This Is Us recap: Miguel gets his moment
In five seasons of This is Us, we received only glimpses into how Miguel became part of Rebecca's post-Jack world. Even as Jack's best friend, he's always been a fringe character. This final season, he's received more space, with a pivotal moment coming during the Thanksgiving episode, as he and Rebecca confessed feelings for one another, before he moved to Texas to be near his family. It's been teased all year that viewers would get the full Miguel story, and finally see things that would make it easier to root for him and Rebecca's love amid the shadow of Jack Pearson. Tonight's episode delivered on those teasers, as it was all about Miguel (Jon Huertas), as evident by the episode title, "Miguel."
The pre-episode recap reminded us that Miguel met Jack when Jack went suit-shopping; that he blamed himself for his divorce; that his grown children weren't pleased when he began dating Rebecca; and that he and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) bonded at Kate's wedding. Then, the episode took us into Miguel's life, at several stages. By the end of the winding journey, we finally know Miguel, and he indeed is a man who deserves to be more than in the margins. Here is his story.
Miguel and Rebecca: Forced into friendship
Significant to the episode plot is a flashback to a night in which Miguel meets Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), in the young couple's dating days, at a bar. Miguel is nervous because Rebecca doesn't like him and Rebecca certainly seems annoyed upon his arrival, but Jack nevertheless makes an excuse to leave Miguel and Rebecca alone together, in a not-so-subtle parent trap-type setup.
They eventually manage to break the ice, and Rebecca warmly asks him what his story is. He responds with a line his father once said: "I don't know, but it's a good question, ask me again later."
His story, however, unfolds throughout the episode, and it includes he and Rebecca hitting it off that night and settling into a friendship, as Jack's favorite people, united. That's the beginning of his story regarding Rebecca. But his own story begins when he's a young boy in Puerto Rico.
Miguel and his roots
Miguel spent his early childhood in Puerto Rico, enjoying playing baseball with friends. But then Miguel's father moves the family to America – to Pennsylvania, to find new work there. Once there, Miguel learns English partly through the radio. While watching a game of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, which has Miguel's favorite player Roberto Clemente, a man for whom his father works tells Miguel about the best seats in the baseball stadium, insisting "where you sit is all that matters." This seems to stick with Miguel as a source of ambition, and Miguel works to fulfill that ambition.
The prime example: as an adult, he gets a cushy job by applying under the name Mike Rivers, instead of Miguel Rivas. The successful path it puts him on seems to take him out of his Puerto Rican heritage, as he apparently doesn't see his family much, and while visiting one Christmas, he admits to straightening his hair so he doesn't look fresh off the boat. This comment upsets his family, and his father is further annoyed when Miguel pleads with his mother to let him pay for a caretaker for his ill aunt – since he has the money. Miguel's father criticizes Miguel for flashing money around and talking about "projecting success," like he's forgotten where he came from. Miguel frustratingly notes his father split him in half by dragging him from Puerto Rico to America and urging him to fit in, so he wonders how, then, his father could be upset that he's embraced that new life and is making something of himself. (That's when his father utters the line Miguel gave Rebecca in the bar.) Miguel angrily departs, to his mother's devastation. Like Jack and his mother, another mother-son relationship was seemingly marred by problems between father and son. A tragic shame.
But contrary to Jack's experience, Miguel's father dies first. In a tender moment, Miguel's mother assures him his father died proud of him, and Miguel subsequently praises his mother for how thanklessly hard she works to care for her ill sister. His mother says, simply, "love is giving your heart without expectation."
Amid a time where his relationship with his family is in tatters, Miguel doesn't think he has that kind of love in him and feels lost. His mother assures him he'll find his way and someone to love again. Cut to Miguel seeing a Facebook update from Rebecca (product placement, much?) and subsequently messaging her to catch up – it's been eight years since they last spoke, that Thanksgiving night.
Miguel and his family
In the mix of Miguel's story is his journey with his first wife Shelly (Wynn Everett). He meets her at a bar when Jack and Rebecca urge him to get up and flirt with her. Down the line, Miguel proposes, they have a child. They seem happy.
Then, he comes home late one night and he and Shelly argue, their two kids listening in anguish from the stairs. Shelly says Jack comes home early enough to spend time with his family. Miguel says he's not Jack, and in a cutting retort, Shelly says, "you certainly are not."
Lo and behold, even before Miguel married Jack's wife, he lived in Jack's romantic shadow. It seems every man in Jack's life was damaged by the bar he set. Is that the price of being so potently good?
In any case, Miguel's marriage falls apart. With it, so does his relationship with his children (or at least his son). Even though he leaves an almost-romance with Rebecca behind to move closer to his children, they seem to not re-embrace him in their lives, as we see several phone calls go unanswered. But eight years later, he does at least get a second chance with Rebecca.
Miguel and Rebecca: A relationship begins
After Miguel initially messages Rebecca, the two stay in constant touch. They reunite in person one evening, and after some awkwardness, Miguel opens up. He says he never felt like he belonged, caught between his Puerto Rican/Spanish and American/English identities, but the first time he felt homesick was when he left Rebecca. At that, Rebecca kisses him, and their romance officially begins.
One morning in bed, Miguel brings up the elephant in the room: Jack's memory. Rebecca believes Jack would want what's best for them and notes, with positive irony, that Jack once left them alone in a bar until they became friends.
When they tell the Big Three about their relationship that Thanksgiving, the kids are shocked. Ultimately, Kate (Chrissy Metz) extends her support, and Randall follows suit, but Kevin (Justin Hartley) angrily objects, though his anger contrasts with something he does in the distant future.
Miguel and Rebecca: Growing old together
In this episode, time moves forward from Kate's wedding and keeps moving. We see an elder Miguel go through a routine of caring for a clearly declining Rebecca. He wakes up before Rebecca, makes coffee, prepares her medication, guides her physical therapy, and brushes off the nurse's efforts to take charge. Amid that, his own doctor is concerned about his blood pressure, shortness of breath, and other issues. He insists Miguel sleep more, but it seems Miguel is sacrificing sleep for his Rebecca routine, acting as the selfless caretaker his mother was for his aunt.
One night, Miguel wakes to find Rebecca twirling outside in the snow. While tending to her, he slips and falls hard on his back. Miguel manages to get up and get them both inside, but he's clearly hurt. During a subsequent Thanksgiving dinner, seeing Rebecca panic when Miguel leaves her side, and learning about his fall, the Big Tree tell Miguel they want a full-time nurse for Rebecca. Miguel indignantly says Rebecca doesn't do well with strangers, and he made a vow he doesn't want to fail at, like he failed his parents, wife, and children – he hasn't seen his son in five years, given his son's disdain for him. The Big Three ensure him he has more than honored his vows, and shower him with other praise and affection, noting they just want to help. Miguel ultimately relents, allowing a nurse to assume full care for both himself and Rebecca.
Then Kevin makes a grand gesture on Miguel's behalf. He visits Miguel's son to tell him Miguel might not have much time left, and he shouldn't leave things unfinished. Ultimately moved, Miguel's son joins the Pearsons for Christmas that year, to Miguel's delight.
Sure enough, Miguel soon after passes away (poor Rebecca, losing two loves). The loss is bittersweet, as the family lovingly gathers again to spread some of his ashes at the base of the tree he'd planted for Rebecca as a symbol of hope when her condition began. The gesture is, at last, a Big Three/ Miguel's children's show of support for Miguel and Rebecca's love. Next, Kevin and Miguel's son travel to Puerto Rico to spread the rest of the ashes on his childhood ball-field, where Miguel's story began. In the end, it was a beautiful story. If that was goodbye to Miguel, he will be missed like any Pearson would/should be, as we move into the show's final three episodes.
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NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.