This Is Us recap: The Big Three debate Rebecca's future
Tonight's This is Us episode marks three episodes left in the Big Three's journey. Happy endings have unfolded throughout the season, but among the stories left to be told is a long-foreshadowed sad ending: Rebecca's passing. Episode 16 brings us closer to that event by focusing on, as the title "Family Meeting" suggests, an important discussion between Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown): How should they handle Rebecca's care in the wake of Miguel's death?
Underlying the debate is the siblings' desires to repay their mother for everything she did for them. That mother's love is highlighted at the start of the episode with a montage of an exhausted Rebecca (Mandy Moore) taking care of the kids in the middle of the night/early morning — crying baby Kevin, young Kate disturbed by nightmares, high-school age Randall needing a permission slip signature.
Following the montage, the episode includes four time period plots: Rebecca struggling to get baby Kate to sleep one night, young Kevin losing a tooth, the Big Three getting caught at a party in high school, and a week after Miguel's (Jon Huertas) death, when Rebecca's health is in fast decline. Let's start with those flashbacks.
The Baby Kate and Tooth Fairy Incidents
One night while Jack's away on a work trip, baby Kate refuses to sleep. An exhausted Rebecca dozes off, only to be woken up from Kate's cries — she fell off the bed while her mother was briefly asleep. Horrified, Rebecca frantically calls the doctor. Even though she was told Kate's probably fine, Rebecca sits by Kate's crib all night, eyes glued to her daughter in fear of unseen injury. In the morning, when Kate smiles, Rebecca finally lets herself believe everything is okay. She says Kate knows what mommy needed — that smile.
Fast-forward to when the kids are around seven years old. Kevin wakes his parents with a joyful exclamation after losing his seventh tooth. Jack remarks about how many teeth the boys have lost, and a despondent Kate points out she hasn't lost any teeth yet. Jack happily says that means she'll be young forever. Kevin plots to catch the tooth fairy, while Randall admits to fearing the mystical creature. At that, Rebecca tells Randall the tooth fairy truth, on condition he promises not to tell his siblings. The Kate and Randall interactions show a stark contrast in how each was treated. Kate was often infantilized, while Randall was treated as older than his years, which explains why Randall always felt a burden of responsibility, and Kate felt inferior.
Yet when Kate expresses her frustration that her brothers always seem ahead of her, Rebecca also offers comfort. Rebecca says Kate is just a late bloomer; she may take more time than others to do things, but when she's ready, she'll leave everyone in the dust.
The High School Party Incident
A month after Jack's death, Rebecca gets a late night call from another parent, because the Big Three were caught at a wild party. Kate is drunk, and Randall was in a fight. Randall says Kevin got Kate drunk, and he himself got into a fight only to protect Kate from a guy with inappropriate designs for Kate. Rebecca praises Randall as a hero, then, for punching the boy.
Rebecca addresses Kate with a quasi-sex talk, noting she hopes Kate knows she has a lot to offer. In response, Kate says Rebecca should just accept she has two out of three winning kids — Kevin and Randall — and realize that Kate's a dud. She says her parents are wrong about the way they see (or saw) her. Again, she's expressing feeling inferior to her brothers. We don't see Rebecca's response, but instead we see her scold Kevin for dragging his siblings into his drunken messiness.
The In-Laws React to the Pearson Predicament
As the Big Three discuss Rebecca's future, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and the other in-laws retreat to the cabin to give the siblings space to feel their Pearson feelings. All hail Beth for being the comic relief and MVP as always.
At the cabin, Beth and Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) reminisce about their Pearson past. Phillip (Chris Geere) wants to help the siblings, but Beth insists no one can help them. Sophie agrees, noting the boys are likely having their frequent "who is the better man and son pissing contest."
Beth and Sophie role-play Randall and Kevin in the conversation. In a superb scene, the women nail their impressions, words, tone, cadence, and all.
Phillip eventually chastises the women for joking about the Big Three's pain. Beth explains that after so long with the Pearsons, she's taken to letting herself hole up and blow off steam when they erupt in feelings and speeches and grand gestures like having people move in (LOL, Randall with William, Déjà, now Rebecca). She says being part of the Pearson family is both the greatest burden and the greatest blessing in her life. Sophie seconds that sentiment, and Phillip softens and embraces the light-hearted attitude. We stan old and new in-laws bonding!
Elsewhere, the other Pearson circle members — Nicky, Edie, Madison, Elijah, and the kids —spend the day exploring the mountains.
The Family Meeting
Seven days after Miguel's death, Rebecca struggles to remember he's gone. Upon waking up in the middle of the night, she calls frantically for him, and fears the nurse who responds. The Big Three decide a formal family meeting is in order to discuss Rebecca's future. Randall wants to move her to Philadelphia. He thinks she needs constant family support and can't stay in the Poconos house alone. Kevin says Randall and Beth are too busy for Rebecca, and she should remain in a familiar place — plus, he doesn't want to see Rebecca leave what he thinks is the one good thing he ever did for her. The brothers argue like Sophie and Beth imagined, with Randall condescendingly implying he knows Rebecca best, and Kevin in turn insults Randall's bond with Rebecca.
Kate pauses the discussion to take Rebecca on a walk. As the women leave, Kevin and Randall reflect on how they don't see the mom they knew, the woman who was magic and always knew what they each needed (a reference to the flashbacks). Randall says Rebecca couldn't have imagined how deeply her children would feel the need to pay her back for her love. Thus, he declares he's taking her home, no matter what Kevin says.
After the walk, Kate, gets a phone call pep talk from Toby (Chris Sullivan). He reminds Kate she is a boss, a wife and mom with a Master's in education and a job designing an arts curriculum for California. He points out, though, that whenever she's around her brothers she seems to become a lesser version of herself. Toby reminds Kate that Rebecca chose her for a reason. This all connects to Kate's childhood feelings of inferiority, and Rebecca's enduring faith that Kate would be fierce once she found her groove, as she finally has.
Elsewhere, Randall tells Beth HE needs to be in charge of Rebecca's care, because Kate is overwhelmed, and Kevin is too irresponsible (the egotism is rampant). But Beth puts Randall in his place. She insists he not underestimate his siblings, and says Randall too often thinks about Kate and Kevin as who they used to be instead of who they are.
Soon Kate rallies her brothers and addresses the fact that neither of them really looks or touches their mother anymore, in mourning her decline. She makes Randall brush Rebecca's hair and Kevin put lotion on her hands.
Later, with the whole family gathered — including the in-laws, Nicky, Edie, Madison, Elijah — Kate declares she and Phillip will bring Rebecca to Los Angeles to live with them or in a facility, because Rebecca can't stay at the house alone and Randall can't defy Rebecca's Thanksgiving wishes and shrink his life for her.
But Kevin offers one more alternative. Because The Manny is ending and his new adventure, Big Three Homes, is based on the East Coast, Kevin and Sophie will move into the house with Rebecca. Madison and Elijah are actually moving east, too, so Kevin will still be near his kids. Nicky and Edie note they'll also be around to help Kevin and Sophie. Ultimately, both Kate and Randall agree to this plan, and Kate subsequently reflects on the significance of the siblings being a trio (a grand surprise to Jack and Rebecca, who thought they were only getting one baby).
Following the heartwarming family meeting is a montage of the Big Three and their families settling into this new era: Kevin and Sophie getting comfortable at the house with Rebecca; Randall and Kate visiting with their families; Elijah and Madison melding their lives with the Pearsons. One night, Kevin calls Randall to say the family should come ASAP because Rebecca doesn't have much time left. That presumably leads into the show's final episodes, where we'll see Rebecca's final moments and what that means to/for the Big Three. Here's to that story to come.
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NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.