This Is Us
Last week, we watched as a whole bunch of Pearson babies were brought into the world. Now it’s time to get them home. But it’s not just Frannie and Nick and Hailey along for that fraught drive home from the hospital: This episode drops in on a whole slew of Pearsons driving newborns home for the first time. If all of this feels vaguely familiar, your mind might be wandering to the season two episode “The Car” in which yes, we got multiple storylines that took place in the Pearson Wagoneer. This is not that. Yes, the montage toward the end of the episode felt a lot like the Wagoneer stuff, but where “The Car” was more about a family car being a sort-of memory book and a way to look back and remember a life together, “The Ride” is about the beginning of a journey together.
Let’s start with Jack and Rebecca leaving the hospital with the Big Three for the first time because it is the most emotional of the various car rides we get in this episode. And also because I think I’ve decided that late-’70s/early-’80s Jack and Rebecca are my favorite Jack and Rebecca. Why? Who’s to say. It probably has 73 percent to do with Jack’s beard. 86 percent. Anyway, how terrifying must it be to leave the warm, supportive cocoon of the hospital with three newborns? No one can blame that security guard who sees Jack incorrectly installing the carseats and upon learning Jack has triplets simply responds “oh God, God bless you” before walking away. Jack and Rebecca are very brave people and also no one wants to get involved in that situation if they don’t have to.
Jack and Rebecca are also very overwhelmed people. Of course they are! On top of having to keep three humans alive, lets not forget that it was just days ago that Rebecca lost a baby in childbirth. She and Jack have barely begun to process that loss. It’s no wonder that she looks distressed when she realizes that she can’t see the babies’ faces from the front seat to make sure they’re okay during this ride.
And then the babies start screaming. So Jack, who is trying to prove to Rebecca and himself that he is a capable provider, is already white-knuckling it down the highway when a true douche of a driver cuts him off. They pull into the same gas station and Jack is about to unload on this guy but Rebecca talks him down. To calm himself, Jack walks inside, buys himself a tiny bottle of whiskey, and downs it. He has Rebecca drive the rest of the way home.
When they finally make it into their driveway, all three kids are sound asleep. They decide to wait it out in the car, which leads them to finally open up about the emotional spirals both are having internally. Oof, this scene is so good. It’s just the right amount of emotion and sentimentality and also pushes forward some character development. Rebecca is scared she’ll be a bad mother because she’ll be too sad — she watched it happen to her mother after having a miscarriage — and she feels like a completely different person than the one who left to go have her babies just four days ago. Of course what has just happened to her has changed her — how could it not? — but Jack assures her that it doesn’t mean she won’t be a great mother.
He’s unable to grant the same kindness to himself: He’s completely terrified that he’ll be exactly like his father. He tells Rebecca about the whiskey and about how much rage he was ready to unleash on that driver. That’s his dad. His dad hated being around his own family and “he sucked the air out of” any room he was in. Jack’s relationship with his father has been a fixture of the series, but it’s gotten an even bigger spotlight this season and I’m hoping This Is Us goes further. We still haven’t seen what happens to the Pearsons in the immediate aftermath of Jack and Nicky returning from Vietnam. And we know Jack asked Stanley for money to buy his and Rebecca’s dream house and that he refused to see him when he was dying, but is there anything in between that we should know about? There’s some interesting stuff there waiting to be unearthed.
Anyway, Rebecca tells Jack that he’s not going to be like his father. “You don’t suck the air out of the room, you are the air,” she says to him, which is cheesy as hell, but also I’m into it. They realize they’re going to be okay because they have each other and it’s all very sweet and maybe we should all just sit in cars while babies sleep in the back so we can feel things again, I don’t know, it’s a weird time.
Meanwhile in the present day, Kevin is once again showing us that he is very much like his father in all the best and worst ways. He too finds himself engulfed in rage on the car ride home from the hospital with his newborns. He too must be called off by his partner before doing something he’ll regret. Kevin’s problem, however, is not a reckless driver, it’s the paparazzi following him to get a shot of the Manny with his new babies. Madison — who, by the way, is like, the calmest new mother on the planet, which is wild because I don’t think Madison has ever been calm for one minute in her entire life — can see that Kevin is wildly sleep-deprived (will we ever talk about how he pulled a man out of a burning car and scammed his way onto a flight without an ID? So many follow-ups!) and she takes over driving duty and forces him to nap. It’s within this nap that we get a little Adult Kevin and Jack interaction.
Kevin dreams he walks in on Jack (interesting that it is Mustache Jack of Kevin’s childhood and not Goatee Jack of Kevin’s teen years, no?) holding his new grandchildren and ready for a heart-to-heart with his son. Dream Jack tells Kevin that he needs to stop trying to live up to him. You see, Jack spent so much time worried about turning into his father and Kevin is stressed out about not being like his father and all they are doing is wasting time being scared. He tells his son to decide what he wants and go get it. Obviously this is all in Kevin’s head, but it does feel like a very on-brand speech for Jack.
What Kevin wants is his family. For real and forever. So he officially proposes to Madison (well, “officially” with his hospital bracelet). They’re doing this, I guess?
And what of Jack Pearson’s other son? One of our other post-hospital car rides follows Randall and Beth after the birth of our one true savior, Annie. All Beth wants is a Snickers Blizzard from Dairy Queen. All Randall wants is to talk about having a third kid. Randall is SO MUCH. I know we know this already but sometimes we need to be reminded. Beth is like “another human recently came out of my body, just get me a fucking blizzard, dude” and Randall obliges, knowing he is SO MUCH, but also he explains where he’s coming from with this extremely ill-timed request.
A nurse at the hospital commented that Annie has her father’s eyes and this is a big deal for Randall, who never looked like his family. There’s a difference between knowing your family and knowing where you come from. This, of course, is the same thing we’ve been watching Randall grapple with in the present-day. He wanted to be tied to something bigger, he wanted to understand his roots, that’s why the search for his birth parents was so important to him. When it comes to children, he wants to build a family tree full of branches. The guy loves plant metaphors, okay? Randall hopes that even if he and Beth don’t have any more kids, his daughters will have babies and his family tree will grow on and on.
That’s where the flash-forward comes in. We meet Adult Deja and Adult Annie, who are driving together to Uncle Kevin’s house to join everyone to say good-bye to Rebecca, and Deja is secretly pregnant! Annie knows but no one else. Our tater tot is having her own tater tot! Randall will be so excited, his tree is getting a new branch. But even better: We learn that Deja is becoming a doctor. We’re all so proud!
This Is the Rest
• Kate and Toby’s plans are tossed out the window on their drive home from the hospital when a visibly upset Ellie tells them that she knows they agreed to an open adoption full of visits and photos, but she just can’t be a part of Hailey’s life right now. She wants to say goodbye and move on. Kate’s devastated, especially after seeing what Randall went through not knowing his birth parents, but Toby tells her it’ll all be fine. And who knows, Ellie could want to meet Hailey at some point in the future. They’ve got this. Remember how much of a mess Toby was when Jack was born? He’s so reassuring and steady now! What a twist.
• It’s an intense day at the Pearson-Damon house because Toby also has to inform his wife that he’s been laid off. Then it’s Kate’s turn to be reassuring. These two seem like they’re in such a good place at the moment.
• Okay, so just as Old Randall is about to go inside Old Kevin’s house with his Adult Daughters, another car pulls up, beeps, and Old Randall says “look who it is” as he and Adult Deja wave with familiarity. With most of our other major players accounted for in the flash-forward (is Miguel still alive? Is Madison Kevin’s wife?), it seems like This Is Us is priming us for some sort of reveal with Kate. Are the answers in this car? When will we find out? It’s possible I’m inordinately invested in this flash-forward!
• Beth’s deep love for her DQ Blizzard was very relatable. I mean, she goes for Snickers and I’m more of a Butterfinger girl, but I really felt seen.
• Learning that Randall would have weekly Felicity watch parties with his mom is the most precious of gifts.