The season 4 Big Three trilogy concluded tonight with Kate’s “Hell of a Week.” We’ve seen Randall deal with trauma-connected anxiety and Kevin struggle with lost love and finding his path at different ages. Kate’s story is about turning points in three key relationships of her life: her mother, her first boyfriend Marc, and her husband Toby.
Let’s dive into Kate’s bad week and the related moments from her past.
Kate & Toby
At the same time Randall encounters an intruder and lovelorn Kevin misses Sophie’s call while working, Kate is in bed with Toby.
She’s eager to get some sleep before the retreat for families with blind children. But Toby is obsessively researching a gene therapy treatment that helped someone get 30 percent of their sight back. Kate points out the treatment was for an inherited disease, so probably wouldn’t work for someone like Jack who has physical damage to his eyes. But Toby stubbornly insists on researching further because he doesn’t want to give up hope. Kate is annoyed but drops the conversation.
In the morning, after Kate acknowledges Toby doesn’t want to go to the retreat, she accepts an offer from Rebecca to take his place. The excuse Toby gives and Kate lets herself accept is that he’s busy with work, but they both know it’s because of his issues with Jack’s blindness. She mentions Madison walking Audio while he’s at work. A Kevin callback!
During the retreat, after Kate gets off a phone call with someone Rebecca assumes is Toby but is actually Kate’s neighbor Gregory talking about the retreat, Kate tells Rebecca about Toby’s issues. Rebecca expresses sympathy for Toby’s struggles, but Kate notes she herself is struggling, too. Kate says she had a panic attack about taking Jack swimming because she’s insecure over wearing a bathing suit in public, and all day she was enviously eyeing the couples at the retreat. She needs Toby, for things like taking Jack swimming or helping him ride a bike. Rebecca then insists they go swimming, to show Kate she doesn’t need Toby. She delivers this unapologetic gem of a line: “You’re fat, I’m ancient, we’re gorgeous, let’s go swimming.” In the pool, as they’re reminiscing on Kate’s childhood, Rebecca tells Kate she’s always been sensitive but also strong. Rebecca says she believes Toby will bounce back, but if he doesn’t, Kate can handle going it alone. Later, Rebecca adds that she’s always there if Kate needs her.
When Kate returns home, she confronts Toby. She demands he be the man she and Jack need. Then Kate talks on the phone to Kevin and Randall about escaping their misery with a cabin trip. Toby insists he can watch Jack himself while she takes some time away. She reluctantly agrees.
Will Toby get over his issues in that time or are he and Kate doomed?
Kate & Rebecca
For four seasons there’s been a lot of negative interactions between Kate and her mother and few positive interactions. And though there’s a realness to the mother-daughter issues and progress has happened, I’ve wanted to see more warmth between them. Well, here we are.
The episode opens on toddler Kate approaching Jack after Kevin and Randall are finally asleep. Kate wants a story from her mother but settles for Jack’s idea that she tell her own story, with his help. Jack says every story starts with a hero who has to go on an adventure to get something they want. Kate imagines herself as the hero and Jack as a prince. The girl and the prince travel through a forest and at the end, the girl must walk alone through a dark cave. And though this started out as yet another sweet father-daughter memory, the script is flipped when Kate imagines what the hero was looking for: her mother. Pass the tissues, please.
While that scene shows past mother-daughter tenderness, there’s new tenderness in the present. Kate readily accepting her mother’s offer to take Toby’s place is progress itself. Then, they bond delightfully throughout the retreat. First, while on a walk, Rebecca excitedly suggests they do a duet — of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” — at the retreat’s karaoke night, and Kate doesn’t scoff at the idea.
During the pool scene, Rebecca notes Kate used to love swimming. Kate responds by pointing out how ironic it is that the only place she feels weightless is the place she’s avoided since childhood because of her weight. Rebecca tells Kate to let her weight — literal and figurative — go, to let Rebecca bear it for her. Then Rebecca mentions the source of her “Bug” nickname for Kate (FINALLY!): It’s because growing up, Kate loved bugs — especially lightning bugs. She’d catch them gently, then whisper “go find your way home” as she released them. Kate is visibly moved by Rebecca’s reverie (more tissues please) and embraces Rebecca’s ensuing pep talk about Toby finding his way home.
Then Rebecca confesses about her health. Kate is scared but Rebecca says she feels more fun than ever because now she’s not worried about the little things. Kate praises Rebecca for her strength. To cap things off they sing karaoke together. More duets, please?
Kate & Marc
While this episode brings us a soft side of one Kate relationship, it also brings a hard side of another. During toddler Kate and Jack’s storytelling, Jack says, “Even things we like can be bad for us sometimes.” The line foreshadows college-era Kate’s Marc experience.
When we first see them, Kate and Marc are at the record store. He gives her a present and says he loves her. She says it back, then invites him to her mother’s birthday dinner. He reluctantly agrees to go. Then Marc controllingly stops Kate from eating chocolate — claiming he just wants to help her keep her diet, for her sake. Then, when Kate corrects Marc on the origins of a song in front of a customer, he gets mad. They fight about it later over the phone — that’s the call Randall and Kevin overhear — but ultimately Marc apologizes, though Kate makes a comment implying he gets randomly mad at her a lot.
Later, Rebecca meets Marc and Kate for coffee before her birthday dinner so she can get to know Marc better. It doesn’t go well. Before Marc arrives, Kate tells her mother Marc is struggling with family problems. Then when he arrives, he’s late and initially disrespectful. There are sweet moments between Marc and Kate that Rebecca doesn’t hate, but they’re colored by Marc’s revelation that he smokes, and even to Kate’s surprise, that he just quit his job. Further to Rebecca’s chagrin, he suggests he and Kate go to the Pearson’s cabin to write songs together. Rebecca later objects to that plan and Kate freaks out. She says Rebecca can’t understand how important Marc is because Rebecca probably had boys’ attention throughout her life whereas Marc is the first person to see Kate romantically. She then spitefully leaves for the cabin with Marc before her mother’s dinner — adding a snarky comment about Miguel on her way out.
While Marc and Kate are on their way to the cabin, Marc abruptly gets mad at Kate for not quitting the record store with him and starts driving recklessly. When he stops the car, Kate steps out for air and Marc insults her weight and drives off, leaving her stranded.
Kate walks to a gas station and calls her mom from a payphone. First, she apologizes for the fight, then just as she’s about to say what happened, Marc arrives and apologizes. Kate abruptly hangs up and rejoins him and they continue on their way. But Rebecca determines something is wrong anyway and rallies the boys to go after Kate.
The episode ends on toddler-era Rebecca calling Jack a hero for handling the kids throughout the night, to which a parallel can be drawn to what Kate is worried Toby won’t be for her and their baby. Jack then calls Rebecca the true hero, which nods to the Rebecca-Kate moments of the episode.
- Sterling K. Brown sheds light on Randall and Kevin’s fracture
- This Is Us producers warn that Kate’s boyfriend will leave ‘serious emotional wounds’
- This Is Us producers break down Randall’s ‘breaking point,’ Kevin’s cliffhanger
- This Is Us producers on Kevin’s reunion with Sophie, that Madison surprise
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.