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This Is Us Recap: Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson

This Is Us

Toby
Season 3 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating *****

This Is Us

Toby
Season 3 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Anyone else still thinking about last week’s gorgeous, unbelievably sad Jack and Nicky-centric episode? I can’t get it out of my bones. That draft lottery scene? It’s haunting me. Maybe that’s why in this episode that’s bursting at the seams with storylines (it was attempting pull us in a lot of directions, no?), the only one I truly care about is Kevin’s search for information regarding his father’s time in the war. He’s so earnest and open to the whole thing, it feels like he’s making good on the promise he made to his dad at his tree last season — he’d become a person Jack could be proud of. Out of all our Pearsons, Kevin feels like he’s really grown the most and his journey has been a dynamic one to watch. I don’t know, maybe I’m proud of him? I’m too emotionally attached to these people and it is unhealthy. Move along, nothing to see here.

Kevin and Zoe head to Baltimore to meet Mr. Robinson. Robinson finally confirms what Kevin’s suspected: Jack was not a mechanic in Vietnam — he saw a lot of grisly combat as a staff sergeant. He tells Kevin how Jack saved his life and how all the men in his unit loved him (and this is before Jack had his beard, remember!). He shows him pictures and tells him stories, but he cannot help Kevin out with what he truly wants to know: What really happened there that so obviously haunted Jack the rest of his life. Whatever it was, it happened after Robinson left. And although Robinson believes some of the horrible things men endured during Vietnam are better left not shared, he doesn’t want to be the one who stops Kevin from learning everything he can about his dad. Before Kevin leaves town, he hands over letters he received from Jack. One of them includes a photo with the woman we briefly met in the small fishing village Jack and his men are stationed at before he goes to find Nicky. She’s wearing the necklace that Jack will eventually pass down to Kevin. His necklace of purpose.

Well, isn’t that interesting.

This Is Us is obviously cooking some type of big reveal up for later this season. Post your speculations below. I’m really hoping it has nothing to do with some child Jack fathered in Vietnam and never knew about. Doesn’t that feel so This Is Us in that it would definitely make you throw something across the room but still cry about it?

Anyway, Kevin’s trip to Baltimore isn’t just about his Daddy Issues Mission — I told you, they’re squeezing everything they can out of 42 minutes tonight — it also represents a big step in his and Zoe’s relationship. Zoe spends 5.3 minutes with Robinson’s wife and ends up spilling her life story to the woman. Kevin is the only white guy she’s ever seriously dated. They aren’t even official and already she is exhausted at the thought of explaining what it’s like to be a black person in this country to a white male movie star. She doesn’t know if she has the bandwidth to explain to him that forgetting her silk pillowcase isn’t a problem because she’s bougie and won’t sleep on hotel pillow cases — she needs it because it keeps her hair from drying out. And she certainly doesn’t think she has the patience to explain how that cashier at the gas station was being racist. But then Kevin buys her a silk pillowcase because he knows how much it means to her and she decides right then and there that he is worth it all. These two are really in it. Now give us the Beth and Zoe flashbacks, would ya?

Speaking of people who are worth it: Let’s have a round of applause for Mr. BFF Miguel. Apparently, way back in The Days When Jack Had a Beard, Miguel casually promised his friend that if anything were to happen to him, he’d help take care of his family.

It’s a few months after Jack’s death, and everything is terrible. Rebecca still looks destroyed. Randall could really use a talk with his father (someone hold me whenever he has his first anxiety attack and Jack isn’t there). Kevin is hitting the booze hard. And Kate is extremely depressed. She won’t go to prom and she has completely cut music out of her life.

Miguel becomes a man obsessed — he has to keep his promise to Jack. So he finds a piano at a garage sale and brings it to Rebecca’s new place. Kate can’t bring herself to use it, but it makes Rebecca very happy. When he discovers that Randall didn’t make it to his prom because his girlfriend’s dad took one look at him and said no (you guys, this scene was unbelievably sad and for this show that’s saying something), he attempts to console Randall by talking about his own encounters with racism (he moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when he was only eight) and about Randall’s strength. Of course, Randall doesn’t want someone who is Not Jack attempting a Jack Speech, but that doesn’t stop Miguel from trying to help. When Sophie shows up at Miguel’s house with a drunk Kevin in their prom limo, he takes care of it.

Who is this gallant man? Remember when we all hated him? Now I swear I felt things while watching him fix Rebecca’s refrigerator. REAL THINGS. Bask in the redeeming glow of the collective realization of our own shortsightedness, Miguel. Like Rebecca says, we don’t deserve you.

This Is the Rest:

• We get more of a backstory on Toby. Who asked for this? On the plus side, it does mean more time with Wendie Malick as Toby’s mother. She also suffers from depression, and it was 10-year-old Toby doing Rodney Dangerfield impressions in a department store that helped her get through it. Okay, that scene was very nice.

• Toby’s a mess off his meds, yet still trying to be a rock for Kate as they attempt IVF. From eight eggs, they get one viable embryo — and praise be, it works. Once Kate tells Toby that they’re pregnant, he seems to breathe for the first time since this whole thing started and has a complete breakdown. We end up at the flash-forward from the season 2 finale, with Toby unable to get out of bed and Kate telling him that the doctor wants to get him back on his medication.

• Did we really need that extended Adele-o-gram sequence? That’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is no. Kate is another one just unloading deeply emotional details to complete strangers in this episode. What a weirdo! I hope the guy who ordered the singing-gram mentions something about no boundaries in his Yelp review.

• You know I love Randall with all the strength my tiny heart has, but this “running for councilman” storyline is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I don’t even know if it’s true that he can technically run for office in Philadelphia because he signed William’s lease at one point (when? And also why?), but I just don’t care enough to look it up. He has his first campaign event and it goes terribly. The people in the neighborhood don’t want him there because he isn’t one of them. Which yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s Randall’s lifelong hang up but also I’m bored.

• How heartbreaking was Beth’s interview? It felt a little too soon for her to be that cheerful about finding a new job after being fired from the place she worked for 12 years. It finally hit her that she was just cast aside from a place she helped build and she loses it in her interview. She doesn’t tell Randall. Beth!

• “Now I gotta go turn myself from Urkel to Stefan.” Oh Teen Randall, you are a treasure.

This Is Us Recap: Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson