Ron Batzdorff/NBC
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February 28, 2018 at 12:06 AM EST

This Is Us

type
TV Show
genre
Drama
run date
09/20/16
performer
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Producer
Dan Fogelman
broadcaster
NBC
seasons
3
We gave it a B+

Jack Pearson has long been known as the king of the grand romantic gesture. But as the illuminating beginning of “Vegas, Baby” reminds, it can be a tricky thing to be on the receiving end of one. We open in a bowling alley, on Rebecca and Jack’s first anniversary. She gets him a notebook because she always sees him scribbling; he essentially shuts down the whole alley for them as they take center stage and dance in the beautifully dimmed lighting. Then, on their fourth anniversary, Rebecca gets Jack a hammer with his name engraved on it; he gets her, well, a grand piano. For the anniversary that frames “Vegas, Baby,” however, Rebecca wants a break from feeling upstaged. She just wants to put the three kids to bed early and watch TV with her husband.

Of course, Jack not going all out for Rebecca feels plain wrong to the kids. Kevin asks his father why he’s not doing anything special, to which Jack replies, “I’m not allowed to this year.” The kids then decide to assume the anniversary duties: They’ll create a lavish set piece, prepare an elaborate meal, and handle all of the research and prep that goes into making a special night.

There’s an interesting thread here between the Pearson siblings as kids and as adults: In the episode, we that they’re blind to the desires and needs of those around them. In the past timeline, they assume their parents are headed toward divorce and try to remedy that in a panic, when in fact Rebecca just wants something low key — the very opposite of what the kids will ultimately deliver. In the present, things are much more complicated. So goes adulthood.

The main events are the bachelor and bachelorette parties happening for Toby and Kate, respectively — both in Las Vegas, but strictly separate. Kate’s new BFF Madison is totally dedicated to planning duties for the bride-to-be — her presence seems to be a source of mild annoyance for Toby — while Toby is anxious about befriending and impressing his soon-to-be-brother-in-laws. He’s flying out a few “fillers” too, but with his own younger brother not particularly interested in being there for him, Toby’s most invested in making these brotherly bonds happen.

Unfortunately, the Pearson boys are a little distracted. Last we saw on This Is Us before the Olympics, Deja had shown up on Randall and Beth’s doorstep. We pick up where we left off in that regard. Deja comes inside and confesses that her mother, Shauna, hasn’t been able to pay the gas bill and that they’ve been without water for weeks. “We need $89.34,” she admits. “I didn’t know where else to go.” Randall suggests setting up a direct deposit, but Deja rebuffs him, pleading only that he give them the cash to get them through before case worker Linda’s next scheduled visit. Randall obliges, but he’s not about to let it go.

Beth wants to have a good time in Vegas, leave behind the stresses of real life for a night, but Randall’s eyes are glued to his phone: He can’t get Deja out of his mind. As he and Beth drive on the strip, they start bickering, with Randall coldly suggesting he can’t “detach” from Deja like she can. “Deja is no longer a part of our home,” Beth retorts. “It’s not fair to anyone involved to keep acting like she is.” Whether or not she actually believes that, she makes clear that Randall’s comments hurt her.

And then there’s Kevin: Still in recovery, trying to stay on the straight and narrow. He enthusiastically greets a hotel maid at his Vegas hotel room, pointing out the minibar and counting the bottles of booze (27) before asking her to monitor his intake — or, ideally, lack thereof — whenever she goes to clean the room. “Coming to Vegas at this point in my life is like my Mount Everest, and I’m going to conquer it,” he promises.

Randall and Kevin greet an enthusiastic Toby and his “rat pack,” each equally oblivious to the roles Toby hopes they’ll take in his pre-wedding celebration night. At dinner, things start off smoothly enough. Kevin’s drinking soda with lime, and he hilariously reminisces about what he did for Randall’s bachelor party: Take him to a seedy club, only for Randall to convince two of the strippers to quit their jobs and go back to school in 20 minutes. “He takes care of people,” Kevin quips. Toby loves their back-and-forth, affectionately calling it the famous Pearson “rivalry.” But both eventually lose interest. Kevin, still preoccupied by his steep recent downfall, spots an old castmate and darts from the table. Randall’s still obsessively checking his phone and finally gets a call from Deja; he, too, leaves the table in a heartbeat. Suddenly, Toby’s left alone with the fillers. (Recap continues on page 2)

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