It doesn’t take a genius to predict that the Thanksgiving episode of THIS IS US will be loaded with family traditions, over-sentimentality, and some family drama. It’s what we all signed up for, a show about family that will take any family-based holiday and beat it to death. Most of the content of “Pilgrim Rick” caused a groan or two, simply because it was so predictable. There were some genuine moments in between everything, but there was no subtlety at all in how the Pierson Thanksgiving was celebrated, and how it connects to the past.
The flashback backdrop of the episode is essentially the birth of Thanksgiving traditions. Each little thing they mention in the present has a connection to the story going on in the 80s and is really honing in on how much the family loves each other. It’s the Christmas special of Thanksgiving in regards to the flashback. The whole family is getting prepped for dinner at Rebecca’s parents, which no one is excited for, most of all Rebecca. On the way their, a tire blows out on their car, and what follows is a comic book origin story for the Thanksgivings to come in the Pierson clan.
The family has to walk 3.4 miles to get to a gas station to call a tow truck; Randall takes his family on a 3.4 mile hike. The family isn’t able to eat a full dinner, so they eat gas station hot dogs wrapped in cheese; it’s a staple at Thanksgiving three decades later, despite how disgusting it may sound. The biggest and ritual tradition of the family is “Pilgrim Rick,” a character Jack adapted from a weird innkeeper. All of these stay in the family for years to come, creating what is supposed to be a personal and lovely portrait of a family, but kind of feels like someone whispering “families can make their own traditions” in your ear for 45 minutes. Granted, it’s great when Rebecca tells off her parents for their unhappy Thanksgiving that puts a burden on her family. It’s a great moment for her, but we don’t need the majority of the episode showing how much better her family is.
However, a good portion of the present day Thanksgiving shows how Rebecca wasn’t the greatest when it comes to keeping William a secret from Randall. As per always, Randall is the highlight of the episode, with his raw enthusiasm at the start of the holiday, and then his discovery toward the end that changes everything (dun dun dunnn). Randall is being a top notch son to William throughout the episode, and decides to go get some tapes that were very special to his father. At William’s apartment, he discovers a letter that Rebecca had written Willam as a kid. This discovery that his mom kept his biological father from him, and their time together is limited would pain anyone. The episode ends with Randall doing a dramatic storm out on his mother, which is his right. It’s going to be really tough for him when he finds out his wife was in on it too, but that’s for another day.
As for the rest of the episode, Kevin is finally putting the moves on Olivia by inviting her to Thanksgiving, where she is pretty rude to his family but learns a nice lesson. It’s a little plot that is both sweet and unnecessary at the same time. It culminates in a kiss, and Kevin having enough character development to finally let Miguel participate in family traditions.
The worst plot of this episode though, that brings it down to the C level is sweet sweet Kate. She is so frustrated with Toby and being fat and him being fat and him not dieting that she breaks it off with him over dinner. It’s the immediate start of the episode and a very public break-up, but it’s barely addressed for the rest of “Pilgrim Rick” in favor of everything else. It’s just a shame that this moment that could have been real character growth for Kate gets plopped at the beginning of the episode, and doesn’t seem to hold much weight. Toby has been steadily losing charm since the pilot, so watching him get dumped was not really that sad. The odd part of Kate’s story isn’t even the break up, but he declaration at the end. After having gone through some terrible turbulence on a plane, she has an epiphany. We are lead to believe this will be about Toby, but no: she announced to her family that she wants to get Gastric Bypass surgery. It’s a move out of left field, that just feels a little iffy. Why must everything in Kate’s life be overshadowed by her weight? Does This Is Us really want to go into the complicated and messed up realm of weight loss surgery? Additionally, news just came out about Chrissy Metz being contractually obligated to lose weight for the role as This Is Us progresses which is all sorts of wrong. Perhaps the real life implications put a damper on her story this week, but either way, eight episodes in, Kate being restricted to a story about weight loss is a bad story move. Let her do other things.
Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E018
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