“Brothers” lives up to its title in more ways than one. This week’s episode of This Is Us threw in a bit of everything that’s made the show a hit: some heartwarming family bonding here, a little melodrama there, a whole bunch of shifting among eras, and a heck of a surprise reveal at the end. (Head here for executive producers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra’s thoughts on the twist.) It’s both the least subtle and most engaging episode of the second season so far.
The episode splits the action between three timelines, so there’s a lot going on. In the present, Kate is slowly breaking the news of her pregnancy, balancing cautious excitement with anxiety over both her age and her weight; Randall is still struggling to connect with Deja; and Kevin’s pill-popping problem appears to have gotten severely worse. In the siblings’ childhood, we spend time with Jack and the boys on a camping trip, leaving Rebecca and Kate back home to deal with an unexpected family emergency. And finally, we catch a glimpse of Jack’s own childhood — as a fishing expedition with his dad goes sadly, predictably wrong.
First, picking up where we left off last week: Kate’s pregnancy. She’s still feeling out the news, but when she tells Toby, he responds with elation. Kate indicates he shouldn’t be so optimistic: “I’m 37, I’m having a ‘geriatric pregnancy’…. and because of my weight and because things just seem to happen to me,” she says before Toby cuts her off. Kate tries again: “This is about hope.” She’s thrilled by the possibility of having a child with Toby but doesn’t want to jinx anything.
We see her again going after thin, pretty Madison from her group, chastising her for making herself feel “better” by hanging around people more “screwed up” than she is. They yell at one another before they get into a minor car crash. Kate begins to cry, holding her stomach — there, again, is the fear of how easily her pregnancy could result in disaster. Kate then tells her enemy of minutes earlier that she’s pregnant, a secret she’s otherwise trying hard to keep, and Madison is similarly ecstatic. Kate finds some comfort in that. Later, she takes Toby to a coffee shop, where she promises he can finally publicly act on his feelings of excitement — but only if they never show up at this place of business again. Toby tells the barista and promptly performs a happy dance from table to table. Watching this arc is like being in Kate’s shoes: You feel a little cautious about being happy for her, but there’s a lot of hope.
It’s the camping trip that’s the primary plotline of the hour, as Jack uses the getaway as an opportunity to get Kevin and Randall to really bond. We’ve seen the two feud as kids, and as “Brothers” begins, that’s still the case. Upon their arrival at the campsite, the siblings bicker over getting the tent up; when Randall finally succeeds and expresses satisfaction, Kevin sabotages it and pulls the tent down. Jack scolds and punishes Kevin, forcing him to put the tent back up and sit quietly inside for an indefinite amount of time. You can see it on Jack’s face: For some reason, he’s particularly dedicated to bringing Randall and Kevin closer on this trip, and he’s hurt when things don’t get off to a great start. “He’s your brother, Kevin,” Jack says. “You should be able to depend on each other more than anyone else in the world.” Later, he presses Kevin on why he’s so hard on Randall, but Kevin refuses to discuss it.
While we watch Kevin and Randall keep their distance as kids, they’re brought together in the present. Kevin is in town to take part in a special charity gala for Sophie, putting himself up for auction as a celebrity guest, and Randall winds up taking Deja along for the ride. Deja, still completely unresponsive to Randall, is drawn to Kevin: She’s comforted by his effortlessness and lack of intensity compared to her new foster dad. When she first expresses interest in the gala, Beth isn’t so sure it’s a great idea. “You really think she’s ready to go to some swanky Manhattan charity ball?” she asks her husband skeptically. Randall views it as a great bonding opportunity and is thrilled that Deja is excited to do something. He buys her a dress; they drive over to the event together, Deja still silent and Randall still trying a hair too hard. (Recap continues on page 2)