Kate’s Flight Scene On This Is Us Was Excruciating To Watch

Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Tuesday night's of This Is Us was so much. In the Thanksgiving episode, Randall discovers that his adoptive mother, Rebecca, has always known his biological father, William, whom Randall recently tracked down and invited to move into his home. As expected, he’s pretty torn up about being kept in the dark for 36 years. Kevin invites Olivia to spend Thanksgiving with him, but some demons from her past make it hard for her to fully engage. A pep talk from William convinces Olivia to make the most of these moments while she can. Kate breaks up with Toby in an impossible decision, ultimately choosing her goals over him. But for me, the hardest thing to watch was Kate’s experience flying from Los Angeles to New Jersey to be with her family. As a self-identified fat girl, I shrunk on the inside as I watched her receive stares from fellow passengers with a mixture of, “How is she going to pull this off?” and “I hope she doesn’t have to figure it out next to me." When Kate felt compelled to tell her window seatmate, “Don’t worry, I bought both of these seats,” I felt my soul die a little. And I wanted to turn the channel when the flight attendant obnoxiously announced that he'd get her the necessary seat-belt extender. Flying is one of the most dreadful experiences for people who do not fit neatly into a space that’s 17 inches wide. Its dreadfulness comes second only to going to the gym and being silently judged or loudly “congratulated” for finally deciding to get my shit together. Since I started flying at age 20, later than many of my peers, planes have been my own personal measure of both my hips and, sometimes, my worth. I’ve quietly asked for a seat-belt extender and had it dangled in front of me over a row of people with an unsympathetic look. I’ve been scolded by an off-duty airline employee for not purchasing two seats — as if I don’t already obsess about the logistics of claiming my seat before every flight, looking up the measurements for my aircraft every...single...time. The first time I was able to fasten an airplane seat belt without an extender felt better than graduating college. If I had a list of reasons to lose weight, “travel comfortably via plane” would be at the top of it. So it made perfect sense to me that Kate’s announcement that she’s decided to get gastric bypass surgery comes as soon as she arrives at Randall’s house from the airport. To relive those traumatic moments — which only happen maybe a dozen times a year for me — from the comfort of my seat-belt-free spot on the couch felt surreal, but just as uncomfortable. But that’s what This Is Us does really well. It forces us to sit with those seemingly insignificant moments that become embedded into who we are. Scenes like this make Kate’s character real. So real that even when I wanted to turn away, I couldn’t.

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