Okay, This Is Us. I see what you’re doing now. If the pilot episode introduced us to the Pearson family and The Twist, “The Big Three” is all about revealing the framework of the series.
It’s essentially two shows tied together: One shows us how childhood reverberates through adult lives, and the other takes a deep dive into the evolution of a marriage. The latter, of course, is the story of Jack and Rebecca. (Tonight, we’re in 1988 and things are tense.) The former plays out in the present-day timeline. Aside from some clunky dialogue — oh, are Kevin and Kate twins? I HADN’T HEARD — the flashbacks effectively inform the motivations of Kevin, Kate, and Randall in the present day. And naturally, it’s super emotional.
Take Kate, for example. She’s feeling very frustrated that her plans for weight loss have stalled out. So when Toby finds out Kate is headed to a VIP (read: douchey) Hollywood party with Kevin, he wants to turn it into a date. His proposal? One fat-free night where they dress up, let loose, and forget about weight.
Kate begrudgingly tries her best. She puts on a saucy dress, tosses back tequila shots, and whips out a great “reeled-in fish” dance move. But at the end of the night, Kate is real drunk and real honest with Toby. “It’s always going to be about the weight for me,” she says. How could it not be? It’s been her story since she was little. And we know this to be true, thanks to those handy flashbacks. In 1988, 8-year-old Kate is bigger than her brothers and already feeling pressure to lose weight from her mother. Even when Rebecca serves up grapefruit with that gosh-darn adorable face of hers, she’s still signaling to her young daughter that something needs to be fixed. A lesson like that will stay with a person.
Kate obviously has not dealt with her deep-rooted self-esteem issues, most of which are presumably tied to her mother. I fear the day when This Is Us puts Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore together in a scene to hash this out because all of my dreams will be coming true, but I’ll also be a puddle on the floor. Sure, Kate’s story is not representative of every person’s story, but man, if her “even when I’m not thinking about weight, I’m thinking about weight” speech isn’t one of the truest things I’ve seen on TV regarding weight issues. Okay, so maybe I already am a puddle on the floor.
Let’s talk about the relationship that’s suddenly become the most interesting: Kevin and Randall. Back in 1988, the two brothers are constantly fighting. Turns out kids in the ’80s were also the worst, and Randall’s classmates have given him the nickname “Webster.” You know, Webster — the show about the nice white couple who adopt a young black boy. Even at age 8, Kevin is worried about what people think of him, so when it comes down to standing up for his brother or being popular, he chooses popularity. It creates a rift in their relationship that still affects them today.
Kevin may feel empowered by his recent Manny walkout, but his agent Laney (Katey Sagal) is less than enthused when her pretty-boy client and questionable headwear fan threatens to undo all of her hard work. She reminds him about things like contracts and the ability for a network to make someone bankrupt. It’s very scary stuff. To make it up to her, Kevin agrees to go to her party and meet with the head of the network (Brad Garrett!) to attempt to smooth things over.
The meeting goes as well as you’d expect. That is, poorly. Since Kevin is contractually obligated to stay on The Manny for two more years, Brad Garrett tells him to get back to work or prepare to watch his entire career get tanked. (Actually, he uses the term “Nagasaki-ed” to show just how scummy he is.) When Kevin is at his lowest, he calls Randall. It’s late on the East Coast, but Randall answers. Kevin tells him his sad story, but mainly, he apologizes for being a bad brother. “You still have time,” Randall tells him. He has no advice for his big brother, but he does tell him to take a deep breath and they — along with Drunk Kate — recite “The Big Three” chant their father had them recite every morning. Stop being so wonderful, Randall. My tear ducts are exhausted.
Kevin stands his ground against Brad Garrett, which means there’s nothing left for him in Los Angeles. And so, he’s moving to New York to explore theater (LOL) while he waits to suffer the wrath of Hollywood bigwigs. This move is horrible news for Kate, but great news for us: Kevin and Randall will be sharing screen time very, very soon.
This Is The Twist:
If last week’s time-hopping twist was heartwarming, this week’s twist removes said warmed heart from your chest cavity and stomps on it. Repeatedly. When we come upon Jack and Rebecca in 1988, they are not the moon-eyed, stalwart couple we last saw. An empty coffee pot breeds a lot of tension, you know what I mean?
Blame Jack’s growing affinity for bourbon before dinner. He slings back a few at the bar and complains about Rebecca to his BFF Miguel. BFF Miguel is basically like, “Um, your wife is Mandy Moore. We’re all jealous.” Jack realizes he’s being a real dummy. He realizes just how much of a dummy when he comes home drunk and Rebecca delivers a moving speech about how he’s bringing their parenting average down and she won’t allow it anymore. Should this show just be scenes of people having one-on-one conversations with Milo Ventimiglia? Because those are always great. I wouldn’t hate it.
Jack listens to his wife, sleeps outside of her door all night (“I don’t like sleeping far away from you.” Swoon much?), and promises to do better. He’ll quit drinking. He’ll be more present. He loves her, after all. When he gives her a sweet little moon-shaped necklace, she promises to never take it off. They make out. All seems right with the world again.
Back in present day, there’s a knock on Randall’s door. Surprise! Grandma and Grandpa are in town for a visit. When Randall comes to the door, he greets his mother, Rebecca (still wearing that moon necklace, BTW), and her husband … BFF MIGUEL. Et tu, Miguel?!
What is more shocking: Mandy Moore in old-lady makeup or the reveal that Rebecca and Jack don’t make it? Is Jack dead? Did they get divorced? THERE ARE NO GOOD ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS. Consider my heart stomped.
This Is The Rest:
- I’m very Team Beth. She loves her husband because he wants to do right by everyone (young Randall promised his mom he’d always be good), and knows she needs to protect him, lest he be taken advantage of. Her blunt conversation with William about what he does all day is a standout. Adorably enough, he takes the bus back and forth from Philly to feed his ugly cat, Clooney, since little Annie has asthma.
- To be honest, Randall has a top-notch family all around. Little monsters Tess and Annie are still the cutest. And how about Annie after her morning chat with William? “My vice is asthma. His is cocaine.”
- Kevin’s exchange with the valet: “Victor! My man! How ya been?” “I’ve been Hector.”
- Katey Sagal has bestowed countless gifts upon us throughout the years, but tonight she outdoes herself. Case in point: Laney informs Kevin that she’s made him so famous “that you could wear a ski cap when it is 80 degrees out and no one would say a damn thing.” We don’t deserve you, Katey.
- Toby Swoon Watch: He calls the gym the worst place in the world, he is proud of his hat with a real peacock feather on it, and he still completely adores Kate.
- “Mom and Dad didn’t raise no whores. Except briefly, during Kate’s eyeliner phase.”