Another great episode. Another surprising and gut-wrenching twist.
It’s safe to say that This Is Us is off to a solid start with over 10 million viewers tuning in last week and even more excitement brewing after the episode’s final twist. While the series had an extremely strong pilot, a show technically begins after the first episode when they have to actually start telling the stories they set up. When it comes to This Is Us, I have seen a lot of people wondering how the show was going to manage the two different timelines. Will they jump back and forth every episode? Will Kate, Kevin, and Randall ever be on screen together like in shows such as Modern Family or Parenthood? Would Jack and Rebecca show up in the present story? Will the separate story lines work well or feel stagnant and cluttered? And now…will every episode end in a twist?
Well, we got a lot of those answers in the second episode and in my opinion the show has more than enough ability to move forward successfully with ample plot points. However, the episode’s second twist may provide some cause for concern, but I will get into that later in the recap.
The episode kicks off with a time jump as Jack and Rebecca work to raise their three 8 year-old kids. They come barreling into the kitchen, Kevin calling Randall “Webster” and Kate attempting to trade her cottage cheese and cantaloupe for sugary cereal. Rebecca who is running around packing lunches catches her and tells her to remember what they talked about and also reminds Kevin that he needs to stick up for Randall and not let other kids call him Webster- a reference to the 80’s television show.
Once Jack comes in and pours some cereal onto Kate’s cantaloupe, its clear that there is some tension between him and Rebecca and their parenting styles. He gives her a look when he picks up the empty coffee pot and she simply asks him if she needs to remind him where the coffee is. Mandy and Milo are definitely working so well on screen together. Even when they are having this unspoken argument you can still feel this connection between them and I’m so excited to watch their relationship even though this episode is trying to ruin at the end!
On Jack’s way out to work we are introduced to their family cheer:
Kevin: First came me, Dad said “gee”
Kate: Then came me, Mom said, “wee”
Randall: Then came me, and we said “that’s three”
All: “BIG THREE”
Later that evening Jack and his friend Miguel are at the bar. Apparently Jack has already had 2 bourbons by 5:03 and Miguel is starting to get a little concerned for his bud. Jack tells him that it’s hard to see the woman that he married sometimes and Miguel is quick to say what we are all thinking.
“The thing is, your wife is the gold standard of wives. Great personality. Greater ass. You married way, way above your station. I’d be careful not to give her a reason to notice, ” he tells Jack. And he’s right. She has been raising three children like a bad ass and here is Jack sitting at the bar drinking when he could be home with them all. He seems to take Miguel’s words somewhat to heart as he returns home to find Rebecca waiting for him on the couch. The the kids have already gone to sleep and she is not buying his excuse that he was out shopping, even though he does offer her a peace offering jewelry box.
Instead, she ignores the gift and tells Jack that she thinks they are a 6/10 on the parenting scale and she wants them to get to a nine. The thing is she already feels like she’s at a nine. She does the individual lunches, after school care, and personal tuck ins so no kid feels gypped, but Jack is bringing their score down. She tells Jack that when he is home and he’s himself he’s a 10 (better than her), but he’s getting home later and later and drinking more and more. She tells him that it has to stop and he’s got to reign it in. She won’t have this behavior in her house anymore. She is done letting him bring down their score. She leaves him to think in the living room as Miguel calls to apologize if he stepped over the line at the bar earlier.
In the future timeline, Kate is still struggling with her weight. She looks around at all the skinny girls at the gym and she’s discouraged by the fact that Toby and other people in her weight loss group seem to be losing weight and she isn’t.
“Can I be honest with you? I think I’m just taking this more seriously than you,” is what he says when she voices his frustrations to him. This gets a laugh out of Kate and just like that she is happier. Toby has a way of doing this for Kate throughout the episode. Seeing her down and doing whatever he can to bring her out of it and back to the light. It is a great quality and clearly the type of support she needs to keep moving forward.
Kevin’s plan to move forward is not going so well either. He thinks that storming off of The Man-ny set and quitting means that he is free of his sitcom acting duties. His manager, Lanie (played by the always amazing Katey Sagal) is furious with him. See, when she first found him she’d realized that she’s discovered the least funny person on the planet. But she saw something special so her and her team made him so famous that he could wear a beanie in 80 degrees weather (which is he is this scene) and no one would say a word to him. That line is hilarious and perfectly delivered by Sagal. She never fails to disappoint and I hope we see her again!
Lanie tells Kevin that he is contractually bound to The Man-ny for two more years and will not be able to work for any other network in the meantime. Basically, the network owns him. She tells him that he has to come to a party that she is throwing later that night and beg the network for a second chance.
Kevin heads over to Kate’s house for some advice and she reminds him that he has always succeeded in everything that the’s tried and that he needs to go to that party and tell them “Manny out.” He loves the idea and invites her to the party as well. Watching Harltey and Metz is really such a treat. You feel that sibling connection in every interaction that they have. I love their relationship, but the writers are definitely building up how close these two are compared to the their relationships with Randall. Being twins, it makes sense but it’s easy to imagine just how hard that must have been for Randall growing up. I imagine this is something we will see as the story moves forward.
Later that evening at the party, Kevin is finding it hard to take Kate’s advice as the network president (Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett) shuts him down, saying that if he leaves the show he will make it so Kevin never works in entertainment again. When he goes to find Kate for some advice he has quite the surprise when he finds her and Toby dancing on the floor completely wasted.
Earlier in the night, Toby had tried to get Kate to dance but once she noticed everyone staring and laughing at them she shut down. Toby being the genius that he is knew that he simply had to get a few tequila shots in her. That’ll make anyone ready to dance.
Kate not being able to give any sort of coherent advice to Kevin forces him to do something that he clearly doesn’t do very often, he calls Randall. This leads to us FINALLY getting to see a twin interact with Randall in the present timeline. So he calls Randall, who I learned lives in New York, and it’s a very uncomfortable start. We flashback quickly to Randall and Kevin when they are 8 and all of the kids are calling Randall “Webster” and telling Kevin to ditch him…which he does. Back on the phone Kevin admits that he wasn’t a very good brother to Randall and Randall responds with, “you’ve got time.”
“You’ve got time” – Randall
Still sensing that Kevin needs a push Randall tells him to tell the network to suck it. Kate and Toby find their way over and Randall leads the three in their “Big Three” cheer and a sense of solidarity and family comes to light even though the three aren’t as close as they could be. Kevin tells Kate that he’s going to do theater and move to New York. So, I guess we will definitely be seeing more of Kevin and Randall together and I can’t wait to see where that goes.
Speaking of New York, let’s check in on what Randall was up to this week. Randall’s wife Beth is feeling a little suspicious of William, Randall’s biological father that he’s recently connected with.
“How long is your crack addict biological father going to be sleeping in out 6 year-old daughter’s bed?” She asks him in bed one night. Randall tells her that his father has stage 4 stomach cancer and he is just trying to get him through the week to the doctors appointment that he made for him.
The next morning, William asks Randall for some bus money and Beth is skeptical once again. When he arrives home pretty late that evening, you can see it again on Beth’s face that she is suspicious of both his behavior and motives, but Randall keeps ignoring her glances, choosing to believe that his father is a good person. Beth needs to know for sure though. So she sneaks into William’s room early in the morning and asks to talk. She begins by telling a story about how when she was pregnant Randall did everything for her, everything for everybody, and was so driven to be perfect and has such a pure heart that he literally lost sight. He found his way back, but as his wife she wants to protect him and keep him from being taken advantage of.
She asks William if he is really sick. He says yes. She asks if he really uses the money for the bus. He says yes. She asks where he goes. He says he goes to his place in Philadelphia. Randall comes down and interrupts them and William decides to come clean. Turns out that he has a cat at his apartment in Philly named Clooney. He takes the bus everyday to go feed and spend time with him. When they ask why he never mentioned Clooney before, William says it’s because he knows one of their daughter’s has asthma and if he brought it up they’d want him to bring the cat and it would cause a problem and eventually he would have to leave. He doesn’t want to leave. He’s got stage 4 cancer but has never felt as good as he has reconnecting with him family.
Beth hilariously responds, “well now I feel like a bitch.” I already love her spunk and fierce need to protect her family and am expecting so many great things to come along with her character.
Back in the 80’s Rebecca steps outside of her bedroom the next morning to see Jack sleeping on the floor outside of their door. “I don’t like sleeping far away from you,” he says. He promises her hat he is going to stop the drinking and be an 11. Well actually, a 12 for her and an 11 for the kids.
“For you, I can. I will”
– Jack on his promise to stop drinking
Jack is finally able to give her the gift that he had bought her the night before. Its a moon shape necklace, a nod to “their song.” She loves it and promises to never take it off. They make up and the kids all run out of their room and create a family dog pile.
Now, I was expecting the show to cut to the future and see Kate in possession of the moon shaped necklace, possibly alluding to the idea that Rebecca had passed away. What we get is something extremely different. The show cuts to Randall as he’s watching his father with his daughters when the doorbell rings. His daughter runs to answer the door and shouts that Grandma and Grandpa were there. The camera pans to the moon shaped necklace on the woman and pans up to see Mandy Moore as Rebecca in the present timeline. However, its not Grandpa Jack like you’d expect…it’s Grandpa Miguel!!! What does this mean? Are Jack and Rebecca divorced? Is Jack still alive?
That Miguel was really playing the long game.
Whew! That ending. I don’t think I can handle a twist every week, but with a premise like this I can totally understand why they feel the need throw them in. There are just so many questions that these ending twists are a fun and shocking way to slowly answer them. I will say that this twist with Rebecca, Jack and Miguel makes me wonder how they got there. It gives the 80’s timeline purpose and plot, which I like and I can’t wait to see it all play out, although I don’t think we will be getting to that final scene for a while in the show. I suspect there will be a lot more time jumping to come.
One thing that I am going to desperately want more of is seeing Randall, Kate, and Kevin actually together. I am assuming we are heading that direction with Kevin moving to New York, but that still leaves Kate and Toby out in California. I don’t know if this show will truly have that family drama feel until they are all somewhat close and local to each other.
What I am finding very enjoyable about This Is Us is the absolute realness of these characters. They are having conversations that I’ve had with my family and friends. Each one of the siblings currently has a story line with so much depth and potential, and when you add in their histories growing up that are going to be explored, there is just so much to work with. As long as it’s a slow burn and not a rush to get everything out immediately I can see this show lasting for quite some time.
I’m till trying to decide how I feel about Mandy Moore dressed up as an older woman. They look like they did a good job with makeup and she’s such a phenomenal actress that I’m sure it will be believable. For now, we just have to trust that creator Dan Fogelman wouldn’t do anything too gimmicky that would take away from the show.
What did you think of this week’s twist? Any ideas on what happened with Jack?