Sad news: This week’s This Is Us is not, as the episode title might have us hope, an homage to A Chorus Line in which Beth, Kate and Rebecca sing “At the Ballet;” Kevin whizzes through an exuberant “I Can Do That;” and everyone finishes the hour in gold top hats and a kickline.
Instead, “The Music and the Mirror” focuses on the Beth’s sadness over closing her dance studio, Madison’s search for a wedding dress, Toby’s bonding with his much-softer-than-when-we-last-saw-him pop and Rebecca’s pride after seeing Kate finally find her groove. Oh, and Kevin sees Zoe and starts to question all his life choices so far, including the big one on the horizon.
And a-five, six, seven, eight! Let’s review what takes place in this week’s episode.
ALL MY LIFE I PRAYED FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOU | We watch the rise and fall of Beth’s lifelong dream as she opens the studio, teaches, tries to keep it going when the COVID-19 pandemic starts to mess with everything, ultimately winds up teaching via Zoom to a dwindling number of dancers, then ultimately announces to her final class (of three, one of whom is Annie) that it’s over — she can’t keep the place running. “We are closed indefinitely,” reads a sign she hangs on the studio’s door as she leaves. “Keep on dancing.”
At home, she eats the marshmallows out of a box of Lucky Charms as she tries to convince Randall that she’s fiiiiiiine with the idea of going back into the 9-to-5 work world. In fact, she has a virtual, informational meeting with a small urban planning firm that day. Randall brings up the idea of trying to get an arts grant, but she shuts him down. “A lot of people’s businesses closed this year. Mine is just one of them,” she says flatly. Worried, Randall tasks Déja with keeping an eye on her mom… at precisely the exact moment that the woman in question is holding the cereal box aloft and shaking it like a stubborn Polaroid. “That one clover was hiding, but I got it!” she yells. (Side note: Ha!)
But Beth’s informational interview gets rescheduled, and she winds up at the studio, cleaning it out before she has to hand over the keys. She asks Déja not to say anything to Randall, and the teen tries — “Beth doesn’t need a hero, Randall. Just be there for her. It’s kinda your best quality” — but ultimately tells him where Beth is.
In a flashback to their six-month dating anniversary, we watch Randall surprise Beth with a night at the ballet. But it’s so upsetting to her that she demands they go back to the dorm even before they step inside the venue. Randall is clearly confused, so Beth apologizes tries to explain how lost she feels now that, after working at ballet for such a long time, “I was told I’m still not good enough… And then where does that leave me? I’m a dancer who doesn’t dance.” Young Randall puts on K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” and asks her to slow dance; she does, and they sway back and forth in the privacy of his room while she cries.
In the present, Randall appears at the studio, and Beth immediately says she doesn’t want to talk about ways they might save her business. He says nothing, just cues up “All My Life” on his phone and holds out his hand. She steps into his arms and they slow dance, and she cries. (Side note: This studio, with its balcony overlooking the dance floor, is the same one in the flashforward, right? I took that as a comfort while watching Beth’s pain — it seems like it eventually opens and does quite well!)
STEMMING THE LEAK | While Nicky accompanies Kevin to a private screening of his movie (at which Kev is going to have to talk with Foster The Pretentious Director), Madison, Rebecca and Kate go dress shopping for the wedding. While they’re there, Madison becomes upset when her father — who’d said he was coming to the wedding — suddenly bails because of a work emergency. (Side note: Did I miss something? Is the wedding the next day? What kind of work emergency taking place that day would affect an event that is, at earliest, weeks away?) But Rebecca gives her a very lovely pep talk, and all is well.
And later, after Kate apologizes for making Rebecca’s mom-life hard for such a long time (and we watch a flashback to when Rebecca got Kate an interview at her office but she skipped it and took a job at the diner instead), Kate brings her mom to the school where she teaches. The choir sings Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” — one of Rebecca’s favorites — and it’s very sweet. “Real joy is never gone forever,” Rebecca tells her daughter along the way. “I knew you just needed some time to find it again.”
And a flashback shows young Kate remembering a day when she and Jack, sitting in a booth at the aforementioned diner, talked about her desire to attend Berklee School of Music.
Meanwhile, back at home, Toby is determined not to pay a plumber to fix a very persistent leak in the kitchen ceiling. But when his efforts to DIY it only make things worse, he breaks down and calls his father, who comes over and gets the job done. Afterward, Toby confesses that he’s frustrated at being out of work, and that “being a stay-at-home dad was never part of the plan.” Surprisingly, his father finds some commonality (“I lost my job when you were 8. Messed me up good”) and praises the Pearsons for being so in touch with their emotions, saying he wishes he’d been more like that when Toby was younger. Then, in case anyone missed the metaphor, he wraps the scene with: “People only look for leaks when the water’s coming out, but it’s the pressure that’ll get ya.”
When Kate is home later, Toby only says that the leak was “super easy to fix.” The resentment, she builds!
SOGGY BOTTOMS AND OTHER PROBLEMS | Kevin leaves the screening in a panic: The movie is a heap o’ horrible. After a quick call to his agent, he and Nicky head over the agent’s office to strategize. Essentially, Kevin needs a new project ASAP in order to head off the bad buzz the movie is sure to engender. But the pickings are slim, especially because he has a reputation for being difficult. To be fair, he did walk away from the set of his first film, his off-Broadway play and The Manny. “Do I have to go back to television? Is that what you’re saying?” he wonders, frustrated. But Nicky grabs a bunch of scripts and is planning to read them all.
On their way out of the building, Kevin passes by a conference room where Zoe happens to be cued up on a large screen, waiting for a meeting about one of her documentaries. They chat for a few minutes; she knows he’s engaged. “What’d you do? Knock her up?” she says, joking… until he confirms that that is precisely what happened. But it’s good, because “She balances me out, and she’s an excellent mother,” he says. Zoe is trying to pay him a compliment when she says that he always is able to roll with what happens, but instead she just makes him sound like he’s highly susceptible to suggestion. “No matter what happens, you always find a way of making it what you wanted all along,” she says, and it clearly rubs Kevin the wrong way.
Later that night, Madison and Kevin share how their days went. Then he wants to watch Bridgerton, but she’s got her heart set on The Great British Baking Show, and he puts up no fight. “That sounds perfect,” he tells her, only realizing later that he’s doing exactly what Zoe said he always does. And when she falls asleep during the episode, and Kevin is holding one of the snoozing babies, he is literally trapped there on the couch. BUT I BET THAT’S NOT A HARBINGER OF ANYTHING.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!