‘This Is Us’ 2×04 Review: ‘Still There’

Life is hard. Sometimes it feels like a weight that is crushing you to the ground. But life is also beautiful. Sometimes it feels like a warm embrace that lifts your spirits to the sky above.

And that’s really the theme of life. You take the bad with the good. Sometimes, everything is playing out the way you want. Sometimes, it feels as if the entire world is against you. But at the end of the day, it’s the people you love that find a way to remind you that your life is worth fighting for.

This Is Us is really so good at showing us just how beautiful and ugly life can be. It’s a show that can be uplifting in its declarations of hope and optimism. But it’s also a show that reminds us that, while life is beautiful, that life isn’t perfect and that there are negative things that we encounter.

In “Still There,” we were reminded of the sobering and uplifting moments of life. In the flashbacks, we witnessed Rebecca, Jack, and Randall dealing with racism as it walked in their door as Rebecca’s mother. We saw Kevin’s struggles — both past and present — break him in a new emotional way. We saw Randall and Beth get so close with getting through to Deja until they didn’t.

But we were also reminded that, sprinkled in with the bad, are moments of brevity and hope, such as Kate’s exciting news that brought tears to our eyes. Because of course. This is This Is Us, after all.

Let’s break this hour down:

Addressing Racism in Society


One of the things that makes This Is Us so powerful is how even in its flashbacks it manages to tackle issues that are prevalent today. The most recent example comes when Rebecca’s mother comes to visit during a snowstorm, which leaves her stranded there — with the Big 3 and Jack dealing with Chickenpox. But no, Rebecca’s mom being stuck in her house was her own personal hell.

We all know the kind of woman Rebecca’s mother is. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered her. She’s overtly critical, she’s rude, she doesn’t really show love, and she is everything that is wrong with a woman’s way of thinking in modern day (even though this was in the 1980s.)

But this isn’t about how Rebecca’s mom is a terrible mother. This is about the issue that her arrival brought with her, and that issue is racism.

Perhaps the most important thing This Is Us managed to do in this episode as it tackled racism was to address it in a way in which the racist person didn’t believe they were racist. But usually, they don’t believe they are. It’s their actions and their words that say otherwise.

That’s exactly what we saw with Rebecca’s mom in this episode. She’d never been welcoming of Randall, and Rebecca used to think it was because he was “adopted.” But this episode opened her eyes as she saw her mother for who she really was. And Rebecca was not having any of that.

While Rebecca was content with ignoring her mother for most of this episode until the snow melted and she got the hell out of there, when she saw with her own eyes that her mom was racist — and had been treating Randall like this because of it — she had to speak up. So she did.

And we saw that conversation between mother and daughter as Rebecca called her mom out for her crap. We listened as Rebecca’s mom said everything that we’ve heard before — how she’s not racist, how she comes from a different time, how she believes what she believes. And that was that.

But Randall had heard the whole thing, prompting a discussion with Rebecca and Jack and Randall about racism and what it means. They explained the mean undertone that actions or words can have. It was nice to see that discussion shown — as racism was explained to a child and to the world.

Eventually, we saw Rebecca’s mom — as she was saying goodbye — approach Randall by showing some interest in his science project. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was a start.

“You’re a special man,” she says.

“Took you long enough,” Randall so perfectly replies.

Racism isn’t necessarily as clear as you’d believe. Usually it resides deep within your belief system. You might not even realize it until someone points it out. Or you might never realize it at all. This Is Us showed us that racism isn’t as obvious as you’d think. It also showed us that — if you want to — you can begin to change. Although, that change isn’t going to be instantaneous.

Risk & Reward of Dreams


When it comes to dreams, there are risks and rewards when it comes both when you’re working toward them and even after you get there. Having a dream — and working your ass to get there — is such a satisfying thing.

It’s something that we can all relate to in some way. And how fitting it was a way that Kevin became more relatable than ever before as this season continues to explore his humanity and what drives him.

I have to admit, I assumed that This Is Us was going to take the obvious route with Kevin. And have Kevin be more unaware of the possibility of addiction when it comes to painkillers. But as we saw pretty early on, Kevin was weary of taking painkillers, either because of his dad’s history of addiction or something else we haven’t yet seen.

Following a routine arthroscopic surgery that threatened to derail Kevin’s career, we learned a little bit more about Kev’s connection to football. It wasn’t just something he did in high school. He was damn good at it. It was going to be his future. And then he blew out his knee (we still haven’t seen that yet), and he watched his football future go down the drain.

Kevin had already lost one dream — the dream of being a football star. After his football dreams were dashed, Kev turned to acting for comfort. And he discovered that he actually really loved it. So this surgery — and with it possibly affecting his acting career — Kev couldn’t bear to let another dream escape him.

So he did something I don’t think we expected him to do again: He picked up the painkillers and decided to work through the pain. Because there was no way he was going to let his knee destroy another one of his dreams.

Now, what happens next is going to be the interesting part. Will the determination to work through the pain actually derail his career — and life — in a different, more dangerous way? Is he really his father’s son?

Kate Gets Healthy For A Very Important Reason


One of the storylines that This Is Us has handled beautifully from the start has been Kate’s weight loss journey, which has strengthened her as a character over the past year. This week was one of the more interesting and mysterious aspects of her journey, as we saw her pushing herself to lose stay healthy and lose weight for an upcoming gig.

This episode seemed to be about Kate being able to fit into that dress she was going to wear. She was using it as a motivating factor. But there was even a time when the show seemed to tease Kate taking weight loss drugs, including a visit to the pharmacy where she got some vitamins.

Damn, This Is Us, you got us.

In the final scene, we found Kate at the doctor, where it appeared she was going for a weight consultation. Only it wasn’t a weight consultation. It was for a check-up. Because she’s six weeks along. That’s right.

Kate is pregnant!

It was a moment that completely shocked me and completely made me emotional within a matter of seconds. Kate was overtly concerned with her health not because she wanted to necessarily fit in that dress, but because she wanted to do right by her baby. God, it was so beautiful.

The Struggles of Getting Through



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If there’s anything to be learned from Randall and Beth’s fostering of Deja, it’s that just when things seem to be going right, another obstacle will inevitably be introduced. And that’s what the Pearsons learned in this episode.

The main struggle with Deja is getting through to her in a way that makes her feel secure and comfortable. Given her rough background — a lot of which we don’t know — she’s someone that you get an immediate feeling doesn’t trust a lot of people. She’d rather close herself off and protect herself from any possible pain.

It’s what made that moment of bonding between Beth and Deja so damn beautiful. Beth presented this safe and welcoming environment but also reached her in a personal way. She made herself relatable. It allowed Deja to open up — first asking for Beth to do her hair. And then even more when she revealed details about her stressful past. And for the first time, as Beth helped Deja with her hair, we saw a small smile linger on her lips.

Randall stopped by later to apologize for his reaction at the bowling alley, where he nearly got in a fight with a man over Deja pushing his daughter for being a bitch to her. Randall opened up about his two nervous breakdowns that he’s had in his life, including last year’s, and the stress of his life. He says that running helps him clear his head, and he invites her along.

Just when it seemed like Randall was about to have a breakthrough with Deja, she responded in a surprising way: “She told you what I said?”

Translation: Beth told you what I told her in confidence? And it didn’t go over well.

But after Deja felt her confidence was betrayed, she lashed out. She cut her beautiful braids out because, in a way, they felt tainted. She’s someone that doesn’t trust easily. And in that moment — when she knew Beth told Randall about her struggles — she felt betrayed, probably like she has been betrayed most of her life.

This is going to continue to be a process with Deja. It’s not that it won’t happen. It’s just going to take some time. Deja needs to be around Beth and Randall and the girls to develop that trust. She needs to see more of what they provide for her. She needs to trust them. And trust comes with time.

This Is… Five Things

  1. Did anyone see that cliffhanger with Kate coming? Because holy crap that hit me right in the feels. She’s pregnant! Ahh!
  2. That conversation between Beth and Deja was so damn beautiful. It really showed you that this girl just needs to know that she’s got someone that cares, even if it’s a near stranger. Deja craves stability and comfort. And I’m hoping that — eventually — she’ll find that with the Pearsons.
  3. There was an interesting parallel this week and a couple weeks back where we saw Rebecca and her relationship with her mom and Kate and her relationship with Rebecca. While Kate was certainly emotional and stressed around her mom, you never really doubted that Rebecca loves Kate. Whereas Rebecca’s mom, we didn’t really get that feeling from her demeanor.
  4. I feel like this season is making Kevin a more likeable character because he’s starting to become more human. We’re getting to see more of him and his vulnerabilities, most recently being reminded of his dream of being a football player taken from him and the fear that comes with the possibility of that happening with his acting career.
  5. I loved everything with the younger Big 3 in this episode, from Randall calling his grandmother out “It’s about time,” to Kevin helping his dad shovel snow, to the entire Chickenpox episode.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.


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