This Is Us recap: The Pearsons digest being new parents
Last week's This Is Us was about the births of new Pearsons. This week's episode, dubbed "The Ride," is about how Pearson adults respond to the life-changing event of having newborns, from the immediate lens of the ride home from the hospital. For Kevin, it's coping with becoming a first-time father to twins; for Kate, it's wading through adoption stickiness; for Randall, it's a flashback to having his youngest child, Annie. There's also a flashback of Rebecca and Jack digesting the birth of the original Big Three.
Through everything, there's the message that every new parents' main concern is being good to their children, and their self-confidence and understanding of that is deeply influenced by their own experiences.
Let's dive into how this message plays out with each Pearsons' post-baby ride home.
Jack & Rebecca, Part 1
In a flashback, Jack and Rebecca prepare to leave the hospital with their three newborns. After they pack up and Jack struggles but ultimately succeeds in installing car seats, the family heads home. On the drive, Rebecca seems anguished and distant, stressing about not sitting in the back with the babies. Paranoid about their safety, she keeps turning around, painfully straining her stitches. Jack tries to comfort her, but he isn't faring well himself — he's exhausted. Making things harder, the babies begin crying endlessly. Then, when a man cuts them off on the way into a gas station, Jack snaps. Showing his dark side, he angrily confronts the man and thereafter buys and chugs a mini bottle of whiskey. It's always compelling, albeit painful, to see Jack not being as perfect as he's often painted.
Fortunately, he then suggests Rebecca drive the rest of the way home, using the excuse that he can more easily check on the babies. When they arrive home, the babies are asleep. Not wanting to wake them, the couple decides to wait in the car. More on this later…
In a less distant past, Randall and Beth welcome Annie into their lives. On the way home, Randall references his desire for a third child. Beth, who sits in the back with Annie, soundly dismisses this idea. When they stop to get Beth some icecream, Randall says he wants a boy so he can throw the ball around and have a "special relationship." Noting Randall regularly watched the show Felicity with his mother, Beth says he can have a special relationship with his daughters. When Randall presses further, Beth storms off.
While Beth buys her snack, Randall apologizes to baby Annie for his "antiquated gendered assumptions," and says he'll throw a ball with her, too. Then he talks about how excited he is that, as the nurse said, Annie has his eyes, because he grew up not looking like his parents or knowing where he came from. He feels Annie, Tess, and Beth, are giving him a family tree that feels more authentic to him than the Pearson family tree ever did. That's why he wants another child — to make his own tree as big as possible. Hearing this, Beth looks guilt-ridden, but Randall says he'll just hope his daughters have many grandchildren. Then, Randall and Beth make up.
Elsewhere, Toby greets Kate and baby Hailey outside the hospital. Kate is worried about Ellie's state of mind but doesn't expect things to be difficult for long, since they've agreed to have Ellie be part of Hailey's life.
However, on the way home, when Kate, sitting in the back with Hailey, starts to ramble about future visits with Ellie, Ellie cuts her off. She sharply says she doesn't think she can go through with their planned open adoption and have Hailey stay in her life. Kate is stunned.
At home, after dropping off Ellie, Kate panics about her change of heart. Kate doesn't want Hailey to experience what Randall did — a life of struggling with not knowing his birth parents. Toby says that no matter what Ellie decides, he and Kate can make sure Hailey knows who her birth mother is.
Later, Toby says Ellie chose Kate as her baby's adoptive mother because Kate is unflappable. He says they will figure things out even with unexpected challenges. Then he segues into difficult news: earlier that day, he was laid off. Proving Toby right about her resilience, Kate doesn't panic. She insists they will still enjoy their special day and deal with the job situation tomorrow.
Jack & Rebecca, Part 2
While they wait out their sleeping babies, Rebecca tells Jack that when she was young, her mother had a miscarriage. Her mother was so sad for so long afterward. Rebecca worries she won't be a good mother because she'll likewise be too sad for too long about the baby she and Jack lost. Jack says he's certain Rebecca will be a great mother.
Then he shares his own confession. He admits to drinking earlier and says that when he lost his mind at the reckless driver, he felt like his father. He says his father was so unpleasant growing up, that whenever he came home from work, Jack felt as if the air was sucked out of the room, and his father always acted like he needed a drink just to be around his children. Rebecca insists Jack won't be like that — he doesn't suck the air out of the room, he is the air. (Indeed, that's how Jack's kids saw him). Upon comforting each other, Rebecca and Jack finally rejoice in their parenthood.
Kevin's story most strongly connects to the flashback. Like Jack, he struggles to install car seats, even snapping at a fan who takes pictures of him while he's struggling. He's terrified about dealing with two newborns, and while driving his family home from the hospital, he, like Jack, appears exhausted.
Then, when they're followed by a paparazzo, Kevin pulls over and angrily confronts the man. Madison — who, like the other moms, had sat in the back with the baby — gets out and calms Kevin down and says she'll handle it. She cuts the man a deal. If he leaves them alone, she'll soon help him get a shot of Kevin running — shirtless, and in tight shorts. Madison then takes over driving so Kevin can rest. (Women are tougher, obviously).
In his subsequent slumber, Kevin imagines seeing Jack with his babies. Kevin wonders how Jack handled three children. Jack says it was easy because his kids and wife were all he ever wanted. Jack then urges Kevin to stop trying to live up to him. "I was terrified of being like my dad, and you are terrified of not being like yours," says Jack, adding that their fear was/is a waste of time. He then tells Kevin to simply decide what he wants and go get it.
At this, Kevin awakes, alone in the car outside his house. He walks inside and tells Madison he wants her to really be his wife and for them to be a family. She accepts his hospital bracelet as a temporary ring, making the two finally officially engaged. Sorry viewers who still ship him with Sophie, or even Cassidy. Perhaps his great love story is meant to be his family, not a woman, but until recently, much of the show's plot involved Kevin seeking a great romance, so this story is still not sitting right with me. Alas, Madison has grown on me, so perhaps this plot will, too…
The episode opens on (what seems to be) medical residents being shown a maternity ward. A resident who looks like grown-up Déjà (but it's uncertain since she's not named) appears disinterested and sneaks away from the group.
Later, she's waiting outside the hospital, frustrated and checking her watch. Her ride arrives. It's another young woman — perhaps Annie? From the ensuing interaction, we learn maybe-Déjà is pregnant.
At the end of the episode, we learn the women are indeed Déjà and Annie, as they arrive at the house Kevin built on the cabin property. It's seemingly the flashforward when the family gathers to say goodbye to Rebecca. Tess greets her sisters outside. Randall follows suit, calling the girls the "beautiful, bountiful branches" of his family tree. He then asks Déjà why she seems unwell, but she insists she's fine. As they're walking into the house, someone else arrives — perhaps Kevin. While gazing at the latest arrival, Randall asks Déjà about the drive to the house. She says it "always goes by faster than you think." It's an obvious metaphor for raising children, and the shot framing suggests we'll soon meet the third Pearson generation, and learn more about the start of the fourth generation.