This Is Us recap: 'I Call Marriage'
First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes… complications. For Jack and Rebecca. For Kevin and Sophie. Even for Randall and Beth. And bubble baths and lava fries can’t always fix everything.
We open on Jack and Rebecca’s wedding day — their triumphant emergence from City Hall as friends and family shower them with rice and well wishes. Among the speech-givers at the reception is Miguel (hindsight is always awkward when it comes to this guy). He toasts his “better half” and the “Yoko Ono” who tore them apart, but it’s all good natured and heartfelt.
“You guys made some pretty big promises to each other,” Miguel says. “But if I trust anyone to keep them, it’s the two of you.”
We then flash forward about 15 years, to an evening out with Jack and Rebecca and Miguel and Shelly. And what should be a carefree occasion turns somber quickly when the latter couple announce they are divorcing. It’s clear the news shakes Jack and Rebecca on a level neither feels comfortable completely revealing. At home, the always optimistic Jack declares that one should stay with their soulmate until they die.
“It’s not that simple,” Rebecca says.
“It is to me,” Jack replies.
At the office the next day, Jack presses Miguel for answers. Is he having an affair? What happened? Why is the marriage ending?
But Miguel has no satisfactory answer for Jack. “Not everyone is like you and Rebecca,” Miguel says, explaining that there came a day when he and his wife just stopped trying to make each other happy.
And now to the present! After waking from a dream in which his biological father dies (lousy fake-out, This Is Us writers!), Randall realizes that his eldest daughter, Tess, isn’t in bed. He and Beth find her downstairs playing chess with William. You see, she needs to learn for a tournament she has tomorrow, and William is usually napping when Tess gets home, so 3 a.m. was really the only time they could find to practice and get in quality time before William dies. It’s heavy stuff for a tween, and Tess’ straightforwardness about William’s impending death unnerves Randall.
In a diner in the city, Kevin is trying to cajole an elderly couple out of their booth. (And before their eggs have even arrived!) He pleads his case to the couple: It’s a special booth. It’s the booth he and his ex-wife sat in when they shared a kiss on their eighth-grade class trip. It’s the booth they sat in when Kevin decided he would move to L.A. and Sophie would stay behind. And, now, 20 years later, she has agreed to meet him at that restaurant and, hopefully, in their booth.
“Are you the Manny?” the woman finally asks.
When Kevin concedes that he is indeed the Manny, she asks for his autograph and they move to a different booth. And just in time, as Sophie comes storming in to tell Kevin to, essentially, screw himself. But then she eyes a plate of lava fries and, like any sane woman, succumbs to the siren song of deep-fried potatoes.
They begin catching up, but when Kevin says he’d like them to pick up where they left off, Sophie becomes upset once again. After all, where they left off was Kevin cheating on her. She flees to the subway with Kevin on her heels. Of course, this being New York City public transportation, the train suffers a few technical difficulties and stalls underground. Part anxious and part bored, Sophie finally talks to Kevin — who’s been rather creepily staring at her from across the aisle — and when she begins divulging a bit of personal information, Kevin says he already knows. Which should be impossible, except he’s basically been catfishing his ex-wife with a fake Facebook profile he created to befriend her. But there’s one detail that must not have been on her page: She has a boyfriend, a really “nice,” “solid” X-ray tech. Kevin doesn’t seem to think he’s much competition, though, because as the two finally get off the train, he pleads with Sophie to meet him again the next morning at the diner.
NEXT: Randall Leans In
While Kevin begs for time with his ex-wife, all sister Kate wants is some time away from her boyfriend. She’s really starting to come into her own at the weight-loss camp, perfecting her uppercuts and downward-facing dogs. Until, that is, a distraction shows up. And that distraction’s name is Toby. He’s shown up unannounced bringing with him a bag of treats for Kate, including four months’ worth of Entertainment Weekly issues (aw, thanks, Tob!) and the body wash that makes Kate smell like Hawaii. And he’s been cleared for “low-impact love-making.” But when Kate refuses to leave the camp to spend the night with him in a hotel, he decides to buy a day pass to her camp instead. (His motivations are muddled — it doesn’t help that he has an uncomfortable run-in with Kate’s wannabe suitor and camp a–hole Duke.) But Toby doesn’t take the process seriously. He shows up in light-up sneakers and raps his drumsticks out of time with the choreography.
Kate’s rightfully mad, but when she expresses her feelings to Toby, he makes it all about himself, complaining that he’s lonely in New York, his incisions aren’t healing well, and his chest always feels tight. And then, as a guilt-cherry on top of the shame-sundae, he reveals that hiding in the goodie bag he brought Kate is his grandmother’s ring. It was his final surprise.
Back at Randall’s, tensions are running high. He and Beth have hired a palliative care specialist. Beth begins asking the specialist questions about handling grief, but Randall isn’t ready for this discussion. He begs off, saying he has to get to work, which isn’t untrue. Sanjay is continuing to slowly take over more of Randall’s turf, and he has to get to the office to play defense. And, can I just say, what an honest and long-time-coming plot line this is. How many series have we watched in which a working mother struggles to “have it all,” while her husband breezes through his responsibilities? It’s refreshing (and real) to see a father wrangle with the realities of family and career (and not in a Mad Men, ignore-my wife-and-kids kind of way). You can tell it eats at Randall to skip his important work dinner to be at Tess’ chess match (which she wins, by the way), but he has to do it. And all the while he’s also worrying about whether introducing his dying father to his girls was a mistake. Beth assures him it wasn’t, but something is clearly wrong with Randall. Later, we see him reaching for a glass of water, hand shaking. Is it just stress? Or is there a deeper issue? (Showrunners, if you do anything bad to Randall, I swear…)
As for Randall’s siblings, neither seems to reach a resolution by episode’s end. Kevin awaits Sophie in their booth, with lava fries at the ready. She finally appears but to what end? And as for Kate, we leave her staring at Duke’s cabin door. Will she cheat on Toby? Or will she finally tell Duke to leave her the hell alone?
For now, their parents are the ones to get the happy(ish) ending this episode. Jack, determined to never take Rebecca for granted, hatches a romantic surprise. He takes them to their first apartment, festooned with twinkling string lights and candles. He pulls their ratty vows out of his pocket and they begin reading them to one another.
And then Rebecca tells him she wants to go on tour with her band.
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.