Toby and Kate are done. Actually. Officially. For real now. Finally.
The breakup took seemingly most of a month's worth of episodes – and beyond – but after hundreds of passive aggressive quips, a handful of desperate San Fran trips and one slandered Big Green Egg smoker, "This Is Us" finally called it quits between Toby and Kate ... after a few bonus rounds of couples therapy and a few doomed attempts at sticking it out. The show certainly took its time chronicling their collapse – and deservedly so considering they're a core relationship going all the way back to the show's first episode. And while I wouldn't quite say "KaToby" stuck the landing – we'll get into get into my major hangup, but sneak preview: It rhymes with "Mr. Brumblygrants McSmitish" – the latest episode gave the collapsed couple the right ending, with a pretty perfect final note of honest tenderness and melancholy.
So let's not pull a Kate and Toby and prolong this any longer: Here are my five main takeaways from the final collapse ... just as soon as I get Chumbawamba out of my head.
1. OK, now Toby and Kate are officially done
When I said I wanted more Kate screentime, I didn't mean like this!
Yes, Kate took center stage over the past month ... to carefully, methodically and unpleasantly break apart her marriage to Toby. And if the previous episode's big front yard fight was the final nail in the coffin, than "KaToby" was the actual funeral. That doesn't mean there aren't still some death rattles we can confuse for gasps for air, though!
Indeed, the first half of the episode is dedicated to delaying the inevitable – which this isn't a fault with of the hour; the show knows their last-ditch efforts are doomed, CPR on a relationship whose time of death passed hours ago. After the big blowup in the previous episode, Toby makes some big moves – quite literally, heading back to Los Angeles closer to the family and leaving his fancy San Fran gig for an office gig at what appears to be the nearby beige factory. The two also sign up for couples therapy, which seems to go well at first with Kate and Toby playing nice by trading pleasantries, light criticisms and surface-level analysis of their situation.
It doesn't take long, however, for those efforts to fall flat. Toby quickly hates his new job, arriving home everyday looking sad about life. Therapy ends up causing more problems than solutions; Kate keeps arriving late from work while she doesn't think Toby's actually taking it seriously. And the passive aggressive jabs haven't moved out of the house, with Toby snarking about her low-paying job at a family gathering and Kate condescendingly sniping him about his bedtime approach over a last-ditch romantic dinner. And considering that remark grows into a big yelling match about how Toby will never be Jack Pearson enough for Kate – a classic small fight revealing a larger cancer festering underneath – safe to say that dinner had the opposite of the intended effect, instead leading to Jack Jr. dropping his Boba Fett into the toilet in the hopes of putting an end to the yelling.
And it does put an end to the yelling: After saving Boba from a splashy sarlacc pit, Kate says it's over. And while Toby desperately tries to convince himself – and Kate – that things are improving and they can stick it out, the papers eventually get signed, and the two go their separate ways, with Kate saying it's not the end of their story and Toby not in the mood to hear anything like that.
At least that day, he isn't. Cut to several years and many more eye wrinkles into the future, Toby shoots Kate a surprise wedding day call to let her know that he finally gets it: It wasn't the end of their story. In fact ...
2. Everyone got a happy ending after all
There's been a little bit of #TeamToby/#TeamKate amidst this divorce subplot. Kate's defenders say that Toby was manipulative – remember all that San Francisco nonsense, from the house tour to the ultimatum? – wasn't home enough and wasn't listening when he actually was. On the other hand, Toby sure seemed like he was putting in the effort – both into their family and their relationship, moving back to Los Angeles, getting a new and significantly beige-er job, and going to therapy (and arriving on time). He was willing to make accomodations: Can Kate say the same? While Toby moved toward the center of their relationship, she sure seemed comfortable staying on her side, sniping Toby for not being the same person he once was or not being the same parent she is.
So which side is right? Honestly, I probably fall a little on Toby's side – mainly because I think "This Is Us" did a better job of showing his growth and efforts, especially in recent episodes. But I think it's a tribute to the show's writing that the true and obvious answer is clear: both and neither. As many real-life relationships know all too well, both sides have valid points and perspectives while neither side is truly "at fault." Sometimes people evolve – and a part of that evolution is realizing you're different people from the past, who want different things from the future. It took a good bit, but it was worth it as "This Is Us" really articulately and effectively mapped out how people naturally grow apart despite their best efforts – and you know they did a good job because we both wanted to see them apart but also wanted to see them get happy endings.
And indeed they did.
We knew Kate would find the right person for her new current self, and despite my future grumblings about Grumblypants, everyone seems content – so yay for that. But watching the scenes of Toby move into an empty and lonely L.A. house far from his rewarding life in the Bay Area – all I kept thinking was: Does he not have friends? WHERE ARE HIS FRIENDS?! – and remembering how glum he seemed arriving at the Pearson cabin in the future, I was concerned Toby wouldn't get the same generous treatment. (Remember in the early seasons when Toby was my number one annoyance on the show? And here I am anxiously hoping to see him get a happy and fulfilled finale. What a journey this show's been ... )
But yes, thankfully Toby not only stayed in the kids' lives, showing up at birthday parties and much more, but with a classic coffee chop meet-cute, he meets his new someone as well – someone who shares his love of terrible puns and is super cool hanging out with his ex-wife in the future. That's right: Best of all, old grey Toby and Kate are still friendly, able to happily join together and give Jack Jr. a cheering section at his concerts. Just as Kate predicted on the day of their official divorce, the end of their marriage was far from the end of their story – and, in fact, led to a seemingly better ending for everyone.
Plus, they got a Big Green Egg out of it all! 100 percent success, no notes!
3. "This Is Us" goes on the Mr. Grumblypants McBritish charm offensive
Listen, "This Is Us": You can make him sing along to as much Chumbawamba as you want, but I'm still not a Mr. Grumblypants McBritish fan – even after the latest episode. Yes, with Toby and Kate officially done, the show figured it was about time to get audiences to warm up to Kate's formerly jerkish colleague – and that it was going to that all in a single hour. And sorry, it just doesn't work like that.
"This Is Us" certainly tried, though. Going backwards through time from the wedding day to their first proper date, the show went on the full charm offensive in the most recent episode. Mr. Grumblypants McBritish now karaokes along to "Tubthumping" at their engagement party, loves playing Go Fish with the kids before getting them adorably involved in his marriage proposal, has a heart-to-heart with Toby to clear the air about his relationship with Kate – and gets a bonus American football lesson – and even allows Kate to teach the kids "Maneater" at school. (I assume the Hall & Oates version, not the Nelly Furtado classic.) It's all pleasant enough – but it sure feels like the show is trying VERY hard to get me to immediately fall for him all at once.
I really started to irritatingly feel the not-so-gentle hand of the show's writers, though, during Kate and Grumblypants' first proper date. In the middle of a cutely clumsy dinner, a mariachi band ambles over their table and makes Mr. McBritish very uncomfortable. (Boy, if you don't like awkward meals, do I NOT have the family for you!) The two hold hands, but Kate's not sure she's ready to move forward with a relationship yet – especially with a guy who seems like he's avoiding serious messy feelings with a dating record featuring more one-night-stands than single moms. So Grumblypants explains himself: He was married to a blind woman, but it fell apart because they couldn't conceive. So she packed up her things and moved out ... but five minutes later got hit by a drunk driver and died instantly.
A messy and emotional falling out? I can buy that. A significant other dying in a tragic car accident? I can obviously buy that too. I can even buy into both of those things happening in the same relationship. But "I broke up with my blind wife because of conception issues, who then died immediately five minutes later"? That's overplaying your hand, show. Season three called, and it wants its misery porn back.
The reality is, instead of having to rely on some cheap blunt-force unearned emotions, "This Is Us" needed to introduce Grumblypants a lot sooner or at least work him into this past season a lot more. "This Is Us" viewers have learned to love new additions pretty quickly: Malik, Cassidy, Madison and Uncle Nicky. But the show worked to develop those characters; it put in the effort (and started on better ground0. In Grumblypants' case, since his abrasive intro maybe a year ago, we've seen him for ... maybe two minutes of total screentime? There were perhaps hints of evolution in those brief moments – but considering he was introduced as the most stereotypically grouchy British snob since the King in "Hamilton" (thankfully with a lot less spittle), we needed a lot more than brief cameos followed by one episode trying to cram in a season's worth of character development and emotional investment into 30 minutes.
I'm not sad that Kate is now Mrs. McBritish. I just wish I felt happier about it – especially considering this is likely the most Kate we're going to get before the show calls it a day.
4. OH HI, SOPHIE!
Oh, you thought you could just sneak Sophie into the show for a few seconds and think we wouldn't make anything of it, "This Is Us"? Silly show ...
Yes, while Tuesday's episode was mostly and understandably focused on Kate, there were some small updates on the other two members of the Big Three. According to his engagement party cameo, there's not much to report on Randall – political career still thriving, Beth still a champion – but Kevin's a different story as we see him with a variety of short-lived girlfriends throughout the episode. There's a giggly Trojan condom ad girl at the kids' birthday party – which, thanks to Toby and Kate's ongoing late-marital sniping, somehow wasn't the most uncomfortable part of those festivities – followed by a State Farm jingle singer at the engagement party. (Does this mean Jake from State Farm is gone? ANSWER ME, "THIS IS US"!) It's not exactly the older, wiser Kevin we hope to see – but considering his history of misguided grand romantic gestures and emotional carnage, somehow just being happy with casual and easy-going relationships somehow almost resembles improvement for Kevin.
But since we're on the topic of Kevin's history grand romances and emotional carnage: Welcome back, Sophie!
I'm sure every fan sat up straight after they saw Alexandra Breckenridge's name in the opening credits – and indeed Sophie showed up on Tuesday night at the engagement party. My first thought was "What's Sophie doing here? That plotting seems a little convenient." But then I remembered that Kate and Sophie mended their friendship after Kevin's cheating debacle with those "Thelma & Louise"-inspired text messages a few episodes back. So it tracks.
My second thought: I'm so sorry for you, State Farm Woman, but this is going to end poorly for you. Thankfully for her, Sophie's appearance is a non-speaking one ... for now, as I imagine we'll come back to this party in upcoming episodes and see more beyond "Tubthumping" karaoke. Tuesday's return may have been a silent cameo, but there's no way it's a meaningless one, for now simply serving as yet another hint that "This Is Us" is not quite over those two yet – even if Sophie's husband is also in attendance at the party. And even if some of us watching (*raises hand*) thinks it's better and more fitting for Kevin and Sophie to remain apart. After all, Kevin's whole issue is living his life desperately seeking some grand romantic narrative – doesn't seem entirely wise to give him one, especially one with this much scar tissue.
I've always felt, though, that "This Is Us" disagrees – something harder and harder to deny now that Sophie's made an official on-screen return. And I can't imagine for just a cameo ...
5. Oh no, everybody looks so old now
After weeks of scoring the award, Beth's multi-week reign as the quiet MVP of "This Is Us" came to an end on Tuesday night, replaced by ... the makeup crew! Congratations: You put in a hard shift this week considering all of the old age makeup getting thrown around like Oprah was running the operation. You get fake grey hair and wrinkles! And you get fake grey hair and wrinkles! EVERYONE GETS FAKE GREY HAIR AND WRINKLES!
The episode started simply enough with Future Toby, complete with a greyed beard and some crinkles around the eyes, shooting Kate some wedding day well-wishes – nothing too crazy. Later on, we also got a glimpse at Future Rebecca at the soon-to-be Mrs. McBritish's engagement party. And while the Pearson matriarch was still able to head out and even able to remember Grumblypants' name, she definitely looked more feeble, braced by Miguel and moving slowly – not to mention the requisite lacquering of old-age makeup and long gray hair.
The most startling time jump, though, came at the very end when we took a big hop forward and briefly saw Kate, Toby and their respective significant others at Jack Jr.'s show, all aged up – Toby now in a jaunty newsboy cap with a more-salt-than-pepper beard and Kate with a wavy grey wig, giving audiences our first look at Kate in the far-off future. (By my memory, we haven't seen her arrive to the cabin for Rebecca's big final send-off, and the most we've seen of Future Kate before Tuesday night was, I believe, the pre-wedding clip from last year's season finale.)
Indeed, for an episode all about putting Toby and Kate in the rear view mirror, "KaToby" also offered "This Is Us" fans some fairly significant glimpses into the future, both near and far. And here's something I foretell: With more and more of these inevitably coming up, we're all going to feel VERY old and gray watching it all. (And the makeup team is going to feel VERY busy making all that old and gray happen.)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.