Why Kate Should Choose Duke Over Toby On This Is Us

Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC.
Ever since This Is Us premiered, fans have loved Kate's (Chrissy Metz) relationship with Toby (Chris Sullivan). It's rare to see two plus-size people in a relationship on TV (even if one of them is wearing a fat suit). Kate and Toby's relationship is noteworthy, and I'm not here to say it's not tremendous progress for a major primetime show. That doesn't change the fact, though, that Toby is kind of a jerk.

The previews for Tuesday's episode suggest that Duke (Adam Bartley) is going to pursue Kate, despite her telling him she's engaged to Toby. Kate has expressed literally zero interest in a romantic relationship with Duke, but that doesn't matter, because men always know what women really want, right? He hasn't been featured on the show much yet, but Duke seems pretty entitled. I'm willing to argue, though, that Kate should give him a chance, if only to get away from Toby.

We first see Kate and Toby connect when he makes an off-color joke about gastroplasty at a plus-size support group they're both a part of. It's awkward, but then again, so is the experience. And it is sweet that Kate has someone she can connect with. Unfortunately, Toby is a "nice guy" in the negative sense. I'm talking about characters like Ross Geller here — men who pride themselves on being "good people" but expect something in return, as if they should be rewarded for being decent humans.

The first evidence of Toby's "nice guy" tendencies in the show's third episode. Kate offhandedly tells Toby that she used to sing "Time After Time" as a kid, but she doesn't like to perform in front of crowds. Toby decides it's his job to make her overcome her fears, so he signs her up to perform the song at his aunt's assisted living facility. Kate is terrified at first, but she ends up finding her voice at the end of the rendition.

Toby's actions are sort of sweet, sort of creepy. On the one hand, he helps Kate remember how much she loves singing. On the other, he goes against her wishes — she tells him she's not interested in singing publicly. But it's what comes afterward that cements him as a "nice guy."

When Kate tells Toby she has to go help Kevin (Justin Hartley) — who's her boss at the time, in addition to being her twin —Toby tells her he doesn't make these romantic gestures for just anyone, and he's not going to be second-place to her brother. It's worrying behavior, especially at such an early stage. Keeping someone from spending time with friends or family members can be a warning sign of an abusive relationship, and it's unnerving how quickly Toby can go from sweet to angry in how he treats Kate.

There's also the time Toby won't give up when Kate tells him she doesn't want to watch a Steelers game with him. He won't take "no" for an answer and keeps pressuring her until she eventually agrees. Toby actually creates a fake party, with one other person there, and makes Kate a handmade invitation to guilt her into watching the game with him, despite her telling him she prefers watching football alone. We eventually see that Kate watches the Steelers alongside the urn that holds her dad's ashes (tear), a detail she wasn't ready to share with Toby yet, and shouldn't have had to. Again, Toby's behavior seems controlling and manipulative here.

Then, of course, there's the fact that Toby decides to stop supporting Kate on her nutritional journey. As a fat woman in a relationship, I can relate to Kate's struggle here — it's easy to feel like your meal planning is being sabotaged if a partner doesn't support your health goals. And things are going to be a lot harder for someone who knows their other half is sneaking junk food whenever they're not looking. There's no easy answer for this one, because, conversely, she shouldn't be controlling his food intake, either. And it's not an indictment of Toby as his other actions are. But it's still a real tension in their relationship.

I'm sure most fans would say that Toby "means well." But if he really meant well, he'd listen to Kate and respect what she tells him. I'd love for her to spend some time alone, now that she doesn't work for Kevin, and be a bit selfish for once. But it doesn't seem like that's going to happen, so for now, I'll have to keep an open mind about Duke.

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