‘This Is Us’ 3×05 Review: ‘Toby’

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A part of me is glad that I didn’t know this episode was titled “Toby.” I would have probably tuned in hating everything about it before it even aired. Not knowing the title actually helped, because I was able to truly enjoy it from start to finish.

How is that possible, you may ask? Especially since it’s named after one of my least liked characters?

Believe me, I’m just as confused as you are. What’s even more confusing: this episode helped me appreciate that character more. And it made me appreciate another character I usually can’t stand: Miguel.

Keep reading to find out how This Is Us has somehow made the impossible possible!

It’s okay to not be okay

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Depression can be crippling. There are so many people around the world suffering from depression. It’s an important topical subject and should always be written with care. I love that this series has always been self aware when it comes to Toby’s mental health issues. We’ve just never really dived into his backstory… until now.

From the beginning, we’ve known Toby suffers from depression. In a series of flashbacks, we learned it started during childhood when his parents were on the verge of separating. His mom also suffered from the same, to the point that it was even difficult for her to get out of bed to buy her son clothes for school. When his parents finally divorced, his dad made comments about how much he was like his mother and that he’d have to get a handle on that before he became an adult.

Fast forward to that adulthood and we see Toby going through his own divorce. That was when his depression hit the hardest and the period where he gained all his weight that led him to the weight loss support group where he eventually met Kate.

Recently, we watched him go off his meds, and we knew that it would come back to haunt him. In this week’s episode, the little stability he was able to hold on to finally crumbled around him. After finding out that Kate was in fact pregnant, Toby broke down in their kitchen. He’d been feeling overwhelmed and it seems that this news was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’m not entirely sure I know what to expect with Toby going forward, given the flash forward we saw earlier this season. All I know is that for the first time ever, I actually care about him. If finally learning his backstory is all that it took, they should have shown us this a lot sooner.

However, Toby wasn’t the only one dealing with sadness in this episode.

Going back to the time after Jack’s death, the big three are still coping with the loss of their father. Kate seems to be struggling the most. She’s gained a lot of weight in the months since Jack perished and she’s refusing to participate in any social events, including prom. Its such a stark difference from the happy kid we knew as daddy’s little girl before Jack died.

And after drinking too much at prom, Sophie dropped Kevin off at Miguel’s house. Here’s something I never expected I’d say: Miguel was the real MVP here. In this episode at least. But more on that later.

Sometimes racism is subtle but it still cuts deep

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Sourcre: http://kbbey.tumblr.com

There were a lot of heartbreaking moments in this episode, but two of the most heartbreaking happened in the past and the present.

Randall was so adorably excited for his prom. He and Kevin rented a limo and the two brothers went to pick up Randall’s girlfriend with Sophie on the night of the big dance. But what should have been a traditional rite of passage turned into another sad night where he suffered alone. Randall was already nervous going to meet his girlfriend’s parents. When he got there, her mom was extremely welcoming. I loved her. She could tell that her daughter picked a good one. But then his girlfriend’s dad walked into the scene  – and it turns out he’s a racist. He can’t handle his white daughter dating a black man.

Randall is my favorite character, so I am always ready to jump to his defense. This episode was no exception. That’s what was most disappointing about watching this all unfold though. I wanted Kevin to step up on his Randall’s behalf and tell the guy off for insulting his brother. But deep down, I knew Kevin wouldn’t because even adult Kevin has admitted that he wasn’t a good brother to Randall when they were growing up.

Randall ends up at a diner in his tux while Kevin and Sophie head to prom by themselves. We don’t really know much about the night except that Kevin got really drunk. I do wonder if that is from guilt because he knows that he should have stood up for his brother. It’s what their father would have wanted him to do. Now, I need more from prom night because I need to get inside teenage Kevin Pearson’s head.

In the present, Kevin and Zoe are on their way to meet Jack’s war buddy that Kevin contacted in a previous episode. While on the road, the pair stop for gas and snacks. At the gas station, the attendant doesn’t realize they are together and she speaks very sharply to Zoe. Kevin corrects the attendant but he’s obviously oblivious to what just occurred in front of him. Zoe is visibly shocked and hurt but she still schools her features. She won’t allow this other woman to see how deep her words cut her.

Later that night, when the two are in their hotel room Zoe opens up to Kevin about what occurred earlier that day. She’s shining a harsh light on the reality of what it means to be in an interracial relationship. I don’t think Kevin is that oblivious to racism. It’s just never really affected him, so he’s not always aware of when it happens. I think he’s going to make sure to be more aware of it now though. He really likes Zoe, and she likes him enough to decide that he might be worth it after all. I don’t know if the writers intend on making this endgame, but for now both these characters have an opportunity to grow together. I’m excited to see that happen.

Miguel the MVP? What is happening right now?!

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I was seriously worried that this would be the first episode without Jack appearing but it wasn’t. We got to see a flashback of Jack from his bearded days sometime after the big three were born. Hanging out with Miguel, he was filling out his life insurance policy.

Miguel laughed it off and told him not to bother with that scam because “Jack Pearson doesn’t die.” Those are definitely famous last words. 2016 me would have used this moment to somehow blame Miguel for Jack’s death. I like to think I’m a lot more evolved now. This was a really sweet moment between these two friends that actually made me cry. Jack did what we always suspected. He asked Miguel to take care of his family if anything ever happened to him.

And Miguel became a man obsessed, taking that vow to heart.

He was there for Rebecca and the kids in every possible way. Their fridge was broken, so he fixed it. He found a piano at a garage sale to replace the one that they lost in the fire. When Randall came home upset because of his girlfriend’s dad, Miguel tried to make him feel better by telling him of his own experience with racism. He even took in a drunk Kevin and gave him a place to crash for the night so Rebecca wouldn’t have to deal with it.

These are the kinds of moments the show might have benefited from showing us sooner. I may not love Miguel. I still don’t really accept his marriage to Rebecca. But I find myself hating him a little less after this episode. All this shows me is that Miguel should have been their super awesome uncle who was like a second dad after Jack passed away. I think if they’d done that instead of making him Rebecca’s second husband, we would have been more accepting of him back in season one.

The base needs a break before she breaks down

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Beth is and always has been Randall’s rock. She’s the base. She’s always got her power suit on and she’s always ready to go support her man. After being laid off from a job that she loved, Beth has been trying to regroup by going to a series of job interviews. She’s really excited about this one though and she’s feeling really positive about it. Despite putting on a strong front with Randall, we see that Beth completely botched her interview. While talking about her previous employer, she broke down after realizing how much of herself she gave to that place and how she was just cast aside like she didn’t even matter. It’s heartbreaking but it’s also the reality for people who’ve been laid off from jobs where they’ve put in so many years.

I know that Beth is going to bounce back from this. I believe that. But I do need to see Randall step up and start carrying the heavy load of his family like Beth has been doing throughout their marriage.

Sadly, Randall isn’t even aware of what his wife is going through right now. He’s too preoccupied with his new campaign to notice. But the people in the community where he’s running for office don’t even accept him as one of them. I worry that Randall’s entire campaign might be more about his insecurity of trying to fit in than wanting to help the people his father once knew.

I know he wants to make a difference as councilman in William’s old neighborhood. I’m just not sure that now is the right time for that to happen. Fixing problems for strangers won’t mean a thing if your home life is falling apart. This sounds like a lesson Jack would be giving if he was still alive to give it. Maybe Rebecca can take a page from her late husband’s book to help their son. He could really use some Jack Pearson advise right now.

Highlights

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  • “I like the hoochie earrings.” Randall and Beth continue to be relationship goals.
  • I ship Kevin and Zoe more and more every week.
  • Ten year old Toby doing impressions in the middle of a department store to cheer up his depressed mom really warmed my heart.
  • Kate’s Adele look was spot on.
  • Kevin getting the silk pillow for Zoe despite not understanding what she needed it for was such a Jack Pearson move!
  • The moment that Kevin finally found out that his dad was not a mechanic in Vietnam was so good. I’ve been waiting for that revelation.
  • Zoe’s entire conversation in the kitchen with that woman about how she needed to figure out if Kevin was worth the effort because being a black woman dating a white man who happens to be a celebrity is going to be difficult.
  • The fact that she decided that he was worth it and she finally opened up about her own insecurities within their relationship.
  • Toby’s breakdown in the kitchen was top notch acting by Chris Sullivan.
  • Kate is pregnant! And I couldn’t be happier. I hope she has a boy and that she names him Jack.
  • I loved Rebecca and Kate’s moment at the piano. It broke my heart. We also got to hear Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz sing in the same episode. More of that please!
  • The mystery woman in the photo from Vietnam. I know we’re all expecting to find out that she and Jack were romantically involved because she had the necklace Jack gave Kevin. I’m hoping we all hold off on the jumping the shark thing right now. For the record, I’m not against that being the case because Vietnam was way before Jack ever met Rebecca.
  • The way Jack casually asked Miguel to watch over his family if anything ever happens to him and how Miguel kept his promise after his friend died.
  • I’ve always joked about this show being Parenthood meets Lost because it’s a family drama but they keep throwing plot twists and mysteries at the audience. Now I’m starting to think it’s true.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9PM on NBC. Here is the promo for next week’s episode:




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