When the Refinery29 entertainment team first found out about Kate Pearson’s (Chrissy Metz) pregnancy, a debate erupted in the office over whether or not This Is Us would let the expectant mom carry her child to term and welcome a brand new, bouncy healthy baby into the Pearson family. I was firmly on the side of yes, because I doubted Us wanted to become This Is...That Show That Constantly Sacrifices Unborn Babies For The Good Of The Plot. Yet, as last week’s “Number One” suggested, I was deeply, wildly incorrect. Tonight’s “Number Two” drove the point home by switching the focus from Kevin (Justin Hartley) to his sister Kate and her gut wrenching, realistic loss. While the decade-spanning exploration is painful, it’s also classic This Is Us.
So, let’s grab the necessary three boxes of tissues and recap this memorable addition to the pantheon of Pearson family tearjerkers. Spoilers ahead for This Is Us.
Present Day Kate
We enter “Number Two” by seeing Kate as a baby, slow to take her first steps, despite the fact Kevin is already running complex football plays throughout the house. “I know she’s a fighter,” proud mom Rebecca (Mandy Moore) says of her little girl. Then, fast forward to the present day, and Kate is now expecting a baby of her own. Yes, we closed out “Number One” knowing Kate suffers a miscarriage, but, we’re not at that part of the timeline just yet.
Instead, still-pregnant Kate is the happiest we’ve seen her in 27 episodes. She talks to the baby. She gets excited about the fact the baby’s tub has shipped. She even sings a terrible-wonderful song about vitamins to the baby to the tune of the Flintstones theme song. All of these sweet little moments are specifically crafted to make her eventual miscarriage feel like an even more brutal twist of the knife when it inevitably happens.
And it does happen, just as Kate goes to make sure that aforementioned baby tub will fit in her adult tub with fiancé and dad-to-be Toby (Chris Sullivan). Eventually we see Kate experience the miscarriage and it’s as upsetting as anyone would expect. Before Kate could even bend down to measure the tub, she feels excruciating pain and doubles over, causing the shower rod and curtain to fall. Chrissy Metz immediately puts herself back in contention for an Emmy, as we can sense Kate’s agony, even though the scene is completely silent. You don’t have to hear Kate’s screams to feel them ringing in your ears.
At the hospital, Kate’s doctor confirms she lost the baby, but can try again in a month. Toby is all for the idea, yet Kate doesn’t respond. Clearly, it’s too soon. Rather than drown herself in tragedy, a grieving Kate tries to get “back to living her life,” as her doctor says, by going to a singing gig the very next day. Toby, as usual, tries to control Kate’s feelings and tells his fiancée her reaction is “insane” reminding her they “just had a miscarriage” — like Kate forgot. He even rolls his eyes at her for effect. No matter how many big romantic gestures Toby completes, will he ever win over my full, undying support? No.
Although Toby completely mishandled Kate’s post-miscarriage mindset, he was right about her not being emotionally up to a performance just yet. In the middle of a lunch-time set in downtown L.A., Kate gets overwhelmed by a family who is showering love on their adorable youngest member. The singer is clearly terrified she will never have the same blissful moment with a child of her own. So she staggers off-stage in the middle of a song, explaining nothing to anyone. Instead of calling Toby, she wanders the streets of Los Angeles and dodges her mother’s phone calls until she happens upon a buffet. Inside, as usual, we’re led to believe Kate is going to use food as a crutch for her emotional wounds, as she piles endless saucy items on her plate. But Kate realises a few dumplings and a handful of onion rings aren’t going to fix her problems, and leaves the buffet with her food untouched. Never underestimate her.
After Kate’s DTLA journey, she returns home and a furious Toby arrives soon after (more on Toby’s daytime adventure in a bit). He makes everything about himself, demanding to know where she went “walking” — “Walking?!” — and why she didn’t call him. Yes, Kate’s behaviour isn't exactly considerate, but she just experienced the bodily trauma of losing a baby. Maybe cut her some slack? Kate then gets her own jabs in, complaining Toby is the one who got her excited and their loss “happened” to her, not him. Harsh, but, again, Kate is the one who physically, emotionally, and mentally suffered a trauma.
In the midst of the Toby-Kate drama, Kate finally picks up one of her’s mom’s calls and admits she lost the baby. Within hours, Rebecca is on Kate’s doorstep to support her only girl. After holding in her grief for so long, Kate breaks down, sobbing into Rebecca’s arms. This is the tragedy that can bring them together. The mother-daughter pair commiserate about the fact they’ve both lost children who died before they could ever meet them. Kate tearfully nods along as Rebecca talks about the late Kyle, something that has clearly never happened between the two women before. At the end of the emotional conversation, and a lot of urging from Rebecca, Kate comes to terms with the fact she seriously has to talk to Toby about their loss.
In the end, Kate and Toby have a Big Talk about the fact Kate didn’t “fail” her fiancé. So, friends, they’re going to try for another baby when Kate is ready. Also, Kate tries to get Toby to physically lean on her, but he refuses because Toby loves traditional gender roles. And, as I said, I will never be fully on board with Toby.
Present Day Toby
Speaking of Toby, he has his own adventure to deal with his loss. Remember that baby tub that was heading to casa Pearson-Damon? Toby wants to cut it off at the package sorting facility before it arrives on their doorstep like a regular Rebecca Pearson. So Toby uses his “large and powerful” stature to menace an innocent warehouse employee named Carl, rather than simply explain, “My fiancée just had a miscarriage and I would really like to stop a rogue baby tub from literally breaking her spirit.” That is the kind of goal any human can get behind. Wild-eyed intimidation? Not so much. If Toby is going to hold a grief-stricken Kate to the highest of standards, I will apply the same rigour to his irrational behaviour.
At least the very nice Carl finds the tub at the last possible moment and Toby lets the employee he’s just terrorised keep the baby necessity for his own pregnant sister.
The next day, following his blowup with Kate, Toby leaves to clear his head. When he returns, the grieving man is in suspiciously squeaky-clean duds for that time of the morning. A betting woman would guess Toby had been at church to battle his inner demons following the miscarriage. This breadcrumb, paired with the recent mentions of his very Catholic mother, suggest we might be learning more about Toby's past soon.
While Kevin’s “Number One” flashback centres around one of the most important moments of his life, Kate’s is a little quieter. It’s the same set of days from Kate’s perspective and she’s hiding the fact she’s applying to music school from her performer mom (a flashback from “The 20’s” hints this dream won’t come to fruition). Rebecca originally assumes Kate is being secretive simply because she's a teen girl. But Kate explains she doesn't want to disappoint her inadvertently impossible-to-please singer mother.
This very relatable push-pull relationship builds to an emotional conversation in the hospital, where Rebecca explains Kate could never fail her. Instead, she always dreamed of being the kind of mom who “had her arms wide open just waiting” for her daughter to fall in if necessary. Rebecca admits the pair haven’t gotten there yet, but maybe someday they will. Because as Rebecca says in a thematically resonant way that perfectly ties into a narrative two decades later, “That’s what it means to be a parent, you’ll see."
As the end of the episode proves, it only took 37 years for these two to get there.
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