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-

Toby, meanwhile, is back at home, struggling in his own way: He dumps the broken shower curtain after being haunted by the sight of it, and goes into frantic protective mode when he learns that a certain baby-related product they’d ordered — “a fancy baby bath” — is in transit. He heads to the shipping facility to try to find it, horrified by the thought of it arriving on the doorstep for Kate to see, but the employee who approaches him, Carl, is skeptical that they’ll be able to retrieve it. “The hardest part about seeing someone you love in pain is not being able to do something about it,” Toby pleads, begging him — with some not-so-subtle physical threats sprinkled in — to help. Carl agrees, noting it’s not yet on a truck but could be anywhere in the warehouse. They search endlessly, and when Carl finally finds it, Toby offers it to him. “I’m sorry if something happened,” Carl says, taking the bath for his sister, who’s pregnant with her third child.

Toby might have good reason to protect Kate from reminders like that. As she walks home from the gig she’d prematurely left, dismissing the fact that Toby was supposed to pick her up, she flashes back to those moments of joy: hearing about the pregnancy, telling Toby, telling Kevin. Each glimpse is more devastating than the last. She’s at a low point — a dangerous place to be, especially as she walks by a “King Buffet” restaurant. She enters, builds a mountain of food on her plate, and sits at a table, wondering what to do — trying to fight back. In a moment that calls back to the episode’s opening seconds, when we heard Rebecca say of her toddler daughter, “She’s a fighter,” Kate gets up, leaves the plate behind, and heads home. She fights back.

Toby arrives at the café, meanwhile, and Kate is nowhere to be found. He asks someone still lingering at the set where Kate is and is informed that she left early, “sick.” He calls her cell. Nothing. He calls Kevin (which we’d witnessed in the previous episode). Nothing. Distraught, he heads home, where Kate’s already returned. She notices the bathroom shower curtain has been removed and finally picks up her mom’s call; Kate tells her she lost the baby and hangs up before they get into any kind of conversation. She then calls Kevin, but again, as we already know, he doesn’t pick up. By the time Toby arrives, relieved to see Kate’s home safe and sound, she’s ready to let out some of her ugly feelings. “Let’s go big because you like to do things big,” she snaps. “You pushed and you pushed, so congratulations Toby, you got me excited.” She says the miscarriage happened to her, not him, an insult that stings enough to rush him out of the room.

As a teen, we see Kate push back against another person she loves: her mother. While at the football game where Kevin’s life-altering injury will soon occur, Rebecca admits she saw the application after handing her a check for $50 (her application fee). Kate is initially upset that Rebecca went through her stuff, but she’s lifted up by her compliments — which are free of the qualifiers Kate so often dreads. “I thought you sounded terrific,” Rebecca gushes. After they’re in the hospital, waiting on Kevin’s MRI, they connect more in a beautiful conversation, albeit still with that distance we’ve seen characterize their relationship. “I wanted to be the mom that had her arms wide open just waiting for you to fall right in if you needed it, and somehow…we just never got there, did we?” she says, frankly but tenderly. “It’s my job to keep standing there with my arms wide open, waiting for you to maybe some day fall inside if you needed it.”

We’ve been waiting two seasons for that moment — and in this episode it finally arrives. While Toby leaves the house in the present, saying he “needed some air,” Rebecca shows up to be there for her daughter. Kate just falls into her arms, sobbing. It’s a deeply sad moment, but it’s also a safe space for her to grieve. “How can I be this sad?” Kate asks her mom. “I never even met the baby, never held him or her. It wasn’t even old enough for me to know.” Rebecca tells the story of when she lost Kyle, and how she experienced feelings of profound grief and self-blame without ever knowing him, either. She recalls having a grocery store meltdown when the kids were six months old, and how she screamed at a woman to give her a bag of onions. “Eventually, I opened up to your dad, and that’s what made space in my heart for you,” she tells Kate, adding that she should talk to Toby and patch things up. It’s a nice complement to our final shot of teen Kate in the episode, waiting in the hospital as she watches her parents embrace outside in the parking lot, as they fear for their son’s future.

Chrissy Metz’s outstanding performance resonates here because she commits as much to the raw pain of Kate’s loss as she does to those slowly building feelings of hope — hope in connecting with her mom in a way she never had before, hope in moving through tragedy together with Toby, and hope in just continuing on. (Head here for Metz’s thoughts on the emotional hour.) When Toby comes home and Rebecca leaves to give the couple time to talk, Kate tells him the truth of her feelings: “I feel like I failed you.” Toby says she never could, and the two hug and make up. It’s a moment of necessary levity after such a gut-wrenching hour of TV. And it continues into its final seconds, as Kate and Toby put the shower curtain back up and she vows to try to get pregnant again — not now, but soon. She’s a fighter.

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