The last few episodes of THIS IS US have been on a roll, with connecting the past to the present with not much nuance, but a lot of heart. “Career Days” is no exception do this and, not to jinx it, seems to be signaling that this quality of the episodes will remain solid. It turns out, revealing Jack’s death leads to more depth in all the characters, and more significance for Jack himself. Holding onto that reveal was holding This Is Us back, but now that it’s all out in the open, the show can breathe and lead to more important character moments.
We all need to thank our lucky stars that Kate finally has a plot that has nothing to do with her boyfriend. It’s been rough, and smelling of double standards that she is the only sibling who’s plots rotate around a significant other. Now, however, her story focuses on her getting a job after Kevin left for the other side of the country. She bags a job as an assistant/event coordinator for a woman running a charity. It’s a job Kate is good at, which is a great opportunity for us to see Kate truly excel at something. However, there is a catch when her new boss, Marlon, wants Kate to take care of her daughter occasionally. At first, it seems like no big thing, but this teenage girl immediately lets Kate know that her mom only hired her because she was “the fat one”, and the fat one might be able to get through to her. Even though this is yet another plot about Kate’s weight, it works better than those in the past because Kate’s confidence outweighs her insecurites. As soon as she finds out this information, she confronts Marlon, gets a raise, and has a heart to heart with the angry teen. Kate taking agency in her own life and being damn good at that is a refreshing change of pace for her, and injects so much energy into her character.
They briefly touch on young Kate as well, and how she is jealous of her skinny and beautiful mother. It’s gotta be rough when your mom in Mandy Moore, right? Though there will surely be more on Kate’s relationship with Rebecca, the 80s time mostly focuses on Jack and Randall. It turns out Randall is exceptionally good at math, and the school suggests placing him in a gifted program. This rubs Jack all the wrong ways, seeing as he doesn’t want his kid to end up being an office drone like him, as well as not wanting Randall to go to an even whiter school. However, he is open to changing his mind when he realizes that this opportunity is key for his son. No that we know about Jack’s fight, This Is Us is making us be even more invested in him, of course.
This correlates with Randall’s present day plot where he has to present his convoluted office job for his daughter’s career day. No one in his family really gets what he does, and think William playing the piano is way cooler than Randall’s job. He tries to impress them by playing the piano at career day while describing his weather pattern related office job, and it does not go well. It’s all in good fun though, as Randall’s family unit is basically glowing with love. Randall feels the need post-piano fiasco to tell them that he loves his weird math-y career, unlike his father who only did it for his family. It’s good to see that Jack finally giving in to give Randall a better education truly paid off.
Another thing that pays off in this episode is Kevin struggling to be good at acting while having sexual tension with his co-star. On their day off from rehearsal, Olivia invites him to a party which turns out to be a memorial service for a stranger. Classic. Since his character in the play is grieving, Olivia is trying to make him be exposed to grief, which might be a good acting technique, but feels a little invasive for the poor woman whose husband just died. It is very effective though, and causes Justin Hartley to do some of his best acting. Him and the widow have a heartfelt conversation about how his father dying affected him. It’s a moment of connection between two grieving strangers, and it’s a moment that is necessary for both of them. It’s times like these that force the message of This Is Us down our throat of connection and family, but it’s done so genuinely that it’s actually very effective.
Of course, Kevin ruins it by sleeping with Olivia, which we all knew was coming. She later claims that it will never happen again and tells him to channel it into the role. This girl really needs to find some hobbies outside of acting, it’s getting a little ridiculous. However, the fact that a side character being a little less rounded was the worst part of the episode speaks wonders. For once, all three kids were given something significant to do that grew their characters. This what we came for on this show; the unabashed emotion coming out of this family, and how it can better them all.
Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 10PM on NBC
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor