A Million Little Things just delivered the most powerful installment to date.
It speaks volumes for a series that devotes so much of its time delving into emotional, deep, relatable, complex, and distinctly human subject matter that touches upon everyone's experience -- the human experience -- in some capacity or another.
Sometimes they knock it out of the park; other times, the series flounders a bit. Nevertheless, their attempts and dedication to the material, no matter what, is commendable, and A Million Little Things Season 3 Episode 10 is evidence of that.
The subject matter is as difficult to dissect as it was to watch. As a warning, most of the review, much like the hour, will be dedicated to discussing Sophie's situation.
Our A Million Little Things Round Table often discusses how talented the young cast members of this series. It's apparent when they're featured prominently in storylines.
The kids have as much to offer to this series as the adults, with equally compelling stories that need telling. And for this installment, the multi-talented Lizzy Greene was divine.
It's such heavy and disturbing material, but she exuded grace, heart, and the myriad of emotions and tender care that the story required. It's her finest acting moment on this series to date, and she showed how well she could carry nearly an entire hour.
What was evident as the story unfolded is that the series must've consulted with the necessary people and organizations to get this specific storyline right.
When the topic of "grooming" comes up in sexual violence discourse, seldom is it explained in a way that those who haven't experienced it or are familiar with it could visualize.
Maggie: You need a glass of water right now.
Maggie: You need a glass of water right now.
Regina: I need another glass of water.
Gary: What do I do?
Maggie: I need you to go upstairs and give her space to talk to us.
Gary: Is she OK?
Maggie: No, she just doesn't know it yet.
AMLT managed to translate what it is and convey it so realistically, arguably in the best manner I've seen on a TV series in some time.
Sadly, too often, works of art want to lead the audience by the nose to make it clear what's happening before their eyes.
However, in doing so, it downplays the effectiveness of grooming and, often without meaning to, derails the conversation, leading viewers to (usually subconsciously) blame the victim for not seeing all the clear signs that something was awry.
It wasn't the case here. Instead, we were along for the ride with Sophie, and we could understand exactly how Peter managed to lure Sophie into a sense of security before sexually abusing her.
As she recounted what happened with the adults and explained it bit by bit, it's apparent that Peter's actions were wrong, sinister, and despicable. However, visually, with each of Sophie's sessions with Peter, you could see how seemingly innocent everything could seem until it wasn't.
As much as a part of her knows that what he did was wrong, her brain is working overtime to try to make that not the case. Her entire future is riding in this. She gave up Harvard for her dream of music, and her teacher, a man who she looked up to and trusted, he knew that, he chose her. He knew that her dad died. He knew that her mom was away, and he knew that she couldn't lose anything else right now, so he groomed her. He used her history against her.Maggie
I'm going to kill him.
No, you're not. You're going to take all the anger that you're feeling right now and harness it to help Sophie through this.
Yeah, and then I'm going to kill him.
Most people wouldn't walk into a room, strip down, and invite someone to abuse them. It's not that victims are gullible, naive, or have no sense of self-preservation. It's that abusers are highly skilled and clever.
They're fucking great at what they do so that by the time their prey realizes what's happening, it's nearly or sometimes too late.
Peter was in the perfect position to exploit young people as a prominent music teacher that everyone is clamoring to train with; he knew how to use his position as a mentor and his musical skills to abuse.
As an entertainer, yeah, you have to work on confidence. One does have to overcome stage-fright. All of this is part of the job. The advice he was giving Sophie about explaining the meaning behind her song about her father is sound.
His observation that she gets lost in the zone and needs to learn how to channel that is valid. Peppering in good advice while simultaneously exploiting her was his intention.
Sophie is a vulnerable girl right now.
Peter's prompting her to bare her soul about Jon and her grief -- and her achingly honest admission that she's afraid to change or allow herself to grow because of this fear that her father won't recognize her and she'd be a different person than the one he knew is so heartbreakingly raw, honest, and a wonderful summation of a young girl grieving-- solidified this bond between them using her vulnerability. He made it appear as if it was her choice.
Peter: Ms. Dixon, what is your song about?
Sophie: It's about my dad. It's about how he left. It's about how he left without saying goodbye, and how he died before I became who I was gonna be, and how a part of me is afraid to become a new person because maybe secretly I think I'll run into him again, and if I do I want to make sure he recognizes me.
Peter: If you don't play that every single time you come on stage, then don't get on stage.
Andrew Leeds played Peter so well it was creepy. Peter's intentions seemed well-meaning. He claimed that as an exercise, he had a male mentee dress up in a unitard to get him out of his comfort zone and help him overcome his nerves.
It sounded innocent enough, and by invoking a male peer of Sophie's and saying it matter of fact as if it was a silly but effective thing, it gave her space to let her guard down. It's doubtful Sophie would've opted for it if Peter mentioned another girl.
He then slipped in the unitard, but other options such as bathing suits or whatever else would make a person feel uncomfortable wearing in front of a crowd, knowing that a bathing suit is the most accessible option.
Most girls don't have a unitard lying around, but a bathing suit or bikini? Sure. And it's clothing that in front of a crowd at the beach is innocent enough, but up close and personal with one person feels different.
Ironically, while arguing that she needed to build confidence in front of a crowd for her audition, the nervousness of the situation comes in being alone with an older man in a bathing suit.
He had her walk through it all. He started only making eye contact, but then later, his eyes wandered elsewhere. Filming seemed perfectly normal if the goal was to chronicle her progress.
He would only speak about the music and give her sound advice. Peter lured her into a sense of comfort, and he even gave her the option of putting her clothes back on, putting the ball in her court. Everything he did was strategic.
Then he would praise her, but later on, give her a critique and behave as if he lost interest, thus making her want to earn his praise and attention again. It was a form of negging, undermining her confidence after building it up and going back and forth, entangling her in his web of emotional manipulation and exploitation.
A little dancing to loosen up during your music session? Yeah, it doesn't seem nefarious. And Peter initiated it and wasn't afraid to get silly with her too, so it didn't feel inappropriate to Sophie at the time.
She didn't realize that by starting with seemingly innocent and innocuous things and testing boundaries, she wouldn't see how wrong everything was until it was too late.
In those moments, the brain would rationalize everything that was happening, normalize it, and make it innocent. Only when Sophie had to explain it did it test her -- the red flags going up.
Along the way, Peter went from referring to Sophie as a teen and a girl to calling her sexy (because you do need some of that in the industry, you see) and calling her a woman, building her up, infusing feminist uplifting language to cloak his actions.
Maggie: Did he touch you?
Sophie: No, he didn't touch me. He just touched himself, and then when he was done, he zipped up and said "great work today," and it was so strange. He just acted like nothing happened.
Peter's little touches and removing the guitar away from her form while playing light was deliberate, so by the time he was brushing hair out of her eye, and Sophie eventually admitted that he masturbated in front of her, it was too late. She didn't see any of it coming.
And then Peter going right back to acting as if nothing happened was enough to manipulate her further.
Maggie brilliantly explained Sophie's line of thinking, any survivor's thought process, by sending the Britney Spears photo to Peter. She wanted to take things back to the music, similar to how he used that to abuse her.
If she could take things back to the music, she could convince herself that it was always about that and nothing else. She clung to her phone, awaiting Peter's response like her entire world depended on it.
Peter knew she couldn't afford to lose anyone else, her musical career meant everything to her, and she would focus on that instead of what he did to her.
Maggie can so often be hit or miss. However, when she gets deep into her therapist mode, she shows exactly why she's an essential part of this series and group.
Sophie was already spiraling when Gary confronted her. His anger at her for lying chillingly slipped into horror at what he was hearing. Sophie couldn't take the reminder of what happened to her.
He made the right call contacting Maggie and demanding she drop everything to come over, and Gina was the best person to accompany Maggie for something like this.
Maggie knew how to get Sophie talking without judgment, and she had that way of repeating what Sophie shared so that she confronted the truth of what she endured.
Maggie and Gina were brilliant, and Miller and Moses were as exceptional as Greene in this installment, Rodriguez, too.
Maggie didn't let her feelings come through before necessary, but she knew to send Gary away, leaving her and Gina to spend time with Sophie and get to the bottom of what happened.
Sophie wouldn't have been able to open up like that with Gary still there.
It was also a nice touch that Maggie left space for Gina to confide in Sophie as a sexual abuse survivor, and she fell back and let Gina take the lead when necessary.
Sophie breaking down after she allowed herself to acknowledge that something unspeakable happened to her was such a heartbreaking moment, as was the case when she called Delilah to tell her the news while apologizing as if it was her fault.
She needed Gina and Maggie to tell her it wasn't her fault, and she'll keep needing that until she reaches a point where she believes it. She's in such a fragile place right now, more than ever before.
Fortunately, she has a great support unit here, even though her mother is miles away, but my God, it's when Sophie needs Delilah the most. If ever a time Delilah's absence feels like a profound blow to the series, it's in this specific situation when you know that all Sophie wants and needs right now is her mother.
Gary was expectantly livid; we know violence isn't the answer, but wanting to beat the shit out of Peter is the most natural feeling in the world.
He was able to keep his anger at bay around Sophie, as Maggie advised, but the culmination of his ire, fear, maybe even guilt, and pain, and that protective streak, all of it drove him to Pete's home.
You knew he was beyond angry when he opted to ignore Rome's calls three times. After everything the entire group has dealt with, missing multiple calls is a scary thing.
Rome tried to talk him down, but in the name of the Band of Dads and as the primary guardian of Sophie right now, it was mostly ineffective. The only thing that stopped him was Peter's wife arriving home.
Rome: Where are you?
Gary: I'm out.
Rome: Are you at Peter's house?
Gary: I'm out.
Rome: Gary, listen to me. This does not help Sophie. It doesn't.
Gary: Band of Dads, Rome. Band of Dads.
I have no idea what to expect from this storyline, but it's the one I'm most invested in right now. How will they take Peter down? And Sophie, she's going to need some therapy. My heart aches for her.
Elsewhere, the hour introduced Schitt's Creek's Karen Robinson as a widow named Florence, and she happened across Rome at Renee's grave.
Something tells me that the answer to Walter's conflicting reactions to Rome has something to do with her.
At night, via text messages, Walter is the loving father who supports Rome and opens up about his feelings and grief.
Rome had some of the best talks he's ever had in his life with his father at 3 A.M via text, and it was enough to give him hope that their relationship improved.
But every time they were in person, it was the same critical Walter, and Rome couldn't make sense of that.
On the one hand, it's true that it's so much easier opening up and being vulnerable with people from behind a screen. Walter may be dealing with some of that.
Based on the time of these texts, early in the morning, while Walter is in bed and missing Renee beside him, it sounds as if he talks with Florence about everything and carries some of that vulnerability into his late-night texts.
Walter goes to Renne's grave every evening, and Florence must do the same for her husband. She already knew Rome's name and enough about him to distinguish him from his brother.
Florence may be the key to bringing Walter and Rome closer together, and maybe, in some way, crucial to Walter not feeling so alone, too.
And Jackie may be an asset in Eddie's recovery process.
Jackie is still the best, and kudos to her for taking Eddie's casual transphobic comments in stride with some tell-tale humor, education, and grace.
It wasn't her first trip to the rodeo, and it won't be the last.
Eddie's ignorance was on full display, and coupling that with his personal pity party as he doubles down on his cringy ableist self-loathing was a lot.
Bless Jackie for having to be the person who gathers Eddie together. She cannot be the one to drag him over the finish line. He has to do the work himself.
The good thing about their odd camaraderie and the fact that she serves as a pseudo-sponsor for him is that he does take what she says to heart and listens.
Eddie: Look, I am sure you've had your share of struggles, but we are not the same. For one, you chose to be a woman, I did not choose to be in this chair.
Jackie: Wow. So many mistakes with what you just said. What I chose was to be myself, so you were right, accidentally. But what I didn't choose was to be born in a man's body. All the pressure that you're facing to be the husband, and dad, and friend they think you should be, or even worse, you think you should be, you need to put that all aside because you're never going to be that guy. But maybe like me, there's a beautiful person inside. You just have to find her and let her out.
She has a way of getting through to him. Eddie taking accountability is apparently going to be a process for him.
Eddie was wrong to imply that she chose to be a woman, but she did point out that she chose to accept who she is.
Eddie's life will be better whenever he chooses to let go of some things and be himself or figure out who that guy is in the first place.
He's in the perfect place to unpack how he got here.
Yeah, he's in immense physical pain, and that contributed to his relapse.
However, the strained relationship with his sister, his self-destructive tendencies, the Alex situation, and so much more, Eddie can meet himself in the mirror and get to the root of his problems beyond addiction.
We already know he harbors some previous trauma because of the Lake House. He and his sister are both addicts, and there must be some other things going on. We don't know anything about his parents and family history.
They can do so much here.
Was it a powerful episode? How do you feel about the Sophie storyline? Is Jackie just what Eddie needs? Hit the comments below.
You can watch A Million Little Things online via TV Fanatic.
For more information or resources on sexual abuse, sexual and domestic violence, chat availability, a National hotline to talk, and more, you can go to the RAINN website.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.