overnights

This Is Us Recap: Commencement

This Is Us

The Graduates
Season 3 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****

This Is Us

The Graduates
Season 3 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Warning, friends: Remember how the Beth-centric episode left us with that gorgeous montage of three Beths dancing? How it left us with a feeling of delayed dreams finally being achieved? Of hope? Well, This Is Us is course-correcting, because guess who shows up again? Sad Rebecca. Okay, Rebecca is always kind of sad, even when she’s happy, so I should clarify: This is Peak Sad Rebecca. We’re four months post-Jack and this is Sobbing Outside a High School Graduation Rebecca. It’s like the show lulled us into this false sense of security that felt warm and nice for a change, and this week the show ripped that blanket of healing and optimism right out from under us, and while we were lying on the floor shivering in the cold, it was like, “LOL, you idiot: This. Is. A. Show. About. Sad. People.” We only have ourselves to blame, really.

And so we watch Sad Rebecca have to purchase a new video camera for the two high school graduations she’ll be attending, which is sad because you know, video cameras were Jack’s thing. (We get a flashback to 1982 in which “Radio Shack Jack” is talking about the importance of preserving memories.) And we watch Sad Rebecca get hit on by the dad of the kids’ classmate who cannot read the room, which is sad because, like, can’t a grieving woman seek out video camera recommendations without getting hit on? And we watch Sad Rebecca unable to force Sad Kate to attend her own graduation, and then have that meltdown outside of Randall’s graduation because life is moving on without Jack, and then, finally, take Miguel up on his offer to find her some grief counseling. It’s nice to see Rebecca taking her first step toward some sort of healing — or, at least, not crying in public places — but this story isn’t just about our matriarch. We’re back in 1998 to be reminded of the intense bond between Kate and Kevin, because something big is going on with them in the present.

This Is Us really hit the twin connection thing hard in season one, but somewhat drifted from showcasing that bond as Kate and Kevin had their own separate adventures. Because of this, we’re given a quick reminder: In 1982, as Radio Shack Jack does his thing, Toddler Kate and Toddler Kevin are screaming in the store, until Mom and Dad rearrange the stroller seating so that the twins are next to each other. They calm each other down. It is magic. In 1998, Sad Kate is also Angry Kate, because she’s just learned that Kevin is moving to New York with Sophie to pursue acting. She won’t even talk to him and it’s kind of breaking his heart.

Thank goodness Jack is a superhero who knows exactly what’s best for his family: He’s right about needing videos of the family growing up. Kate watches tapes from when they were kids (1982, to be exact) and is moved seeing that Kevin was taking care of her even when they were babies. She tracks him down at a post-graduation party and apologizes. He needs to go to New York. It’s not his job to take care of her.

In the present day, Kate’s graduating from community college, and though she’s embarrassed that it’s “16 years too late,” Toby is making a huge deal out of it. At least he’s self-aware about being over-the-top. He’s throwing Kate, and the few other winter term graduates, a mini-graduation ceremony. Rebecca and Kevin are there, too. Well, Rebecca’s there, being all teary-eyed and proud of her little Bug, but Kevin is in a familiar-looking hotel room getting drunk. Praise be the same hotel maid isn’t there. My dream for her is that after Kevin’s last bender she walked up to her boss, said, “I’m too old for this shit,” quit, and is running a nice bed and breakfast in Ojai or something. She deserves it.

It turns out that Kevin’s been in Los Angeles all week lying to everyone he loves. When Zoe calls and surprises him with her presence in L.A., he tries to get himself together and go to the graduation, but doesn’t last long before he runs off, lying again. Thankfully, Kate can tell something is really wrong. She leaves her own party, tracks him down at the hotel, and immediately discovers that he’s relapsed. This scene between Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz is one of their best. She’s going to get him to an AA meeting right now. That is what these two do, they take care of each other, at any and every age.

There is a problem. On the way to this meeting, Kate’s water breaks. She’s only 28 weeks. She needs to get to a hospital, but she can’t drive in her current state and Kevin’s drunk. They’ll have to wait for an ambulance. When Kevin calls and tells Toby everything, the guy is rightfully pissed at his brother-in-law. But Kate’s not angry, at least, not at the moment. She has other things to worry about. Kevin comes to see his sister in her hospital bed; they’ve given her medicine to try and slow down her labor, but this is really early. And then Randall shows up. The boys hold their sister’s hands and reassure her that everything will be all right. This scene of the Big Three is intercut with the Teen Big Three at their post-graduation party, wondering what will happen to their relationship as they get older. This is wildly different from any high school graduation party I’ve ever attended, but these three have been through a lot, so we’ll allow it. It’s Teen Randall who tells his brother and sister that, “As long as we stay in each other’s lives, we’ll be okay.” And yes, sure, I’m crying now. I’m not a robot! But I’m crying for two distinct reasons. First, the sequence is a reminder that yes, This Is Us has its faults, but it’s pretty special to have a show that lovingly highlights the always-evolving, complicated, unique bond between siblings. Second, you know this shit is going to get worse before (if! IF) it gets better. Prepare for some torture.

Before Randall hops on a plane to be at Kate’s side, he is causing some real damage at home. Thanks to a teacher posting Deja’s personal essay assignment to the school’s online paper without Deja’s permission (not cool, lady), Randall learns that Deja is doing exceedingly well in school. Her teachers think she should skip 8th grade and proceed directly to high school. But this is the first time Deja’s had stability in her life and she tells Randall that she loves their routine of driving together to school and finding Randall or Beth waiting for their daughters after school. She doesn’t want to give that up. Randall can’t argue with that.

Except, with Beth starting her dance teacher job, the Pearson family’s schedule just got insane. They’ve started looking into hiring someone to pick the girls up from school and help at night. Once Randall sees how expensive hiring some extra help would be, and has that talk with Deja, he wants to reevaluate their plans. He tells Beth that he knows how much she sacrificed so that he could run for office and how important following her dream to be a dance teacher is … and just when you think he’s going to say he’ll make the sacrifice this time, he tells his wife she needs to “put a pin” in her thing. What a dick. Randall should be grateful his mom calls with news of Kate’s dire situation to save him Beth putting a literal pin in his dumb face. So, I’m guessing that Beth and Randall’s marriage isn’t completely out of trouble just yet. Dear lord, remember when there was the dancing? It feels so long ago now.

This Is the Rest

• Obviously, this is not the point but 1998 Miguel is looking fit, you guys. And he is so there for Rebecca. And I have so many Miguel-based questions. Why does he lose touch with the Pearsons for so long? Is Rebecca still friends with Shelly in 1998? Will we ever see the Rivas and Pearson kids hanging out? What does Rebecca and Miguel’s first date look like? And now I’m spiraling.

• In 1998, Sad Kate spends her time watching Felicity and ya girl appreciates this. Though honestly, if Kate was a Felicity fan, she should’ve automatically understood Kevin’s decision to move to New York for love.

• Madison works so hard to come up with a signature cocktail for the party, but the Commence-Mint Cocktail turns out to just be a mojito. It’s so Madison.

• I’m always here for tiny moments that show the growth in Kate and Rebecca’s relationship. Her private speech to her daughter about how they both struggled with life moving forward without Jack was very nice. So was the selfie Rebecca insisted they take.

• Toby on Kevin: “He looks like Chris Hemsworth had a baby with the other Hemsworth.” If their bromance is going down in flames, I will be so sad.

• I know we’re mad at Randall right now, but hello, he is handsome and he color-codes the family schedule. I’m sweating.

This Is Us Recap: Commencement