The Pearsons' week of nightmares – literally, in Randall's case last episode – continued with Kevin's solo hour on Tuesday night, bringing his first true love Sophie back into his orbit in "Hell of a Week: Part Two." How'd their reunion go – and is she the mystery woman in bed with him from last week?
Let's break down the five big takeaways from the latest episode of "This Is Us" ... after watching most but not all of "Good Will Hunting" and then raiding a movie theater vending stand.
1. The end of "Kophie"
It would seem Kevin's storybook romance is coming to a close ... again ... for now.
As we saw last week, when one door closes, another one opens – or in Kevin's case, when a date that was actually a weird hall pass situation closes, a former grand love story reopens, as Sophie calls Kevin out of the blue in the middle of movie reshoots. After he finally gets his phone back (that poor production assistant, trying to figure out whether to interrupt an important conversation between a star actor and his famous director or not), Kevin gets a hold of Sophie and finds out what's caused this seemingly random call: Her mom has died, and while she has her fiancee to help, Kevin's actually experienced the death of a parent – plus they have years upon years of connection to draw comfort from, as he makes her feel a little bit better with an odd inside joke about cider and apples.
Kevin heads to the funeral in Pittsburgh, and while he's en route, he's bombarded with flashbacks to his past with Sophie – mainly a sweet date that fateful Super Bowl night, going to a lame party in the woods before bailing for doughnuts and a movie ... or at least most of a movie because the projector craps out right before the end of "Good Will Hunting." The two decide to bail on the movie (which ABSOLUTE LUNATICS; HOW COULD YOU LEAVE WITHOUT SEEING THE END!?) instead leaving the conclusion to their imaginations, thus the joke about "How About Them Apples" cider, before heading back into the woods. And we all know how the rest of THAT particularly haunting Super Bowl night goes.
He also, however, has flashbacks to his interactions with Sophie's chipper mom and number one member of the Kevin Fan Club, Claire – one conversation in particular where, after their rushed wedding, Kevin asks for Sophie's grandmother's ring. Considering how much she loves Kevin and cheers him on – while a busy and still-acclimating Rebecca misses his TV debut as a silent dying guy on "Days of Our Lives," Claire catches his first on-screen moment and raves – you'd think he'd be a shoo-in for the ring, but instead Claire says no, saying that they and their marriage are too young, that they need to earn the ring. These flashbacks with Claire are nice and work well within the whole of the episode – and guest star Jennifer Westfeldt is lovely and chipper in the role – but it's unfortunately just too little time spent too late for her character to mean that much and for these segments to carry the punch the show wants, feeling definitely more like a guest appearance than a key part of Kevin's life story.
What works better, though, is the modern day moments – and not just because a lot of it gave me flashbacks to "High Fidelity," only one of my favorite movies of all time. Kevin goes to the funeral, where Sophie gives a painful eulogy about how Claire and her had a coffee shop they loved and shared memories together that she can never go to anymore because it's where she found out her mother had passed. Afterward, Kevin edges near talking to Sophie, but when he sees her fiancee grab her hand, he thinks better of it. Instead, he drops by later to the reception with a box of doughnuts from their old hangout ... only to think better of it again and staying on the front lawn of her house. (A really great shot, loaded with meaning as Kevin is on the outside looking in at her life.) He does, though, call and let her know he's dropped by, to which she runs out and asks for an escape from all the overwhelming sadness and show of the funeral for a bit. Just like "High Fidelity!"
The two park in the woods (JUST LIKE "HIGH FIDELITY!") where the two do not have sex in the name of feeling something close to comfort and far from pain (OK, nothing like "High Fidelity"). Instead, the two swap memories about "Good Will Hunting," finally watch the ending – spoiler alert: it's good! – and Kevin delivers a really nice speech about how he used to be unable to come back to this spot because of his rough memories but now he can, much like how she'll be able to someday return to her coffee shop despite its now painful meaning. It's a really nice speech, excellently performed by Justin Hartley, who's really turned what used to be the show's most shallow character into one of its most soulful and thoughtful.
And with that ... oh well, look at the time; gotta get back to the funeral! Yep, if you thought Sophie and Kevin were getting back together this episode, well, maybe in another season or two. This sensitive and sweet (if surprisingly emotionally slight) episode is about endings – in particular Kevin finally accepting this one in his life. For now. I don't buy this is the end of Sophie and Kevin – especially considering Sophie's longing looks at her memory box and the ring teen Kevin wanted from Claire. But for now, it's quality closure.
So if the woman in bed with Kevin wasn't Sophie – because this is "This Is Us,"; that would've been too obvious anyways – who is she?
2. "The ending everybody wants, but they still won't see coming"
For an episode focused on things coming to an end, it only makes sense that "This Is Us" would bring back a man famous for his endings – M. Night Shyamalan – for another cameo.
Early on, Kevin debates with his director about the new ending for their upcoming movie; he liked the closure that the previous conclusion landed on, while M. Night wants his new ending – one that "everybody wants, but they still won't see coming." It's a bit of meta fun, commenting on the episode's own ending and playfully priming the audience's expectations, but unfortunately one that I'm not quite sure stuck the landing as the end of Kevin's solo hour wasn't quite what everybody wanted – or at least didn't earn the emotions even if they did.
After going his separate way from Sophie, Kevin stops by Kate's house for some calming chats – only to find Madison the peppy friend there puppy-sitting while Kate and Toby are off on their musical retreat. And at this point in the episode, with not much time left and Jack in the flashback chiming in about how "sometimes you lose things you love, but then you find something new to love," it's clear that the mystery woman in bed next to Kevin from last week's tease will turn out to be Madison. Indeed, after Madison opens up about how guys keep breaking up with her because they don't see a future and Kevin gives her a pep talk, Kevin wakes up later that day shirtless and in bed with Madison.
That's the thing: Even though the show's teased this pairing in the past with the occasional meaningful glance, their hookup doesn't feel like an entirely earned step (and not only because creator Dan Fogelman claimed on Twitter almost two years ago that this wasn't going to happen). For Kevin to go straight from finally moving on from Sophie to sleeping with Madison feels, I don't know, a little callow for an episode that's generally pretty thoughtful about relationships. Most of all, it feels rushed, as there's not enough time with the two of them really connecting to make their hookup feel like an emotionally satisfying moment as opposed to just Kevin wanting a distraction after a heavy day. Add in the fact that Kevin's feelings on the matter seem so vaguely regretful afterward, and sure, this ending may qualify as one we didn't entirely see coming but it's almost certainly not the one we want – especially as the episode hints at this being something greater than just an empty and maybe misguided hookup. (Can't wait for Kate's thoughts on this development!)
Of course, since Madison doesn't wake up during the ending to address what happened, there is a chance that they DIDN'T actually hookup – though that'd be quite the cheat and require a lot of explaining why two generally platonic friends decided to nap half-naked together. But right now, this conclusion feels less like the right conclusion and more like the one the show landed on because the mystery woman obviously couldn't be Sophie, because even if this wasn't their end, there's still about two more seasons of this show so it's WAY too early to bring them back together for a happy ever after now.
Maybe, given more time to flesh out, Madison and Kevin will come together better as an emotionally satisfying tandem – but right now, this twist ending is more "The Village" than "Sixth Sense."
3. Jack is having a night
I hope, at the end of this triad of episodes, we get at least a brief scene of the next morning in the Pearson household where Rebecca wakes up, well rested and rehabbed after a good night of healthy sleep, and Jack is just tired and fed up with all these kids each having a conundrum to be solved in the middle of the night. "Randall's scared of monsters, and then Kevin comes down, sending me hunting for a stupid sheep mobile that's gone to Goodwill for a solid hour, AND THEN Kate arrives talking about how we have a problem?! I never even got to finish watching 'The Shining' in peace!" I'm just saying that, in addition to some very effective character work and storytelling, this trio of episodes has served as some very effective birth control.
4. The best joke of the episode
Near the end of "Hell of a Week: Part Two," Kevin goes to Claire's grave to pour her one last glass of froseco (Fresca plus proseco; meanwhile, grown-up sober Kevin rolls with just the Fresca part) and have one of those graveside monologues that people always have in movies. It's a very nice, thoughtful, moving moment that I spent the whole time waiting for Sophie to dramatically show up for and overhear in the name of a big, grand, romantic ending ... but instead there's no Sophie. Kevin just tops off the speech by placing an early autographed headshot of himself that Sophie passed along to him at the end of their funeral adventure. The move is certainly well-intended ... but also it's, like, super weird and kind of an ego trip to put your own smoldering "Outsiders"-looking, teenage actor headshot on a person's grave, right?
Thankfully, Kevin and the writers agreed – so following a five-second count after Kevin leaves Claire's tombstone, he quickly pops back to snag the headshot, muttering about how weird that would've been to keep it there. Easily the joke of the night – though, in an episode about dead parents and a heartfelt romance seemingly put out to pasture for good, not a lot of competition for that honor! – and a perfect decompressing breath of air to end what was a pretty quietly emotionally intense and riveting episode.
5. Next stop: Kate and the cabin
And so we're left with the final solo episode of the Pearsons' legendarily bad week: Kate, who tells Kevin and Randall over the phone that her marriage is moments away from imploding. Boy, when it rains, it pours for the Pearsons. But not only does she have new (and perhaps final) marital issues with Toby to be sorted out up at the cabin during an impromptu retreat called by the Big Three – or the Sad Three, as they deservedly call themselves – but we'll finally find out what exactly went wrong between her and oily teen music store boyfriend Marc.
In addition to a refresh of what we already saw last week – Kate on the phone with a seemingly irrationally upset Marc, a conversation that drives her into her room in a huff – we got a little more of the mystery filled out this episode as, near the end of the episode, Kevin arrives back home to Rebecca and Randall in a panic. Rebecca says that she and Kate had a big fight that ended with the latter bursting out of the house and heading up to the cabin with Marc ... only for Kate to call her mom back later that night in tears.
What exactly happened? The preview for next week's episode appeared to have Kate abandoned along the side of the road, kicked out of the car by a sulky and screaming Marc – but I guess we'll find out the exact details in TWO weeks. (Thanks a lot, State of the Union address.) Easy prediction: It's going to make us all want to punch Marc in the face and man business really hard!
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.