Aside from the goose bump inducing twist in the Pilot episode I have not really cried during any episodes of This Is Us. That’s not to say that I haven’t been moved or touched by each and every episode, but I’ve read many tweets and articles by people who can’t get through an episode without a box of tissues. I totally get it too- this show pulls at every heartstring with some of the most relatable stories, characters, and conversations that I have seen on TV in some time. But, much like Chandler Bing I’m just not a big crier when it comes to television (mainly because things just move so quickly). Well, after last night I’m Chandler no more…the show finally got me.
I’ve thought thus far that the most emotional scenes were the ones with Jack and Rebecca in the past. Every week they are teaching the Big Three valuable lessons and knowing what we know in the present just makes those moments all the more heartwarming. Last night, however, there was one scene that was beautifully acted by Justin Hartley as Kevin that got me. I have been more and more impressed with him every week and last night sealed the deal. Surrounded by amazing and accoladed actors he has shined through almost every week and I can’t wait to see more from him and hope that he eventually gets some accolades of his own. Read about the scene in Kevin’s section.
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So, let’s dig in to our Pearson 5, where I recap what each character was up to this week as well as my thoughts. A Final Thoughts section on the overall episode is at the end of the recap as usual! Happy Reading!
JACK AND REBECCA
Jack and Rebecca’s story will once again be a framing device for what the Big Three are currently dealing with in present time. This week it’s all about careers and figuring out if they are really on the right path.
The episode kicks off with a montage that is probably all too familiar to some people. With the triplets being newborns Jack is happily working at a construction company smashing in walls and seeming all around fulfilled. As the children start to get older it becomes obvious that the finances aren’t working with their current situation. This leads Jack to get a desk job, which worries Rebecca, but he has to do it in order to provide for the family. With a spin of his new office chair we are in the 80’s where the Big Three are eight years old. He’s sitting at his desk sketching up some logos for Big Three Homes, a company that he is hoping to break off on his own and start. Miguel, whom I’m guessing met Jack through this job, just got promoted and wants to bring Jack with him. Jack says no, determined to start his own company and find happiness in his career.
Jack later returns home from work to Rebecca and kids and his second shift begins. Rebecca is looking at report cards that just came in the mail (B’s & C’s all around), Randall is doing homework, Kate is hanging out waiting to get the ice cream they were promised, and Kevin is shouting “Dad! Dad! Dad!” trying to get whatever attention he can with his model plane. Rebecca caved and promised all of the kids that they can get ice cream even though there was no “A” in sight on the report cards. The one thing that was on there though was a note from Randall’s teacher asking to speak to them.
Turns out that Randall has tested extremely high…high enough to be considered for a special private school with a tougher curriculum. Jack and Rebecca are very confused as his grades are somewhat average to be gifted. Rebecca is open to the idea of Randall moving schools to be better challenged, but Jack is much more on the offense stating that each and every one of his kids is exceptional and if they were to move Randall to a new school it would take him away from his sibling buffers, Kate and Kevin.
Rebecca is able to convince Jack to go and look at the school and here all of his suspicions are confirmed. The new private school is whiter than Randall’s already very white school. Some kids are even carrying briefcases! It’s evident that there is a little more going on though. Jack confesses to Rebecca his plans of wanting to go out on his own and how this school could potentially affect their finances even more if he were to do so. Rebecca completely supports his decision saying that she wants him to be happy and they will figure all of the rest out.
Later that day he goes to pick up Randall from Yvette’s house (the woman who Rebecca met at the pool) and asks for some insight on what he should do about sending Randall to a school where he would probably be the only black kid. She tells him that holding him back from such a special opportunity would be more of a disservice to Randall than anything.
Yvette: You want to hold him back because he’s black?
Jack: No, Randall is special.
Yvette: Then don’t deny him this special opportunity.
Jack takes Yvette’s words to heart as he brings Randall to work with him over the weekend. Randall actually enjoys going with him, which is indicative to his present day story line. Here, Jack asks Randall for some help on a problem he is having some trouble with. Randall is able to answer the question almost instantly, leading Jack to ask him another one. This time Randall completely shuts down saying he doesn’t know how to do it even though he just did the same exact problem. After some pushing Jack is able to get Randall to admit that he doesn’t want to be different. He pretends not to know stuff so that he doesn’t get better grades and then get treats like ice cream and have Kate and Kevin hate him because he is smarter.
Finally, Jack realizes that maybe his mentality of making sure The Big Three are all the same hasn’t been the best parenting style. They are all different in remarkable ways and they deserve to be treated as such. All eight years of his life Randall has been told that he is the same as Kevin and Kate, but he isn’t. Jack tells Randall that he is exceptional and he should always strive to be true to himself and to be different. Check out the scene at the end of the recap!
We cut to Jack helping little Randall put on a tie and taking him to his first day at his new private school. Jack also postpones his plans to start Big Three Homes and instead takes Miguel up on his promotion.
- Lonnie Chavis, the actor who plays young Randall was absolutely phenomenal this week. I am definitely looking forward to watching him grow as an actor as the season goes on.
- It’s very clear that Jack and Rebecca’s decisions to both put their dreams on hold will be a point for them moving forward. I loved how supportive Rebecca was of Jack wanting to start his own company, and I hope that she gets that same support in return from him later this season when she is pursuing music.
- I wonder if Big Three Homes will make another appearance. Guess: maybe Jack does go through with it down the line but somehow passes away through some accident on site? Perhaps it will make a plot in the seasons moving forward as the kids decide they want to bring it to life?
- It’s important to note that Jack never got the time to help Kevin with his plane. This is a point that will be brought up during Kevin’s story this week, but also is another notch in his story line as whole when it comes to feeling left out or second place to Randall.
Randall comes home from work to see William singing while playing the piano. His daughters are completely in awe of their Grandfather’s talents and ask their dad why he can’t play the piano or the trumpet like his Dad. He acknowledges that his Mom and Kate got all of the musical talents in their family and also manages to keep it together when William shares that his grandfather taught his father how to play who in turn taught William. That statement made me hurt for Randall who was probably blaming his father for not having been around to teach him. More on that later.
His daughter quickly asks William to come to her career day to speak about his days as a musician, but Randall reminds her that he is already signed up to teach about trading commodities based on long-term weather patterns. She then tries to ask her celebrity Uncle Kevin instead, but Randall puts his foot down again saying that he is doing career day and it is going to be “lit.”
Randall starts to reflect on his job and how his daughters see it as boring. He attempts to practice his speech in front of Beth but is struggling. She presses him to find out why it is so important that he be the one to speak and what he is trying to prove? Randall confesses that ever since hearing about William’s artistic side he feels that he missed out on this huge part of his life and wants to prove that even though he feels that way he is still happy with where he is.
Well, after realizing he was going to have to follow up a kick ass fire-woman at career day, in classic dad fashion Randall opts to sing a song in lieu of his speech. It goes just about as badly as it sounds, causing Beth to just tell her mortified children to look away.
Later that night, William offers to teach Randall how to play the piano, which he totally jumps on board with. However, the next morning Randall comes into the kitchen to let everyone know that he will not be taking lessons from William, for fear that their relationship is not ready for that dynamic yet, but will instead be taking lessons from a woman down the street. He will be having a recital in the spring and hopes that his family will be able to make it.
He also let’s out an amazing line that proves that even though people think that he should be unhappy to be at a desk job, he loves it. He’s an intellectual. He loves numbers and he learned from his father’s path that you should always have a job that you love.
“My dad put on a tie every day because he had to. I put one on because I want to. It’s important you know that.”
I found Kate’s story to be quite refreshing this week. I actually think that it’s because Toby wasn’t in it at all. For the first time since the show started Kate’s story revolves completely around Kate and finding herself on her own. Kate is interviewing for a job as a glorified assistant to a California socialite, Marin. Due to her obsessive organizational skills, wonderful recommendations, witty sense of humor, and Hollywood experience, she snags the job with the condition that she may have to drive the Marin’s daughter, Gemma, around from time to time.
As if right on cue Gemma walks in and makes a snide comment about how her mother “of course hired the fat one.” Later in the car on her way to a friends house, Gemma explains to Kate that she feels sorry for her because her mother only hired her to help get through to Gemma because she is heavy as well. Kate doesn’t believe this for a second as she has totally been kicking ass at her job but none the less, she kicks Gemma and her sorry attitude out of the car informing her that you burn 417 calories for every hour you walk.
Later on Kate confronts Marin about what Gemma had told her. Turns out that Gemma was right. Kate’s weight was one of the reasons that Marin hired her, but not the only one. She is just having so much trouble connecting with her daughter and was hoping that having Kate around would help Gemma to become more loving and open. She begs Kate not to quit. Kate doesn’t quit though. She creates her own new position with an office out of the situation (sans intern) and then goes out to talk to Gemma.
We flashback to a scene where Rebecca has just gotten out of the shower. Eight-year-old Kate comes in and tells her mom that she looks beautiful. Rebecca returns the compliment and asks Kate to go and get her a blouse out of the closet. Kate notices the “S” on the tag and decides to look at the tag on her sweater as well, which reads “XL.” You can see her face fall almost instantly.
Back in the present day Kate tells Gemma that she knows what it’s like to have a pretty and skinny mom who gets all of the attention and how easy it is to resent her for it. We learn that Kate hated that about her mother growing up, and took a lot of her weight issues out on her. It’s mainly why they don’t talk anymore and she hates it. She wants Gemma to know that moms are not perfect, but neither are daughters and she needs to start working on her attitude and their relationship.
- I found it very interesting how Rebecca and Kate do not really have a relationship in the present time. It makes sense why we have yet to see them interact at all. It’s yet another relationship that we have to explore.
- Gemma seems like a great addition to Kate’s story and I hope that we get to see more of her and perhaps a little bit less of Toby? Don’t hate me!
This week Kevin is again struggling with his play. He can’t emotionally connect to the scene and it’s driving everyone crazy. His co-star Olivia, the director, the writer – they’re all annoyed that Kevin thinks he can just flatly deliver a line with no emotion when he is supposed to be speaking to his dead wife that he will never be able to see again.
We all know that Kevin has clearly experienced loss in his life but they don’t. This leads Olivia to invite Kevin to a party the next day and by party she means a teacher named Frank’s funeral. As if Kevin didn’t think that it was weird enough to be at a funeral, Olivia also tells him that she has no idea who Frank is. She even lies to his widow about how they were both students of Frank’s. This is clearly her way to get Kevin to open up his emotions and experience and observe grief.
He becomes annoyed with Olivia’s plan and finds his way into the kitchen searching for some alcohol. Here he finds Frank’s widow, Grace, trying to make some room in the fridge for another casserole. Apparently Frank loved pickles and Kevin offers to take a few of the jars that are cluttering up the fridge off her hands. She laughs and also asks if Kevin wants any sports coats or holiday ties as Frank had a ton of them and her 15-year-old doesn’t want anything to do with them.
Something shifts in Kevin and the only thing I could think was that he was going to confirm that his father passed away when he was 15 as well. He does not. He does however tell Grace that his father died “a long time ago.” He says that him and his father used to build model planes all of the time when he was growing up. He had shelves and shelves full of them. But being one of three kids he had to get creative for attention so he always picked the biggest and most complex ones to build. When his dad passed away he threw away every single one and he has no idea why.
He begins to get emotional (and this is when I do too) and tells Grace that the only thing that he has of his dad’s is the necklace that he wears around his neck. He used to never wear it, but now he never takes it off. He then completely breaks down as if this is the first time he’s ever said these things out loud and sobs into Grace’s shoulder. She breaks down at the same time as well, her brave facade also falling. Together, two strangers mourn the loss of their loved ones.
Kevin finds some privacy in a bedroom upstairs when Olivia finds him. He tells her that it was wrong of her to bring him here like she did. Grace is a real person who is mourning and deeply sad and should not be used as some prop in an acting test. He tells her that he’s been exactly where she is before and that death isn’t some sort of game. He tells her that his dad died and he hated him for it.
Olivia tells him that this is the exact pain that he needs to use in the play, kind of ignoring what he is actually saying to her. She takes advantage of this moment and kisses him and then they fall back onto the bed (of a complete stranger while a post-funeral reception goes on downstairs) and have sex. Weird.
The next day Kevin tells Olivia that her little test worked and that he is ready for the scene. She tells him that there was more to the test then just finding grief. Much like his character in the play can no longer be with his wife who is dead, he will never be with Olivia in that way again either. Tough break, Kev.
- Like I said in my introduction, Kevin breaking down about his father was by far my favorite scene and the most emotional scene of this whole series so far for me. There was so much depth and emotion to it and so many questions. I think it will be safe to say that those two definitely had some unresolved issues at the time of Jack’s death and that has weighed pretty heavy on Kevin’s heart all of this time.
- Are we supposed to like Olivia? This is her second episode and I really don’t care for her at all. What are your thoughts on her?
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Overall I thought “Career Day” was an amazing episode. Probably one of my favorites to date. All of the stories felt cohesive and they introduced new relationship dynamics to be explored, it didn’t have some heart-wrenching twist, and it touched on something that we can all relate to- feeling like we could do more or be better but being afraid to actually do it. The episode didn’t feel like it was setting up a million things later to come. It felt contained and sharp and the hour seemed to fly by way too fast!
Check out some of the “shareable” moments from the episode below.
- [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPlKtf2E5GI[/embedyt]
- [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PBcdgp1zcw[/embedyt]
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.