‘This Is Us’ Recap: Season 6, Episode 9 — ‘The Hill’

Did the bell on that backyard smoker just ding? Because, stick a fork in ’em: KaToby are basically done.

At the top of Tuesday’s This Is Us, Kate extends an olive branch to Toby as they leave the cabin after their combative Thanksgiving dinner: She’ll come to San Francisco for a weekend, and they can start thinking about whether it’s a good idea to relocate to the city where Toby works. Great idea, right? He certainly thinks so. But things go downhill uphill by the end of the hour, when it becomes clear that Toby is the asshat he’s occasionally hinted at being.

Oh yeah, I’m going HAM on ol’ Tobes from here on in. Who’s with me? Read on for the highlights of “The Hill.”

TREADING WATER | Let’s get through the flashbacks first. Because this episode is the middle installment of a three-part set, it covers much of the same physical ground that last week’s did; the way back segments take place during a Pearson family visit to the local public pool, and the young adult Big 3 segments take place with the kids sneaking into the same pool, though after it’s been emptied, locked up and closed down for good.

This week’s hour centers on Kate, so in the way back times, we watch as both Rebecca and Jack try to coax their daughter into putting her face in the water. Jack has a little more success, but Kate can’t stop clinging to her dad long enough to even think about trying to swim. Elsewhere, as we know, Kevin is obstinately wanting to dive off the board even though he’s essentially a human rock, and Randall is somewhere self-sufficiently parenting himself.

When we jump to the night that older Kate and Randall find Kevin drunk and sad in the empty pool, they start to leave only to realize that they accidentally dislodged the brick that Kev used to prop open the gate surrounding the property — so they’re locked in.

As they search for a way out, Kate likens their predicament to hers being stuck in Pittsburgh with no life and no real plans for the future. “The only thing I get excited about is eating ice cream at the end of the day, but we can all see where that’s gotten me,” she says, though her brothers try their hardest to help her think about her true purpose in life.

Eventually, the teens realize that they’ll have to climb out. Randall goes first, then Kevin positions himself at the top of the wire fence and tries to help Kate up. But when she slips on her first attempt, she staunchly refuses to try again.

OLD TOBY > NEW TOBY | In the present, Kate gets ready for her weekend away. We see her showing little Jack (who is seriously the cutest — even grumpy neighbor Gregory is charmed!) how to navigate the walk from his house to the park, and then she hangs out and watches Fight Club with Madison. “Sometimes I imagine hanging out with Old Toby,” Kate says, confessing a longing for the version of her husband that existed before he lost weight and became more self-assured. Madison assures her that Old Toby “is still in there. Go find him.”

But even before Kate leaves her house, New Toby calls to say that a business meeting will get in the way of his picking her up at the airport. She says it’s fine, but after she hangs up, she sees Old Toby in the mirror. (Yep, fatsuit and loud shirt and all.) “You would’ve picked me up,” she says. (“TWO TOBYS IS TWO MANY,” I say.)

Once she’s arrived, things seem good: Toby admits that he’s a little nervous to take her to bed, given that it’s been so long, but all is well… until he gets out of bed to take a work call. Old Toby shows up, makes some bad jokes, mocks New Toby’s leaner bod and is halfway into Chris Farley’s “fat guy in a little coat” bit from Tommy Boy before she gets upset and stops him. “Fine,” he says, “but you’re going to miss me.”

‘KATOBY’S DAY BY THE BAY | That seems to be the case, especially when New Toby takes her on a walk the next day to show her a house that’s for sale. He’s apparently met with the realtor a few times and even gotten them pre-approved for a loan, and I’m struck with how little he realizes that she’s not anywhere near on board with this plan. Can he not see her face? Instead, he ignores everything and gives her the hard sell: “Kate, we can do this. We can make a life out here together.” But the fact that he wants to put in an offer in a few days’ time doesn’t sit well with her at all.

Eventually Toby realizes what’s up and apologizes to her as they wait for a Lyft to a cocktail party at his boss’ house. When the driver cancels before picking them up, Kate suggests that they walk. Didn’t Toby say his boss lived close? But the walk is, in San Francisco style, totally uphill. And though Tobes doesn’t say it in so many words, he doesn’t think she can hack the climb. They call another car.

All of Toby’s co-workers are nice, and Kate is enjoying herself when one of them inadvertently drops a bomb: Toby received a job offer from a company based in Los Angeles, but he turned it down. This is news to Kate, who coldly informs Toby they’re leaving. “You lied to me, and you made a fool out of me in there,” she says, near tears. He responds that it was an old job he’d applied to, the offer had just come through and it was laughably low. Still, she’s mad.

GO SF YOURSELF | At home, he tells her that everything he’s doing is for their family. She responds that uprooting Jack, who is just getting comfortable navigating their home and neighborhood, is not a great move for their family. Toby counters that Jack’s schooling and adaptive technologies will cost big bucks, but he grows evasive when she pressures him about exactly how much more money he’s making in San Francisco than he would have at the job in Los Angeles. “It’s not just about the money, is it?” she realizes, adding that he’s “pretty much the happiest you’ve ever been, aren’t you?”He admits that he is, then yells, “Don’t you want that for me?!”

The fight gets even uglier. Kate says she doesn’t know who Toby is anymore and that she misses “the goofy guy from our first date.” She lets slip that she’s been imagining Old Toby, and New Toby is a giant jerk to her about it. Old Toby, New Toby says, “was a mess. He was miserable and insecure and self-loathing… Kate, you fell in love with a coping mechanism.” Then he says she’s changed, too, and that she’s happier being supermom and living with her brother than she ever was when he was in Los Angeles. She concedes that she feels healthy, connected and purposeful “except for the one thing that’s making me really, really sad.”

The next morning, after they’ve cooled off, Toby admits that he should’ve discussed the L.A. offer with her, “even if it wasn’t a good one.” And he’s happy that he feels valued at work, and she feels valued back in Los Angeles. However, he decrees that they have to move to San Francisco, and that’s that. “I need you to get on board,” he says. “Moving here is the only way we’re going to stay a family. It is the only option.” Kate is having some Big Feelings about the whole thing, but she just says she’s going outside for some air.

She stands at the base of the hill near Toby’s apartment, staring up at the distance he thought she couldn’t climb the night before. She walks up the entire thing. At the top, triumphant, she calls Phillip and asks to be considered for a recently vacated teaching position at the school. Doesn’t sound like someone who’s ready to relocate, does it?

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

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