In the world of television production, there are few episodes labored over as extensively as the pilot. Think about it: A show’s creator has spent months (if not years) polishing a script they hope to one day sell to a network. They’ve agonized over every scene, every turn of phrase, all in the hopes their masterpiece will finally see the celluloid of your TV screen. So it sometimes can be a letdown to watch the less-fussed-over second episode of a new series, especially a series with a truly fantastic pilot. All of which is to say I was a little nervous to sit down and watch the second episode of This Is Us. But, thankfully, “The Big Three” not only lived up to “Pilot,” but introduced an intriguing new wrinkle to the story.
We pick up in what must be the mid-‘80s, given that the triplets (a.k.a. The Big Three) are now 8 years old. A decade of marriage and child-rearing has taken a bit of a toll on Jack and Rebecca’s relationship. When he comes down the stairs for breakfast and gestures to the empty coffee pot, her response is swift and no-nonsense: “Do you need me to show you where the coffee is?” (Fair point.) Here we also see early narrative threads in the children’s lives, which will be (and have already been) paid off: Randall being called “Webster” by his classmates and Kevin not standing up for him; Kate having to eat melon and cottage cheese for breakfast while her leaner brothers munch on sugary cereal. And then there’s the cheer: Jack’s playful rallying cry for The Big Three. (Are these the kinds of shenanigans I missed out on as an only child?)
Later that day, over several glasses of bourbon, Jack voices his marital frustrations to his best friend, Miguel.
“It’s hard to see the woman I married sometimes, you know,” Jack says to an obviously baffled Miguel.
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“The thing is, your wife is the gold standard of wives,” he replies. “Great personality. Greater ass. You married way, way above your station. I’d be careful not to give her a reason to notice.”
It’s advice Jack halfheartedly takes as he returns home with gift in hand for Rebecca (albeit late and drunk).
But she’s not appeased so easily. “I think we’ve been more than way off track,” Rebecca begins, rating them a six on a parenting scale of one to 10. Well, a seven if you’re being generous. (They do have three kids, after all.). Her hope is they can aspire to a nine. “The thing is, I feel like I’m there, Jack. I feel like I’m operating at a nine because I do individualized lunches and I do individualized tuck-ins for each kid so nobody feels gypped. When you’re home and you’re you, you’re way better than I am. When you’re you, you’re a 10, Jack.” She ends by demanding he stop drinking. She won’t have it in her house.
NEXT: Man-ny without a plan