By Amanda Ostuni
May 18, 2021 at 10:09 PM EDT
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With the recent confirmation that This Is Us will end with the sixth season, this week's episode marks the penultimate episode of the penultimate season. But that doesn't mean it feels like the beginning of the end. Instead, the episode, titled "Jerry 2.0," sets several new things in motion — there's apparently much more action ahead for the Pearsons… and on that note, the only Big Three marriage that seems safe after tonight is Randall and Beth's.

Kevin and Madison's bachelor and bachelorette parties set the stage for these developments. Kevin visits the cabin with Randall, Toby, Nicky, and Miguel, while Kate, Madison, Rebecca, and Beth gather at Madison's house for the bachelorette party — the weirdest bachelor/ette parties ever, given there are no friends attending (maybe there's just no room in the show budget or script for non-family).

Intertwined with the festivities are various flashbacks, with the most recurring element being the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. Let's break down where the celebrations and Jerry Maguire lessons leave the Pearsons ahead of the season finale.

College-era Pearson couple drama

A flashback to the Big Three's college-era begins with the Pearsons and partners hanging out at the Pearson home, then the cabin. Sophie is glad Kevin's back from L.A. (pilot season didn't lead to anything), while Beth and (mostly) Randall are stressing over their own potential long-distance situation, as Beth was offered a summer internship in Boston.

Kevin repeatedly says long distance is easy, which bugs Sophie, since it was hard for her. When Kevin reveals his intentions to be in L.A. more for his career, Sophie gets upset. She doesn't think their marriage will work if he's in L.A. and she's in New York. She storms out of the cabin, annoyed he seemingly hasn't thought about their future together.

Then, instead of going after Sophie, Kevin watches Jerry Maguire with Beth and Randall. It's Kevin's favorite movie — in an episode-opening high school-era flashback, he and Jack watch it in the theater together and declare it the best movie ever.

When the movie ends, Kevin gushes to Beth and Randall about Jerry's character, admiring that he "decides what he wants and he goes for it." This realization inspires Kevin to write a mission statement, like Jerry wrote in the movie, about his future with Sophie. Reading it, he says he wants to become a famous actor but also sees a whole life with Sophie — including having kids and being disgustingly in love like his parents were. He sees them together forever. The moving speech relates significantly to the present… (more on this later).

Beth and Rebecca

In the flashback, Beth confides in Rebecca that she's hesitant about her internship, which is with an urban planning firm focused on creating spaces for underserved communities. She's not worried about her relationship with Randall, but she is afraid of failing again, like with dance. Referring to her singing, Rebecca says she understands the feeling of having a dream killed, but Beth is too young, smart, and strong to "not find new dreams and go for them." She thinks whatever Beth does, she will blow everyone away. Rebecca's words deeply inspire her.

In the present, during Madison's bachelorette party, Beth has another heart-to-heart with Rebecca. A job recruiter has found Beth opportunities at traditional dance conservatories, but she's hesitant because they're places like the one that ruined dance for her. She doesn't want to join that "broken system."

Rebecca says Beth is the most impressive person she knows. She thinks Beth can and should go into those systems and change them. Again, Beth is comforted. She decides to explore the opportunities and later thanks Rebecca for the encouragement.

In turn, Rebecca thanks Beth for making her feel normal — like a mother and friend again — by opening up to her. She's frustrated with everyone tip-toeing around her — Miguel's hovering, Kate and Kevin not asking her to help with the kids, Randall not telling her about New Orleans. Beth says she won't stop seeking her help, then says she should just ask Randall about New Orleans.

These beautiful scenes prove Rebecca and Beth are the duo we didn't know we needed. More, please!

Rebecca and Miguel

Another prominent duo in this episode is Rebecca and Miguel. Rebecca's talk with Beth and a speech Miguel gives Kevin (more on that soon) give insight into their dynamic and overall relationship.

But first up, Miguel frets about leaving Rebecca for their separate parties, and once at the cabin, he's distracted by his anxiety. After the bachelorette party, he calls her and apologizes for being overbearing. Rebecca acknowledges it's hard not knowing how much time they have left. Then comes a flashback that seems to relate to the origins of their relationship.

Back in the past, Miguel calls Rebecca at the cabin to check on the family. She says seeing the boys with their girlfriends that day made her feel for the first time that she might find some other version of love again. Miguel says she will because of who she is — implying some attraction to or at least admiration for Rebecca. This is endearing but might bother those who don't like that Miguel married his best friend's widow. Perhaps if the final season completes the Miguel-Rebecca backstory, it will be easier for everyone to support that marriage fully. We'll see.

Kevin's bachelor party

The morning of Kevin's bachelor party, he gets a surprise call from Sophie, who's surprised he picked up since she has a new phone number. She congratulates him on his engagement and babies. Kevin asks why she changed her number. Before she can explain — I'd bet it involves relationship drama, and she's now single (there's no ring on her finger!) — Madison beckons Kevin for baby help. Kevin vows to call back.

At the cabin, Randall comments on Kevin having achieved his unlikely Thanksgiving vow to be married with kids by age 40. Then, forced inside by rain, the men watch Jerry Maguire. Afterward, Nicky says the film is practically Kevin's life story — a guy falls for a kid (or for Kevin, the idea of kids) more than the actual woman involved, but he sticks by the girl to do the right thing. He says Kevin is basically Jerry (Maguire) 2.0 (episode title alert!).

Kevin's furious about the insinuation that he's not marrying Madison for love. He insists he's crazy about her, berates Nicky, then walks off. When Randall finds him, Kevin's looking at the Sophie-future mission statement. He tells Randall about Sophie's call and asks how you know who you're supposed to marry. Randall determines Kevin just has cold feet and brings him outside, where the men have gathered around a fire, so they can give Kevin a pep talk and discuss their own issues.   

Toby rambles about Jerry Maguire's unrealistic ending, saying the couple in the movie has no chance, then confesses his real problem: he's desperate for work, and his only current option is in San Francisco, which isn't suited to his family situation. Nicky says the movie made him sad about losing his love, Sally Brooks, 50 years ago. Kevin says Nicky might be right about his marriage — he's not sure he'd be with Madison under different circumstances. But then Miguel gives a speech that favors Madison.

He says some peoples' love is "written in the stars" — they're strangers the universe brings together. Miguel always loved that idea, and that's how it was for Jack and Rebecca, but he knows it's not the same for him and Rebecca. Sometimes, he says, two people for whom the universe had no plans write their own story together, "and that's pretty fantastic, too."

This helps Kevin, and everyone makes big personal moves later. Nicky looks up Sally Brooks online. Per This Is Us style, it's safe to imagine he might get a reunion and happy ever after next season. Toby pursues the San Francisco job. Is he about to leave Kate and their family? It would be uncharacteristic and devastating, but it could explain why Toby and Kate appear separated in a flashforward earlier in the show, and it connects to Rebecca's numerous recent monologues about Kate's strength. For Kevin's part, instead of calling Sophie back, he deletes her number. Still, it's likely that's not the end of his dilemma and we're in for a roller-coaster wedding finale.

Madison's bachelorette party

For the first activity at Madison's bachelorette party, the women paint a nude male model (coincidentally, Madison's ex) while drinking prosecco — a next-level take on today's trendy boozy paint nights. While painting, Kate toasts to Kevin "knowing a great thing when he saw it." But Madison says Kevin never tried to be with her until she got pregnant. She brushes it off as if she understands Kevin wasn't in the right place for dating at the time of their hook-up.

The conversation drops and soon the group is on to the next activity, the Newlywed Game. Kate had Nicky record Kevin's responses, so she plays the video against Madison's answers. To everyone's delight, Kevin's answer to the first question is spot on. But another question, what Kevin envisions for an empty nester future with Madison, seems to stump him. After some silence, he jokes he doesn't plan to grow old. Madison laughs off the non-answer, but Kate is perturbed. This is where the flashback to Kevin's mission statement comes in. The implication: Kevin has always had a vision for his future with his wife, and the fact that he doesn't apply the Sophie vision to Madison troubles Kate.

After the party, Kate asks Madison if she's really happy with Kevin. Madison says she really loves him. Madison then says — in a way that feels like obvious foreshadowing — nothing will interfere with her friendship with Kate. But Kate's clearly worried her brother might soon deeply hurt her best friend.

The episode's final scene proves Madison isn't unaware of that possibility. In bed, she watches the clip of Kevin struggling to say a vision for their future. His face appears blank in that moment as if he has no vision — which isn't a great sign. She replays that frame, then nestles into bed, clearly upset.

So, I repeat: We're likely in for a roller coaster wedding finale episode. Buckle up.

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