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'This Is Us' recap: 'The Game Plan'

Posted on

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

This Is Us

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Dan Fogelman

In a more just world, women — much like men — would be able to conceive well into their 50s and 60s. They wouldn’t worry about an unseen biological clock ticking down to some arbitrary deadline, just as their career — or, as in Rebecca’s case — their marriage was hitting its stride. But our world isn’t always fair, and even as recently as the late 1970s, it was pretty rare for a woman to wait until her 30s to begin having children. (In fact, according to CDC data, only 1.7 out of 1,000 women in 1970 gave birth to their first child between the ages of 35-39.) So, needless to say, Rebecca finds herself in a unique position during tonight’s “The Game Plan,” one I’m sure many women can sympathize (and empathize) with.

The episode opens further in the past than we’ve ever been before: Rebecca’s childhood. We see her watching her parents: Dad, reclined in his Barcalounger watching the football game; Mom, waiting on Dad hand and foot. It’s understandable Rebecca is annoyed when we see her some 20 years later, as Jack’s attention is fully focused on the big game while they’re on a date.

“I refuse to be my mother staring at my father as he stares at the television,” she tells Jack. But, in the spirit of compromise, she asks him to explain the sport to her. And man, that must have been one hell of a lesson — she quickly becomes a Steelers savant. So much so, she agrees to sing at the local watering hole, Froggy’s, on Super Bowl night. (Did everyone’s “Candy”-coated dreams come true here?) And guess who else is going to be there? Miguel and his wife, Shelly. But only if they can get a babysitter for their kids.

“Why do people have kids?” Rebecca asks, as she pours a morning shot (and I don’t mean espresso) for herself and Jack.

Later, when they meet up at the bar with Miguel and Shelly — and hear their parenthood horror stories — Rebecca again mentions how she never wants to have children, which visibly upsets Jack. When Miguel and Shelly make an awkward escape to the bar, he asks her for clarification.

“What did you mean before, when you said ‘Promise me we’ll never have kids’?” Jack asks.

“Oh, I shouldn’t have said that,” Rebecca replies, trying to delay this heady conversation until they get home.

But Jack won’t have it. He admits that coming from his family (more on that, please!), he didn’t think he’d ever want kids. But the older he got, the more he couldn’t help but wonder if there was “something more than just the two of us.”

Rebecca reiterates how she doesn’t want to turn into her mother, beholden to a checked-out husband and a bunch of children.

Their incessant arguing draws the ire of a particularly rabid Steelers fan, and he threatens to beat up Jack…who only eggs him on further. The two finally come to blows (or should I say, Jack comes to blows with the fan’s face), and Rebecca huffs out of the bar in disgust.

Jack finds her outside (after the Steelers take the W), and he’s contrite: “If it’s between you and having kids. You win. Every time. No question.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Rebecca replies. When she pictures their future, she does imagine kids. And it’s a vision Jack’s had many times, too — sitting and watching football with his kids, letting them talk as much as they want (as opposed to Jack’s dad, who only let him watch the big game if he was quiet).

Ultimately, Rebecca concedes, it’s all about timing.

“I love our life, I love it right now,” she says, making the episode’s final moments all the more bittersweet. But we’ll come back to that…

NEXT: The circle of life


In the future timeline, Kevin seems to already be wearing out his welcome at Randall’s house. To wit, at one point, Beth pointedly asks: “When you leavin’?”

“I saw this as an opportunity to hang with you two and the girls,” Kevin says, obviously wounded. “And, honestly this play — it’s kicking my ass a little. And the hotel is lonely.”

Plush robes and oatmeal soaps apparently can’t replace human interaction, though Randall seizes on Kevin’s words and gets an idea. He and Beth will use the empty hotel room for an evening getaway. Beth’s unsure about leaving her kids in the hands of William and Kevin, but Randall is insistent.

“One of them played a nanny on TV!” he argues. (Kevin: “Actually, an au pair.”)

And so, as Kevin tries to entertain the girls at home by making them run lines with him, Randall and Beth go about making themselves at “home” in his spacious suite. (Seriously, that room would house, like, four recent grads in Manhattan).

“Okay, babe. Here’s the plan,” Randall says. “Sex first. Right away. Loud, adult, no-kids-in-the-next-room sex. And it doesn’t have to be marathon sex. We just need to get the job done. And under no circumstances are we allowed to fall asleep watching House Hunters afterwards. I don’t want to miss the whole night sleepin.'”

But as Randall continues his flight of fancy about shower sex, room-service hamburgers, and Florence Foster Jenkins on pay-per-view, Beth seems distracted. And we quickly learn why: She thinks she might be pregnant. A mood killer, for sure. So the two eschew their sexy evening in favor of a drugstore run to buy a pregnancy test — and it’s not a pretty scene. Randall asks how this could have possibly happened (Beth’s on the pill, but changed prescriptions about a month ago) and begins wallowing about Charleston. Apparently, his secret ambition after the girls left home was to take an early retirement in South Carolina. Poor Randall. And what about Beth? She’d wanted to go back to work full-time.

As Randall and Beth await the test results, Kevin faces some pretty serious questions from their daughters: Namely, what happens to a person when he/she dies, a conversation spurred by Kevin’s ghoulish play. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, Kevin kind of botches the conversation and sends the girls to bed in something of an existential crisis over the nature of the afterlife.

“I am clearly not the man that needs to be talking to them about the intricacies of life and death,” Kevin bemoans to William.

“You do that a lot,” William replies. “Doubt yourself.”

The “wise owl in a Pixar film” goes on to tell Kevin he was good in The Manny. That he should be proud of his work. That he shouldn’t worry every single person in the play might be smarter than him. That he can be a successful New York actor and a good uncle to his nieces. Kevin is buoyed and goes upstairs to talk with the girls.

Which brings us to the one plot arc we’ve yet to touch on: Kate and Toby. Guys, we need to talk about Toby. Over the course of just five episodes, he’s morphed from a quirky, well-meaning love interest into a demanding weirdo who won’t take no for an answer. If Kate wants to watch the freakin’ football game by herself, she should be able to. Why does Toby have to insinuate himself into every possible moment of Kate’s life? They’ve known each other for what, like, a month now? Give her some space! But he doesn’t relent: He decides to throw a Steelers viewing party he basically guilts Kate into attending. And — unsurprisingly — she immediately regrets accepting and escapes home.

Toby later shows up at Kate’s door, wanting an explanation.

She recalls how she used to spend every single Sunday before she moved to Los Angeles watching football with her dad, whom she then introduces to Toby. Except, um, he’s in an urn. Which answers the question posed back in episode 2: Where’s Jack?

“I know it sounds crazy and lame, but football is a really big part of my family,” she explains of her weekly watching ritual. “I was conceived in a bathroom during the Super Bowl.” This brings us full circle back to the Rebecca and Jack story line. Because even though Rebecca really likes their life right now, sometimes you don’t get to decide when you’ll become pregnant. It’s one of a handful of resolutions we witness during the episode’s lovely closing montage: Kevin calms the girls’ fears with a “circle of life” speech illustrated through his painting (sure); Kate and Toby watch the game with Jack’s urn; and Beth’s pregnancy test comes back negative.

Episode grade: B+