Ron Batzdorff/NBC
David Canfield
November 21, 2017 AT 10:01 PM EST

This Is Us

type
TV Show
genre
Drama
run date
09/20/16
performer
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Producer
Dan Fogelman
broadcaster
NBC
seasons
2
Current Status
In Season

We gave it an A-

It’s fair to say that the harrowing ending of last week’s This Is Us — in which we learned, via Randall, that Kate had a miscarriage — was as much of a twist as it was preparation. After spending a solemn hour with Kevin, “Number Two” brings Kate into focus, reliving the same days as the previous episode but from a new Pearson sibling’s perspective. It’s an emotional installment, but at least the ending of “Number One” gave us an idea of what we’d be in for.

Rather than dragging the whole episode to the already teased miscarriage, the loss happens early on, leaving the rest of the hour to trace Kate and Toby’s attempts to move on. Instead of wallowing in the despair of the moment, “Number Two” is a surprisingly hopeful episode that leads to some breakthrough character moments. It’s bracingly sad — break out the tissues for this one — but also sweet and even a little optimistic. It resonates, and it lands as This Is Us’ best season 2 episode so far.

Kate is doing all the right things as the episode opens: taking her prenatal vitamins, making lists for questions to ask the doctor, and getting the home ready for the new member of her family. Toby’s making her green drinks (tragically, not shamrock shakes) to keep her healthy, trying to contain his excitement and talking her down about her various anxieties. They’re preparing. But when Kate leaves the room, we hear a crash off screen and hear Kate scream, “Toby!” Based on the reveal from last week, we know what’s happened.

We’re in the hospital in the next scene, camera on a near-catatonic Kate. “I know how difficult this is,” the doctor says. “The good news is that you got pregnant, which means that you can try again as soon as four weeks.” Toby gives her some space after the doctor leaves, and we see him on the other side of the curtain, totally heartbroken.

Once out of the hospital, Kate tries to bury her trauma. She gets a text from her mother, asking how the ultrasound went, but doesn’t respond to it. She puts on makeup in the bathroom, trying to avoid flashbacks to losing the baby. We watch what happened in total silence: Kate entered the bathroom, buckled in pain, knocked down the shower curtain as she collapsed, and finally screamed for Toby’s help. She snaps out of the memory, staring at the broken curtain rod, and enters the living room all done up in makeup and a red dress. Toby, slumped on the couch watching old sitcoms, appears puzzled by Kate’s glam look. “I think you’re a little overdressed for watching classic sitcoms and trying not to cry,” he says. She has a lunch gig at a café that she doesn’t want to miss — she’s trying to act like she’s doing fine. Toby is stunned by Kate’s decision to go but agrees to pick her up after her gig nonetheless.

Meanwhile in the past, we meet teenage Kate as we caught a glimpse of her in “Number One”: keenly listening to her headphones as the power goes out, then encouraging Randall and Kevin as they prepare for the next stages of their lives in college and beyond. While the Pearsons prepare for the arrival of the college football coach, we observe Kate’s close relationship with the new family dog, Louie, and get more details on that Kate-Rebecca argument about college options (which we heard in the background last week). Rebecca asks her daughter to make a list of at least five colleges — to not put all her eggs in one basket — but Kate appears resistant. The next morning, Rebecca tries to clarify why she’s being so pushy: “You aren’t your brothers — you’re not,” she says. “You don’t know what your path is just yet, and you know what? I think that’s okay.” But Kate takes it as yet another coded insult from her mother. She accuses Rebecca of calling her “passionless.”

Once Kate leaves the room and Rebecca snoops around, desperate to see what’s going on her daughter’s life, we see why Kate is being so cryptic and touchy: She’s filled out an application for Berklee School of Music, with cash attached by paper clip. (Ah, the days before the Common App.) Rebecca appears moved and slightly perplexed and then turns to that cassette tape Kate has been listening to. She plays it, and we hear Kate introducing her audition tape — a performance of “Summertime.”

We listen to the tape, a soft but beautiful rendition of the classic, as the episode returns to the present day, again allowing us to silently observe Kate in her state of grief. We watch her dealing with the loss, singing at the swanky café, then struggling to continue on as she sees a family happily dancing along to her performance. She can’t hold it together — but we’re still watching in total silence, only hearing her teenage self sing “Summertime” against the image of her adult self crying on stage. It’s a powerful contrast. Kate leaves mid set, humiliated, and we hear her heavy breathing as the song comes to a close. (Recap continues on page 2)

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