It’s been three weeks since This Is Us last aired and it feels like I haven’t seen this show in an eternity. Thanks O-lympics. I almost feel that the season should have ended with the last episode (recap here if you missed it) instead of plowing forward. How could they possibly have a season finale that top Jack’s death and the introduction of a future timeline? I mean I guess I could technically wait to find out but that’s not nearly as much fun as some good ol’ speculation. Let’s get into it.
Who: Me and my mom
What: This Is Us Season 2 Episode 16 “Vegas, Baby”
Where: My mom’s couch
When: March 3rd 2018 (it originally aired February 28th 2018 but I was too exhausted from Olympics coverage to get around to it until now)
Why: Because it’s full of feeeeeeeeelings
It’s Jack and Rebecca’s first anniversary and they’re bowling in matching outfits. Newlyweds are cute. Time for presents! Rebecca collected all his doodles and notes and had them bound in a book. That’s literally the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard of (is my Library Science background showing?). For his part, Jack arranged a slow dance under a mirror ball. Rebecca wins this year. Cut to their four-year anniversary, Rebecca is pregnant and gives Jack a personalized hammer. He gives her a piano. Um, yeah, score Jack.
We jump an additional ten years, with Rebecca waking up, wishing Jack a happy anniversary, and reminding him that she asked he not do anything this year. He reassures her he didn’t plan anything and she’s visibly relieved. Yeah, Jack’s anniversary gift giving abilities (after year one, which I still think Rebecca got right) would probably be a lot of pressure to live up to.
Nighttime at grownup Randall’s and Deja (the kid they were fostering while her mother was in jail) unexpectedly shows up asking for money so her mom’s place can have the heat turned back on. Randall gives it to her and makes her promise to call him about anything else she might need.
Several weeks later, Beth and Randall are packing for Vegas! Beth mentions she’s packed every sparkly thing she owns and I applaud that commitment to theme. They’re going for Toby and Kate’s bachelor/ette parties and even though Beth feels like a pity invite she is excited as hell. Randall is here to Rain Man on her parade (oh I do crack myself up) and says maybe they shouldn’t go because Deja might need them. Beth very calmly points out that 1) it’s been weeks since they’ve heard from her, 2) she’s not their responsibility anymore and most importantly 3) she deserves a vacation so get in the spirit Randall you’re off to Vegas.
How are the bachelor/ette doing? Well, Kate’s new best friend Madison–wait. Pause. We have to discuss Madison and all my feelings about her.
All the way back in Season One, we were introduced to a clearly delusional woman named Madison in Kate’s Overeaters Anonymous group. She was annoying and insensitive, complaining about a handful of pounds and the temptation to eat at a party while everyone else, who was noticeably larger than her, glared at her. Of course we, the audience, sided with Kate against this skinny L.A. archetype and everything she represented. Fight the (wo)man/system/power! Throughout the few episodes in Season One and Two that Madison appeared in, Kate would often verbally shut her down, which turned out to be a very empowering experience for Kate. But should it have been? Those victories felt so hollow to me. I mean, Madison was/is irritating sure, but she had every right to be there and receive emotional support from the group regardless of her dress size. Madison is not the enemy Kate!
Ironically, Madison is one of the few people Kate confides in about her pregnancy (after almost running her over but that was an accident) and subsequent miscarriage. This leads Madison to schedule a wedding dress design date for Kate as a really nice gesture. While at the boutique, Madison eats a bunch of macaroons and then is off to the restroom for a suspicious amount of time. Kate tries to bring it up after the appointment (by literally saying, “I know what you did”. So subtle, so kind), which all but ensures that Madison flips out and leaves. That night, Madison calls Kate to come over because she got so dizzy from forcing herself to be sick that she passed out and hit her head. Kate finally sees that Madison does have a real eating disorder and becomes nicer to her as a result. Um what the hell kind of message is that? Only be nice to people once they’ve proven they’re worth kindness? What if Madison didn’t have an eating disorder? Would Kate have kept on trying to kick her out of the group? Even after the wedding dress bonding? What really gets me, is that Madison leans on Kate in a moment of weakness, feeling like she has made a friend while Kate just exudes “I don’t want to be here” from her pores. I never liked Madison but I never liked the treatment of her as an oddity punching bag either. End rant.
So! What are the bachelor/ette doing? Just planning their respective parties in Vegas. Madison has taken over Kate’s and is on a mission to make sure seeing Magic Mike Live is on the itinerary. For those of you unaware, Magic Mike Live is based on the film Magic Mike, which is in turn based on Hollywood actor Channing Tatum’s stripper past. The plot is essentially: male strippers do sexy dance numbers and also deal with the stigma of being male strippers. Magic Mike Live is probably heavy on the dance numbers and body oil, less so on any plot development or social commentary. Kate’s not overly thrilled about this plan and Toby is not overly thrilled that Madison is over. Again. Oh during my rant I forgot to remind you that making mean/snarky comments (um excuse me that’s my thing) about Madison was an ice breaker for Kate and Toby (who met at Overeaters Anonymous). He literally whispers I hate you as she walks out the door. Toby! This is the first person we’ve seen Kate have a friendship with, be more supportive…even if she calls you Toblerone or Toby Bryant. Madison claims that everything’s under control and she’ll see her in Vegas! Kate wants to have joint bachelor/ette parties while Toby insists that they are already too co-dependent and therefore should do them apart–while getting in a dig at Madison. Toby! What did we just talk about. Toby’s getting Randall and recently sober Kevin while Kate is nervous to hang out with Beth sans Randall. Toby’s actual brother was invited but is not coming. Ah family.
Flashback time: Jack’s in the kitchen making pancakes when young Kevin brings up that shouldn’t he be doing something “special today for mom to show her you love her?” aka isn’t it your anniversary?
Seems suspicious for a ten-year old to be making these inquires to me, but Jack explains that they’re taking the year off from special but he still loves their mom. Kevin offers to do something special for them, again, sort of suspicious, but Kate and Randall are on board so all systems are go. Jack likes this idea because then he’s not actually doing something for Rebecca, which would break his promise. Rebecca looks like she knows this will not go off without a hitch and that she just wanted some normalcy but is resigned.
Speaking of normalcy, Beth left that in PA and is in full VEGAS mode. She’s trying to reenact The Hangover while Randall wont shut up about Deja. Beth points out that Deja is no longer part of the family, and Randall counters with he’s the heart, she’s the brain–it’s easier for her to detach. This goes over about as well as you’d expect even though Randall meant it as a compliment.
Meanwhile, Kevin has come up with a plan to conquer his “personal Mount Everest” aka stay sober in Vegas. It involves making a quasi deal with the maid: if he doesn’t drink he’ll leave her a $100 tip. If I was the maid I’d remove the alcohol from the mini bar so as to guarantee victory, but then I guess he’s not testing himself.
Party time! Beth and Kate have an awkward exchange while Toby desperately tries to impress Randall and Kevin. It’s going to be a fun evening all around. Toby and co go out for an awkward dinner that devolves pretty quickly. Kevin spots his costar from an upcoming movie and she bitterly tells him she’s been totally cut out of the film. Kevin freaks out because a lot of his scenes were with her and subsequently, things are not looking like that maid will get her tip. Simultaneously, Randall gets a call from, you guessed it…Deja! She’s calling to let him know that she saw Bill Nye The Science Guy on TV. Of course, we get a cut away to her standing in some abandoned hallway so clearly that’s not why she was calling, but she quickly gets off the phone. Kevin decides to call it a night as does Randall which bums Toby out. Kevin goes back to his hotel room to do sit-ups while staring at literally 27 bottles of alcohol. Randall goes off to find Beth who is on stage enjoying a very up close and personal Magic Mike Live experience. He says Deja called and she’s like oh no what’s wrong and he has to say well technically nothing but it felt like something.
Beth freaks the f out and they Get. Into. It. She tells that his anxiety is exhausting, he accuses her of being emotionally detached from the situation and it’s intense. The best part is that the Magic Mike guys are still doing their thing so we get snippets of chests, abs, and butts behind them. Kate gets up to intervene and Beth is having none of it–this is between her and her husband so butt out. Then Kate essentially goes yeah Randall has made it clear he likes you more and then leaves. UM WHAT? Kate this has literally nothing to do with you except for the fact that your brother and sister-in-law are causing a scene at your bachelorette party. Your only role is to ask them to take it outside so you can enjoy the show sans marital strife. Instead, it just got super weird.
Let’s check back in on the anniversary brigade. Kevin has decided to cook a super fancy dinner of Cornish hens but Jack forgot to turn the oven on AND DINNER IS RUINED (insert Gordon Ramsey level swearing here). Kevin has a full on meltdown and we find out why he’s been so gung-ho on his parents celebrating their anniversary: Sophie’s (his future ex-wife) parents are getting divorced and he is concerned that his will too, since they’re not celebrating their anniversary. Jack and Rebecca assure him that they’re not going to get divorced. Awww.
Randall goes to find Kate and she’s playing the slots while drinking a Cosmo a la Carrie Bradshaw. Apparently during the year after Jack died they sat around watching a lot of Sex and the City, but Randall only watched it because it made Kate happy. That’s so sweet. Randall tells her that just because he’s married to Beth, who’s awesome, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love his sister. Then Kate asked how the bachelor portion of the evening went and Randall confesses her that he and Kevin left Toby to his friends. Kate explained that Toby really wanted to hang out with her brothers and possible develop a secret handshake, so Randall goes and gets Kevin to make it up to Toby.
Rebecca and Jack cook the meal while the kids are in bed and decide to always celebrate their anniversary–even if Jack’s present will be better. They go up to bed and discover their kids have decorated their room with twinkle lights and set up a blanket on the roof so the two of them can watch a meteor shower. That’s super sweet but highly complicated for some ten-year olds.
Kate goes to Beth’s room to apologize for her behavior and tell her she’s intimidated by her flawlessness. Beth cries because she’s upset that she’s still worrying about Deja, and is stressed about her job. It’s a nice bonding moment for them.
Speaking of bonding: Kevin and Randall take Toby out as an apology for skipping out on him earlier. Toby reveals he wanted to impress them (I sense a theme!) and so invited three strangers to pad out his bachelor party. Oh Tobes I feel ya even though I think you’re annoying. They ask if he’ll be good to their sister, he promises, so they take him to seedy old Las Vegas, which is what he really wanted to do.
We get a cutaway of Jack explaining to young Kevin that grand gestures are not about the “thing”–in this case Cornish hens, but about intent. So, with that in mind, Kate leaves Beth a box of chocolate hearts which is very clever because of all that heartlessness stuff from earlier.
Kevin calls Ron Howard to thank him for the opportunity and declare that he shouldn’t have cut him out of the movie. And guess what? He didn’t! We get a Ron Howard cameo telling Kevin that his work is great, they just cut out the romance. Oh so you cut out the woman Ron? #TimesUp Even better news, Kevin didn’t drink the alcohol so the maid gets her tip.
Beth and Randall fly back home and Randall apologizes for dumping all of his anxiety on Beth, thus making her have to be the rational one. In a not surprising surprise move, Beth has their driver drop them off at Deja’s address. And guess what? A neighbor who just happens to be walking by mentions that they don’t live there anymore. Beth and Randall leave the apartment building and spot Deja and her mom sleeping in their car. I smell a custody fight brewing.
Will Beth and Randall petition the court to give them Deja? Will Kate and Toby ever make friends? Will Kevin stay on the wagon? Will I tune in next time to see what happens? I think we all know the answer to that last one.