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This Is Us Recap: Pieces of Jack

This Is Us

Katie Girls
Season 3 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****

This Is Us

Katie Girls
Season 3 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Hold the phone, people. Before we unpack this extremely packed episode, I have a question: Is Kevin Pearson going to get nominated for an Academy Award? From The Manny to the Oscars in one fell swoop? What a world. Not that I’m not into Kevin Pearson getting nice things — on certain days, he is my favorite Pearson (on most it’s Randall; sometimes, especially if I’m in a hat mood, it’s Rebecca). Obviously, he wouldn’t win because This Is Us loves offering a glimmer of hope to these people and then ripping it away from them to see what new lows their devastation can reach, but still — people are really into this Hill 400 movie. I mean, Tom Hanks had Bosom Buddies, so … good for Kevin, I guess?

Two big fans of Hill 400 include Kevin’s brother and sister. Randall and Kate are weepy messes by the time the credits roll. Kate compares Kevin to Daniel Day-Lewis! We’ll forgive her because she’s about to have a very dangerous egg retrieval procedure but, has Kate seen movies before? It doesn’t take long after the film for Randall and Kate to bring the drama back to themselves. Randall calls Kate out on her statement that she’s the only one who can pass on a piece of their father. Kate didn’t mean it like that, but it still ignites a pretty heated argument (for these two, anyway) about Kate spending a lot of money on a dangerous procedure instead of adopting, which she sees as a last resort, and Randall having no clue how it feels to not be able to get pregnant or to lose a child and how wrong it is for him to make her feel guilty for wanting this. Neither is really wrong here but Randall should probably read the room. He twisted the intent behind Kate’s words a little, plus she’s a week out from a really scary procedure. Even Beth tells him to apologize.

That entire scene between Beth and Randall, in which she advises her reluctant husband to call his sister, is one of my all-time favorites. Beth really has Randall’s number. And so does Miguel, apparently! The Other Big Three is alive and well. Beth tells Randall that she, Miguel, and Toby have a group text going: “It’s mostly GIFs, but sometimes we talk about how messed up you all are.” Miguel rightly has pointed out that Randall feels like he has to be the rock of the family, and apologizing would make him seem vulnerable. Miguel also has said that sometimes Randall overreacts when it comes to his siblings. The guy ends up being 2-for-2: After Randall has a disastrous phone call with his sister in which he makes matters worse and can hear the fear in her voice, he declares that he’s flying out to Los Angeles that night to be there for Kate’s surgery. Miguel has really made a miraculous climb from Most Hated Husband in America to the Pearson Whisperer. But like seriously, I’ve never wanted to be on a group text so badly.

Randall makes it to the hospital in time to sit with Toby as he anxiously waits for news. The two guys squeeze in an on-the-nose conversation about men being able to admit they have anxiety and/or depression too, while Kate hangs out in anesthesia land where she runs into Teen Kate, Little Kate, and Jack with Just a Mustache. On the plus side, she gets to eat banana pudding ice cream with her dead dad, but on the other hand she has to listen to Teen Kate tell her that she’ll never be a mother because nothing works out for them. Adult Kate eventually realizes she needs to leave this magical land and say goodbye to Jack. Before she goes, she makes sure to tell her younger self that things will be bad for awhile, but not always. It’s nice, but if I had a chance to talk to my younger self I’d probably tell her something like “learn what a 401K is and don’t see Titanic in the theaters four times.” You know, practical things.

Kate wakes up to good news — they have eight embryos to work with — and an even better view: Randall! He apologizes and Kate tells him that, duh, he has a ton of Jack in him. Traveling across the country to apologize to her proves it. And all is well again. Well, until Randall learns that young Sky was mugged walking home and Councilman Brown still hasn’t done anything about the rec center. Randall calls his dad a superhero, a man who always took action — so that’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to run against the councilman. Um, so, that’s a choice.

What I love about visiting Jack at the very beginning of his relationship with Rebecca is that, yes, he is already a man of action, but he is by no means a superhero yet. He’s much less self-assured and confident in what he wants out of life. He’s quiet, sad. It’s such a contrast to Jack Pearson: Beloved Patriarch and it’s refreshing. It adds layers and complexity to the character, and that’s a very welcome thing.

We return to the day after Jack and Rebecca’s terrible first date when Jack watches Rebecca kiss some other dude on her doorstep and drives off. That other dude turns out to be Alan (Hunter Parrish), her high school boyfriend who has realized after several years in London, that he just can’t quit Rebecca (she has this effect on men, it seems).

Alan is a good dude! He can pull off a thick mustache-turtleneck combo, he supports Rebecca’s dreams to be a singer, and he has an extremely cool mom played by Jane Kaczmarek. It’s a good thing she’s cool because after coming back and professing his love (Rebecca has a thing for grand gestures, we know this), he brings her to lunch with his parents. He also asks her to move to NYC with him, where he can continue writing and she can follow her musical aspirations. She’s into it. What a day! But then she heads out to the grocery store to pick up champagne to celebrate and magically runs into Jack and his mother at the very same store. Jack chose that day to finally stand up to his abusive father and get his mother out of that house. They are fated to find one another, it seems.

There, in the grocery store, she tells Jack about New York and her dreams and she asks him if he has dreams, too. I feel like I’ve really been doing the grocery store wrong because the only question I’ve ever been asked there is, “Ma’am, are you lost?” Jack’s response, that all he wants is to take care of his mother, have a family, and create a home that is nothing like the one he grew up in, moves Rebecca. She can’t shake Jack Pearson. And that’s what she tells Jane Kaczmarek (and hopefully Alan, eventually). She doesn’t know Jack, but she has a feeling.

Rebecca finds Jack and once she sees that he’s the one cleaning up dinner and washing the dishes, she knows exactly what kind of man he is. He’s nothing like her father and their relationship will be nothing like her parents’ marriage. Jack is the guy for her. And so, she asks this quiet, sad man if he’d like to take a drive with her. To Los Angeles.

This Is the Rest

• Welcome to This Is Us, Terry Gross! Her probing interview gets Kevin thinking about Jack’s experience in Vietnam — the flashbacks to Little Kevin not asking his father questions about it are a knife to the heart — and sets him off on the journey we know he’ll be taking. His first step, with Zoe’s help, is to reach out to a man who served with Jack. I’m excited about this storyline for Kevin.

• Was it just me or did seeing Mandy Moore in high school with thick bangs and a long skirt give you major Jamie Sullivan in A Walk to Remember vibes? Can we get Shane West on this show, please?

• Beth and William flashbacks are like an oversized, chunky knit sweater — they make me feel taken care of! This one occurs right after Randall’s breakdown, when Beth doesn’t think she can go through this for a second time. Of course she can, William tells her. Beth is the bass in her marriage: quiet, but holding the whole jazz quartet together. One day she’ll need to be the trumpet, playing a solo, making her needs take precedence, and when that happens he doesn’t want her to keep quiet. It’s why when Randall announces he’s running for councilman she has to rain on his parade with her news: She just got fired.

• What do you think Miguel’s go-to GIF is? Discuss below!

This Is Us Recap: Pieces of Jack