The Big Three are growing up!
This Is Us Season 5 Episode 3 dealt with adolescence, both from the kids' point of view and from Randall and Beth's as parents several decades later.
Unlike many shows, This Is Us took teenage life seriously, just as it takes everything else seriously. It was refreshing to watch.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the hour was the contrast between the Big Three becoming teenagers and Randall and Beth dealing with Tess' adolescent misbehavior.
The world has changed, of course, and the Big Three didn't seem to be dealing with quite so heavy issues. The question of who was interested in whom seemed so tame compared to Tess' attempts to stand up to racism and transphobia.
Have you seen the way the world is now? This is who I am. I'm done being the straight white girl who lives in the suburbs. This is who I am. This is who I want to be.Tess
But still, Randall's experience as a teenager informed his response to Tess now that he was the adult in charge.
It seemed like Tess was one of those very socially aware teens that was guaranteed to push all of Beth's buttons, too.
She wouldn't eat the pancakes made with non-cage free eggs and doesn't want to be seen as the quiet girl who just goes along anymore.
It seemed like every opinion she had was irritating Beth, so it's not surprising Beth wanted to get her back under control.
I could see both sides of Tess' behavior.
She was right that she needed to stand up for herself and her friend, but Randall and Beth were also right that this wasn't the way to go about it.
Tess is trying to find her way as a Black gay girl, and it's not easy for her because of the casual racism and homophobia she deals with. And even though Kevin wouldn't fully understand her struggles, it's a shame that the rift between him and Randall has interfered with his relationship with Tess.
Kevin was always a major source of Tess' support, and I would have loved to have had his input on this.
Speaking of Kevin, how emotional were his scenes with Madison?
I got stuff too, Madison. A lot of stuff. I still got stuff I gotta work out with my brother too and I... sometimes I lay in bed and worry that I'm gonna pass that on to my kids, all that unhealthy stuff.Kevin
Madison was right that the two of them were practically strangers. Unlike Elly, the woman that Toby and Kate hope will allow them to adopt her baby, they've chosen to raise the twins themselves. But they really know nothing about each other.
I was surprised that her issue was feeling as if she couldn't tell Kevin about her eating disorder. I thought it was pretty clear that she wasn't comfortable with Kevin's acting career taking first priority in his life.
(Side note: That fan was so oblivious and obnoxious! Thank goodness we won't see her again any time soon.)
But This Is Us did another great misdirection with that, and the conversation Kevin and Madison had was so honest and touching.
I also liked the way Kevin connected his addiction to working out with his teenage experience of Jack teaching him how to lift weights.
That was probably one of Kevin's most important memories, and it was a time when he felt close to Jack and it was just the two of them.
No wonder Kevin wanted to recreate that feeling by working out alone in the garage whenever he got the chance!
Meanwhile, Kate and Toby's experience with Elly was great so far... but are things TOO perfect?
This Is Us tends to build things up only to break our hearts by tearing them down again. And Kate seemed convinced that Elly will not only give them her baby, but will be her new BFF.
It's not uncommon on TV for birth moms to change their minds and decide to keep the baby themselves at the last minute.
I don't get the sense that's where this is going -- This Is Us is generally more original than that -- but it can't possibly be as easy as Elly agreeing to the adoption and the Damons getting the baby.
I'm also wondering who the father is. Sure, it was a one-night-stand, but TV fathers have a way of showing back up at the most inconvenient time, often throwing a monkey wrench into adoption plans.
Anyway, Toby and Kate were too cute in how they agreed to express each other's point of view. This is a big improvement from This Is Us Season 4. They're still fighting a lot, but they're turning it into good-natured teasing after all is said and done.
This is promising. It's almost as if they've been seeing a marriage counselor off-screen.
Last but not least, let's not forget the random people who seem to be connected to Randall's family.
I knew that Vietnamese girl and her grandfather had to be connected somehow. Otherwise we wouldn't have spent a third of the hour on them catching and preparing a fish.
I wouldn't have guessed that the grandfather's lover was Laurel, though. The next question is how she ended up in Vietnam and if she had other children with this guy, but that was quite a twist!
I thought this family was going to end up having something to do with Nicky, since he served in Vietnam. But I was just as glad to be wrong. This should be a compelling story and I can't wait to learn more.
Your turn, This Is Us fanatics.
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This Is Us airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9 PM EST/PST.