Struggling to recover from the anesthesia, adult Kate shares a dessert with her two younger counterparts and her father, Jack, in an enticing dream world that wants her to stay.
Things got meta this week on "This Is Us" as all three Kates shared a powerful scene together, connected by their love of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia).
It all went down when Kate was put under for the IVF procedure and then struggled to wake back up. Suddenly, Chrissy Metz, Hannah Zeile and Mackenzie Hancsicsak were sharing their first-ever scene together, and it only emphasized the heartbreaking beats in her life. Especially juxtaposing the youngest and most joyful of them (Hancsicsak) with her older, broken selves.
And Kate wasn't the only one suffering an existential crisis of self. Kevin's (Justin Hartley) war film press tour has got him thinking about how little he knew of Jack's time in Vietnam, while Randall (Sterling K. Brown) is still trying to figure out how to be all things for everyone, only to find out he's going to have to be something he may not be prepared for at all.
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 ... and this week, mostly happy tears of happiness.
"This Ends Right Now"
The episode opened with a powerful statement about the kind of man Jack was when he came back from Vietnam. Yes, he was apparently haunted by what happened over there, but it also shaped him into the kind of man he became, a man that Randall described as a "superhero."
After watching his father belittle and abuse his mother one last time, Jack makes a stand and gives his mother an ultimatum. "You can pack your things and I'll get you settled someplace new, or you can stay and I'll kill him," he tells her. "One way or another, this ends right now." And for once, his father was silent.
As he and his mother were making their way to a friend's house where she's been invited to stay, they ran into Rebecca (Mandy Moore) at the grocery store. This was after Jack stood Rebecca up, though in his defense, he did see her kissing another dude. They had the normal courteous chit-chat one has, but Rebecca just couldn't let him walk away.
"Do you have a dream?" she asked him, after previously sharing her ambitions to go to New York and pursue singing. Jack's dreams, though, are so much smaller than hers. His dreams are of happiness and love and family, he finally shares after realizing no one has ever really asked him that before. Certainly no one at home was in any sort of mental capacity to ask him about his life.
His mother was a broken shell of a woman, and his father so reduced in stature by alcoholism, petty insecurities and the sure knowledge that he was a failed man, that all he could do was lash out at his son with all the hatred he feels for himself and the whole world that he blames for his problems.
"I Got Fired Today"
Randall is always ready to step up and save the world and try to be the "superhero" his dad was for anyone and everyone. It's why he wanted to adopt; it's why he now wants to run for City Council to try and save the rec center near his father's old building. It's why he dreams big.
But now, he's going to have to bring it back down and be a totally different kind of hero after Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) abruptly gets fired from her job. Normally, as William (Ron Cephas Jones) pointed out, she sits there and plays with her wedding ring and just lets Randall do his thing, but this time she spoke her truth. This time she needs him to be there for her, in whatever capacity that may be.
This, hopefully, will be the arc we've been waiting for to allow Watson the chance to really shine. She's been the "bass" of this family for too long, as William also pointed out. It's time for her solo, and we just know it's going to be glorious and we are going to cry all the tears!
It was one of the most surreal and trippy scenes yet, and one that proved utterly heartbreaking. After Kate went under, she emerged at the hospital where she encountered the original "Big Three," and then found her way to her family kitchen where she met teen Kate and young Kate, along with Jack.
This was the first time Metz has shared a scene with Ventimiglia, and it was a powerful moment with all three Kates interacting and reflecting on one another. We've seen the slow decline of the teenage version of Kate, played beautifully by Hannah Zeile, making it even more tragic when adult Kate tells her she won't climb out of that darkness for a long time.
Teen Kate tries to convince her to stay with them in the kitchen, with their favorite tweet and Jack as sweet as ever, but Kate knew that she had a bigger destiny ahead of her. She told teen Kate that it does get better ... even if she'll have to wait 20 years to get there. And she tells Jack she has to go, sharing a poignant farewell.
"Do You Want to Ask Me Any Questions?"
Kevin realized this week just how little he knows about Jack, and wondered why he never even bothered to ask. But Kevin has never been that guy, as we see in flashbacks to young Kevin with Jack. Even when Jack told him the tiniest detail a about the war and asked him if he had any questions, Kevin had nothing.
"You don't overthink things," Zoe (Melanie Liburd) told him, which is a kind way of saying he keeps things pretty shallow and pretty simple. Kevin has always struggled with depth, because it's not something he ever really needed in life. Even his football injury only sidelined him from one superstar path to another.
He only learned the capacity for depth with his recent rock-bottom episode, which is how he finds himself now asking the questions he didn't care enough to ask when the opportunity presented itself. Part of Kevin's journey in rediscovering himself is going to be rediscovering Jack as a fully-realized person. We are not just our surface details and persona; something Kevin is just now learning and dealing with.
After Randall flew halfway across the country just to apologize to Kate for belittling her desire to have a child, she told him one of the most beautiful things he could ever hear. His issue was the interpretation that Kate wanted to carry on Jack's legacy with a child as saying that he and his children weren't doing that. There's some validity to Randall's argument, but his timing was awful.
Recognizing that what he'd just done qualified as a classic Jack grand gesture, Kate told him, "You have so much Dad in you." Randall is every bit the "superhero" that Jack always tried to be. He never stops, he never rests and he always tries to do what's right. He is the walking epitome of Jack Pearson reborn.
"I Have a Feeling"
This moment could just as easily been the quiet moment when Jack started cleaning up the dishes from dinner. He had no idea how meaningful this was for Rebecca who watched her mother wait on her father hand and foot and absolutely refused to accept this as the life for her.
Jack's dreams may be simple and familial, but he's not a man like her father. She knows so little about him, but as she told Alan's (the boy on her porch) mother, she has a feeling. It was enough for her to abandon her plans to go to New York with Alan. That was a compromise for a man, too, as she'd initially wanted to pursue her singing dreams in L.A.
As for Jack, she actually managed to track him down by remembering the street he said his mother's friend lived on and then looking for his car. Stalker much? It's a good thing he's so into her, or that would have set off a million red flags. As it stands, these two are so head-over-heels infatuated right now, he probably saw it as the kind of grand gesture he just has to one up.
So when she asked him if he wanted to go on a car ride, he said sure. Then she said to Los Angeles, and he was still on board. How's that for a grand gesture to a woman you've basically had one bad date with. Watching this romance blossom is just as beautiful and powerful as we thought it would be.
If his family could just remember and recall the goodness in his heart and the goodness of their lives before his passing, they might be able to get out of their own heads long enough to find that level of joy and love again.