Letting go is hard to do.
And even when you were once a kid who was trying to figure out the whole independence thing on your own, it's all too easy to hold on too tight to your own kids.
This Is Us Season 4 Episode 2 connected two generations of Pearsons through end of summer rituals and struggles with letting go of kids. The result was a phenomonally emotional hour of television.
Everyone was struggling with changing circumstances throughout the episode.
Rebecca couldn't help remembering how different an outing to the pool was when the Big Three weren't quite so big.
Randall and Beth couldn't let go of Deja and Tess, at least not at first.
Toby and Kate had to adjust to their son's blindness.
And Kevin struggled with worry about Nicky and the question of whether or not to meet with a movie producer in Chicago.
Rebecca: You're looking trim, Toby. How you holding up?
Toby: Honestly, I'm holding on by a thread. I've never been worried about so many things at the same time.
Rebecca: Is one of those things Kate?
Toby: I remember a few months ago when we learned that Jack had vision problems. I remember the new doctor coming in and saying retina something and then everything went wah wah, you know, Charlie Brown's mother, just noise. But I looked over at Kate and she was nodding and taking it all in like it was a weather report. My amazing wife. And she has been like that ever since. But she is overeating and I know that's how she deals with difficult emotions but to be honest, with all my worries, she's at the top of my list.
All of these stories were compelling in their own right, but what made them powerful was the way the writers tied them all together.
Rebecca worried about grown-up Kate as much as she did pre-teen Kate, and she had just as little control over what was going with her daughter now as she did then.
She must have felt equally helpless, wanting to protect Kate from a far more intangible enemy than the mean girls who had befriended her at the pool
Kate was walking away from her again just like she did at the pool, and this time there was nothing Rebecca could have done even if Kate had wanted her help.
Rebecca and the adult version of Kate often butt heads. Rebecca can come off as too controlling, but in some ways, she and Kate are very much alike.
The scene at the end of the hour where Rebecca confessed to Jack that she was eating nachos because she was having a hard time letting go of the kids drove that point home.
After all, Kate is an emotional eater too, and Toby told Rebecca that he knew Kate was overeating because of the stress over baby Jack's blindness.
The parallels between adult Kevin and child Kevin were equally moving.
You're 187 days old today. You know how I know that? Because I'm 187 days sober today, which seems like an eternity when you're trying not to drink but like no time for you. You're new. I'm not. I'm almost 40 and my most meaningful relationship is with a potted plant.Kevin
The adult Kevin wanted to be there for his family in a way he hadn't been when he was drinking, and it was clear the question still haunted him that his 12-year-old self had asked about whether he was a good person.
As Kevin remembered Jack Sr telling him that Pearson men were complicated and surrounding yourself with family helped, I couldn't help wondering what might be different for Kevin if his father were still alive.
In any case, Kevin felt that he hadn't done any better as an adult than he did as a 12-year-old who embarrassed his brother. He wanted to put his career on hold to be there for Kate in a way he'd never been there for any of the people he loved.
And perhaps in some way he was trying to take Jack's advice by being so devoted to Kate and the baby that he was willing to pass up a job offer.
I wish you would have as much compassion for yourself as you do for me. Go to Chicago. Do this movie. Focus on your sobriety. You're going to be Jack's uncle for his entire life and he's going to need you at your best.Kate
I loved Kate's speech about how Kevin needed to put himself first, but I'm not convinced the movie in Chicago was the right choice. Kevin's comment to the baby that acting was easier because the director told him exactly what to do struck me.
Acting seems like yet another way Kevin is running away, and it's a healthier distraction than drinking, but maybe he needs to get right with himself before he makes any major commitments to jobs.
It doesn't matter, since it looks like the whole movie thing was a fake-out so he could see Nicky without anyone knowing.
THAT should be interesting, especially if it leads to Kevin and Cassidy getting to know one another!
Randall's situation with Deja was the closest parallel to Rebecca's situation with her kids at the pool.
Randall went from being a kid who felt his brother embarrassed him on purpose to an overprotective father who embarrassed his foster daughter by refusing to allow her the independence she'd been used to her entire life.
Randall's behavior on the bus foreshadows trouble to come. If he couldn't deal with a random weird bus passenger talking in Deja's general direction while she focused on her phone, there is no way he will EVER accept her relationship with Malik once he finds out Malik has a kid of his own!
Sure, they came to a truce of sorts by the end of the hour, but how long is that going to last?
The Worst-Case Scenario game was cute, but Beth had learned her lesson and Randall hadn't learned his.
No self-respecting teenager would be caught dead texting her father every morning to report she made it to school safely, and once Deja establishes herself in Philly that obligation will probably be the first thing to go out the window.
As for Tess, I'm excited to see her explore her identity more. She seemed to be having second thoughts about her hairstyle as she checked herself out in the mirror -- what bigger questions will she struggle to answer throughout This is Us Season 4?
Your turn, This is Us fanatics! Share your thoughts in the comments about which storyline was most moving, which pieces of the puzzle fell into place for you, and what you hope happens next.
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This is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST.