This Is Us
It’s very odd that Miguel has yet to get any real backstory episode on This Is Us. Sure, we’ve seen him play important roles at several points in the timeline but always as a supporting player to the Pearsons; it’s never his story. I mean, this is the show that just this season dedicated a story line to the engineer who invented the tech that allows us to video chat. But Miguel? Nothing. It has to be coming at some point, but still, come on. Give us a full Miguel hour! Give Miguel Rivas the respect he deserves!
And he especially deserves it after this latest episode. In the past, we find Jack Pearson preparing for a big romantic proposal — he’s re-creating his and Rebecca’s first date at the carnival in her apartment — and his best buddy, Miguel, is coming in with the assist. More than an assist, really. Miguel is making candy apples for this whole ordeal. That’s some real love right there. Jack wants everything to be perfect because he’s Jack, but the one thing he can’t fix, the missing piece here, is that he can’t get a hold of Rebecca’s dad to get his blessing. Mr. Malone won’t return his calls. Remember, kids, Mr. Malone is a real jerk.
Jack’s moving forward regardless because who needs that patriarchal bullshit anyway? Meanwhile, Miguel makes Jack practice his proposal speech on him, and they end up getting the ring stuck on Miguel’s finger. The guys are right; they’re really channeling some Lucy and Ethel vibes here.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Miguel is helping another Pearson guy with his wedding. Kevin and Madison are making plans for the big day — the engagement news is all over US Weekly — and Miguel and Rebecca, who are back in Los Angeles and fully vaccinated, are going to host the rehearsal dinner. Uncle Nicky hears about it and asks if Miguel is “the guy that’s banging my brother’s wife.” Kevin’s reaction is perfect: “Well, I call her Mom, […] and he prefers ‘Rebecca’s husband’ for over a decade, but yeah, that Miguel.” Suddenly, Nicky wants to help out with the rehearsal dinner too. This should be so fun!!
Just kidding, it’s the opposite of fun. As you’d expect, Miguel comes in all positive energy and bacon-wrapped dates. Nicky proceeds to shoot down every idea and make passive-aggressive comments about Miguel marrying Jack’s wife. Finally, Miguel has enough of Nicky’s attitude. “It’s starting to wear down on me,” he tells Nicky. Nicky responds with the super-catty “Like how you wore down my brother’s wife to get her to marry you?” He tells Miguel that it bothers him that Jack had cut him out of his life only to “replace” him with Miguel, a guy who then “swoops in” and marries Rebecca. The hurt in Miguel’s eyes will break your heart, people.
Good on Miguel, who remains very calm while explaining that he married Rebecca 13 years after Jack died, so it wasn’t really “swooping in,” and he firmly tells Nicky that “there is only one person [he owes] an explanation to, and that is the one person [he] can never give one to.” It’s clear Miguel carries that guilt around every day and that Nicky is very much in the wrong here.
Back in Proposal Land, Miguel is demonstrating just why the situation with Nicky is so hurtful — Miguel has always loved Jack. Mr. Malone makes an appearance at Rebecca’s apartment while the guys are setting up. He gives a condescending speech about how he’ll do his best to “be civil” and “tolerate” the marriage. Miguel has exactly no time for this. He stops Mr. Malone and dresses him down, telling him that Jack is a dream son-in-law, explaining how since Jack has met Rebecca, everything he’s done — finding work, saving money — has been for her. Mr. Malone disrespecting and shunning Jack says more about him than it does Jack. This gets through to Mr. Malone. He doesn’t hug Jack or shake his hand or anything, but he does give the guys a tip on how to get that ring off Miguel’s finger. In this situation, that’s progress.
In the present, Nicky calls Miguel to apologize. In case you didn’t already think Miguel was a stand-up guy, he wants to make sure Nicky knows that Jack never replaced him. He tells Nicky about the proposal and how, before Miguel left, Jack asked if he would “stand up at the altar with [him]” and “say a few words at the reception.” Miguel explains that both he and Jack knew he was asking Miguel to be his best man, but he couldn’t say the words. Miguel thinks that’s because, “deep down,” Jack was saving the job for Nicky. So, like, Miguel and Nicky should be best friends, right? Jack would have wanted it that way, guys. I don’t make the rules!
Speaking of the best-man gig, Kevin has been agonizing about how to ask Randall to be his best man on the big day. Finally, he decides to call his brother. Of course, Randall says yes, but that’s not what Kevin was worried about. He wants to make sure there’s “not anything between them” when Randall’s up there next to him. Kevin still wants to have that conversation about Randall’s childhood that has been looming. Randall’s not in the mood to have it right then, so Kevin suggests that, once everyone is vaccinated, he come out to visit. Prepare yourselves for that, friends. It is sure to be a doozy.
Part of why that conversation will be so emotionally charged is linked to the reason Randall isn’t in the mood to hash things out on the phone: He attended his first transracial-adoption support-group meeting, and it stirred up a lot of emotions. He doesn’t speak at all during the group session, but he listens to everyone else and hears stories similar to his own: everything from having a deep-seated need to continually prove yourself, to wondering if random people are your birth parents, to feeling guilt over wanting to meet your birth parents, all things we have watched Randall deal with throughout the series. So when the last woman opens up about how she finally told her family that she loves them but wishes she never knew them and that if she’d had the choice, she would have chosen not to be adopted and to stay with her birth mother, you have to believe Randall recognizes that feeling, too, even if he hasn’t said it out loud yet. The woman says half of her family stopped talking to her after she told them this. How would the Pearsons react?
There’s not a ton of time to process this just yet, though, because other, more pressing issues are happening in the Philadelphia Pearson household: Tess is having Alex over for the first time, and Beth doesn’t really know what to do with herself. She’s very concerned about getting Alex’s pronouns correct, among a list of other things. If only she could be more like Carol, completely chill. Beth is the opposite of chill … especially when she learns Tess and Alex are in Tess’s room with the door closed. To be fair, Tess is only 13 years old, so Beth would be a little on edge upon learning she was in her bedroom with the door closed with anyone, but when Beth knocks and then walks in to find Tess and Alex lying very close together on the bed, Tess swears she sees “a look” on Beth’s face and knows it’s because her mother is uncomfortable seeing Tess and Alex together. Tess calls her mom a psycho, and Beth makes Alex leave because she will not have her daughter disrespect her like that. Not in this house!
Before she can chat with Tess, Beth needs to have a heart-to-heart with her mom. Beth admits to having a tougher time with all this than she expected to when Tess came out. Carol tells her daughter that a lot of parenting is about adjusting your expectations to the reality of who your children are. She says she took too long to adjust to who Beth really was, what her dreams were, what she wanted her life to be, and because of that, Carol missed out on so much. It’s why she’s here now trying to make up for lost time. She doesn’t want Beth to make that mistake with Tess. Beth doesn’t have a response except to sit next to her mother and lay her head on her shoulder. It’s one of the best scenes of the season.
And what of Beth and Tess? Beth goes to see her daughter and explains that “the look” had nothing to do with who Tess is because Tess is perfect. Tess knows her mother is trying, but she also knows she doesn’t have to try with Deja and Annie and that’s a painful truth. She worries that she and Beth will never really be close again. Beth assures her daughter that’s just not true, and Tess says okay but you can tell she doesn’t believe it. You can see it break Beth’s heart in real time.
This Is the Rest
• It’s Kate’s first day of work, and the teacher she’s assigned to assist (You’re the Worst’s Chris Geere) is not a fan — he didn’t want to hire her but was forced into it. It’s understandable that he would be annoyed: Kate shows up a minute before class, which is highly unhelpful for an assistant, and spends the day trying to get a hold of Toby or crying over photos of her kids. The first day away from your kids is hard, but come on, Kate. Still, she comes through when a student is having trouble singing “I Could Have Danced All Night,” which is nice to see, even if her boss is hesitant to give her any credit.
• Toby admits to Madison that he’s having a hard time being a stay-at-home dad. She tells him to be honest with Kate about how he’s feeling. When the moment arises, he decides not to get into it. That will surely come up again.
• I have a lot of notes on Jack’s super-cheesy proposal speech about standing under an umbrella together for life, but the main one is: Did Jack Pearson ghostwrite Rihanna’s “Umbrella”?
• There’s a whole subplot about how Madison doesn’t want to get married at the fancy venue Kevin picked out but is too scared to tell him. Encouraged by Toby, she explains to Kevin that she wants to get married in a garden that reminds her of a happy time with her parents. Of course, Kevin is in. Anyway, do we really think this wedding is going to happen or …?
• Hmmm, very curious, This Is Us. The end of the episode gives us a montage of three women reading about Kevin’s engagement in US Weekly. Those three women are Zoe, Cassidy, and Sophie. Sophie’s wistful reaction is especially curious.