In honor of the Pearson 5 I am going to try something new with this week’s recap. This Is Us’s use of time and flashbacks throughout an episode is nearly flawless on screen. However, in a recap it can seem a little messy constantly going back and forth between stories. So, I decided to recap in a “Top 5” format. This will include a brief synopsis about what each Pearson was going through this week and in future recaps I hope to follow that up with what I thought were the Top 5 moments from the episode.
Let’s try it! Be sure to check out some video episode highlights in the recap.
This week in our episode’s framing device/80’s flashback, the Big Three are 8 years old and the family is heading to the pool due to a broken air conditioner. Here the Big Three will have to deal with something that will carry over into their present day stories.
Character Top 5
8-year-old Kate is nothing but confident as she struts into the kitchen in her new Care Bears bikini and with the support and applause from her family she is ready to take on the pool and show off her new suit. While there, Rebecca wants her to put a shirt on to protect her from anyone saying something mean but Kate is not having it. She spends the afternoon trying to hang out and talk with her friends until one hands her a note “from all of us.” The note contains a hurtful and hideous drawing of a pig and a sentence telling Kate to leave them alone because she embarrasses them. And for the first time we see Kate become embarrassed of herself as well. Her confidence has faltered. She’s confused and hurt. Kate chooses not to tell her parents about the note.
While Kate’s main story this season is overcoming her insecurities and finding her own content and personal happiness, there is a stricter focus this week. In the present day while out to lunch with Toby, he runs into his ex wife. Except the skinny and beautiful woman she sees is not at all the woman she envisioned Toby being with. All of the self esteem that she has built up from being with Toby has withered away in an instant. If that is the type of girl that Toby has been with and can be with then what is he doing with her?
So what does Kate do? It’s 2016 so of course she goes and stalks her on social media. Kate then ups the crazy ante by visiting her store, interviewing for an open position, and ultimately getting the job. Shockingly, Toby is not pleased in the slightest with this news. While she finds the whole situation rather funny, Toby takes the time to truly let her know what she has done. His ex was absolutely horrible to him. She cheated on him and took half of his life savings when they were divorced. He gained 90 pounds in a year and contemplated suicide multiple times. He wants Kate to see that yes, she has dealt with being overweight her entire life, but she is not the only one in this relationship that has issues. He can’t keep reassuring her that he wants to be with her no matter what.
Hopefully, things finally start to sink in for Kate. It’s hard for her to navigate both a new relationship and a monumental weight loss journey, but she has to find the right balance. Taking that confidence that she gets when she is with Toby and channeling it into herself and using it as a motivation.
Oh Kevin. Channeling his inner Kevin McCallister this week, young Kevin is struggling with receiving attention from his parents. Out of the Big Three he was the least enthused to be going to the pool and it was very evident why once they got there. He spends a majority of his time trying to get his dad to watch him do pool tricks with no such luck as Jack is constantly being distracted. Any time Rebecca talks to Kevin at the pool she is either telling him to keep an eye on Randall, play with Randall, or asking him where Randall is. Kevin has just about had it. Later in the day his football floats over into the deep end and he seriously struggles to stay above water. He manages to grab hold of the rope and hoist himself out, but is hurt that neither of his parents even noticed that he almost drowned because they are too preoccupied.
“You’re so busy making sure Kate’s not eating too much and Randall’s not too adopted,” he yells. “And, meanwhile, where’s Kevin? Oh, guess what, he’s dead!”
Today, Kevin is still trying to find where he belongs. He is totally lost in New York (literally) and completely stumbles his way through his first theater audition. He begins by insulting the playwright and telling them that he isn’t like the other television actors that come from LA to try the gritty and real stuff for acclaim. He is there with genuine intentions and wants to be taken just as seriously as anyone who steps on that stage. Unfortunately he isn’t well trained and completely botches his lines while simultaneously insulting his prickly British scene partner. It goes horribly.
He later runs into said scene partner on the street and she invites him to go get a drink. Here she tells him “as a friend” that he’s bad. He needs to go back to LA and take a class. He doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the New York scene. Her words are shortlived however, as she gets an email saying that Kevin got the part. Apparently, the prodcucers believe The Manny will sell tickets.
Kevin doesn’t seem too insulted by the means in which he got the part, but he also doesn’t feel great about it either. He tries to call Kate so she can tell him all the positive things about him and why he has to stick it out but she doesn’t answer. So, Kevin packs his bags and heads to his distant brother Randall’s house.
Out of all the Pearson’s, Randall is probably having the best day at the pool, yet also the most confusing. He specifically requested the family go to the pool with the diving board and they happily oblige. We later found out that the reason he wanted to go to the pool is because he knows that other black people and kids go to that one. He wanders off to go play with them until Rebecca, who has been frantically searching for him, comes to get him. We also see him making little tally marks in a notebook.
Randall is also dealing with similar issues in the present day. Because he and his family are the only black people living on that street he has to go outside and tell the neighborhood security guard and his neighbors that William, who was going on his morning walk, was his father and not a trespasser. William is far more insulted and aggressive in the encounter and seems to judge Randall when he apologizes to the security officer instead. He tells William they are going to get him some new clothes.
At the store and still feeling judged Randall explains to William that he may have grown up with a white family, but that he still deals with all that comes with being a black man in this world. He always notices when store security move their marks so they can keep a better eye on him, or when he is asked for ID when using a credit card when no one else was asked, or having to deal with people following him around the stores. He just chooses to let these things go, otherwise he would be upset all of the time.
“Because I grew up in a white house, you think I don’t live in a black man’s world.” -Randall
Later that evening after Randall and his family go and see his daughter’s starring role in Snow White, where the audience snickered throughout the performance from seeing a black girl play the title character. He once again feels compelled to prove something to his father. He tells him that while William was out fighting for integration he was living in the state’s whitest town, making tally marks in a notebook every time he saw another black person. Then he would wonder if any of the men were his father. It turns out though that William wasn’t judging him at all, but rather looking at him with pride and wanting to apologize for him having to struggle like he did growing up.
“You’re doing everything right son”
These two are just a freaking powerhouse. Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones have had some of the most emotional scenes on the show so far and they kill every one of them. The variety of emotions they both must be feeling as they guide their way through this relationship and their history are so well comprehended through all of their interactions. Check out the scene below!
The two are interrupted by a knock on the door as Uncle Kevin has arrived! Kevin has the honor of meeting William for this first time before being pulled away by his nieces. Turns out that William is a fan of The Man-ny and runs to get his autograph book. It should be very interesting to see some scenes next week with Kevin and William and perhaps a little reflection on the relationship that Kevin and Randall had growing up.
Rebecca is clearly the practical one of the Pearson clan. While Jack is all pumped and excited to go to the pool, all Rebecca sees is three rambunctious 8-year-old kids running around while also considering the added dangers of a giant pool of water. However, she relents as Jack promises her a relaxing day to finally finish her book that she’s been trying to finish for 2 years.
She is very attuned to Randall this week, which is a nice reflection of her progress since last week’s episode. She’s keeping an eye on a rash he has on the back of his neck, making sure that he has plenty of sunscreen on (even though she isn’t sure if he needs it), and always trying to keep an eye on him.
Sure enough he manages to sneak away and she eventually finds him playing over with some other black children and introduces herself to one of the moms. However, this woman already knows all about Rebecca Pearson. The white woman whose family adopted a black child and hasn’t even tried to introduce themselves. There’s an awkward conversation where Rebecca tries to take Randall back to their spot, but comes off like she doesn’t want him hanging around with other black people. The woman continues to give her grief until Rebecca finally stands up to her. As they are walking away the woman tells Rebecca that Randall’s rash is actually razor burn and that she needs to take him to a barber that knows how to cut black hair.
On their way back to their seats Rebecca realizes that this was the reason why Randall wanted to come to this pool and she understands that they have been unintentionally isolating him from something he desperately needs in his life. She later goes back over to the woman and asks for the name of a barber that she can take Randall to. Rebecca continues to soften the woman’s shell by asking if she can set up a play date with her son and Randall. I believe that this woman is going to be important moving forward this season.
Jack is back from his drinking ways and sticking to his promise to stay sober (although him making such a statement makes me believe that this won’t last for long). Unable to fix the air conditioning he convinces the family to go the pool with one mission in mind: to get 5 pool chairs. Apparently, this feat turns out to be quite impossible as he is always rushing around trying to find a new chair only to return and see that one of his other chairs had been stolen.
Jack is trying to be better. He promised Rebecca a 12 and a 12 she is going to get. When Kevin told him about what happened in the deep end of the pool he quickly takes him aside to apologize for not watching him earlier when Kevin had asked him to. He tells Kevin that even though he is a lot older and a grown-up that it’s his first time doing things. Everything is new to him, but he promises that he is going to be a better dad.
This promise is immediately put to the test when he and Rebecca find the horrible note those girls had written to Kate. While Jack instinctively wants to go over and get mad at someone’s parents, Rebecca stops him. He looks over to see Kate wrapped in a towel not even touching her lunch. He goes over to her and offers her his shirt. She dejectedly says no. He sits her down and tells her the tale of how he came into procession of his ratty green T-Shirt….his magical ratty green t-shirt.
You see a man gave it to him in Daytona Beach (a place that Jack adorably makes Kate promise she will never go to) after Jack helped him. The shirt has the ability to make you anything you want to be. Kate takes the shirt and tells him that she’s going to be a princess. He looks at her and tells her that she will always be a princess in his eyes no matter what she is wearing.
Okay…SWOON. Check out the scene below!
The family ends the day all on one chair snuggled together as Rebecca finally gets to finish her book.