What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
This Is Us Is About to Get Drafted Into Vietnam
Folks, we are a few weeks away from November Sweeps, when the big networks pull out all the stops to get you to pretend it’s 1994 and anyone watches network television anymore. A Grey’s Anatomy/Station 19 crossover event! Matt Bomer on Will & Grace! Tripp Palin on Dancing With The Stars: Juniors, which is actually a real thing that is already happening right now and it’s a measure of how insane the world is that it doesn’t even rate being talked about.
Anyway, whatever the big networks have up their sleeves this sweeps month has already been rendered valueless, because this week This Is Us scored the hottest cameo appearance of the season, and that is NPR’s Terry Gross. We’ll get there.
First, we must take a trip even further back in time, back to Rebecca’s early childhood in some simulacrum of the Eisenhower era. See, ol’ Bec just never quite fit into the submissive, homemaking role a girl of the time was supposed to play. She’d rather be sawing wood in shop, which she eventually gets to do in a Marlo Thomas That Girl wig.
Two big questions right at the top: 1. Will the fact that Rebecca’s dad looks a little like Toby ever be addressed?, and 2. At what point will this show go full 2001 and have a segment where Jack and Rebecca’s ape ancestors meet cute and make primitive tools?
Anyway, all the boys in shop laugh at Rebecca, except for one, who ends up being the guy at the end of the season premiere who scooped Jack by three minutes with the flowers. Alan is his name, being blandly handsome is his game. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other in three years, so obviously he sweeps her right off to a dinner with his parents, where he immediately takes a sledgehammer to her “moving to Los Angeles to try to sign with Reprise Records like Joni Mitchell” dream. Jack, meanwhile, puts his frustration into action: back at his parents’ place, Dad rejects a perfectly good sandwich made by Mom for being excessively laden with pickle. He asks, “What is this: the pickle parade?” Great line though it is, Jack has had enough; he tells his mom to pack her things so he can re-settle her somewhere safe. Jack’s Dad sneers something about how Jack’s brother didn’t make it back from Vietnam, which is a flashback timeline I can’t believe we haven’t started yet. I can believe what we learn next, which is that Jack’s Mom will stay with a friend, but will not show up empty-handed, so the first order of business is to hunt down a coffee cake. The Pearson women are polite above all else.
Back in the present, we’re at Kevin’s premiere, and Randall is crying, and we don’t know whether it’s the movie or the shock of hearing that Kate thinks she’s the only one who can carry a piece of Jack on. He confronts her about it, and asks why she needs to bear a child when there are so many children who need loving homes—which, while we’re on the subject, is a thing you always hear about pets and never hear about human children, and I just think that’s weird is all—and she’s the one who storms off angrily, all furious because Randall doesn’t understand how much she wants to have a biological child. I’m firmly Team Randall here.
And then let’s get readyyyyyy to have thoughtful, probing conversation because Kevin is at NPR to do Fresh Air with the real Terry Gross. Zoe is starstruck, as any of us would be, and Terry immediately proves her worth by finding depth within Kevin. She asks a bit about Jack’s service in Vietnam, and he can’t really answer, because he never asked his father any questions about it. He’s troubled by his selfishness, and with the clean and positive energy of the newly-sober, he decides to do some digging into Jack’s past. Zoe, documentarian, is all about it. She is also styled pretty much exactly like Rosario Dawson in Josie & The Pussycats.
Beth is on Team Kate for some reason, and she urges Randall to apologize. She also reveals that she, Miguel, and Toby have a text chain that is “mostly GIFs, but sometimes we talk about how messed up y’all are.” Randall tries to tell Kate he’s sorry, but he can’t find the words. Beth says Miguel says it’s because an apology is a sign of vulnerability, and Randall feels like he has to be a rock for the family, and Miguel also says Randall tends to overreact to family drama, but before Beth can even get that sentence out, Randall starts packing for a trip to L.A. to be there for Kate’s egg retrieval operation. Well-anticipated, Miguel, but if you’re so smart, how come you don’t have a story of your own?
Oh, also, Beth gets laid off, and goes home to do what I hope is not ominous Chivas Regal drinking with a memory of William, who tells her she’s the bass of the family, not the trumpet that gets all the attention. “There’s going to come a time when you’ll need to be the soloist,” he tells her. And when it happens, he begs her to take care of herself, “and not just sit quietly fiddling with your wedding ring, wondering why you got married.”
Kate goes under the knife and into a very tidy anesthesia hallucination, in which she interacts with her father and the teenage version of herself, who you have already guessed starts eating right away. Kate wakes up, sees Randall, tells him “flying across the country to apologize is the most Dad move ever.” Personally, I would put it at #4, right under “drinking,” “dying,” and “having that ass in 1977, before people really started working out.” Kate finds out they retrieved eight eggs, and now they just need Toby’s sperm, which I fear will just be weak swimmers regardless of the Lexapro he’s now off. Randall then gets a call that someone back on the East Coast is in trouble, and he gets on the first flight back, which is the most Randall move ever.
1970s Rebecca looks for a bottle of champagne to celebrate moving to New York with Alan, which she has impulsively kind of agreed to do. She runs into Jack and his mother, still on the hunt for Pittsburgh’s most sincere coffee cake. He reveals that he showed up with her jacket, but saw her with Alan, and she asks if he has a dream, and he says he just wants to make sure his mother’s okay. It’s the perfect answer. She goes back to Alan’s mother, who’s played by Jane Kaczmarek, and says there’s a certain other guy she can’t get out of her mind, and Jane is basically like: my son’s a zero, go get into Jack’s pickle parade.
The person in trouble on the present-day East Coast is Chi-Chi’s daughter Sky, who’s been assaulted on those dark Philly streets that Councilman Brown has long ignored. Randall decides he’s going to run against him and fix it, because he’s Randall, and back at home in his long monologue about how he wants to be a superhero like Jack, he fails to notice that Beth is upset (and fiddling with her wedding ring). She tells him she got fired. Trying to be superhuman while ignoring the obvious thing right in front of you is indeed a very Jack move, so: so far, so good.
Back in the past, Rebecca shows up at Jack’s mom’s friend’s place, where dinner has just ended, and Jack is doing the dishes, like her own dad never would. She dries, and asks if he’d like to join her on a road trip to Los Angeles. He says yes, and I welcome the prospect of a sanitized, NBC-friendly take on late 1970s Laurel Canyon.
This episode leaves us with a few exciting questions: will Kevin’s investigation of Jack’s time in ‘Nam be what kicks off this Michael Angarano storyline already? Are they setting up a situation in which Randall steps in as Kate’s sperm donor, or one in which Randall gets into a relationship with Chi-Chi, and which of these is worse? And most tantalizingly: when will Terry Gross follow in the footsteps of Alison Williams and play Peter Pan?