Ron Batzdorff/NBC
November 07, 2017 at 10:01 PM EST

This Is Us

TV Show
run date
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Dan Fogelman
We gave it a C+

Maybe its title serves as a warning, but “The Most Disappointed Man” is an unusually drab episode of This Is Us. The bulk of the action takes place in courthouses, jails, and hospitals, where fluorescent lighting and the echo of footsteps against tile rule the day. Overall, it feels lacking in energy, and many of the subplots have a perfunctory rhythm. That is, until an ending montage brings some of them together nicely — because even at its least compelling, few shows can pull off the melodramatic montage as well as this one.

The strongest aspect of this episode concerns Deja’s mandatory visit to see her incarcerated mother. Randall is planning on taking her, but Beth is concerned that he’s going to go in a little too heated. “I got this,” he assures her. When they arrive — Deja wearing her mom’s “favorite” outfit — they’re greeted by the social worker, Linda, before being escorted into a special room that’s a little more intimate. (This is good for Randall: We see he gets jumpy at the sight of a person in handcuffs, which he admits to Deja he’d previously only seen on TV before.) Linda tells Deja she’s going to be able to hug her mom. We watch them go through the process — putting on name tags, getting sniffed by dogs, placing their belongings through metal detectors — before entering together.

But the anticipation is short lived. Linda finally joins them in the room, pulls Randall aside, and informs him that Deja’s mother, Shauna, has “opted” not to see them without giving a reason. Randall is heartbroken on behalf of his new foster daughter, and he unfairly lashes out at Linda. “Sometimes I can’t help but wondering if anyone’s actually looking out for these kids,” he snaps. Linda snaps back, telling him the story of a 4-year-girl who’s deaf because of parental neglect, and who now can’t find a foster family. “Do you know how to say, ‘Sorry, sweetie, we still haven’t found a family yet’ in sign language?” she asks sharply. “Because I do.”

After apologizing to Linda, Randall passes the news on to Deja, framing it as a “mix-up” that’s no fault of her mother’s. Deja asks that they find a way to get her mother the money she’s been saving up from her allowance, and Randall obliges. “I know how much you were looking forward to seeing your mom,” he says. He just wants to be supportive. But back at home, he finds that he and Beth have switched places: She’s apoplectic at the news that Shauna bailed on her own daughter, and she vows to never bring Deja back to the prison. Randall tries talking her down, but Beth is adamant: “I am done letting that woman hurt that child.”

That theme of parents damaging their kids extends to Kevin, who continues to push back his scheduled trip to see Sophie in New York, popping pills and swigging beer in between disappointing her on phone calls. She finally calls him out and, after stopping by Kate’s and learning that she’s pregnant — Kate and Toby pull off an adorable shirt pairing to break the news — he decides to take a leap of faith. He buys Sophie a ring — well, actually, three rings, since he can’t decide on one — jets to New York, and plans to propose. (“I really love her,” he says to the jeweler.) But when he arrives at the hospital in New York, Sophie isn’t there, and when he goes to the bathroom for another fix, he’s haunted by a vision of the future. He sees himself and Sophie married with a son, but views himself as a bad father in the making: refusing to play with his son, neglecting him when he cries, failing to give advice. He’s sweating through the dream, clearly affected by this worsening addiction, but it’s a fear he carries regardless.

It’s all pretty morose, the sight of Kevin sinking lower and lower. After waking up in the hospital, he finally makes his way to Sophie’s, where she reveals she’s been worried sick. “I don’t know how to be a husband to you,” Kevin reveals, still a little out of it. “I don’t know how to be a father to our kids. I don’t have anything to give you…. I’m an empty shell.” Sophie tells Kevin that he’s spiraling and says he’s not himself, but he keeps on. He explains he’s not the guy who wooed her back at the end of the first season; he’s a guy who would give her “40 years of disappointment.” Before effectively breaking up with her, he gives her one last line, and it stings: “When I dream of our future together, Sophie, it’s a nightmare for me.” She slams the door and leaves him in the cold. So far, the very short time they’ve spent together in season 2 has not been especially pleasant — for them or for us.

Kate and Toby, meanwhile, seem to only be growing closer. Toby’s hesitant to call his mother about the pregnancy, since she’s Catholic and will likely judge them for having a baby out of wedlock. (She’s literally obsessed with judging — in that she watches a bloc of daytime court TV, Judge Judy first and foremost, each afternoon.) Kate suggests they get married in the courthouse, where they can save money, avoid the big emotions of a wedding, and make it a little more comfortable for him to tell his mother. Yet when they arrive at the courthouse, they’re disarmed by just how unromantic it feels. Kate tries to put on a good face and convince both herself and Toby that they’re doing the right thing, but Toby knows she’s straining. (Recap continues on page 2)

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