Hi, my friends. Episode 3 of This is Us's fifth season was entitled, "Changes" because things are, you guessed it, changing! And yes, this is in fact the third episode because the premiere, "Forty" was two episodes! I know what you're all thinking: I'm great at counting, and you're right!
Here is your little SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't seen last night's episode of This is Us, don't read this recap! Unless you don't plan on watching it and just wanna know what happens, which I absolutely do not judge you for.
Up first this week is Kate and Toby and their adoption journey. We know they have a daughter named Haley in the future, but what's the age difference between her and Jack? Was she adopted or did Kate birth her?
Right now we're operating under the assumption that Haley is indeed adopted, and this week Kate and Toby meet her supposed birth mother. Her name is Ellie and she's a 33-year-old single mom. She already has one daughter, Willow, name after the character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ellie got pregnant with maybe-Haley after a one night stand with a guy she met after the death of her husband. She seems really cool and her and Kate get along great.
HOWEVER...I am so wary of these adoption storylines. I watched it go down on Parenthood and again on A Million Little Things (actually, I quit AMLT before it got to that point, but when I read that it did, it didn't surprise me in the slightest). The adoption fakeout is a tired trope. For those who are unfamilar, it's when the birth mom finds a couple (usually main characters on the show) she wants to adopt her baby, and then at the last possible second, usually after she gives birth, she changes her mind. It's so devastating and also overused at this point. I'm really hopeful they stick with Ellie and Ellie sticks with them and gives them Haley of the future.
Next up we've got Randall. Randall has a new therapist, a nice Black man with a baby. He wants Randall to recount memories of his childhood and stop trying to prove to him that he's Black despite being raised by White people. He literally says to his therapist, "Beth, my wife. My Black wife." His therapist is like, "Calm down."
Also shout-out to anyone doing virtual therapy right now (therapists and clients alike). That shit is HARD! It is so different from going in person and having a real private, human conversation. So to those (like me) doing that right now, good job. Mental health is so important, especially during a global pandemic.
Also in Randall-land, Tess gets in trouble at school for posting a "profane" video online with her friend. In the video, she and her friend call out a teacher who is particularly grab-y with Black students, and fails to recognize non-binary students as such. The video is done in the style of a rap/dance/thing and it's...not profane? Like I don't see the issue?
Beth and Randall come down hard on Tess and then ground her for SIX WEEKS. Obviously NBC couldn't make the video worse (I guess?) because it's network television BUT there wasn't even any swearing! Or inappropriate dance moves! Poor Tess was just standing up against her weird ass teacher. I'm Team Tess on this one, guys. Oh, also Randall has a come-to-Jesus moment where he realizes that maybe Tess will turn out better than him, since she already knows who she is. But I beg the question, WHAT ABOUT POOR ANNIE? Annie girl is gonna have all of Randall's anxiety, mark my word.
In flashback 90s world, Jack and Bec are dealing with the Big 3 entering puberty and oh my goodness, those little kid actors have gotten SO big. Their voices are changing and I'm sad because they used to be so freaking little!
Mom and Pops take the kiddos to the doctor to see how they're growing, and then Kate has her friend Tonya and ex Stewart over for a group project. Randall sits in the living room watching TV before doing his homework when Tonya tries to kiss him because she's "always wondered what it'd be like to kiss someone like him". Yucky racism yuck. Grown-up Randall uses this story to write down and possibly tell his therapist. The scene makes me uncomfortable and sad. Fuck Tonya.
Meanwhile, Kevin is trying to get buff for football. Jack takes him to the garage to work out and Bec is apprehensive because she doesn't want Kev to feel like he needs to work out or be a certain size. I mean, he's still growing after all! Last episode showed us that Rebecca didn't want her sons to have to feel male pressure from society, and this scene really drives that point home. Side note: Becca trying to be a "cool mom" is so funny.
Jack and Kevin have a great moment of him teaching Kevin to lift weights, and he doesn't push him too hard. Instead, Kev pushes himself a little too hard, probably trying to prove to himself that he's a big tough guy. I did very much enjoy the wholesome Jack and Kevin content, and wish we got to see more of that. Jack was taken from those kiddos way too soon.
Grown-up Kev is still battling his insecurities when he lands the job in a movie called "Glass Eye". It's about a trial lawyer who takes his shirt off? Anyway, he's still living with pregnant Madison and they're engaged I think. He tells her about the movie and how his diet has the change and she immediately shuts down. He think it's because the sex scenes. LOL.
I'm SO glad they decided to finally address Madison's eating disorder while being pregnant! We watch as she wakes up before Kevin and puts on a full face of makeup before getting dressed and making him breakfast. It reminds me of one of the scenes from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, where Midge does the same so that her husband doesn't see her without makeup. It's so sad to watch Madison here, clearly so insecure about her appearance in front of the man she's seemingly engaged to.
Eventually Madison breaks down, and tells Kevin she has to literally remind herself to eat for her babies. She has bulimia, which we knew but he didn't, and it almost killed her at 17. She's got a handle on it, but she hates that strangers can tell she's pregnant and that Kevin now has to have a strict diet for a movie. Kevin opens up that he's an alcoholic also battling insecurities around his appearance, and decides a trial lawyer shouldn't need to take his f'ing shirt off! They have a really sweet heart to heart and I'm still waiting for them to just KISS but I'll settle for a deeper, authentic love story right now.
Lastly, at both the beginning and end of the episode there are scenes with a Vietnamese man and his granddaughter. He cooks for her and tells her he also cooked to impress the woman he love(s/d?). This is Us loves bringing in new characters all the damn time just to drop them, so I figured this was just a bookend to whatever the Pearson's were going through in this episode.
But! Turns out, this guy is in love/was in love with Laurel, Randall's totally-alive-now birth mother. The end of the episode is a close-up of a picture of the Vietnamese man and Laurel, and I'm sitting here like "Oh." That's literally it. I think I'm supposed to care more, but I thought Laurel was dead for the past four seasons so I guess my heart isn't really in it. Also, that probably means Randall has a shit ton of other family members and then This is Us is just gonna turn into This is the Duggars. I mean, of course not exactly but...kind of?
That's all for this week! As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments! What do we think of Ellie and adoption storylines? Do you ship Kevin and Madison? Was Tess in the wrong or were Randall and Beth "fascists" ("Did she call you a fascist?")? Do you care about Laurel's story? Tell me!