take the job.
Making It in the Big Apple
After Kevin lands in New York, he calls Randall to let him know he’s on the East Coast. Then he heads to his first Broadway audition, which he shows up late to. He starts by telling the director and playwright that he’s not just another Los Angeles movie star wanting to break into the business. He wants them to take him seriously, except that the audition goes horribly wrong. The actress he’s paired up with, Olivia, is exhausted and doesn’t even want to let him audition.
After the audition, Kevin runs into Olivia on the street. She asks him to get a drink. At the bar, she suggests, as a friend, that he move back to Los Angeles, as she wouldn’t want to see him fail. However, after she goes through her whole speech, she gets a text that Kevin got the part and she storms out of the bar.
Black and White
Randall’s kids seem to be adjusting well to the news that William is their grandfather. One morning, William heads out for a walk in the neighborhood when he’s stopped by a security officer. When Randall heads out to find out what’s up, the officer explains that someone called him about a person loitering in the area. He apologizes when Randall explains that William is staying with him, and the couple who called security apologizes too.
Later on at a clothing shop, Randall confronts William about the incident. He explains that he chooses to ignore racism around him and just let things go, and perhaps William has to do the same. However, later that night, Randall can’t let the feelings go as his daughter plays Snow White in the school play. He notices the irony of a black child playing Snow White and tries to ignore the laughter in the audience.
Back at home, he has another chat with William. He explains how even though he grew up in an all-white family, that doesn’t mean he didn’t suffer. He tells William about the notebook he kept as a child and that he would mark down in the book every time he met another black person while growing up. He adds that he always wondered if any of the black men he met were his father. William then apologizes for everything and tells Randall that he’s a good man.
Just as Randall and William are sharing, the doorbell rings. As he gets up to answer the door, Randall passes a photo of his family with the woman from the pool. At the door is Kevin, and his nieces are thrilled! Kevin says he wants to crash with Randall, and both Beth and Randall reluctantly agree. Randall then introduces William to Kevin as his biological father, and William is thrilled. He’s also super pumped that The Manny is Randall’s brother.
Racism, obesity, bullying. The list can go on and on about issues that people deal with on a daily basis, some more serious than others but all important to the people dealing with them. This Is Us seems to be taking them all on, just in small doses. I think Mandy Moore did a good job portraying a very stressed-out mother, just wanting what’s right for her family, but at the same time it’s clear she’s in over her head. Rebecca doesn’t seem prepared for motherhood. But then again, what parent is fully ready when children are born? Especially triplets. It was nice to see Jack stepping up, but I am still curious about what happens to him!
I like that Kevin is in New York and facing things he hasn’t faced before, though it’s clear that he’s always felt like the left-out child. So I’m curious how staying with Randall will play out.
And Kate needs to lighten up. I’m curious about more of her backstory and why she is the way she is. To me, she’s slightly self-absorbed, always talking about her issues with her weight and her insecurities. I’m glad Toby finally stood up to her, but I’m also glad that he still looks past those qualities to see the good in Kate because they are good together.
So what did you think of “The Pool”? Do you think This Is Us does a good job with tough topics? How do you like the time jumps? Let us know in the comments below.
This Is Us season 1 airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC. Want more news? Like our Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of NBC)