A friendly warning: Spoiler spoiler spoiler.
"This Is Us," NBC's award-winning blockbuster series, is known for its tear-jerking tendencies. Call it mawkish. Call it manipulative. The most cynical might call it emotional terrorism.
But now it's come to, um, this? Culinary terrorism?
The show's two-season path to revealing how - spoiler reminder! - patriarch Jack died firmly placed the blame in Tuesday's episode on a faulty secondhand slow-cooker, the humble, downright beloved American appliance.
As The Washington Post's Elahe Izadi summarized:
"Back at the Pearson home, it's Super Bowl Sunday. Rebecca is in the same Steelers jersey that she's wearing when, earlier in the season, we watch her break down in front of her burned-down home. Teenage Kevin snaps at his parents, goes to Sophie's but later calls his mom to apologize. He asks to stay the night, and promises to apologize to Jack in the morning. Teenage Kate shares a heartfelt moment with Jack, and we see a bunch of close-ups of her dog. Late at night, Jack gets out of bed, gets the lowdown from Randall about his date and cleans up around the house. Jack's gotta keep busy to keep sober, as he told Kevin earlier in the day. He wipes down the counter, puts out a note for Kevin and shuts off the crockpot.
"And then it happens. The crockpot shorts out, catches fire and the Pearson home starts to go up in flames."
A CROCKPOT. SERIOUSLY?! Turns out that scene with the sweet old couple, George and Sally, was actually another flashback to the time when Jack and Rebecca were still expecting the arrival of their triplets. And George, hoping to salvage some of the junk his wife wants tossed, offers the cooker to a newly married Jack and Rebecca. "Only two years old, but there's a lot of great family meals to be cooked in that. You gotta fiddle with the switch, but it works."
Serious or not, viewers had things to say:
"My mom just threw our crockpot out #ThisIsUs#SOSIMILAR"
- Chelsea Stevens (@ChelseaMS731)
"I get married in less than 2 months and suddenly I feel the need to remove the crockpot from the registry. WE. DONT. NEED. IT. #ThisIsUs"
- Lauren Luna (@_vivalaluna)
If you closely analyze the footage - this is why they pay us the big bucks - you'll notice the appliance is merely shown to say "slow cooker." For better or, now, worse, the Crock-Pot brand has become synonymous with slow cookers, so it became a natural target for people's ire and tears. We inquired with Crock-Pot about how the company's day had been going. Here's what it had to say:
"Crock-Pot understands the concerns brought up by last night's episode of 'This Is Us,' and we too are heartbroken by the latest development in Jack's storyline. However, it is important that our consumers understand and have confidence that all Crock-Pot slow cookers exceed all internal testing protocols and all applicable industry safety standards and regulations as verified by independent third-party testing labs. For nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night's episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.
"In addition, and most relevant to the concerns consumers are having after watching the recent 'This Is Us' episode, our Crock-Pot slow cookers are low current, low wattage (typically no more than 200 or 300 watts) appliances with self-regulating, heating elements. The product is designed to cook foods over a longer period of time at low temperatures and the switches connect to only one side of the power line voltage, so there is never a high voltage applied directly across our switches. The switches within our slow cookers are subjected to additional internal testing, which includes a Rotary Knob Endurance test, Rotary Knob Force Test and Flame Burning Test and constructed of self-extinguishing, flame resistant material.
"Our hope is that the team at NBC's 'This Is Us' will help us in spreading factual information regarding our product's safety. While we know their primary mission is to entertain - something they have continued to excel in - we also feel they have a responsibility to inform. Just like many fans, we will be watching next week's episode to see how Jack's story progresses and, regardless of the outcome, we want consumers first and foremost to know they are safe when using their Crock-Pot.
Somebody buy them some flowers, please.
Series creator Dan Fogelman also took to Twitter to defend the kitchen staple.
"Taking a moment to remind everyone that it was a 20 year old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch? Let's not just lump all those lovely hardworking crockpots together. #ThisIsUs"
Fogelman seems to have a bit of a thing for cooking tools. He also wrote the screenplay for "Tangled," in which Rapunzel wields a frying pan - cast-iron, we'd say based on sound and appearance - as a weapon. Y'all didn't throw out your Lodge skillets then, huh?
Crock-Pot and other slow cooker manufacturers have spent decades trying to persuade people that it's okay to leave the appliances on for long periods of time unattended. (Frankly, the prospect of undercooked food is what gives me the heebie-jeebies even more.) Good luck now, guys!
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a page on which it has collected slow cooker safety recalls, at least as far back as 2003. Two that mention a fire hazard were tied to control panels that could overheat and melt; another pegged improperly installed wiring as the culprit. No injuries - and certainly no massive conflagrations or fatalities! - were reported as a result of fires (and just one resulted from a shock in the case of the bad wiring). More burn injuries were reported in recalls for appliances that suffered from broken handles.
We doubt that would have made for dramatic TV.