This Is Us
Our Little Island Girl: Part Two
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Closure, here! Get your closure! We may only be six episodes in, but the This Is Us series finale is nigh, and people are lining up for a healthy helping of closure. This week, it’s mainly Beth. She’s only a Pearson by marriage, so she isn’t devastatingly damaged by emotional trauma like some of her other cohorts, but she isn’t completely free from emotional trauma either. Could you imagine? A character on this show who has zero emotional scars? It would be a very “You can’t sit with us!” sort of situation. Anyway, as well adjusted as Beth seems compared to most people in her immediate orbit, this episode is all about finally moving past things that happened to her when she was 17. That’s some trauma right there, folks!
“Our Little Island Girl: Part Two,” which was co-written by Beth herself, Susan Kelechi Watson, along with Eboni Freeman, is the bookend to the season-three episode in which we got our first real peek into the full Beth Pearson story. We learned that the death of Beth’s dreams to become a ballerina and her father’s death were tied closely together, and her failure in dance has pretty much haunted her ever since. Fun! It’s why, as we saw last season, she was so hesitant to take a job with a traditional dance conservatory in Philly — how could she be a part of something that stole her greatest joy out from under her?
But Beth does take that job, and in order to ensure that what happened to her doesn’t happen to other young dancers, she attempts to make some changes there. I mean, it seems absolutely wild that a scholarship program for talented dancers who can’t afford a major conservatory or are, perhaps, a little unpolished due to lack of proper training but show great potential is treated as a novel idea, but we’ll allow it, I guess. Beth is out there finding 15 young dancers for the inaugural class of her program and having them be all “I can and I will” in the mirror, and it all seems very nice. She takes a particular liking to a girl named Stacey, who reminds Beth of herself right down to the one incredulous parent.
On the night of the Fall Showcase, Beth is riddled with nerves. She doesn’t even have the time to allow Randall to give her one of those Randall-y pep talks she loves — and I bet it would’ve been a good one. But you know what? She doesn’t need it. She watches Stacey start her solo from the wings, and when Stacey falls and refuses to get back up, Beth knows what she needs to do: She needs to be there for her in a way her dance instructor Vincent was not. With the whole theater watching and Stacey upset about disappointing everyone, Beth sits down right next to her and make sure she knows that whatever she decides to do — whether she just wants to sit on the stage and not move until everyone leaves or if she wants to get up, brush herself off, and start her routine again — Beth is there for her. She always will be. Everyone needs a teacher like Beth! And Randall makes sure his daughters, sitting in the audience, recognize how lucky they are to have a mother like Beth. Is it cheesy? Yes. Do those girls need to be repeatedly reminded of how good they have it regarding their parents because they continually act like fools? Also yes. Okay, Annie is a blessing, but those other two, we all have notes.
After Stacey shows everyone what she’s made of and gets back up to start over, Beth heads home to process what happened. She gobbles some wine and decides to make a very Pearson move: She looks up Vincent and gives him a call to tell him how shitty it was that he just discarded her when she was of no use to him as a dancer anymore. It is extreme, but not without precedent: We meet up with Beth and Randall out on a date in college, where she spots Vincent across the room. It’s been two years since she quit dance and she’s ready to tell him off for not even attempting to be there for her after her father died. When she approaches him, she chickens out. She’s unable to say all the things she wants to say and instead gets upset and leaves. Twenty years later, Beth is very much able to say everything she wants. Of course, Vincent is mostly like, “Uhh okay, I’m sorry you feel that way?” But it doesn’t really matter what Vincent thinks. This is about Beth taking back her power and healing herself.
And with all that healing and closure, Beth can go on to be the version of a dance teacher she needed when she was younger. We jump forward to find Beth running that dance conservatory with a wall full of pictures and mementos from her students going on to successful careers over the years, including Stacey. Beth did it, you guys. It’s a heartwarming story line, albeit a bit of a snoozefest. It does, however, feel a little more cohesive than the other story about closure after 20 years this episode gets into.
This Is Us tries to make a parallel between what happened to Kate and Sophie’s friendship when Kevin blew up his marriage and Kate and Madison’s friendship now, but it’s kind of a stretch. Back when the Big Three are around 19 or 20, Kevin and Sophie come home for Thanksgiving, and Kevin confides in Kate that he cheated on Sophie with a girl in his acting class in L.A. He eventually confesses to Sophie, pretty much ending their marriage on the spot, and in that breakup, Sophie learns that Kate knew and didn’t tell her — pretty much ending their friendship on the spot. Sure, Sophie is upset and has reason to be mad at her best friend, but Kate only knew for what? Like an hour at most? I’d be a little more bothered by it, but This Is Us never truly made an effort to build up the Kate-Sophie friendship in the first place, so the loss doesn’t really have the emotional effect the show thinks it does. In the present day, Kate is taking a different approach to being in the middle of her best friend and brother’s issues by very much supporting Madison in all her endeavors, whatever they may be.
This week it’s Thanksgiving plans. It seems Kevin and Madison had already planned to fly the twins out to the East Coast for A Very Pearson Thanksgiving, but since then, Eli has offered her a quiet Thanksgiving in Los Angeles and she decides that is what she’d rather do with the kids. Because no one on this show except for Rebecca knows how to keep any secrets from each other, Madison ends up telling Kevin what she’s doing right before the taping of The Manny reboot pilot. Kevin is clearly upset by the change in plans, and Kate ends up giving him a big speech about how he’s only supportive of Madison and Eli when it’s convenient and that Madison should be allowed to create her own holiday traditions with the twins and that he was the one who didn’t love her after all. She’s right about some of it, but come on, if they’re co-parenting as they say they are, Madison doesn’t get to unilaterally decide how they do holidays. It should’ve been a discussion! I remain forever irritated by how this show continues to punish Kevin for what was actually a mutual decision not to get married — a decision that was very empowering for Madison! ANYWAY, Kevin doesn’t put up a fight. It’s FINE.
Kate realizes that she can stick up for her friend and not lose her brother, which of course gets her thinking about Sophie — the Louise to her Thelma, apparently. She decides to text her to apologize for not having her back when everything went down: “I should’ve gone over the cliff with you, Louise.” It doesn’t take long for Sophie to text back that she understands — Kevin’s her brother, she was in an impossible situation. I don’t think anyone was really asking for answers to what happened between Kate and Sophie, so it feels like the show is spinning its wheels a little here, but again, it’s FINE. I guess?
• Wow, wow, wow, that is some TENSION brewing between Kevin and Toby, huh? Toby is home but on work calls all the time, which Kevin kindly points out to him is really bothering Kate. Meanwhile, Toby gets passive-aggressive and then not-so-passive-aggressive about Kevin setting up permanent lodging in their guest room. Everything going on in the Pearson-Damon house feels like a ticking time bomb, and frankly, I am READY for that marriage to just implode already.
• Wait, so, like not one word of how things are going with Deja and her terrible decision to leave high school early to move to Boston? Not even a quick throwaway? Give me something here!
• I guess the whole “Eli telling Kevin he’s going to be around for a long time” thing is supposed to be a hero moment for the guy, but … did anyone think Kevin was ever trying to win Madison back? It’s a little much.
• Pearson Thanksgiving is almost upon us, people! Gird your loins! Back in 2000-ish, Rebecca and Miguel are just two best friends prepping for a nice Thanksgiving together with the Big Three when PTA Matt basically invites himself to join. It’s going to be the Most Awkward, isn’t it? And with all those digs at Matt that Miguel is making (and apologizing for), when will it become obvious to these dummies what is obvious to mostly everyone else — that Rebecca and Miguel are so clearly in love with each other??
• No, but seriously, brine not?
This Is Us Recap: In Her Own Time