This week’s episode of This Is Us gave us the first genuinely surprising twist of the second season, in the This Is Us–iest possible way.
(Uh, yeah, spoilers ahead.)
The episode, called “Still There,” devoted its entire Kate and Toby plotline to totally misdirecting the audience. Well, that and, as per usual, Toby being totally bossy in a way that is supposed to seem loving.
Up until the very end, Kate (Chrissy Metz) is completely fixated on exercising in what appears to be an effort to lose weight so she can fit into a dress she plans to wear to perform at a Bat Mitzvah. Toby (Chris Sullivan) keeps telling her to calm down about it, in a way that, ironically, made me personally want to stress-eat. At one point, Kate is even shown in a drugstore, heading toward a section labeled “Weight loss.”
But then, in the final scene, Kate is in a doctor’s office and we finally understand why she’s so fixated on health and fitness: She’s six weeks pregnant! She’s trying to get in good shape not so much for some 13-year-old girl’s coming-out party, but for the sake of the girl (or boy) growing inside her. (Go back and look at the drugstore scene again. You’ll immediately notice that Vitamins—as in the prenatal kind Kate mentions to her OB/GYN—are listed right next to the words Weight Loss.)
This is the kind of This Is Us twist that was practically designed in a This Is Us lab to appeal to the core This Is Us constituency of 30- and 40-something moms (and dads, too, sure) who squealed when they found out Prince William and Kate Middleton were having a third child. It really does have everything: a genuine sense of surprise (I, at least, did not see this even remotely coming); the infant factor (as we learned in the This Is Us pilot, the best This Is Us twists involve babies); a note of sweetness (the idea that Kate is so determined to do right by her currently poppy-seed-sized child is touching); and at least three or four things that make you go, “Hmmm.”
As in: “Hmmm … so she hasn’t mentioned any of this to Toby. That seems … problematic.”
And: “Hmmm … just when her singing career is taking off, she has to go and get pregnant? Wow, they are really leaning hard into the parallels between Kate and her mother this season.”
And also: “Hmmm … guess Kate really is following her grandmother’s late-’80s advice about finding a husband and starting a family. Even for a family-focused show, it’s still kind of a bummer that one of the major female protagonists is already traveling down this road so quickly.”
In short, the ending of this episode is the kind of thing that makes you go: Oh! Awww … oh, wait a minute, also UGH. Which, like I said, is as This Is Us as it gets, at least from my perspective. It also lightens the more upsetting and more interesting pseudo-twist in this episode: the moment when Deja reveals that she chopped all of her hair to spite Beth.
I have no idea where the Deja story is going, which is a good thing. But the Kate-and-Toby-have-a-baby thread is so This Is Us–y, I’m pretty sure at least half the regulars in the writers room have taken the rest of the season off because it basically writes itself.
I haven’t watched any future episodes, nor have I read any of the plot summaries. But I can tell you right now what’s going to happen in soon-to-be-aired episodes of This Is Us.
1. There will be at least one episode — scratch that, at least five — about how much Toby is fussing over pregnant Kate.
Did you see how much of a federal case he made over Kate eating a muffin? Imagine what he’s going to do when he realizes she’s carrying their child inside of her.
Obviously there will be an episode about Toby hearing the news, being briefly mad that Kate didn’t tell him sooner, and then having a full-blown one hour – 42 minutes with commercials – freakout about it.
There will also be an episode in which Toby has a mental breakdown after Kate accidentally consumes some soft cheeses; one in which Toby oversteps his bounds by surprise-designing the entire nursery without discussing it with Kate first; and a very special episode in which Kate goes into premature labor and it seems like they might lose the baby but they don’t, thereby causing Toby to have a mild heart attack and wind up in the same hospital where doctors have slowed down Kate’s contractions.
2. There will definitely be an episode about people not realizing Kate is pregnant.
Kate’s relationship with her body is central to her character. Since women often become much more in touch with their physical selves when they’re carrying a child, I have no doubt that This is Us will address the impact it has on her from that perspective. Because Kate is a larger woman to begin with, I am guessing several people may not initially realize she is pregnant, which will make Kate feel bad, until she has an epiphany and looks at her round belly in the mirror and feels good about herself, no matter what anyone else thinks. I am assuming this will happen while a reprise of Kate’s version of “Time After Time” plays gently on the soundtrack.
3. Kate’s baby-shower episode is going to be EPIC.
You think they’re not going to devote an entire episode to a baby shower that forces everyone in the Pearson family to assemble, then argue about old wounds that still haven’t healed? Do you even watch this show? I’d also bet at least $500 that Toby and Kevin are going to try to co-plan the shower and get in several territorial stand-offs about whether to serve low-fat, gluten-free cupcakes, all of which speaks to their rivalry for her attention, a rivalry that will rear its head again in an episode about the two of them competing with a newborn for Kate’s attention. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because that last part won’t happen until season three.
4. There will definitely be an episode in which Rebecca tries to give Kate prenatal and/or parenting advice and they have a big ol’ fight.
Naturally, they will make up at some point during the season, either during or after the baby shower. (I predict there will be drama about whether Rebecca comes to the shower. I also predict that Miguel will insist on buying his own gift, but go completely off registry, and when Kate opens that non-registry gift, everyone at the shower will share a look that says, “Oh, man. Classic Miguel.”)
5. In the season finale, Kate will have the baby.
And during that same episode, while she’s pushing another member of the Pearson family out and into the world, a flashback will finally explain why Kate feels so responsible for Jack’s death.
And then all of America will cry, as is mandated by federal and state This Is Us regulations.
Will it all be a little predictable? Yep.
Will it also still make you sentimental and teary despite every muscle-pulling effort your cynical body makes to resist it? Yes. Because that’s, also, as This Is Us–y as it gets.