Ron Batzdorff/NBC
January 16, 2018 at 10:00 PM EST

This Is Us

TV Show
run date
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Dan Fogelman
We gave it a B

This week’s episode brings into focus a pair of characters who haven’t gotten much screentime all season — Miguel and William.

Let’s start with William, who has appeared intermittently in flashbacks and sometimes as a ghost in the episodes since his death last season. The episode opens on a montage of Clooney, the stray cat he took in and cared for in his later years, prowling the city streets after having once again been left without a guardian, racing on dirty sidewalks to the tune of Billie Holiday singing “God Bless the Child.”

Clooney threads the episode, as we periodically check in on him roaming and, at one point, witness the moment when he met William. Randall spends the day gearing up to return to William’s old apartment building and pick up a box of his late father’s belongings. It’s a busy day for Randall: He needs to take the girls to school, pick up William’s things, and then head in for a job interview. That last detail is the one Beth is most invested in. She’s disillusioned with her own work, “sucking up to public officials” only for projects she’s excited about to slip away, but is nonetheless concerned with Randall not taking the job market seriously. He says he’s just not particularly “juiced” about this potential job. “I’ll go,” he tells Beth. “But I’m telling you now, it ain’t doing nothing for my juices.” He later stops by her office, and she’s firm. “I need you to go back to work,” she explains, adding that it feels like he’s in “outer space” lately. “It’s not about money. I think it will be good for you — for us.”

Yet by the time Randall arrives at William’s building, he’s immersed in memories of his late father, as well as an enticing mystery. The box given to him by Lloyd, William’s old neighbor who took care of Clooney — that is, until he ran away two weeks ago — includes a romantic-sounding poem William wrote about a “Lady” in his life, as well as sketches of a woman. Randall’s convinced that William had an affair with a woman in the building, and is overwhelmingly excited by the prospect of it. He knocks on the doors of women who share wonderful memories of William but laugh off the idea of having a romantic relationship with him. Randall’s so distracted by this discovery that he even leaves his job interview to take a call from Lloyd, who gives him a lead: William used to frequently knock on the door of the building’s female super.

Alas, the super also offers many lovely memories of William, but he didn’t have a relationship with her, either. What he did have was a love for his neighbors: He’d knock on the super’s door on behalf of anyone who was having maintenance problems. “When he moved, man, the building felt it,” the super says. “It was like we lost a heart and there was no place for the blood to go.” She then takes Randall to William’s old apartment and encourages him to take a look around; Randall is initially reluctant but then agrees to it. The flashback to William meeting Clooney is intercut with Randall finally cracking the code: He sees a Billie Holiday mural through the window and remembers how much his father loved that “Lady.” In the past, we see William singing “God Bless the Child” and writing the poem as he feeds Clooney for the first time.

Randall realizes he’s been searching for something much bigger than the perfect job, or his father’s secret lover, or whatever else — William’s been in the back of his mind, and he’s changed him. Suddenly, meeting the people in the building, remembering William’s presence, and solving this sort of innocuous mystery brings it all together for him. Randall brings Beth to the complex and reveals his plan: He wants to buy the building and change people’s lives. It’s partly a way of carrying on William’s legacy, but it’s also an answer to the relationship struggles Beth had been alluding to. It gives them a chance to put their hearts and souls into something, together.

The revelations about William in this episode — his good-heartedness, his ability to write and draw so beautifully — aren’t exactly surprising. More unexpected is the way Miguel moves toward the show’s center this week. It’s well timed: In last week’s agonizing “Fifth Wheel,” he got a bit of a spotlight as he confessed his conflicted feelings about being Jack’s replacement. This week, we get to see Miguel in both the past and the present — the latter because Kevin has decided, as part of his healing, that he’s going to stay with his mother to combine his post-rehab recovery with repairing that relationship. And Miguel’s presence causes complications.

Things are pretty chummy between Rebecca and Kevin after their harrowing blow-up last week. Rebecca enthusiastically welcomes her son, gushing about all of the raw cashews and kale she bought from the supermarket, and Kevin proves flexible. They make a date to go grocery shopping every Monday, since Kevin is now permitting himself to eat sugary foods and not just cashews and kale, and they both reminisce and confide in each other. (Kevin admits he lost his dad’s necklace, which Rebecca says Jack would understand.) Miguel’s decision to go shopping with them, however, creates some tension. In the market, when they get a moment alone, Kevin asks Miguel why he decided to go with them. “She’s been a wreck ever since you got arrested, and then you tore into her at that session,” Miguel scolds. “So yeah, I’m here right now to protect her.”

In the evening, however, Kevin — and by extension the viewer — sees Miguel in a new light for the first time: cuddled with Rebecca on the couch romantically, watching and laughing about Tiny House Hunters. Rebecca sits up abruptly when Kevin approaches them, telling her he feels restless. She goes to make him tea, leaving Miguel alone with Kevin again. This time, they apologize to each other for being a little harsh in the grocery store. Kevin asks Miguel the question we’ve all been thinking: Was he in love with Rebecca when Jack was still alive? “There was no Jack, no Rebecca — it was just Jack and Rebecca,” Miguel responds. “The notion that I would have been in love with your mother back then would never even occur to me, ever.” But, he adds, he loves her now, and he isn’t going anywhere. (Recap continues on page 2)

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