The Big Three return to make some major life decisions

By Amanda Bell
January 11, 2017 at 12:53 AM EST
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

This Is Us

S1 E11
  • TV Show
  • NBC

This Is Us has managed to make an art form out of squeezing so many major life events into each and every episode, it’s virtually impossible to pick the meatiest moment of them all. On the one hand, we’ve got breakups and proposals and other romantic relationship milestones to get through; on the other, there are several delicate shades of the parent-child lifecycle to talk about. It’s absolutely stunning even a fraction of this gets accomplished in a single hour, but here we are. This is us.

Jack, Rebecca, and the Big Three-to-Be

Part of the show’s beauty is how it traces back to fill in holes you didn’t even realize existed, like how Jack and Rebecca were ever able to afford the house in which they raised their kids. Sure, we’d seen Jack sweat over a calculator and scrimp on appliance repair costs here and there, but the matter of Jack’s ability to provide for the Pearson Five wasn’t too much of a focal point the way his frequent bar patronage was.

But now we know. Back when they were young and in love and laughing at all the poor parents at their Super Bowl bar party, the pair lived in a one-bedroom apartment and made a modest upgrade to a two-bedroom place when news of the little one came along. But once Dr. Schneider delivered the news there were three babies en route instead of one — with a hilarious, sucks-for-them-style appearance from Dr. K as a cherry on top — Rebecca and Jack quickly realized the new apartment just wouldn’t do. (And for some reason, nobody bothered to suggest they could maybe just wait it out a year and scale up then, since they’d already paid the nonrefundable first and last month’s rent.)

That should’ve taught Jack to stop being this can-do cowboy-trope type and quit putting down gobs of money on real-estate options before so much as consulting his wife, but lo, he goes and does it again. Only this time, it’s supposed to be sweet, you know? He bucks up, sells his cool car, puts hat in hand before his formerly abusive father, and scrounges up the money to buy Rebecca a fixer-upper “money pit” his crew’s been working on … and she loves it, wall gashes and all, thank heavens. It’s a lot better than door no. 2, which would’ve had them moving in with her bossy, insulting mother, who manages to rip on Jack for even getting her pregnant “irresponsibly.” (Side note: We have to assume her football-obsessed father would also be involved in the proposed arrangement, although that relationship might’ve improved by now, given her voluntary ascent into extreme NFL fandemonium. Unclear.)

The point is, Jack saved the day the best way he knew how and didn’t leave his pregnant bride in a two-bedroom lurch, despite what her mean mommy had to say about him. He may or may not have been extra motivated by the possibility of shacking up with his in-laws, but who cares?

NEXT: Kate and Toby have a heart-to-heart …

An Arrhythmia: Kate and Toby

Speaking of major beginnings, back in present time, Toby’s big scare from the midseason finale was so much more than just a gasp-inducing cliffhanger. Turns out, the reason for his Christmas Eve collapse was an arrhythmia, which required an emergency stent implantation to address. Unfortunately for Toby, that wasn’t the full extent of his heart issues; he’s also got a pretty sizable hole that needs to be repaired or else he could have much more serious complications down the road.

Good news! The doc on hand is just the guy to do it, with tons of experience and zero concerns about his prognosis. Bad news! Toby’s a wimp when it comes to going under the knife — it’s not just these BFD procedures that throw him for a loop. He’d be squeamish over a hangnail removal.

Kate is, of course, in favor of the potentially life-saving surgery, but Toby’s being a “child” about it all, so she goes away angry before he makes the big grand gesture and beckons her back with exclamation-point and emoji-filled ASAP texts. He’ll go through with the surgery for her because he loves her. Love isn’t a word Kate’s used to slinging around, so she doesn’t return those three words and lives to regret it during his lengthy operation time. Eventually, once he’s made it through and laying in the twilight zone of morphine recovery in his bed, she whispers that she loves him too … and, of course, he was only pretending to sleep and actually heard everything because that’s how you reach peak drama in a moment like this.

Then comes a proposal. Yes, just like that. Toby’s taken to Kate so quickly and assuredly that even if they’ve only, like, just reconciled after a few weeks-ish of dating, he’d “marry the hell out of” her. He really just wants to cut to the chase anyway because, he says, all the pomp and circumstance and traditional courtship rituals are really “just life trying to get in the way.”

Are we doing a head-tilt-aww thing over this? Or is it more of a polite-golf-clap and side-eyeing the room to gauge other peoples’ reactions kind of celebration? ‘Cause, frankly, Toby’s sense of ownership and constant need to be THERE even when he’s not expected (Christmas Eve), wanted (Sunday football with Dad), or necessary (the weight-loss meetings he takes little to no stock in) is kind of weird.

Hey, at least he survived and kept the whole “nothing bad ever happens on Christmas Eve” tradition alive.

Randall and William (and Jessie)

Randall is just the cutest thing in the world, isn’t he? Beth has him figured out, alright, because it’s completely true that he cannot help but be the good guy who makes the most empathetic and earnest decisions at every turn. In fact, his devotion to being a right-thing-doer when it comes to William causes him anxiety and a sudden sense of urgency to improve and self-correct.

He doesn’t recognize the feelings he’s having over William’s newly revealed (and rekindled) relationship with Jessie; it’s jealousy, of course, and it’s a pretty big testament to Rebecca and Jack (and, erm, Miguel maybe?) that he doesn’t see the parental ownership urge for what it is. The more time William spends with Jessie, the less time he gets to spend with Randall. And since William’s time is a precious commodity no matter how many chemo milkshakes he downs, Randall’s starting to wonder whether there’s something more nefarious in his bones. Is he homophobic all of a sudden, he wonders? But of course not. Cruelty’s not in his nature.

Once he accepts that, he moves on to trying to bridge the divide between himself, much like Beth did with William. Only, he doesn’t have pot brownies to split, so the two don’t hit it off quite so well. Instead, what we get from their time together is a hysterical moment where Randall accidentally tries to offer the recovering addict some whiskey and then proceeds to tell Jessie he sees why his dad likes him because “the sexiest thing about a man is a sense of humor.” It’s 11,000 shades of awkward in the best way.

NEXT: Home is where the art is?

The laughter stops, though, once William fesses up about why he’s been spending so much time with his old boyfriend-slash-rehab partner. William feels the grim reaper creeping ever nearer to his door, and he doesn’t want to burden Randall and his family with the messy business of his final days. Jessie’s been helping him make arrangements, like finding state-funded hospice care facilities and such. Randall being Randall — someone just give the guy a cape already — says he’s finally ready to hear what William’s saying about not wanting to proceed with chemo treatments. He wants him to consider this his forever home, whatever that entails.

“This is your home now,” he insists. “You’ve lived in this home, and if it comes to that you can die in it. You’re not going to crawl under someone’s porch like a dog.” This is us, in other words. Gulp. We already know how this is going to end, thanks to that gutting look-ahead shot of Randall packing up his hat and favorite sweater. This is about to get extra tough, guys.

An “Art”nership, starring Kevin and Sloane … and Olivia

Last but not least, we have Kevin to deal with. Kev’s always right on the cusp of being a real person, but he never quite manages to get there. This time, his default to numbskullery lands him in the doghouse with Sloane, because things were just going too well for him and he had to up and sabotage it … albeit with a little help from Olivia. Yep, she’s back.

Kevin’s bright idea to self-finance the play with Sloane starring in the leading-lady role was risky but not as crazy as it might’ve sounded. See, Sloane’s got some chops to work with, too; their jivey chemistry is serviceable enough for the stage, according to the play’s director, so it’s a win all around! This is gonna work! But then here comes Olivia again, with an all-new bob ‘do and some newly unearthed sense of depth (are we really supposed to believe a Tony-winning actress would be so dense to begin with?), and all that wild fishing and howling-based self-discovery has brought her to grovel at Kevin’s feet again. Now he’s got two women who love-lust for him and he doesn’t know how to choose.

This is where he resorts back to classic wang status — he pulls out the proverbial scales to weigh the women based on their physical appeal, despite them both CLEARLY wanting him to see something deeper within each. So, basically, what he thinks of them is (a) Sloane’s a “sexy librarian” type and (b) Olivia’s “intense artist sexy” with a hint of hot librarian in the mix as well, courtesy of her British accent.

Needless to say, Kevin’s road to self-betterment is still miles from its end here, guys.

Eventually, Olivia asks him to make his choice — which Sloane’s conveniently within earshot of, because of course she is — and he chooses Sloane instead of Olivia. At first, it’s sweet. He says things like “she’s kind and she’s sweet, she’s funny and she likes me.” But then his dudebro Manny-ness comes right back and he adds that it’s also the right thing to do “even if it’s not what you want.” [Insert three bajillion head-desk emojis here.] Someone give this man an a-hole-filtromatic plus or something, pronto.

Episode Recaps

This Is Us

NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.

  • TV Show
  • 4
  • Tuesdays at 09:00 PM
  • Dan Fogelman
  • NBC
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