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Family Mashup: We need to talk about Kevin

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NOVEMBER 13, 2017

This week, “This Is Us” set the stage for what looks to be a very heartbreaking story for Randall and Beth. “Young Sheldon,” on the other hand, opted to give viewers a dollop of warmth, and “Modern Family” took a one-week break.

‘This Is Us’

“The Most Disappointed Man” is another table-setting episode — it establishes several important stories but never resolves them, and it lacks a now-signature “This Is Us” Kleenex montage. Instead, the viewers are treated to an introspective and quieter tone this time around.

In the present, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) takes Déjà (Lyric Ross) to see her imprisoned mother. Déjà is understandably excited, but her happiness is short-lived when Randall finds out that Déjà’s mother doesn’t want to see her.

Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), after finding out what happened during the visit, goes into protective mama bear mode and refuses to let Déjà see her mother again. Randall tries to judge the situation calmly, for a change, and goes to visit Déjà’s mother alone. There, he is faced with the sobering reality that the situation is not as black and white as it seems and that Déjà’s time with his family is a stepping stone to eventually reuniting her with her mother again.

Randall decides to alleviate some of Déjà’s distress by arranging a phone call between her and her mother. He explains his decision to Beth by wondering how lost his own biological father must have been before they met last year. Oh boy, if only Randall knew.

Over in LA, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is still in dire need of some help. His addiction to painkillers has gone from bad to worse, and his mental state becomes increasingly unstable when Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) announce that they are having a baby. Their revelation somehow sparks a desire in Kevin to propose to Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge). He picks out three different rings and heads to New York. Before he proposes, though, Kevin imagines the future that he and Sophie will have — a future in which he sees himself as an emotionally stunted shell without anything redeeming to offer. Predictably, Kevin panics and breaks up with Sophie, telling her that he does not want her to have an unfulfilled life with him.

This has been said multiple times, but why doesn’t anyone realize how messed-up and sweaty Kevin is? Aren’t Kate and him supposed to have their twin-bonding thing? It seems the writers are just stalling for time now.

Speaking of stalling for time, let’s go to Kate’s side of the world. She decides to marry Toby in a courthouse as soon as possible, but Toby isn’t having any of it. He has a word with Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) urn and tells Kate that she deserves to have a big, fancy wedding.

And that’s it. Three lines are all it takes to describe what Kate is doing. It is still a wonder why Kate’s singing arc seems to have been scrapped, and all we are getting nowadays is just a saccharine and overtly cheesy sitcom between her and Toby.

Back in the past, we’ve left the “Dad Mustache” period and are now officially in the “Man-Beard” timeline, aka when the Big Three were just toddlers. Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) want to get Randall’s adoption legalized and are overjoyed to find out that their social worker gave them a glowing recommendation. They apparently have to just go to the courthouse and get the adoption officially confirmed.

Not so fast. The judge in the courthouse is not easily swayed and thinks that Randall will not be prepared for the difficulties that a Black man has to endure if he stays with Jack and Rebecca. The tenacious Rebecca is never one to back down, so she writes a long letter to the judge describing the couple’s love for Randall and how, irrespective of what the judge thinks, Randall will always be her son.

The judge is not swayed enough to her side, but he does recuse himself from the case, and another judge finally gives Jack and Rebecca the official title of Randall’s parents. Is there anything Rebecca can’t do?

Coincidentally, while Jack and Rebecca are hashing out Randall’s adoption, William (Jermel Nakia) is facing a similar life-changing decision before the court. He has been arrested for possession, and tells the judge trying his case that he is the most disappointed man in the world. He has lost his son, his love and his mother — everything that he held dear — in a matter of months. The judge takes pity on William and gives him a second chance. Only this time, whenever William is caught in a moral quandary, he should always imagine the judge’s face staring in front of him and use that face to make the right decision.

William (Ron Cephas Jones) stays on the straight and narrow for many years, until he learns that he has cancer and tries to use again. Before he can inject the needle into his arm, however, Randall comes a-knocking on his door.

There is no denying it. Even in its quieter episodes, “This Is Us” can still reduce us to a blubbering mess.

‘Modern Family’

New episodes of “Modern Family” will premiere on Nov. 15.

Poker, Faith, and Eggs

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Courtesy

‘Young Sheldon’

“Poker, Faith, and Eggs” is the most confident episode of “Young Sheldon” yet. The show’s characteristic voiceovers are toned down, the absence of a laugh track is less jarring, and all the characters have a purpose to what they are doing.

We start off with Sheldon (Iain Armitage) wondering about faith. Because science has always been his bread and butter, he is not inclined to believe that God exists. Furthermore, when his pastor makes a probabilistically erroneous claim about God’s existence, Sheldon is unafraid to call him out. After being reminded that the greatest men of science were indeed people of faith, however, Sheldon decides to do some more research.

Sheldon’s grandma “Meemaw” (Annie Potts) is also introduced in this episode as a laid-back babysitter. Instead of being focused on making sure that the kids brush their teeth and go to bed, Meemaw is far more inclined to let them shoot off firecrackers, play poker and dance the night away.

When Mary (Zoe Perry) rushes George Sr. (Lance Barber) to the hospital because he is experiencing chest pains, Meemaw is called in for help. After tritely answering some of the kids’ concerns about their dad, she dozes off in the backyard.

Georgie (Montana Jordan) decides to take advantage of Meemaw’s aloofness and picks up her car keys to go visit his dad in the hospital, with Missy (Reagan Revord) and a reluctant Sheldon along for the ride.

Meemaw soon finds out and, in a hilarious series of events, manages to actually reach the hospital before the kids do. After the entire family is reunited, they camp out in the waiting room and await George Sr.’s diagnosis. Sheldon aimlessly walks down a hallway and is given a glimpse into his father’s hospital room. Terrified of his dad’s muffled breathing and the doctors swirling around him, Sheldon finally decides to pray.

Not to God, though. To Blaise Pascal, who once famously said that if you bet on God’s existence, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. This is where “Young Sheldon” finally utilizes the voiceover talents of Jim Parsons as the older Sheldon. Through the voiceover, we get to know that Sheldon is just hoping that Pascal was right to have faith.

The entire sequence with Sheldon peering into the hospital room and then going to pray is a challenging one to execute, but “Young Sheldon” handles it with a subtle, delicate touch.

In the end, it turns out that George Sr. just had a minor heart attack and should be fine in a couple of days. Through another well-placed voiceover, we get to see that Sheldon does indeed start wondering about the power of faith because of this experience. That is, until he and his family get violently ill because of some eggs that Missy had been gifted by her “secret” admirer, Billy (Wyatt McClure).

It is hard not to feel hopeful about the future of “Young Sheldon” after this charming half-hour episode.

Contact Arjun Sarup at [email protected].

NOVEMBER 12, 2017

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