This Is Us Season 2 started off with a bang, a song, and a burned out house. But while most of us were enraptured with the past and the part of the show I like to think of as This Was Us, as well as Beth's amazing adoption suggestion in the part of the show critics have dubbed This Is Randall, over on This Is The Rest Of The Show, Kevin and Toby were fighting over Kate again. That brings up the This Is Us Toby theory that we need to discuss.
For some fans of the show, Kevin is the most easily disliked character. That's to be expected -- he's lived a charmed, privileged life, he proposes to tennis balls on sticks for a living while Ron Howard tells him what a great actor he is. Moreover his co-dependent relationship with Kate has been based on an ugly form of pity because her life has not been so charmed, and all because of her weight.
But what we don't consider is that Kate's boyfriend, who we cheer on against Kevin in her life, is just as controlling. Yes, he loves her because of who she is, and not a number on the scale, etc. But that doesn't mean he's treating her any better than Kevin is.
Let's roll the tape back to Season 1. Toby isn't a good generous and kind boyfriend. He doesn't establish healthy boundaries, and allow Kate to choose to join his life as a full person. Instead he does that thing we didn't used to have a term for until recently: He "lovebombs" her.
Lovebombing is one of the most emotionally manipulative things you can do to someone, attempting to reenact romantic movies so that they will emotionally respond to you the way you demand they should, rather than how they might naturally respond instead. It's especially heinous in this instance because Kate is so emotionally fragile. Toby insists he's doing it because Kate doesn't have the self esteem to say yes. In truth, it's because she doesn't have the self esteem to say no... and he knows it.
When Kate does try and set boundaries, Toby behaves as if her requests are somehow totally out of bounds. Remember when she wanted to watch football alone? And Toby basically freaked and wouldn't let her? Like, "How dare she have feelings she might now be comfortable sharing with me yet?" Guess what dude, that's not okay. Just because Kate is someone who hasn't dated much doesn't mean you get to demand she date the way you want, and emotionally open up the way you want.
In last week's premiere, Toby was most upset that Kevin had once again swooped in, and stolen Kate's attention out from under him. He'd influenced her audition choices, and he even knew she'd bailed when Toby didn't.
But let's think about this: Kate didn't want to tell Toby because she didn't want to deal with his emotional response to *her* choice. There's a reason she keeps fleeing back to Kevin's and the co-dependency she knows. It's because she's emotionally running away from Toby trying to force her to be someone she didn't sign up to be.
Also note that she told both Kevin and Toby not to follow her when she went back, after she caught them basically arguing over her like she was a basket of fruit to be taken to Thanksgiving. Kevin didn't listen, because of course he didn't. But Toby didn't listen either. He's no better.
We might look at Kate and Kevin and say "this is proof neither of them heroically well adjusted." But in truth, one looks at Kate and her choice in Toby and realize she's not getting better. She's just trading one control man for another.