- This Is Us -Charting Kate's Most Pivotal Moments On 'This Is Us'
Tuesday night's episode of This Is Us, "A Long Road Home," laid bare the arduous road Kate has been on throughout the NBC drama, to find a home and sense of comfort within herself without being weighed down by the past that haunts her.
It's been complicated and hard, but this episode more than any other felt like a breakthrough for Kate, where she's able to make peace with emotional wounds that have taken decades to heal. As we learned before the holiday break, Kate and Toby are trying to adopt a child. But when their potential adoptive mom Ellie brings up abortion to Kate, it stirs up memories of her own abortion when she got pregnant at 18 by her abusive and manipulative boyfriend, Marc.
And in this illuminating episode, we see Kate realize that she is fully ready to confront her past with Marc and let go. She's living her own life now and wants any lingering control he had over her to swivel down the drain. Just like his empty dreams.
So in honor of Kate's revelatory journey of stepping into her own power, I wanted to revisit some of the pivotal moments and catalysts that have seen Kate's healing within herself chronologically from the pilot to now. And we only know she's got more to come from here.
The Starting Point
Kate is so hard on herself from the second we meet her in the pilot, busting her own chops for wanting to have some of her 36th birthday cake before the celebration starts. She lacks so much confidence in herself and mourns the life she wishes she had.
Kate is in search of a real and fulfilling career rather than being her brother's personal assistant, becoming a mom like her mom Rebecca, marrying a man her father would have been proud of, and finding a healthy relationship with food and her weight. It's a real step in a positive direction towards crafting an idea of a life she wants for herself, even if these goals end up being more so materialistic pillars than definitive benchmarks for her life.
Unleashing Her Passion
It's no secret Kate has held onto the guilt and grief over her father's death and the havoc Marc wreaked on her self-esteem. That guilt manifested in her losing her voice. Literally. Despite singing being a way for her soul to soar and she felt she didn't deserve it. She punished herself instead of using singing as an outlet to express her joys and her sorrow.
This really hits home for her when she's working one of her Adele-o-gram gigs. She connects the dots that, "When sad things happen to me, I tend to shut music out of my life." So her decision by the end of Season 1 to pursue music wholeheartedly is a huge turning point for Kate in shedding her skin of inhibiting herself and letting go of the the pain that's been stopping her from being her true self. A singer, yes, just like her mom, and like her son, baby Jack, to come after her.
Confronting Her Resentment
Kate has held onto festering resentment for her mother Rebecca for most of her life, projecting her insecurities onto her mom who struggled to learn the right way to be there for her. But after her miscarriage, Kate opens up to her mom and falls into her arms when Rebecca flies out to California to be there for her daughter when she really needs her.
She finally begins to let the ire subside over how she views Rebecca as perfect and sees herself as falling short. She isn't. She's just human, and both are women who have faced the devastating loss of a child. Kate permits herself to slowly see that her mom is an ally, not someone who wants to constantly brush up against her.
Kate also learns how to iterate her complicated feelings towards eating and food with those she loves most, rather than inflicting the disappointment and shame she feels about her appearance onto herself alone. While at family day in Kevin's rehab, she lets the thought sink in that her tendency to find solace in food is manifested as an addiction and tells Toby that after her miscarriage, she was hoarding junk food. Having as solid of a partner as Toby, she feels safe enough to say that she has "a lot of things mixed up with food," like memories of going to the ice cream parlor with her dad making her feel like he's still around.
Kate's relationship with her weight is a loaded one, and she has said how she feels trapped and betrayed by her body in her struggles to get pregnant especially. But it's a big moment for her to confide in those she trusts most.
A big wedge in the middle of Kate and Toby's relationship leading up to their wedding is Jack's death, a subject she refrained from talking about in fear of actually making her dad's death feel real. As Rebecca would come to remind Kate of her state of mind after Jack's death, "We really didn’t want the next big moments of our life to come."
But on the day of her wedding, when she comes face to face with the reality that her dad will not be there, Kate allows herself to let go of the stinging pain of her dad's death to make room for love in her life, specifically for Toby. She hadn't been able to bear the thought, but now she wants to make this life change as she realizes that's what her dad would have wanted for her.
Welcoming The Big Moments
Kate spent so much of her adult life angry with herself that she wasn't where she believed she should be at that point in life. So life's big turning points often occurred parallel to her past weighing on her. This is especially evident when confronting her journey of becoming a mom.
But in a dream state, Kate is able to say goodbye to her self-doubt, manifested as her younger selves who feel like there's always a cloud ready to rain on her parade. But she tells them what she wished she would have known earlier: the things she didn't let herself admit she wanted, because she thought her hopes would be smacked down, would come to pass. She didn't marry Zack from Saved by the Bell; she married someone better — who's taller, funnier, and "beardier." She's a singer. And yes, she's going to be a mom. She doesn't stay in the safety net of pain she's known for so many years, and says goodbye to what has been holding her back.
Honoring Her Past
One of the most full-circle ways Kate learned to reconcile the grief of her past is by having her dad's memory live on through her son. When she tells Toby she wants to name their baby boy Jack, she hedges the idea by noting how hesitant she was about it, about feeling sadness when looking into their son's eyes. But loving herself, her past with her dad, and her future with her child, she's able to carry on her dad's memory through her baby, and that's something she cherishes more than anything. It's no longer pain holding her down anymore, it's flourishing maternal love.
Demanding What She Deserves
One of the most poignant areas of growth for Kate is communicating what she needs and wants to take care of herself, her child, and her family. And when she sees Toby receding in fear of their child's blindness and turning to CrossFit rather his family, she realizes it's unacceptable and confronts him about it. She doesn't do what she's been used to doing all her life, swallowing her pain and suffering in silence.
Her mom, in particular, helps her come to this realization when she comes to the retreat for blind families with her when Toby bails. Kate continues her healthy coping mechanism of sharing what's weighing on her mind, and Rebecca encourages her that while she hopes Toby will find his way back to the father and husband he needs to be, Kate can handle whatever comes her way on her own.
Thankfully, Toby overcomes his lapse in strength here, but this is more of an epiphany for Kate in seeing she can stand on her own two feet.
Releasing The Toxicity
All of this brings us to Kate's emergence on her own white horse in "A Long Road Home," when she opens up her deepest secret of her abortion that she has been shouldering all alone since she was a teenager.
In freeing herself up to tell Toby about her abortion and her abusive ex, she recognizes how traumatized the experience left her and impacted the rest of her life. After all these years, she steps into her own dominance and realizes she's fully ready to let go of the toxicity he'd inflicted on her, which leads to the first time we really see Kate take ownership of herself and acknowledge that, no, she is not broken. And she never was. She was grieving so much loss — her father, the family she'd known, her sense of who she was and who she thought she would be.
This episode really is a showcase for Kate's trust in herself. In confronting Marc, she's really confronting her past self, learning how to let go of who she thought she'd be when she grew up or where she thought she'd go and instead to love who she is and the journey she's on along the way.
Season 5 of This Is Us airs on Tuesday nights at 9 pm ET/PT on NBC.