In tonight’s This Is Us episode, “The Club,” Randall and Jack take the spotlight via golf games in three different eras. Adult Randall must play with fellow councilmen, whom he’s still trying to win over. A young Jack is forced into being a fish-out-of-water at a country club with Rebecca’s disapproving father Dave. Jack and young Randall play a round and they, too, have some tension. In each era, it seems neither Pearson is good at golf, and the stakes are high.
Before we unpack the games, though, let’s look at what the other Pearson kids got up to. For them, instead of hitting the links, it was about who was linking up… or wasn’t.
Kate and Toby
The episode opens on a highlight reel of Kate and Toby’s relationship, including a moment where Kate asks Toby to promise they’ll always be into each other. Cut to the couple in bed, baby Jack fussing beside them. Toby attempts to initiate lovemaking, but Kate shuts him down.
When we return to them, they’re bickering, both overworked and overtired. When Kate sees Toby getting rid of his favorite pants because they don’t fit him anymore due to his weight loss, she insists he keep them in case he gains weight again. He throws them back in the closet, annoyed, and moves on to complaining about not being intimate since the start of Kate’s pregnancy. The two decide to go to a hotel to rectify this.
Once Kate emerges from the hotel bathroom — all gussied up, hair down, makeup on, a trail of roses leading to the bed where Toby lies seductively — she asks Toby to dim the lights. It’s clear to viewers she’s nervous about being naked in front of him. Then, sadly, Toby can’t perform. Kate thinks maybe he’s no longer attracted to her since he’s now slimmer. He swears that’s not the reason, and eventually admits he’s mad about what she said about the pants. He asks if she doesn’t believe he can keep the weight off or is secretly hoping he puts it back on. She doesn’t answer. When they get home, she cuts up the pants as a show of support. Kate says she believes in him and Toby says then she should believe him when he says he still wants her. Playful talk ensues and the two begin to *ahem* make up.
Kevin’s day begins with him talking to a reluctant Nicky about his ex, Zoe, posting photos with some hot guy. Nicky looks at the photos, and to Kevin’s dismay, says the two are hooking up, then accidentally “likes” a photo. Kevin’s frustration at the blunder merges into his overall growing discontent with life in Nicky’s small town. Restless, he suggests they do something, but Nicky dismisses him, so Kevin storms off.
We next see Kevin at the gym with Cassidy. Kevin is impressed by Cassidy doing pull-ups. But his attention is soon pulled away by a cute girl who delivers him a drink. When she walks away, Cassidy points out to Kevin that she’d written her number on his cup. Changing the subject, Kevin asks Cassidy if she’s spoken to her husband Ryan since the hockey game. She hasn’t. Then Kevin brings up Zoe and the photos. Cassidy asks why Kevin and Zoe broke up. She’s surprised to learn Kevin wants kids. She says he’s not trying very hard if he’s spending all his time with Nicky. She then pokes fun at his age, and they playfully banter as they resume their work out. The sparks are flying! This is perhaps the most predictable the show’s ever been, but I’m here for it.
Kevin later goes on a date with Gym Girl. It doesn’t seem to be going well, and more of Kevin’s frustration with small-town life emerges. But at some point, the subject of kids comes up. Kevin’s glad to hear Gym Girl wants kids, but it’s clear they don’t have much else in common. Still, Kevin winds up taking her back to his camper. But when they arrive, Cassidy is there and she’s a mess. Kevin sends Gym Girl home. Cassidy says things went badly with Ryan. Kevin comforts her, then she kisses him, abruptly apologizes, and makes a break for the door.
The end… psyche! Nicky comes to apologize (in his own way) for his morning coldness. When Nicky leaves, we get a flashback of Kevin stopping Cassidy on her way out and kissing her again. He then opens the door to his bedroom, and there she is, in his bed. Cassidy is still a mess — maybe even more so — and Kevin looks regretful. The aftermath should be interesting.
Golf games — Jack and Randall
Now getting back to the meat of the episode, golf.
When pre-kids Jack drops Rebecca off at her parent’s for brunch, Dave invites him to join him for golf at his country club. Jack agrees, at Rebecca’s insistence — she doesn’t know about Dave’s disapproval.
At the club, Dave insists on buying Jack better clothes. Then Dave drags Jack into playing with two of his friends, and the whole time pushes Jack to interview for a job at his friend’s insurance company. Between that pressure and getting teased for playing poorly, Jack is driven to drink too much. As they head home, Dave implies that if Jack doesn’t get a better job and basically change everything about himself, he won’t be marrying Rebecca. But when they get back to Dave’s house, Jack uses Dave’s words against him to assert that he will marry Rebecca and it’s Dave who has to change. Then, when they’re out of the car, Dave tells Jack he’ll never be good enough. When Jack responds with a hint of physical aggression, Dave says that’s what he was waiting for. But Rebecca arrives and instead of scorning Jack for getting in her father’s face or being drunk, she helps him up and shoots her dad an angry look as she and Jack leave.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to get Wilkins to support his grocery store idea, adult Randall ends up offering to get Wilkins and other councilmen into an exclusive golf course. They tease Randall for his privilege but take him up on the offer and invite him to join. When he says he’s bad at golf, Wilkins says since they play for money, that makes him an even better companion. Randall indeed plays poorly, claiming he’s only played golf once. Eventually, Wilkins takes pity on him and shows him the ropes. By the end, Wilkins seems to have forgiven Randall and tells him to come by his office later to discuss their respective proposals.
Interposed with those stories is one of young Randall and Jack. It begins with Randall making Jack take him to school early so he can talk to his favorite teacher, Mr. Lawrence —who’s black and thus unique for the school. Jack is jealous of the bond between Mr. Lawrence and Randall. That night, Jack finds Randall watching Tiger Woods play golf on TV. Randall says Mr. Lawrence told him Tiger is going to change the game of golf. This prompts Jack to take Randall to play.
While they’re playing, Randall says because he’s black, things will always be hard for him, and he’ll have to break barriers for himself. Jack responds by talking about once feeling uncomfortable at country clubs, like the one he went to with Dave. Randall eventually tells Jack it’s not the same thing because Jack was just uncomfortable, while Randall probably wouldn’t have even been allowed in. Jack apologizes and says he doesn’t see color. But Randall tells him if he doesn’t embrace what the difference in their skin means, then he doesn’t get Randall. Randall also later suggests his parents let him quit activities that involved other black people easier than they let him quit other activities. Jack wonders that night to Rebecca if they felt threatened by Randall bonding with people of his own skin color. Rebecca insists there were other legitimate reasons.
It seems the Randall and Jack golf round ends on a sour note and that’s why Randall never played again, just like Randall thinks his dad hates golf because, as the audience is led to believe, of the experience with Dave.
But then comes a Randall-Jack scene that ties all three games together. Jack apologizes for not handling the race issue well. Then he tells Randall that when he becomes the important man he’s destined to be, there will be important things that happen on a golf course, and Randall is going to have to play a certain kind of game — sometimes he’ll have to play up to someone’s level, sometimes down. Then Jack shows him how to swing and we see Randall playing at various stages of his life — well.
Just like Jack taught him, adult Randall played the game for Wilkins, and it worked.
But the question remains: did Jack learn to play before that day with Dave, or after? Could Dave had softened to him and taught him? Or did Jack just play poorly to spite Dave? Or did Jack teach himself and then win over Dave with a good game? If you ask me, the plotline of how/if Jack wins over Dave is now one of the most intriguing.
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