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This Is Us Recap: Aches and Pains

This Is Us

The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning
Season 3 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating *****

This Is Us

The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning
Season 3 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Brent Lewin/NBC

Oh, This Is Us fam, where do we even begin? There is so much to process! So much to discuss! Every few minutes, I just look up at my ceiling in agony because how do we wait until 2019 for some additional information? There’s just something about that instrumental this show plays over its most meaningful montages that really kicks me in the gut, emotionally speaking. This fall finale final montage deserved that instrumental, you know? Like, a lot went down. It was wonderful and heartbreaking and mystifying in the best This Is Us way possible.

Let’s start with Randall and Beth because first, Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson are out of this world in this episode, and second, because MOM AND DAD ARE IN TROUBLE AND I AM NOT OKAY.

It’s Randall’s big debate night … for an election taking place, I don’t know, in January? What kind of election is this? This storyline makes zero logistical sense and yet we plow through. Randall’s nervous because he’s Randall and distracted because Tess is being moody, Deja is secretly talking to her mom, and Annie is in a spelling bee. Okay, so Annie is obviously holding the Pearson unit down. Annie is the best of them. Beth wants her husband to focus. He is ready. He was meant to do this. He is Serena Williams. Beth is the person you want in your corner, always.

Not surprisingly to anyone except for maybe Randall and Beth, the debate does not go well from the start. Councilman Brown is hammering home the fact that Randall isn’t from there, he isn’t one of them. He makes fun of Randall, he cuts him off repeatedly. Randall is no Serena Williams in her catsuit. And then he snaps. He won’t be railroaded. He sits down on the steps because he refuses to talk down to his constituents. He’s tired of being underestimated and he thinks they are too. He says a lot of very smart, impassioned things and you guys, he wins that crowd over. “Take a chance on me!” he yells into the uproarious auditorium. It is rousing … and also maybe arousing? I’m still figuring that out.

Randall’s feeling great post-debate until Jae-won shows up with some bad news. He got some poll numbers back and it is impossible for Randall to win this election. There’s not enough time to make up the ground they would need to defeat Brown. It’s over. If it helps, Jae-won looks pretty torn up about it. (It doesn’t.)

While Randall’s getting some tough news, Rebecca and Tess are handing out flyers. Rebecca drove Tess to the debate and initiated a pretty awkward car chat that Tess almost immediately saw through: Kate told her that Tess came out. Listen, at first I was super pissed that Kate would betray her niece’s trust like that — she is so tiny and vulnerable! — but the way this whole thing shakes out, it’s a blessing in disguise. It turns out that Rebecca was the exact correct person to have looking out for Tess. After the car chat implodes, Rebecca tries again post-debate. If anyone knows what keeping a secret can do to a person, it’s her. She physically aches. It started with headaches and upset stomachs, but even now she aches in her bones from trying to repress all those emotions. She tells Tess that she doesn’t need to talk to her parents until she’s ready, but she doesn’t want her granddaughter to turn out like her. An old lady, aching from the inside out.

It resonates with Tess. Back at home, just as Randall and Beth handle Deja asking to visit her mother in Delaware (that’s complicated, but yes), Tess comes down almost in tears. This scene is wonderful. Eris Baker will break your heart three times over. Tess has to build up to telling them that she might like girls, but once she spits it out you see maybe a half-second flicker of surprise in Randall and Beth’s eyes and then they are nothing but reassuring and loving. Should anyone ever have the need to unburden themselves, you should call up Beth and Randall. Especially Beth. Hold me, Beth!

Tess doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, but she looks somewhat relieved as she retreats back to her room, leaving her parents to process what just happened. That’s where things get dicey. Beth finds the silver lining in this whole campaign being over: They obviously need to focus on their three daughters. But Randall reminds her that this campaign isn’t over until it’s over. What’s most terrifying about what follows is that at no point do either of them raise their voice in anger. Beth telling Randall that she’s not on board with this anymore and he promised he’d stop if that were the case, and Randall telling Beth that he made a promise to a community, he loves her, but he’s seeing it through — all of that is said calmly and quietly. I’d rather the yelling!

Beth is disgusted that her husband sounds like a politician and he finds her putting out blankets and pillows on the couch — she doesn’t even want him touching her. This feels really bad. Like, the beginning of the end bad.

And that feeling is compounded once we jump back to the dreaded flash forward. We’re back in the hallway with Old Randall and Adult Tess. Randall asks if Tess told her mom that they were on the way. Um, why wouldn’t Randall? Why wouldn’t Randall talk to his wife?! Is this a red herring? Probably, right?

Regardless, we find Old Beth (who looks amazing and is rocking some enviable knitwear) running some sort of ballet company, I guess? Her assistant tells her that Tess has called and Beth explains that they’re going to see Randall’s mother and she promised to bring the old “pin the tail on the donkey” game that they would play on the Big Three’s birthday. That detail will surely come up later, it is very This Is Us. But for now, the mysterious “her” has been revealed to be Rebecca. It seems like a fitting way for This Is Us to end, whenever that is, would be with Rebecca dying, so it isn’t that surprising. It does, however, raise some questions: Why would Randall be calling Toby about going to see Rebecca? Is Kate dead? Where can I get Beth’s future sweater?

It’s honestly tough to consider Kate dying somewhere along the timeline because she feels very much on the cusp of great things in this episode. She’s going back to college to get her degree! She and Toby are having a baby boy! I mean, if you didn’t think Kate was going to have a boy so she could name him Jack, what show are you even watching?

But this ominous jump to the future isn’t the only mystery This Is Us is throwing down before hiatus. We gotta go to Vietnam.

Kevin and Zoe finally make it to the ville where Jack was stationed. They’re accompanied by a very nice man who is a big fan of the The Manny. (Getting a shirtless selfie for his sister? This dude is brother of the year!) They meet with a man who grew up in the ville and is the only person there who would’ve been around during the war. As kind as this man is — he and Kevin have a very nice conversation about how their fathers fought against each other but here they are, having a meal together — he has no information for Kevin. He doesn’t recognize Jack or the woman in the photo. Kevin is beyond disappointed.

In the past, Jack has just two days left to straighten his brother out, but Nicky wants none of it. The brothers fight, Nicky even punches Jack in the face, but still, Jack is trying to get through to him. Their mission is to make it home. The next morning, Jack finds Nicky high — he doesn’t want to be sober, not here. Nicky tells Jack that he won’t be completing their mission and Jack is at a loss for ways to help his brother. Later, Nicky is missing. You can see the panic on Jack’s face … and then you hear the explosion. A boat out on the water exploded and someone thinks a U.S. soldier was on it. Jack dives in after him.

Back in the present day, the helpful hotel proprietor comes out with Kevin and Zoe’s bags as they get ready to leave empty-handed, saying some nonsense about how he was going to give Kevin something to lay on his uncle’s name at the Vietnam Memorial but when he looked Nick Pearson up in the Memorial database, there was no record of him. Nick Pearson didn’t die in the war.

And then we see a scruffy-looking dude wearing glasses alone in a trailer putting down a stack of mail, all letters addressed to Nicholas Pearson. Nicky’s alive.

This Is Us Recap: Aches and Pains