Well, look at this (is us): three new Pearson babies born and not a single tragedy to be had! What a time to be alive! We really needed an episode that was all joy. Well, okay, it was all joy aside from the veil of sadness that cloaks us all at anytime Jack and Rebecca start talking about their future together, but we’re used to that by now. That sadness is a part of us. Otherwise: all joy! Even next-to-death Rose, wife of Toby’s hospital-parking-lot friend, lives!
So let’s talk about staying connected, baby. That’s what this installment of This Is Us is all about: a family finding ways to stay connected, both physically and emotionally. Hey, This Is Us loves a good episode theme! And obviously, the desire to feel connected even when you’re not physically with the person you love has been amplified because of the pandemic, and the show dives headfirst into that notion.
In a very This Is Us move, the theme is tied together by framing the episode with the story of Nasir and Esther Ahmed. No, we haven’t met them here before. Nasir Ahmed is an engineer and computer scientist who, in the 1970s, invented the technology that today allows us to video chat and send photos on our phones and generally not go fully insane during this pandemic. His and Esther’s love story is very sweet and his own story, with all the contributions he’s made to our society, very much deserves to be told. The whole thing felt reminiscent of the Immaculate Reception episode that kicked off season three, no? This Is Us loves to remind us that people who in no way seem connected to the Pearsons can end up a big part of their story. And really, the idea that all of our stories are connected — Pearson or otherwise — has been something This Is Us has been hammering home since Kevin showed us his artwork in season one. It’s all very nice and good, and sure, the show is right that we’ve all been thinking about how to stay connected to the people we love now more than ever, but, sorry not sorry, that final montage of the Pearsons meeting the newest family members over video chat felt more like a phone commercial than an emotional conclusion to the episode.
Let’s talk about all the ways the Pearsons are connecting. This theme was, of course, set up last week when Randall and Beth, on their drive home from New Orleans, promised Madison that they’d stay on the phone with her until Kevin — on a real adventure, as he attempted to get from Vancouver to Los Angeles — showed up. Here, they are keeping that promise, talking her through her contractions and scary epidural needles with distracting stories about a high-school Kevin naked, drunk, and singing “MMMbop.” Madison is Randall’s family now, and this is what you do for family: distract them from something painful with embarrassing stories about other family members.
And then Kevin walks in. Not that it is any surprise he miraculously appears after walking off his big movie with Robert De Niro, pulling a man out of a burning car, losing his ID at the scene, and only realizing it once he shows up at the Seattle-Tacoma airport with little time to spare and a big speech for the TSA agent about how not being there for the birth of his kids will break him — he is Jack Pearson’s son, after all — but some details about how he pulled it off would be helpful. All we get here is a quick line about sending the TSA agent a holiday card. You can’t even bring a full-size toothpaste in your carry-on, but this clown with no ID gets a pass. Cool, cool, cool. Explain yourself!
Anyway, Kevin shows up, and when he learns what Randall has done for him and Madison, the man is moved. Yes, he tells Madison that he’s all-in on this family (for real this time) and isn’t going to accept jobs that take him away from them. Yes they have two beautiful, healthy babies, Frannie and Nicholas (yes, after Uncle Nicky. And yes, I am tearing up just thinking about it). But come on — the standout moment here is the phone call between Kevin and Randall after the birth.
Kevin honestly might be more emotional about how much Randall was there for him, even with all the tension between them, than he is about becoming a father … and I love that for him. Kevin tells his brother that he’s the best person he knows, and “on [his] finest day, [he is] simply doing a poor man’s imitation of [Randall].” Randall does not release his Single Tear, but I bet it takes him a lot of effort to hold that in, okay? Kevin wants to have a conversation about Randall’s childhood and their relationship, and you can see that Randall is touched by his brother’s sincerity. Of course, the night of the birth of his children is not the night for that conversation, but if Kevin is up for it in the future, Randall is too. It’s only been, like, one day in show time since Randall was letting all his demons go in a lake, and already, he seems so much lighter. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next. Hopefully, it includes getting into the same room as his brother and giving that guy a hug. The Pearson boys are healing, people!
In case anyone forgot, Kate is also having a baby tonight! The connection theme is alive and well in her story line too: Only one person can be in the room with Ellie, so Toby has been relegated to hanging out in the parking lot, relying on texts and video calls to keep him updated. He has a very nice setup, though! He ends up spending the evening chatting with another husband waiting around in the hospital parking lot, but this man is there because his wife of 55 years, the aforementioned Rose, has COVID and is on a ventilator. Thankfully, the storyline has a happy ending: Rose gets taken off the ventilator and our newest Pearson-Damon gets named Hailey Rose. See what I mean about all the joy?
What’s going on up in the delivery room is a little more complicated. Kate is clearly worried about connecting to her new daughter as a mother. It’s proving especially hard as nurses refer to Ellie as “Mom” instead of Kate, and it is a little alarming when, once Hailey is born, Ellie quickly changes her mind about not wanting to hold the baby and even asks for some time alone with her. You see the fear on Kate’s face. But then she finally gets Hailey in her arms, and the relief and joy is palpable. “I feel like I’ve waited my whole life to meet you,” she tells her daughter. The connection is immediate — she’s Hailey’s mom. It’s all so nice, but if I told you all the happiness didn’t make me worry for what the future holds, I’d be lying.
This Is the Rest
• This week’s dip into the past is all about the emotional connections within a family (I told you, this show loves a theme): In the ’90s, Rebecca and Jack ditch their unbearably surly teenagers for a weekend alone at the cabin, but Jack spends most of the time being a Real Sad Boy about his kids growing up and not wanting anything to do with them. Rebecca has to remind him that they are not their parents and they are going to be close to their kids forever and ever and never miss any part of their lives, and she didn’t even know about FaceTime back then, so that’s some real boss energy there.
• At the cabin in the present day, Rebecca is fretting about missing the births of her grandchildren and not keeping that promise to Jack about always being there for the kids. She’s haunted by this framed picture of Pearson handprints from when the kids were little that was nearly ruined by a leak in the cabin ceiling. We see that, in the ’90s, Rebecca used this soggy finger painting, where the kids’ handprints have bled into Jack and Rebecca’s, to show Jack that they would all always be a part of one another. Between that and Kevin’s painting, I guess all the Pearsons love on-the-nose homemade art about human interconnectivity.
• Rebecca gives Miguel some much-deserved thanks and appreciation for how he navigates the sometimes very awkward situation he’s in, married to his dead best friend’s wife, and the complicated ways the loss of Jack affects him. “I know I’m a lot,” she says. “You’re just the right amount,” he responds. Is this teeing up some Rebecca-and-Miguel-falling-in-love story lines, because it is time.
• Seeing the real Nasir and Esther chatting with This Is Us creators at the end of the episode was a delight!