While we are no closer to answering the nagging question of how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died after this latest episode, we are nonetheless completely gobsmacked and currently feeling all the feels. All of them!
Kevin (Justin Hartley) continued his exploration into his complicated relationship with his father's legacy, while Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) discovered that while they make a perfect team as parents, Deja is going to be a little more complicated of a safe for them to crack than their own two kids. It's a lot more challenging when someone else set the combination.
Meanwhile back in the 1980s, Elizabeth Perkins reprised her turn as Rebecca's (Mandy Moore) mother Janet, and it proved a more complex and unexpected role than we'd first surmised. Already established was the fact she was a know-it-all control freak who loved nothing more than to tear down her daughter's family and find them lacking in every way, but there was even more lurking underneath that judgment. And then there's Kate (Chrissy Metz) … well, we'll save her for later.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
"We Will Not Be Held Prisoner in Our Own Home"
Once again, Jack shows superhuman strength, pulling himself out of bed with the chickenpox to go and shovel a driveway. Granted, he has the motivation of helping get Rebecca's mother out of the house, but still this is a testament to the strength of his character and the love he has for his wife. Shoveling snow is hard work when you're healthy, it's a nightmare to contemplate when sick. It's also a very strong statement as to how much Janet has alienated this family with her behavior that there was this much determination to send her on her way. The Pearsons are a family of unconditional love and support, and there just isn't any place for the kind of energy Janet brings with her.
Randall is trying with Deja, but every step he takes seems to be the wrong one, while Beth is making miniscule strides to connect. It doesn't help that Deja was clearly abused by a man at some point in her past, but it's tough watching his best intentions destroy any progress they make at every turn. Beth got Deja to open up about her alopecia and helped with her hair, but when Randall exposed that he knew about it, Deja lashed out and cut her hair off in spite. Lyric Ross is doing a great job of putting a lot of weight into the character of Deja while speaking very few lines. You can feel the hurt she carries within her, and can't help but root for her to be able to shed some of that and accept openly the kindness being offered her. But it's hard to open up and trust when you've been hurt as much as she has.
"I Got My First Chicken Pock"
Poor Randall! Rebecca uncovers the real reason her mother refuses to accept Randall as part of the family, and it's not because he's adopted. She's racist. Unfortunately, the moment Rebecca told her mother that, Randall had just come up behind her … because this is TV and that's how things work. Triteness aside, though, it was a heartbreaking moment as it culminated in Jack and Rebecca having to explain casual racism to Randall, shattering his innocence just a little bit more. It's a tragic reality of the world, but even more awful that it was presented through his own grandmother. We will give credit to the writers for adding nuances to Janet even after that moment. She tried to justify her racism as generational, but when rebuffed in that and told she shouldn't have to try to accept and love Randall, she agreed she shouldn't, but insisted she is still trying. We're not as impressed with the writers having Randall believe even for a moment that his grandmother shot MLK. We're pretty sure he's sharper than that, even if he was distraught!
"My Boy's Unstoppable"
Following up on last week's revelation that Kevin still hasn't processed the death of his father, this week proved even more challenging, as he was laid up with yet another knee injury. Remember, he was laid up with his first one when Jack died. We also learn that it was that injury that ended his promising football career, leading him into acting. Now, he sees his knee threatening his next great passion, and he's stubbornly determined to fight through it his own way … much like Jack thought he could just defeat drinking. But it was the words of his father, screaming his excitement across time on old video cassettes of Kevin's football games, that finally convinced Kevin he needed to manage his recovery the right way. He took his meds and made it back to the set as promised to finish his work on the film. His father would be proud of that, too.
Janet proved a woman of her word, as she took a moment during her farewell to try and start the mending of her relationship with Randall. He'd tried to get her excited about his Rube Goldberg science fair project, but she'd dismissed it earlier in her visit. This time around, when he was rather curt in his own farewell, she stopped and sat down to engage with him about his actual passion. No attempts to give him a basketball and push him into what she thought he might be interested in. "You're a special young man, aren't you?" She asked him, perhaps realizing for the first time. His response was golden: "Took you long enough." It's a testament that she took Rebecca's words to heart and actually wants to do better by Randall and the family. Hopefully, Perkins will return in this role so we can see her growth continue. It's never too late to be a better person. Perhaps she can inspire others to try themselves.
"So, Is It Still There?"
Throughout the hour, we'd seen Kate obsessing over her weight-loss regimen, exercising like crazy and focusing even more intently on her diet. She told Toby -- and we totally believed her -- that it was about fitting into her dress for her first paying gig, which is apparently at a bar mitzvah. We spent that hour wondering what was really going on with her, figuring she was struggling with a bout of anxiety. Was it the fight with her mother? Fallout from the confrontation with Kevin? Well, we couldn't have been more wrong. Kate has been keeping a little secret from Toby and everyone else for six weeks now, only it's not as little as it used to be anymore. It looks like the Pearson family is about to grow by one, as our girl is pregnant! We can't wait to see how this huge news impacts everyone else in the family! We're still trying to catch our breath.