This Is Us Is Taking a Problematic Page from the Friends Playbook
This Is Us returned on Tuesday evening for its first episode since we finally learned about Beth’s background in “Our Little Island Girl.” Expectations were high, considering that the preceding episode was one of the (if not the) best of the entire series. And though it seems like everyone’s pretty much forgotten about the extreme family trauma they endured at the hands of Uncle Nick a hot second ago (save for Kevin’s relapse, of course), it was a good episode.
Us gave us everything we’re looking for in its soapy 43-minute run: celebration (Kate’s graduating! Déjà’s really smart!), nostalgia (Jack died, REMEMBER?), and, most importantly, drama (Kevin is lying to everyone about his drinking! Kate is going into labor eight weeks early!).
But the most affecting part of the episode didn’t fall into any delicious subcategory.
In "Our Little Island Girl," Beth has decided to revisit her longtime passion for dance and become a teacher — but Randall has reservations. With their new schedules, they need to find someone to look after their daughters, but hiring a sitter with the necessary experience (“someone who knows their way around adopted kids and newly out daughters”) doesn’t come cheap. His resolution? Have Beth, who stood by and picked up the slack at home while he focused on his political run, put her dream on hold once again.
It’s not hard to draw a pop culture comparison to this “woman bows out of dream job for man” scenario — it happened on the series finale of Friends. Rachel “got off the plane” to Paris where she was set to pursue an incredible opportunity at Louis Vuitton and returned to her life in New York (where she was unemployed) so that she could reclaim her dysfunctional romantic relationship with on-again-off-again (but mostly off) boyfriend, Ross. You (read: I) may have burst into happy tears at this reunion nearly a decade in the making, but once that initial warm and gooey feeling fades, we’re left with an upsetting situation.
Thankfully, things have changed in the past 15 years, and Beth isn’t quite as eager to put her career aside at Randall’s behest. “So you get to have your dream and I’m just supposed to quit mine?” she asks. Of course, the conversation doesn’t have a resolution, Kate goes into preterm labor before they can really hash things out.
In the last snippet from the future timeline, we saw Beth teaching a ballet class, so we know she ultimately achieves her goals, though we hope it’s sooner rather than later.
If anything, this interaction goes to show that, Randall, the former ride-or-die family man, has had a priority shift — one that makes for a newly unlikable character.