Photo: NBC/Ron Batzdorff/NBC
The Immaculate Reception is a famous football play in which Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass that bounced off the helmet of a player on the opposing team and ended up in the hands of Steelers fullback Franco Harris, who ran the ball into the endzone to score the game-winning touchdown in the last 30 seconds of the 1972 AFC divisional playoff game. All hope had been lost, but then a miracle happened and a comeback was made. And with that, I’ve reached my quota for the amount of sports I’m able to write about for the rest of the year. What gives, This Is Us? First you make me cry on a weekly basis over fictional people and now you’re forcing me to look up FACTS about SPORTS. Haven’t I given you enough?
But the Immaculate Reception, as we discover during the season-three premiere (can you believe we’re already in season three? It feels like just yesterday I was crying over a speech about lemonade!), is part of the always expanding Pearson mythology. That historic football game happens to take place on the same day that Jack and Rebecca meet. It’s the perfect story to attach to the Pearsons because that family, in all timelines, is riddled with people who get knocked down and against all odds, make their own comebacks.
Take Jack in this very episode, for instance. We begin with that familiar scene of the night young Jack was going to rob a bar but sees Rebecca singing “Moonshadow” up onstage an instantly falls for her. We move past the knowing smiles Jack and Rebecca give each other when they make eye contact and find out what happens next. Surprise! It’s an extremely bad first date.
Rebecca can’t stop blabbering about her dreams to be a singer and Jack, inventor of inspiring speeches, has nothing to say. He gets her out of that bar and takes her to a carnival (strike two, dude), with just nine dollars in his pocket. On the plus side, Rebecca is wearing a beret and if they’re already giving us Hats in the premiere, I cannot wait to see what the rest of this season holds. But then Rebecca goes and requests hot chocolate and a candy apple. A candy apple! Do you know how hard it is to eat apple covered in sticky stuff on a stick? Somehow, miraculously, Jack is still interested. From there, the conversation takes a turn. Rebecca asks questions that force Jack to talk about the Vietnam War and his dead brother — two things that Jack absolutely does not want to talk about as well as two things a person should generally avoid as conversation topics on a date. Thoughts of what happened in Vietnam turn our boy very morose and the only way Rebecca can think to save the evening is with a quick compatibility quiz about pets and pizza toppings. That also fails. And then it starts raining.
Jack doesn’t want to spend his remaining two dollars on an umbrella and after awkwardly standing in the pouring rain for a little bit, Rebecca wants to call it quits. Finally, finally the Jack we know and love makes an appearance when he drops Bec off at her place. He explains the money situation and the dead brother situation and the “I’m a Sad Person now” situation. Then he tells Rebecca that he “likes talking to her” because she “feels like home” and he’s never felt that before.
RECORD SCRATCH. Okay, all of that sounds nice and swoony coming out of a face that looks like Milo Ventimiglia’s, but if a man ever tells you that you feel like home on your first date please run away. Fast! Yes, Jack is always A Lot, but that is possibly Too Much. Of course Rebecca is into it. She gets very flirty with a big ol’ kiss and by telling him that she’s leaving her coat in the car so that he’ll have to bring it back tomorrow. He dutifully obliges, only he pulls up to her house the next day at the exact moment another dude (not as handsome) arrives at Rebecca’s door and plants a kiss on her. Sadly, his bouquet of flowers is much bigger than Jack’s. Looks like Papa Pearson has some work cut out for him before he makes his big comeback.
The present-day Pearsons have a lot on their plates as well. Everyone’s story lines from the end of season two get a nice push forward in “Nine Bucks.” The most moving one is certainly the conclusion of “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Deja?”
Since finding their foster daughter taking a bat to their windshield, Randall and Beth have been tip-toeing around Deja and letting Zoe and a therapist help deal with her. But on his 38th birthday, Randall has a plan.
He takes Deja to William’s apartment building and gives her a big speech about how being adopted defined him and that he hated how this huge decision was made about his life without him knowing. He and Beth want to formally adopt Deja, but only if Deja wants them to.
Deja astutely points out that her life is nothing like Randall’s. He grew up in the same family his entire life and ended up with two dads who loved him very much. Deja’s mom just left her and her dad never wanted anything to do with her. Randall is apologetic, but he also wants Deja to know that he thinks she is “exceptional,” and he and Beth want to give her a good life. You guys, Randall misses talking to her! A teenager! Randall is too good for this world.
Deja is moved by this word, “exceptional,” and does something drastic. She tracks down her dad at the shoe store where he works and tells him off — she doesn’t need him, she’s going to do great things with her life, she found a family who really wants her. She also asks him for a pair of fancy Nike running shoes — a birthday gift for Randall. But it’s not the only gift: She also tells Randall and Beth that they can start the paperwork to formally adopt her. She’s very much in.
In case you weren’t paying attention: In the flashback to Deja’s hearing in which her mother gave up all of her parental rights, Deja’s mother tells the judge that Deja’s father has never been a part of their lives and there’s no way he’d object to giving up his rights. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that this won’t be the case and that we’ll be seeing more of Deja’s father? Maybe the Deja problem isn’t quite solved just yet.
• We flash forward once again to Old Randall and Adult Tess mysteriously going to see a woman that Tess is not ready to see. The scene plays out further and Old Randall makes a phone call to … Old Toby. Old Toby is supposed to be going to “see her” too, but doesn’t think he should. Old Randall tells him that “she wants you to be there.” Old Toby is also alone in a bed that looks very much untouched by another person. This reveal was an honest surprise. What does this mean? Please discuss!
• Kevin and Zoe are dating! Or, as Beth would put it: Kevin and Zoe are “knocking boots” and also “doing it.” They are very cute together! Once Beth figures it out, she’s angry — but it’s not because she wants to protect her baby cousin. She wants to protect Kevin. She loves him (!!) and Zoe will destroy him. Whatever gives us more Kevin and Beth scenes is all right with me.
Pro tip: Never invite Kate Pearson to a birthday party, even/especially if it is her own. Right before the party she gets the terrible news that the fancy fertility doctor won’t take her on as a patient because of her weight, but does that mean she needs to unload right there at her birthday brunch in front of everyone? Here’s hoping there was some last-minute rando invited who was standing in the background like “Excuse me, what is this?” Um, This Is Us, buddy. This. Is. Us.
• Just as Kate and Toby are telling IVF to screw itself, the fertility doctor calls back and wants to take them on — making the impossible possible is her job, after all. Toby is scared by the extremely low odds and decides to secretly go off his antidepressants in order to increase his sperm count and help Kate get the baby she wants so badly. As we know from our trip to the future, this is a very bad idea.
• Beth swears on Oprah that she won’t get involved in the Kevin/Zoe stuff. When she breaks that promise, she donates money to Oprah’s foundation in order to appease the goddess herself. Just your friendly reminder that Beth is the best.
• Randall dancing while wearing a birthday hat. I guess a Birthday Dad is a Hot Dad, too, huh?