We knew that in the final season of This Is Us, we’d get answers to some of the most enduring mysteries, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get the definitive answer to a question I was too nervous, too overwhelmed, too horny even to ask: In “Day of the Wedding,” we finally learn how Jack Pearson went from full beard to just ’stache in the late 1980s. It’s the origin of Jack’s porn-star mustache, and it is a true dream and, frankly, an honor to watch. Of course, the follow-up question to this now solved mystery is, How does he make such ridiculous facial hair look so goddamned good? But I fear that is a question only Milo Ventimiglia and his DNA can really answer.
How is the mustache born? We get a subplot about Rebecca feeling stuck in a rut. Her routine of making her 6-year-old’s lunch and dropping them at school and going to the grocery store is so well trod that even the deli guys have resorted to calling her “Pound of Ham.” I mean, Pound of Ham? That is truly a fate no one should have to endure. And so Rebecca does what so many of us looking for a change have done before and will continue to do until the end of time: She gets a haircut. Not just any haircut! She gets the Princess Diana haircut. It feels futile for This Is Us to try to sell us on Mandy Moore looking bad in any haircut, but they use a lot of Peter Pan and He-Man references, so the effort does not go unnoticed. Regardless, Rebecca is mortified. Jack’s “It’s different” doesn’t help the situation. And, of course, Rebecca isn’t just upset about an impulse chop — she feels as if she is “on autopilot” and “reeks of mom.” She misses how spontaneous they used to be. She’s scared of forgetting who she is. She wants to know “that surprising things can still happen.”
So Jack shaves off his beard to see if he can pull off a mustache. After some debate, the consensus is that he very much can. He takes Rebecca and her haircut out on a date, and he dares her to go play on the piano at the restaurant, and Pound of Ham Rebecca is declared dead. It’s a lovely little sojourn to a time when Rebecca was so full of life and hopes and wants. Put into the episode’s context as a whole, it is a gut punch. That whole thing about Rebecca being afraid of forgetting who she is? We’re watching that happen in real time, and it is devastating. Like, is this how these final few episodes of This Is Us are going to go? Are we all just going to be sobbing? I don’t even know why I ask that question at this point.
The bulk of the episode takes place at Kate and Phillip’s wedding. We are finally seeing how much Rebecca has deteriorated as her disease has quickly progressed in just a few short years. Everyone is pretty tense since Rebecca is set to perform a song at the reception — a “melody” she’s sung to her kids since they were little and something she and Phillip have been rehearsing for a year to make sure she can remember it. There’s talk of maybe nixing it at the last minute because, between all the travel and wedding chaos, Rebecca’s been having a lot of episodes. She’s confused and disoriented, and perhaps the most gutting marker of things getting worse: She keeps mistaking Kevin for Jack. But they’re at the point in Rebecca’s illness when the doctors have advised them not to correct Rebecca when she makes mistakes like this because it will only upset her (which we see happen at one point). It’s so sad on so many levels: that Rebecca is this sick; that she is having conversations with her dead husband for everyone to see, for Miguel to see; that the Big Three — especially Kevin, caught in the middle of it — have to be reminded of their dead dad all the time. It’s all just so sad.
It’s the first time Randall sees this happen, and he doesn’t take it well. Why hasn’t Randall yet seen how bad Rebecca’s gotten? Oh, no big deal, he’s a newly sworn-in senator now. Seeing Rebecca this way is upsetting for Randall, who finally realizes that we’re in endgame territory here. Not only is Rebecca on a fast downhill slide, but after spending time with Miguel — who is experiencing some tremors, which he says are side effects of medication — it hits him that Miguel, too, is getting old. Death is a bitch, you know?
Speaking of Miguel, this man will break your heart like four times over in this episode. He is so good with Rebecca, but like any full-time caretaker, he’s lost a little of his identity, and all he wants is one hour to talk about the Christmas notes in the Cabernet he tastes alongside Randall as a fellow wine aficionado. Randall wants to talk about Rebecca and Alzheimer’s, and eventually Miguel blows up at him, begging for just one hour when he can feel like a person again. That big revelation Randall has about this being the beginning of the end and life moving so fast? Miguel’s known that for a long time. He’s living that.
Anyway, it’s all a very cool vibe for a wedding. The wedding itself is nice, and we get a bunch of toasts at the reception, including one from Senator Pearson, inspired by his time with Miguel, which basically ends up being a much more maudlin version of Ferris Bueller’s “Life moves pretty fast — if you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it” quote. Then it’s time for Rebecca’s song. It’s shaky at first. She doesn’t look as though she knows what’s going on; she is hesitant on the piano. Philip, who has been the one assuring Kate that Rebecca will be able to do this, tells his new wife that his plan B is to perform “My Heart Will Go On” because it will be so horrendous that everyone will forget about Rebecca messing up. But she doesn’t mess up. She takes a minute, but she finds herself, and she finds her song. Hey, look at this! She’s playing the This Is Us theme music! And it has lyrics now! It’s a moment that is just so this show that you can’t really fault it for the cheese, you know? Rebecca sounds amazing, and everyone is crying, and I am crying and you are crying (don’t deny it). And it is a weird wedding, but this is the life we chose, people!!!
This Is the Rest
• Beth and Madison spend the day figuring out who Kevin slept with the night before. The suspects are Cassidy, Sophie, and the wedding singer. Later, when Kevin tells Randall that what transpired the night before Kate’s wedding is “a long story,” and Randall asks, “Is it a good story?,” Kevin’s response is a wistful “I don’t know yet.” It looks as if we’re getting a whole episode to show us what went down, so place your bets accordingly, I guess. Personally, I’m just interested in wrapping this mystery up — it’s much less interesting than the show thinks it is. Just tell me a good love story and get on with things!
• The choice to show one moment of Rebecca’s confusion from her own POV and have Jack actually come in and sit next to her and then have it switch back to Kevin was so emotionally affecting (James Takata directed this episode). I wonder if they’ll deploy that device more readily as Rebecca’s disease progresses.
• Jack trying not to laugh while his kids get in some solid burns about Rebecca’s hair is a treat.
• Okay, Miguel, coming in with that deep-cut Sideways reference.
• Remember how much the Big Three rejected Miguel at first? Now he’s walking Kate down the aisle! Miguel! Not like I’m crying again or anything.
• Beth describes Randall’s toast as “equal parts sexy and depressing,” and if that isn’t the perfect character description of this man, I don’t know what is.
• I hate to see people fail, but I am so glad Kevin’s Princess Bride toast completely bombed at the reception.
• Oh my God, Nicky is definitely the Sophia of the group.
• “I can’t tell if you look like a pizza-delivery man or a porn star.” “Baby, tonight I can be both.” Somebody hose these two down!