THIS IS US: SEASON 2, EPISODE 3: DEJA VU
It really doesn’t matter what other people think. Sometimes, people can be real idiots. – Sylvester Stallone
This week’s episode wasn’t much different in theme from last week’s, as yet again fear reigned supreme over optimism in several cases. It was a fun hour in some respects, largely because Sly was entertaining and gave us almost a guardian angel figure to which Kevin and Kate could react. It was more than a cameo, as Stallone’s appearance wasn’t just a flicker, but was instead a recurring figure during the episode. As the veteran actor that has been there and done it all, his advice was important.
Largely, he was integral because his dialogue included the quote I led this piece off with, as that line encompasses many of the problems we all face in our day to day lives. It was good advice, because it showcased a rugged, discernibly mature perspective, and also the quiet confidence that I know I strive for in myself each day.
Even Sly, who has been around for such a long time, can learn things and find himself in new situations. How he handled Kate after finding out about the death of her father showed a level of empathy for which Hollywood A-listers aren’t generally known. Again, we don’t really have any frame of reference for who these people are, except for what’s either displayed publicly (which is often the honesty equivalent of a social media profile) or what’s unleashed through the media after a scandal or failure.
In the larger context, the episode took Sylvester Stallone being the opposite of how some might have expected in those moments to also describe the unpredictability of life. It’s that constant possibility of surprise that leaves us all truly blessed, as on any given day, everything can change. While it might sometimes be for the worse, there’s usually a balance to be found in our version of nature.
Randall thought he could buck the trend. He figured Deja’s arrival would be just like the SAT tests he dominated or the job he crushed, where everyone around him told him it would be difficult and it turned out not to be that hard. Everything becomes a matter of perspective, but it relates to Stallone’s quote, as what people say is often meaningless, except when it isn’t. Both what he said and the caveat of “sometimes” came into play last night.
It’s basically like saying you predict a lot of things wrong, except for the ones you get right. Eventually, something will be as it was foretold.
Deja becomes that something for Randall and Beth, although it’s only because one set of expectations – namely his – were incorrect and incomplete, based on information he didn’t have, or didn’t consider. Sometimes, people are right, but dictating your decisions and life solely based on hearsay is a dangerous way to live. It can be factored into that process, but generally, listening to Beth is likely going to provide Randall with the best possible results.
It’s going to be interesting to watch Deja, as she deals with the reality of her mother’s situation, and also tries to somehow assimilate into a world so different from her own that she has no other reaction other than, “This house is crazy.” And of all the recent flashbacks on the show, none was more prescient than William saying the same thing after Randall and Beth’s youngest daughter talked him out of bailing on the family.
Here, it was good that the veteran listened to the rookie, because the young one had perspective on how life could be positive, rather than relentlessly negative and painful. In his head, he over-analyzed a good thing, but in his heart, he didn’t want to leave. He was worried he would let them down, in similar fashion to Jack’s reticence one week ago about his alcoholism.
In both cases, these men were worried about disappointing someone, worrying about what people they cared about might think, while simultaneously desiring the connection with those individuals. They needed these people, and handled the relationships with too much care. Jack couldn’t even talk to his wife, and certainly didn’t feel comfortable with physical intimacy, because he still couldn’t deal with his mistakes. His soul required her, but his mind got in the way.
Perhaps that’s the lasting impression from the episode, and honestly it can apply anywhere, at any time, either within the show or within the living rooms of its audience. Sometimes, and there’s that word again, our brains erroneously overrule our hearts, and while facts and feelings can each be detrimental at times, data is not determinant of everything that’s good and evil. “Sometimes,” analytics fails, and it isn’t about numbers. People behave in askew fashion, and it’s what makes life such a challenge.
Nothing HAS to be what it seems, because of the concept of free will. Kevin tells Kate, “I don’t need to walk around and be sad and damaged, just because you are,” which sends his sister off in tears for yet another week. He didn’t mean to hurt her, but he lashed out because of something that had happened on set. Sly sent him – to borrow a poker analogy – on tilt, and he couldn’t remember his lines. Because Stallone’s comments about his father left him an emotional wreck, he transferred those slip-ups to the sister that told Stallone about Jack’s death in the first place.
And here we have the other portion of the theme, wherein we truly don’t know anybody. While many in Hollywood believed they understood what a ghastly figure Harvey Weinstein was, the reaction to the flood of news over the past week has still been stunning to all. None of us knew who O.J. Simpson really was, and it goes both ways, where we sometimes think people are jerks and they aren’t. I’ve said this before. In my almost ten years working in professional wrestling, it was almost always the babyfaces (the heroes) that were the bad guys behind the scenes. Anyone willing to play a villain understands the problems that can accompany it.
But, irrespective of profession or stature, occasionally, someone had a bad day and you said something to them at the wrong time, or just happened to be in their line of sight. It might have cost you something important, but such is life.
Whether it’s a breakup, a promotion, a fight, a termination, or whatever else, often there’s more behind the scenes that we may never know. Closure is often an illusion, and what we instead end up doing is turning an event back to ourselves, questioning our own moves or even the most superficial of our qualities to explain things that might have precisely nothing to do with us.
Back to the Deja example, even though Randall went through an adoption and the feelings of not being wanted by his birth parents, he still couldn’t really relate to her, because she was physically assaulted and consistently was mistreated. These two people, while more alike than Deja and I would be, are still vastly different, except in the most basic desires of their hearts. And, even that’s not always assured.
Secrets can lead to the closest of relationships, and they can also break them. Jack holding back on Rebecca, not unburdening himself about borrowing money from his monster of a father, did nothing but imprison him in an unclean head space. Kevin hasn’t figured it out yet, but his inability to talk about his dad’s death is slowly killing him, and that’s likely to be his struggle throughout the season.
It’s not the most original of angles, as Kate has already gone through it with Toby, but it’s always going to work on a show that relies on the heaviest drama for its largest points of resonance. Plus, it will end with Kevin first talking to Kate about it, which will make sense as she, in this instance, can completely understand where he’s coming from…at least until he adds a twist none of us can pinpoint at this stage. But, expect SOMETHING.
Maybe we saw a little of it in the closing seconds last night, as Kevin re-injured his knee, and while on the phone with Kate, who recognizes how much he reminds her of their father, he opens a pill bottle. I would assume it’s Oxycontin, although it might be another pain killer. It seems to foretell an opiate addiction for Kevin, who will then harbor a second huge secret, probably from his family as well as Sophie. He may lose her for good this time.
And, considering Jack’s drinking issues, it would also intimate a double meaning to Kate’s comment, although she had no idea how accurate her statement was.
One final point on the secrets angle, as well as the need for love and support. How badly would it have gone for the younger Randall if he went to that park and met the woman that claimed to be his mother, but didn’t have his brother and sister there to catch him when he wanted nothing more than to fall to his knees in dejection and agony? It wouldn’t have gone well, on that we can agree. This show preaches over and over that we’re better together than alone, and that this family is both its biggest strength, and occasionally its greatest detriment.
Because families are filled with human beings, each with unique mindsets, experiences, hopes, and dreams, it’s impossible to toss out the inherent subjectivity of each one. It leads to hurt feelings and the best of memories, and This Is Us continually reminds its viewers that the Pearson family couldn’t succeed without each other. To borrow next week’s episode title, we need each other, and we need to understand that the highs and lows are coming.
Losing Jack has left a scar on each heart, and it’s fitting that the series continues to drag out and slowly reveal how this man died.
It’s staying with us, and thankfully so is Milo Ventimiglia, longer than it might on many other shows. In that way, whether intentionally or not, we’re growing closer to Jack Pearson, and we’re being conditioned to care about him. Once the cause of death is fully revealed, our sadness will then be as close to the characters on screen as could be possible from our extreme distance.
Thus far, Season 2 is giving fans of this show plenty to be excited about, because it’s still the same series, and it hasn’t even approached a cliff. It’s grounded, we’re still focused on the right things, with a few new additions, and if you liked This Is Us in the past, you likely still do.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Sly Stallone is just super cool. I wish I was Sly Stallone, or at least Sipowicz.